While most of us are aware financial fraud exists, few people expect it will happen to them. As more financial information is shared online, across apps and networks, the risk of random attacks from scammers has increased. With fraud tactics changing all the time, how do you know if a phone call, text, or email regarding your banking information is legitimate or fraudulent? 

In banking fraud, scammers try to trick you into giving away personal information that allows them access to your bank account. Once they have access, they can empty your account in seconds. It’s essential that you learn to protect yourself from fraud so that you can keep your financial assets safe from criminals. We’ll go over some common types of banking fraud, and how to identify fraud. 

Spotting Phishing Scams

The term ‘phishing’ comes from its homonym, fishing. Much like casting a line, a scammer puts the same bait in front of thousands of people in the form of scam emails, text messages, and sometimes even direct messages on social networks. In phishing scams, you’ll get a communication purporting to be from your bank. One major tell of these scams: the message you receive will make no sense, or will be full of spelling and grammar errors. Usually the message will contain several links or in the case of text message scams, a shortened link. If there’s a link in the email or text, hover over it to see where it leads. If the website it leads to does not match the text of the hyperlink, don’t click on it and definitely don’t part with any information. In some versions of this scam, the link will take you to a fake login page. In some cases, just clicking the link is enough for malware to pull saved login credentials from your browser, or to install spyware to lie in wait until you next login to your account. Don’t click on any links you don’t recognize, and always check the url (the website address) for inconsistencies before attempting to login to your account. 

Fraudulent Calls

Another common scam begins with an urgent phone call requiring your immediate action to secure your ‘compromised’ account. The caller will claim to be from your bank or credit service and say your account has been hacked or breached, and that you must confirm your information with them immediately to avoid losing your money. If you get an inquiry like this, call your bank using a listed phone number and ask to speak with a representative. When in doubt, don’t give out your information. 

How to Detect Job Scams

Job scams claiming to offer an easy, low-effort work-from-home job rose over the course of the pandemic as many searched online for remote work. In this scenario, the scammer will demand your bank account information in the guise of requiring it for direct deposit payments. Thoroughly examine any remote work offers that sound too good to be true, and research the company requesting your information before sharing any personal information.

Automatic Withdrawals & Lottery Scams

Have you ever received a phone call or text message claiming you’ve won the lottery, or been selected as the winner for a grand prize you’ve never heard of? This scam operates by tricking the user into sending money, either electronically or via gift cards, to the scammer. Lottery scams will claim you’ve won a large sum of money but need to first pay a fee to receive your winnings. In some cases, the scammer offers to directly deposit the winnings into your account, provided you hand over your bank account credentials. Never share your credentials with a third party, and don’t participate in any arrangement that requires you to send funds or gift cards to a third party in order to receive your ‘winnings.’

Looking Out For Fake Check Scams

Overpayment scams have been around a long time and rely on fraudulent checks. Some target individuals selling items in an online marketplace, others target small business owners. The scammer will send a check for greater than the agreed upon amount, and then ask that you return the difference. By the time the victim learns the check has bounced, the scammer has already received the money sent by the victim. The victim is then out the money paid to the scammer as well as the returned check fee. Much like phishing scams, messages associated with this scam format will not make sense and may contain frequent spelling or grammar errors. In general, be suspicious of a stranger overpaying for a good or service in exchange for the return of the difference.

Avoiding Peer-To-Peer Payment Scams on Zelle, Venmo, and Paypal

Scams targeting users of peer-to-peer payment software such as Zelle, Venmo, or Paypal function much like the fraudulent call and fake check scams detailed above. Scammers essentially trick the user into voluntarily giving up account credentials or authorizing a payment. The scam might begin with a text alert pretending to be an account alert or payment confirmation from your bank, followed by a phone call from the scammer, who spoofs the number so it appears to be coming from the bank. The scammer will then walk the target through a set of instructions, ostensibly to ‘confirm’ the target’s identity, to gain sensitive information like account numbers, social security number, and security question responses. If you suspect your account may be compromised, you can always call your bank directly to confirm you are speaking with an actual representative of your bank.

Staying Alert for Fraud

Common sense and a healthy dose of skepticism is your first defense against fraud. If an offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Be on alert if an unidentified number or questionable email address contacts you looking for sensitive information, or to complete any kind of financial transaction. Keep your guard up to keep your identity and your bank account safe from scammers.

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