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.
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.
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!
Fraudulent text messages are rampant; here is an example of what they might look like:
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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!
- 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.
- 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
- If you suspect your debit or credit card number is compromised, block your card (here’s how to block your Simple Visa® Debit card).
- If you don’t recognize a transaction on your bank statement, open a dispute with the financial institution (here’s how to do it in your Simple Account).
- If someone is fraudulently using your personal info (like your social security number) freeze your credit so they can’t open accounts in your name.
- Report any fraud attempts to the government (here’s how).
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.
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