Check your accounts regularly for suspicious transactions — fraud. Protect your passwords and PINs. Also avoid clicking on links or responding to emails requesting personal information such as Social Security and bank account numbers, no matter how legitimate they may look.
That’s because criminals create fictitious websites and emails claiming to be from government agencies or trusted companies. In general, legitimate companies will never contact you unprompted requesting sensitive information. Contact your bank to learn more about the security features it offers or tips it suggests for customers.
The bottom line: Having a bank account brings important benefits, including access to safe and affordable financial services in good times and bad. If you choose well and manage wisely, your banking relationship can evolve and grow as you do — affording you access to more options for credit, savings and investment when you are ready and when you need them.
Small Charges Big Crime
Most people looking at their bank statements would probably notice if their credit or debit card were used without their approval to purchase a big ticket item, and they would quickly call their bank or card issuer to report the error or fraudulent transaction.
But consumers are less likely to be suspicious of very small charges, including those less than a dollar which is why criminals like to make them.
“These small transactions might be signs that someone has learned your account information and is using it to commit a crime,” said Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC’s Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section. “That’s why it’s important to be on the lookout for fraudulent transactions, no matter how small.”
He added, “When thieves fraudulently obtain someone else’s credit or debit card information and create a counterfeit card, they might test it out with a small transaction — like buying a pack of gum or a soda — to make sure the counterfeit card works before using it to make a big purchase.
If this test goes unnoticed by the true account holder, thieves will use the card to buy something expensive that they want or that they can easily sell for cash.”
In one example, the Federal Trade Commission alleged that a group of individuals stole nearly $10 million by making charges to more than a million credit and debit cards that went unnoticed by most of cardholders because the transactions ranged from 20 cents to $10.