Bank Fraud 101: How to Avoid Banking Scams

Get the lowdown on common fraud tactics, plus nine smart strategies for keeping your personal info—and your hard-earned cash—safe from scammers.
Fraud 101

Where there’s smoke, there’s fire…and where there’s money, there’s fraudsters. No matter where you keep your cash, there will always be people eager to get their hands on it with a banking scam.

Your first line of defense is education; when you understand how attempted bank fraud might come at you and what it looks like, you’ll be well equipped to spot it and stop it. Read on for a primer on fraud tactics and nine steps you can take to keep yourself safe.

How fraudsters may target you

Banking scams can come at you in just about any form. Generally speaking, fraudsters will initiate contact with you in the hopes of getting you to respond and disclose personal information. Keep in mind that, while legitimate institutions will contact you in a variety of ways, they will never ask you to give them your login info or account numbers.

  • Email. Phishing emails are one of the most common types of bank fraud. These messages look like they’re from a legitimate source—like your bank or credit card company—but clicking on the links will take you to a fraudulent site that collects your personal information.
  • Phone calls. Fraudsters don’t usually make cold calls; they likely already know something about you, like the mobile carrier or bank you use. That piece of info can make them sound legit enough to get more sensitive info from you.
  • Texts. Even if you never answer calls from an unknown number, you can still get scammed from your phone. Fraudsters send texts impersonating a company you already do business with, often with a too-good-to-be-true offer and a sketchy link (just like in a phishing email).
  • Social media. A direct message from a social media account impersonating your bank, a post with a survey (often offering a gift card if you take it), or a follow from a scammer trying to get more info about you—all common methods scammers use to suck you into a fraud scheme. Always check the validity of the account: look for the verified check mark, and pay attention to the description and follower count to assess how legitimate the account is. When in doubt, go to the company’s website to find links to their real social media accounts.

Examples of tactics used for banking scams

To help you get savvy in identifying different categories of fraud, here are some real-life examples of fraud tactics you might encounter.

Social media

This fake social media account is pretending to be Simple—and luring customers to a fraudulent site with the promise of customer support or free money.

Social Media Fraud Example

Phishing email

Here’s a phishing email from a fraudster trying to get the recipient to click the link to log into their account—and they’ll snatch your login info if you do!

An Email Phishing example

Text

Fraudulent text messages are rampant; here is an example of what they might look like:

Text Fraud Example

Phone call

Robo-calls impersonating the IRS can stir up enough fear to get even the most level-headed person ensnared. Here’s just one example of the many varieties out there.

These are just a few examples of methods scammers may use to target you, so keep your wits about you and your eyes peeled for other instances of attempted fraud.

9 ways to protect yourself from bank fraud

You know what scam attempts can look like. Now keep yourself safe by following these nine guidelines.

  1. If an email looks suspicious, never click any links in it. Check the actual email address it was sent from (not just the sender’s display name, which can be faked) to see if you recognize the address. When in doubt, open your browser and go to the financial institution’s website directly.
  2. Verify information from reliable sources. Go to the official website of any organization—like a charity, government organization, or company—to check the legitimacy of an appeal for donations, a claim that you owe money, or an offer.
  3. If something is too good to be true—it isn’t true. That goes for incredible prices on electronics, offers of free money, a guarantee of a job or stimulus payment…anything that stokes your fears and desires.
  4. Slow down; don’t react in the moment. Scammers often prey on panic to goad you into doing something spontaneously. Whether it’s the threat of something bad happening (especially when it seems to come from the government) or a tantalizing offer, stop and do your research before you engage.
  5. Be cautious with wire transfers and cash-sending apps. Use them only with close friends and family, and always verify that you know exactly who you’re sending money to, because you have little to no protection against fraud when sending money by these methods. And remember that a legitimate organization or company will never ask you to make payments with a cash-sending app.
  6. Never share your login info, your bank account number, or sensitive personal info. This includes with family members or close friends—if they have your info, scammers can get it through them.
  7. Protect your personal information and bank account. Follow guidelines that keep your info safe, like using two-factor authentication and strong passwords. And never use the same password for more than one account!
  8. Be discreet on social media. Scammers can use what they know about you to engage in social engineering, so ensure you don’t reveal highly personal information. You also might want to set your preferences to share only with friends or make your accounts private.
  9. Beware of any incoming communication. Whether it’s an email, text, or phone call, if someone is asking you for your info, they’re likely trying to defraud you. If you didn’t initiate the contact, walk away.

What to do if you think you’re a victim of fraud

Take a look at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s comprehensive guide to making a report and taking action if you’re a victim of fraud.

With so many kinds of bank fraud—and new scams arising constantly—it can be tough to discern truth from tricks. Even savvy people fall for banking scams. But there’s no need to panic; keeping yourself educated and following smart precautions can help you keep your most vital info safe. And rest assured that here at Simple, we’ve got your back with iron-clad security and the info you need to build your financial-security confidence.

Disclaimer: Hey! Welcome to our disclaimer. Here’s what you need to know to safely consume this blog post: We do our best to make sure information is accurate as of the date of publication, but things do change quickly sometimes. Any outbound links in this post will take you away from Simple.com, to external sites in the wilds of the internet; neither Simple nor our partner bank, BBVA USA, endorse any linked-to websites; and we didn’t pay/barter with/bribe anyone to appear in this post. Individual situations will differ; consult your favorite finance, tax or legal professional for specific advice. And as much as we wish we could control the cost of things, any prices in this article are just estimates. Actual prices are up to retailers, manufacturers, and other people who’ve been granted magical powers over digits and dollar signs.

Important! This account is for your personal use only

An increasing number of customers are being targeted by fraud scams. Before you apply, review these guidelines to help prevent you from being involved in fraudulent activity.

Do not open an account on behalf of someone else
If anyone asks you to open a Simple Account to receive funds, it is an attempt at fraud. Common fraud attempts include requesting that you open an account to receive a gift or bonus offer, obtain a job or job training, or help someone else receive funds (such as unemployment benefits).

Do not share your login or account information with anyone
Neither Simple nor any other legitimate institution will ever ask for your account information. If any third party requests your Simple Account login information, it is an attempt at fraud. Sharing your account information with another person or allowing someone else to use your account to receive funds is a violation of the Simple Deposit Account Agreement terms and conditions and can expose you to fraud.

Actions we may take if fraud is suspected

We take fraud and security very seriously at Simple, and take rapid action in the instance of suspected fraud attempts.

We may freeze and close accounts
We may freeze and close accounts if fraudulent activity is suspected, including the following circumstances:

We will report fraud attempts
We are responsible for reporting fraud attempts to authorities, including attempted unemployment fraud. There are state and federal penalties for unemployment insurance fraud (including potential fines and incarceration). If you suspect you are a victim of unemployment fraud, contact the appropriate state fraud hotline listed here.

I acknowledge that I have read this notice Continue Application