Behind the scenes of daily banking activity, banks go to great lengths to protect their customers, spending massive budgets on cybersecurity, data encryption and fraud prevention.
Protecting customer data is a priority and clearly their measures are working. According to the American Banking Association’s most recent data, banks stopped nearly $17 billion in fraudulent transactions in 2016, a substantial increase from prior years.
Debit and credit card fraud accounted for 58 percent of industry losses, check fraud was 35 percent, and other channels including online banking and electronic transfers only seven percent of the total. The volume of fraud attempted but stopped more than doubled over the last three years.
Interestingly, as card fraud went down due to the stronger prevention measures now in place, check fraud has risen to a level not seen since 2008. As banks change their security measures, fraudsters also change their methods to find vulnerabilities.
Where bank fraud happens
Despite splashy news coverage about hacking and malware, this rarely happens at a bank level and it’s not typically where your money is at risk.
The most common threats to bank accounts are related to a lost or stolen check that can be altered, a misplaced cell phone with minimal password protection, a stolen credit card, or scanner devices that clone card information.
What you can do to protect your bank account
Tactics to protect your bank account include a mix of common preventative measures, and a few ideas that might surprise you.
- Frequently review your bank and credit card statements to verify transactions are correct. Doing this daily helps you spot incorrect transactions quickly, and a quick dispute claim may put the money back in your account almost immediately.
- Use a good anti-virus software on your computer, and strong passwords on your cell phone. If it’s lost or stolen, this is your first line of defense for unauthorized access to your accounts.
- Enable multi-device authentication for online banking, if it’s offered. This prevents access from a single device, like a lost cell phone. One-time use passwords are also an excellent security measure.
- If you mail checks frequently, don’t leave them in a vulnerable location awaiting pickup. Mail theft is rampant. Drop them off in a locked mail pickup location.
- Lock up blank checks for your business and personal banking, and shred unused deposit slips that have pre-printed bank account information along the bottom.
- Never leave your wallet, purse or checkbook in plain sight within your vehicle. It’s surprisingly common for someone to toss something through the window for a snatch-and-run.
- Avoid non-bank ATMs, especially if they’re in remote areas with poor lighting. If you must use one, inspect the card slot closely to ensure you’re not inserting your card into a skimmer device.
- Try to use debit and credit cards with an EMV-encrypted chip on the front. These are harder for thieves to duplicate because they create a unique transaction code when used in person at a card transaction machine.
- Never use public WiFi for online banking or checking a credit card balance. Wait until you’re on a home network or private VPN.
Do you have questions about bank account security or measures you can take to keep your account safe? Be sure to ask your banker the next time you’re in a branch, call, or visit the Privacy & Security section on our website.