Nothing’s easier than online banking. Just log in, view your bills, pay them, check on other accounts, and so on. I mean, aside from my grandparents, who doesn’t use the internet to bank these days?
While it’s more secure than ever before, and in my opinion, much safer than the old-fashioned paper-bill method, you still have to keep an eye out for scammers and internet fraud types who are trying to get their hands on your money.
In phishing scams, crooks send a mass email to every address they can find, and they look like they come from your bank. They then ask you to update your profile (personal account number, passwords, social security numbers, mom’s maiden name, birthday, etc.) Before you know it, all of it is in the hands of an internet fraud scammer.
You probably think this wouldn’t happen to you. But it’s not always that easy to spot an internet banking fraud scam. In some cases, good phishing scams can be really hard to discern from the real thing. There may be a graphic or logo from your bank on the email, or the website they link you to is so real looking, even you could be fooled. By the time they’re through, they have all the information needed to break into your account, open credit cards in your name, etc.
Protecting Yourself From Phishing Scams
Bank of America offers the award-winning SiteKeyTM tool, which shows you an image (chosen by you in advance), then asks you to enter another password before you get access to your account. That way, it’s easy to tell if you’re on a bogus site.
What if your bank doesn’t offer this kind of protection? Well, no legitimate bank would send an email asking you to update your personal information. So if you get one, you know it’s one of those phishing scams. Forward it to your bank or the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), mark it as “spam” in your mailbox, or just delete it.
Spyware and Viruses
Spyware and viruses are nasty little programs that are loaded on your computer without your knowledge (usually by clicking on shady-looking pop-up ads). Sometimes they destroy information on your computer. Other times, they bombard you with so many ads, that you want to toss your computer out the window.
Then there’s the spyware that just sits there quietly, disguised as a real application, collecting all your private information. While it’s not exactly like those phishing scams, this kind of internet fraud puts the same secret information into the hands of thieves.
So called "Trojan horses" are also a good way for internet fraud specialists to get their hands on your account. Often times, these are disguised as or embedded within harmless looking software (computer clock setting programs, weather alert software, etc.) But these creatures are just trying to get access to your private information. They can also come in the form of a stand-alone program like a game or a screensaver. So, what should you do? If you don’t have it already, get good anti-virus protection, anti-spywear, and a firewall for your home computer.
How’s Your Bank Helping with Internet Fraud?
Your bank should provide you with protection, too. After all, a good online banking fraud detection and prevention system is good for business. I’m not sure what kind of internet fraud protection your bank offers, but, Bank of America's Online Banking has:
1. Firewalls to help block unauthorized access by individuals or networks.
2. Encryption technology, like Secure Socket Layer (SSL), to help transmitted info stay between you and Bank of America.
3. Secure email via Online Banking Award-winning SiteKeyTM service to help keep the wrong people out of your accounts.
Other Ways to Battle Internet Fraud
The best thing about banking online is how quickly you can access your accounts. Here are some ways you can use it to help cut down on internet banking fraud:
1. Go online often and check your account activity. This will help you detect internet fraud and identity theft almost instantly.
2. Set up email alerts – some banks give you the option to get alerts if your account drops below a certain amount. Then you’ll know if someone’s been messing with your account .
3. If you can, switch to online statements and electronic bills (e-bills) instead of mailed paper statements. This could help cut the risk of mail fraud.
Despite all the fancy internet fraud measures out there, the best fraud detection and prevention system is you. Bottom line is – you control the information you give out – and you’re the person who protects it. Keep all your personal or account information in a safe place, and don’t give it to anyone you don’t trust completely. When it comes to internet banking fraud and phishing scams, it’s good to be a skeptic.
Brit Hall is a freelance writer – and Bank of America customer – who writes articles for young adults about managing expenses, eliminating debt, and other personal finance issues.
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