So, it looks as though the banks are phasing out cheques (NatWest says I can still write them — but for how long?).
If cheques do go completely, what are we supposed to use? Well, online banking, I suppose (which presupposes that all bank customers have access to the Internet, which is far from a foregone conclusion).
As I do have an Internet connection (at present, at least) and as a customer of the National Westminster Bank (AKA ‘NatWest, now part of the Royal Bank of Scotland Group), I thought I’d take a look at setting up online banking for myself.
First things first: make sure I know who I’m talking to… ‘NatWest,’ thought I, ‘they would probably have a UK domain of ‘natwest.co.uk’.
Co.uk domains are managed by a UK-based not-for-profit organisation called Nominet. Sure enough: Nominet’s whois tool confirms that the domain name natwest.co.uk is registered to National Westminster Bank Plc (with an address ‘c/o RBS’ in Edinburgh — I think it’s probably fair to assume that ‘RBS’ is ‘Royal Bank of Scotland,’ not ‘Roy B Swindler’).
So far, so good.
Naturally, I go to http://natwest.co.uk. Or rather, I try to, but I can’t actually get there: I’m redirected to http://natwest.com. But it gets worse: the nice, friendly ‘sign up now for online banking’ button opens up a new browser window at a completely different address: http://nwolb.com (I tend to look out for these kinds of things — a redirection to another website is one way in which users can be fooled into giving out information to someone else without realising it – see phishing).
.Com domains are governed by an organisation called Internic. The Internic’s whois tool tells me that natwest.com is registered to
National Westminster Bank PLC … nobody and nwolb.com is registered to National Westminster Bank PLC … nobody. What’s that all about, then?
Fortunately, at the foot of each of those Internic whois lookup pages there’s a Report Inaccurate Whois listing link — and that takes me to a different whois lookup that does confirm that the registrant of both natwest.com and nwolb.com is, in fact, The Royal Bank of Scotland Group Plc (why couldn’t they have admitted that in the first place?).
So, maybe it is ok to go ahead with my online banking application after all…
My head hurts.