Monday, February 9, 2015

What You Need to Know to Avoid Bank Fraud

Sandwiched between recent stories of my employer getting hacked and my insurance company getting hacked, there was a tiny little blip you all probably missed. My checking account got hacked! Obviously that one didn't make the news since it really only affects me, but so far it's been the biggest pain in my behind.

What happened

banking checking fraud hack hacking hacked
Here's what happened: I was updating my child care spreadsheet to reflect my latest payment. I signed in to my online banking and saw that two checks had cleared. One was the check for Benjamin's day care. The other, directly above it, was not something I recognized. I clicked on it to see what it was for and got quite a surprise! First of all, that's not what our checks look like! Secondly, even though it had my husband's name and our account number, the address in the top left was not our address. I immediately called my bank to see what was going on.
banking check fraud hack

I explained to the woman on the phone about what I was seeing and she said it looked like we had some fraudulent activity on our account. She immediately froze the account and gave me two options: I could set up another account over the phone or I could go to my local branch and take care of it. I decided that Ken and I both needed to be present for this process, so I called him and had him meet me at the bank.

The solution

We met with a lovely woman by the name of Lynn who walked us through all the steps required to sort out this mess. I was worried because it was so close to the end of the month and my paycheck and Ken's were already in processing, as well as all the automatic payments that get processed at the beginning of the month (mortgage, water, electricity, etc.)

Lynn noted our old account with messages about the fraud and opened a new account for us right there. In this case, the swindler did not seem to have access to any of our other accounts, so she was able to transfer our debit cards to the new account. That meant I wasn't without money while I waited for new checks and a new card to show up. That was quite a relief!

She also performed some internal banking magic (not the technical term) so that our paychecks would be routed to the new account and our debits would come out from the new account. I still have to go through and manually contact all of those companies to update them with our new information, but at least those immediate payments still went through.

Tweet: Don't let #BankFraud happen to you! via @MamaRabia Don't let #BankFraud happen to you! via @MamaRabia

My thoughts

Contacting all of the entities that have legitimate access to our checking account was a hassle. Thankfully Lynn was able to make a list of all our payments for me, so I could be sure to adjust our account information with all of them. Some places had a form I could download, fill out, and mail or email. Some places I could log in to our online account and adjust myself. One place has to send me a form that I fill out and send back, but this one seems to be the only company not caught up with the digital age.

This has been a major hassle and frankly, quite annoying, but nothing other than time has been lost. The bank credited us the $29.95 and was very helpful in taking care of all the issues that came about. After I calmed down from the anger about the incident, I wrote Lynn a nice thank you email and asked her for some tips to help everyone avoid bank fraud in the future.
check bank fraud hack

How To Avoid Bank Fraud

  1. Be vigilant and keep a close eye on your money-thieves like to use small amounts that are easily missed at first glance.
  2. Balance your checkbook, either with a pen and check register or using an online app.
  3. When using money online look for the padlock symbol in the address field as well as an address starting with https.
  4. Do not use unsecured networks to stream your personal info
  5. Checks will always have some risk associated with them because they must be printed with routing and account numbers. If you are concerned about the integrity of your check's recipient, use a money order or cashier's check. The small fee is worth your peace of mind.
  6. Do not mail checks from your home mailbox. Put them in a secure post office mailbox or drop them off at the post office directly.

Further Information

You can also access a free program that my bank (BB&T) has put together for educating people on the financial foundations. You do not have to bank with BB&T to take advantage of this information and it is completely free!
  1. Visit
  2. Click on "Register"
  3. Create a username and password. This information is only used to keep track of which modules you have completed. You can make up something anonymous if you want.
  4. No commitments or obligations! Just free information!!
This is one of those situations I hope you never find yourself in, but if for some reason you do, maybe these tips will make it a little less daunting. 


  1. Oh gosh, I'm so sorry that this happened to you, but I am glad you were able to sort it out so quickly. This happened to Frank and I once and we pretty much did the same thing as you, with no major damage. I've been super careful and a bit paranoid ever since!

  2. Yup, we have Anthem, too and actually Kevin's company just switched this past month after being with Aetna for years. So, I am checking each day and just scary. thanks for the added tips and seriously appreciate it.

  3. This is great advice! We had bank fraud get us last year during the big debit/credit breach, but it wasn't 29 dollars it was over $200! Luckily, I am a stickler and check our account daily. I also keep a paper register instead of only using online because sometimes, online has a delay and I like to know exactly how much money we have.

  4. I used to think that checking our account every day was silly. Now I'm glad I do!

  5. Ugh! And now there's a hacker targeting people with a fake email from Anthem. Can't these people go troll the BuzzFeed comments or something??!?!

  6. Oh wow! $200 could break us, for real!! I'm sorry that happened, I hope you got it figured out quickly!

  7. Wow I hadn't thought about not mailing checks from your home address. Thankfully I don't normally do that. What a hassle Rabia! Sorry you had to go through that. Thankfully it wasn't anything too much, but I would've done something too—you never know how far they can break into your account.

    Someone used my credit card number too for some measly $30-something bucks at a Walgreens once, and thankfully the bank caught it and sorted it out. Such a hassle. I'm usually a hawk with my finances too!

  8. Oh I would be so mad too! Who do these people think they are messing with our hard earned money!! Your tips are fabulous and I am sorry for the hassle, but glad you caught it before it became a HUGE problem!

  9. Great tips!! We haven't ever had problems with our bank account but last year I had my identity stolen. That was a huge hassle to get straightened out - the person had access to everything and opened new store cards using my info at numerous places.

  10. Eek, scary. I always check our account just in case. This really frightens me. The hackers are getting better at what they do, unfortunately :/

  11. Totally scary. And I think I remember that happening to Kim last year.
    I am usually vigilant with online banking but I don't always add it up right in my head so then I have to go and make sure all is well.
    So far, so good, but I'm alert.

  12. I hate that we live in a world where people do this! But I am glad that this one was much less of a hassle than other forms of fraud.

  13. No kidding! I don't have much money to mess around with, so you'd better believe I keep a close eye on it!

  14. I remember that story, Kim! That's awful! Have you gotten it all straightened out?

  15. You'd think these people could use their powers for good instead of evil, right!??!

  16. I'll be super honest: I don't always check the exact amounts, but I have an idea of how much they should be. I should work on that too.

  17. I am sorry you had to go through this. This has happened to us before and it's been a big mess, right after I wrote our rent check, it wasn't fun to be without money for two weeks until the entire thing was cleared with the bank and police. It's a must you check your account daily and track your bank activity to make sure you can alert your bank and the police. I file a police report right with it. A lot of times what happens is that these people try a small amount first, they go to a store with a fake card and try to purchase something at a low value if that transaction goes through they go big. Good thing you caught it quickly and was able to act right away.

  18. Ugh! I'm sorry you have experience with this. We were lucky we caught it right away and didn't have to go without money (other than the fact that we regularly have no money LOL!)
    We have an open fraud investigation, but I'm not sure if we'll ever hear any closure on it.

  19. Ugh. This stinks, but thanks for the tips!!!

  20. I hope your case is much easier to take care of!


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