Is Your Bank Account Safe?

How to keep the money in your bank account safe — online and offline: Internet ScamBusters #92

Internet ScamBusters™
The #1 Publication on Internet Fraud

By Audri and Jim Lanford
Copyright © Audri and Jim Lanford
All rights reserved.
Issue #92

Hi Everyone,

Today’s issue was inspired by a very disturbing statistic we read last week.
According to the research organization, Gartner Inc., illegal access to bank
accounts is one of the fastest-growing financial crimes today.

Gartner estimates that during the past year, almost 2 million people in the
US have had money stolen from their bank accounts! The average loss was $1200,
with a total of more than $2 billion in losses for the year.

Today’s issue explores this problem — and shows you how to keep the money in
your bank account safe — online and offline.

Before we get going though, we wanted to address a question by a subscriber
about our recent issue on florist scams. The subscriber asked us if we include
companies like FTD in florist scams.

Answer: No. There are a number of companies like FTD that are certainly not
scams. These companies let customers know what the charges will be (so customers
do not get bogus and unexpected charges).

If you missed that article on florist
scams
, check it out. We also include a new link to a site on roses
that includes some interesting information on growing and enjoying roses that
was recommended by our local florist.

OK. Let’s get going…


How Safe Is The Money in Your Bank Account?


Today’s article is not about what happens if your bank fails. Although this
can be a real problem, most bank accounts in the US are insured by the FDIC
to cover losses up to $100,000.

Action: We certainly recommend that you always make sure that your bank is financially
sound and that your bank account deposits are fully covered by the FDIC.

However, today we focus on how to keep the money in your bank account safe from
scammers and thieves. We’ll talk about keeping your money safe through both
online and offline banking.

Online banking

Let’s start with online banking, since that’s where the problems are growing
fastest.

Online banking certainly provides great convenience — and can save you a lot
of time. Online banking lets you check your balances, transfer money between
accounts, and pay bills.

However, you need to be vigilant and protect your online bank account. Here
are some tips on how you can protect your bank account and keep it safe from
theft:

1. PAY ATTENTION. Log in to your account on a regular basis, even if you don’t
have any transactions to do. Simply take a look. It only takes a moment to review
your information so that you know what’s going on — and to make sure nothing
is wrong.

Action: If you do discover a problem or a discrepancy, contact your bank immediately.

2. KEEP IT PRIVATE. Don’t be tempted to do your online banking in the library
or the local Internet cafe. You have no way of knowing who has access to that
information — or how they’ll treat it.

Plus, there may be keystroke loggers on the computer, which make it very easy
for a thief to steal your private information.

(A keystroke logger is a hardware device or software program that monitors each
keystroke a user types on the keyboard. This information can then easily be
transmitted to the scammer, who then can have access to user names, passwords,
and other confidential information.)

Action: Never use public computers for transactions that involve private information.

3. INITIATE CONTACT YOURSELF. Don’t ever try to access your account through
an emailed link — no matter how much that email looks like it came from your
bank.

These kinds of emails that request you to log into your bank account are most
likely ‘phishing’ scams. We’ve written quite a bit about these scams in past
issues. For more info on phishing
scams, click here.

Plus, don’t give out any personal information if someone who claims to be from
your bank contacts you, by email or by phone.

Action: The best way to be reasonably sure that you really are dealing with
your financial institute is to always initiate the contact yourself.

4. CHECK FOR SECURE CONNECTIONS. When you visit the bank’s site, make sure that
the page where you type your info always starts with https: The ‘s’ means that
the URL is on a secure server.

Action: Never type confidential information or passwords into a non-secure page.

5. CHANGE YOUR PASSWORD REGULARLY. And don’t tell anyone what it is, or allow
anyone else to use it. Even people you trust should not have access to your
online banking password.

Action: Change your password at least once a quarter. If you suspect there may
be a problem, immediately change your password and call your bank.

6. INSTALL BARRIERS. If you are doing online banking, your computer should have
the following software installed:

– A firewall. Firewalls ‘block the door’ to your computer so ‘hackers’ can’t
access the information on your hard drive. To learn more about firewalls,
click here.

– Spyware blockers. Spyware is any program that secretly downloads onto your
system when you access the Internet, often through pop-up ads or attachments.

The software gathers information about you from your computer and sends it to
‘third parties’ — who could be scammers who will steal your money. You can
learn more about spyware
here:

– Anti-Virus software. Scammers sometimes send virus ‘trojan horse’ programs
by email, and anti-virus software installed on your system can stop these. To
learn more about anti-virus
software
, click here.

Action: Install a good firewall, spyware blocking software, and updated anti-virus
software program.

Action: Report all problems and suspicious activity immediately.

Offline Banking

There are lots of ways that thieves can gain access to your bank account info
offline as well. Here are a few precautions for you to take:

– As with online banking, pay attention. Don’t just get your bank statement
and toss it on the ‘to-do’ pile on your desk. Your to-do pile is probably way
too big, and it might be days before you get around to opening that envelope.
You can’t spot a problem if you’re not paying attention — and if you don’t
spot an existing problem, it could cost you a great deal.

Action: Read your bank statements as soon as you get them.

– Be very careful with your ATM card. Don’t lend your ATM card to anyone or
share your password. And never write your PIN number on your ATM card or have
it anywhere near your ATM card (in the event that your wallet gets stolen).

– Shield your transactions when you use your ATM card so no one can see what
you are keying in.

– Check to make sure that no hardware devices have been added to an ATM machine
you’re using.

These devices, called ‘Skimmer’ devices, can record the info from the magnetic
strip on your ATM card along with your PIN number. They take less than 15 seconds
for the scammer to install and uninstall them.

Some Skimmer devices are installed over the keypad on an ATM machine — and
may include warnings, supposedly from the bank, about how this equipment is
being tested. If you see anything like this, do NOT use the ATM machine.

– Shred old and unused checks, as well as any unwanted paper that has your bank
account number on it.

– Never give anyone a signed blank check.

Check out our article on credit
card fraud
: 21 tips to protect yourself. Much of this article is
also useful to help you avoid bank fraud.

For more on the Gartner study, visit:

==> http://msnbc.msn.com/id/5184077/

If you do find a fraudulent transaction, report it to your bank immediately.
Your bank is required to refund your money as long as you notify the bank within
60 days of receiving your statement. However, the sooner you begin the process,
the faster action can be taken to stop the fraud.

If you follow these suggestions, there are no guarantees (since these folks
are very, very clever), but you will have a very good chance of keeping your
bank account safe from scammers and thieves.

Time to wrap up. We have a really important issue for you next week that’s a
bit different, so be sure to watch for it.