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Stop scammers in their tracks: 6 ways to protect you and your family from fraud

(BPT) - In today's digital world, bad actors take advantage of technology to trick victims into scams. According to the Financial Trade Commission (FTC), consumers reported losing $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022.

Knowing how to spot tell-tale signs and being alert and informed are some of the best defenses to stop scammers in their tracks. Also, taking advantage of privacy and security protections available through your devices, financial accounts and using safe WiFi connections can all bolster protections for consumers.

'Scammers are always looking for ways to trick customers, and they may call or message you and make you panic, at moments when we are busy and vulnerable. The best defense is to stay calm and confident and use technology to your advantage: ignore, delete and block calls, messages or emails from sources you don't recognize and remember that banks will never ask for personal information when we call you or urge you to send money,' said Darius Kingsley, Head of Consumer Business Practices at Chase Bank.

1. How you pay matters

Check fraud is on the rise. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network found instances of check fraud increased by 84% in 2022. The best way to prevent check fraud is to avoid paying by check altogether. If a business, institution or individual requires you to use a check, ask if they accept other payment methods. Electronic payment methods like Zelle, online bill pay or even something as simple as paying via debit card are secure ways to pay without sharing your bank account number - something that is printed at the bottom of your check, which also usually includes personal information like your address.

When sending money digitally, always make sure you know the sender. Remember: if you send money, you may not get it back if it's a scam.

If you need to write a check, remember to always:

  • Use permanent ink.
  • Use the whole line or draw a line to the end when writing the payee's name.
  • Write out the amount in words and then numbers using the entire line at the end.
  • Make sure that the words and numbers match the written amount.
  • Avoid writing a check out to "cash."

2. Beware of artificial intelligence (AI) or 'deep fake' scams

Artificial intelligence scams are another emerging threat because smart technology allows scammers to duplicate familiar voices and trick consumers out of their money and personal information. Scammers gain the trust of victims by pretending to be a close family member or friend in need of money. In some cases, scammers claim to be a loved one in danger.

Never provide sensitive personal information over the phone and consider the following:

  • When in doubt, hang up the phone: Directly call the person claiming to need something using a trusted phone number you know to be theirs.
  • Verify identities: Establish a known code word among your close family and friends that can be used to verify their identity. Be sure to choose a word that cannot be commonly guessed.

Another modality to watch for is when scammers use a duplicate of your voice to gain access to your account, which usually happens when they impersonate your bank to 'alert' you of trouble with your account. Read on for more.

3. That email, text or call from 'your bank' could be an imposter.

There's an increasing trend of scammers impersonating banks, utility companies and government agencies to trick unsuspecting consumers out of money. According to the FTC, consumers lost $2.6 billion to imposter scams in 2022, up from $2.4 billion in 2021.

Scammers may pose as a company or organization, such as the IRS, law enforcement, financial institutions or retailers. Scammers will contact victims via a call or text, demanding money to ensure something doesn't happen to your bank account (e.g., account getting locked or deleted). They usually 'spoof' or trick you by using caller ID info from your bank, or website links that look legitimate.

Be vigilant and look out for red flags:

  • The most important reminder is to know that banks will never ask for personal or private information when THEY call you, but may need you to verify yourself if YOU call them.
  • Never share personal information over the phone, even to someone claiming to be a representative from your bank. Be suspicious of any calls or texts you receive claiming to be your bank. Immediately hang up and call the number on the back of your bank card. Banks also will never ask you to send money to 'prevent fraud' or fix an issue on your account.
  • A government agency would never threaten you to make a payment or ask you not to tell anybody else. Government agencies will not contact you via phone for issues; you'll likely receive a notice of any issues via mail.

4. Don't let your favorite retailers fool you

There has been an alarming rise in cybersecurity fraud, with criminals devising new and sophisticated ways to exploit unsuspecting individuals. Scammers will claim to be a company you may be familiar with (e.g., your favorite online retailer), and declare there is an issue with your account or a recent order or sending you a fake receipt for goods to incite you to dispute them. Understand your risk so you can protect yourself and your loved ones.

Be careful when online shopping and protect yourself by doing the following:

  • Be sure to make purchases from trusted websites and vendors only. Scammers can extract personal information if you're not protecting yourself.
  • Steer clear of private sellers with goods for sale at a price that seems too good to be true.
  • If buying goods on a platform or marketplace online, never go off platform to close a deal or communicate with a buyer. Protections will only stay in place if you transact through the platform.
  • Buy directly from a retailer's official website and avoid websites offering unrealistic discounts on popular merchandise, concert or event tickets.

Always remember the adage, 'if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.'

5. Wire transfers are never a typical request

Scammers may pose as real estate agents or landlords, looking to sell or rent a property and convince the victim to send them a deposit to hold the property for them.

Be cautious when buying your next home or long-term rental.

  • Make sure that the listing appears on multiple online platforms, has a detailed description, contact information, and good customer reviews.
  • If possible, try meeting the landlord, real estate agent, or host in person before fulfilling any request for a money transfer.

Remember: If you get a request for a wire transfer, for real estate or any other business, consider it carefully. Wire transfers are a way to directly deposit money from one account to another - they are rarely used by consumers for everyday needs.

6. Beware of tech support offerings

Some scammers will even assert there are issues with your computer, by posing as tech support. These scammers will encourage you to click suspicious links via text, or pop-up windows on your computer and say they can help solve your issue.

Be cautious of unsolicited requests for information.

  • Remain alert: Beware of emails, text messages or phone calls that ask for personal information such as your account number and password. Cybercriminals may attempt to manipulate you into divulging sensitive information.
  • Stay confidential: Never provide someone access to your computer if they are proactively reaching out.
  • Always verify requests: Instead of immediately sharing information or providing access, call the company directly on the number stated on their official website to confirm if the request is legitimate.
  • Use strong log-in credentials: Use strong, unique passwords for each online account, incorporating a mix of upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols for ultimate protection. Make a routine to change them often.

Stay informed about the latest cybersecurity threats and fraud techniques. Knowledge is your best defense against falling victim to scams. If you become a victim, don't be embarrassed, and report it to your bank. Also, tell family and friends about your experience so they too can be on high alert.

For more fraud and scam prevention tips, visit Chase.com/SecurityTips, ww.ftc.gov, and follow #banksneveraskthat for more information.

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