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Watch for Fraud this Holiday Season

Fraudsters are always at work, but financial institutions experience increased fraudulent activity during the holidays. This year is no exception. The pandemic created new opportunities for fraudsters, and paired with holiday scams, our customers are reporting increased fraud this season.

It’s extremely important to carefully guard your financial information, especially during a time when online shopping and cash transfers are prevalent. The FTC provides great advice on spotting and avoiding scams. Please, read through the below and put guidance to practice as you’re shopping online or sending cash this holiday season.

Four Signs That It’s a Scam

Scammers pretend to be from an organization you know or impersonate someone you know.

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like a utility company, a tech company, or even a charity asking for donations. They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So, the name and number you see might not be real.

Scammers will also pose as a family member or friend and can even use a correct name to identify the person they are claiming to be! Be extra cautious in situations like this as fraudsters will prey on your emotions. They’ll claim bail money is needed, or they’re in a bad situation that requires immediate financial support. If you find yourself in a situation like this, hang up immediately and call your family member or friend directly.

Scammers say there’s a problem or a prize.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer.

Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information. Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.

Scammers pressure you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story. They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.

Scammers tell you to pay in a specific way.

They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.

A commonality in many scam situations is the isolation factor. The scammer wants money fast, but they don’t want you to tell anyone about the transaction. Not a family member, or the bank. This is a major red flag! If someone attempts to isolate you from telling others about the transaction, or how the money is being used, it is a scam.

What You Can Do to Avoid a Scam

Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.

Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers. If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.

Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

We Can Help

F&M Bank is here for you! Whether you’d like some guidance determining if a call or email is a scam, or if you’ve fallen victim to fraud, please reach out to your local branch. A member of our team will be ready to assist you!

Additionally, we encourage our customers to take advantage of our digital services.  Instead of sending cash or checks to someone you know through the mail, pay a person within our digital banking bill pay feature or P2P. They are great alternatives! Customers can also enroll in e-statements to protect your account information from mail theft. Lastly, consider Identity Theft Protection. This service is a free add-on with our Cash Reward or Cash Back checking accounts!