5 Ways to Protect Yourself From Scams and Fraud
October 7, 2021
From data breaches and phishing schemes to credit card fraud and identity theft, it seems more difficult than ever to stay protected from scams. In honor of National Cybersecurity Awareness month, we’re sharing important tips you can use to keep yourself (and your information) safe on the web—as well as in person.
1. Recognize common types of scams and schemes
Many common scams have recognizable red flags which are important to learn how to identify so you can proactively protect yourself.
According to the FTC, reports of identity theft skyrocketed to nearly 1.4 million in 2020. With identity theft cases on the rise, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant. If you notice any of the following, you may be a victim of identity theft.
- Unauthorized withdrawals are made from your bank account
- You begin receiving calls about debt collection for accounts you’re not familiar with
- More than one tax return is filed in your name
- You notice new or unfamiliar accounts listed on your credit report
If you suspect that your identity has been stolen, follow the recovery steps outlined by the FTC. These include contacting your bank, credit card issuer, or other company where the fraud occurred, as well as placing a free fraud alert with one of the three major credit bureaus. You may also opt to file a police report.
Phishing is a common tactic for stealing money and identities. It involves the use of email, text, or fraudulent websites to fool you into providing personal information or sending money. Messaging typically used in these types of tactics include:
- Misspellings and incorrect grammar or punctuation
- Demand of your personal information or threatening to close your account
- Referencing purchases you didn’t make (for example, a tracking number for a package you didn’t order)
- Misspelling of a company name
- Suspicious looking URLs (hover your cursor over the hyperlink to view the URL without clicking on it)
If you believe you’ve received a phishing email or text, delete it without clicking on any links it contains. You can also report the email as a phishing attempt to help your email service block similar efforts in the future.
Telemarketing and robocall scams
Many Americans fall prey to phone scams every year. Whether posing as a telemarketer, a robocall, or impersonating someone you trust, a phone scammer may attempt to get your personal information through any of the following:
- Impersonating government agencies
- Impersonating charities and disaster relief organizations
- Impersonating your friends or loved ones
- Telling you that you won a prize that you must pay a fee to receive
- Offering you a free trial of a product but demanding your payment info
- Telling you there’s a problem with your computer that you must pay to fix
- Urging you to update your vehicle’s extended warranty, even if you don’t have one
Below, we will address ways to protect yourself from scam callers by blocking them before they ever have a chance to reach you.
Tax/ IRS scams
These scams can take many forms, but ultimately consist of a scammer impersonating the US Government and/or the IRS in order to steal your personal information. In order to avoid these scams, remember that the IRS generally only initiates contact by mail. They will not call you, email you, or show up at your home or place of business unless it’s a special circumstance such as a criminal investigation, an audit, or an overdue tax bill. And by that point, you would have received several notices by mail alerting you to the escalating situation.
The bottom line is, if someone calls you claiming to be from the IRS, they probably aren’t. The IRS will also never demand payment over the phone or through specific payment methods like gift cards or wire transfer. You can also report IRS impersonation scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration.
2. Block unwanted calls and texts
Whether through your cell phone, your wireless carrier, or a third party app, you can block unwanted calls and texts so that when scammers come calling, they won’t be able to reach you.
Blocking spam calls through your phone
If you have an iPhone with iOS13 or later, you can block all phone calls from numbers that aren’t in your contacts with a feature called “Silence Unknown Callers.” To access it, go to Settings > Phone > Silence Unknown Callers.
If you have an Android phone, you can block unknown callers through the Phone app. Tap the three dot icon in the app and open Settings > Blocked Numbers > and turn on Unknown.
Blocking spam calls through your wireless provider
Many of the major wireless carriers offer spam protection and call blocking services to their subscribers. These include:
- AT&T Call Protect
- Verizon Call Filter
- T-Mobile ScamShield
Each offers a free tier as well as a paid option for advanced features such as enhanced caller ID and reverse number lookup.
Blocking spam calls through third party apps
There are endless apps that claim to block spam calls and text messages, but some are more reputable than others. Make sure and read reviews before you download an app. Some safe and well-reviewed options include TrueCaller, RoboKiller, and Nomorobo.
3. Keep an eye on your bank and credit card accounts
We recommend you check your bank and credit card accounts often to ensure no fraudulent charges or account changes occur. You can also set alerts in most banking and credit card apps to send you texts, notifications, or emails when new charges post. That way, you can stay on top of everything that’s going on with your account, so you won’t get caught off guard with a whole host of problems on your monthly statement later.
Kasasa Protect® from Bank 34
At Bank 34, we want to make it easy for our customers to stay protected from fraud, identity theft, and data breaches. That’s why we offer checking account identity fraud protection through Kasasa Protect. With this service you can rest easy knowing that your account and your personal information are safe from threats. Kasasa Protect includes:
- 24/7 credit monitoring
- Annual credit reports
- Monthly credit score tracker
- Dark web monitoring
- Lost wallet protection
- Full service identity restoration
You can contact your nearest Bank 34 branch and find out how you can get started with Kasasa Protect and our full suite of banking solutions.
4. Obtain your annual credit report
Federal law allows you to obtain a free yearly copy of your credit report from all three of the credit bureaus: TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the three credit bureaus are offering free weekly reports from now until April 2022. The only way to obtain these free reports, as authorized by federal law, is through AnnualCreditReport.com. This is the best way to stay on top of your credit report and ensure no fraudulent accounts have been opened in your name.
5. Shred personal information
You may not think twice about throwing away a utility bill, credit card statement, or insurance document, but doing so could put you at risk of identity theft. Thieves and scammers aren’t above digging through the garbage in search of personally identifiable information, and once your trash leaves your home you have no control over where it ends up. To keep your information safe, it’s a good idea to shred documents that contain information like your account number, birth date, password, signature, and social security number. These can include:
- Utility bills
- Sales receipts
- Bank and credit card statements
- Medical bills or medical records
- Voided checks
- Pay stubs
- Tax forms
- Insurance information
- ATM receipts
Whenever possible, choosing e-billing or paperless billing options can cut down on the amount of documents you would need to shred in the first place.
Bank 34: Helping you bank safely
From ID theft protection included in our Low Rate Personal Card to 24/7 monitoring services available through Kasasa Protect, we’re committed to helping our customers bank safely. Call or visit your local Bank 34 branch to learn more about our banking solutions.