Protect yourself from Account Takeover Fraud

December 16th · 8 min read

Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|
Rotem Tal - Senior Cybersecurity Expert |Writer & Editor|

Steering clear of today's online scams

In today's wild west of a world, where events like Fyre Fest sell out, and personalities like Anna Delvey and the Tinder Swindler make headlines, it’s becoming increasingly clear that scams and scammers are all around us, intertwining with our daily lives. While these sophisticated scams make for a great Netflix binge, realizing that these schemes aren’t just limited to a docuseries is unsettling, to say the least. Even more alarming is that with everything becoming more online these days, scams are getting harder to spot and easier to fall for as they cleverly hide behind screens, social media accounts, and emails.

The latest in this saga of deceit? Account takeover fraud (ATO). These scams aren't just limited to social media – they can also target sensitive account information, like bank accounts and personal emails. From financial loss to identity theft, the stakes are high, and while it might seem far-fetched, like something that only happens to other people, the truth is that online account takeover fraud is surprisingly common.

<hyper-link as="h3" headerStart=“22% of Americans have fallen victim to account takeover fraud, averaging“ headerEnd=“each. This is equivalent to a staggering $635B in total ATO losses in 2023” href="" title=" $12,000 in losses " target="_blank" text=" $12,000 in losses " >

In this article, we’ll walk you through the in's and out's of ATO fraud and show you how Guardio can be like that super-smart friend that always keeps you out of trouble - Don’t have that 6th shot of Tequila, Tracy - sound familiar? We all need friends like that. Salud! Let's get started.

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Understanding account takeover fraud

Account takeover scams are very similar to account hijacking , which we’ve written about in the past. The thing is that while account hijackers mostly take over your social accounts like Instagram and Facebook, account takeover attacks take it a step further, also gaining control over your bank and email accounts.

Let’s break it down using a metaphor because metaphors are fun and can explain things clearly. Imagine your online world as a bustling digital neighborhood, where each of your accounts - think email, social media, online shopping - is like your digital home. Now, picture this: someone sneaks in and takes over your house while you’re not looking. That’s pretty much what account takeover fraud (ATO) is. It’s like someone swiping the keys to your digital place, walking right in, and making themselves at home with your stuff. Pretty unsettling, right?

You wouldn’t want just anyone coming into your house, raiding your fridge, and napping on your couch, would you?… I’m guessing the answer is no. This is how it plays out in the real world.

A digital wake-up call: André's account takeover nightmare

Once upon a digital landscape, in the lively city of Seattle, lived André, a freelance graphic designer. André's life was a vibrant tapestry of creativity and innovation, painted across various online platforms. With each project, he harnessed the power of the internet to bring his visions to life, making his digital footprint as unique and dynamic as his designs. However, amidst all his success and technological savvy, André never imagined that his everyday online activities, which were integral to his efficiency and business success, could become a prime target for cybercriminals.

One regular Monday morning. André, with his cup of coffee, sat down to check his emails. He noticed an unusual email from his bank asking him to confirm a transaction. It looked legitimate, so he clicked and entered his details. Little did he know, this was the beginning of a nightmare.

Days later, while checking his bank balance, André’s heart sank. There were transactions he didn’t recognize, totaling over $5,000. Panic set in. He contacted his bank and learned the harsh truth - he was a victim of an account takeover attack. His bank account, social media, and even his favorite online shopping accounts were compromised. The phishing email he clicked was a well-crafted trap.

The aftermath was chaotic. André struggled to regain control of his accounts, disputing transactions and resetting passwords. The financial loss was a blow, but the breach of his personal space felt even worse. He realized his casual approach to online security had left him vulnerable. This experience was a turning point. André began researching ways to protect himself online and stumbled upon Guardio. Intrigued by its promise of comprehensive cyber protection, he decided to give it a try.

Andre the graphic designer shocked

With Guardio, André discovered a new world of cybersecurity. The software was like having a personal online bodyguard, monitoring his online activities and alerting him of any potential threats. The Email Security feature was a revelation. It guarded his inbox against phishing scams that skipped his spam folder, like the one that had tricked him. Text Message Filtering and Mobile Browsing Protection ensured that his mobile interactions were just as secure.

André now navigates the digital world with a newfound confidence. The financial loss from the ATO fraud incident was a hard lesson, but it led him to Guardio. His experience is a reminder that in the vast and often wild digital world, having a robust cybersecurity solution like Guardio is not just an option but a necessity for everyone.

Guardio’s better than Kevin Costner in the The Bodyguard movie because:

  • Email protection against phishing scams: Guardio actively scans and filters emails, identifying and blocking phishing attempts to protect your personal information from sketchy emails.

  • Malware and adware blocking: Proactively blocks harmful software and intrusive pop-up ads.

  • Scam text filtering: Provides robust security against "smishing" (SMS phishing) by scanning and alerting you about scam texts on mobile devices, safeguarding against fraudulent messages that aim to steal personal account information or install malware.

  • Data breach monitoring: Alerts users if their personal information is compromised in a data breach, protecting you from identity theft.

  • Easy-to-use interface: User-friendly design suitable for both tech-savvy and novice users.

  • Blocks dangerous websites: Actively prevents access to websites known for malicious activities.

  • Family protection: Offers protection for up to 5 family members under one account.

  • Free 7-day trial: Try the premium features risk-free with a 7-day trial. If you find Guardio's protection valuable, you can easily subscribe; if not, simply unsubscribe with no hassle.

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Account takeover fraud is bigger than you think

While we'd all prefer a drama-free online experience, it's hard to ignore that account takeover fraud is increasingly becoming a concern in the digital world, affecting more users each year. The recent statistics are not just numbers; they're a wake-up call to the urgency of the issue. From the sprawling corporate giants to the individual digital denizens, the threat of ATO looms large, indifferent to its targets. This surge is fueled by the expanding reservoirs of personal data in the digital realm and the increasingly cunning tactics of cybercriminals. Here are some alarming stats

  • Widespread consequences: A staggering 22% of U.S. adults have fallen prey to account takeovers. That's over 24 million households grappling with the aftermath of a digital intrusion.

  • Financial fallout: The average loss from these takeovers is close to $12,000, a significant dent in personal finances.

  • Password threats: Alarmingly, 60% of victims used the same password across multiple accounts, turning one breach into a cascade of vulnerabilities.

  • Recent rise: A notable 58% of account takeovers happened in just the past year, highlighting a rapidly escalating problem.

  • Primary targets: Social media stands as the primary battleground, with 51% of takeovers, while financial accounts follow closely at 32%, underlining the diverse interests of cyber invaders.

Common account takeover techniques

Cybercriminals have a toolkit of methods for account takeovers. The most common include:

Phishing: Where you receive an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate source but is actually a trap to steal your login credentials. André’s case from earlier was a perfect example.
Credential stuffing: This involves using stolen account credentials to gain unauthorized access to user accounts. The method relies on the fact that a lot of people reuse the same username and password across multiple websites and applications. The stolen credentials could be from a data breach or even bought on the dark web
Brute force attacks: Hackers use software to generate and try countless combinations to crack your passwords . So they’ll target thousands of accounts using hundreds of attempts until they find the right combination.

Red flags of account takeover fraud

There are telltale signs of account takeover attempts. These indicators shouldn’t be taken lightly, as they often signal unauthorized access to your accounts. Here are a few things to watch out for:

  • Unrecognized activity in your accounts.

  • Alerts about password changes that you did not initiate.

  • Emails about login attempts from unknown devices or locations.

  • Receiving random texts with one-time passwords.

  • Unexpected withdrawals or charges on your bank statements.

  • Friends or contacts receiving messages from your social media accounts that you didn't send.

  • Inability to access your accounts with your usual credentials.

  • Notifications from online services you don't recall signing up for.

How to protect yourself: Account takeover fraud prevention

To stay safe and prevent account takeover fraud and other online threats, it's important to integrate a few key security habits into your everyday online activities:

  • Use strong, unique passwords for each account. Learn more .
  • Regularly review account settings and security updates.

  • Enable multi-factor authentication for an additional security layer. Learn more .
  • Use strong cybersecurity software.

Reliable cybersecurity software like Guardio is essential in preventing account takeover incidents. It provides real-time protection against emerging threats, and its robust features, including email security and text message filtering, add multiple layers of security, safeguarding your personal information from various types of cyberattacks. Additionally, the software's ability to promptly detect and alert you of suspicious activity is priceless. Because it basically gives you enough time to take action, prevent anyone from gaining unauthorized access to your accounts and change passwords after data breaches.

Do not let account takeover fraud catch you off guard

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Staying a step ahead with Guardio:

Guardio continuously stays ahead of cyber threats by regularly updating and innovating its cybersecurity solutions. It harnesses advanced technology, such as machine learning, to predict and prevent attacks, ensuring users receive the most up-to-date and effective protection against the ever-evolving landscape of online threats. This proactive approach keeps Guardio at the forefront of cybersecurity, offering users peace of mind and a reliable defense against potential cyber risks.

The bottom line

In the face of the growing threat of online account takeover fraud, staying informed and prepared is key. The various manifestations of ATO, from social media takeovers to serious breaches like bank and email account hijackings, underscore the diverse and sophisticated nature of these threats. By following our guide, understanding the risks, recognizing the signs, and utilizing tools like Guardio, you can protect your digital identity and maintain peace of mind. In a world where digital threats are constantly evolving, robust defenses like Guardio are not just a choice but a necessity to ensure your online safety. So, stay alert, stay safe, and enjoy your digital life with confidence and security.

Tired of worrying about cyber threats compromising your online accounts?

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