What Is Bank Identity Theft?
Firstly, you will be pleased to hear that this isn’t a situation in which banks try and defraud customers. Though there are occasional reports in the press about rogue members of staff in a bank that are copying customer information to sell on to criminals, it is, thankfully, rare.
It would be reasonable to say that in any position which deals with sensitive information, some people will succumb to the temptation. That is just human nature.
Instead, bank identity theft is generally carried out by criminals who are impersonating a bank. This might be online or by telephone. They are doing this in the hope that the customer will provide details of account numbers, sort codes and passwords to them. The criminals will then use this information to make transfers out of bank accounts and into accounts they have established.
From there, the stolen money will be removed or transferred again and the criminal will disappear. Needless to say, the bank accounts used by the criminals are often established in false identities and in far away countries where it is difficult for the police to investigate.
From the perspective of you, the bank customer, it is vital that you do not give your account information to anyone who calls by telephone and tells you that they are from your bank. At least 99% of all banks in the western world will never call you to do this. If you receive such a call, you are almost certainly being targeted by a fraudster.
If this happens, it is time to get serious about your information security immediately. Check your credit file as soon as you can. It is vital to find out whether other accounts have been opened in your name. You can get a free copy of your credit report or if you use credit monitoring (https://www.stopidentityfraud.org/best-credit-monitoring-services/ ), you can most likely find it on your online dashboard with the company you signed up with.
A Mathematical Certainty
In terms of the internet, this is known as “phishing”. Emails that look like they are from a bank, using an email address that seems to be similar will redirect you to their own website that looks exactly like that of the bank. These websites often have forged security certificates to help them bypass browser security functions. A percentage of people will follow the link and input their bank details to log in.
It is believed that there are actually several hundred thousand of these websites online. They are generally hosted in another country – often a Pacific or Caribbean island – in a corner of the internet that is difficult to regulate. It is widely believed that a significant percentage of all phishing activity originates from Russia.
As far fetched as this may sound, by spamming generic email lists with emails that look to be from major banks, the fraudsters can play a numbers game knowing that a small percentage will follow their process and hand them their information. They are using tried and tested direct marketing techniques for nefarious purposes.
Tim is a freelance journalist who writes on everything from personal finance to investing and credit. He spends his spare time traveling, paddle boarding and working with local charities. He has a B.A. in English Literature from Oklahoma State University and lives with his wife and children in Phoenix, Az.