NEW YORK (MainStreet) — Kevin Kreczko is an entertainment producer and director for large seasonal and corporate events who travels domestically 11 months out of the year. The 33-year-old Orlando resident keeps track of his travel expenses, for the purposes of staying on top of his tax deductions and making sure his accounts haven't been compromised.
“I scan in all of my receipts and categorize my expenditures according to meals, transportation and other items,” Kreczko told MainStreet about his meticulous record-keeping.
Kreczko banks online and pays his credit card bill with his iPhone. "It's about security and feeling comfortable, because nowadays its simple for people to tap into your account," he said.
But even though he takes time to monitor his financial transactions, the effort may not be enough if it's not done perfectly. Some 55% of consumers feel that monitoring financial transactions is challenging while 40% of respondents believe it's too time-consuming, according to a new Experian study.
“It’s not enough to just rely on bank or card issuers for fraud alerts,” said Michael Bruemmer, vice president of consumer protection with Experian. “It has been reported that financial institutions detect less than half of credit card fraud, leaving cardholders to catch the rest or personally absorb the financial loss.”
The trouble is that consumers have busy lives with most juggling multiple payment cards and financial accounts. “These are often all spread out among different institutions with associated websites and mobile apps,” Bruemmer told MainStreet. “It is not surprising consumers find it challenging to keep tabs on everything all of the time.”
Theft of financial and personal information can occur at ATM machines and gas pumps or as the result of data breaches and hackers.
“There are innumerable links in any given transaction,” said Brian Finch, co-head of global security with Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman in Washington, D.C. “Combine that with cyber criminals who have the time, money and resources to monitor and exploit the entire financial transaction chain and you reach the difficult conclusion that a weak spot will eventually be found.”
In other words, every transaction except a cash payment is at risk. That’s why registering with LifeLock, Identity Guard or mobile apps such as BillGuard can be a valuable source of protection.
“When a user opts-in to share their location, BillGuard begins tracking their phone’s location and attempts to match where the user has visited with where the card has been used,” Bruemmer said. “When a match isn’t made, the user receives an alert.”
A technique criminals employ to avoid triggering bank alerts on suspicious transactions is to use stolen payment cards in the same geographic area the cardholder normally would.
“Monitoring financial transactions typically involves algorithms designed to find unusual patterns of spending,” Finch told MainStreet. “Even with that, the software isn’t perfect and criminals are incredibly smart and resourceful. They find ways to mask transactions so that fraud detection departments don’t pick up on unauthorized transactions for some time.”
--Written for MainStreet by Juliette Fairley