Frauds, Scams & Phishing

Criminals are constantly finding new ways to steal your money. Protect yourself by knowing how to spot red flags.

It can be difficult to keep up with all the methods criminals employ to separate you from your money, personal information, and sense of security. They could try to contact you via phone, email, postal mail, text, or social media, posing as loved ones in need, government agencies, or charitable organizations. Against all that, how do we protect our money and personal information?

The best protection against scammers is knowledge. You need to be able to identify warning signs to avoid falling into a criminal's trap. With this knowledge, you'll also be aware if a friend or relative is being targeted by a fraud scheme. In this article you will find the most common scams, the warning signs for each, and what you can do when someone is being targeted for fraud.

Common Scams & Fraud Schemes

Broadly speaking, all scams rely on a confidence scheme (a.k.a. a ‘con') where the scammer poses as a legitimate business, government organization, or someone familiar to the victim. The scammer uses this fake identity to deceive, intimidate, or coerce their victims into giving up money or personal information. These can include in-person contact, email, text messages, or SMS messages (sent via messaging apps).

Here are some common methods scammers will use in their scam attempts, the red flags you should look out for and what you can do to protect yourself. In every case, you should never give out or confirm your personal, financial, or other sensitive information like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security number, unless you can verify the identity of the company or person you are talking to.

Debt collection scams. The scammer poses as a debt collector and contacts you, claiming you need to pay for debts you don't owe or that you've already paid. In this case, you should ask the caller for their name, company they work for, street address, phone number, and professional license number. It is within your rights to ask a debt collector for this information and any refusal is an immediate red flag. In addition, legitimate debt collectors will never threaten you with criminal charges.

Debt relief scams. Someone claiming they can reduce or eliminate your debts might sound too good to be true – likely, because it is. A legitimate debt relief company will never ask you to pay up front and cannot guarantee that your creditors will forgive your debt, so anyone claiming either of these things is likely a scammer.

Foreclosure relief scams. These scammers offer you relief from your mortgage loan debt. Once again, the mention of requiring fees upfront is an immediate red flag. These scammers might ask you to sign over the title to your property or sign papers you don't understand, ask you to start making payments to someone other than your servicer or lender, or tell you to stop making mortgage payments altogether. If you need relief, there are several legitimate options for people struggling to pay their mortgage.

Grandparent scam. Senior citizens are often specifically targeted by fraudsters due to them being more trusting in general and less informed about modern technology. If you are contacted by someone claiming to be your grandchild or relative and asking you to wire or transfer money or send gift cards to help them out of trouble, it could be a scam. Never confirm or provide any sensitive information unless you've verified the identity of the person with whom you're speaking.

Impostor scam. These scammers pose as someone you know or trust, such as a police officer, government employee, or member of a charity, and use this fake identity to persuade you to send money or personal information. Remember that caller ID or messenger names can be faked. If you receive an unexpected request for money or information from someone claiming to be from a legitimate organization, you should initiate a callback with that organization directly using publicly listed contact information, to verify that the request is legitimate.

Lottery or prize scams. You receive an official-looking letter in the mail for a sweepstakes, free vacation, or other item of value, and all you need to do is send money or information right away. This is most likely a scam! Sweepstake scams are very common and can include phone calls, emails, or physical mail. You should always be skeptical of unsolicited requests for money or personal information.

Mortgage closing scams. Fraudsters send spoofed emails to homebuyers posing as their real estate agent, legal representative, or other trusted individuals with false instructions for wiring closing funds. This can be hard to catch unless you've established some safety procedures beforehand with the parties assisting you with the homebuying process. Keep a list of trusted contacts and avoid using phone numbers or clicking links in an email. When in doubt, contact your trusted representatives directly before releasing any money or personal information to verify everything is going to the right place.

Wire or money transfer fraud. Scammers often send requests for wire or money transfers as part of their schemes, because once a money transfer is picked up there is very little you can do to get the money back. If someone you don't know is asking you to wire money, this is a red flag that you may be the target of a scam.

COVID-19scams. There is a lot of uncertainty around the COVID-19 pandemic and scammers are capitalizing on this to trick people out of their money or personal information. These scams take many forms, including scammers offering vaccines, cures, and tests, or posing as a charity or person in need. Remember that any official government organization or legitimate charity will never ask for money or personal information via phone, text, or email. When in doubt, call the organization in question using publicly available contact information to verify the legitimacy of any request. We have more specific information on COVID-19 related scams here.

Copyright scams. You are contacted by a scammer who informs you that something you posted online, such as an Instagram photo or YouTube video, is in violation of copyright law. They'll either include a link to a fake Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DCMA) complaint or attempt to get you on the phone with a fake support tech. In either case, the scammer will use a sense of urgency and social engineering tactics to pressure you into revealing sensitive information.

Phishing

"Phishing" is one of the most common methods scammers use to contact their victims. They will use "spam" (unsolicited emails) to bait consumers into disclosing sensitive personal information such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, personal identification numbers, passwords, and other private information.

These unsolicited emails give the appearance of being from legitimate businesses. Scammers will often select a business that their target does business with. The fraudsters tell the email recipients they need to "update" or "validate" their billing information to keep their accounts active. Sometimes, these scammers will use language that creates a sense of urgency or even go so far as to threaten their targets into clicking a link or sharing information. To help set the hook, scammers will even create websites that imitate a legitimate business with logos, colors, and designs to match and direct their target to this fake website. The consumers then submit their information to the impostor, who uses the personal data to commit identity theft.

Here are some tips to protect yourself against internet and email fraud (phishing):

  • Never click on links in unexpected email. If you get an email that warns you, with little or no notice, that an account of yours will be shut down or suspended unless you reconfirm your billing information, do not reply or click on the link in the email. Instead, contact the legitimate company cited in the email using a telephone number or web address you know is genuine. Always manually type in the web address of the website into your web browser.
  • Make sure you are using a secure internet connection. Before submitting confidential information via the internet, make sure that the connection to the website is secure. Look at the address bar at the top of your browser. If the website address begins with "https://", then you have established a secure connection. If it begins with "http://", the connection is unsecured. Second, look for a "lock" icon in your browser's address bar. The lock verifies that your connection to the website is secure.
  • Install updated anti-virus and anti-spyware software. Both viruses and spyware can leave your computer vulnerable to attack. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software will keep your computer safe from malicious software already installed or which might try to install itself onto your computer. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software are especially important if you are using a broadband internet connection like DSL, cable, or satellite.
  • Install a firewall. A firewall will prevent attacks on your computer from the internet by determining if a requested connection is malicious. A firewall is especially important if you are using a broadband internet connection like DSL, cable, or satellite.
  • Keep your internet browser, anti-virus, anti-spyware, and firewall up to date. Visit the manufacturer's website regularly and check for software and security upgrades.
  • Avoid emailing personal and/or financial information. Email systems are not encrypted and therefore emails should not contain confidential information.
  • Open emails only from known senders. Don't open emails from a sender which is not known to you. Be especially careful about opening an email with an attachment. We advise that you shouldn't open attachments unless you are confident that you can trust the source.

It is New Tripoli Bank's policy to not send confidential account information through email because it is not encrypted and is not a secure form of communication. If you wish to send personal or sensitive information to us, please use the contact form on our Contact page or the Secured Message feature found in our Online Banking Service. You should never enter private, personal information in a form that was sent to you via email.

New Tripoli Bank will never request a customer's personal, confidential information (bank card number, account number, social security number, personal identification number, or password) through email (or telephone contact). If you should ever receive an email (or telephone call) requesting your personal confidential information that appears to be from New Tripoli Bank, do not respond to the email (or telephone call) and contact us immediately at (610) 298-8811.