Keep your finances protected
With scams of all varieties on the rise, we want to make sure you have the tools and knowledge you need to confidently avoid getting scammed. Learn how to identify red flags and to avoid common scams below.
The relationship scam
Fraudsters target senior citizens, especially those who have recently lost a significant other or loved one. When we visit with victims, it is not uncommon for the fraudster to have found them on social media or dating sites and to have spent months "chatting" before asking for money for different reasons (travel, medical emergencies, losses from a financial setback). A false sense of trust is created by speaking with the victim for an extended time.
Tip: Do not wire money, send cash, or put money on a gift card for someone you only have an online relationship with.
The grandparent scam.
Victims of this scam typically receive phone calls from fraudsters posing as a grandchild or a jail staff member. They will try to convince you that your loved one is incarcerated, in trouble, and needs money for a bailout as quickly as possible. They may even tell you specifically not to speak about the situation with anyone, or there could be additional consequences for their loved one.
Tip: Receivers of this type of call should always try to confirm the story with their loved ones before acting and sending money.
Remote access scam.
Victims may receive an urgent email or pop-up on their computer browser window from the fraudsters posing as a Technical Support company (Geek Squad, Microsoft, McAfee, etc.) or a large online retailer. You may be prompted to click a link to log in as soon as possible to rectify the situation. Once the link is clicked, the fraudster takes full access over the victim's computer. If login information for online banking is stored on the computer, the scammer can now log in and begin transferring money from one account to another. Once the scammer has accessed your online banking, it's common for them to move money around to make it appear as if you've received a credit from the "company" in error. They can then become very threatening - indicating jail time or harm if you don't quickly "reimburse them" for the "error." They may then ask you to withdraw a significant amount of cash to send to them or to exchange it for cryptocurrency. Once this happens, those funds have a minimal chance of recovery.
Tip: Don't click on links in emails or pop-ups that you weren't expecting - even if it appears to be tech support or a known retailer. If you feel pressured to act, visit the company's website and give them a call at the phone number listed there to verify.
Victims of this scam are generally contacted by phone or email to be notified that they have won the lottery or a cash prize. The scammers will be persuasive and let you know that you are required to pay a fee before you receive the funds. Or, they may send you a check and ask you to wire back a portion of the funds. These requirements to send money are both signs that it is a scam.
Tip: Legitimate lotteries and sweepstakes will not make you pay fees. This includes "taxes," "shipping and handling charges," or "processing fees."
Unfortunately, check fraud is the scam that impacts our customers most frequently. A significant percentage of check fraud is facilitated by someone close to the victim. In fact, according to the National Council on Aging, nearly 90% of the financial abuse committed against older Americans is at the hands of someone they know and trust.
Tip: Keeping checks in a secure place and making any payments over the phone instead of placing checks in your mailbox are two helpful ways to mitigate loss due to check fraud.
General Red Flags
Beware of scare tactics. Many scams play on a sense of fear or urgency. If you receive anything that tells you you must act immediately or something bad will happen, it's likely a scam. Especially if you are advised not to tell anyone else about what is happening. Scammers know that if you talk to someone about the situation, you'll realize that the information they've fed you is false.
Be wary of online relationships. Some scammers prey on individuals they think are lonely. Be very wary of starting a relationship with someone online, especially if you've never met them, and they continually have excuses as to why they can't meet you in person.
Protect your confidential info. Legitimate businesses or government agencies will rarely, if ever, contact you to provide them your social security number, date of birth, or banking information. If they really do need this information, they will not be upset by you taking the proper steps to verify their authenticity first. If someone posing as a representative contacts you asking for personal, sensitive information, it is ALWAYS okay for you to end the call and reach out to the phone number provided on their official website.
Don't send money to people you don't know. It is a major red flag if someone you don't personally know requests that you send money in any form, including prepaid gift cards, initiating a wire, sending cash or cryptocurrency. This includes anyone you've met online, any lottery or sweepstakes "prizes" that require a fee, bailing your loved ones out of jail or any other fishy situation.
Beware of links. Be wary of texts or emails that ask you to click an urgent or suspicious link. When in doubt, don’t click.
Watch for misspelled words. Fraudulent texts and emails often contain typos.