Consumer warning about picking a strong pin number

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GLENDALE - “I knew at that moment someone had broken into my car,” Sully Ossa said.

A cracked door is all it took for Sully Ossa to realize her car had been burglarized.

“My purse was right under here,” she said.

Inside, that purse was her wallet with all her personal information, including her debit card and driver's license.

“I was pretty much scared,” she said.

Sully filed a police report and notified Bank of America immediately.

Within hours, Bank of America temporarily reimbursed the $362 stolen from her checking account, but then came a letter in the mail stating the credit was going to be reversed.

“The investigators just denied my claim,” she said.

Sully says Bank of America didn't believe her story about the break-in.

Why?

Because the thieves were able to figure out her pin number.

“So, the pin number was my birth date,” she said. “They had my driver’s license so they just figured it out.”

Sully admits picking that pin number probably wasn't the best idea, but Eduard Goodman with Identity Theft 911 says unfortunately, birth dates are one of the most common codes people use.

“But I would always steer clear of pet names, birthdates, kids names, maiden name, last 4 digits of social,” Goodman said.

3 On Your Side contacted Bank of America about Sully's $362.

A spokesperson writes:

“We have apologized to the customer for the inconvenience in resolving the matter.  When considering fraud claims, a number of variables are factored to determine a decision. Her claim was initially declined based on reasons including the fact that the correct PIN number was used to withdraw funds, and the lack of a police report in our files. However, when reconsidering the case, we located the police report and were also able to recover ATM video footage that indicated fraudulent activity.  We have explained this to the customer and credited the full amount back to her account. Thank you for bringing this matter to our attention.”

“It took over a month for me, and then I contacted you guys and it took a couple of days,” Goodman said.

Sully says she's learned her lesson and has changed her pin number several times since the break-in.

She's grateful to have her money back and doubts that ever would've happened without 3 On Your Side's help.

“I just felt like you guys were there to help me out and I knew you guys wouldn't just back out and say oh well, we tried, you guys really did try,” Sully said. “You guys did a really good job.”

Eduard Goodman has these tips for creating strong passwords:

1. The passwords should have numbers, upper- and lower-case letters and symbols. For example, “3Dogz$$!” is better than “1006.”

2. Use different passwords for work and personal email accounts, bank accounts and online retailers. If a hacker cracks one password, he won’t have access to others.

3. Never use for a password the last four digits of your Social Security number, your maiden name, date of birth, middle name, child’s name, pet’s name or anything else easily discovered or guessed.

4. Discourage your bank from using the last four digits of your SSN as a default PIN. If they do, change it.

5. Change your passwords regularly.

6. Memorize all passwords or store them in a secure location. Don’t record them on anything you carry with you—including your cell phone and don’t store it in your e-mail messages.