By Henry Bagdasarian
Have you ever visited your online bank accounts and notice that one or more account disappeared from your list of accounts?
If you've established more than one account with the same institution, chances are that all your accounts are listed online on the institution’s web site. These accounts may include a combination of checking, saving, or multiple credit card accounts. With a login ID and password, you can frequently access your online accounts and manage your finances such as viewing your account balances, recent transactions, conformation of latest payments, and making payments. I access my online accounts very frequently and this is one aspect of the Internet that I love most about. The question I have is how would you react if one day you access your online accounts and notice that one or more account disappeared from the consolidated list of accounts? Maybe this incident has already occurred to you and maybe it hasn't but in such cases, your reaction and potential panic level will be tied to your awareness level regarding identity theft risks.
For example, if my account disappeared one day, I would consider the following probabilities:
1- The bank’s system has gone crazy,
2- The site is being updated (especially if the entire site disappeared)
3- Someone went to a bank, withdrew all the cash in my account and asked to close the account,
4- Someone hacked into my system, created a new payee, and transferred all the money available to the payee,
5- My ATM card may be lost and someone used it to shop or take out all my available cash balance,
6- My account is flagged for fraud and placed on hold for investigated.
These are some of the questions that I would start asking myself immediately when and if this happens to me. Such questions should not be left unanswered and must be addressed immediately based on the high risk probabilities and their serious consequences. Let’s analyze these probabilities and the actions that should be taken accordingly.
1- The fact that the bank system may be gone crazy is a possibility and those of you who might be computer programmers can confirm that programming errors exist and can result in an application behaving strangely following an application program change, specially if the program change is not properly tested. In such probability assessment, I would call the bank and ask them if they have noticed any thing wrong with their online system. I am less concerned with such cases because although the account disappeared temporarily from the site due to system errors, the account and its details will most likely be restored following the program correction. But we need to confirm this fact.
2- When the entire site is down, then all accounts would become inaccessible. If this was the case and the entire site had disappeared, then this is a better piece of news because it doesn't immediately point the finger to an account specific identity fraud. I would just call the bank to see what’s wrong with their system. Another possibility might be that we can’t access the site due to our own login issues such as wrong ID and password, which can still be an issue if we know for sure we entered the right information. In case of erroneous login information, the system might also provide some clues to that effect.
3- You must call the bank’s customer service number and attempt to inquire about your available balance. The fastest way might be obtain your balance through the automated voice service. If your money is still there, that’s good news and if the balance is wrong or zero, you should be a bit more concerned at this point but it’s possible that all their systems are down including the web site and the automated phone system. If the automated system is down or gives you the wrong balance, attempt to speak with a live bank representative immediately. It’s worth the wait at this point.
4- Sometimes, we forget about our own transactions such as old checks that are deposited and cashed later on, and since we have no access to online transaction history, a live person or the automated service can help refresh our memories. If the balance is still wrong after the research, then the possibilities and options must be discussed with the bank representative.
5- Check your pockets and locate your ATM card if you suspect you lost it. If you don’t find your card, contact the bank and cancel your card because regardless of whether the bank systems are down or not, unauthorized shopping can go on without your knowledge. So don’t roll the dice and contact the bank to cancel your card. If you still possess your card, call the bank and follow up with the system issues as described in #3 and 4 above.
The point I want to make is that this scenario is possible whereby you log into your online bank account and notice all or one account disappeared from the web site. As we consider and accept the possibility of this scenario, we should also be prepared to take quick actions to better understand the causes and risks of account disappearance and the next steps on our part to control the situation and recover any losses. In order to recover bank account losses, consumers must promptly discover and report such cases to the financial institutions. Any delay in reporting past the allowed period can cost a great deal as the banks may not accept any responsibility for the unauthorized transactions.
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