Published January 23, 2020
While some major debit and credit card companies put limits on customer liability for fraudulent transactions, you can never be too safe. There may be some situations in which you would be held accountable for the full amount of fraudulent transactions. That’s why it’s important to know about some common scams and how to protect yourself from falling into them.
There’s a reason checks are going out of style – scammers have learned how to use them to trick you into giving them money! Fraudulent checks can come from all sorts of places. They are sent or given as payment for material goods and services such as used furniture or an electrical repair to a home. They can come from strangers claiming to be employers. They may come in the mail with notification of an award or prize you have ‘won’ or can ‘claim’.
The best practice you can implement regarding checks is to only accept them from people you know and trust. When it comes to strangers and acquaintances, only take cash for your unwanted things and your practical hobbies or self-employment. Keep in mind, you cannot win an award or prize in a contest you didn’t enter, and legitimate businesses and contests won’t ask you to send some of your prize money or paycheck back to them. If you receive a check in the mail that you weren’t expecting, it is most likely a scam. An internet search may show a clear history of similar scams perhaps even attempted by the same ‘company’ or person. If all seems well, bring it to a bank and ask them to help you determine the validity of it before you deposit or cash it.
Emails and Calls
When a legitimate representative of a financial institutions calls or emails you, they will never ask you to provide personally identifying information or send you to third-party online sites. Email and phone calls are often used to scam people because they offer anonymity and convenience to criminals. Before you provide a caller with sensitive information or click on any emailed links, check the validity.
One of the best ways to validate a caller or email sender’s origin and intentions is to call a number you KNOW is associated with the company and ask them about it. If they can’t confirm that someone from the company sent that email or called you that day regarding your account, block the scammers number or email address. If you don’t know the company and you can’t find any information about it on the internet, it’s probably made-up in an attempt to scam you. Remember, just because someone has information about you, even private information, doesn’t mean they are who they say they are.
This method of scamming may be old-fashioned, but it still exists. Dozens of different types of scams can be attempted through direct mail. Loan and credit card offers are probably the most common scam letters though. Even if a letter with some sort of offer or prize is convincing, you should do some research before you take any actions such as submitting applications, calling listed contact numbers or going to the companies listed website.
The first step to analyzing a letter that you suspect is a scam is to look the business up online. Victims of scams will often warn others on the internet. If the business isn’t associated with scams, the next step is to compare the information you find online to the information in the letter. Are the phone numbers the same? The location? Is the sender a real employee of the company? Correct contact information on the letter doesn’t automatically mean it is legitimate but having incorrect information is a sure sign the letter is a fraud. Call the business customer service line listed online by multiple sources and verify that the letter you received was actually sent by them and not an impostor.
The Fake Good Cause
There are thousands of genuine charities in the world today but there are also some fake ones. Most charities will not call or email you to ask for donations unless you have explicitly provided them with your phone number or email address by signing up for news or updates from the company. If you haven’t done this but you receive a call or email from a charity that you wish to donate to, don’t hand over your information! Even if you have signed up for something like this, donating online is a more secure way to ensure your money is going where you think it is.
Ensure the company is legitimate by finding the website and/or social pages associated with the charity. Ask other people if they have heard of or interacted with a company before. The vast majority of companies will allow people to donate online. Being small or new is not an excuse for not having a website or social pages.
In general, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Centennial Bank, Member FDIC.