Getting Ahead of Fraud

Fraud keeps finding unsuspecting victims.

At least three to five times a day, we get calls from customers who have been tricked into giving out their private account information, and money has been stolen from them—sometimes thousands of dollars. They are often stunned because what happened to them happened quickly—without raising an eyebrow in distrust.

Sometimes, we can track the funds successfully or reverse a transaction that was started, but in other cases, the losses are permanent and traumatic.

All of our customers are intelligent people, and many even have a healthy awareness of the dangers, yet the sheer genuine nature of many scams disarms them. So, in the spirit of prevention and protection, we want to educate you as best we can so that you do not fall prey to the fraudsters who continually imagine and execute online crime with devious and seemingly believable scenarios.

Fraudsters may reach you by calling, texting, or emailing. And there are thousands of ways they might hook you in. They may suggest your child or grandchild is in jail and needs bail money. They may offer you a cash prize. Or you may visit a website that looks authentic but is not, and so the “purchase” you make is really a theft.

We offer up here a handful of stories of actual incidents customers experienced in hopes that, if a fraudster reaches you, you will recognize some aspect of the crime in progress before it’s too late.

Sadly, these stories are true.

One customer who uses Norton Antivirus software in her computer received a telephone call from someone purporting to be from the software company. She was told she was entitled to a rebate and that Norton wanted to deposit the $200 into her account. The customer provided her online banking credentials—meaning, user name and password. The scammer then told her that he accidentally deposited $20,000 into her account and asked her to return $19,800. Because that scammer had access to the customer’s account, he was able to make it appear that he had made such a deposit. The customer came to the branch to withdraw the cash to return it to Norton. Staff at the branch she visited recognized the red flags of fraud and stopped the transaction. However, the scammer still has the customer’s entire account profile—and possibly other personal information that could be used to steal her identity.

Another customer applied for a loan through a bogus company after receiving a telephone call. The customer was convinced to supply his online banking credentials and other confidential information, and the scammer deposited a counterfeit $5,000 check into our customer’s account via mobile deposit. The customer was then told that the company needed $2,500 returned to activate the fraudulent loan and the customer was directed to set up a payment via online banking. The bank noticed that the transaction for this customer was unusual and was able to cancel it.

Yet another customer was told over the phone that he owed money to the IRS. The caller threatened him with arrest if he did not pay. The customer then received a text message from someone pretending to be in law enforcement, indicating an arrest was imminent. The customer came to the bank, withdrew the requested amount in cash, purchased gift cards at CVS and Target to make the payment—as directed by the scammer—and provided that gift card information to the scammer over the phone. Unfortunately, in this case, the money was not recovered.

In yet another scenario, a customer trying to change her address online paid $199 to complete a change-of-address form, thinking she was on the website for the US Post Office. The money was removed from her account by the scammers. She eventually realized the postal service does not charge for a change of address, and she contacted Florence Bank customer service. While we were not able to refund her money, we were able to find that customer a phone number to call, and the fraudulent firm issued a full refund.

These situations have become more commonplace.

“Online fraud has ramped up significantly,” says Michele Bennett, Florence Bank’s longtime security officer. “There are a myriad of versions of these stories—so many variations of scams. It all comes back to social engineering and believing a stranger contacting them through a text, email, or on the phone. These scammers are extremely skilled.”

Michele says customers need to develop a healthy dose of skepticism and consider who they might be speaking to or communicating with via text or email. She offers up some basic facts:

  • No company that is trustworthy would call you and ask for your online banking information.
  • The IRS will never call you and ask for money.
  • These days, there are no cash “prizes” given out over the phone.
  • Real law enforcement and federal agencies will never call, text, or email threats to you.
  • No one at Florence Bank will ever call you and ask for account information.

When someone you do not know and cannot see asks you for personal or financial information, take that as a warning and hang up, refuse to reply to the email, close your browser, or otherwise end the communication before it’s too late.

If someone calls and claims they are calling from any online or brick-and-mortar business and asks to remote into your laptop for any reason, hang up. Then, reassure yourself that the problem they raised was an invented one; make your own independent phone call to the business at which they claimed to work.

“Don’t take any caller’s word for it,” Michele says. “Any legitimate business is not going to ask for your login credentials or ask to access your computer or online banking profile.”

We can’t stress enough that fraud will try to find you and that you must be attuned and aware to protect yourself.

If you fear you have fallen victim to cybercrime, reach out to us immediately.

Also, look for a second post in this series on fraud so you know what to do if you are scammed. If you act quickly after you suspect you’ve been scammed, there are steps you can take—and steps we can take for you—that might allow you to recover some, or all, of your hard-earned funds.

Trust us. We’ll do our best to protect you.