Fraud and Scam Prevention
Tips for Protecting Your Identity and Accounts
Although the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, one in four Americans has experienced cybercrime. According to the American Bankers Association, the following tips can help to keep you safe online:
Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
Establish passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade
Commission (FTC) — and to the company, bank,
or organization that was impersonated in the
Recognize and avoid bogus website links.
Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download
malware onto devices and/or/ route users to
bogus websites. Hover over suspicious links to
view the actual URL that you are being routed to.
Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple
changes in the URL. For example:
www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com
Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)
Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
Quick Links for Fraud and Reporting Scams
QUICK LINKS: links to various federal/state reporting and information will be here.
Currently Known Active Scams
Below is a list of current scams that have been identified by the Woodlands National Bank fraud team and the Minnesota Office of the Attorney General. The best course of action to avoid getting scammed is to simply hang up the phone or delete the email. Click on a topic to learn more!
COVID-19 Scam Grandkid Scam IRS Scam Jury Duty Scam "You've Won!" Scam
Fake Check Scam Computer Repair Scam Inheritance Scam Romance Scam Fake Charity Scam
Medicare Scam Home Repair Scam Credit/Debit Card Scam Social Security Scam
COVID-19 Scam: Federal Trade Commission | Minnesota Office of the Attorney General
Grandkid Scam: You receive a call from an unknown person, usually pretending to
be a law enforcement official or an attorney, telling you that your grandchild or other
family member or friend has been arrested or otherwise detained by law
enforcement and you are asked to purchase Green Dot cards, iTunes cards, or some
other form of payment card and then read the numbers on the card to the caller.
This is the only way you can assure that your loved one will be represented and
released from law enforcement. This is always a scam – law enforcement and courts
do not demand or accept payment via Green Dot, iTunes, or other prepaid cards. Hang up!
IRS Scam: You receive a phone call from someone pretending to be from the IRS telling you that you owe back taxes and if you don’t immediately go purchase Green Dot cards or iTunes cards someone will come to arrest you. The IRS will never phone you and demand immediate payment over the phone nor do they accept payment via Green Dot, iTunes, MoneyGram cards. Hang up! If they contact you by email, never click on a link in the email. That link could install malicious software on your computer that will allow the perpetrator of the scam to gain access to everything on your computer. If you do owe Federal taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040 and they will help you with a payment plan. If you do not owe taxes, go to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration website and fill out the “IRS Impersonation Scam” form OR call TIGTA at 1-800-366-4484. You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. Add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.
Jury Duty Scam: You receive a phone call from someone allegedly from the court system telling you that you missed a call for jury duty and that the Sheriff or a police officer will come and arrest you if you don’t purchase one or more of the prepaid cards and read them the numbers. Hang up!
“You’ve Won” Scam: You receive a phone call telling you that you’ve won a lottery or a prize. The only thing you must do is purchase Green Dot, iTunes, or other cards and read the numbers to the caller to collect your prize. They will allege that this is required to cover taxes, fees, etc. before they can deliver your prize. They will continue to call you asking for more and more money each time for a different fee or tax. You will never see your “prize”. Hang up!
Fake Check Scam: You receive a call telling you that you will receive a check
in the mail or perhaps a check just arrives with no warning. When the check
arrives, you are instructed to call the sender. He/she will tell you to deposit
the entire check (which is for more than you were told it would be) and then
purchase Green Dot or iTunes cards for the difference and read the numbers
back to the caller. Or they may ask you to send a check for the difference to
them. You can keep the rest of the money. The only problem is that the check is
no good and your bank may not discover this until several days or weeks have
passed. You are responsible to cover the check that you deposited.
Computer Repair Scam: You receive a call from someone pretending to be from Microsoft or some other computer company telling you that your computer is having problems and that they can fix it remotely. All you must do is give them your credit card number and then permission to access your computer. They will either do nothing to help your computer or they will install software that gives them access to everything on your computer. This will allow them to drain your bank accounts and incur charges on all your credit cards. They can even lock your computer so you cannot access it until you pay a ransom. Hang up!
Inheritance Scam: Someone, usually claiming to be an attorney or a banker, calls you and tells you that you are the beneficiary of a large sum of money from a distant relative. They may provide you with a fake bank statement, birth certificate, or other documents attempting to convince you that this person was a relative (that you may never have heard of). Generally, the person who allegedly left the money to you resided out of the United States, thus a foreign government is involved. The money that they request is allegedly for fees and/or taxes that are required to be paid to a foreign government before the funds can be released to you. You should not be required to pay any taxes and fees – if this is legitimate and there are fees, they would come out of the property that you inherited – not out of your pocket. Hang up!
Romance Scam: The scammer will “meet” his/her victim through a common dating
site or chat room online and start a long-distance relationship with the victim. Many
times, the scammer will admit that they live somewhere out of the United States or in
a distant state. After a period of communication electronically, the scammer tells
the victim how much they care for them and how they want to move to be with
the victim. Once they feel that the victim cares for them, the scammer will start to
ask for small sums of money for various reasons. Finally, the scammer will allegedly
want to move to be with the victim (and possibly even talk about marriage).
However, the scammer will need money in order to relocate to be with the victim. There may be several reasons why the scammer can’t move immediately, and more and more money will be requested. Obviously, there was never an intention on the part of the scammer to move nor does he/she care about the victim. All money will be lost.
Fake Charity Scam: You receive a call from someone alleging to be from a charity that you may or may not be familiar with. They always pop up after a tragedy. They are insistent that you contribute to their worthy cause and you need to do it now by using a credit card. Once they have your credit card number they can charge it to the limit. Never feel pressure to donate to a charity on the spot. Request they send you literature about the charity and then take your time to decide if you wish to donate and how much you wish to donate. Or simply hang up!
Medicare Scam: You receiver a call allegedly from Medicare telling you that they need your number to issue you a new card or some other reason. Once they have your Medicare number they can begin filing fraudulent medical charges against your number defrauding the Medicare system. Never give that number out over the telephone unless you placed the call to a doctor’s office. Hang up!
Home Repair Scam: You get a knock at your door and find someone who wants to check your roof for damage or trim your trees or do some other labor on your property. Sometimes they show up in pairs. While one talks to you about what they allege needs to be done – they take you out into your yard to see how badly your trees need to be trimmed – the other one will do a quick search of your home trying to locate your checkbook, credit cards, jewelry, etc. Do not allow them into your home. Do not allow them to do any work on your property without first checking the company out. Don’t fall for the “this offer is good only for today” line. Investigate the quality of work and make sure whoever you hire is licensed and insured before you allow them to do any work on your property. If you check them out and decide to let them proceed to do the work, make sure you get everything in writing and never pay them up front for the work – you may never see them or your money again.
Credit/Debit Card Fraud Scam: One of the newest scams. You receive a call from a 1-800 number that matches the 1-800 number on the back of your credit/debit card (scammers can manipulate the phone number to look like any
number they choose). You are told that the caller is from the fraud department
of your credit/debit card company and that your card has just been used in
another state and asks you whether you are on vacation. The fake agent offers
to cancel your card and set you up with a replacement credit/debit card. Then
the fake agent starts going through the information needed to set up this
replacement card. STOP! This may sound completely believable; however, you
should decline to give any information to them. Tell the person that you will call
them back and deal with the situation and hang up. Then call the number on the
back of your credit/debit card and ask to speak with the fraud department. If there is truly a problem, they will help you resolve it. If this is a scam they will tell you that everything is OK with your credit/debit card account.
Social Security Scam: The Social Security Administration (SSA) has issued a warning about a current scam that is spreading rapidly. The caller ID on your phone will display 1-800-772-1213 which is the SSA’s national service number (the caller ID has been changed through a trick called Caller ID Spoofing). The scammer on the line may tell you that the SSA doesn’t have all your information (such as your Social Security Number) on file. They may tell you that they need additional information to increase your monthly benefit or that they will terminate your benefit if you don’t provide answers to their questions. The SSA does not call citizens for customer service purposes. This is a scam! Hang up and report it to Inspector General at 1-800-269-0271 OR on their website.
Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Payment Scams:
Although anyone can become a victim, the elderly are especially vulnerable to scams. If you believe that you or your parent have fallen victim to a scam, report it to your local police department. Caregivers, those holding powers of attorney, family, and friends can potentially exploit the elderly. Keep track of bank statements and financial documents, review them regularly, and report any discrepancies to your bank or credit card company immediately. If money has disappeared from your account, file a report with your local police department.