There are many benefits to keeping your funds in a bank account, but one of the main reasons many people keep their money at a bank rather than under the mattress is the added security this provides. However, some scammers have come up with clever ways to access your bank account information or to get you to send them money from your secure accounts.
Phishing is a type of scam that targets consumers by sending them an email or text that appears to be from a well-known source, such as their bank. These messages will often ask you to click on a link or enter personal financial information, which the scammer can then use to access your accounts.
For emails, you can often tell these are fraudulent by looking at the sender address. If it is from a Gmail, Hotmail, AOL or Yahoo account or includes a bunch of numbers or letters, you can be certain it is not from your bank.
However, if you receive a text or email that appears to be from your bank but you’re unsure of its legitimacy, it’s best to double-check by contacting your bank directly.
“Locate a number for the business that you know is legitimate, such as the number on the back of your credit card, to determine if they’re the ones reaching out to you,” said Chip Kohlweiler, senior vice president of security at Navy Federal Credit Union.
Avoid clicking on any links you receive in an email or text message that seems suspicious, and do not provide any sensitive information to the sender.
“Some financial institutions, including Navy Federal, do use text messages to verify suspicious purchases. However, those texts will never request personal information,” Kohlweiler said. “Check with your financial institution to see if it offers SMS text banking or mobile alerts — that way you can identify the difference between a real message and a scam.”
In addition to contacting you via email or text, some scammers may contact you by phone.
“With vishing, fraudsters will call from unknown numbers impersonating a business or financial institution to trick you into picking up and believing the call is real,” Kohlweiler said. “From there, scammers will pressure victims into providing personal, account and financial information such as card numbers, passcodes, codewords and account summaries.”
To avoid falling victim to vishing scams, never answer a call from someone whose number you don’t know.
“Remember, if you don’t answer and they really need you, they’ll be able to leave a voice message,” Kohlweiler said. “If you do pick up, make sure you’re not sharing any sensitive information over the phone that the business should theoretically have themselves. If the call does not seem legitimate, hang up and call the number on the back of your card or account statement to speak to a representative.”
With an ATM skimming scam, scammers attach devices to ATMs that capture your card information and PIN when you use the machine.
“To avoid falling victim to an ATM skimming scam, it’s important to be cautious when using ATMs, especially if you notice any unusual or suspicious devices attached to the machine,” said Dennis Shirshikov, adjunct professor of finance and economics at the City University of New York and strategist at Awning.com. “You should also cover the keypad with your hand when entering your PIN to protect it from being captured by hidden cameras or other devices.”
This is a scam you may encounter if you are a small business owner or if you sell items on an online marketplace. With these scams, a “customer” will “accidentally” send you a check for more than the agreed-upon price, and ask you to send them a check or Venmo payment back for the difference.
“In this scam, the buyer’s check is fake, and by the time you realize it, you’ve already sent the overpayment to the scammer,” said John Wilson, senior fellow of threat research at Fortra, a provider of email security.
Be wary if you receive an overpayment — more often than not, this is a sign of a scam.
“No normal person is going to send more for an item than the agreed-upon price,” Wilson said.
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