It’s an unfortunate reality that financial scams are growing in numbers, participants, and creativity as time goes on. According to the FBI’s 2021 Internet Crime Report, more than 847,376 internet scam complaints were filed, and Americans lost $6.9 billion to internet scams alone. First Orion reports that in 2021, 88 million people were victims of phone scams, and $44.2 billion were lost due to phone scams.
While these numbers are alarming, there are effective ways to identify a potential scam and keep yourself safe from loss.
Here are some commonly seen scams and how to thwart them:
Phone Scams, including calls and text messages
In these scenarios, scammers most often use fear to get their victims to cooperate. They will often highlight sensitive issues, such as car issues (specifically vehicle warranties), debt repayment, tax scams, and will even pose as government agencies (specifically the IRS or Social Security Administration). Scammers also employ “get rich quick” schemes, including debt relief, sweepstakes winnings, or other “free” offers.
When it comes to text messages, scammers almost always send texts with urgent messaging, and a link for you to visit or phone number for you to call. At this point, they may ask for private information, such as your social security number or bank account information. Many will even pose as your financial institution, warning you that your bank account will close if you do not take action.
When considering these scenarios, it is vital to remember a few things:
- Legitimate government and financial institutions will never call or text asking that you provide sensitive, private information (Nusenda included)! Legitimate institutions have thorough protocols in place to safely verify the identities of their members.
- If you are ever suspicious of a phone call, hang up and call the institution itself to verify if they actually need information from you (spoiler alert: they most likely do not).
When looking at text messages, keep these things in mind:
- Assess the phone number. If it’s unusually long (11 digits or more), it is most likely a scam.
- If you receive texts stating that an account of yours (email, bank, etc.) has been compromised and deactivated, safely check these accounts on secure devices and see if that’s actually true (spoiler alert: it most likely is not)!
Internet/Cyber scams, specifically email phishing
Unfortunately, phishing scams are becoming more and more advanced. Email phishing scams can look very similar to text message scams, as they both employ urgent messaging and appeal to sensitive issues. It’s becoming more and more common that email scammers will pose as someone you know (an employer, relative, close friend, etc.) and deceive you into thinking one of your loved ones is in trouble and needs money fast. They may prompt you to click a link in the email, or ask you to wire money through another platform.
If you run into these scenarios, it is crucial that you keep the following in mind:
- Always make sure the mentioned person or loved one actually needs your help. Make every effort to contact them before wiring money.
- Do not click on any links provided in the email (same goes for text messages)!
- Pay attention to the sender’s email, and if it contains misspelled words, strange numbers or symbols, then do not respond or engage with them.
- Also pay attention to the time it was sent; scammers live in various parts of the world, and often send these emails at odd hours.
- When wiring funds, always be sure to use trusted and secure money transfer services. If you are ever suspicious of a money transfer platform or website, Scam Detector has a website validator that can verify legitimacy.
P2P (peer-to-peer) payment scams
Speaking of wiring money- P2P scams are happening more and more frequently as many consumers do the majority of their shopping online. These scenarios involve a scammer posing as an online seller, asking that you pay for a product (concert tickets, electronic devices, video games, etc.) through a P2P platform (the most commonly used are Apple Pay, Venmo, PayPal, and Facebook Pay). If you do not have the seller’s preferred platform, they will typically insist that it’s a safe, convenient way to pay for goods. Once you download the platform, enter the transaction amount, and send it to the seller’s username, the seller disappears.
An unfortunate reality of wiring funds and using P2P platforms is that it’s very similar to giving away cash- once it’s given, it’s usually impossible to retrieve. If you are ever suspicious about whether or not you are encountering a P2P scammer, keep these things in mind:
- Only send money to people you know. P2P platforms were created to enable relatives and friends to exchange money easily; they should NOT be used in transactions with strangers.
- Stay away from “red-flag” sellers. If they are insistent on using P2P platforms and use urgent language (i.e. “act now- these will run out fast”), then you should steer clear and purchase products on legitimate ecommerce sites.
One-time passcode scams
Multi-factor authentication was created to help circumvent phishing attacks, as it involves a one-time passcode being sent to the legitimate user’s smartphone (or another trusted device). This typically thwarts potential attacks because even if the scammer has the user’s passwords and credentials, they still cannot access accounts without this code.
However, scammers are working around this through two specific tactics:
- SIM swapping, where they contact your wireless provider, convince them that it’s you calling since they have your credentials, and request to swap out the SIM (the technology that associates a phone number with a physical phone). They then associate that SIM with a burner phone that receives the one-time passcodes.
- Texted authentication codes, where a scammer will send a text message asking if you paid a large sum of money to a specific place or cause. The text may request that you either reply with a certain letter or number if the charge is accurate, or that you reply with the code they will text you if it’s not accurate. At this point, the scammer will log into your bank account with your stolen credentials, causing your actual bank to send a one-time code to you. Once you text them this code, they have access to your account.
While these scams are sophisticated, here are a couple of points to keep in mind that can help safeguard you against loss:
- Verify EVERYTHING! If you receive a text about a charge, call your financial institution and verify if they actually need anything from you (spoiler alert- they most likely do not)!
- Do not ever give one-time passcodes to anyone. Please remember: Nusenda Credit Union, and all other legitimate financial institutions, will NEVER contact members requesting their financial information such as card or online banking credentials.
If at any point you are worried that your personal information has been compromised or if you are a victim of a financial scam, Nusenda Credit Union is here to help! Contact us immediately at 505-889-7755 (800-347-2838 outside the Albuquerque area) or visit any of our branch locations.
At Nusenda Credit Union, we’re dedicated to improving our members’ financial well-being and supporting them through affordable products, friendly service, community involvement, and financial education. We'd love to find other ways to help you save money. Stop by a branch or make an appointment to meet with us today.