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Financial scams are on the rise across the nation. In periods of disruption, scammers often introduce new ways to defraud you. From the start of COVID-19, we’ve seen several new scams as well as more aggressive attempts to use known forms of fraud against Americans.

Take precautions. Talk about the spike in scams and fraud with family and friends so they are alert. Contact your Heritage Banker with any questions or suspicions.

Commons Scams 

Fraudulent Unemployment Benefit Assistance

The United States Secret Service is investigating an extensive fraud scheme exploiting the COVID-19 crisis that involves the use of stolen personal identifying information, e.g. name, address, SSN, date of birth, etc., to fraudulently claim unemployment benefits that are then paid out by state governments. Fraudsters apply online with the stolen identifying information, and they direct payment of the benefits to an account using information such as account number and routing number that they received directly from the account holder through an online dating scam. After funds are deposited in the identified account, the fraudster then asks the bank customer to withdraw the funds, transfer them to other accounts via money transfer apps, purchase bitcoin and other virtual money, or purchase gift cards and other merchandise that is then shipped to the fraudster.

This fraud network is expected to result in potential losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and banks across the country have been targeted, including local banks, credit unions, and large national banks. If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, they are most likely using your account to carry out other theft and fraud schemes. Please contact us immediately if you received unexpected deposits from a state agency or if you believe this has happened to you!

Grandparent Scam

There are a few versions of the “grandparent scam”. Seniors might be contacted about a grandchild in jail who needs bail. They might hear from relatives who need money for emergency medical procedures or help returning from a foreign country. The situation is always urgent, there’s a request to transfer money, and the caller will often ask that the senior not involve other family members to avoid embarrassment (i.e. "Don't tell my mom I need help.").

When seniors panic and rush to get cash to a family member in need, they often neglect to check in with other family members or confirm the request comes from a family member. Once the wire or cash transfer is done, the money is gone. A few times, Heritage Bank employees have noticed an elderly customer was transferring a large sum of money out of state or out of the country, asked a few questions and stopped the scam in its tracks.

Stimulus Scam

Recently, the Secret Service warned banks about a COVID stimulus scam. Fraudsters, posing as U.S. Treasury officials, contact and direct potential victims to a website to register to receive a stimulus check. The websites are designed to collect victims’ personally identifiable information, bank account information, email addresses, passwords and more.

It is important to understand you do not have to do anything and pay anything to receive your stimulus check or any other government payment. The IRS will not contact you by telephone, email, text message or social media with information about your stimulus payment. The IRS will not ask you for your Social Security Number, bank account information or government benefits debit card number. Anyone who asks for this information by phone, email, text or social media is phishing for your information.

Also, the IRS will never tell you to deposit a stimulus check, then request you send them money because they overpaid you. It's called a "fake check" scam. You should contact your bank and the IRS if you are targeted by these requests.

Phishing (with a Ph) and Supply Scams

Scammers are impersonating health organizations and businesses to gather personal and financial information. Another version of this scam involves selling fake test kits, supplies, vaccines or cures for COVID-19.

  • Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.
  • Scammers posing as national and global health authorities, including the World Health Organization (WHO) and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), are sending phishing emails designed to trick recipients into downloading malware or providing personal identifying and financial information.

Charity Scams 

There is a lot of need in our communities and nonprofits are struggling. Scammers are very clever at setting up illegitimate or non-existent organizations intended to be confused with a legitimate organization. Verify the organization's legitimacy before donating.

Malware

Do some research before downloading new apps – some deliver malware to a computer, tablet or phone. Another tactic is to create sensationalized news headlines that lead to false stories. When you click on the story, you’re unleashing malware.

Fake Health Care Providers

Scammers impersonate doctors and hospital staff and claim to have treated a relative or friend for COVID-19. They contact targets and demand payment for treatment.

Bank/FDIC Impersonators 

Scammers are impersonating FDIC or bank employees, falsely claiming banks are limiting access to deposits or that there are security issues with bank deposits.

Investment Scams 

Maybe you’ve received some email styled as “research reports,” where fraudsters claim that products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect or cure COVID-19. These emails are false and should be deleted.

Money Mule

If someone sends you money and asks you to send it to someone else, STOP. You could be what some people call a "money mule" — someone scammers use to transfer and launder stolen money. Scammers often ask you to buy gift cards or wire money. They might recruit you through online job ads, prize offers, or dating websites.

Learn More.  

Online Dating Fraud

If someone you’ve recently met through an online dating site asks for money, beware. You’re likely a target for a type of fraud on the rise.

Learn More. 

Everyday Steps To Take To Prevent Fraud

Don’t Overshare.

Don’t provide your Social Security Number or bank account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. We would not reach out by phone or email and ask for your account number. We already have that information.

Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone. Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords. Avoid using names of your kids, grandchildren or pets. Change them periodically. Also, do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.

Shred Sensitive Papers.

Shred receipts, banks statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away. Fraudsters will go through your trash to find clues to your personal information.

Keep An Eye Out For Missing Mail.

Fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. We’ve seen a surge in online banking and use of mobile banking apps. Not only are these tools great ways to bank remotely, they are also secure.

Also, don’t mail bills from your own mailbox with the flag up. If you have a neighbor who still does that, you might clue them in – they are potentially signaling to fraudsters that they have mail to steal. Put the flag down or better yet, drop your mail in a secure post office box or pay your bills online. Ask us how to get started with Online Banking and BillPay.

Go Digital.

Use online or mobile banking to regularly monitor your financial accounts for fraudulent transactions. Ask your bank about ways to monitor debit card purchases to track online purchases or transactions over a certain amount or purchases made outside of our region.

Monitor Your Credit Report.

Order a free copy of your credit report from one of the three credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. You are eligible for free weekly online credit reports until April 2021. Monitoring your credit report is so important, especially during the COVID-19 crisis.

Protect Your Computer.

Make sure the virus protection software on your computer is active and up to date. When conducting business online, make sure your browser’s padlock or key icon is active. Also look for an “s” after the “http” to be sure the website is secure.

Protect your mobile device.

Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it. You can buy software to wipe your phone or ask the manufacturer for recommendations. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen. Also, avoid opening links and attachments in your emails or texts if you don’t recognize the sender.