Financial fraud is always a concern. Cyber criminals continue to create increasingly sophisticated ways to steal from their innocent victims. In this article we aim to explain a few common methods of fraud and offer ways you can protect yourself.
Phishing is the criminal attempt to steal your personal information through fraudulent texts, emails, snail mail, phone calls, etc. The criminals often pose as believable organizations, financial institutions, and even employers. They ask victims to provide or verify important pieces of personal information such as bank account numbers, social security numbers, or credit card numbers.
- How to Protect Yourself – Your organizations do not need you to verify this information because they already have it! Be very wary of institutions that contact you. Before giving any information, ask to contact the institution in question directly to confirm. If this is a real issue, they will have no problem with your hesitation and appreciate your caution.
Smart phone texting fraud, also known as smishing, is a relatively new form of fraud made possible by the popularity of smart phones and their access to the Internet. Criminals will send a SMS message to a victim asking for an urgent response. Since people are used to quickly responding to texts, a victim typically does not realize they have been duped until it is too late. Also, websites typically look different on mobile devices which makes validating difficult.
- How to Protect Yourself – Be vary wary of responding to urgent texts from unknown numbers or texts claiming to be a financial institution. Use the same precautions you would take against phishing and directly contact the institution in question.
Spyware is the term given to criminal software that is found on your computer. Typically a victim unknowingly loads the spyware onto a personal computer through a download from the Internet. The spyware collects the victim’s personal information and sends it to the criminal.
- How to Protect Yourself – Use up-to-date security software and be careful of downloading from suspicious sites. Try to update and download software from reputable sites.
Credit/Debit Card Skimming
Criminals use credit and debit card skimming to steal your personal information and identity by tampering with ATM machines. The crooks will setup a device that captures your magnetic information and PIN number. Skimmers can also set up their devices at places like gas stations.
- How to Protect Yourself – Use ATMs from institutions you know and trust. If the ATM or gas pump appears to have been tapered with at all, find another ATM or gas pump. Always use your debit card as credit when shopping or buying gas. This will allow you to avoid entering your PIN number, which could be stolen by skimmers or witnessed by thieves. If possible, always use a credit card because it adds an extra layer of fraud protection.
Fake Check, Inheritance, or Lottery Scams
These types of scams have been around for a long time. Typically the scammer will send a fake check to the victim for more than the amount promised or required. In order to cash the check, the victim must send in the difference. The victim is then stuck with a phony check while the criminal walks away with a real one.
- How to Protect Yourself – Remember if you didn’t enter a lottery, you cannot win and if you didn’t know you had an uncle who was the king of Zambia, it is because you don’t. Be incredibly wary of anything that sounds too good to be true. Be very skeptical if a “family member” you don’t know is reaching out form money via email. Remember that once a check is cashed, you will not be able to get that money back.
The common theme regarding financial scamming is to be careful of what information you give out. If you do not trust a situation, do not participate until you have verified the sources. Cyber criminals typically prey on victims who are not aware these threats exist. Common demographics are senior citizens and young adults. If you know people in these categories be sure to offer them advice and share these tips.