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Protecting yourself from banking scammers

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As more and more people do their bank online, banking scammers are trying harder than ever to trick people out of their money. While the game is always changing, the goal stays the same—steal from you.

Scammers nowadays attempt this fraud in a variety of ways, often duping people into giving up their personal information (like social security numbers, PINs, and account numbers), and then using that information to steal from them.

While you can’t always avoid attempts at fraud or control how sophisticated scammers are, there are a number of steps you can take to help protect your personal information and money, as well as limit your exposure to scams and identity theft attempts. 

Here’s a breakdown of some common banking scams so you can better protect yourself and determine if you’ve been targeted. 

Common banking scams

A handful of banking scams pop up again and again, sometimes in different forms. Here are some of the most common ones to keep an eye out for.

  • Phishing—This usually takes the form of an email or text, in which the scammer pretends to be an official institution, like a bank or credit card provider. The scammer usually requests personal information from you that will allow them to access your accounts.

  • Fake messages from your bank—One variation on the phishing scam is when an account pretending to be your bank messages you. The account name will be nearly the same as your bank, and the message will ask you for sensitive personal information. Some scammers may even copy language from the real bank’s posts. Remember, your bank usually won’t ask you for sensitive information—and never via social media especially (more on that later). Varo will never ask you for your confidential information, so, when in doubt, contact us directly.

  • Fake checks—This usually happens when you get an unsolicited check in the mail. If you cash the check, you could be on the hook for an unknown purchase or even a loan that’s triggered when the check goes through.

  • Unauthorized withdrawals—If you agree to a one-time withdrawal from your account from an untrustworthy source, the fine print can sometimes say that the withdrawal isn’t actually a one-time thing. Instead, you’re stuck with a recurring withdrawal that hits your account again and again without your consent.

  • Fake bankers or advisors—If someone calls you posing as your banker or financial advisor, it could be a scammer in disguise trying to get you to turn over your personal details so they can access your finances.

  • Overpayment scam—Similar to a fake check scam, this scam occurs when a scammer asks you to cash a check and send some of the money back to them. Once the bank realizes the check is fake, the check will be canceled, and you’ll lose the money you sent to the scammer.

It’s worth noting that there are many variations of these scams, as well as countless others. A good rule of thumb is to always keep an eye out for requests regarding your finances that don’t add up.

Social media scamming

Social media is increasingly a prime hunting ground for scammers and to obtain people’s  personal data. They often do this by creating fake profiles, adding people as friends, and sending messages or links with malicious intent. 

Scammers may use social media to infect your devices with malware or post ads to fake stores that steal your personal information or money. Some may even try to trick you into giving full access to your social media accounts, or use surveys and quizzes to gather information about your identity. Others may impersonate celebrities, people you know, or brands you use, including banks. Remember, an official account on Instagram, Twitter or Facebook has a blue verified check mark next to the account name. If the blue check mark is missing, it’s probably not the famous person, company, or organization you think it is, even if the account name says it is. 

Using your best judgment is vital here. Avoid giving any personal details, especially financial information, over social media, even if you think you know who the person or organization is.

Other scams to look out for

Scammers are always on the lookout for new opportunities to defraud unwary account holders. Many of the common scams we already discussed have been adapted into novel ways to cheat.

  • Phishing fraudsters can impersonate health and government organizations who need your personal information. 

  • Scammers might pose as charity organizations looking to raise money and take advantage of people’s goodwill.

  • Viruses hidden in sensationalized news stories from shady websites could bug your device with malware.

  • Scammers could pose as government officials who need your account information in order to deposit tax returns or stimulus money in your account.

Taking the extra time to look into who’s asking for your information, or simply refusing to provide it under any “iffy circumstances”, can mean all the difference when it comes to catching a scam before it’s too late. 

How to spot scammers

Spotting scammers in action is easier if you know what to look for, but even people who are on alert can fall victim to crafty fraudsters. Here are a few tips to keep you safe.

  • Use secure WiFi and avoid public networks whenever you enter in personal information online, such as when you make an online purchase.

  • Review your online account and statements from your bank and credit card regularly. If you see something off, report it immediately. 

  • Do not respond to unsolicited offers, emails and calls.

  • Use two-factor authentication when it’s available. This makes it more difficult for others to sign into your personal accounts without your knowledge. 

  • Verify a cashier’s check with the bank it’s from before you deposit it. 

  • Never wire money to people or organizations you don’t know.

  • If someone calls you and says they’re from your bank, then asks for your personal information, tell them you’ll call them back using the bank’s official phone number.

  • Never give out your bank account number over the phone.

  • If you’re offered a check that includes an overpayment, don’t accept it.

  • Be wary of all free trials, especially if your bank account or credit card number is required. 

  • Stay ahead of imposter scams in which bank employees, utility companies, or online stores pressure you to pay something. 

  • Beware of phone calls, texts, or emails that come out of the blue and don’t reply.

  • Guard your information like passwords, one time passcodes, or account details.

  • Avoid anything that seems too good to be true like heavily discounted concert tickets, pets, used cars, cryptocurrency, or jewelry.

  • Treat Zelle

    ®

     

    like you would with cash, and only send money to people or small businesses you know and trust.

If you’re not sure whether something is a scam, you should always ask yourself “does this make sense?”. Remember to take the time to think before you give out your personal information.

Most of us will encounter some sort of scam or fraud attempt on a regular basis, which is why it’s important to take the steps necessary to guard ourselves both before and when they inevitably happen. You work hard for your money and livelihood, so make sure you’re doing what’s required to protect them.

Zelle® and the Zelle® related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.

Unless otherwise noted above, opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed by customers or non-Varo contributors do not necessarily state or reflect those of Varo Bank, N.A. Member FDIC (“Bank”). Bank is not responsible for the accuracy of any content provided by author(s) or contributor(s) other than Varo.

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