Protecting Yourself from Popular Scam Tactics

Security & Safety

By: The First National Bank in Tremont (FNBT)


While a fraudster can acquire your personal information through no fault of your own, a common way for fraudsters to get that valuable information is to trick you into giving it to them. They then use it to create a new identity for their own use and to your detriment.  This type of deception is often called a “scam,” and unfortunately, scams are both extremely prevalent and successful. Below are some potential indicators of scams to help you know what to look for, which could decrease your risk of falling victim to a fraudster’s schemes.  One aspect of protecting yourself from a scam is to know some of the common signs, or indicators, of one. By understanding these red flags, you can more easily identify a potential scam.

Leveraging artificial (or real) familiarity. A fraudster often pretends to be (or may actually be) someone you know, or from an organization with which you are familiar. Fraudsters will leverage relationships to build your trust and confidence in them and ask for help in some way. This could include asking for your personal information, which they then use for fraudulent purposes or requesting that you initiate a payment to them.

Indicating there’s a problem. Fraudsters may use a recent tragedy or world event (e.g., personal hardship, natural disaster, COVID-19 pandemic) to evoke your desire to help. They also may use scare tactics and act as if something will happen to you if you don’t act (e.g., your bank account has been compromised or your utilities will be shut off). This plays on the element of fear, which often causes individuals to act quickly versus pausing to evaluate the legitimacy of the situation. In these situations, fraudsters may either ask you directly for money or ask for personal information, which they can then use to create a synthetic identity. If you receive an outreach that points to a problem and an urgent need to act, it may be a scam.

Example: You are contacted by a company claiming to assist your local government in contact tracing for COVID-19. You are asked to go to their website to enter in your personal information – including name, contact information, Social Security number (SSN) and date of birth. However, this was a fraudster looking to get your personal information to use in synthetic identity creation.

Indicating there’s a prize or reward. In this type of example, fraudsters will use positive reinforcement to prompt your action, enticing you with the promise of a perk or reward. Similar to the other example, fraudsters leverage the feeling of excitement evoked by their outreach to cause immediate action on your part, which could lead to an immediate payout from you or providing your personal information which they can use for synthetic identity fraud. If you receive an outreach that seems almost too good to be true, it likely is, so be on the lookout for this scam, as well.

Example: You receive a call from a company offering you an all-expense paid vacation to the Bahamas. All you have to do is provide your information so they can book your travel for you. They ask for name, contact information, driver’s license information, SSN and date of birth. You excitedly hang up the phone awaiting your big trip. Unfortunately, this outreach was from a fraudster looking to get your personal information to use in synthetic identity creation.

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