Con artists scamming people out of their money certainly isn't new -- but crooks are constantly coming up with new ways to separate customers from their cash, especially in the banking arena.
Lately, we've noticed some new scams -- and a few tried-and-true methods -- cropping up in cities across the nation. To help you protect yourself and your money from these scams, take a look at the following list of five common bank scams.
Automated voice messages. While we all know not to provide our Social Security or debit card number to a person over the phone who asks for it, I admit I'd have been thrown for a loop if the following had happened to me, since an automated voice mail sounds so, well, official.
In June, in Honesdale, Penn., numerous Wayne Bank customers received a recorded phone call that said, "Your Wayne Bank debit card has been locked." The customer was then instructed to "press one" to reactive their account. Then they were asked to punch in their debit card number.
But it was all a scam. (A similar incident recently happened in Madison, Wis.) Crooks are taking advantage of the climate of fear we live in, a climate that's developed due to the increase in scams. In Brookville, Ohio., for instance, Brookville National Bank customers received automated phone calls warning them of a security breach. Oh, yikes, that sounds bad. So what should the customer do? Naturally, to reactivate their account, they should type in their account information.
It bears repeating: Never give any number, punched in or otherwise, to someone over the phone. If you get one of these automated calls, hang up, call you bank and ask your customer service representative if the calls are legit. Chances are they are not. But find out from your bank.
The user is then asked to re-sign in due to inactivity, adds Khetarpal. "The result is that a person might inadvertently give the bad guys their bank user name and password," Khetarpal explains. "All of the major browsers on Windows and Mac OS X are vulnerable to the attack."
The first incidence of tab-napping was discovered in May of this year. While it may sound familiar, it's a fairly new development in bank thievery.
Phony check internet scams. While this one isn't new, it's still going strong, according to Chris Tolley, an attorney based in Acton, Mass., who represents a lot of banks, and sees this particular scam all the time.
If someone sends you a check, and you're required to give some of that money back to the person, don't do it, no matter how convoluted and logical their reasons. Unless this is your mother sending you this check --and even then, we can't vouch for her honesty -- it's almost certainly a fake.
Tolley says these fake checks often look like the real thing, but they're attached to an even more fake bank. "Banks frequently credit their customers accounts within 24 to 48 hours, meaning the funds from the deposit of the nonexistent check are available within that time," Tolley says. "So the victim has funds in their account from the check drawn on the nonexistent bank in a short time and sends out the money order or bank check."
In other words, the fake check seems real because one or two days later, you have very real money in your account. But here's the warning: If you're supposed to send money back to the individual who sent you the check in the first place, it's almost certainly a scam. The only way to be sure it's not it to cash the check, then wait a week or so and tell your banker your suspicions, only sending money back to the person or "business" once your bank manager gives you the green light.
Paypal ATM scam. Although I can't imagine anyone falling for this -- it's been around forever and debunked hundreds of times -- I thought I'd mention it anyway. Some people are still receiving emails from the address, firstname.lastname@example.org, saying they have a package coming to them containing a new ATM card, but in order to get the package, the person must first wire $98 to Lagos-Nigeria. Sure, we'll all get right on that.
Personalized scams from your email contacts. Earlier this week, I received an email from a business owner who I barely know but whom I've traded a few emails with regarding an article I was writing. The frantic email, with the spelling errors in place. read like this:
"I'm writing this with tears in my eyes, I came down here to United Kingdom for a short vacation unfortunately i was mugged at the park of the hotel where i stayed, all cash, credit card and cell phone were stolen off me but luckily for me i still have my passports with me. I've been to the embassy and the Police here but they're not helping issues at all and my return flight leaves in few hours from now but am having problems settling the hotel bills and the hotel manager won't let me leave until i settle the bills. I'm freaked out at the moment."
The whole thing smelled fishy, so I didn't do anything, figuring that if this woman was truly in trouble, she'd manage to get help from one of the other gazillion people she had evidently emailed.
Later, I looked up the woman's Twitter account and she said she'd been hacked. So I was right. Still, because the email appeared real, I spent a good minute or two looking at it, because I recognized the woman's name and her company. While I was skeptical enough that I deleted the email -- in part because I was worried that replying or clicking on one of her links might lead to having my computer infested with malware that might wind up allowing a hacker to get my banking or other personal information -- I've read newspaper accounts of others who weren't so lucky, sent money to their "friend in need," and lost hundreds, even thousands of dollars to the scammer.
If you should ever get an email like this, don't email them back; find another way to get in touch with your friend to check out their story. Chances are, if they really need help, they'll call you or somebody close to them and not email a group of friends, asking for help.
The bottom line is, if you get an email like the one I described, be skeptical of any contact you get asking for personal information or funds. Heartless as it may sound to possibly leave your friend stranded in another country without funds, it's better to be safe than sorry, and just let them work it out.
Geoff Williams is a frequent contributor to WalletPop. He is also the co-author of the book Living Well with Bad Credit.
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