How to Protect Your Bank Account From Fraud

Quick Answer

You may be able to protect your bank account from fraudsters by securing your account with a strong password and multifactor authentication. Additionally, learn how to avoid the tricks that fraudsters use to convince people to share bank account info or send them money.

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You can help safeguard your bank account from fraud by putting security measures in place to stop people from breaking into your account, and by learning how to spot and avoid scams. Unfortunately, it isn't an either-or decision. You'll have to be mindful of both types of threats to keep your bank account safe.

5 Ways to Stop Fraudsters From Taking Over Your Account

If a fraudster can break into and take over your bank account, they may be able to quickly withdraw or transfer money. The bank might reimburse you for the losses, but it's still best to implement some security measures to keep your accounts safe:

1. Sign Up for Online Banking

Avoiding online banking won't necessarily protect you. Even if you don't plan on using your accounts online, get online access to your accounts to prevent someone else from creating an account in your name. You may also be able to add alerts to your account and receive a notification, text or email if certain actions trigger the alert, such as a low account balance or a large purchase or transfer.

2. Use a Completely Unique Password

Use a password for your bank account that's completely unique from your other passwords. Try to avoid common words or sequences, such as qwerty or 12345. And don't use a regular pattern for your passwords, such as the name of a pet or child plus a different number for each account.

Fraudsters potentially have access to some of your passwords from previous data breaches and can use software to crack weak or repeated passwords. A password manager can help you create and save strong passwords.

3. Enable Multifactor Authentication

With multifactor authentication (MFA) enabled, someone will need your username, password and an additional piece of information to log in to your account. There are different approaches, such as having a code emailed or texted to you, or using an authenticator app to generate a code. You'll need to review your bank account's security settings to see if MFA is an option and the types of authentication you can use.

Receiving a code via text message is a common option, but it could also be relatively weak. If you use text message-based MFA for any of your accounts, take steps to protect yourself from SIM swapping and porting attacks—when fraudsters take over your phone number to break into your accounts.

4. Use a Security Key or Passkey

Some of the safest methods for securing an account include using a physical security key as your additional form of authentication for MFA. Or, using a passkey instead of a password. However, only some banks support security keys and passkeys.

5. Regularly Update Your Devices and Scan for Malware

Malicious software, or malware, can infect your device and allow fraudsters to steal your information or break into your bank accounts. Keep your devices updated and regularly run an antivirus or antimalware scan to look for and remove infections.

5 Ways to Stop Fraudsters From Tricking You Into Sending Them Your Money

The technology-focused steps above can help secure your bank account. However, the bigger threat may be from fraudsters who use social engineering—psychological manipulation—to trick victims. Banks won't necessarily reimburse you if you fall for a scam and send a fraudster money. And scammers might repeatedly target you, leading to larger losses.

1. Don't Assume You're Too Smart to Fall for a Scam

It's easy to assume that scams and frauds happen to other people and that you'd never fall for something so obvious. Victims might feel dumb for falling for something that, in retrospect, was clearly a scam. But fraudsters spend years researching and testing tactics to trick victims. Review the seven-step checklist for avoiding scams, and don't assume you won't be next.

2. Be Extra Cautious if You Feel Scared

Fraudsters often use fear to persuade targets to send them money. They might try to intimidate you by claiming to be from the police, IRS, FBI or your employer, or scare you into thinking you'll miss out on an opportunity if you don't act quickly.

If you're feeling scared, take two minutes to call a trusted friend or family member, explain what's happening and ask for a second opinion. Remember that legitimate bank employees and government agents won't ask you for your password or an MFA code, guide you through sending a payment over the phone, or mind if you stop a phone call and call them back using a number that you find on their website.

3. Learn to Spot Phishing Emails and Texts

Fraudsters can spoof emails and phone numbers to make it look like an email or text is coming from your bank. You might inadvertently give fraudsters your information if you click on a link and enter your login information on a lookalike website.

If you receive an email or text asking you to reset your password, telling you to log in to your account or warning you about unauthorized transactions, that might be the start of a scam. The safest option may be to go directly to your banking app or the bank's website, or call the bank using a number from their website—not a link or number in the email or text.

4. Watch Out for Common Scams

Fraudsters might use several popular scam methods to try to steal money:

  • With peer-to-peer (P2P) payment scams, the fraudster might send you a text or email saying your bank account was compromised or asking about a potential unauthorized bank transaction. They'll then try to get you to send money from your bank account using one of these apps to "verify" your account.
  • Romance scams often start when someone reaches out via a dating app or social media platform. In spite of the name, they could be platonic or romantic. They might spend months earning your trust before asking you to buy them gifts, send them money or suggesting an investment that turns out to be a scam.
  • Overpayment scams happen when someone sends you money, claims they accidentally sent too much and asks you to refund the overpayment. They'll keep the money you send, and the initial transaction will often be reversed several days later.

Criminals are always trying to create new scams or add a twist to an existing scam.

5. Avoid Jobs That Require You to Deposit and Transfer Money

You might see advertisements for jobs that require you to frequently deposit and transfer money using your bank account. What the ad isn't necessarily telling you is that the fraudsters are using you as a "money mule," and you'll likely be laundering money. You could be committing a federal crime without realizing it.

What to Do if Your Bank Account Is Compromised

There are several steps you may want to take if you think someone accessed your account or initiated a fraudulent transaction—or if you think you might have sent a fraudster your account information, even if they haven't used it yet.

  • Contact your bank, share what happened and follow their suggestions
  • Change your bank account's password
  • Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • File a police report, which may help with recovering money
  • Scan your devices with antivirus software

You also have the right to add a security freeze to your ChexSystems report, which could make it difficult for someone to open a new bank account in your name. Similarly, you have the right to add security freezes and fraud alerts to your credit reports, which can help keep fraudsters from using your information to open new credit accounts.

Monitor Your Bank Accounts

In addition to adding alerts to your bank account, you may want to look into more robust monitoring services. Experian's free credit monitoring can help warn you if someone uses your information to apply for or open a credit account. Identity protection programs may also look for suspicious activity with financial accounts, such as bank accounts. You can see how this works by checking out Experian IdentityWorks℠ Premium or Family.