Identity Theft

The JPMorgan Hack: What Should You Do?

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JPMorgan Chase and at least one other bank were reportedly victims of a cyberattack, possibly orchestrated from Russia as retaliation for economic sanctions from the U.S. and European nations. Bloomberg first reported the breach based on sources familiar with the FBI investigation, which remains unconfirmed by the FBI and Chase. Requests for comment made by Credit.com to both entities were not immediately returned.

The attack, which is said to have exploited a previously unknown vulnerability in one of the banks’ websites, allowed hackers to steal checking and savings account information, though Chase has not seen an increase in fraudulent account activity, Bloomberg reported.

The goal of this sophisticated attack remains unclear. If it was to pilfer and abuse sensitive data, which would be a worst-case scenario for affected consumers, banks would have ideally flagged accounts for unusual activity, and accountholders would need to more frequently monitor their accounts for the same reason. If the motivations were strictly political, there’s still the concern of how this display of technological muscle-flexing could affect the economy.

What Consumers Can Do in Response

As this situation has been presented, it’s different than high-profile cyberattacks like those on the payment systems of retail giant Target and restaurant chain P.F. Chang’s — in those cases, consumer credit and debit card data was stolen, which is potentially damaging for victims’ short-term finances like access to cash and unauthorized credit card charges, as well as longer-term consequences like identity theft and new account fraud.

“This is a flat-out account monitoring issue, and people have a tendency to not focus on what’s going on in their accounts,” said Adam Levin, chairman and co-founder of Credit.com and Identity Theft 911. “In light of something like this, it brings home the need to frequently review activity in your accounts, whether you do it yourself or do it an easier way, which is get those transactional notifications from the bank.”

He’s referencing the free tools many banks, credit card issuers and credit unions offer to consumers to set up transaction alerts, whether it’s for purchases over a certain dollar amount or for every transaction made. Getting such notifications via text message would immediately alert you to someone using your account funds without authorization.

If someone gains access to and drains your bank account, you may find yourself without the means to pay essential bills, like student loans, utilities or your mortgage, which is not only damaging to your livelihood but also to your credit standing, because unpaid bills can wreck your credit.

As a consumer, you are often the last line of defense between ill-intentioned hackers and your financial information, so checking it from a variety of angles — account monitoring, credit reports, credit scores — will help you minimize the negative impact of an attack. Logging in to your financial accounts daily, as well as taking advantage of free access to your credit reports (through AnnualCreditReport.com) and your credit scores (which you can do using Credit.com’s free tools) can help you spot problems and resolve them before it causes worse financial damage.

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