Fraud can occur across all stages of your banking journey—from new account opening to online account logins to the distribution of funds from a bank account to applying for a new loan. So it’s no wonder that protecting yourself against fraud can seem like a full-time job.
Although the Federal Trade Commission, along with your financial institution, work diligently to protect you and your personal information, their efforts alone aren’t foolproof because the only constant about fraud that you can count on is change. But where do you even start to try to protect yourself from an ever-changing threat? Sir Francis Bacon once said, “Knowledge is power,” and that’s 100% correct, because knowledge is also your greatest weapon against falling victim to fraud.
Let’s take a deep dive into four common types of fraud and how you can protect yourself from them.
Even as fewer people use paper checks today than in past years, paper (or check) fraud continues to thrive in the United States. Americans lose more than a billion dollars to paper fraud each year. It can rear its ugly head in a few ways, so let’s look at a few of the more common forms of paper fraud:
Mystery or secret shopper scams occur when fraudsters pretend to be a lucrative company hiring you to visit stores, restaurants, etc., and report back on things such as customer service, cleanliness, and product availability. You’re provided with a fraudulent check for your wages and to cover any products you’re supposed to purchase. You’re instructed to deposit the check in your bank account and return a portion via wire transfer or gift cards to cover taxes and paperwork.
Caregiver scams occur when fraudsters place fake job ads on real sites like Care.com and Craigslist.com. They’ll provide you with a check before you start working, claiming that it’s your first paycheck. They will then come up with excuses for overpaying you and ask that you return a portion of the funds or the full amount of the check by wire transfer or another form.
Car wrap scams occur when fraudulent ads claim to pay you a couple hundred dollars to wrap your car with ads for brands like Red Bull or Pepsi. But when the so-called “company” sends you a check, it’s for much more than advertised. You’re still instructed to deposit the check, keep part of it as your share, and wire the rest to another company that will wrap your car.
I know that’s a lot to take in, but let’s explore a little further. How can you tell if you’ve received a fraudulent check? First and foremost, if you receive a check that seems too good to be true, then unfortunately, it probably is. If you’ve received a check for money that you weren’t expecting or haven’t worked to earn, you’re more than likely being scammed. Another telltale sign of paper or check fraud is if you’re asked or expected to purchase gift cards or wire transfer a portion of the check to the sender in exchange for keeping the remaining funds.
The GOLD team is trained to spot these types of fraudulent checks and will help protect you by asking the right questions. If the line of questioning seems intrusive, please know that we only have your best interest at heart. Ultimately, you are responsible for the amount of the item if it’s returned, so it’s our goal to help you avoid becoming a victim. When in doubt, don’t deposit the check! And don’t forget, you can always give us a call, and we’d be happy to look at the check and discuss it further with you.
Debit and credit cards are a super convenient way to conduct shopping and banking, but if your cards fall into the wrong hands, it can become a nightmare. Stolen or counterfeit debit and credit cards and fraudulent credit card loan applications are known as plastic fraud, and it’s become a big business for criminals.
Try as you may to be cautious, there are still instances where criminals stealing your card information can be beyond your control. For example, a form of plastic fraud presents itself when a dishonest store clerk imprints extra copies of a charge slip with your card information. They’ll then use your information to make unauthorized purchases.
Although there’s no guaranteed way to protect your card information, there are several ways to protect yourself against plastic fraud:
Review your account statements regularly and contact your financial institution if you notice any unfamiliar charges.
When using an ATM, be mindful of your surroundings and examine the ATM machine for any foreign objects that look suspicious. Criminals often attach skimmers (a card reader disguised to look like part of the ATM that collects card numbers and PIN codes) to steal your information. Criminals also find ways to attach skimmers at gas station pumps or retail stores as well, so be cautious there, too.
Shred any documents that contain debit or credit card information that is no longer needed.
Cancel and destroy unused debit or credit cards.
Missing your debit or credit card? Immediately report the loss to your financial institution.
Minimize exposure to losses by not sharing your card or PIN number with anyone.
Memorize your PIN instead of writing it on your card or keeping it in your wallet.
Cyber fraud refers to a variety of crimes carried out online, using the internet through computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones. Committing these crimes online allows the criminal to hide his/her location and identity.
Here’s a look at three of the most common types of cybercrimes:
Phishing is an attempt to present itself as an email, IM, comment, or text message that appears to come from a legitimate company, bank, school, or institution. You’re asked to verify personal information such as your social security number, account details, or card numbers. These emails often have a sense of urgency for you to click a link to get you to act before you think. The phishers can then use the information you provided to commit identity theft and other crimes.
Spoofing is when criminals create websites that look practically identical to the real site. It’s easy to fall victim to spoofing by clicking on a link in a fraudulent email. Before clicking a link you’re sent via email, be sure to hover over it to check the URL first, especially if you weren’t expecting it or if it’s from an unknown sender.
Malware is malicious software that gets downloaded onto your computer. It captures personal information and allows the criminal to remotely control your computer. Malware commonly infects victims through emails and web-surfing.
Remember to be mindful of what you do, share, and store online because cyber criminals are always lurking and finding new, inventive ways to steal your money and your personal information.
Social engineering is similar to cyber fraud but differs in that it relies on taking advantage of human emotions and errors rather than vulnerabilities in software and operating systems. Social engineering can occur over the phone, via email, or in person. The types of information these criminals seek can vary but usually, they are trying to trick you into giving them your passwords or bank account information or gaining access to your computer to install malicious software.
While cyber fraud and social engineering are widespread and only need a few users to take the bait to be successful, there are methods for protecting yourself. Keep the following in mind to avoid falling victim to these crimes:
Criminals want you to act first and think later. If a message conveys a sense of urgency or uses high-pressure warnings, don’t let the urgency influence you to make a rash decision. Slow down and take time to review the contents and its legitimacy.
Be suspicious of any unsolicited messages and emails. If an email looks like it’s from a company or even friend or family member, observe the email in detail by looking at the sender’s name and email address, check for spelling or grammar mistakes, hover over links before clicking anything as it’ll show you the actual URL at the bottom (or find the website yourself to see if it’s legitimate), and note the tone of the email to see if there’s a sense of urgency or promises being made. Ultimately, trust and listen to your instincts if you feel something about the email is off.
Be alert when receiving phone calls from unknown numbers/callers. For instance, if someone is calling you and claims to be your bank, look up the phone number and inquire about the validity of the communication. Or, better yet, give your bank a call first to double check if someone there was truly trying to reach you and explain the situation. A representative from GOLD will never call you and ask you to provide personal information like your account number, social security number, or date of birth.
It's guaranteed to be a scam if you receive an email that says you’ve won a foreign lottery or sweepstakes, inherited money from an unknown relative, or you receive requests to transfer money to someone in a foreign country for a share of the funds or are contacted by an individual that claims to be your friend or relative and asks for money for bail or medical bills.
Additional methods to ensure your protection include installing and updating anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters on your electronic devices. You can enable your operating system to automatically update, but if your smartphone doesn’t have this feature, you can manually update it whenever you receive a notice.
Unfortunately, fraud is everywhere. But the more you know, the better equipped you’ll be to protect yourself. For more information on fraud prevention and other types to be aware of, please visit our website for fraud education resources. Plus, we’re always here to help! If you suspect you’re the victim of fraud, please reach out to us at 484-223-4200 and report it to your local authorities immediately.