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This week: After her bank account is riddled with fraudulent checks, she wonders: Is anyone safe?

2 minute read

Question: I have a checking and savings account with Bank of America. Last month, the bank contacted me about a couple of charges I didn’t make. At first, the amounts were in the hundreds, like $422. Then it kept going, until I’d log onto my account and see a check cashed for $888,888. 

Bank of America has been great, making sure I haven’t been charged for anything. I closed and opened a new account, but this makes me wonder: How does this even happen? The bank representatives won’t give me any details.

This has also happened with my Chase Visa. Twice in the past few years, a representative has called me and asked if I bought gasoline in Virginia and clothes in Texas, even though I’ve never been either place. 

Just like with Bank of America, they took care of everything. But wow, it makes me wonder just how bad this fraud is getting, and if it’ll eventually catch up with me — and I won’t be able to get my money back. What can we do about this? Is there something I should be doing?

— Christine in Florida

Howard Dvorkin CPA answers…

I ran your letter in full, Christine, because I think it’s very important. The same day I got your email, I saw this report from TD Bank: Cybersecurity Incidents Plague U.S. Finance Operations.

The bank polled nearly 400 financial pros and found 64 percent “reported that either their organization or one of their clients was involved in a cybersecurity event in the past year.”

That term cybersecurity event is an interesting one. It sounds almost harmless. It’s not.

I don’t know the particulars of your “events,” Christine, but they’re becoming more common. TD Bank found 91 percent of the pros they talked to think online fraud “will become a bigger threat in the next two to three years.” They’ve asked the same question for years, and this was the first time the number broke 90 percent.

So what can you do? First, don’t rely on your bank or credit card provider to call you. Monitor your accounts at least once a month. As Debt.com has reported, “Half of ID theft crimes remain unnoticed for at least one month, and 1 out of 10 crimes remains hidden for 2 or more years.”

Both Chase and Bank of America have intuitive online monitoring — it literally take only a few minutes to log on and navigate to your balances. Just make sure you do it from home, using a secure connection. Never log into your financial accounts from public Wi-Fi.

Second, check out Debt.com’s Identity Theft Resources for a free guide to everything you need to know to protect yourself.

Third, don’t get so concerned you worry too much. That may sound like an odd thing to say, given the severity of the problem. However, banks and credit card providers have become adept at painlessly fixing these problems, even if they can’t yet stop them.

As identity theft grows, I hear some people muse about never banking online, or using any online budgeting tools like Mint or Power Wallet. That’s an overreaction, not an answer.

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About the Author

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

Howard Dvorkin, CPA

I’m a certified public accountant who has authored two books on getting out of debt, Credit Hell and Power Up, and I am one of the personal finance experts for Debt.com. I have focused my professional endeavors in the consumer finance, technology, media and real estate industries creating not only Debt.com, but also Financial Apps and Start Fresh Today, among others. My personal finance advice has been included in countless articles, and has appeared in the New York Times, the Washington Post, Forbes and Entrepreneur as well as virtually every national and local newspaper in the country. Everyone should have a reason for living that’s bigger than themselves, and besides my family, mine is this: Teaching Americans how to live happily within their means. To me, money is not the root of all evil. Poor money management is. Money cannot buy happiness, but going into debt always buys misery. That’s why I launched Debt.com. I’m glad you’re here.

Published by Debt.com, LLC