Recently a younger family member mentioned that he had just gotten a new debit card for his checking account because someone had gotten into his account. He said he wasn’t sure how it happened, but someone got access to his checking account information and racked up a number of charges. This was the second time this had happened to him in less than a year. And he’s not alone.
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As it turns out, illegal access to bank accounts is one of the fastest growing financial crimes today. Unfortunately, my relative is still uncertain how someone was able to gain access to his account not once, but twice. His situation got me thinking of ways one can protect his or her bank account from scams and illegal activity. Here is a list of five ways to protect your accounts from thieves.
1. Check your accounts regularly.
Keeping an eye on your account will help you know when something is wrong. Even accounts that you may not use very frequently must be checked on a regular basis. Balance your checking account each month to make sure all the purchases being debited from your account are actual purchases you made. If something does not seem right, contact your bank immediately.
2. Never give out your PIN.
While this tip may seem obvious to those of us who have had a checking account for years, it’s not always so obvious to new checking account holders. Your PIN should never be given out to anyone—not even bank tellers. If you are ever asked over the phone to directly give your PIN to the person on the other end, don’t do it! Most banks have an automated system that will ask you to punch in or say your PIN and then connect you to a teller or bank representative. Remind your family members and loved ones they are never to give anyone their PIN.
3. Use strong passwords.
Online banking is the fastest growing sector of banking for scammers and thieves. While online banking provides a great convenience, it also makes us more susceptible to theft. One way to ensure your security is to create a password that is strong. Don’t make your passwords too easy by using your birthdate or your child’s name. It’s a good idea to include a series of numbers, letters and symbols in your password to help ensure security of your accounts.
4. Be careful where you access your account.
On just about every corner, you can pop into a coffee shop or local fast food place and get free Wi-Fi access. This allows you to get work done outside of the office, but think twice about using these connections to check your banking account. Remember, these are still public places, and you don’t necessarily know what security measures are in place. Someone looking over your shoulder as you log in or a hacker may be able to gain access to your account through the public Wi-Fi connection.
5. Avoid ATMs in touristy areas or that look out of place.
If you need to use an ATM, it’s always best to use one you are familiar with and that belongs to your bank. It’s a good idea to avoid ATMs in touristy locations, or stand-alone ATMs that look out of place. Not only will you save yourself money by avoiding ATM fees, but you may also save yourself from having your information taken by scammers.
There are a number of ways that other people can gain access to your bank account. It’s imperative that you stay on top of your information, use strong passwords and be on guard when it comes to accessing your accounts online. While new technology is great and offers convenience, it can also give thieves more of an opportunity to gain access to your hard-earned money. Be alert, and do what you can to avoid the headache of having your bank accounts become the target of thieves.
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