It might sound like something out of an action movie – but it’s not.
Bank tellers at financial institutions around the country have been caught in the act of identity theft. While draining funds from a customer account might once have required an elaborate heist, the prominence of electronic banking makes such criminal acts all the easier to perform without getting caught.
We look at bank teller identity theft – and how you can protect yourself from it – in more detail below.
About Bank Teller Identity Theft
The basic idea behind bank teller identity theft is simple. It’s when a bank teller, a person who has access to all of your banking information, illegally accesses your personal confidential data.
Once they’ve accessed this data, a bank teller can do several things. They can steal your identity themselves. They can sell your identity to others. Or they can drain money from your account.
So why is bank teller identity theft becoming such a problem in the United States? It boils down largely to job satisfaction and survival. While some criminals apply for bank teller positions with the intent of identity theft, most cases of theft occur simply as a way to make ends meet.
Bank tellers in the United States only make between $25k and $35k a year. Once a vital role in the operations of any bank, tellers are becoming increasingly less important as electronic banking becomes the go-to.
In short, identity theft allows bank tellers to make thousands of dollars without much effort. They already have access to customer accounts so identity theft literally takes the click of a button.
Another reason for the rise of this type of identity theft is that it hasn’t yet been thrust into the limelight. The majority of people don’t know how frequently it occurs – and thus they haven’t taken any specific precautions against it. On top of this, most banks have remained surprisingly lackadaisical in their efforts to reign in unscrupulous bank tellers.
Recent Cases of Bank Teller Identity Theft
Reports of bank teller identity theft have been flying in as of late. Cases have cropped up across the country from New York to Los Angeles.
Yet all of the cases have one thing in common: a trusted bank teller that accesses a customer’s confidential data. Most of the time these tellers target those accounts with the highest balances. They then wire funds, make fake credit cards, or steal personal information to sell to other identity theft criminals.
At least the rise in this sort of crime has pushed banks into taking action. Though much more is still needed, banks are now putting advanced procedures in place to stop bank teller identity theft in its tracks.
What Needs to Be Done
Banks need to step up their security measures to stop this problem.
First and foremost, they need to be public with information about bank teller identity theft. When this problem occurs, customers should be told right away. This gives bank customers more motivation to up their personal banking and online security measures.
Banks also need to be more stringent on who they hire for teller positions. Sure, a bank teller is one of the lowest positions, but that doesn’t mean anyone should be hired. A rigorous background check is necessary to weed out unscrupulous employees. A standard criminal background check just doesn’t cut it.
But that’s not enough. Even bank tellers with impeccable backgrounds have been shown to navigate outside the law and engage in identity theft when the opportunity presents itself. To combat this, banks need to place more sophisticated employee monitoring software in place. Every move an employee makes needs to be tracked.
Fortunately, banks are already beginning to take these steps. According to the American Bankers Association, new security measures are being implemented in banks across the country to improve employee monitoring and all around security.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
When it comes to an issue as serious as identity theft, you can’t expect someone else to keep you safe. You need to implement safety and security measures on your own to protect your financial and informational privacy.
Checking your bank accounts on a regular basis is the number one way to prevent bank teller identity theft. Notice something suspicious? Contact your bank immediately.
Experts recommend checking your accounts at least once a day. Especially those linked to credit or debit cards. And don’t just look for big purchases you didn’t make – keep track of smaller ones as well. As criminals get smarter, they shy away from those $100 purchases making much smaller ones of $10 to $20 instead.
In addition to keeping a close eye on your bank accounts, you can prevent bank teller identity theft by taking the same steps you would take to protect yourself from any other kind of identity theft. These include:
- Maintain Computer Software – Ensure your computer’s anti-virus and anti-malware software is up-to-date to prevent online identity theft.
- Don’t Overshare Information – Don’t share details like our birthday or other personal details online. Criminals can use this information to answer password security questions and hack into your important accounts.
- Store Documents Carefully – Despite technological advancements, identity theft is often carried out the old fashioned way, by stealing physical documents. So make sure you store yours carefully and shred those you don’t need.
- Create Stronger Passwords – Strong passwords are absolutely critical in this day and age. Create different passwords and usernames for each of your accounts and make sure they’re complex. Use numbers, upper and lowercase letters, spaces, and special characters.
- Be Wary of Wi-Fi – Unless you’re connecting to a secured home Wi-Fi, you should avoid entering passwords, especially for banking websites. Others using the same network have the ability to get this information from you if you know what you’re doing.
Identity theft is becoming increasingly common – and it’s set to stay that way as criminals become smarter.
The only way to protect yourself from bank teller identity theft and other forms of fraud is to stay one step ahead. So educate yourself on these issues, keep a close eye on your bank accounts, and ensure you follow proper identity theft protection protocol.