Despite technological advances, your bank account could be compromised by cybercriminals, online scams or acts of fraud. In fact, the FTC found that 2.8 million consumers reported fraud in 2021 at a cost of $5.8 billion. Possible indicators of a compromised bank account include unusual purchases, unfamiliar transactions, denied debit card transactions, a locked online account, or an unexpected balance. Fortunately, you can take steps to protect your bank account, your money, and your personal information.
Here are 7 tips to help keep your finances safe:
- Pick a strong password. Choose a strong and unique password for your online bank account. You want it to be complex enough that no one could possibly guess it. Try using a combination of phrases or made-up words, as well as a mixture of lowercase and capital letters, special characters, and numbers. Never pick a password that you’ve used elsewhere online and remember to change your password regularly. You should always enable multi-factor authentication whenever possible, and consider locking down your bank’s mobile app with biometrics, such as fingerprint or facial recognition, too.
- Log into your account regularly. According to a recent banking study, eight in 10 consumers use mobile banking at least weekly. This is a great statistic, as monitoring your bank account each week can help you spot suspicious, unauthorized activity. When you log into your bank account, it’s important to review all of your recent transactions. Report any unrecognized activity such unauthorized withdrawals or failed login attempts to your bank immediately. These could indicate someone else is using, or trying to access, your account.
- Only access your account from a secure network. To ensure that your Online Banking credentials aren’t compromised it’s important to only log into your account via a secure online connection. Never use your bank’s mobile app or log into their website over a public Wi-Fi network. Also, ensure that your computer and mobile devices are running up-to-date operating systems and using current web browsers.
- Be vigilant when using your debit card or writing checks. It’s important to remember that anyone with your debit card number can withdraw money from your bank account. And while federal law limits your responsibility for fraudulent charges to $50 when using a credit card, debit cards carry a bit more personal liability. Depending on how quickly you report a compromised debit card, you could be on the hook for $500 or more. For these reasons, you should never use your debit card in an unfamiliar or risky location. And always check for skimming devices on card readers. Rather than “swipe” your card, use a chip reader, or contactless payment options whenever possible. Likewise, try to avoid writing paper checks since they contain your name, bank account number and routing number - everything a fraudster needs to access your bank account. Instead, opt for electronic payments via your bank’s online transfer service, or peer-to-peer payment services like Zelle or Venmo.
- Be on the lookout for fake fraud alerts. Criminals are increasingly posing as banks, the IRS, and law enforcement. If you receive a text or email asking you to log into your account or to confirm fraudulent charges via a link, don’t take the bait. Never share your bank account numbers or login credentials with anyone. Check texts or emails for grammatical errors or other indicators that a request for information is fake. Cybercrooks are savvy and can even spoof real phone numbers or email addresses to make them look legitimate. If someone purporting to be from your bank, the IRS, or a law enforcement agency contacts you digitally or over the phone, don’t engage with them. Instead, call them directly via their public phone number to verify the request. If you receive an alert about fraudulent charges, log into your Online Banking account via the bank’s website, or their mobile app, to review your transactions on your own.
- Be careful when connecting your account to money management apps. There are many mobile apps out there to help you manage your money, pay off debt, or analyze your finances. While legitimate apps are beneficial, there are unfortunately many counterfeit apps out there being used by cybercriminals to collect your information, monitor your online activity, and compromise your bank account. To avoid downloading a fake mobile app, always review the apps’ developer details, read its reviews, and check its release date and number of downloads it has. Also, examine the app’s icon and look for grammatical mistakes.
- Report suspicious activity immediately. Immediately contact your bank if you notice any suspicious activity within your account. Federal law requires banks and credit unions to reimburse consumers for certain fraudulent losses, however in most cases you must report the suspicious activity in a timely manner. Otherwise, you could be on the hook for part, or all, of the fraudulent charges plus any associated fees. To report suspicious activity, contact your bank and provide details of the fraudulent transactions. You’ll likely want to freeze your account to prevent further unauthorized activity. It’s also important to change your Online Banking password if you suspect someone has accessed your account. If your bank account has been compromised, you may also want to check your credit report for any inaccuracies, and consider filing a police report.
You work hard for your money, so take some time to protect it. Keep these tips in mind to help keep your bank account safe and review our Security page for additional best practices and information on the latest cyber scams.