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Couple's Online Bank Account Hacked, Leading to Identity Theft

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In 2007, a U.S. couple fell victim to identity theft when a criminal accessed their online bank account and stole $26,500 from a home equity credit line. The money was transferred to an Austrian bank that refused to return the funds to Citizens Financial Bank. So Citizens Financial informed the couple that they were liable for the loss. When the couple refused to pay, the bank notified the credit bureaus that their account was delinquent and threatened to foreclose on their home. So the couple sued the bank, claiming violations of the Electronic Funds Transfer Act and the Fair Credit Reporting Act, as well as accusing the bank of negligence.

Who should be held responsible? Well, the jury's out. Literally.

Did the couple accidentally give their data to a phisher? Were they dumb, or was it just bad luck? Was their Internet security software up to date? Does that matter? Should the bank activate their zero liability policies and simply chalk it up to a loss? I'm a big believer in personal responsibility. However, if the bank offered a system that can be easily defeated then maybe they should take some responsibility.

White hat hackers are struggling to stay one step ahead of the criminals. There are more ways to compromise data today than ever before. Viruses quadrupled in one year, from just over 15,000 in 2007 to nearly 60,000 in 2008. Black hat hackers are out in full force.

In 2000, the white hats were supposedly about a year ahead of the black hats in technology, meaning that it should take about a year for the black hats to hack the white hats. Other research shows that by 2004, the black hats were about two weeks behind the white hats. And now here we are in 2009. In many cases, the black hats are years ahead of the white hats. The good guys are losing.

Many new viruses may already be on your hard drive, dormant, waiting for a signal to activate. They may be Trojans, waiting to strike when you log on to your online bank account.

We tend to have numerous viruses in our own bodies, which take control once our immune system is weak, or when they come into contact with one another. Similarly, your PC may have viruses lurking within. It's easy for a PC to catch a virus when we simply visit a website, click on a link or download a program that we believe to be safe.

The technology of the criminal hacker has evolved, and is continuing to evolve faster than that of the white hats. This means you have to be on your game. Stay informed, and don't let your guard down.

1. Get a credit freeze. Go online now and search "credit freeze" or "security freeze" and go to consumersunion.org and follow the steps for the state you live in. This is an absolutely necessary tool to secure your credit. In most cases it prevents new accounts from being opened in your name. This makes the SSN useless to the thief.

2. Invest in Intelius Identity Theft Protection. While not all forms of identity theft can be prevented, you can effectively manage your personal identifying information by knowing what's buzzing out there in regards to YOU.

3. Make sure your McAfee anti-virus is up to date and set to run automatically.

4. Update your web browser to the latest version. An out of date web browser is often riddled with holes worms can crawl through.

5. Check your bank statements often, online, at least once a week.

Robert Siciliano, Identity Theft Speaker, discussing online banking insecurity.

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