According to the Federal Trade Commission, consumers lost $330 million to text message scams in 2022, with fake bank security messages the most common type of scam.
As technology continues to evolve, the tactics used by scammers becomes increasingly sophisticated. These scams are not limited to just text messages either, as fraudsters target victims through phone calls, emails and more to get their payoff.
Here are tips to help protect yourself and your finances from bank impersonation scams.
How it Works
Whether it is via text, phone call, email or another channel, these scams tend to have common themes, including:
- One common tactic of scammers is to send a text message pretending to be a fraud alert from your bank – they may try this via phone call as well. If you reply to the “yes” or “no” prompt from the message, a scammer will call you almost instantaneously pretending to be your bank. The scammer may even “spoof” your bank’s legitimate phone number.
- After they get you on the phone, the scammer will continue to try to create a sense of urgency to get you to act without thinking. They will ask for things like your online banking username, password, contact information and possibly even your Social Security number to gain access to your accounts and transfer your money out.
- Many banks use two-factor authentication to verify the identity of its customers, which often involves sending a code via text message to the cell phone number they have on record. The scammer will attempt to log into your account online if you provided your username and password, but they need the code to complete the process. The scammer will then attempt to deceive you into believing they sent the text and require the code to assist you with the supposed fraud they claim occurred. The code will give them complete access to your account.
- Another tactic scammers have been known to try is to tell their victims they need to send money via a peer-to-peer payment (P2P) to replace the funds that are supposedly missing from their account, or another made up reason. This is another red flag, and if you send money to the scammer, it could be gone. Make sure you know what P2P scams look like and how to protect yourself.
How to Protect Yourself
There are a few different steps you can take to help protect yourself from these scams, including:
- First and foremost, take a deep breath, slow down, and think. Scammers use pressure-based tactics to get you to act without thinking before you realize something might be off.
- Know how and when your bank will communicate with you. If your bank uses text messaging, understand how those messages will look, what they will and won’t contain and your options for enrolling or un-enrolling.
- While many scams are conducted via text message, phone call or email, good old-fashioned mail hasn’t fallen entirely out of favor with scammers either. Ensure you know what to look for to tell whether the mailer you received is legitimately from your bank or if it is just junk mail.
- When in doubt, delete the message without clicking any links or hang up if you’ve received a phone call, and then directly call the number listed on the back of your credit/debit card or the official website for your financial institution. Your bank should be able to verify if the message you received was legitimate and help you take steps to protect yourself.
If You’ve Been a Victim
If you’ve been the victim of these or any other scams, contact your bank and credit card companies immediately to freeze your accounts, get new cards and account numbers, and to report any fraudulent activity. You should also file a police report, an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission and a report with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) as soon as possible.
Being the victim of a scam can be an awful feeling and have a major impact on your wallet, but with the proper vigilance, you can help protect yourself.
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