Fraud prevention tips to help protect yourself

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Fraudsters target and victimize all generations. Here’s how to fight back.

Scammers are relentless when it comes to finding new ways to take advantage of people. They may claim to be contacting you on behalf of your bank, a government agency, a shipping/delivery company or any person or business with which you have a relationship.

Their methods and their messages can be very convincing. They use current trends (a need for COVID-19 testing, an increase in online shopping and home deliveries due to more time being spent at home, or a recent natural disaster) as well as better-known scams (auto warranty renewal, problems with a Social Security payment, debts owed to the IRS, health insurance renewal, or a relative stranded and needing money for transportation) and often present a sense of urgency to attempt to gain information and/or money from their targets.

The following tips could help you avoid becoming a victim of fraud:

Verify the source

Be certain that the person calling or contacting you is who they claim to be. Scammers can make calls and texts look as if they are coming from your bank or an actual business. Even a text or email that seems to have been sent by a friend may be coming from a phone number or account that has been hacked. Contact the person, bank, or business directly to confirm the legitimacy of the communication you received.

If you did not initiate the communication using what you know is a legitimate telephone number, email address or website account location, DO NOT give out any personal information including your address, birth date, social security or account numbers or PINs.

Be vigilant

On phone calls you receive:

Don’t answer a call from an unfamiliar number.

If you do answer a call from an unknown number, if prompted, do not enter a response to stop receiving calls. Hang up.

If you do answer a call, ask questions before you answer any questions. Some scammers immediately ask “Can you hear me?”  If you answer “yes” to that question, your response may be recorded and fraudulently used to claim that you approved a purchase or gave permission for something.

For texts and emails you receive:

Do not click on a link in a text or email until you are certain that the sender is legitimate. Taking a few minutes to verify the validity of a communication could mean the difference between engaging in or successfully preventing a damaging and expensive experience.

When setting up and accessing accounts:

Carefully choose a password.  Avoid the use of words or phrases that could be easily guessed from information that is accessible from your social media posts, such as your birth date, a child’s name, or a pet’s name.

For your password, use an uncommon phrase that includes a mix of letters, numbers, and special characters, for example: Iliketogive99!Presents. The longer the password, the harder it is to crack.

Enable two-step verification and voice verification, when available, for your accounts.

Protect one-time passwords (OTPs) to prevent others from using them to access your account.

Trust your instincts

If an offer sounds too good to be true, it could very likely be an attempt to defraud you.

Do not respond in haste just because you are being pressured to take an immediate action or make a decision.

Before taking action on a request, discuss it with a trusted friend or family member, which could help you to authenticate the legitimacy or deceit of the communication.

Ask for help

If you suspect or know that you have been defrauded, it may be helpful to tell a family member or friend. Victims of fraud have reported that they were fearful or embarrassed to admit they had been scammed.

Report the incident to the appropriate authorities. You could be instrumental in helping shut down a fraudulent operation and protecting others from being victimized.

Be aware

The more you know about the types of scams and the methods used, the better you can help protect yourself and your family. When you learn about scams that have been exposed, share those stories with your friends and family. It can also be helpful to review guidelines from Wells Fargo concerning how to recognize and avoid scams.

Another informative source is the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website Scam Alerts page.