Criminals have their eye on your financial accounts. They want access.

Call it a takeover attempt – a HOSTILE takeover.

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 they strike - either moving big chunks of your money at once, or small amounts a bit at a time … hoping you don’t notice.

What’s happening is a form of identity theft … because the more that bad people 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 – and that makes us easier targets for takeovers.

Here are some things you can do to protect personal information to help battle takeover attempts:

  • Don’t fall for fake information requests. Financial institutions will never call, email or text you out of the blue asking for online banking information such as user names, passwords or pin numbers.
  • Use safe passwords – the kind that mix numbers and upper and lowercase letters – and don’t write them down in places people can easily find them. Experts recommend that you don’t use the same user name and password for everything – because if someone figures one out, they have access to other types of accounts you use. It’s a smart idea to have different passwords for different types of accounts.
  • Think twice about what you share on social media. Posting things like your telephone number, address, birth date and 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 - 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.
  • 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.

Here are some things you can do to spot a possible takeover:

  • Watch for transactions you don’t expect – such as purchases or withdrawals you didn’t make. Contact your financial institution immediately if you spot this when checking either your online or paper statements. If you have online statements, it’s wise to check them frequently.
  •  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.
  • 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 reading about what you can do.

Think smart and stay alert … both are great defenses against account takeovers.