A billionaire hardware chain founder, John Menard, was recently targeted by identity thieves. Someone had called his bank in Wisconsin, the United States, requesting that a sum of $475,000 be transferred to a bank account outside the country.
The fellow obviously had Menard’s account number, his password and social security number, according to a report by www.aol.com.
And when the bank called Menard’s house to confirm the transaction, the thief (yet to be arrested) was able to intercept the call and gave the go-ahead to transfer the money.
Unfortunately for the thief, the bank also called Menard’s office. Someone there promptly contacted the billionaire, who was aboard a flight at the time and had asked that the transaction be aborted.
Thieves are getting smarter in their quest to steal large sums of money from unsuspecting bank account holders. They are also becoming more sophisticated with the use of electronic payment platforms.
Many bank customers could have prevented a lot of losses they had suffered if only they had known about safety tips that could help protect their accounts from thieves.
A number of bank customers have fallen victims to thieves who have access to their accounts in different ways.
In the old days, robbers would storm banks with guns; and if they made away with a lot of money, it was the bank’s problem. Now, identity theft is the preferred method of robbery, which means thieves are targeting specific customers, and bank robberies have become a lot more personal.
So it is never a bad idea to make sure you do everything you can to protect your bank account. And while it is arguably easy for a thief to get enough information to break into your account, it is also easy to protect yourself against such attacks. So, the next time you do any bank transaction, keep the following five steps in mind.
Anytime you type in your password, keep it covered
Some thieves are known to rig cameras at banks’ Automated Teller Machines. This is meant to catch you in the act of typing in your password when you are depositing or taking out money.
The Chief Security Officer of MagTek, Tom Patterson, says that some thieves have gone into grocery stores and installed tiny, hidden cameras, designed to catch your fingers typing in your password, especially when you pay for products with your debit card.
Patterson, who is one of the world leaders in creating secure electronic payment technology, including those machines you swipe your credit card in, advises that you can block the angles so that nobody can view what you are typing.
When you are designing your hints for online banking information, be clever. Every thief knows that with your social security number or account number, they can learn your mother’s maiden name; they can probably steal you blind. So, credit card companies and banks in general will often ask you to use other forms of personal information, such as your favourite vacation spot, or your primary or secondary school name.
Get to know your bank teller
The Security Director, Crescent State Bank, a regional bank in North Carolina, Jo Sorbi, comments on the problem of keeping one’s identity safe. She stresses the importance of staying with a bank for a long time.
According to her, the longer you stay with a bank, the more you create a history with the bank and it can easily suspect any transaction or request that not tally with your financial habit.
Destroy bills and any other paperwork that includes personal and account information. Buy a personal shredder for your house, and be diligent about shredding everything that contains critical information that could be used to steal from you.
Get a post office box
If you’re truly paranoid, Sorbi notes that you often get unsolicited credit card offers in your mailboxes, which can be a vehicle for a thief to try some mischief.
But if you don’t want to go through the trouble and expense of renting a post office box, Sorbi suggests this instead: “Go online, and take yourself off the unsolicited credit card offers. Tell them you don’t want any of the materials being offered. It may not stop criminals from possibly getting access to your credit information, but it will give them less to work with if they drive up to your mailbox.”
Banks are also constantly working on their own prevention methods. The Los Angeles Times recently profiled a security expert, Jim Stickey, who boasted about how he had “stolen” information in a thousand banks, and that while it could be time-consuming to pull off, it was easy.
As the Times revealed, Stickey disguised himself as a pest-control technician, a fire inspector or some other plausible worker, and once he got access into the bank, he would go to work, stealing customers’ personal information (and then reported his findings to the bank management, which hired him to break in).