It is the fastest growing form of identity theft, and it can have the most devastating effect on us. It is called Account Hijacking, and some 2 million people were victimized last year alone. Overall, account fraud totals more than $2.4 billion annually, and $1,200 per victim.
Account Hijacking occurs when a criminal obtains your personal banking information and uses it to take over your bank accounts. It can take weeks or month to discover. Fortunately, there are steps you can take to protect yourself.
STEP 1 – UNDERSTAND THE THREAT
Often, the account hijacker uses one or more methods to obtain your personal data. You should be particularly aware of two, phishing and spyware.
· Hijacking by Phishing deceives customers into providing their user names, passwords, and account numbers via deceptive emails, fake web sites, or both. The classic phishing attack involves a deceptive email that purports to be from a legitimate financial institution. The email typically tells the customer that there is some sort of problem with the customer’s account, and instructs the recipient to click on the included hyperlink to “fix” the problem. In reality, the spoofed website is simply collecting customer user names and passwords in order to hijack accounts.
· Hijacking with Spyware works by inserting malicious software, often referred to as “spyware,” on a person’s personal computer. Skyware can be loaded when a user opens a seemingly innocuous email attachment or clicks on a pop-up advertisement. The spyware collect selected information (such as user names, passwords, and account numbers) and forwards that information to the fraudster.
STEP 2 – FORTIFY YOUR SYSTEM
When it comes to account hijacking, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. Here are some basic safety tips you can implement immediately:
· Password Protection – If your password is easy for you to remember, the chances are good it is also easy for an Internet hacker to figure out. Experts advise a combination of letters and numbers, and avoiding pet names, your home address, and similar easy-to-crack codes.
· Virus Vaccines – Your computer’s anti-virus software is like a vaccine – it works at first, but you need to keep it up-to-date to guard against new strains.
· Patching the Firewall – This protection wall between the outside world and your computer can help prevent unauthorized access to your computer. Updates are called patches, and you should check regularly with your software company to be sure you have the latest patches.
· Zap the Spyware – Anti-spyware programs are readily available, and every computer connected to the Internet should have the software installed . . . and updated regularly.
· No “Phishing” Allowed – If you receive an unexpected email, or one that you consider suspicious, delete it. Remember: your bank will never email you and ask you to go to another site to verify information.
STEP 3 – VIGILANCE PAYS
Chances are you will never be victimized by account hijacking identity theft. But if you are victimized, early detection is critical.
· Check your bank statement regularly. If something seems irregular, contact your NASB banker to discuss it. An encouraging note: a recent study showed that customers who monitor their accounts online discover any problems sooner.
· Check your credit report at least annually. You are entitled to one free credit report annually from each of the three major credit bureaus. If a hijacker is misusing your credit, clues are likely to show up here. For a free report: www.annualcreditreport.com.
North American State Bank is taking substantive measures to protect the safety and security of your accounts. By acting today to strengthen security at your end of the internet highway, hijackers will have an even tougher time.