Don’t help the fraudsters. This banking executive has ideas to keep your money safe.

Some banking companies now let you to set an alert that comes to you when a credit card transaction occurs on your card.
Some banking companies now let you to set an alert that comes to you when a credit card transaction occurs on your card. AP

Tom Martin talks with Steve Kelly, executive vice president for marketing and sales at Central Bank about the need to monitor your bank account — especially debit and credit cards — to protect your ID.

Question: Are we making transactions with our credit cards and our debit cards more frequently than with checks?

Answer: It really has changed. We’ve all made the shift to using a debit card, a credit card, or electronic transfers and it has transformed how we manage our accounts. Fortunately, what is also transformed is the number of ways that we can monitor our accounts to be sure we’re being protected.

Q: How frequently should we be checking our accounts?

A: At our bank, the typical customer who uses online banking will be in six to seven times a month to see what transactions have cleared and what deposits had been made. But we find that a mobile customer is in his account 40 times a month. So, several times a day they’re looking to see what’s going on.

Frankly, we don’t think it’s good for the individual to have to go in and look at the account. We now have a variety of ways that you can set alerts that come to you when you have a transaction occur and that’s really a much easier way of keeping up to date. In my case, I get an alert when my credit card is used or when my debit card is used. I know whether it’s my debit card or my wife’s debit card and most of the time it doesn’t matter, I just look at it and say fine. But occasionally I question whether it’s real or not and can pick up the phone and call my wife and ask her. So, it’s very helpful.

Q: When you say you don’t really like for the customer to be checking their account frequently, do you mean actually opening up the account and looking at it?

A: Right. And absolutely if that’s what they want to do, the mobile banking and online banking are perfect tools to do that. But you can get an alert anytime a transaction clears. If I go to a local retailer and use my debit card, my phone dings before I leave the cashier’s stand to confirm that transaction. And for me personally that’s better because if I’m going to look at the accounts, it typically is not going to happen until I have time which may be tonight. Whereas, if I get it instantly, I can confirm that the transaction occurred and if there is a question I can either call my wife if it’s on her account or I can check with the folks at the bank if I need to ask another question.

Q: Has the move to chip cards presented new problems?

A: It’s very interesting. Chip cards for both debit and credit are very secure. But the fraudsters have switched gears. They try to steal your identity so they can take over your account or create another account.

And several instances have come up where people were not aware that their identities had been compromised and our security team alerted them to what the next steps were going to be. One of those next steps is to download the mobile app and set up the account alerts and card controls. You can even use the card controls to turn your card off.

My wife called me in a panic the other day because she thought she had lost her debit card. She’d been out shopping, got home and didn’t have it, couldn’t find it. And it’s a simple matter to go on to the app and turn the card off. She found it an hour later and turned it right back on.

Now, contrast that with calling the bank and saying, “Hey, Central Bank, I’ve lost my card.” We’ll shut your card off, but it stays shut off, we can’t turn it back on at that point and you have to wait until we can issue a new card for you.

Skelly profile.jpg
Steve Kelly LEE P.THOMAS 859-229-1937

Q: What are some of the latest scams on your radar?

A: One that’s become more common unfortunately is where someone’s e-mail gets hacked and they gain enough information by observing what they’re doing to use that to take over their bank account because they found out maybe where they bank or who they bank with. And we’ve seen cases where the fraudsters try to initiate a wire transfer going to a different bank.

Q: Any other particular things that we ought to be thinking about?

A: Change your password for your online banking. The majority of customers use online banking today. Many of them are using the same password for that as for a number of other things. It’s always nice if online banking has its own unique user ID and password that’s a little harder to understand or figure out.

We encourage you to download an app that provides purchase alerts. VISA does this. You get an alert each time the card is used. From a debit card, I get an alert each time my debit card is used.

And, I have a location feature on the debit card app and I can set that so that my phone needs to be close to where my card is being used in order for the transaction to be approved. It really saves me time and the worry of having to contact the bank and tell them I’m going to be traveling and how long I’m going to be gone.

Q: To try to save data on our phone or to avoid paying for Wi-Fi when we’re in public, we may look for or connect to the first open or free Wi-Fi hotspot that we find. Do you discourage that?

A: We do. And this is coming from our security experts. They say if it’s free public Wi-Fi, you should never connect to that to do any sort of banking or secure type transaction.

Q: How prevalent is credit card skimming? What should we look for to know when we’re about to expose our card to a skimming gadget?

A: I wish I could say, all you have to do is look at the face of the ATM and you can see the skimmer, but they’ve gotten so good that you really can’t. We recently installed a new device on all of our ATMs, instead of inserting the card lengthwise you now insert it top first. The skimmers don’t operate that way.

Q: Any other way folks can make sure their bank accounts stay safe?

A: We really want to encourage people not to write down your account numbers and leave them lying around. Don’t give your account numbers to anyone. So many bad things can happen and it’s possible today to store all that information on your cell phone and password protect your cell phone so that others don’t have access to it.

Protecting your personal information is critical in today’s world because many of us use our phone or our computer to store our most private information and to do our most private transactions. So,don’t write it down. Store it where it’s password protected. If you have any questions, contact your bank.

Tom Martin’s Q & A appears every two weeks in the Herald-Leader. This is an edited version of the interview. To listen to it, find the podcast on Selected portions of the interview will also air on WEKU-FM at 7:35 a.m., Mondays during Morning Edition and at 5:45 p.m. at All Things Considered.