My computer was getting its usual workout. For hours I’d been toggling between Microsoft applications and multiple tabs open in Google Chrome; responding to emails, monitoring the news and financial markets, and doing a bit of holiday shopping.
At some point I opened yet another Google Chrome tab and summoned my bank. Immediately after logging in, a pop-up box presented me with an opportunity: Get the most from your bank cards!
I wish I had taken a screen shot of the intrusive box before logging out and closing the browser, but the idea of that scam-bot on my computer scared me! I wanted to get rid of it fast!
What I recall is that the pop-up suggested giving others administrative access to my card accounts. There was a short form, with one field asking for a card number.
A suspicious text message arrived the next day. It said: <Bank Name> security alert – account XXX XXX is now on hold. See more: <link>.
I was sure this was also a scam, but in the spirit of better-safe-than-sorry I called my bank. A personal banker looked at all my accounts and assured me nothing looked suspicious or was on hold. However, he suggested I talk to the online banking department, where an agent told me that they never use pop-up boxes or send those kinds of text messages.
Next, I was transferred to the fraud department. After telling the agent about the suspicious activity, he told me that a significant number of customers in my state were being targeted by these schemes.
He explained that a nefarious program was likely running on another Google Chrome tab open on my computer. When the program noticed that I logged into a financial site, it jumped to that tab and created the pop-up box.
The text message, he said, was something that the other big banks in the area had dealt with a few months ago. Nobody had solved how the criminals got the phone numbers or how they chose their targets.
The agent was prepared to help me take precautionary steps to prevent identity fraud, but fortunately I had not input any data or clicked on any links.
I feel thankful that, because of the nature of my work, I am knowledgeable about identity theft and how it occurs. However, I can see how others could easily be fooled into sharing their information.
And kudos to my bank for their thorough approach. Not only did they diligently ensure that my accounts were in good order, but they also took the time to make sure I was not fearful or fretting. We choose our banks largely based on trust, and once again my bank earned mine.