Though our Guest Blogger, Nicole Yarbrough is not an authorized media representative of her bank she holds a wealth of information that we all can gain much benefit.
Not every scam to take your money or identity is an email from a prince in Nigeria. Sometimes it’s passive, like a skimmer attached to a debit card slot in a public place. Other times, it’s a phishing email or message on social media from a familiar source with a hyperlink to click or attachment to open. Fraudulent calls from alleged vendors ranging from BigName computer company to PopularShoppingSite customer service may not always strike you as strange. Cyber security and general awareness are important, even as our chaotic schedules keep us distracted. Those few seconds can cause hours, weeks, months, or even years of damage as fraud and identity theft. But what methods are typically used? Who tends to be most vulnerable? What are some ways to protect yourself?
Methods vary, and some are strictly online, while others are done through social engineering. We have seen a rise in wire fraud, committed usually via email. Thankfully, most banks have procedures in place to verify the request and identity of the authorized signer who made it. But I have personally caught an email imitating a known client, right down to the email address and digital signature. Other times, it can be an email posing as an invoice from a vendor or delivery service. Or a message with ransomware, where someone embeds a message with malware designed to seize your computer and lock away files unless you wire funds to an account within the time limit – even a few tech-savvy customers of mine have fallen for this one, because the tactic was executed just so.
Unfortunately, social engineering phone calls are also a prevalent method. Some thieves pose as the IRS and call you to inform you that you have two weeks to send guaranteed funds or you will be arrested. Others may try to pose as a family member, distant relative, friend, or someone vaguely familiar with a “sudden emergency” or time sensitive scenario. People with extremely busy lifestyles and information listed publicly are favorite targets. Senior citizens, specifically the elderly, are also often targeted with this type of scam that emphasizes urgency, and plays off the natural inclination to want to help a loved one. Another popular tactic is a “just returning your call” message, which often confuses the victim, leading them to believe they had forgotten about a previous correspondence. So please be extra vigilant for your elder relatives’ sake.
As scary as all this may seem, there are ways to protect yourself to minimize the risk. First, as they say, knowledge is power. If you receive a message where you are not 100% certain about the originator, always verify with previously known and established information, or by going to the official website via a new browser window. Second, do not provide sensitive information. Most of the time, an authentic source already has the ability to look up that information from their own database. Third, stay informed by checking with resources for new methods and tactics that scammers may be using, as it changes every day. Not only is it good to check in with professionals who may deal with data on a regular basis, but checking government sites like the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), www.IC3.gov, will help you stay informed.
The internet is a wonderful asset, but remember that it is like an open door connected to the world: Not everyone who tries to enter is invited, and some are just watching to get information. So be mindful of what information you post on social media, what websites you visit, and keep your security software and operating system up to date. And speaking from personal experience, I strongly recommend having your data backed up routinely – and having two different back-up sources. A few minutes of being proactive in your protection is a worthwhile investment to prevent the loss of funds, identity, and time later down the road.