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.
Have a debt question?
Email your question to firstname.lastname@example.org and Howard Dvorkin will review it. Dvorkin is a CPA, chairman of Debt.com, and author of two personal finance books, Credit Hell: How to Dig Yourself Out of Debt and Power Up: Taking Charge of Your Financial Destiny.
The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and/or policies of Debt.com.