4 Ways Bank Imposters Try to Scam You

computer with a warning box on the screen

Technology has helped make many aspects of life more convenient — including banking. Banks all around the world use email, phone calls, and text messages to keep us informed and in control of our accounts.

Unfortunately, as banking has become more automated, bank imposters are using those same methods to try to steal your money, your data, or both.

4 Bank Imposter Scams

  1. Phishing
    Scammers send emails that look like they're from your bank, using the bank's logo and a similar domain name. They might claim there's a problem with your account or offer a new card or promotion. They use catchy subject lines to lure you into clicking links or opening attachments. They may ask for personal info or direct you to a fake website to steal your login details.
  2. Vishing
    In vishing scams, also known as voice phishing, scammers use phone calls to target victims. They may use technology that lets them fake the caller ID to make it seem like they're from your bank or local area. They might say they need your info or that your account's been hacked and ask you to transfer your money to a 'safe' account.
  3. Smishing
    In a smishing scam, criminals will contact you by text message. Many financial institutions are now using text messages to send real-time alerts to their customers – but they will never ask you to provide personal information by text.
  4. Snail Mail
    While it’s not the most high-tech option, scammers can try to steal your information through fraudulent requests by mail. You might receive a fake check in the mail with a letter that asks you to deposit the check in your account and give the money to a third party. Don’t fall for it. The check will bounce, and you’ll be on the hook for the money you wired.

Watch Out for These Red Flags

If you’re contacted, be on the lookout for these signs:

  • They ask for sensitive data.
  • They use threatening language. For example, the caller may say they’ll suspend your account if you don’t provide your information. A legitimate financial institution will never do this.
  • They use odd phrasing or misspellings – especially in names or addresses.
  • They contact you about raising your transaction limit. Financial institutions set default transaction limits and customers can request to raise them if they want to make larger payments. However, your bank will never reach out to you first to discuss this.
  • They say they’re a financial institution you don’t use.
  • They pressure you to stay on the line instead of calling back at the institution’s customer service number.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Now that you know what to look for, how can you protect yourself from a bank imposter scam?

  • If someone contacts you unexpectedly, never share sensitive information such as your Social Security number, account number, debit card information, PIN, password, or verification code. It’s only safe to provide details like these if you contact your bank yourself using their official phone number.
  • Don’t reply, download attachments, click links, or log in to a linked website, which could be a dummy site designed to capture your online account information.
  • Delete suspicious emails right away.
  • Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone.
  • Don’t automatically trust caller ID or official-looking emails.
  • Hover your cursor over links or buttons before clicking. If the link destination doesn’t look right – don’t click.
  • If you’re ever in doubt, contact your financial institution directly to verify a request or communication. Don’t use a phone number, address, or link you’ve been given – look it up yourself.

Scammers frequently update their methods, so it’s important to stay vigilant and practice caution if you receive a suspicious communication.

What to Do if You’re a Victim of This Scam

If you’ve been the victim of a bank imposter scam:

  • Contact your bank immediately.
  • Change your online account logins. Use multifactor authentication to secure your accounts.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.FTC.gov.
  • Check your credit report at AnnualCreditReport.com on a regular basis for signs of identity theft – like unfamiliar loan applications – and contact credit reporting agencies if you spot fraudulent activity. The three major credit reporting agencies are TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian. They can help you take steps to protect your information.

When someone contacts you about your banking information, remember these tips – and keep scammers out of your account!

To learn more about managing your finances and protecting your accounts, check out our other articles and videos or contact your local branch.