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Protecting Yourself from Banking Scammers

November 3, 2020

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With more people banking online, banking scammers have an easier time than ever tricking people into losing money. 

While the game is changing the goal is the same: steal your money.

To do that, scammers will try to trick you into giving up your personal information, like social security numbers, PINs, and account numbers.

This is helpful to keep in mind when taking precautions against fraud.

Today we’ll dive into common banking scams, and how you can protect yourself.

The cost of bank scamming

Bank scamming is big business. 

The American Bankers Association estimates the fraud against bank deposit accounts was over $25 billion in 2018.

Yep, that’s ‘billion’ with a ‘B’.

U.S. credit card fraud affected more than 246,000 accounts in 2019, according to the Federal Trade Commission and Consumer Sentinel Network.

So banking fraud is alive and well—so it’s up to us to be careful. 

Common banking scams

A few scams in banking pop up again and again in different forms.

Let’s take a look at a few of the most common ones to know.

  • Phishing—This usually comes as an email or text where a scammer pretends to be an official institution, like a bank or credit card provider. The scammer requests personal information that will allow them to access your accounts.

  • 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 to an untrustworthy source, fine print could mean 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 on the phone 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 cancelled, and you’ll lose the money you sent to the scammer.

There are many variations on all of these common scams. Always keep an eye out for things in the finance world that don’t add up.

Social media scamming

Social media is now a hot place for scammers to get your personal data. 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.

There are two ways to tell this is a scam:

  • Your bank usually won’t ask you for sensitive information—and never over social media. 

  • An official account on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook has a blue check mark next to the account name. If the blue check mark is missing, it’s not your bank, even if the account name says it is. 

Bank fraud during COVID-19 

The pandemic has provided scammers new opportunities to defraud unwary account holders. 

Many of the common scams we walked through in the previous section have now been adapted into novel ways to cheat during COVID-19.

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

  • Scammers might pose as charity organizations looking to raise money for COVID relief.

  • 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 stimulus money in your account.

  • Scammers posing as medical organizations might try to sell you a fake COVID-19 vaccine. 

The uncertainty surrounding the pandemic gives scammers these openings to take advantage of people’s goodwill. 

Taking an extra minute to check out who’s asking for your information could mean the difference in 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 whenever you enter in personal information online, such as when you make an online purchase. 

  • Review account 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. 

  • Don’t 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 from 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 number is required. 

If you’re not sure whether something is a scam, yourself should always be “does this make sense?”

Remember to take a moment and think before you give out your personal information, and you should be able to keep your finances safe and sound from scammers.

Opinions, advice, services, or other information or content expressed or contributed here by customers, users, or others, are those of the respective author(s) or contributor(s) and 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).

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Julian Dossett

Julian Dossett

Julian is a tech and finance writer, covering stories from artificial intelligence and cryptocurrency to personal loans and credit cards. His work has appeared at The Simple Dollar, Bankrate, and Blockchain Beach. As a former Cision editor, Julian worked across the table from many of the nation’s most trusted brands. He’s currently based in New Mexico.

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