A few months ago, I made a stupid mistake. Such a stupid mistake, in fact, that it will affect my financial well-being for years to come.
Sound serious? You bet it is.
I cringe just thinking about it. I put out my personal information over the Internet, giving scammers access to my bank account and permission to steal my identity.
Here’s how it happened: In the midst of midterms and assignment deadlines, I received an email from my bank. It said that the security of my bank account had been compromised, and to prove my identity, to click to link below.
It took me to a website that looked exactly like my bank’s. It asked me to fill in my name, my address, security questions I use for online banking, my social insurance number and my driver’s license number.
My bank doesn’t even have my driver’s license number in the first place. But in the moment, it hardly fazed me. I just wanted to get my bank situation figured out as soon as possible.
I did call the bank to ask what the email meant, but the voice on the other end of the phone told me I had fallen for a scam. He was so calm — I wasn’t. If my bank account had been wiped clean, I’d go into a deep depression.
I immediately signed into my online banking and all my money was still intact, thank God. But I knew that at any moment, the scammers could sign into my account and take me for all I’m worth.
While I was on the phone with the bank, I received an email that said the password on my bank account had been changed. They were in my account. Three clicks, and my life-savings would be gone.
The fraud department at the bank was contacted. They froze my account. No one could see any information within the account, or move any of my money.
“Now you can sleep tonight,” said the man.
But I didn’t. I stayed up all night. In the morning (after I called my mom at 6 a.m. crying) I skipped my classes and went to the bank to unfreeze my account.
I got passed around from banker to banker, having to explain my embarrassing story. I felt humiliated. I ended up spending three hours there, and got a completely new account opened up for me.
I now knew my money was safe, but not my identity. Since I had given out my SIN and drivers license number, scammers could take out loans and open up accounts in my name. They could ruin my perfect credit.
To try to prevent this, I called the credit bureaus to put a flag on my account. This means that if someone attempts to open up an account or take out a loan in my name, the credit bureaus will call me and ask if this is okay.
I also have to order credit reports every three to four months to check that no one is using my name. I’ll have to do this for the next 10 years of my life, but I’m thankful my money is still intact. I’m now aware of the world around me.
I think I’m pretty street-smart. I know you should never give out personal information over the internet. I’m not a stupid person, but what I did was stupid.