Bank Accounts Hacked: Is Your Money in Danger at Chase?

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Chase BankStanding next to the ATM on Tuesday, I stared at the receipt in my hand and tried to make the numbers add up. My wife and I had both been paid only a few days before, but our bank account now had less than $200 in it. Since we share our expenses, we each sometimes discover little surprises when she pays for a car repair or I cover a veterinary bill, but this was a big surprise -- and not a pleasant one.

When I got to the office, I looked up my account and quickly discovered the culprit: three charges totaling more than $1,800. I called my wife to make sure that she hadn't recently decided to buy a new Bose stereo system or made several hundred dollars in pharmacy purchases. A few minutes later, she was walking into the office of our local Chase Bank (JPM) to talk to a human being about our almost-empty account. She had barely explained our situation before he burst out "Wow, I've had, like six people in this morning with the same problem!"

An Office Full of Victims

Six people in a single morning seemed a bit high for one teller, but when I started talking to my coworkers, I discovered that I wasn't even the only one in my office who had recently had his account hacked. My coworkers Ken and Ryan had both recently found a bunch of confusing charges on their Chase accounts, and 10 other office mates whom I didn't know had had their accounts breached within the last few months. As I widened my search, I found dozens of people who'd recently had their information compromised. An alarming number were Chase customers.

Was this a crime wave? The Chase representative I talked to refused to comment on whether or not the company was experiencing an uptick in breaches, but John Zurawski, a vice president at an online security firm Authentify, was able to give me a clearer picture. This isn't an especially active time for hackers, he said. "The attacks on online financial accounts are continuous," Zurawski explained. "The level of activity is routinely high because the likelihood of being caught is extremely low."

I was already feeling a bit edgy, but Zurawski quickly amped up my paranoia by pointing out the number of ways that my account might have been breached. According to him, my information could have been "skimmed" at an ATM, collected at a parking garage, swiped by a disgruntled employee, or compromised in dozens of other, diabolically creative ways.

My Favorite Company That I Don't Even Know

In all likelihood, though, my information was breached because of a company I had never heard of, much less willingly used. Zurawski reminded me of the Global Payments breach, a news story that broke in early April, after the electronic transaction processing company discovered its system had been hacked earlier in the year, compromising up to 1.5 million bank accounts.

Although I had never directly dealt with Global Payments (GPN), Zurawski said that I've probably used its services dozens of times. One of the largest online payment processors, the company handles online transactions for thousands of merchants around the globe. When you pay for something on the Internet, your bank probably doesn't deal directly with the company that you're buying from. Rather, your information gets passed on to Global, which passes it on to a bank, which completes the transaction.

In other words, a company I've never heard of, have never directly dealt with, and know nothing about may hold the keys to my bank account -- and, in this case, may have misplaced them.

This was disturbing, but it still didn't explain how the Global breach, which was discovered almost a month ago, could be responsible for last week's charges on my account. Zurawski pointed out, however, that this recent rash of bank hackings might fit a trend.

"Usually, when an account is hacked, the mischief makers like to hold off on using the information, in order to cover their tracks," he noted. "But when a breach is discovered, they may feel compelled to use the information sooner, rather than later." So my account -- as well as Ken's, Ryan's, and those of several other coworkers -- may all have been breached by the same criminal organization, which spaced out its use of the information.

Joining the Hacked Club

I was surprised to discover how many of my friends and coworkers had had their accounts compromised, but I soon realized that we were only the tip of the iceberg. According to the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse, a nonprofit consumer advocacy organization, 3,044 data breaches have been made public since 2005, affecting 546,357,063 compromised records -- more than one for every person in the country. Most of these aren't bank accounts, but it seems likely that records involving almost every aspect of our lives have been breached at some point.

Paul Stephens, director of policy and advocacy at PRC, agreed that my account might have been compromised in the Global Payments breach. According to him, it "heavily impacted people in the New York City area." But I will probably never find out for sure: Global Payments has not released any information about which accounts were affected or which companies were involved. "It's the typical stonewalling that we get when these types of breaches occur," Stephens explained.

My wife and I are fairly careful about our bank security: We regularly check our account for unexplained charges, shred our mail, and are careful about which ATMs we use. However, Stevens pointed out a major chink in our armor: A few years ago, we started making most purchases with our debit cards.

"You shouldn't use your debit card to buy things," he told me. "They don't have the same legal protections as credit cards." Under the law, he noted, banks have 45 days to investigate compromised accounts. If they have not concluded their investigation within two weeks, they must reimburse the customer, but are legally able to take the money back if they later find that they have been cheated. "If you're using a debit card, you could end up in a situation without funds," he warned.

On the bright side, Chase seems to handle these problems quickly. Every person we talked to commented on their fast, efficient service, noting how quickly their funds were restored. In our case, the money was back in our account within a day.

Still, Stephens has a point. Within a day, yet another mystery charge was on our account, this one from a company based in Great Britain. Here we go again ...

Bruce Watson is a senior features writer for DailyFinance. You can reach him by e-mail at bruce.watson@teamaol.com, or follow him on Twitter at @bruce1971.



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67 Comments

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Sue Vess

I got hit yesterday. When I called the bank, the customer service rep advised me to wait a few days and then call back to dispute the charges (they were still pending ). REALLY??? "Aren't you concerned that someone is making purchases with my account number" I asked. No they weren't. Just wait a few days....meanwhile I had $9 left in my account and payday coming up. I finally got someone to close that card and issue another...but they never offered. Then I remembered I had gotten a phone call from the fraud department two weeks ago...they had put a hold on my account until I verified purchases...none of which were unusual. I thought that odd. I realize now that Chase knew my account number at been compromised and never mentioned it...aren't they required to notify customers when that happens?

June 26 2012 at 4:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
yellowrose7744

CHASE HAS DUPED ME SO MANY MANY TIMES THAT I AM SUING THEM FROM WIRE TRANSFERS NEVER PLACED TO THEIR FINACE PERSON TAKING CLIENTS, SUCH AS MYSELF, MONIES; AND MY ACCOUNTS BEING HACKED..BEING TOLD BY TWO DIFFERENT BRANCHES THAT IT WAS CLOSED...NEVER WAS CLOSED.

THEY HAVE PUT ME THRU MORE HELL..THEN HELL

June 22 2012 at 9:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Dordy Barbee

I cannot believe this is happening, It has just come to my attention that some of my bills that I paid two weeks ago, using my debit card to pay, that I have used for over two years now, the money was released in the amount I thought I was paying my bills with, was in fact released to someone else, and did not pay my bills last month. I was notified by my bill companies that I am now going to have to pay last months bill, plus a returned check fee, and this months bill at the same time, or my services will get shut off, and then I will have to pay a very high deposit to turn my services back on. I am taking my money out of my bank, and switching banks, and then from that point on I will only pay my bills with cash, and never again with my debit card, I am missing around $2000.00 to $3000.00 dollars, which i know is not a large sum of money fro some, but means a lot to me and my family, money that has hurt our very limited lifestyles, not having. We live quite A long way from our families and friends, and so far this year alone we have only been able to see our families once, instead of the several times times we normally get to see them. This has impacted us a great deal, and Probably means even more than the amount I listed above, because I have paid all of my bills, and made all of my purchases using my debit Card, for well over four years. I hope that this does not happen to anyone else, but check your statements thoroughly, just in case, the charges start small, and go way up from there. Good Luck!

May 21 2012 at 11:28 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
1 reply to Dordy Barbee's comment
Yorgos

dont use debit card to make purchases. use a credit card.

January 18 2013 at 3:13 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
tuffy2

chase bank has been going up at every corner, they are trying to take over the banking industry, with $250.00 bonus if you open an account. everyday i get something in the mail you can't give money away just remember there is nothing free in life. juus a new gimick to screw you. you can't give money away with out a motive in mind. they will get to you at the end.

April 25 2012 at 12:32 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Jesse A. Rieber

The truth is your money is not safe in any U.S. bank for two reasons. First, U.S. banks are untrustworthy, they brought us the crash, little was done to regulate them, and they'll do it again. Second, internet banking is unsafe by definition since there are always hackers who can get in. My advice: 1) put your money in credit unions. 2) do as little internet banking, buying, paying bills as possible to avoid exposure.

April 24 2012 at 3:01 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
You Sexy Bitch..

I paid off a Morgage in July of last year and never even got a thank you.Prior to that I wanted to re-finance with a credit score of 801.They turned me down,said my debt to income was a little high but I have been paying my bills for years ahead of time.I won,t even walk into a Chase bank.All they know is paper.

April 23 2012 at 9:07 PM Report abuse +1 rate up rate down Reply
dickbambam

Fraud is everywhere and I've been hit many times. Back when I had a company phone calling card it was hit twice. I had 2 of my company credit cards hit also. Then when looking at my 2 cellphone bills and landline bill I noticed all 3 accounts were hit with with third party charges I never ordered. Atotal 250.00 of bogus charges I have a snowballs chance in hell of getting back. You need to put you head on a swivel and keep your eye on all your accounts. Lots of scum ******* sharks everywhere.

April 23 2012 at 8:54 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Bobbie83

If you have a credit card you should register the card for alerts from the bank. In most cases you will receive an email almost instantaneously when a purchase is made.

Its easy to get your bill and toss it on the table thinking you will look at it later. In reality sometimes later comes when its too late to dispute charges. I may not remember what I had for breakfast this morning but I can remember if I used my credit card. If I get an email alert that its been used, I can immediately contact the card holder.

April 23 2012 at 8:14 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
ldyqtee6

It's frightening. We might all have to go back to using OMG! - cash for every transaction and keeping our money in our homes rather than in the bank.

April 23 2012 at 7:38 PM Report abuse +2 rate up rate down Reply
jazzld1@aol.com

I have gotten at least one fraudulent email from "Chase" every week, it is very fishy! I copy the email address and forward it to chase for them to report as fraud and investigate, when in doubt dont click any links, sign into your account by typing in the URL yourself.!!

April 23 2012 at 7:01 PM Report abuse +3 rate up rate down Reply