As we welcome in the holiday season, scammers are working overtime. After all, more shopping for gifts, more deliveries and more donating at this time of year means more opportunities for fraudsters to take advantage of you. The good news is that some simple steps can keep you and your hard-earned money safe.
What’s new: Changing tactics
From a text about a problem with a package delivery to an email suggesting your computer was compromised while you shopped online, the holidays offer scammers numerous opportunities to contact you with seemingly legitimate requests.
While seniors are particularly at risk, younger people are not immune, and fraudsters are tailoring their approach to the person on the other end of the phone, email, or text message.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) notes that older adults reported losing more than $1.6 billion to fraud in 2022, though the actual figure is likely much higher as most fraud goes unreported.
One of the most important things I want to convey is that fraud tactics are always evolving. While fraudulent phone calls and emails have been the predominant form of contact method for fraudsters, communication by text and social media has quickly caught up.
In fact, the most frequently reported fraud loss in the first half of 2023 was from people who tried to buy something marketed on social media, totaling 44 percent of all social media fraud loss reports, according to the FTC. One in four people who reported losing money to fraud in the last two years said the scam began on social media.
The constant: Red flags
To help you identify potential scams, here are some common red flags to watch out for:
- Urgent demands for immediate action. Be on alert for urgency or coercion, for example, that you need to send money quickly or risk more serious consequences.
- Secrecy. Watch for someone advising you not to tell anyone – including your bank – about why you need to send cash.
- Suspicious website URLs or email addresses. Be wary of contact that you didn’t initiate. For example, if you shop on Amazon, be cautious about messages sent about a purchase that comes from an unusual source, even if it looks authentic. Poor grammar and spelling in these communications is another red flag.
- Requests for payment in unusual or untraceable forms. Avoid sending money in a manner different from usual – such as gift cards, cryptocurrency, or money transfers. These forms of payment often can’t be recouped through usual channels and should raise concerns about a potential scam.
- Unsolicited requests for personal or financial information. Watch for attempts to get additional personal information from you, like phone numbers, email addresses, bank account numbers, or passwords.
Solutions to keeping your money safe
My best advice for avoiding falling victim to fraud is to pause before taking any action and ask yourself, “Was I expecting this?” and “Does it make sense?” Taking a moment to think about what is being asked of you will give you a chance to identify a potential red flag and avoid being scammed.
A good partnership with your bank can also be instrumental in avoiding fraud. Banks are on constant alert for new scams being introduced, and as a community bank, one of our key strengths is that we know our customers. If you attempt to withdraw an amount of cash that is unusual for you or send a large wire transfer to a new recipient, we may ask a few questions to help ensure you’re not falling victim to fraud. You can also contact your bank proactively to ask about a suspected scam or for general help keeping your money safe. After all, while you may not know the person on the other end of the questionable text, email, or phone call, you do know your banker.
Randy Fredlund is the Chief Compliance & Security Officer at Peoples Bank. To learn more about how to avoid becoming a victim of fraud, please review Peoples Bank’s fraud prevention resources.