Financial scams are on the rise. Are you vulnerable?
You may consider yourself versed in online safety – you change your passwords regularly, monitor your accounts, and keep your anti-virus system up-to-date – but banking and investment scams have become much more common and sophisticated.
Age is also less of a factor. Financial scams not only target older adults, but are increasingly fleecing young people, too. In fact, the more confident you are that you will never fall for a scam, the more likely you are to fall victim to one.
Here are the nine banking and financial scams that our team has seen increase in the last 18 months – and tips on how to avoid them.
Malware and Ransomware Scams
- Ransomware. Ransomware blocks and encrypts your operating system until you pay the crook for the decryption key. Although consumers in the U.S. comprise the majority of victims, businesses, including banks and even energy companies have also been targeted.
To prevent or mitigate such an attack, follow these tips:
- Always keep your security software, operating system, and other software programs up to date. Developers regularly release updates to fix security issues.
- Always delete suspicious-looking emails, especially if they contain links or attachments. Legitimate businesses will not provide unsolicited links or ask for your account information via email. When in doubt, call the business or directly log into your account from a separate browser. Never click on the links!
- Back up important data on an external drive or via a cloud service so you can restore files after an infection has been cleaned up.
If you are the victim of a ransomware attack, the FBI advises you to contact your local law enforcement agency and FBI field office and report the incident to the FS-ISAC’s Security Operations Center and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.
Online Security and Phishing Scams
- Password Theft. Password hacking is extremely successful for thieves, in large part because many users employ the same password across accounts and/or use extremely common passwords that can be guessed easily. Never use the same password for your bank account that you use for anything else, and hide the password physically or in an encrypted file on your device.
- Public Computers and Wireless Networks. Don’t use a library or public computer to access your bank or make a credit or debit card payment. Don’t use your smartphone to access your bank or make a payment if you’re using public Wi-Fi. If you do so, you are exposing your login and password information to criminals. This is also applicable to any other website containing your private information, such as your health insurance or credit card companies.
- Phishing has nothing to do with the band or the activity. Instead, this refers to how criminals try to get you to give them login information. One of the most popular phishing scams comes via email or text message and informs you that someone has tried to get into your bank account or your account is about to be suspended. It contains a link to a fake site with a form asking for your login, password and your bank account number. Banks will never send you a link. If you receive such an email, text message, or communication on your Facebook or other social media site, call your bank immediately and report it.
Check, Credit Card, and Prize Scams
- Guaranteed Bank Loan or Credit Card Scam. If you receive a guaranteed bank loan or credit card offer via email, text, or social platform like Facebook, just delete it. No one is going to offer you a loan or credit card without knowing your credit history, and they can’t look up your credit history without your permission. The link will either lead you to a phishing site where the crooks will solicit your personal information or the scammers will request processing fees, then make off with your money.
- Check Overpayment Fraud. If you’ve ever tried to sell a big-ticket item on eBay or Facebook, you may have run into the seemingly plausible request by a buyer who can’t access his account for some reason. They will send you a non-cash payment, such as a check, money order, U.S. postal money order, Paypal, or similar payment, for greater than the amount of the item and ask you to send him the difference. They’ll tell you they’’ll pick up the item after the check clears or the Paypal request goes through. Thinking that he’s placing his trust in you, you fall for it, but the check or payment bounces or never clears, and you’re out the money you’ve sent and a bounced check fee.
- Prize Scams. We all want to be surprised by good news. You may feel elated when you learn via email, text, or even a phone call that you have won a prize – whether it’s the lottery, a new car, or other cash win. However, that’s where the fun usually stops.
According to the FTC, these are the top three signs that the prize notification is a scam:
- They ask for money. Real prizes are free. If someone tells you to pay a fee for “taxes,” “shipping and handling charges,” or “processing fees” to get your prize, it’s a scam. If they ask you to pay by wiring money, sending cash, or paying with gift cards or cryptocurrency to get your prize – it’s a scam. As soon as money leaves your account via any of these methods, it’s almost impossible to trace, and impossible to get back.
- They say paying increases your odds of winning. Real sweepstakes are free to enter. Legally, winners must be determined by chance. It’s illegal for someone to ask you to pay to increase your odds of winning.
- They ask for your financial information. Never, ever give your bank account or credit card number to anyone who says it’s necessary to claim a prize or enter a sweepstakes. Anyone asking for this information is trying to scam you.
- Check-Cashing Scams. Don’t cash a check for a stranger. Ever. Even if you take it to your bank, and the bank gives you money, you are actually being given money from your own account until the check actually clears in a day or two. But it won’t. And you will be on the hook for the difference.
Online Sales Fraud
- Bogus Sale Fraud. If you’ve ever been on eBay or Facebook and heard a sob story from a serviceperson or widow about having to sell his or her precious car/boat/RV for an unbelievably low price, you’ve probably witnessed a scam. These scammers hook in marks with really nice items at low prices. Then they ask for your credit or debit card information. Once they have your financial information – you will never hear from them again, and never receive your item. If you pay through Paypal or a credit card, you may have some recourse, so contact these entities in the event of a scam.
The sad truth is that those who have been the victims of a scam once are more likely to be targeted and scammed again. When in doubt, do some quick research. A Google search takes just a few seconds and is likely to turn up numerous reliable news sources that can confirm whether or not others have been scammed via similar schemes.
Suspicious? Ask the Experts
If you are unsure about any email or request for payment related to banking, call Mercer Savings at 419.586.5158 for advice. Our financial officers are familiar with online banking-related scams, and we would be happy to provide you with an expert opinion.