My spouse and I were out of town for the weekend. We we’re winding down for the night when I got a text alert saying “A charge of $839 from WestJet was posted to your MasterCard.” I looked over at my spouse who was on his IPAD and said, “Umm, did you just book us a surprise vacation?”
No, he hadn’t. But someone had, using our credit card number. I called MasterCard immediately and explained what happened. Within 5 minutes WestJet was calling us to confirm we hadn’t made that transaction. Everything was cancelled, the payment was never posted to our credit card, no paper work to fill out, no issues. The only inconvenience was that we did have to get the credit card replaced.
Let’s face it, crooks have always tried to get other people’s money. They used to rob wagon trains, now they scam and hack. But there are ways to protect yourself.
How Alerts or Notifications Work
Some banks call them alerts, some call them notifications. Whatever they’re called, you need to set them up.
When you set up an alert, you decide which accounts and credit cards you want to be alerted about and what amount you want a notification for. I’d recommend having them for all accounts and credit cards. Then you set up whether you want email or text notification. For example, if you want to be notified anytime a transaction of $500 or more goes through an account or card, you’ll receive a text message or email advice. I like the text option because I don’t check my email regularly and the point is to be able to take quick action. The message will advise of the amount and who the money went to.
When you receive the text notice, verify if it’s your transaction. Make sure you check with any joint account holders too! If it’s not yours, call the bank’s customer service center immediately for any account transactions, or the credit card company if it’s a charge on your card. Often, the transaction is stopped before it’s even charged because of what’s called delayed posting.
In the above story with my credit card alert, things happened quickly. I received the notice as the transaction was approved but before the money was actually withdrawn, so everything was resolved quickly. What if I didn’t have an alert? When you try to get money back after it’s been removed from an account or credit card it involves a dispute resolution process. Sound fun? It’s not. It’s frustrating and takes time. You can wait up to 10 days to get your money back.
Email Money Transfers
Did you notice when you send an email money transfer that the funds don’t get to the other person immediately? This is a good thing and another reason to take advantage of alerts.
There’s been many incidents of bank accounts being hacked, usually as a result of sharing passwords or clicking on links in fake texts and emails. Hackers will then get access to an account and send themselves an email money transfer through layers and layers of false information of course, so it’s really hard for authorities to track. If you have an alert set up on your account you can actually stop this before the money gets sent because there’s a delay set up to give you time to verify it. This way, you avoid all the hassle trying to get your money back later.
TIP✅: Never accept an email money transfer from an unknown sender.
How to Set Up Alerts or Notifications
Alerts and notifications are simple to set up and simple to change. Just log into your online banking and check out the “more” or “other” tab. You’ll see an option there to set up or change them. You can also call the contact center or go into the branch if you prefer.
Protect Your Money from Scammers
A final note. Alerts are one layer of protection. Actions such as strong passwords, regularly changing passwords, and regularly checking your banking are important. We often check our banking balances and transactions but there’s one more thing you should check as well and that’s your contact information. Hackers have been know to change email addresses and phone numbers to make alert notifications ineffective. Make it a habit to have a quick look at your profile when you’re in online banking and verify nothing has changed.
TIP✅: Watch out for fake texts and emails pretending to be a financial institution. Your bank will never ask you to click on links or to provide any personal information by text or email.
Protect yourself and help protect others. Share your story in the comments.