Banking Identity Theft

Banking identity theft occurs when a thief gains access to an individual's banking account by obtaining their personal information, including passwords and account numbers. In fact, banking identity theft is one of consumers' biggest fears when it comes to online banking and purchasing. Roughly 150 million U.S. consumers avoid making purchases with their debt accounts or banking online. Banks are currently working on strengthening their online security by using multilayered strategies. With certain precautions in place, consumers can safely partake in online activities related to their bank accounts without worrying about the risks of banking identity theft.

How it Works

Identity thieves obtain individuals' personal banking information by:

  • Obtaining information from businesses and other institutions by stealing records, bribing employees, and hacking into computers
  • Dumpster diving for personal information
  • Obtaining credit scores falsely by pretending to be an employer
  • Stealing wallets and purses containing debit cards and identification cards
  • Redirecting mail so that individuals do not receive their financial statements
  • Stealing personal information from individuals' homes
  • Obtaining information from individuals by posing as a legitimate business or bank
  • Phishing by sending out fraudulent emails

How to Protect Against Identity Theft

Individuals can safeguard against banking identity theft by following a few precautions. These include:

  • All debit cards should be signed immediately when they are received. This prevents thieves from forging signatures on the back of them.
  • All debit receipts and bank statements should be closely monitored and reviewed regularly. This way, individuals will be able to detect any suspicious activity instantly.
  • All bank account statements and ATM receipts should not be thrown away in public spaces. They should be shredded before being thrown away in a private trashcan. This prevents thieves from obtaining confidential information from the trash - dumpster diving is one of the main ways that they obtain account numbers and other financial information.
  • All debit cards should be closely watched while making any transactions in public, and cards should be prompted removed from ATM machines after swiping. By doing this, thieves will not be able to gain access to passwords by looking over individuals' shoulders.
  • Do not write down debit account passwords or account numbers. Instead, they should be memorized to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.
  • If any debit cards or checks should become lost or stolen, they should be reported immediately to banks and law enforcement.
  • All bank accounts should be monitored for any unauthorized transactions on a weekly basis.
  • Make sure that all bank account statements are arriving on time. If bank statements do not arrive, then this could be a sign that the mail has been redirected to a new address.
  • Social security numbers should be guarded, and they should be taken off any personal checks.
  • Use antivirus and anti-spyware software. This will prevent hackers and thieves from accessing personal information or unleashing viruses onto computers.
  • Do not open any suspicious emails or links. Thieves can obtain personal information by directing individuals to fraudulent websites or by unleashing viruses.

Identity Theft Protection Services

Individuals also have the option of investing in an identity theft protection service, which will safeguard against banking identity theft along with other forms for them. This saves individuals time and worry. Most of the identity theft protection services, such as IdentityGuard, TrustedID and LifeLock, offer automatic fraud alerts, free credit scores, junk mail deletion, identity recovery assistance, lost wallet/purse assistance, and more.

What to do if Banking Identity Theft occurs

If individuals should find themselves as victims of banking identity theft, they should follow the standard procedures for victims of identity theft including:

  • Placing a fraud alert on all credit scores from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion
  • Closing any accounts that have been compromised.
  • Reporting the theft to local police authorities, and filing an identity theft police report
  • Filing a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission

Summary

Online banking identity theft is a serious and damaging crime. Victims of banking identity theft are unable to recover their finances if they discover it too late, and oftentimes end up losing thousands of dollars. It is important for all individuals to be aware of banking identity theft, and take all the necessary precautions available to protect against it, including looking into identity theft protection services. If they suspect identity theft, it should be reported immediately to all banks and local authorities in order to minimize damages.

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