artists have become increasingly sophisticated over the
years, but remembering a few simple rules can be
surprisingly effective at keeping your money safe.
of the stalwarts is to avoid offers that seem too good
to be true, especially if you’re being pressured to
act fast or to keep a transaction secret, said Michael
Benardo, manager of the cyber fraud and financial crimes
section at the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., which
often hears from bank customers who’ve been
addition, be cautious of unsolicited emails or text
messages that ask you to open an attachment or click on
a link. That’s a common way for cybercriminals to
infect your computer with malicious software, which can
steal your personal financial information or spy on you
by capturing your keystrokes, Benardo said.
no matter how legitimate an offer or request may sound,
don’t give out sensitive personal data such as bank
account, Social Security or credit card numbers or
passwords to anyone unless you initiate the contact and
know the party is reputable, he said.
an effort to educate consumers about what to watch out
for, the FDIC recently released a list of 10 common
frauds targeting bank customers.
"impostor" frauds. These schemes start with a
phone call, letter, email or text message supposedly
from a government official demanding an upfront payment
or personal financial information. In the IRS scam, for
example, the crook claims you owe back taxes that must
be paid immediately. "They might even threaten you
with a lawsuit or arrest if you don’t pay,"
Benardo said. Federal government agencies won’t ask
people to send money for prizes or unpaid loans, and won’t
ask for money to be wired, he said. Another common
impostor scam involves thieves pretending to be from
Microsoft or a technology repair service and claiming
the person’s computer was infected with a virus. They
then trick people into installing malicious software
used to steal personal data, and may demand payment to
remove the software.
collection scams. Fraudsters pose as debt collectors or
law enforcement officials attempting to collect bogus
debts. Red flags include a caller who won’t provide
written proof of the debt, or threatens arrest or
violence for not paying.
job offers. These ploys often involve work-at-home
offers in which prospects are required to pay money in
advance or provide personal financial information. One
variation involves fake part-time jobs as a
"mystery shopper" visiting stores and
submitting reports about the experience. Or the job
might be to receive a $500 check, go
"undercover" to a bank, deposit the check into
an account, and report back on the service after wiring
the "employer" $500 to cover the check, which
turns out to be counterfeit.
emails. These involve legitimate-looking emails
purporting to be from a bank or other popular entity
asking for personal information. They may direct people
to fake websites that appear to be exact copies of real
websites, except for a slightly different web address.
foreclosure rescue scams. These entail promises to
refinance a mortgage under much better terms. They may
include significant upfront fees, or trick the homeowner
into signing documents that transfer ownership of the
property to the criminal. Common warning signs include a
"guarantee" that foreclosure will be avoided
and pressure to act fast.
and sweepstakes scams. Potential victims are told they’ve
won a big prize, but must first send in money to cover
taxes and other fees.
frauds. Senior citizens are a major target of crooks
trying to cheat them out of their life savings. Warning
signs include unsolicited phone calls asking for a large
amount of money before receiving goods or services, and
special offers for seniors that seem incredible, such as
an investment guaranteeing a high return.
scams. These typically involve a thief sending a check
for something someone is selling, but for more than the
asking price. The scammer tells the seller to deposit
the check and wire the difference back. In a few days,
the check bounces, and the victim is out the money, plus
the merchandise that already may have been sent.
This malicious software holds a computer or smartphone
hostage by restricting access until the victim pays a
ransom. Ransomware is commonly spread when someone
clicks on an infected email attachment or link leading
to a contaminated site. The malware can be passed around
on a contaminated storage device, such as a thumb drive.
duty scams. A thief calls pretending to be a law
enforcement official warning that the person failed to
appear for jury duty and will be arrested unless a
"fine" is paid immediately. The caller may ask
for debit account and personal identification numbers,
which are then used to create a fake debit card and
drain the victim’s account.