February 5, 2020

5 Tips to Help You Avoid Being Scammed

We’ve all seen them. Some of us have experienced them. We’re talking about scams, where a scammer tries to fool you into giving access to your money. Scammers may pretend to be family members or friends. They may say they’re with the government, a charity, a utility company – even from your trusted bank. Scams can leave us feeling embarrassed, angry and poorer. The best way to protect yourself is to know how scammers operate and how to foil them.

Here are five tips to help you avoid being scammed.

1. Be alert for bogus IDs.

Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust by using technology to fake the name and number you see on your phone. You can’t always believe your caller ID!

If the call, text or email is a recorded sales pitch (robocall), hang up right away and report it to the Federal Trade Commission – these calls are illegal.

If the call, text or email asks for money or personal information, do not respond. Instead, hang up or delete the text or email right away, and then call the business at a number you know is genuine to check.

2. Protect your bank account and personal information.

Don’t give account access to any person or company unless you’re certain who they are. Never give your bank account number, your social security number or credit card number to someone who calls you, even if it’s for “verification purposes.” And don’t respond or click links in email asking for this information. If you suspect that someone has accessed your account, contact your bank right away.

3. Beware of counterfeit checks.

Scammers can make a fake cashier’s check or money order look authentic. Don’t deposit an unexpected check. Uncovering a fake check can take a bank several weeks. If you deposit a check that turns out to be fake, you are responsible for repaying the bank.

  • Verify that a cashier’s check is genuine by contacting the bank that wrote the check. Use contact information from their website.

  • Verify that a money order is the real thing by checking it with the company issuing the money order. Use contact information from their website.
  • Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. Don’t accept a check for more than the amount owed.

4. Don’t pay debts or bills by wiring money or with reloadable cards.

Remember that government agencies and legitimate businesses never ask you to pay using these methods. Only wire money to people or companies you know. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. Don’t pay a debt or a bill with reloadable cards (such as MoneyPak and Reloadit) or gift cards (such as iTunes or Google Play). If the recipient turns out to be a scammer, you’ll almost never be able to get your money back.

5. Protect your debit card.

Since a debit card gives direct access to your cash, it’s important to make sure that no one other than you can use it.

  • Use a bank-affiliated ATM – they are safer than independent ones. And cover the keypad when entering your pin.

  • Consider setting up a special bank account with only as much money as you need for debit card purchases. Keep the rest in a separate account to use for your mortgage or rent, utilities, car payment, etc. That way you’ve limited the potential damage from theft.

  • Check your account activity every day so you’ll catch any theft right away

Questions? The Federal Trade Commission is a good resource. And you can always call or visit your local bank to find out what protections and advice they can offer.

These tips are provided by Brentwood Bank and are for educational purposes only. Brentwood Bank makes no representations as to the accuracy, completeness, or specific suitability of any information presented. Information provided should not be relied on or interpreted as accounting, financial planning, investment, legal, or tax advice. Brentwood Bank recommends you consult a professional for any specific guidance you are seeking.