Unfortunately, scammers and fraudsters take advantage of people when the majority of people are at their most vulnerable. Crisis and financial hardship are two of the most ideal times for fraudsters to attack, because they know the average citizen is just trying to figure out how to make a bad situation better.
Be alert! Here are common crisis scams you need to watch out for:
Charity Scams: Fraudsters ask you for donations for organizations and causes that are really illegitimate or don’t actually exist.
Provider Scams: Scammers contact you acting like a doctor or hospital staff. They tell you a loved one has been treated for a recent sickness and you owe them payment.
Bank/FDIC Scams: Scammers reach out and say they work for the FDIC or your bank. They inform you that banks are starting to limit access to your deposits or that there are security issues with your bank deposits. Their end goal is to retrieve your personal banking information.
Phishing and Supply Scams: You are contacted by a health organization or business claiming they have access to important medical testing kits, supplies, vaccines, or even medical cures. What they want is for you to provide valuable personal information, like credit card numbers, banking accounts, medical information, or other personal information.
Stimulus Check or Economic Relief Scams: When the government provides stimulus checks or unemployment funding scammers will contact you posing as a government employee or the IRS. You will be told the only way to receive your money is by being assessed a fee or by providing your private banking information. In reality, the IRS should already have your direct deposit information or address to send a check based on your past tax returns.
Online Malware: You go online to browse and research a current crisis or event. While doing so you click on a website that seems legitimate, but in reality it places malware on your computer that allows fraudsters to take over your computer and steal your private information.
Investment Scams: Often styled as “research reports,” investment scams involve someone claiming products or services of publicly traded companies can prevent, detect, or cure deadly diseases. They want you to make an investment in their company so they can help fight the disease, when really they will just walk away with your money.
10 Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim
- Remember, the safest place for your money is in the bank. You get the comfort of knowing your funds are secure and insured by the government when you deposit your money at a bank. Having your money outside the banking system, like physical cash or outside investments, does not allow you the same level of protection as having it in the bank. If you have a Central Bank credit or debit card, use Card Lock to temporarily block new transactions on your cards for an extra layer of protection.
- Do research before making a donation. Be wary of any business, charity, or individual who contacts you about payments or donations in cash, by wire transfer, gift card, or through the mail. Legitimate places will offer multiple steps of validation, so be sure to call the national or regional office if you are unsure.
- Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use common forms of communication, like emails, texts, phone calls, and even websites, to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments from sources you are not familiar with. Also, be sure to never give your password, account number, or PIN to anyone. Remember, no one from your financial institution will contact you to ask for this information.
- Enable multi-factor authentication for accounts that support it. Within the security settings for many accounts is the availability to add multi-factor authentication (MFA). This creates a second step to verify who you are when logging in, often by sending a one-time text code or answering specific questions only you’d know the answer to. If you bank with us, you have the ability to enable card alerts. With card alerts, you will be notified when a transaction occurs on your card. Check out these five alerts you can enable.
- Ignore offers for vaccines, cures, or treatments. If there is a medical breakthrough, it wouldn’t be reported through unsolicited emails or online ads. Criminals exploit the hope of finding cures or treatments - always do your research and trust your gut. Remember, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
- Rely on official sources for the most up-to-date information during times of crisis. Visit official, government-backed websites like the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), World Health Organization (WHO), the Department of Treasury (DOT), the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and even your state’s department websites to keep track of the latest developments. Legitimate government websites end in a .gov or .mil web address, and begin with https:// to ensure you’re connecting to the official website.
- Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date. Make sure your computer and mobile device security software, web browser, and operating systems have the most recent updates to best defend against viruses, malware, and other online threats. If able, turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
- Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Fraudsters and cybercriminals embed easy-to-click links to downloaded malware, causing your device to become infected without you even knowing it. The easiest way to detect bad links is to hover over the link to view the actual URL you are being routed to. The fraudulent URL link will often mimic a real, trustworthy link, but it will have slight differences. Here’s an example of what to look out for: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com.
- Educate yourself before making any investments. Remember, during times of crisis there is also a high potential for fraud. Be wary of any company claiming to be helping those in need or ability to prevent, detect or cure diseases. For information on how to avoid investment fraud, visit the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission website.
- Help others by reporting scams. Visit the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov to report suspected or confirmed scams. You can also stay up-to-date on the latest scams by visiting the FTC’s page at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts.
If you feel as though somebody is trying to get into your account or that you are a victim of fraud, please email us immediately at firstname.lastname@example.org.