Avoiding Fraud for Happier Holidays

*cue the Grandpa-telling-a-story style narrator*

“Back in my day, if you wanted to take over someone’s account, you had to walk two miles in the snow to get to the Credit Union to do it. And we didn’t have any shoes… until we stole the money… and then stole shoes.”

Ok, maybe we should take it from here.

Fraud is changing and the holidays are a great (but not fun) time to talk about it. Today’s crooks are focused on doing whatever they can to get their dirty paws on your info. Once they get online and into your account, they can use it to deposit bad checks, make transfers to themselves or their cronies, and even open accounts somewhere else so they can disappear with your hard-earned cash.

We know what you’re thinking. 

“If this kind of thing can happen, how secure can mobile banking even be?”

We get it, but here’s the truth: Online banking security is more advanced than ever before, and it really does work.

Remember how we said they’ll do whatever they can to get your info? That includes telling you exactly what you want to hear, so you give up your passwords willingly.

Listen, when things are going pretty well we might think we’re too smart for these kinds of scams but tough times lead to tough decisions, and sometimes we don’t know where to turn for help. These thieves know exactly who to target and what buttons to push to get what they’re looking for.

Just like snowflakes, no two scams look exactly alike.

We want to start with some examples we’ve seen but, even as we get ready to do that, we know there’s no way to cover every possibility. The important thing is to understand that fraud comes in so many shapes and sizes and you have to keep your eyes wide open to avoid it.

  • The ‘Overpay You’ Scam: The crooks get you interested in a business deal – selling a big-ticket item online, working from home, basically anything they can rope you in with that means you don’t get to see their faces – send you a check for more than what they ‘owe’ you, and ask you to send the rest back in money orders, gift cards, or a cashier’s check.  Sorry friend, the check is no good, and you’re about to be out the money you send back, the thing you sold them, and at least whatever fees your financial charges for the bad check.
  • The ‘Help Your Family’ Scam: You (or your trusting and elderly family member) get a phone call and the person on the other end says they’re a family member that needs your help (in the form of cash) RIGHT NOW! Maybe they’re in jail, and maybe their car broke down, they could claim any one of a hundred different emergencies. You’ve probably heard a version of this one already, but here’s a twist you won’t believe: fraudsters may call and claim to be a family member in the military and stationed far away from home. Talk about plucking at your heartstrings, right? The point is to get you scared and upset and have you run to the nearest place to wire them money. It’s SO HARD to keep calm and think logically when someone you love seems to be in trouble, we know, but this one is easy to avoid if you can do that, get in touch with the real person the thief is claiming to be, and prove them wrong.
  • The ‘Quick Deposit’ Scam: Here’s a great example of scammers taking advantage of us wanting everything ASAP. Someone wants to give you money – maybe you applied for a loan, won a ‘sweepstakes’, got a settlement, the list could go on and on – and they want to make sure you get the money right now. Why don’t you just give them your online banking info so they can deposit a check right now instead of you having to wait for it in the mail? NEVER (ever, ever, ever) give someone those details. The best advice here, if you think the offer is legit, is to tell them to send you the money another way. There are a lot of fast, easy ways to transfer money today, so if they insist that getting into your online banking is the only way this works, tell them, ‘Thanks, but No Thanks.’ and write it off as a scam.

Nope. It’s not great to learn the lengths that people will go to get your hard-earned cash, but there’s hope. Follow these easy tips to save yourself the hassle.

#1 Never (never-never-never-NEVER) share your online banking info with someone who’s not on the account.

Ok, to our friends out there that are asking what could possibly go wrong if you do this, we hear you. You’re trusting souls, that’s beautiful, but this is going to hurt a little bit.

Not only can you learn a phenomenal amount from someone’s account history, with the introduction of P2P and Member to Member transfers, mobile check depositing, and even something seemingly as innocent as being able to update your address online, your login info in the wrong hands can add up to major trouble.

#2 USE online banking and watch your accounts.

Sure, it may seem like the easiest plan to prevent this is avoiding online or mobile banking at any cost but hear us out. Scammers aren’t afraid to use low-tech methods like dumpster diving to get what they need, so if you’re NOT keeping up on your account in real-time, a lot can happen before you know about it.

That’s why our advice here is to keep an eye on your accounts and contact your financial the second you see something you don’t understand. Trust us. We’d rather remind you a hundred times that your gym membership comes out of your account on the 3rd of every month than see you lose hundreds of dollars to a scam.

#3 If it sounds too good to be true (sadly), it probably is.

You’ve heard this before. Heck, you’ve probably SAID it before, but we all forget it sometimes, right?

Hey, we want you to know that we totally get it. We’ve seen the look of hope (and a little desperation) in someone’s eyes when they tell us that fraud CAN’T be happening to them, that they TRUST the person they’re dealing with, that they REALLY NEED the money. That looks makes us feel like the bad guy, for sure, but it’s our job to keep those people safe.

Yes, good things still happen to good people. All we’re saying here is do your homework and bring the right amount of skepticism to the table.

Have more questions about fraud? Not sure where to turn? The Simplicity Team has saved a lot of our friends a ton of money by helping them catch on to the crooks before they get away with their cash. Call or stop in anytime to learn how we can help!

Want to learn more?

Why not check out our blog about Card Valet and learn how you can use it to keep your debit card seriously safe?

Here’s a blog we wrote about Data Breaches you might like too!