Issue #155: Why my bank account is top secret

plus cool otters + Tyler Perry’s generosity
͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ ͏‌ 
Money
August 10, 2022 • Issue #155
Dollar Scholar
Hi y’all —

Work has been tough lately, and I’ve found that when I log off at the end of the day, the only content my exhausted brain can handle is old Star Wars movies. They’re the perfect salve: I’ve seen them before, and space is cool.

The only problem? Because of my aforementioned tired brain, I keep pausing the TV to Google dumb questions about basic Star Wars plot points. Most recently, I went down a rabbit hole to try to figure out why R2-D2 didn’t tell Luke about Anakin/Darth Vader. Like, the famously helpful R2-D2 randomly decided to keep that crucial fact to himself? What gives?

Some people say R2-D2 didn’t know Anakin went to the dark side; others argue it was too painful to talk beep about. But if you ask me, I think R2-D2 clammed up because he just didn’t know whether that information was secret.

It’s similar to how I feel when I log into my bank app and see that my account number is starred out. Is that information supposed to be confidential? Why?

Time for a non-Star Wars investigation. Do I need to keep my bank account information secret?

Under the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act, financial institutions are required to “ensure the security and confidentiality of customer records and information.” It’s legit spelled out in the law that they must “protect against any anticipated threats or hazards,” including “unauthorized access” that “could result in substantial harm or inconvenience to any customer.”

One way they accomplish this is by masking, or replacing sensitive information with asterisks. Terrie Cloud, director in the IT advisory practice at banking consulting firm Cornerstone Advisors, says masking is all about attempting to thwart prying eyes.

“If you're on an airplane, for example, and you're trying to access your bank account, you may want your account number masked so the guy next to you can't peer over your shoulder and get your number,” he says.

Most financial institutions require all logins to go through a multi-factor authentication process, so the risk isn’t really that a bad guy could see my number and drain my checking account within seconds.

According to Eileen Tan, chief information security officer at Varo Bank, the issue is that my bank info is one of many pieces of data that could be used to defraud me later on.
if someone tried to steal my identity i would simply say good luck
 
“Threat actors are slowly gathering information about you,” she says. “You don't know who's storing it; once it's out on the internet, it's there forever.”

If a stranger gets their hands on my financial details, they can Google me, easily turning up my phone number and email address. Voila! Stealing my identity just got a whooole lot easier.

Cloud says they can also weaponize that data to trick me in the short term.

Say I’m checking my balance on the Bank of America app in Starbucks, and the person behind me in line glimpses the last four digits of my account number. Now they know 1) I’m a Bank of America customer, 2) that I was at Starbucks at X time on Y day, and 3) that my account ends in 1234.

If, later that day, I get a call from an unknown number with a person saying, “Hey, I’m with Bank of America, and I’m reaching out about a problem with a Starbucks charge on your account ending in 1234,” my guard is more likely to be down — and I’m more likely to turn over information I’d otherwise be smarter about protecting.

It’s called social engineering.

“People are not savvy, and they get this alert, and all of a sudden they freak out,” Cloud says. “Before you know it, they’re compromised.”

Tan says the best practice is not to share any of my financial information unless absolutely necessary. Giving my employer my bank data for direct deposit or the IRS for tax payments is fine, but that's about it. She adds that my account number, which is specific to me personally, “is definitely more secret” than my routing number, which is a nine-digit code that identifies my bank.

But I should keep both close to the chest. And if I get a call, text or email saying it's from my bank, I should proceed with caution. The best response is to refrain from providing personal information, hang up and instead reach back out to them using official channels.
THE BOTTOM LINE
(but please don't tell me you scrolled past all of my hard work)
Scammers are smart, patient and everywhere: Americans reported nearly 1.4 million cases of identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission last year. So while my bank account information isn’t necessarily top secret, it’s absolutely worth protecting.

It shouldn't be an issue if the only data a fraudster has is my bank account number — “but the problem is, in this day and age, there's a lot of information people can find out about you just by Googling [and using] the dark web,” Tan says. “Don’t give people that opportunity.”
Shh
VIA GIPHY

RECEIPT OF THE WEEK
check out this wild celebrity purchase
Tyler Perry / Cicely Tyson
 
VIA INSTAGRAM
Filmmaker Tyler Perry told AARP magazine recently that he financially cared for the legendary actress Cicely Tyson in the later years of her life — including giving her at least one massive paycheck. “This woman had done so many amazing things, but she wasn’t well compensated for it,” Perry said. “I wanted to make sure she knew that there were people who valued her. So, she did one day of work on my 2007 film Why Did I Get Married? I paid her a million dollars.” Is someone cutting onions?

INTERNET GOLD
five things I'm loving online right now
1 Satellite dish company UDish ran a highly scientific, definitely necessary survey sorting each state into a Hogwarts house. Combining poll results with Google Trends data, it determined — among other things — that Connecticut is Gryffindor, Washington is Ravenclaw, Arkansas is Hufflepuff, and Florida is Slytherin (of course).
2 I mean come on it’s his BIRTHDAY let him have a taco.
3 Stop what you’re doing and click through this slideshow of photos from the most recent Beautiful Bulldogs Contest, a pageant held annually in Iowa that includes such categories as Family Theme, Best Dressed and Congeniality. This year’s winner? Bam Bam, a 5-year-old pup who wore an Up costume. Bam Bam “loves people, he loves chewing bones, he loves going for short walks, he loves to sunbathe, he loves to cuddle,” his owner said. King.
4 I love this Japanese blog that’s posting cassette tape designs, and not just because it led me to discover the subgenre of Etsy art that consists of movie scenes painted on tapes (see: E.T. and Sleeping Beauty). What a concept.
5 Otters in ice buckets.
 

401(K)ITTY CONTRIBUTION
send me cute pictures of your pets, please
Beatrice and Ramona
VIA Krystan Krailler
Meet Beatrice and Ramona, two sisters who are not kitten around when it comes to protecting their purrsonal information.

Back to watching Star Wars (read: browsing Wookieepedia). See you next week.
 
Julia
 
P.S. How do you keep your bank details under wraps? What Hogwarts house are you? Would you let your cat eat a taco? Send direct deposits to julia@money.com or @SuperJulia on Twitter.
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