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At the risk of sounding like a broken record, I have new financial data break-ins to report. These attacks are so commonplace now that it is becoming pretty redundant. No, I am not referring to the largest data breach of a retail store in the U.S. I’m also not referring to the fact that it was probably not a coincidence that a huge cache of stolen debit and credit cards were put on sale the same day the Home Depot news broke.
This time I’m talking about something that should get your attention, even if you are totally over saturated with hack attack news. Some of the nation’s biggest banks have been targeted by cyber criminals, and they may have made out like bandits. We trust those institutions to be safer than stashing our cash under the mattress, and we trust them to be more impenetrable than Target or Home Depot. That’s what makes this serious attack particularly unsettling.
Banks Targeted by Sophisticated Hackers
According to the New York Times, the FBI is investigating multiple attacks on banks that happened this past August. As many as five banks, including J.P. Morgan Chase, claim that the information stolen was large quantities of checking and savings account data.
Law enforcement agencies are trying to determine whether the cyber-attacks that hit American banks are related to recent ones that targeted banks in Europe. Some of the security personnel believe it to be the work of Russians because of the sophistication of the attacks. Although not everyone is convinced the Russians are behind the attacks, most do speculate that it was likely carried out by a foreign government agency.
Meanwhile J.P. Morgan Chase is performing its own investigation, but a spokesperson for the bank said that there are multiple layers of defensive protection in place to thwart or counteract any threats, and the company monitors fraud levels constantly and vigilantly.
How to Protect Yourself
In addition to using complex passwords that are frequently updated, there’s not a great deal that the banking customer can do to stop crooks from hacking their accounts. That responsibility lies with the banks. There are, however, ways to avoid getting scammed out of your bank account passwords and other confidential financial information.
Many scam artists use email. They have become experts at creating fake emails and even websites that look just like the ones belonging to your bank, which makes it very hard to detect a fraudulent one. For that reason, if you receive correspondence that says it from your financial institution, never reply directly to it via text or email. Instead, know your bank or credit card company’s legitimate phone number. Whenever you receive an email that asks you to respond, pick up the phone and call your bank. Ask them if they sent the email, and what you should do.
Don’t ever click on the links or “hot links” that may be embedded in that kind of electronic correspondents. That can trigger spyware that is then silently installed on your computer or other device. Later the crooks will deploy that virus to hack into your files and steal important data, like passwords.
What if your bank phones you? In that case, be aware that it could actually be an impostor posing as a bank employee. Politely inform them that you cannot talk and will have to call them back. Then hang up, look up your bank’s official phone number, and call it and ask if someone phoned you.
In a different major hacking scandal, the thieves stole very small, rather insignificant amounts of money every month without detection because the items looked like service charges or miscellaneous fees. To avoid being that kind of victim, always scrutinize your bank account and credit card statements and question any suspicious or unusual charges.