Once you begin experiencing the time savings and convenience of banking online, it may become hard to remember how you ever lived without it. The online tools provided by your financial institution can make many of your financial tasks a breeze, while built-in security measures keep your information and your money safe.
Occasionally, however, scammers attempt to trick people by masquerading as a legitimate business or financial institution. Below is some information you can use to help keep you safe from scams.
One of the best ways to avoid being scammed is to use a safe method of payment, such as the credit card from your financial institution.
"Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don't," the Federal Trade Commission states.
When you use your credit card, your transactions are supported by a suite of security services that attempt to identify, prevent and alert you to suspicious activity. That added layer of security can protect you from fraud and give you peace of mind when you shop and bank online.
"Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it's nearly impossible to get your money back," states the FTC. "That's also true for reloadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla."
In other words, skip the reloadable cards unless they come directly from your financial institution and be sure to use your credit card to benefit from the fraud protection services when making purchases. This is an especially good idea when shopping online, as illegitimate websites can masquerade as well-known stores to encourage you to enter your payment information, and scammers can attempt to intercept your payment information on unsecured networks.
"Resist the temptation to use free public Wi-Fi," cautions USA Today contributor Elizabeth Weise. "It is a trivial matter for hackers to eavesdrop on your connection and steal your information."
Another important way to protect yourself is to keep track of current scams and remain watchful for new ones, which you can do by signing up to receive scam alerts directly from the FTC at https://www.ftc.gov/scams.
On Oct. 27, 2016, the FTC announced that in the nine previous months, more than 111,000 people had reported receiving fraudulent calls from IRS imposters. The scam these callers were attempting to pull off typically involved stating that money was owed to the IRS and needed to be paid immediately to avoid dire consequences, but there were several variations on the theme. In order to help people identify these imposters, the FTC prepared an educational video, which you can find at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/ftc-fights-international-scams.
Another common scam that the FTC warns about involves fake checks and money orders, which are often printed using the highest-quality materials and state-of-the-art printers that are capable of reproducing authentic-looking watermarks. They may even be printed with the name of a real financial institution and include legitimate account and routing numbers.
These fake checks can be used in a variety of scams, one of the most popular of which is known as "check overpayment." This is when someone tries to sell an item online, such as through Craigslist, and receives a check for more than the sale price. The buyer then asks for the excess money to be wired, after which the check bounces and the seller loses the wired funds. To avoid this scam, never accept payment for more than an item's sale price and never wire money to a stranger.
"If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch," the FTC states. "That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid."
Lastly, never respond to an email with your personal identifying information or financial information, and always check with your financial institution if you suspect you have received illegitimate communication via email or phone.