mother and young child look at a computer to follow Gate City Bank tips on how to stay protected from fraudster criminals

4 Ways to Prevent a Total Account Takeover

We know you care about safeguarding your personal data and hard-earned money. That’s why we’d like to help guide you in the right direction to keep your accounts, finances and your loved ones protected with some helpful tips.

Criminals have their eye on your financial accounts. They want access to your finances, personal data and even your day-to-day plans. We’ll refer to this as a hostile account takeover – vastly different from a total account makeover!

Account takeovers happen when the wrong people dig up enough of the right private information about you to gain access to your checking or savings accounts. Then those fraudsters strike, either moving big chunks of your money at once or small amounts a bit at a time in the hopes that you won’t notice. It’s actually a form of identity theft, and the more that criminals know about you, the easier it is for them to access your money.

We’re used to sharing a lot of information about ourselves these days. (Experts say we share too much!) That makes us even easier targets for takeovers. Take the following steps to protect your personal information and defend against takeover attempts:

  1. Don’t Fall for Fake Information Requests

    Financial institutions will never call, email or text you asking for online banking information such as usernames, passwords or your PIN.

  2. Use Safe Passwords

    We’re talking about the kind that use a mix of numbers, uppercase letters, lowercase letters and special characters. And don’t write them down in places where they can be easily found. Additionally, experts recommend that you don’t use the same username and/or password for multiple accounts (including non-banking ones) because if someone figures out your login information, they’ll have access to your other accounts. Moral of the story: It’s a smart idea to have different usernames and passwords for your different accounts.

  3. Think Twice About What You Share on Social Media

    Posting things like your telephone number, address, birth date or year can be used in the wrong ways to find out more about you. And don’t publicly share other information (such as your mother’s maiden name or first pet’s name) that you might be using as answers to the “secret” questions sites ask you for account verification. The less some people know about you, the better.

  4. Use Public Caution

    Be careful when banking or making purchases from public computers, and make sure you always sign out of any account you’re using. You also need to stay alert and check your financial statements regularly to make sure your money is safe. Ultimately, however, do your best to steer clear of public Wi-Fi entirely when it comes to accessing any financial information.

While we can do our best to defend our finances and personal information from fraudsters, account takeovers can still happen, which is why it’s important to always stay alert. Be mindful of the following:

  • Monitor your spending. Watch for transactions you don’t expect, such as purchases or withdrawals you didn’t make or were more than the amount you spent. Contact your financial institution immediately if you spot differences when checking either your online or paper statements, or if you notice a purchase you didn’t authorize.

  • Being suspicious is good. If a merchant says your debit card has been turned down, call the number on the back of the card to report the problem and explain what happened. This could be a sign that someone else has access to your account!

  • Take your credit seriously. Check your credit report regularly to look for things like unexpected loans or missed payments. You can do this for free by going to and following instructions to access your credit report(s).

Think smart and stay alert – both are great defenses against account takeovers!