Protect Yourself from Fraud: 3 Online Scams to Avoid and What to Do If You’ve Been Scammed
4/11/23 | Stan Sorensen, Chief Marketing Officer
No one wants to be a victim of fraud. But being honest, online fraud is here to stay. Online scams, phishing emails and texts, hacked websites, and stolen identities — happen all the time. Sometimes, it’s easy as one little click on a hectic day that opens your entire financial portfolio to greedy predators. Busy people need easy solutions. Set aside a little time every month to incorporate these best practices for staying safe from fraud and scams.
1. Wait, Don’t Click That Link: Watch for Phishing Scams
The most common online scam is phishing. A scammer sends an email or text that appears to be from a trusted source saying something like “look what I found for you” or “here is the information you asked for” and includes an innocent looking link or attachment. When clicked, the link or attachment opens the door to your personal information.
The simplest way to protect yourself is not clicking the link. But it is not always that easy, particularly if the sender is someone familiar.
Always check the sender’s email address before opening the message or clicking anything. If the sender is an individual, does the email address include a bunch of random characters or numbers before the @ symbol? For example, -david5687458@. If so, there is a high likelihood the mail is a phishing attempt.
What about emails that appear to be sent by a business? These mails often read, “Your order is confirmed. Please click here for an update,” or “Your subscription is about to expire. Please update your payment information,” with a link. Again, check the sender’s address to ensure it corresponds to the business it claims to be. Remember, legitimate businesses do not use gmail to communicate with their customers.
When it comes to texts, it is often easier to spot a phishing message because they come from numbers you don’t recognize, are poorly written, or include strange looking URLs.
What do you do if you receive one of these mails or texts? The best course of action is to delete the message. If you think there’s a possibility that the sender is legit, call them and ask if they sent you something. But never reply to the mail or text – that only confirms that you received it and opens the door for further attempts.
2. Keep Personal Information Personal: Beware of Scammers Claiming to Be Your Bank
Sometimes you get a phone call, text, or email claiming to be from your bank asking you to confirm some information.
Financial institutions – banks, credit unions, investment brokers, insurance companies, and credit card companies – never initiate communication with customers asking for personal information.
If you get an email or text claiming to be from a financial institution asking for personal information, don’t reply. Instead, look up the institution’s actual phone number (don’t use the phone number included in the message – that’s another part of the scam) and call to ask if they sent you the message.
Scammers also make phone calls claiming to be your financial institution to access your personal information. Hang up immediately, then look up the institution’s real phone number and ask if they called you.
In any case, never share personal information such as your Social Security number, account numbers, or credit card numbers online via email or text.
3. Don’t Download That: Only Use Apps from the Apple App Store® or Google Play Store®
Fraudsters are a creative bunch and are constantly working to improve their craft. To that end, they have moved from sending malicious attachments and links to building applications, particularly mobile applications, to do their dirty work.
They try to get you to download the app by, again, impersonating a trusted source like a company and asking you to upgrade their application.
The basic step to protecting yourself is to make it a habit not to download an application from anywhere but the Apple App Store® or the Google Play Store®. Both Apple and Google have processes in place to verify the legitimacy and safety of an application.
Help! I’ve Been Scammed
Bam! In one click, one suspicious phone call or even without any precursors, you find that your financial information is compromised. What to do? Who to call? How to get that money back?
If you think you have been the victim of fraud, here are the steps you should take right away:
- Call your financial institution and report the fraud. If done quickly, your bank can generally limit the impact of fraud and protect you from further loss. In many cases, the bank can also help you replace any money lost.
- Cancel your credit card. If you believe your credit card has been compromised, cancel it immediately. Credit cards typically have a “report fraud” or “if your card is lost or stolen” number on the back. Real people answer those calls 24 hours a day. They will get you a replacement card and work to reverse fraudulent charges.
- Alert the credit reporting agencies. Many people don’t realize that fraud can impact your credit score. If you think you have been defrauded call Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion and ask them to place a fraud alert on your credit report. You only need to contact one agency, who by law must alert the other two.
Everyone who owns a computer or phone is a target for online fraud. As clever as scammers try to be you can protect yourself by taking the precautions outlined here and remaining vigilant.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Stan Sorensen is Chief Marketing Officer at Altabank. He joined the bank in 2019, and has previous marketing and leadership experience in software and healthcare. When Stan is not in the office, he enjoys spending time in mountains.