Your bank account has been compromised – what now?

It’s not something that any of us like to think about. But the reality is that bank account hacking and cyber-attacks related to online banking and banking apps are on the rise. The pandemic brought with it an increased reliance on digital banking solutions for many of us. But it also brought with it a broader attack surface for bad actors to exploit. 

What does this mean for you, the average citizen? It means that even with your password that covers all of the password requirements, you are still vulnerable to an attack on your bank account. Through a range of methods, including social engineering and the use of malware, cybercriminals can find their way into your bank account.  

What should your next step be if you’ve recognized unusual activity on your bank account? How did cybercriminals get into your account? What should your next steps be to protect yourself in the future? 

Clear signs that your account has been compromised

There are several very clear signs that your bank account has been hacked by bad actors. Some of them are quite obvious, while others may not be quite so cut and dry. 

  • Unusual purchases. Any activity that is not the norm for you or your family could be the first clue that your account has been compromised. Be sure to look out for transactions that are made in areas where you haven’t traveled. For example, if you live in Cleveland, you’re unlikely to have made purchases in Melbourne, Australia. 
  • Small and unfamiliar transactions. Cybercriminals will often ping your account for a small amount, something so small you may not even recognize that anything has changed. They do this so that they can verify that your card is valid, and your account is open right before they make larger purchases. 
  • You are locked out of your account. If your account is accessed from an unfamiliar device or location or your password is entered incorrectly too many times, you may be locked out of your account as a safety precaution. 
  • Contact from the bank. Many banks have fraud detection departments that will alert customers to any fraudulent activity on their accounts. If your bank calls you or emails you, don’t provide them with any information until you have verified that they are who they say they are.  
  • Emptied or closed out account. In some more extreme situations, you could find that cybercriminals have emptied out your accounts and even closed them out. 

Steps to take

If your bank account has been compromised, what should you do in order to regain control over your finances and account? 

  • Verify the activity on the account. Go through each of your accounts carefully in order to confirm which charges are fraudulent. Keep in mind that there are some legitimate transactions that could appear to be fraudulent if the company you shopped with operated their business under a different name. This is quite common. 
  • Contact your bank. Once you have confirmed each of the fraudulent charges and activities, be sure to reach out to your bank in order to report the fraud. Your bank’s representative will be able to help you resolve the issues. They may also be able to return the funds in some circumstances. 
  • Freeze each of your accounts. If you have the option, put a freeze hold on your bank account. You may be able to do with by speaking with a customer service rep or through an option online or on the banking app.  
  • Reset passwords and pins. Avoid reusing passwords across apps and services. This is one of the easiest ways for cybercriminals to gain access to your accounts. Change your passwords and pins to something you’ve not yet used and won’t use anywhere else. 
  • Be sure to check your credit report. There is the possibility that a cybercriminal has access to enough of your personal information that he tried to open up a credit card or other account in your name. It should be reflected on your current credit report. 
  • Consider filing a police report. While it’s not likely that you’ll have the name and contact details for the cybercriminal, there are better odds of getting a conviction for a repeat offender down the road if there are multiple reports against them. 

Can you prevent bank account hacking?

In many cases, the best steps you can take are those that will help to add an extra layer of protection to your bank account. Being aware of the vulnerabilities that hackers seek out can go a long way towards protecting you from a cyberattack.  

  • Skip using public Wi-fi if possible. Using public networks, most of which have poor security, can potentially compromise your personal info. 
  • Be aware of the risks of social engineering.  
  • Routinely run anti-virus and anti-malware solutions on your devices. 
  • Use robust passwords, don’t reuse passwords, and consider seeking out passwordless solutions. 
  • Select strong security questions that aren’t easy to guess.  
  • If offered by your bank, sign up for two-factor authentication. 
  • Be vigilant when it comes to keeping up with your financial accounts. 

Your bank will do its part to remain compliant with applicable security laws. Some may even go above and beyond and offer highly secure passwordless solutions, such as those offered by ZenKey. With that, it is also up to each individual to do their part to prevent their account credentials from falling into the wrong hands. 

The information included in the ZenKey blog does not constitute legal or financial advice. Always consult with your financial institute and adhere to their security guidelines and policies.