Tips to be Safe with your Money During COVID19
Guidelines on Protecting Your Hard Earned Dollars
Contributed by David Rose
With COVID-19 causing more economic harm than physiological harm on the nation’s health, this is the worst time for anyone to be fleeced of their hard-earned money as a result of fraudsters.
Local Youtube and social media personality Rohan ‘Quite’ Perry was recently the victim of a compromised debit card which saw him helplessly watch as scammers made multiple transactions to cleanse his bank account in the middle of the night. Luckily, someone was able to help him get in contact with a customer care agent from Latin America who managed to block his account and card. His story isn’t an isolated case with other persons attesting to having their accounts cleansed on the weekend by calculated criminals.
There is only so much you can do and no more to prevent yourself from becoming the victim of financial fraud in this digital age where there are so many avenues for you to be exposed to a potential threat. With only $600,000 being insured per depositor per institution with each deposit taking institution (DTI) (eg National Commercial Bank, Sagicor Bank, JMMB Bank) through the Jamaica Deposit Insurance Corporation and a bank’s internal investigations possibly taking weeks or months to return your money, you cannot fail to take the necessary precautions to protect your money. This means that beyond the $600,000 mark, the possibility of recovering larger sums of money is much lower if it was stolen by fraudulent means. Although it may seem hopeless, there are simple things you can do to limit your risk and ensure you don’t suffer at the hands of these fraudsters.
Tips to Protect Yourself
- Don’t keep all of your money in one bank account. This convenience we enjoy by using the one account for saving and transactions with our trusty debit card is a major liability which may cost you big time. It is best to have 2 accounts with one not being connected to the debit card and making periodic transfers in between as you need to make transactions with the debit card. This doesn’t mean you need to have a chequing and a savings account to apply this idea as it could even be 2 savings accounts. You can do this by making an online transfer between the accounts on your bank’s online platform. The second account can also be opened online with some bank’s online platforms if you’re an existing customer. By reducing the amount of available funds present in the transactional account, the potential loss by having your card cloned is much smaller.
- Don’t use public Wi-Fi or internet connections to enter personal banking details or carry out certain transactions. With the need to do everything online, one should be cognizant of who can access an unsecured connection in a public space since this open connection may be the back door to accessing your personal information. Always consider utilizing a virtual private network (VPN) or personal internet connection which isn’t utilized by many persons in your environment to reduce the risk through your connective means.
- Never use an unsecured website to carry out any online transactions. A website which tends to have https at the start of the URL or highlights that it is secured when you are about to use it. If an unsafe connection page appears when opening a website due to the security certificate being expired or absent, consider going back before hitting advance since you are unsure of the website’s state.
- Don’t use the same pin for all of your debit and credit cards. In an age of data where a password is needed to access almost any online system we utilize, using only one pin is a sure way to give criminals access to all of your other bank accounts. If you are kidnapped or coerced into providing your pin, many criminals will assume that you use the same pin for all of your accounts which is standard at this point for many persons. It would be best to utilize the services of an encrypted vault on your phone or on a secondary device with access to certain details which may be needed in the event of an emergency. The vault being encrypted means that it cannot be deciphered without the appropriate mechanisms (password). Thus, if you do have multiple cards and find it a hassle to memorize all of the pins, consider utilizing other means to prevent yourself from this unnecessary exposure.
- Check your account balance every couple of days to see if there are any strange fees charged to your account or any changes altogether. Discovering hidden charges or fees from early can save you time when you report it to your bank for investigation. You can do this by utilizing your bank’s digital application (App), online banking (Web) or at an Automated Teller Machine (ATM). Most banks charge no fees to check your balance with one of their proprietary ATM’s or alternative options. Always remember to cover your pin or password whenever you’re going to use one of these means.
- Consider utilizing your bank’s proprietary ATM at their branch locations. Although there is no guarantee that the ATM at the branch is 100% safe, it is less likely to be tampered with if it is in a large area where everyone can observe it. Evidence of card fraud tends to stem from a third party off site location which is affiliated with your bank since there are usually less observations being made on that ATM. One might need to use an ATM to access cash quickly, but it is imperative that you take your necessary precautions to protect your money.
- Be extra careful of the emails you receive. Fraudsters tend to use fictitious emails to try and phish your information from you through an apparently genuine email. Opening a link from a fraudulent email can expose your device to being hacked or monitored for the information you input. This can also apply to a call from your ‘bank’ where they are asking for private details such as your password, date of birth, username and TRN. A bank will never ask for certain information by email or over the phone from a customer. They may ask questions to verify your identity, but this doesn’t always tend to involve these lines of questions. If you receive an email which appears suspicious, contact your bank’s available contact email or customer care and move that email to spam or trash to prevent yourself from mistakenly opening it. It’s better to be safe than sorry until you are able to verify the email and know that it is genuine.
- Don’t share your pin or password for any of your cards or bank accounts. If you ever have an emergency and need a family member to access money for you, ensure the pin is changed immediately after with your bank’s closest branch. When one is using an ATM or Point of Sale (POS) device, ensure you cover your pin when entering it. Since you won’t be aware if you are being recorded, covering your pin reduces the risk of someone figuring out your pin.
- Enable text and email notifications for any transaction which is done with your account or card. On a bank’s online platform, you can setup these notifications to ensure you are notified for every transaction which occurs with a particular account or associated card. This allows for you to be aware of any fraudulent activity from early and give you time to potentially contact your bank or freeze the account and card. First Caribbean International Bank offers the option for one to freeze their account online in the event they ever need to stop someone from misappropriating funds.
- Be careful where you use your debit or credit cards when carrying out business. Never let your card out of your sight and if another POS device must be used to process a transaction, you should follow the merchant to the other machine to ensure that your card is being used in the manner as needed. This means one should be careful about the frequency of doing multiple withdrawals at different locations. Since no one can tell if an ATM has been truly compromised, limiting the locations you do withdrawals at is a good way to reduce your possible exposure points and makes deducing the compromised ATM easier to discover if your card is ever cloned.
- Consider using a credit card for certain transactions instead of a debit card. Although many persons will say they don’t want to use debt to fund their purchases, one should remember that if one pays off the balance in full every month, a credit card can be a well utilized asset. You can build a credit history, earn some rewards and most credit cards are accepted by retailers around the world. Also, if a credit card is ever compromised and you were not at direct fault, the bank would freeze the card quickly and reissue a new one in quick order. The charges against your card can be reversed if they are proven to be as a result of an external fault such as a tampered POS device or ATM.
- Check the ATM to see if it has been tampered with by looking at the keypad and card portal. This may not be as easy as it seems since one can’t always detect the new tricks these fraudsters might use in the ever-changing nature of their schemes. In relation to the POS devices, look to see if it is being kept in a secure area away from possible slippery hands. If the POS device appears to be tampered with or isn’t in a safe location, consider using cash for that transaction as a safety measure.
If your account is ever hacked or you suspect it might be compromised, contact your bank immediately to report the incident. It is important that this report is done quickly once detected to ensure that the process to recover any missing funds begins immediately with the bank’s internal fraud investigation division.
David Rose is a third year student at the University of the West Indies, Mona. Feedback can be directed to firstname.lastname@example.org for more inquiries.