Integrated Security Services, Inc., New York

The Rise of the Criminal Bank Teller

18 Feb

Perhaps you’re concerned about using your debit card at an ATM machine after reading about all the recent scams that have been occurring. Maybe you’re still somewhat old fashioned and prefer the security of a teller, especially when you’re making a large deposit, and you grew up going to the bank window and never had any concerns. You prefer using the teller as you deem them to be safer than going to the ATM. Well, you may be in for a bit of a surprise as bank tellers are now posing a major security risk for banks and their customers. While fraud at the bank teller window has always been somewhat of an issue, the problem has become increasingly prevalent over the past few years.

According to an article by Stephanie Clifford and Jessica Silver Greenberg in the New York Times on February 2, 2016 called “Bank Tellers, With Low Pay and High Access, Pose a Rising Security Risk,” detail the rampant theft and fraud perpetrated by bank tellers that has begun to permeate the industry. According to the article, bank tellers and managers have instant access not only to customers account information but to their cash as well. The tellers are targeting elderly customers specifically who have relied on bank tellers for most of their banking lives. Many older customers would find it hard to fathom that tellers might be ripping off their money, especially if their accounts are tied to social security benefits.

According to the New York Times article, most unscrupulous tellers and lower level managers are acting as a conduit for con artists, thieves and even organized crime. To avoid sending a red flag as to why they are poking around into an account, they take photos of the customers’ personal data and accounts and pass the information off to the people who will be draining the accounts of the unsuspecting clients. Additionally, the customer’s personal information including social security numbers, credit and bank accounts, and addresses are often sold on the black market. In some cases, it may take years for wealthier clients to realize that they have been scammed due to the very large balances they may have in their accounts.

Why are tellers putting themselves in a position to lose their job and be the target of a criminal prosecution? Many tellers are paid very low wages. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the annual median income for tellers in 2014 was only $25,760, which could provide the motivation necessary for some tellers to break the law. Additionally, tellers generally are not subjected to a rigorous background check. Often, only a very basic criminal search is performed and security training for tellers is lax.

Banks large and small need to do a better job of screening tellers and other branch employees. This would require more robust background checks conducted by professional security firms like Integrated Security Services. For individuals, steps to avoid being the victim of bank or financial fraud can include not providing your details to individuals who request in on the phone or via email. Additionally, if you believe that you have been the victim of fraud at a bank, you should notify the bank manager immediately, and if you bank refuses to reimburse you for any fraudulent activity, you can file a complaint with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Finally, a complaint should be filed with your local police precinct and FBI agent. In addition, it often makes sense to speak with a security services firm with experience in dealing with these types of financial fraud cases, like Integrated Security.