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Bank Impersonation Is the Most Common Text Scam: What You Need to Know

It can be hard to tell whether you’re being contacted by your bank or a criminal

If you have signed up for text notifications from your bank, it’s easy to mistake the scam texts for legitimate bank alerts. After all — as we all know — fraud is rampant.

“People are accustomed to getting texts from banks to prevent fraud,” notes Emma Fletcher, a senior data researcher in the Division of Consumer Response and Operations for the FTC. “There’s a certain irony that scammers are now using this to perpetrate fraud.”

How bank impersonation scams work

Bank-impersonation scammers pretend to be security departments at banks, and send out text messages, emails and robocalls that supposedly warn people of unusual, possibly fraudulent activity that requires immediate action. In reality, they’re trying to get people to provide account numbers and login information, or to transfer their funds for safekeeping into accounts controlled by the criminals. In the process, they also may steal targets’ personal information, which can be used to commit identity fraud.

Some fake bank notification texts warn that an account has been locked, while others ask the target to verify a large purchase that supposedly has been made at a store. “If they reply ‘no,’ which many people might do reflexively, they’ll get a call from someone claiming to be the bank,” Fletcher says.

How to protect yourself against bank text scams

Some tips from the American Bankers Association and other sources include:

Reporting bank impersonation scams

If you experience a bank impersonation attempt, notify your financial institution of the occurrence. Include a screenshot of the text. If you lose money to this scam, contact your bank immediately — they may be able to halt the transaction.

File a police report. The documentation may be of value if there is some means of recouping your loss; for example, some home insurance providers offer fraud loss protection.

File reports with the federal government. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center use fraud reports to target their investigations; the more information they have, the better they can identify patterns, link cases and ultimately catch the criminals. Contact the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov and the FBI at IC3.gov.

By Patrick J. Kiger, AARP  https://www.aarp.org/money/scams-fraud/info-2023/bank-impersonation-fake-text-messages-emails-calls.html?intcmp=AE-FRDSC-MOR-R2-POS3

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