Bank's antifraud tactics stun security expert: How much do they know?

Banks are obtaining personal information not voluntarily provided by a customer

Checking out of a Hilton hotel in London, security expert Roger Thompson was told his Visa card had been declined due to suspicions it was stolen, a situation that only got more disconcerting when he learned the bank that issued the card had more personal information on him and his family members than he ever imagined.

In a tale he relates in his blog, Thompson, chief research officer at AVG, said he was compelled to answer questions on the phone from a Wachovia Bank representative in its fraud-prevention division to prove he was really Roger Thompson and not a credit-card thief checking out of the London hotel.

It turns out Thompson's Visa card was flagged and suspended because he hadn't told the bank he was travelling overseas, a requirement he didn't know the bank had. But the "scary bit" about it all, he says, is that the bank fraud-prevention representative didn't just ask him to give the correct answers to questions such as his mother's maiden name, which he had provided to the bank for fraud detection purposes, but also a host of other questions about his daughter-in-law that he had no idea it knew.

"I was in shock," Thompson says about what he found out that Wachovia Bank had stored "at their fingertips" related to his daughter-in-law -- information Thompson thinks the bank may have found out through Facebook.

"They used her maiden name, they knew she was my daughter in-law, they wanted me to best describe the age range for this person," Thompson says, adding that he was in "shock and indignation" about how they would know all this, including how long she was married.

The bank fraud-prevention representative indicated it was all "publically available information," he says. At the hotel on the phone, Thompson answered the questions about his daughter-in-law, the bank lifted the suspension on his credit card, and he paid his bill and left for the airport.

Thompson says he wracked his brain to figure out where the bank may have gotten this information about his daughter-in-law but he could only reason it was from Facebook, where she's a friend.

Thompson , a security expert with decades of experience in identifying malware, fraud and hacker exploits of social-networking sites, such as MySpace and Facebook, says he doesn't see this as an issue around Facebook per se. Rather, this is about what kind of data that corporations may be collecting from Facebook or other social-networking sites -- if they are. He adds this strikes him as a serious data-privacy issue, and he notes that if a bank has this kind of database information on him, "they probably have it on you, too."

Wachovia, now owned by Wells Fargo, wasn't immediately available for comment on whether they do harvest information from social-networking sites for purposes of fraud detection or where they are obtaining personal information of this type not voluntarily provided by a customer.

Join the newsletter!

Or

Sign up to gain exclusive access to email subscriptions, event invitations, competitions, giveaways, and much more.

Membership is free, and your security and privacy remain protected. View our privacy policy before signing up.

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags privacyFacebook

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Ellen Messmer

Network World
Show Comments

Cool Tech

Toys for Boys

Family Friendly

Stocking Stuffer

SmartLens - Clip on Phone Camera Lens Set of 3

Learn more >

Christmas Gift Guide

Click for more ›

Brand Post

Most Popular Reviews

Latest Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Aysha Strobbe

Microsoft Office 365/HP Spectre x360

Microsoft Office continues to make a student’s life that little bit easier by offering reliable, easy to use, time-saving functionality, while continuing to develop new features that further enhance what is already a formidable collection of applications

Michael Hargreaves

Microsoft Office 365/Dell XPS 15 2-in-1

I’d recommend a Dell XPS 15 2-in-1 and the new Windows 10 to anyone who needs to get serious work done (before you kick back on your couch with your favourite Netflix show.)

Maryellen Rose George

Brother PT-P750W

It’s useful for office tasks as well as pragmatic labelling of equipment and storage – just don’t get too excited and label everything in sight!

Cathy Giles

Brother MFC-L8900CDW

The Brother MFC-L8900CDW is an absolute stand out. I struggle to fault it.

Luke Hill

MSI GT75 TITAN

I need power and lots of it. As a Front End Web developer anything less just won’t cut it which is why the MSI GT75 is an outstanding laptop for me. It’s a sleek and futuristic looking, high quality, beast that has a touch of sci-fi flare about it.

Emily Tyson

MSI GE63 Raider

If you’re looking to invest in your next work horse laptop for work or home use, you can’t go wrong with the MSI GE63.

Featured Content

Product Launch Showcase

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?