Consumer Alert: What to do when your banking site goes dark

Experts believe the banking industry is doing what it can to respond to outages and that sites work most of the time. (Source: tashatuvango via 123rf.com)

You pay your bills online and transfer money. Or, you might simply want to check your balance. We rely a lot on online banking these days, but what happens when your bank’s website is down - especially when you really need it?

Just ask Chris Gadbois. He does his online banking, and it’s usually no problem. But one day, when he went to make a transaction, he couldn’t.

“I was going, went online to verify the amount of funds I had on this account and was going to make some expenditures. And I couldn't reach the site. You know, I was frustrated,” Gadbois said.

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His bank site was down. Research finds some leading causes for outages include system upgrades, data overload and cyber attacks.

In fact, financial institutions report a 56 percent increase in attacks in 2016 alone. Banking expert Greg McBride of Bankrate.com says it could get worse.

“The more dependent we become on technology, the more susceptible we're going to be to these temporary outages,” McBride said.

Sites or apps at several major banks have had issues recently. We easily found customers reaching out for help on social media. Gadbois tried customer service through both social media and by calling his bank but says he had little luck. He says he got a continuous busy signal.

We reached out to several leading banks that had outages but either got no comment or no response.

[RELATED: Is using a banking app safer than a website?]

McBride says he believes the banking industry is doing what it can to respond to outages and that sites work most of the time.

But, when they don’t, he says there are things you can do.

“Just monitor your accounts regularly. When the system comes back up and you’re able to log back on as normal, just, you know, make sure your balance is what it's supposed to be, that there haven't been any types of unauthorized transactions. If you do notice something out of the ordinary, notify the bank right away. You are protected against unauthorized transactions,” McBride said.

And, since outages can lead to late bills, pay early or use autopay. Also, get a prepaid debit card, or an account at an additional bank.

Gadbois says he uses cash much of the time but isn’t planning to give up his cyber banking.

“Unfortunately, we are very dependent upon the banking system as it is,” he says.

If you do experience a bank website outage, experts say watch out for con artists who might try to trick you into giving them your information. They also recommend you don’t answer any unsolicited emails and call your bank yourself to make sure you’re talking to a legitimate banking representative.

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Copyright 2018 KPHO/KTVK (KPHO Broadcasting Corporation). All rights reserved.

3 On Your Side Investigative Producer

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