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Related topics: banks, banking, financial privacy, credit cards, Liz Weston

Chances are, you don't feel close to your bank.

Banks tend to be big and imposing, which can make you feel like a faceless, anonymous number -- just one among the multitudes who deposit and withdraw money there.

But you're not going unnoticed. In fact, your bank is keeping an ever-closer eye on you these days. Tighter credit standards, new ways to combat fraud and an ever-growing pile of monitoring services offered by credit bureaus and other analytics companies means that banks know, or guess, more about you than ever before.

Here are just some of the ways they're tracking you.

1. Transaction scores

Every time you swipe your credit or debit card, the transaction is scored to gauge the risk of fraud, said John Ulzheimer, the president of consumer education at SmartCredit.com and the author of "You're Nothing But a Number." Where you're shopping, how much you're spending and how that compares with your usual patterns are noted and analyzed. Atypical or high-risk spending patterns can result in a call from the bank's fraud department, a hold on the transaction or even the temporary shutdown of your card.

Liz Weston

Liz Weston

What seems like innocent behavior to you can be highly suspicious to the bank's software. If, for example, you top off your car's gas tank and then head over to Target to stock up, you might trigger a red flag. That's because credit card thieves often try using a card at a gas pump to see if it's active. If it is, they may barrel over to a retailer to use the purloined account to buy electronics and other easily fenced items.

Of course, thieves change their tactics all the time, and bankers constantly tweak their software, so it's hard to predict what could set off a fraud alert. To keep disruptions to a minimum, give your bank plenty of ways to contact you. Make sure it has your current cell number and consider signing up for e-mail or text alerts that can let you know when a problem occurs. Call your bank when you plan to be out of the country and consider giving it a heads-up when you're off to buy electronics of high value, such as a new television or computer system.

2. Behavior scores

Credit scores gauge how a person handles a variety of credit accounts. Behavior scores, by contrast, look at how a person handles an individual financial account. Behavior scores got a bad name a couple of years ago when American Express told an Atlanta businessman his credit line was being cut in part because of where he shopped.

"Other customers who have used their card at establishments where you recently shopped have a poor repayment history with American Express," AmEx's letter to Kevin Johnson said, which led to headlines like "AmEx hates Wal-Mart shoppers." American Express quickly dropped behavior scores from the tools it uses to determine credit lines.

But behavior scores still are widely used as risk-evaluation and marketing tools. On credit accounts, behavior scores look at where and how you spend your money, as well as how you pay your account. (Do you pay in full? Minimum payment only? Sometimes carry a balance, sometimes not? Often late, but never by more than a few days?)

Card issuers can use the scores to, for example, guess whether a missed payment is an anomaly that can be ignored or the start of a default that might trigger them to start calling you daily about when you're going to pay. A sudden switch in spending -- such as starting to take cash advances or spending a lot of time in casinos -- may also send up red flags. Additionally, lenders use behavioral scoring to help target marketing efforts such as who gets low-rate balance transfer offers.

Bankers can use similar scores to monitor how you handle your bank accounts. What the scores tell them may help determine how long you have to wait before you can access deposits (known as "deposit holds"), whether a customer-service representative can waive a fee you don't like and what other products the bank may try to sell you.

Fair Isaac, the creator of the leading FICO credit score, works with banks to create custom behavior scores that monitor bank balances, withdrawal activity and the source of deposits, said Debb Gordon, a senior principal consultant for the company.