DEFINITION of 'Man-In-The-Middle Fraud'

A crime where an unauthorized third party obtains a consumer’s or business’s sensitive data as it is being sent over the Internet. The “man in the middle” is the unauthorized third party who gets in between the sender and recipient of the data. This fraud can be accomplished fairly easily over an unsecured network, such as public WiFi, or a poorly protected home network. It can also be carried out through installing malware on the target’s computer.

BREAKING DOWN 'Man-In-The-Middle Fraud'

You could become a victim of man-in-the-middle fraud if a criminal “eavesdrops” on your login credentials when you log in to your bank account through an unsecured wireless network. You’ll have no idea that anything unusual is happening. Later, with your login name and password, the thief can clean out your bank account.

Criminals can also set up fake public WiFi networks that innocent users then log onto and send data over. The criminal has access to all the information that the users send over that network and steal any valuable data. A criminal could also conduct a man-in-the-middle attack by setting up a fake website that pretends to be a legitimate website, then stealing consumers’ information when they try to use the fake website. Yet another strategy involves intercepting emails between two parties and creating spoofed emails that cause those parties to provide sensitive data to the man in the middle.

You can avoid man-in-the-middle attacks by:

  • not clicking on links in emails.
  • making sure the address of the financial institution’s website you’re visiting starts with https, not just http.
  • changing your home Internet password from the default one the Internet service provider issued you.
  • not using public WiFi on your phone, tablet or computer to check your email, your bank account balance, your credit card account, or any other site that contains or requires your personal data.
  • using Internet security software.

There is no complete foolproof way to avoid becoming a victim of a sophisticated man-in-the-middle attack, but taking these basic precautions will lower your risk.

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