A good friend of mine recently relayed to me that she had fallen victim to a scam involving “spoofing” her bank’s telephone number.
Spoofing is a technique that spammers use to make the caller ID on your phone look like it is coming from a legitimate entity, in this case her bank. It was not her bank, but the caller ID displayed that it was. When she questioned the caller as to whether it was actually her bank, they stated something like “You can see on your display that I am really calling from your bank”. They also seemed to have information that only her bank would know, such as amounts in her bank account, and amounts of deposits to her account. They told her that there had been some unusual activity in her account and that someone may have gained access to it.
They then told her that she needed to put her money in another account immediately, which the person on the phone could help her establish so that her money would be safe from someone who had her information. She was told that she would not be able to access it for a few days, but that it would be protected. She dutifully followed their instructions
She is now in the process of working with the bank to try to get her money back. It is not clear whether that will happen or not at this time. She is out $2500, which is a lot of money for her. I have heard of, and you probably have, too, of people who have lost a lot more.
These scammers are very smart and are very good at convincing people that they are legitimate. For them to have the information that they have, they must have already gained access to some of your banking information and possibly the account itself. However, they don’t simply go in and drain your account, they convince you to do it for them. After all, if you withdraw the money yourself, it’s much harder to convince the bank that you were defrauded. Why do fraudsters have to be so smart?
They may also claim to be from the IRS, Social Security or Medicare, or some government agency, a utility company, a tech company, or a charity. They prey on your fears telling you that there is a problem with your account, you owe money or that you or someone you love is in some sort of trouble. In some cases, they may even state that you have won a prize, but you need to send them money to be able claim it! According to the Federal Trade Commission article “How to Avoid a Scam”, there are some red flags to look for and some things you can do to avoid being a victim.
(You can read full article here https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-avoid-scam)
First, if the person on the phone is pressuring you to act immediately and/or states that you should not try to call the company back to verify that the caller is legitimate, this is a scam. They may threaten more serious consequences if you do not act right away. They want you to act without thinking or verifying the issue.
Second, beware if the person asks you to pay in a specific way. A legitimate agency would most likely not ask you to pay by gift cards, or by send cash through the mail. A scammer may also ask you to wire money or obtain money orders. Always beware of a gift that you must pay to receive, especially if you did not enter to win anything.
Third, you can avoid being a victim of a scam by blocking unwanted calls and text messages. I never answer my phone unless I know who is calling and I usually wait until they leave a message. The scammer may not leave a message, and if they do, I have time to scrutinize what they are saying.
Fourth, don’t click on any links in emails. Scammers are very good at making emails look legitimate. If the email is “from your bank”, go to the bank’s website directly, or call them. Remember, your bank will NEVER ask for your password, your PIN, or account numbers if they call you.
If you are unsure about a possible scam, before you do anything, talk to someone you trust. You can always call us here at the office with any questions you may have to be sure that you don’t fall victim to a scam that could cost you a lot of money!