A friend of mine received an email today that was most certainly a scam. This is an old story and most people should be aware of the problems by now, but it still bears repeating, so I'll repeat it.
The email claimed to be from her bank and claimed that her account had been locked due to too many bad password attempts. Please click on this link to access your account and address this problem. If you receive an email of this sort, never follow it's instructions.
First and easiest thing to notice: the sender's email address was not a bank email address. Red flag! When a bank sends you an email, the email address will include some form of the bank's name and probably the department where the email originated. Banks are very particular about this kind of thing, as well they should be. (You can safely assume that the same rule holds true for almost any other company from whom you might receive questionable emails.)
Do not, however, assume that a correct-looking email address means that you have a safe email. There is no difficulty at all in creating a fake email address that looks right but isn't.
The dead give away, of course, is the link. No reputable bank will ever include a Please Click This Link message in their email. Such a link is a hacker's delight and, if your bank is foolish enough to use one, you need to change banks immediately.
When all else fails, if you think you might have a problem, just pick up the phone and call your bank. They deal with this stuff on a daily basis and they would rather you call them than risk the integrity of both your account and their bank.
Never, ever follow the instructions of such an email, but do let your bank know you received it. If you can, forward the email to your bank's security department. They are probably already aware of the scam going around, but they will thank you anyway because the more information they receive, the more possibility they and the authorities have of stopping and catching the crooks. Also, it is remotely possible that you might be the first person to tell them about this particular threat, and it is your money you're protecting.
Online banking is a perfectly safe and valid way to conduct your business. In truth, it is safer and more secure than the over-the-phone banking and credit card use that many of us have known for years. Despite the scares and threats you hear about from time to time, there is no overwhelming problem and what threat does exist can usually be handled by common sense and a little proactive thinking. Just play safe and remember safety and you'll probably be fine.
When in doubt, never hesitate to ask.