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Scammers Are After Your Money: Here’s How to Stop Them

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Most of us know that there are scammers out there, but could you identify one if they called or emailed you? Due to COVID-19, scammers have gotten increasingly clever. Unlike credit card scams where federal law limits your liability to $50, there is no real protection for bank or credit union scams. You could lose thousands of dollars, and you won’t get that money back. Bank scammers can make it look like they are calling from Ent with a fake caller I.D. What can you do to protect yourself from those scammers?

Concerned millennial couple meeting with banker about fraud issue

Types of Banking Scams

There are four common types of banking scams:

  1. Overpayment scams: The scammer sends you a counterfeit check and asks you to deposit the check and then wire money back to them. You’ll lose all the money you wired to the scammer since the check is worthless.
  2. Unsolicited check fraud: Someone sends you a check for no reason. If you cash it, you may be either authorizing the purchase of something or signing up for a loan.
  3. Automatic withdrawals: Scammers set up an automatic debit from your account, to enter a contest or donate to a charity.
  4. Phishing: You receive an email or a phone call, asking you to verify your account information.

Overpayment scams are quite popular with online auction sites, such as eBay. The buyer overpays for your item with more than the amount they owe. Then they’ll ask you to deposit the check and wire them the difference.

Be careful as a seller. If someone sends you more money than the agreed amount, you should be suspicious. If the check comes from somewhere other than where the buyer is from, it’s probably not a real check.

If you get a check that you weren’t expecting, you should be suspicious. Now, however, many scammers use alternative methods to gain access to your account, such as:

  • Wire transfers
  • Credit cards
  • Debit cards
  • PayPal
  • Zelle
  • Venmo
  • Money orders

Thanks to COVID-19, scamming opportunities abound—they offer loans, new credit cards, a faster way to get your stimulus check, vaccines, etc. all as a way to gain access to your account.

Phishing scammers usually send an email, claiming there is a problem with your account, or your account is suspended until you click on a link to confirm your account and password. They could also claim that they need to confirm a recent purchase.

First and foremost, you should know that no legitimate credit union will ever ask you for your password or PIN number. If you receive what you think is a call from Ent, you should know that we will never ask you for any of the following:

  • Online username
  • Password
  • PIN
  • Full Social Security number
  • CVV2 code
  • Verification code

Most scams, ninety-six percent in fact, arrive by email. The most common companies to be impersonated include:

  • Microsoft
  • DHL
  • Amazon
  • Google
  • PayPal
  • Ikea
  • Chase
  • LinkedIn
  • Publisher’s Clearing House

But that doesn’t mean if an email doesn’t come from one of these companies, it’s legit. Scammers are everywhere.

What Can You Do to Prevent Bank Fraud?

1. Don’t use the same password for multiple websites.

Yes, this sounds obvious, but we’re all probably guilty of using the same four passwords everywhere we go. But this means if a scammer gets into an online account, they can also access your other accounts, including credit cards and banking.

2. Use unique passwords.

According to the AARP, the most common passwords are:

  • 123456
  • 123456789
  • QWERTY

Additionally, do not use personal information such as the following:

  • Your name
  • Your kids’ names
  • Pet’s names
  • Birthdays (your own, your kids, or your significant other’s)
  • Phone number
  • Mother’s maiden name

All of these are pretty easy for scammers to guess or get access to. The ideal password is a random string of letters, numbers and symbols. There are password managers you can get so you can keep all of your (unique) passwords in one place. Many of these are free, but you could always go old-school and just write all your passwords down in a notebook.

3. Use two-factor authentication.

What this means is that if you log into a website, they’ll send you a text message or an email to verify it’s you. It’s an extra layer of protection that filters out many attempted hacks. It’s not foolproof, so you still need to be alert.

4. Read emails carefully.

Be suspicious of any that require you to click on a link. Many of these emails seem perfect at first glance, but if you study them carefully, you may notice little details that seem off. They often misspell words or use stilted phrases that seem like they were written by Google translate. They also prey on fear and insecurity (i.e., Account suspended! or Urgent!) and they love to create panic. If you have any questions at all, contact your bank—but NOT by clicking on a link.  

The same applies if Amazon, Microsoft, or any other company sends you a suspicious email. Go to your account, but don’t click on the link. Call the number you have on file, but not the number provided in the email.

5. If you suspect an email or a phone call is from a scammer, google the company name followed by “scam.” You can often find out about the scam this way, and sometimes word for word.

6. Use a credit card to shop online.

In the days of COVID-19, it’s so much easier and safer to shop online. You can protect yourself from fraud by using a credit card or a prepaid card to pay for online purchases. If your credit card does get hacked, you’re only responsible for the first $50 in fraudulent purchases. If you use a prepaid card, scammers can only access whatever’s left on the card.

7. Check balances regularly.

Keep an eye on your account and report any suspicious activity. The easiest way to do this is to sign up for online banking if you haven’t already. If you notice any deposits or withdrawals you didn’t make, call us immediately. If it turns out that you withdrew $20 and forgot about it, no harm done.

8. Change passwords frequently.

Change your password every three or four months. This will help keep your accounts safe.

9. Consider going paperless.

This will prevent someone from retrieving your bank statement from your mailbox and getting access to your account that way. It will also prevent anyone from going through your trash and finding this information. Make sure you keep your information away from your roommates, friends, and employer.

10. Install antivirus software on your computer.

Once you’ve installed anti-virus software, keep it updated. Scammers come up with new ideas all the time, and updating your antivirus software will keep you one step ahead of them.

11. Be careful with social media.

Do you know all those cute games that ask you for details such as where you met your significant other or your favorite color? These can be legitimate, but they can also be a way for scammers to guess your passwords. Set your account settings so that only friends and family can see your posts.

According to the FTC, frauds launched on social media were responsible for the loss of $134 million dollars in 2019, and they’re predicting this will increase for 2021. Be careful what you share and be careful when “liking” a company on social media.

What Can You Do If You Suspect Fraud?

  • If you think your bank account has been compromised, alert your bank immediately.
  • Cancel any debit cards.
  • Freeze your credit if you think scammers have gotten your social security number. This will protect your credit rating and prevent them from opening accounts in your name.
  • Report a scam to your state consumer protection office.
  • Report fake websites, emails, malware, or other scams to the Internet Complaint Center (IC3). The IC3 is a government agency that deals with online fraud. They will ask you to fill out a complaint form, and they will request financial information (the account that was hacked and where the money might have gone to).
  • Review your credit report for errors. You’ll have to do this for at least a year, but you should review your credit report annually anyway. If you find any accounts you didn’t open, contact the company and explain your situation. Contact the credit bureau as well.
  • If you think your social security number has been compromised, contact the Social Security Administration Fraud hotline at 1-800-269-0271.

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