When you open a bank account, you expect your money to be protected. You look for the FDIC symbol, to be sure your hard-earned money is protected by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation.
You also make sure your electronic transactions are safe. They are, thanks the 1978 Electronic Funds Transfer Act, which protects people like you from bank theft.
There's a problem, though. That Act says nothing about businesses being protected. As it turns out, cybercriminals are devising ingenious ways to drain bank accounts, notably small business accounts.
Unfortunately, small business owners are particularly vulnerable because they don't have the financial resources that large corporations have to survive a major theft, and many don't have Internet security teams on staff. On average, cybercriminals steal $32,000 from small businesses, when they drain their bank accounts, estimates the National Small Business Association.
Note: If you own a small business, meet with your banker to make sure your accounts are protected against theft, the American Bankers Association recommends. You may have to comply with the bank's security requirements.
So, how are cybercriminals accessing small business bank accounts and stealing your money? You'll be surprised by how clever and devious they are; check out these five ways cybercriminals drain bank accounts. (Bonus: Keep reading for a tip to protect your devices and your company's computer system.)
Cybercriminals are clever. They've got a number of ways to steal money from bank accounts. When one of these five doesn't work, they move onto another one.
1. Phishing email scams. The FBI estimates that cybercriminals have stolen $740 million from companies the past few years by using realistic-looking emails.
For instance, they'll send an email to an employee that appears to be from another employee at the same company. The criminals ask that money is wired from one bank account into another one.
Note: Major companies have recently been victims of phishing email scams, including Seagate Technology and the social media network Snapchat.
2. Malware. Cybercriminals infect a company's computer with malware, usually by sending a link to a malicious website in an email. They use it to record your bank account's login and password. They use that information to transfer money to their account.
Note: Most banks use two-step verification to prevent this type of theft. Make sure your bank uses it.
3. Lax Wi-Fi security. If you're not 100% sure that a public Wi-Fi connection is safe, don't use it for financial transactions. Plus, make sure all your devices are protected with an Internet security system.
4. Counterfeit checks. If a criminal has your bank account number and your bank's routing number, it's fairly easy for them to create phony checks and use them to take money out of your account.
5. Fake debit cards. Cybercriminals steal your credentials and use it to create a fake debit card. Be on the lookout for small withdrawals that the criminals hope you won't notice.