Every time you turn on the news or read the paper these days it seems like you are hit with a new scam to be on the lookout for. Scammers are amazingly sophisticated, and it makes you wonder what this world would be like if they used that ingenuity for making the world better instead of lining their own pockets.
And while you might snicker at how gullible some people are when it comes to scams, it can be easy to get sucked in if you do not know what to expect. Bank scammers, in particular, can be hard to spot. If someone calls and says they are an employee at your bank, you might have no reason to doubt them. It is even more credible when they spoof a phone number, making it appear as if they are calling from your bank.
Indications You Might Be Dealing With a Bank Scammer
How can you tell if you're getting a legitimate call from your bank?
The first step is noticing how seamless the call seems. When a legitimate bank is calling you about your account, you will not notice a big pause after you pick up but before anyone starts talking. With scammers there is often a pause in the action because the call is made by a machine and it takes a few seconds for a scammer to recognize that someone has picked up the phone. So you will hear that pause before a person gets on the line to begin their attempt to ensnare you.
If you hear a pause and see what appears to be a local number, you can almost count on it being a scam. It is best to hang up right away and not waste another minute of your time on that call.
But if you decide to stay on the line, you should be on the lookout for another key sign it is a scam. If the person claims to be from your bank and asks for your personal information over the phone, you should automatically be suspicious. Do not be fooled by their requests that you confirm your bank account or Social Security number.
If there is truly a problem with your account, many banks prefer to document that in writing. If they have not received a payment for your car loan they handle, for instance, they are not going to call you initially. They will send you a letter in the mail notifying you.
If they ask for account information over the phone, do NOT give it out. Guard that information instead of feeling compelled to tell them anything they ask, even if they make you feel bad about it. A legitimate bank employee would know why you would hesitate to give out that information, so if they make you feel like you are being called to the principal's office because you will not give out your account number, just hang up.
Another thing you should be suspicious about is receiving an email from your bank. Again, if they want to know something, they will contact you in a letter — not in an email. If you still believe an email might be legitimate, look for signs it is not. It might not come from a recognizable email account, or it might have misspellings or poorly worded phrases that make it unlikely to come from an educated bank employee.
How To Protect Yourself From Scammers
Are you eager to avoid sounding crazy and paranoid while trying to figure out if the call or email you allegedly got from your bank is real or fake? There are some simple steps you can take.
If you got a call from someone saying they work at your bank and need information from you, ask for their full name. Tell them you will call right back. Then look up your bank's phone number and call them. Do not call the number that person gave you.
When you get an answer at your bank's real phone number, give them the name of the person who supposedly works there and called you.
If it is a scam, they will either tell you a person by that name does not work there or they will put you in touch with that person. You may think if there is an employee by that name at the bank that the call was legitimate. But that may not be true.
Bank scammers have gotten craftier. Sometimes they do research on a bank, picking out a key official they pretend to be, so do not be surprised if you reach the true employee by that name and you find out they did not call you.
If you do find out it was a scam call, make sure the bank knows about it. They may want to draft a letter explaining the scam and mail it out to their customers to warn them.
With how clever scammers can be, you need to be vigilant about protecting your information at all times. You should never access your bank accounts while using a public Wi-Fi connection. That's because there is not as much security to guard your information.
And because people often check their accounts on their mobile phones now, you should put a password on your phone. That way if it is lost or stolen, your information will be much safer.
To stop much money from being siphoned from your account if it is compromised, ask your bank about signing up for an alert if there are any suspicious charges. Do not worry that you will be cut off from your account while you're traveling. You may be able to tell your bank ahead of time about your trip, so out-of-state charges are not red flagged and you are not left stranded in the middle of your vacation.
Another key tip is to change your password often. It does not have to be extremely often, but if you have had the same password since you created the account, you are due for an update. Although they are not as easy to remember, do not stick with just words for the passwords. Add in some numbers and symbols too.
And if you do fall for a scam, don't beat yourself up. This is a full-time job for criminals and they work incredibly hard at it. Just think of it as a life lesson that will smarten you up and prevent you from being burned in the future.