Since the World Health Organization declared Covid-19 a global pandemic, there has been an increase in online attempts to steal personal information or engage in fraud. According to new TransUnion research, 38% of consumers said they have been targeted by digital fraud related to Covid-19. Fraud attempts have as much as tripled during the Covid-19 Crisis, according to the ABA Banking Journal.

The pandemic has created a perfect storm for increased fraudulent activity. Many people, including bank personnel, have worked from home, possibly not with the same type of security measures that are available in the workplace.

Millions of people are out of work. Much business is being conducted online, and many retail establishments have not seen numbers recover since the pandemic started. More people are banking online and are increasingly anxious about their financial situation.

Scammers are trying to get a hold of bank information to steal money from the accounts or order goods for their own benefit. However, you can take action to combat these financial scams. Here is everything you need to know about this issue.

What Is an Online Banking Scam?

Online banking scams use fraudulent methods to obtain a person’s online banking information. Once scammers unlock personal information for personal and commercial bank accounts, they may make unauthorized transactions for their own benefit, take over the account entirely, or use confidential information to steal victims’ identities.

What Tactics Do Fraudsters Use?

Fraudsters often commit online financial scams through sending a phishing communication through text message or email. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that American consumers lost nearly $2 billion to phishing schemes and other fraud tactics in a recent year.

The fraudster may create some type of ruse to try to get you to send them your Social Security number, online banking credentials, or other personal information. For example, the scammer might claim that they are your bank’s representative and are contacting you to:

  • Update your account information;
  • Check that you have authorized a transaction;
  • Notify you that your account has been compromised;
  • Tell you they are trying to speed up the processing of economic impact payments.

The message may either contain a link to a webpage that tracks every stroke of your keyboard, or direct you to call a fake support number where the agent on the phone will ask for your personal information.

You may have heard of vishing, which is simply voice phishing by phone. It is a similar tactic but uses voice calls instead of text or email.

Scammers are using increasingly sophisticated methods to try to trick consumers into giving away their private information. For instance, they may use information gathered from a prior data breach or publicly available on social media to confirm certain details about you and make you believe a legitimate person is calling you.

Scammers like to target older people because they believe they are more vulnerable to identity theft due to less sophistication regarding technology and being more likely to share sensitive personal information.

You can avoid many financial scams by being proactive. Here are some ways to do this:

Get Familiar with Common Scams

Try to familiarize yourself with common scams. Since phishing/vishing is one of the most common types of scams, be sure that you are on the lookout for the following signs:

  • An unsolicited message from someone purporting to be your bank that you receive via email, text, or phone.
  • A bank representative asking you to give out your complete Social Security number, pin number, or online credentials.
  • Messages with typos.
  • URLs that are close but not exactly the same as the bank’s legitimate website.
  • Messages that ask you to click on a link to update your account information.
  • Generic email greetings.

Phishing scams sometimes lead to account takeovers in which the scammer changes the account login credentials, essentially locking the owner out. Thus, the scammer can make unauthorized withdrawals and purchases.

Phishing scams often involve links that contain malware, so be certain you know who is sending you an email before you click on a link or download an attachment. It’s always a better strategy to log in directly to the bank’s website that you type in your browser instead of clicking any link contained in a message.

Control Access to Your Account

Avoid giving out your account information to anyone. Only verify the least amount of information possible when calling into your financial institution. Set up a unique password when establishing financial credentials and avoid using the same passwords for multiple websites.

Use two-factor authentication where you receive a one-time-use code via email or text before your account will allow you to log in. Also, periodically change your password.

Use Secure Wi-Fi While Banking

Avoid using public Wi-Fi while using online banking. Instead, wait until you get home.

Use Reverse Email Lookup Tools to Check Who Is Emailing You

A reverse email search tool lets you type in a user’s email to see who is really writing to you. This can help you discern if a scammer is contacting you.

Guard Your Personal Information

Be careful with your personal information. Shred any document that contains your Social Security number or other private information. Avoid giving out or sending your information via unsecured electronic channels.

Register Your Phone Number on your National Do Not Call Registry

In the US you can add your phone number to the National Do Not Call Registry by calling 1-888-382-1222 or calling Doing this will stop sales calls from real companies. It will not block calls. However, receiving a call from a company after you register may indicate that they are a scammer ignoring the registry. In the UK the best way to reduce nuisance calls is to register for free with the Telephone Preference Service (TPS). They’ll add you to their list of numbers that don’t want to receive sales and marketing calls. It’s against the law for sales people from the UK or overseas to call numbers registered with TPS.

Monitor Your Credit

Regularly review your credit, credit card statements, and bank statements. Report anything that looks suspicious.

What You Should Do If You Are a Victim of a Scam?

If you are a victim of a scam in the US, take these protective steps:

  • Order your credit report;
  • Close any unauthorized accounts in your name and file a dispute with each company;
  • Check your computer for viruses;
  • Place a fraud alert with a National Credit reporting Agency;
  • Complete an FTC theft affidavit;
  • File a complaint with the FTC;
  • File a police report;
  • Keep records of your communications.

The pandemic brought many consequences, and easier access to personal banking information is one of them. However, by being vigilant and taking proactive steps, you can avoid scams and protect your finances.

Have you received a scam email or text that looked legit but wasn’t? How did you recognize it? Which signs gave it away? If you are a victim to online banking fraud, why do you think you fell for the scam? What did you do to mitigate the damage? Please comment below.

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