Helping Your Banking Customers Prevent Identity Fraud

This article first appeared in the March 2008 issue of the Bank Asset/Liability Management newsletter. This copy is made with the permission of A.S. Pratt & Sons. Subscription information is available at (800) 572-2797.

Cyber thieves and hackers are getting smarter every day. Financial institutions and their customers are constantly under attack by these fraudsters. History has shown that, without the knowledge and foresight to guard against information assaults and without a solid action plan for your bank, it is oh-so-easy for your banking customers to become victims of identity fraud.

Listed below are some important tips to protect you from these ever-increasing cyber attacks:

  • Antivirus. Running antivirus does not slow down a micro-computer nearly as much as a virus does. Update your antivirus software regularly. Out-of-date antivirus software will not protect your computer from new viruses.
  • Back-up. Backing up your data may seem like a waste of time until you spill hot coffee all over your keyboard.
  • Email attachments. Do not open unknown or unexpected email attachments. Even if the mail appears to be from a recognized source, it could be bogus and contain a virus.
  • Hoax email. Unnecessary messages, such as jokes, pictures, and hoaxes can sap your computer’s resources. Your system can get bogged down with this type of mail. This can often result in the delay of legitimate email.
  • Firewalls. It takes an up-to-date firewall to secure your system. Every connected computer needs to be protected by a state-of-the-art firewall.
  • Identity theft. If you have a lost or stolen credit/debit card in the U.S., these are the steps that you must take:
    • Cancel the credit/debit card.
    • File a police report.
    • (If you have credit history in the US) Call the three national credit reporting organizations immediately to place a fraud alert on your name and social security number.
  • Instant messaging. IMs have many of the same security threats that email does. They can transfer viruses and other malware, provide an access point for Trojan horses, and give hackers an easy way to find victims. Accordingly, IM systems should be avoided.
  • Passwords. Listed below are several important password tips:
    • Change passwords on a regular schedule. By following a strict schedule for changing passwords, you will be assured of a more secure email environment.
    • Do not use the same password for everything. It may be easier to remember, but if your passwords are disclosed, cyber thieves will have the keys to all of your information. o Never write down a password. A written password can easily find its way into the hands of cyber thieves.
    • Change from a password to a passphrase. Longer and more complicated passwords are safer but are harder to remember. Try using a passphrase like “I always drive 5 MPH under the speed limit”. It is long, easy to remember, and has a mix of upper case ad lower case letters and symbols. Do not use familiar or famous quotations. Do not use any real names, especially your own, your family members’, or your pet’s names.
    • Keep your passwords secret. You financial institution expects you to use your password to stop others from misusing your computer account. If you share your password, you may be held responsible for any losses incurred in your banking accounts.
  • Personal information. Never respond to an email asking for personal information. Your bank will never ask for account information, credit card numbers, or PIN information in an email message. If you have any questions about an email you receive that supposedly comes from your financial institution, call your RM.
  • Flash drives. Do not leave flash drives or other small storage devices lying around. Flash drives and other small portable devices should be safeguarded at all times.
  • Warning messages. If you do not understand a warning message, say no and consult your banking support center. It is easier to go back and say yes if you need to than be sorry and have to rebuild your computer.
  • Wireless routers. Secure your wireless router. When setting up a wireless network at home, it is quite easy to connect to someone else’s unsecured wireless router. This misstep can allow fraudsters to use the connection for illegal activities. Should you fall prey to this hacking tactic, you may have a hard time proving that the fraudulent activity did not come from your computer.