FDIC Consumer News - Summer 2018
25th Anniversary Edition
 Financial Scams: The Basics on How to Protect Your Personal Information and Your Money
Excerpted from “10 Scams Targeting Bank Customers: The Basics on How to Protect Your Personal Information and Your Money,” Summer 2017.
The FDIC often hears from bank customers who believe they may be the victims of financial fraud or theft, and our staff members provide information on where and how to report suspicious activity. To help, FDIC Consumer News includes crime prevention tips in practically every issue. Here are some scams you should be aware of and some key defenses to remember.
Government “imposter” frauds: These schemes often start with a phone call, a letter, an email, a text message or a fax supposedly from a government agency, requiring an upfront payment or personal financial information, such as Social Security or bank account numbers. They might tell you that you owe taxes or fines or that you have an unpaid debt. They might even threaten you with a lawsuit or to arrest you if you don’t pay. Remember that if you provide personal information it can be used to commit fraud or be sold to identity thieves.
Fraudulent job offers: Criminals pose online or in classified advertisements as employers or recruiters offering enticing opportunities, such as working from home. But if you’re required to pay money in advance to “help secure the job” or you must provide a great deal of personal financial information for a “background check,” those are red flags of a potential fraud.
“Phishing” emails: Scam artists send emails pretending to be from banks, popular merchants or other known entities, and they ask for personal information such as bank account numbers, Social Security numbers, dates of birth and other valuable details. The emails usually look legitimate because they include graphics copied from authentic websites.
Overpayment scams: This popular scam starts when a stranger sends a consumer or a business a check for something, such as an item being sold on the internet, but the check is for far more than the agreed-upon sales price. The scammer then tells the consumer to deposit the check and wire the difference to someone else who is supposedly owed money by the same check writer. In a few days, the check is discovered to be a counterfeit, and the depositor may be held responsible for any money wired out of the bank account. Victims may end up owing thousands of dollars to the financial institution that wired the money, and sometimes they’ve also sent the merchandise to the fraud artists, too.
Here are some basic precautions to consider, especially when engaging in financial transactions with strangers.
- No matter how legitimate an offer or request may look or sound, don’t give your personal information, such as bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, Social Security numbers and passwords, to anyone unless you initiate the contact and know the other party is reputable.
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails or text messages asking you to open an attachment or click on a link. This is a common way for cybercriminals to distribute malicious software. Be especially cautious of emails that have typos or other obvious mistakes.
- Don’t cash or deposit any checks, cashier’s checks or money orders from strangers who ask you to wire any of that money back to them or an associate. If the check or money order proves to be a fake, the money you wired out of your account will be difficult to recover.
- Monitor credit card bills and bank statements for unauthorized purchases, withdrawals or anything else suspicious, and report them to your bank right away.
- Periodically (approximately once a year) review your credit reports for signs of identity theft, such as a credit card or a loan you didn’t request. By law, you are entitled to receive at least one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nation’s three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Start at AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you spot a potential problem, call the fraud department at the credit bureau that produced that credit report. If the account turns out to be fraudulent, ask for a “fraud alert” to be placed in your file at all three of the major credit bureaus. The alert tells lenders and other users of credit reports that you have been a victim of fraud and that they should verify any new accounts or changes to accounts in your name.