Preventing fraud 101

  • May 2, 2021

Our goal here at The Bank of Missouri is to help you Live Well, Bank Well, and part of that goal includes partnering with you to help safeguard your funds and your personal information. In this article, we will share with you some of the more common types of fraud that can potentially victimize you, your friends, and your family.

At the end, you will know more about three of the ways fraudsters work, how to spot the red flags, and how to protect yourself.

First, let’s explain the situation.

There are bad guys out there—“fraudsters”—who, instead of getting real jobs, make a “career” out of tricking good people out of their own hard-earned money. Fraudsters have said that one of the main ways they manipulate people into doing something they may not normally do (such as sharing personal banking information), is to play with people’s emotions. Most scams can be tied to the emotional state of the victim. The victim may be worried about their finances, lonely and looking for a friend or romantic relationship, or afraid of legal troubles. Or, some victims believe that the fraudster is a person of authority, or from a trustworthy entity. And sometimes, the victim is tricked because the fraudster pretends they are a beloved family member or friend needing financial help. These con artists really go to great lengths to try to make money off their victims, but we at The Bank of Missouri are here to help provide you with information so you have a greatly decreased risk of falling prey to their schemes.

So who do these fraudsters target? Everyone. The fraudsters have made it very easy for anyone to become a victim. Young or old, male or female, rich or poor, and every race and ethnicity. They utilize whatever method they assume will work best on each individual victim, while playing on their emotions. They are “equal opportunity scammers” who do not discriminate. So, since you’re likely to come across a scam at some point in time, we’re glad we can help keep you from becoming a victim.

Let’s explore just three types of common scams:

1. Imposter scams

You get a call, email, or text message from someone claiming to be a person you know or trust. They scare and threaten you into sending money, and/or giving them ANY of your personal account information. They try to create an urgency to do what they say right then and there, so you don’t have time to think about what they are really asking. It’s usually emotionally upsetting and very pressuring. The imposter may claim you’ll be in “big trouble” if you don’t tell them what they want to know immediately, but remember, even just your name and address is all it takes for them to get a start on stealing your identity. Don’t tell them anything.

They could say that you have a family member who is sick, arrested, or in other serious trouble, and they need you to make a payment immediately to help. They may pretend to be a court official claiming you will be arrested for not paying a fine or missing jury duty. They could claim to be the police saying you will be arrested, fined, or deported for some unknown offense. Another common one is claiming your Social Security benefits will be suspended or they need information because someone is using your number. IRS imposters may claim you owe taxes, and to avoid arrest, you will need to send money immediately by wire, cash app or cash cards. They could even claim to be your bank or any other trusted business, claiming you need to verify personal information. The possibilities are endless, and these are the types of calls that are designed to raise your blood pressure and push you into sharing personal information with scare tactics. They’ve even been known to yell at their victims. No reputable company would talk to you this way, and that’s usually a dead giveaway of a desperate scam artist.

So how can you protect yourself from an imposter? There’s one word to remember: Stop.

Stop! Take time to think about what the caller is asking and why they need this information before giving any information or sending funds.

Stop! Tell the caller you will look into the matter and get back to them. Any legitimate caller will accept that easily.

Stop! Make a phone call to investigate the issue further before accepting what they say as truth. Simply hang up with that person—don’t feel the need to be polite, especially if you say you want to investigate further but they continue to make you feel pressured and uncomfortable. If that happens, simply hang up on them (whew—they’re off the line. Doesn’t that feel better?). Locate the number for that company from another source: look at your actual statements from that company, for example, call that specific number, and ask them if there’s an issue with your account. DO NOT call the number that appeared on your caller ID, because that could just be the fraudster’s cell phone number. If the company you call says, “No, there are no issues with your account, and we don’t show that anyone on our end called you…” then you know you did the right thing by investigating. Way to go; you dodged a fraudster!

2. Friendship and sweetheart scams

Friendship and sweetheart scams have victimized many people, unfortunately. These con artists nurture an online relationship to build trust with their victims, and then are able to convince the victim to send them money. These relationships can be relatively new or last many months. The stories we have heard usually have the friend or “sweetheart” unable to get to their own money so they need help, or they are stranded somewhere due to COVID, or they have another friend or family member who needs help. Most are outside of the United States. They may even send the victim fraudulent funds to be sent to a third party. A good rule of thumb is, if it seems fishy, it probably is. And if somebody you’ve only met online (and not in person) is asking you to send them money, that’s fishy. Don’t take the risk.

3. Phishing and smishing

And speaking of “fishy,” phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails, claiming to be from reputable companies, in order to trick individuals into revealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.

Smishing is a text or email generated to trick the individual into providing personal information or clicking a link. The message looks to be coming from a reputable company and tries to prompt your interest by stating they noticed some activity, need to confirm your personal or payment information, says they’re offering a free gift, or wants you to register for a refund. A link is “conveniently provided” to click, or there is an attachment to open. Attachments and links can install harmful malware. Don’t click suspicious links!

Also, DO NOT provide an authentication or authorization code to anyone else. These codes are meant to protect your log in process and should never be shared with a third party.

Now that we’ve looked at these three ways fraudsters try to steal information from you, let’s talk about how you can fight back.

REPORT IT. First, sharing your story can help your friends, family, and those in your community avoid these scams. Your story can be a helpful way to educate others. Second, officially reporting fraud to investigators helps the “good guys” build cases against scammers and helps stop them.

So where can you report fraud? Fortunately, there are several organizations that help combat fraud. Here’s just a few:

The Federal Trade Commission reported they received approximately 1.4 million complaints about identity theft in 2020 alone. At a time when fraudsters are more devious and stealthy than ever, you can rest assured The Bank of Missouri is committed to helping keep your accounts safe. We will never call you to ask for your personal information. If someone does call and say they’re with The Bank of Missouri, hang up and either directly message us through your mobile banking app or call our customer service line at 888-547-6541.

Learn more about additional types of fraud >>

Live Well, Bank Well