2024 Financial Scams
Your best defense against financial fraud is to be aware of common scams and remain vigilant in protecting your personal and banking information. We're here to help! Contact us if you have questions about fraud.
A scammer pretends to be someone you trust —a government agency like the FBI, the county sheriff’s office or court official, a family member or a business you recognize — and claims there’s a problem with your computer. The scammer can even have a fake name or number show up on your caller ID to convince you.
How to protect yourself from impersonator scams: Never trust your caller ID; scammers can “spoof” numbers and make them appear to be a number you trust (like your bank). Hang up and call an agency or business back on a number that’s published on their website or in the phone book to verify the call is real. If the scammer is pretending to be a friend or family member, ask them to share some personal information that only the two of you would know, like the last time you saw each other or another relative’s name.
Debt relief and credit repair scams
Scammers will offer to lower your credit card interest rates, fix your credit score, or get your student loans forgiven if you pay the company a fee upfront. Don’t believe them; you could end up losing your money and ruining your credit.
How to protect yourself from debt relief and credit repair scams: Hang up and do not give out any of your personal information or offer any credit card, debit card or bank account information for their service. If you need to explore your options for debt consolidation, contact a reputable company like Credit Counseling of Arkansas. Do not discuss your personal financial situation with a caller unless you initiated the call to a number you trust from a verified website.
Scammers like to pose as real charities and might ask for donations for disaster relief efforts, support for local law enforcement or veterans, or money for kids and families dealing with cancer.
How to protect yourself from charity scams: Never feel pressured to give immediately over the phone. Legitimate charities and causes will give you time to think about a donation. Instead, tell the caller that you need to review your budget and think about how much you can give, then do your research. Ask how much of each dollar you donate will go directly to the charity’s mission and always check out a charity’s legitimacy before you give.
Extended vehicle warranties
Scammers find out what kind of car you drive and when you bought it (or pretend to know) so they can urge you to buy overpriced or worthless service contracts or so-called extended warranties.
How to protect yourself from extended vehicle warranty scams: Never buy a contract or warranty on the spot, and always research the company and contract or warranty before you pay anything so you know if it makes sense for you. Check out the FTC website for more comprehensive information about auto warranty and service contract scams.
A caller might promise a free trial but then sign you up for products — sometimes lots of products — that you’re billed for every month until you cancel.
How to protect yourself from free trial scams: Never sign up without knowing what happens after the “free trial” ends, and always review your bank and credit card statements to look for unexpected charges.
Scammers who gain access to consumers' personal information – by mining social media or purchasing data from cyber thieves – can create storylines to prey on the fears of grandparents. The scammers call and impersonate a grandchild – or another close relative – in a crisis situation, asking for immediate financial assistance. Sometimes these callers “spoof” the caller ID to make an incoming call appear to be coming from a trusted source. Often the imposter claims to have been in an accident or arrested. The scammer may ask the grandparent “please don’t let mom and dad know,” and may hand the phone over to someone posing as a lawyer seeking immediate payment.
How to protect yourself from grandparent scams: Always use caution if you are being pressured for information or to send money quickly. Scammers often try to bully victims into transferring money through a mobile payment app, by wiring money, or by purchasing gift cards or money orders. Some may even request to meet to receive money in person. If you get a call like this, hang up and report it immediately to local law enforcement.
Ask the caller to verify information that only the alleged caller would know – like the last time you were together or their uncle’s nickname – to verify their identity. To ease your mind, you can also call or text your family members directly to make sure they’re not in trouble.
Be aware of advance loan fee scams where scammers guarantee you loans or credit cards for an upfront fee.
How to protect yourself from loan scams: Don’t buy it… honest lenders don’t make guarantees like that. If you are in need of a loan, reach out to a local branch and let’s talk about your options.
Prize, sweepstakes or lottery scams
In a typical prize scam, the caller will say you’ve won a prize, but then say you need to pay taxes, registration fees, or shipping charges to get it.
How to protect yourself from prize or lottery scams: Hang up. It's illegal for someone to ask you to pay to increase your odds of winning. Only a scammer will do that. And there's absolutely no reason to ever give your bank account or credit card number to claim any prize or sweepstakes.
Travel or timeshare scams
Scammers promise free or low-cost vacations, but once you respond, you find out you have to pay some fees and taxes first. Or once you pay, you find out there is no vacation. In timeshare resale scams, scammers lie and tell you they’ll sell your timeshare — and may even have a buyer lined up — if you pay them first.
How to protect yourself from travel or timeshare scams: Be wary of contact from people who call, email or text you claiming to be from a travel company. Instead, visit the website of the company you want to book through directly. And legitimate realtors collect fees after your property is sold, not before.
Copycat bank fraud prevention alerts
Scammers text to verify transactions or call about suspicious activity, then ask you to give them your bank account number to “recover” the money from a transaction you didn’t make; they then transfer money out of your account.
How to protect yourself from copycat fraud prevention alerts: Banks will never charge you a fee to recover money from a transaction you didn’t make, and they already know your bank account number. If you get a text from your bank or credit card company to verify a charge, do not reply. Instead, call the bank or company on a number you trust to verify the legitimacy of the fraud prevention call.
The best protection against fraudulent charges is to review your online banking account often to check for unauthorized transactions, and utilize our SecurLOCK Equip app to get notifications about transactions on your debit card.
Free rewards or prizes
A text about a free gift, reward, or prize that looks like it came from a company you know, like your cell phone company or a big retailer. But everything about this is fake. If you click the link and pay a small “shipping fee,” you just gave your credit card number to a scammer. Fraudulent charges soon follow.
How to protect yourself from rewards or prize scams: Do not reply. There’s absolutely no reason to give your bank account or credit card number to claim any prize or sweepstakes, and you should never give out that information via text to anyone.
Fake package delivery problems
Texts pretending to be from the U.S. Postal Service, FedEx, and UPS say there’s a problem with a delivery. They link to a website that looks real – but isn’t. They ask you to pay a small “redelivery fee,” which was a trick to get your credit card number.
How to protect yourself from package delivery scams: If you get an unexpected text message, don’t click on any links. If you think it could be legit, contact the company using a website or phone number you know is real. Don’t use the information in the text message.
Not-from-Amazon security alerts
Like fake bank texts, texts from someone who says they’re “Amazon” look like automated fraud prevention messages. Often, they ask you to verify a big-ticket order you didn’t make. If you call the number in the text, you get a phony Amazon rep who offers to “fix” your account. But then the rep says a couple of zeros were accidently added to the refund, so they need you to return that money to them – often by buying gift cards and giving the cards’ PIN numbers.
How to protect yourself from security alert text scams: If you get an unexpected text message, don’t click on any links. And if someone asks you to pay them in gift cards for services over the phone or via text, don’t do it… it’s a scam. Legitimate companies will never ask for payment via gift cards.
Scammers often use phishing, a digital form of social engineering that uses authentic-looking but bogus e-mails to request information from users or direct them to a fake Web site that requests information, to gain access to your personal or banking info. Phishing is prevalent with scammers, so never click on links from unsolicited emails or enter any personal or banking information in response to an email unless you verify its validity by contacting the sender on a number you trust.
Scammers ask you to pay for something you never ordered or received, often using a sense of urgency and fear tactics.
How to protect yourself from fake invoice scams: Never click on links contained in unsolicited emails. Be suspicious if a business, government agency or any organization asks you to click on a link that then asks for your username, password, or any other personal data. Instead, type in the known web address for the organization and call them. The link in the email may look right, but if you click on it, you may go to a copycat website run by a scammer.
A scammer posing as your IT department asks you to click on a link to update your software, often using a link that appears to be legitimate but is not. When you click on the link, malware is installed on your computer, allowing the scammer access to all of your files, login information, and passwords.
How to protect yourself from software upgrade scams: One of the common ways that scammers evade detection and bypass security mechanisms and security experts is by scaring users into deploying malicious code and other malware onto their own devices. If you get an email from your IT department asking you to click a link, be suspicious. Instead, pick up the phone and call someone at a number you trust to verify the legitimacy of the request before clicking on any links from an email.
The “update your payment” message
A legitimate company where you have an account (i.e., streaming service, cell phone provider) informs you that there’s a problem processing your automatic payment and asks you to click on a link to update your billing information.
How to protect yourself from billing info scams: While real companies might communicate with you by email, legitimate companies won’t email or text with a link to update your payment information. Only update your billing information by logging into your account on the company’s website and changing your credit card or banking info.
Social Media & Other Online Scams
Social media is fraught with scammers. They can easily manufacture a fake persona, or hack into your profile, pretend to be you, and con your friends. They can learn to tailor their approach from what you share on social media. And scammers who place ads can even use tools available to advertisers to methodically target you based on personal details, such as your age, interests, or past purchases. All of this costs them next to nothing to reach billions of people from anywhere in the world.
Social media account hacking
Getting your account hacked is one of any social media user’s worst fears. Not only does losing a carefully managed social media presence crash one’s image, it also negatively impacts businesses and organizations. Additionally, hackers can use your stolen account to perpetuate crime, theft, and fraud.
How to protect yourself from social media account hacking: Always use a unique password that you don’t use anywhere else, and do not use a password that’s easy to guess—like your birthday, pet’s name or obvious things like “password” or combinations like ‘123456.’ Use passwords that are a combination of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers, and special characters. If two-factor authentication is an option, utilize it to further protect your account from hackers and make it easier to recover your account if it's hacked. Change your password often and do not share that password with anyone else. If your account is hacked, do not pay someone to recover it… that’s another scam
Social media ads
The most frequently reported fraud loss in 2023 was from people who tried to buy something marketed on social media, coming in at a whopping 44% of all social media fraud loss reports. Most of these reports are about undelivered goods, with no-show clothing and electronics topping the list. According to reports, these scams most often start with an ad on Facebook or Instagram.
How to protect yourself from social media ad scams: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is. Rather than ordering something from a social media ad, go directly to the company’s website instead. Be sure to check a company’s profile on the Better Business Bureau to verify its legitimacy. And even if it’s legitimate, check out independent online reviews about the quality of their goods or services before you order. If you choose to order something from a social media ad, ask yourself if you’re willing to lose the amount of money you’re spending if the product doesn’t arrive. And if you determine it’s worth the price, consider using a virtual credit card or other payment means that provide protection for your bank account or credit card.
Romance scammers create fake profiles on dating sites and apps or contact you through popular social media sites like Instagram or Facebook. The scammers strike up a relationship with you to build up trust, sometimes talking or chatting several times a day. Then, they make up a story and ask for money.
How to protect yourself from romance scams: Understand the lies that romance scammers use, like avoiding in-person meet ups (refusing to schedule one, or scheduling one before canceling it), asking you for money, or telling you how to pay them (wires, gift cards, person-to-person payments, or cryptocurrency).
Never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person. If you suspect a romance scam, talk to someone you trust and see if they seem concerned about your new love interest. Do a reverse image search on the person’s profile pic… is it associated with a different name or details that don’t match up? Those are signs of a scam.
Copycat Government Websites
Whether you are looking to renew your passport, apply for a driver’s license, or pay a tax bill, make sure the website you’re using is the right website. Copycat websites are deliberately designed to look like and offer services of government departments or local governments, but will charge a substantial premium for the service, often much more than the actual cost or even when it is actually free to do and with no benefit to the customer. They will tend to have convincing or sometimes a similar address to the official website and often have a similar appearance and ‘brand’ design to look like the official website. They may claim the process or application is faster or easier, when in fact you could most probably do it yourself just as quickly and easily and at less of the cost involved.
How to protect yourself from copycat government websites: Don’t just choose the first result on a Google search; always take your time looking for official websites, whose URLs usually end with .gov or .org. Before submitting banking information on any site, look for https:// at the beginning of the web address (the “s” stands for “secure”) or a lock symbol in the URL—both indicate encryption of your information as it passes from your browser to the website’s server.
Mailbox theft/check washing
Scammers steal checks from unattended mailboxes and use chemicals to “wash” the payee and/or amount, then fraudulently deposit them.
How to protect yourself from check washing scams: use online banking to review paid checks and ensure the payee and amount are correct, and consider making payments using ACH or other electronic payment options.
Social engineering fraud is a broad term that refers to the scams used by criminals to exploit a person's trust in order to obtain money directly or obtain confidential information to enable a subsequent crime. Social media is the preferred channel but it is not unusual for contact to be made by telephone or in person.
How to protect yourself from check washing scams: Be suspicious of unsolicited contacted from individuals seeking internal organizational data or personal information, and do not provide personal information or passwords over email or on the phone. Pay attention to website URLs that use a variation in spelling or a different domain (e.g., .com vs. .net). Install and maintain anti-virus software, firewalls, and email filters.