This scam may target you next

How to help protect yourself from increasingly sophisticated tactics.

Article published: April 03, 2024

 

In this article:

  • Scams are using the latest technologies and are becoming harder to spot.
  • Bank-imposter fraud is a favorite of scam artists.
  • If you receive an email, text or phone call claiming to be from your bank, do not engage, provide any personal information or click links.
  • Contact your bank using a trusted number, portal or even go to a local branch if you need to confirm the request.

 


Think falling prey to bank scams is only for the gullible? Scam artists are using cutting-edge technology, including artificial intelligence, that makes bank scams increasingly difficult to discern. Bank-imposter fraud – personal information or money-related requests that appear to be coming from your bank – has become particularly pernicious.

Even savvy celebrities are not immune. Andy Cohen, the well-connected talk show host and executive producer of the Real Housewives franchise, is among the latest victims of bank-imposter fraud. Imposter scams are booming and represent the biggest fraud category, according to the Federal Trade Commission, with reported losses of $2.7 billion in 2023.

We’ll tell you what happened to Cohen and then we’ll give you tips to help protect yourself.

 

A scam in action

Cohen had lost his debit card and soon received an email that so convincingly looked like it came from his bank that he clicked the link provided and gave enough information that provided scammers access to his accounts. The scammers were then able to call him. Reading transactions from his accounts, they convinced him they were from his bank and, ultimately, Cohen provided them enough information for it to appear that he authorized wire transfers.

 

Due to data breaches, bank-imposter fraud may also use personal identifying information that can make the scam even more difficult to spot.

 

For example, a fraudster could contact you with knowledge of your account username, password and even Social Security number. Keep in mind that criminals use similar tactics when claiming to be from the government or any well-known institution, not just banks.

There are also reports of criminals having access to voices of people’s loved ones. Using artificial intelligence, they can trick people into thinking their loved ones are calling them needing money.

 

Tips to stop a scam

While the scam artists have become more sophisticated, the good news is that there are steps you take to protect yourself. Let’s look at the bank-imposter fraud that ensnarled Andy Cohen. Scams take advantage of emergencies – in this case a lost debit card – or create fake emergencies, like a loved one needing help or a fake fraud alert for your account. Experts say fraudsters are counting on people acting on their emotions and wanting to resolve the emergency quickly by clicking a link and/or providing the information requested.

Use these tips when being contacted by your bank asking for information:

  • Take a breath, keep calm and be skeptical. Why would your bank be asking you for personal information? It is highly unlikely that they actually are.
  • Don’t provide any information when you’re contacted by phone, email or text, even if the number, email or text appears to be from your bank.
  • Don’t click links if the request comes by email or text.
  • Call your bank, go to the bank’s trusted portal or even visit the local branch to confirm the request.
  • Sometimes looking at the email or text can provide red flags as the address or number listed may not be from the bank.
  • If you think your financial accounts, email, social media or any other online accounts have been compromised by fraudsters or could be subject to hacking because someone is impersonating you, change the passwords of these accounts.
  • If a loved one calls asking for money, call them back to confirm the request.

One theme here is that institutions and those you know are not in the habit of contacting you and asking for personal information, especially in instances of fraud. Contact them to confirm what they need and make sure to use the trusted email or phone number.

The lesson here is not to be paranoid but to be vigilant and cautious. If you have questions about bank fraud or other scams, talk with your financial planner about more ways you may be able to protect yourself.

 

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