Bank Tellers, With Access to Accounts, Pose a Rising Security Risk


NY Times:

Bank Tellers, With Access to Accounts, Pose a Rising Security Risk

Bank robbers used to burst into banks brandishing guns and bearing notes demanding cash to the teller behind the window. Today, the thieves may be on the other side of the counter.As concerns over identity theft and foreign cyberattacks rise, customers are largely in the dark about a growing threat just around the corner: bank tellers and managers with instant access not only to their critical personal information, but also to their cash.

Though much of the focus on bank fraud has been on sophisticated hackers, it is the more prosaic figure of the teller behind the window who should worry depositors, according to prosecutors, government officials and security experts.
Tellers and those who oversaw them once played a sober, respected role in towns small and large, carefully counting out bills and peering at signatures. But A.T.M.s, direct deposits and electronic banking have diminished tellers’ importance, to the point that their work is now low paid and, prosecutors say, occasionally criminal.

Rich and elderly bank customers are particularly at risk, prosecutors say, when tellers and other retail-branch employees tap into accounts to wire funds without authorization, make fake debit cards to withdraw money from A.T.M.s and sell off personal information to other criminals. Accounts with high balances and those with direct deposits of government funds, like Social Security payments, are especially coveted.

“It’s a rampant problem,” said Brenda Fischer, chief of the Cybercrime and Identity Theft Bureau for the Manhattan district attorney’s office. The Manhattan prosecutor’s office estimates it brings at least one case against a teller per month.
Last year, a teller in White Plains was sentenced for her role in an identity theft ring that pilfered $850,000 from bank accounts. Wiretaps revealed that the defendants spoke in code about potential bank targets, referring to TD Bank as “touchdown” and JPMorgan Chase as “Yase.” A former teller at a Capital One branch in Maryland was sentenced in 2014 for gaining access to seven accounts and passing customer information to a co-conspirator who drew checks on the accounts.

The article doesn’t mention any way to protect yourself from this kind of thing though I suppose checking your balances often might help.


For a time, I worked at a bank and I can imagine that this would be easy to do. I’m not sure how to protect against it other than checking your balances on your monthly statement (which is always good advice anyways).

I was always amazed, though, at how many customers did not keep track at all of what was coming or going from their account. So I can definitely see the opening. But the tellers need to have access to that information in order to process debits and deposits.

I don’t know that I’d call one case a month a “rampant” problem, though. That is what, 12–15 cases a year? I suppose that is just in Manhattan, but still.


My fiance works for a local credit union. They have internal protections against inside jobs - theft from accounts and embezzlement- but more to the point…you’d need to steal a LOT of money to make it “worth it” because you’d need to flee to a country that doesn’t extradite to the U.S. and live there for life. Stealing from a bank or credit union is generally a federal crime (some credit unions are state rather than federal) and the jail time one would serve ought to act as a deterrent. One policy his credit union has is that every employee MUST take 2 weeks of vacation a year, for example, because if they’ve been up to any shenanigans typically those types of things require daily maintenance to keep from getting caught and by going on vacation they get busted. In 15 years they’ve only had one employee get busted for embezzlement- it began as her borrowing money to pay for extensive medical bills but in the end greed took over and she began buying things like motorhomes. She is now in jail.


this is concerning, but the risk is not new I wouldn’t think.


A question … The FDIC is supposed to cover your $ if the bank goes tilt, right? What if a hacker withdraws your account, almost entirely, with a transfer to another bank account?
Is there any insurance offered to protect against this? As an example, you have a direct deposit of retirement $ - one would not know until enough time had passed and the thief could close their phony receiving account in the mean time.

:hmmm: Anyone got an :newidea: about this?


I think accounts are covered up to $150K thru FDIC and so you don’t want to have more than that in any one account.

As to the other- it’s good practice, especially in this day and age of hackers, to check your accounts monthly.


It’s $250,000. And that is only insurance if the bank becomes illiquid.

If a bank employee steals money from a bank client, then the bank would be on the hook. The bank would reimburse the customer, but they have to know about it first. So it is important for people to monitor their accounts regularly. And each bank sets a different time period they will correct such theft. You can’t come back 5 years later and claim your money was stolen. The bank has no way of determining what really happened, who was responsible or if the money was actually stolen.

Can’t tell you how many people simply didn’t even pay attention to their accounts. It was infuriating.


That is what I thought. There is no insurance to be had. Monitoring accounts is very necessary but I think a thief could clean an account out to the lowest remaining $ and it would be gone before the owner would know. Plus, what could one do? Gone is Gone!
Without any interest being paid (hardly) perhaps one would be better off with a deposit box with cash?


Regular monitoring of your account would be fine to catch most of this. Usually they prey upon the elderly who are confused easily. Especially the elderly who don’t have family living nearby. Adult children should regularly monitor the accounts of their parents if they can.


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