The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center received a record number of complaints in 2020, for a total of 791,790 complaints of suspected Internet crime totaling more than $4.2 billion in losses. And while scammers will target anyone, people over the age of 60 are disproportionately affected by financial fraud schemes. In this article, we’ll show you how to protect yourself and your loved ones from financial fraud and bank fraud. Keep reading to learn about the top banking fraud scams and how to prevent them.
Recognize and avoid phishing scams
Phishing is a technique using email, text, or social media messages to trick you into sharing sensitive information. Phishing messages often mimic reputable companies such as major retailers, cable and phone providers, and financial institutions. They try to scare you into clicking a link or opening an attachment by claiming your account has been compromised, you were overcharged, and more. For example, you could receive an email or text message from your bank claiming that you need to verify your login credentials or contact them about suspicious account activity.
Remember that CS Bank and other financial institutions will never ask for your account number, social security number, or other personal data. When in doubt, call the company or financial institution the message is purportedly from using the customer service number listed on their website.
Scammers have gotten more sophisticated in stealing company logos and making phishing messages look real. Here are the red flags to look for:
- Generic greetings such as “Dear Customer” without using your name.
- Grammatical errors and/or misspellings that suggest the sender is a non-native English speaker or using British spellings instead of American English.
- An account problem that is vague but also requires immediate action, such as “trouble with your current billing information.”
- A request for you to send a gift card, cashier’s check, or wire transfer to resolve a supposed account problem.
- If you hover your cursor over the link, does it go to the official company website or something else?
- Check the email address or phone number the message comes from. Does it seem “off”?
If you spot a suspected phishing message, report it to your email server or forward it to the Anti-Phishing Working Group at firstname.lastname@example.org. Phishing text messages can be forwarded to SPAM (7726).
Don’t be a money mule
Money mules are people who transfer or move money that was illegally acquired. It’s possible to be recruited as a money mule without even knowing you’re participating in criminal activity. Being a money mule, whether you’re aware of it or not, can damage your credit and financial history. It also makes you vulnerable to identity theft.
Learn how to spot money mule scams before falling for them:
- Work-from-home job opportunities that sound too good to be true.
- The “employer” uses web-based email services.
- You are asked to open a separate bank account to receive and transfer money.
- Funds are transferred out of the bank account via wire transfer, ACH, mail, or money service businesses.
- Your “paycheck” comes from keeping a portion of the money you transfer.
- Someone contacts you on a dating or social media site and asks you to receive money, then transfer it to another person.
To protect yourself from money mule scams, verify the legitimacy of a company before accepting a remote job offer. Never use your own bank account or open a new bank account to transfer money for an employer. Don’t let a potential date use your bank account to send and receive money.
Be Careful What You Download
The term malware encompasses viruses, spyware, ransomware, and other harmful software that can be secretly installed on your computer, tablet, or smartphone. Once installed, scammers can steal your sensitive personal data such as bank account or credit card information, social security number, login credentials, etc. They may also demand payment to give you back your data and/or access to your device.
To protect yourself from malware, be very careful about what you download. Don’t open email attachments you weren’t expecting or didn’t ask for. Try to avoid downloading files online when you don’t know who created the file, especially on file-sharing websites. “Free” illegal downloads of movies and TV shows should also be avoided. Another red flag to avoid is clicking on ads, links in phishing messages, and fake security pop-ups posing as tech support.
Stick To Secure Wi-Fi
When using open, public Wi-Fi networks at the library, coffee shop, etc., avoid logging into your online banking or other financial accounts. Also avoid online shopping or billpay that involves entering payment information or login credentials. Scammers can exploit open WiFi networks to spy on your activities and steal sensitive information. At home, make sure your personal WiFi network is password protected.
If you do travel frequently or rely often on public WiFi for Internet access, consider getting a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPN software can be easily installed on your devices and will connect to websites for you, encrypting your traffic so scammers can’t spy on you.
Keep Your Passwords Secure
A strong password, along with multi-factor authentication, is your first line of defense against financial frauds. Don’t reuse passwords among accounts and use a password manager if you don’t think you can remember multiple passwords. Your passwords should stay private and not be shared with anyone. Set calendar reminders to change your passwords every six months or so.
What is multi-factor authentication?
Also known as two-factor authentication or 2FA, this adds an extra layer of security by requiring a second credential after your password. For example, fingerprint or facial recognition can be a second factor. One-time text codes are also commonly used.
What makes a strong password?
- The longer the better
- Use a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters
- Don’t use easy-to-guess sequences such as ABC or 123
- Don’t use personal information that may be available online such as your birthday, the name of your pet, etc.
- Try using a passphrase that you can easily remember. Use the first letter of each word in the passphrase.
Safely manage your finances online with CS Bank!
At CS Bank, you can expect a level of personable customer service that is unmatched—a value the bank was built on over 100 years ago. We are here to help you protect against financial fraud with safe and easy tools like CSB.Online Banking and CS Bank Card Manager, a free mobile app to use with your CS Bank mobile app for increased protection against fraud. Sign up for online and mobile banking today or contact us with questions!
For more tips, check out "How to Recognize and Avoid Zelle and other Payment App Scams" and "7 Ways to Protect Yourself From Cybersecurity Threats".