High tech thieves are out there. Fraud happens on the phone, online, in the mail, even at the ATM. Criminals are hard at work trying to hijack your identity and steal your money. Community Trust Bank helps to protect its customers with high tech tools and services that detect and help prevent fraud. But the most effective defense is knowing how to spot a scam and take countermeasures. In the fight against fraud, knowledge is power. Here's an overview of the most prevalent attacks. Some of them may have funny names, but make no mistake — they're all serious crimes.
An email that appears to be from your financial institution asks you to click a link, directing you to a web page that looks legitimate. On this web page, you're asked to verify personal information, such as your account number, password and Social Security number. The email may include an attachment, which it urges you to open. Don't bite. It's a scam to snatch your personal data. Community Trust Bank and other reputable companies never gather information this way. Report any such emails by calling your financial company directly.
Many phishing attempts cast a wide net of emails to thousands of people; spear phishing takes a more targeted approach. The crooks might direct their attack at a small group of people they know have something in common, such as the same bank, school or employer. These messages may appear to be direct and personal. But view the sense of urgency and the encouragement to take immediate action as warning signs. Think before you click that link or open the attachment.
Think of it as phishing over the phone — the "v" is for voice. Instead of sending a bogus email, the criminals call you, claiming to be from your bank or another institution you trust, such as the local court system calling about jury duty. If they ask for a password or Social Security number, think twice. Hang up and call the organization's customer service number to double-check. Similar scams send you an email or voicemail asking you to call a certain phone number, where an automated voice system gathers your information.
This variant of the phishing concept uses text messages. The name is derived from the SMS technology used for texting.
Pop-ups and Viruses
As anyone who's emailed or surfed the Internet has experienced, there's no end to the traps set up by online thieves. Pop-up ads are especially loathsome, since clicking on them could trigger your computer to download a nasty virus or spyware. The same goes for attachments or links that come in unsolicited emails or in unsolicited Facebook, Myspace, Twitter or other social networking messages. (Tip: Hover your mouse over the link to preview the website before clicking.)
Once the malicious code is on your machine, it could hijack your computer's processing resources, launch unrelenting pop-up ads or even record your keystrokes and report back to its controller. What can you do? Defend your computer with anti-virus, anti-spam, anti-spyware and pop-up blocker programs. Remember, when you're in unfamiliar territory on the Internet, trust no one.
Search Engine Attacks
These attacks leverage the power of search engines to hide malicious links in common Internet queries, such as recent news items or lyrics for a popular song. Before clicking a search result, read the summary text to make sure it’s grammatically correct and relevant and the link address is concise.
Some clever crooks attach cameras or scanning devices to ATMs in order to steal your account number and password. Don't use any machine that shows signs of tampering, and report any such suspicions to the bank or ATM operator.
Credit Card Skimming
At retail stores and restaurants, some workers have been caught recording information off customer credit cards. Keep your card in sight whenever possible, and swipe it yourself if you have that option.
Fake Online Auctions
If you've scored a deal from an unfamiliar merchant that seems too good to be true, it probably is. Shady sellers might be hawking counterfeit products, or they may never send you the item you paid for. Research how other consumers have rated the seller, and be wary of merchants who demand payment through wire transfers (instant cash).
Is that solicitor a community servant or a common thief? On your doorstep, on the phone and online, fraudsters appeal to your benevolent side, then take your money and run. Before donating to a charity you're not familiar with, always investigate it — start with the Better Business Bureau — and just say no to high-pressure pitches.
Fake Check/Overpayment Schemes
If you sell items on eBay or Craigslist, watch out. In this extremely common scam, a "buyer" contacts you and says he will pay by cashier's check. He sends a check for much more than your asking price and asks you to wire the excess money back to his "agent" or "associate." The trouble starts a few days later, when your bank rejects the cashier's check as fraudulent. If you've already wired the cash, the "excess money" and bank fees come from your pocket. Other commonly reported variations on this fraud involve foreign lotteries (Congratulations! You've won!) in which you're sent a big check and asked to wire back taxes and fees. Or "secret shopper" programs; that's when you receive a check in return for evaluating the quality of some company's money-transfer service. If you encounter an opportunity that sounds anything like these scenarios, just say no.
This con comes in many forms. You pay in advance for something, anticipating a reward of greater value. You might pay a fee to claim "found money" that supposedly belongs to you; to get in on a "can't lose" investment opportunity; or to have your "lottery winnings" delivered to you. In the end, the only one who comes out ahead is the scammer. A common form of advance-fee fraud is known as the Nigerian Letter Scam or 419 Scam, named for a section of the Nigerian criminal code. In this long-running swindle, you might receive an official-sounding letter or email that promises you a cut of millions of dollars if you'll help this person move money out of his country using your bank account. And — you guessed it — fees are required upfront.
Telephone Denial-of-Service Attacks
This relatively new and elaborate con bombards your telephone with hundreds of phone calls from an automated dialing system. When you answer, you may hear dead air or a recorded message. Meanwhile, a crook is raiding your bank account using illegally obtained information. And the bank can't call you to verify the transaction because your phone is busy.