It is amazing how easy it is for a thief or malicious person to gain access to our personal banking information. Once they get that, they can get your Social Security number, copies of bank statements and even copies of every check that was written on the account. They then post this information on the Internet so that hackers and other people could access my accounts, steal money or harass you.
What the banks don’t tell you when they ask for your mother’s maiden name is this is a key password they use to allow access to anyone calling in claiming to be you. This name was fine before the Internet and data miners were able to aggregate your personal information and make it available online with the stroke of a finger. Now with a simple search on the Internet using sites like Intellius, Peoplesearch and others that list your birthdate, previous residential addresses and family members going back for generations, the bad guys have what they need to gain access to your most confidential information.
Try calling your bank to see what information they ask for when they want to identify you. If they ask for your mother’s maiden name you know you are vulnerable. If they ask for your previous three addresses where you lived you are vulnerable. If they ask for your birthdate you are vulnerable. Banks, schools and colleges and home mortgage companies are the most vulnerable to being hacked or deceived into giving out our personal information.
Many years ago I dated a woman for a few months. There was something about her that wasn’t quite right, my friends said she was crazy. I distanced myself from her and began dating someone else. Little did I know the nightmare that I would be subjected to for many years.
Feeling jilted she plotted to destroy me personally and financially. She lured me in by promising she would refer clients to me. From those interactions she gleaned enough information about me over time, that she was able to put her scheme into action. Being very clever, she hid in the shadows of the Internet where she searched and found my mother’s maiden name. She then was able to get my previous residential addresses from other sites. My whole life was for sale on the Internet for less than $75.
She then needed a male voice to impersonate me. For that she got the cooperation of her sister’s boyfriend who willingly impersonated me, even if it is a federal crime. She then got a Voice Over Internet telephone number that couldn’t be traced and could be easily and quickly changed. Then one day they called around after hours until she found where I had my bank accounts. The first thing the person in the Philippians call center asked the impersonator was ” What is your mother’s maiden name”? (As I had no idea this was a key security question when I opened my accounts years ago, I had answered truthfully. That was a big mistake! ) My impersonator answered with the correct information. The next question was ” what are the previous addresses where you lived”? Again using information taken from Internet searches the imposter answered correctly. I had also used a portion of my former email address as a log in online, another big mistake! The bank call center person then assigned the imposter a new password so he could access my account online. Once she inside my account they went into my personal profile and took my social security number, copies of my bank statements and copies of the checks I wrote. That way they knew everyone I wrote checks to so when they called again they would be able to reference a check number, amount and the payee’s name as an identifier. She then put this information on the Internet and my problems began.
What I learned is even if you know who did this to you, the banks will fight not to give you the records of their intrusion because they don’t want to get sued; the police won’t do anything because they consider ID Theft to be a non-violent crime; the Courts won’t do anything for the same reason, especially if they didn’t take more than $500 and Social Security won’t issue you a new Social Security number unless you are going into witness protection or have been nearly killed.
To protect yourself against ID Theft go to your bank and change your mother’s maiden name to another name that is not part of your family history going back several generations. For example, if your mother’s maiden name is Johnson change it to Brown if there was never a Brown in your family. Then ask your bank If they will allow you to create a second security password to identify you. If they do, then create a password that is a combination of a name/word you can easily remember and four numbers. Don’t use your street number and street name for obvious reasons.
After I made those changes they tried to impersonate me again, but this time they didn’t know that I changed the maiden name or second password on the account, and it wasn’t part of my father or mother’s family heritage, so they were stopped from gaining access to my accounts. Had they managed to figure out the maiden name they would have been tripped up with the second security question that is a name/word and number that had no relationship to where I had lived, birth dates or anything else in my life they could find out online.
We can’t protect against the Bank’s getting hacked, we can’t protect against having our loan applications on laptops that are stolen from bank employees, we can’t protect against call center employees not carefully evaluating callers, but what we can do is make these two simple changes to our account profile that will stop a lot of the ID Theft that can hurt us for decades.
Also, check to see if the real estate you own is listed on the Internet with your name. In many States they publish the addresses of the property you own and your name as the owner making it easy for people to retitle your property, refinance it and steal thousands of dollars before you know it. You only find out you have been scammed when the bank starts foreclosure proceedings against your house for not paying the new mortgage.
If you own a small business be sure to check your company listing on the Internet every week. Thieves are creating accounts in the name of small businesses which are then listed on major search engines. They rent a PO Box at a shipping store and then file a change of address form with the Post Office to redirect your payments to a phony bank account where they cash your checks or impersonate you. If you find your company information has been changed, contact the search engine and data base owner and report the fraud immediately and get the phony listing removed.
Make these simple changes this week to protect yourself, you’ll be glad you did.