Fraud is on the rise. Your best protection is to spot scams and the red flags before you become a victim. We have the tools and resource to help you.
The Do’s and Don’ts to Protect Yourself
Follow these best practices to prevent fraud and unauthorized access to your money.
Set up 2-factor authentication (or Multifactor Authentication) with any companies you do business with, including financial institutions, email accounts, and online shopping.
Use strong passwords that have a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters (such as, ! @ # $ %), and have at least 12 characters. Use different passwords for different websites and logins.
Review your bank accounts daily. Use mobile and online banking to check your transactions from anywhere. If you see a transaction you do not recognize or did not authorize, contact the bank immediately.
Sign up for automatic alerts. You can receive alerts through an email, text message, or both whenever a specific activity occurs on your account or debit card.
Use a separate computer or device for banking and financial transactions and general internet usage and email, if possible. This will reduce the risk of phishing attacks, malware, or viruses affecting your sensitive financial information and online banking. Avoid using public computers and public WiFi when conducting any type of banking or online purchases.
For businesses, sign up for services, such as Positive Pay and ACH Positive Pay, that help you to filter and block unauthorized activity in your business account.
Do not disclose your personal information unless you can verify who is requesting that information. This includes requests by phone, email, or text. When in doubt, contact the company using their official information. A quick Google search will get you this information.
Do not send money via wire transfer or other digital payment services like Zelle® to anyone you do not know and trust.
Do not share your login information or PINs with anyone. A bank or financial institution will not ask you for this information.
Do not allow someone remote access to your computer unless you initiated contact with the company from a verified phone number or website.
Common Types of Scams
Fraudsters are always looking for new ways to target their victims, but the most common types of scams have been around for years and continue to be used today.
Phishing is when scammers pretend to be someone that they aren’t to gather sensitive information or access to a person’s funds.
Phishing can take many forms, including emails, texts, and even fake websites. Often, this looks like an email or text message saying there’s been a problem with your account. Or, the message may be offering you a great deal from a company you know and trust.
Do not click on these links or enter your information. Open a separate browser or even use a different device to go to the company’s official website and review your account or check out the offer. Call the company directly at their official phone number to verify the message. Most importantly, do not enter any of your information into a pop up or when prompted by an email.
View a sample phishing email with red flags to look out for.
Mailbox fishing occurs when fraudsters steal mail from residential or even official postal service collection boxes, searching for checks that have been sent out in the mail.
Criminals will then “wash” stolen checks by erasing the ink used to write the originals. They will change the date, name of the recipient, and the dollar amount, keeping the original check-writer’s legal signature.
It is highly encouraged to avoid using your own residential mail box or public official post office mail drop locations. Instead, deliver the mail to a post office employee directly to prevent potential stealing and tampering with the check.
In addition, always review your bank transactions after mailing a check and report suspicious or unauthorized activity to your bank immediately.
The Pay Yourself Scam
Scammers are always creating new ways to steal your money. One of the recent scams utilizing peer-to-peer payment services is what’s known as the “Pay Yourself Scam.”
The gist of the scam is that someone pretending to be a representative from your bank or credit union tells you that there has been a fraudulent transaction and in order to stop it, you need to send yourself money with Zelle®. That sense of urgency really works in their favor and gets unsuspecting consumers to act immediately.
Scammers may try to intimidate you into paying them by pretending to be a person in power. This could mean impersonating someone from the IRS, a debt collector, or anyone who demands you pay them immediately.
The IRS will never call you and ask you to pay. If you get a call claiming someone is from the IRS, hang up, and reach out to an official IRS channel to confirm if there is really a problem. You can find ways to contact the IRS at IRS.gov. When it comes to debt collection, you don’t have to take the caller at their word. You can research the collector and send a Debt Validation Letter.
Scammers try to create a sense of fear and urgency to intimidate you. By doing so, they hope you’ll pay them or give them information before you have the chance to think it through. If you ever get a call that uses this tactic, be suspicious.
Scams Targeting Seniors
Scammers target the senior population most aggressively. This group needs to be extra cautious when answering the phone or browsing the internet.
Seniors must be vigilant about keeping their information and money protected. One tactic that scammers use is to claim to be a family member or loved one who is in trouble and needs money for an emergency. Seniors and anyone else who receives a call or message like this should always confirm it’s legitimacy before taking action.
Read more about the red flags to watch for and common scams that target senior citizens.
Malware or Ransomware
Some scams will install malware or ransomware on your device if you click on a link. That means your device could be infected with a virus that steals your information or forces you to pay the scammer in order to regain access to your files.
These links can come from popups, ads, posts on social media, emails, or messages from the accounts of friends or family that have been hacked.
You should always be wary of clicking on any link that someone sends you unprompted. Pay attention to whether the sender is using generic language or doesn’t sound like themselves. If you do click on such a link and fear your device has been infected, you should have your antivirus software run a scan immediately and take any actions it suggests.
Affinity fraud occurs when a dishonest person plays on someone’s affiliation with a group, such as a religious congregation, alumni association, support group, or social club, as a way to win their confidence.
The goal is usually selling something, convincing someone to make a fake or inappropriate investment, or tricking the victim into sharing important information. The scammer may be an actual member of the group or just pretend to be one.
No matter who the person is or claims to be, you should always be weary before giving them money or information. If they claim to represent the group and you want to support them, it’s best to do so through official channels, like their website. Doing this will ensure that the money gets to the organization you want to help rather than a scammer.
Additional Scam Trends
Scammers are constantly inventing new ways to take advantage of victims, and new fraud trends can happen any time.
Main Street Bank continues to look and listen for new ways fraudsters are scamming victims. Read about the latest trends and more financial security information.
Read articles related to fraud trends and security resources.
Free Fraud and Security Training
You are your best defense against fraud attacks. In partnership with KnowBe4, a leader in security awareness and training, Main Street Bank offers the following security courses to help you protect yourself at home and in the office.
Home Internet Security Awareness Training: for consumers, individuals, and families who use a computer, laptop, tablet, and any kind of smartphone device at home, this training is for you.
Kevin Mitnick Security Awareness Training: for business owners, managers, and employees, this training helps those in the office identify red flags and protect sensitive business and financial information.