One of my fondest memories as a kid was cracking open my piggy bank so I could use the money that I’d been saving to buy something. For a child, that’s fine. However, for many cyberthieves, breaking into a computer or other device in order to crack open personal and financial banking information in order to steal another person’s money is a whole other issue. That is called bank fraud, and it’s a problem that’s growing rapidly.
Bank fraud is one type of identity theft, a problem that is soaring in every state in the country. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), there were 1.7 million reported cases of bank fraud in 2019, and the numbers are growing. There are many different types of identity theft that involves bank fraud, including account takeover, where the cybercrook simply takes over the victim’s bank account and uses it as his or her own, paying for merchandise, taking out cash and all other types of banking activities.
Credit card fraud is another huge portion of bank fraud, and once they’re in possession of a victim’s credit or debit card number, they make all types of purchases costing millions of dollars. Loan fraud is also prevalent, where the cyberthief has access to all pertinent financial information and opens a loan in the victim’s name. Purchases are made, and the bank often goes after the victim to recover their losses.
One other type of bank theft is check fraud, where the thief creates checks using the victim’s checking account information and uses those checks to make all types of purchases. Millions are lost, and if the victim isn’t aware that their information was stolen, and therefore doesn’t report it, they can be held liable for the dollar amount that was lost.
How People Become Victims
So, how do cyberthieves turn innocent people into victims? One of the ways that cybercrooks get information they need to commit bank fraud is through phishing emails. One of the top ones is the “Bank of America” email, where an email that looks like it came from Bank of America appears in a person’s inbox stating that there was a problem with the account, and requires the person to input their login information.
Before this scam became widely publicized, many people did exactly what was asked, only the crooks used that phishing email to capture the persons login name and password, which gave them complete access to the person’s bank account, and of course their money.
Another major way that people become victims is when cybercrooks harvest all types of personal information about a person from people search sites, like US Search, TruthFinder and Checkmate. Sometimes, thieves get really lucky and are able to get a person’s Social Security number from one of those sites, but even if they don’t, they’re able to get enough other personal, financial and family info to commit bank fraud.
Additionally, thieves will use texting and phone scams to trick people into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to perpetrate bank fraud. Some even resort to “dumpster diving,” which simply means that they go through people’s trash in order to find bank statements, credit card bills and other information that can lead to bank fraud. As disgusting as it sounds, that practice works in many cases.
How To Prevent Bank Fraud
It’s one thing to recognize bank fraud and that you may have been a victim, but preventing it is more difficult. Be very cautious before responding to or downloading emails from people you don’t know or recognize. It could be a big phishing scam. Also, since cyberthieves like to create phony websites of reputable shopping sites, never click on a link to a reputable site like Amazon or any major retailer from 3rd party websites. Always type in the URL address yourself.
Another key is to remove all of the unauthorized personal and private information about you from people search sites. That, of course, is easier said than done. Here’s why: there are over 100 people search sites that could contain enough personal information about you that would give cyberthieves a “key” to unlocking your financial information – up to and including your Social Security number. Each site has their own procedure for removing information and opting out, and some are very complex.
That could take an inordinate amount of time – weeks and weeks of hard work on your part. And if you’re thinking you could pay someone with knowledge to do this, well, think again. The amount of time – even for an experienced computer person – would be extremely costly. Instead, you can have it done automatically for you using technology from a company like OneRep. They have sophisticated algorithms that will seek out and search every single people search site and remove your personal information for you. It’s fast, accurate and affordable.
Another tactic to use is to have antivirus software on every computer and device. Top ones include Bitdefender, Sophos, Avira and Avast, among many others. Having antivirus protection on your computer is another line of defense that will keep malware and other bad apps out of your hard drive and off your computer.
Check your credit with the credit bureaus – to ensure that someone doesn’t have your information and is opening all kinds of new accounts in your name. The government offers a free source called annualcreditreport.com that allows you to check your credit on the major bureaus including Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Best of all, there’s no cost to you.
Finally, be sure you have the latest operating system running on your computer, because this will ensure that you also have the latest security features installed to help avoid a breach in your data. And be careful what you post on social media – never give up information like your birth date, credit card numbers or Social Security number.