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Impersonation scams are a type of fraud initiated by a person who pretends to be someone you can trust in order to get sensitive data or steal money from you. And they are becoming increasingly common. Whether it’s email, phone, bank scams, or some other impersonation tactic that’s being used against you, it’s important to know how to spot these fraudsters and avoid trouble. This can be tricky, as imposters are constantly evolving their tactics and trying out new approaches for these scams. These criminals are relentless, so you want to learn how to avoid getting in their crosshairs.
Follow this guide to learn how to protect your financial data and other sensitive information, to help avoid being spoofed or falling for impersonation scams.
Impersonation scams may target you as an individual, or seek to capture sensitive information about a company you own or work for. These scams are often elaborate and may target you via email, text message, social media or phone call, as criminals try to con you for money or sensitive information. Scammers may also try to plant malware in your computer, smartphone or another electronic device to make it easy to steal data from you without your knowledge in the future. Regardless of their tactics, the bottom line is scammers are attempting to get some kind of advantage on you that they can exploit.
Since there are so many types of impersonation scams, we’ll review the methods and tips to help you avoid falling for them below.
Phishing emails are among the most common scams, and they can be easy to fall for. Phishing emails are designed to trick their recipients into turning over sensitive information — such as your checking account information or social security number. There are also pharming scams, which is when someone attempts to place malware, or some type of malicious code, in an electronic device you use.
Phishing and pharming emails can be disguised to look like they are coming from a reputable company, or they can be bulk emails sent out that are easy to spot and know they are fraudulent. You should never click on attachments in emails from sources you aren’t sure about. You also shouldn’t respond to these emails. Just delete them from your inbox.
Nothing will help you avoid these threats more than knowing what to watch out for, but there are tools that can help you avoid falling prey to email scams, which include:
The easiest way to avoid a phone scammer is to not pick up calls from numbers you don’t recognize. Phone scammers can target you by calling directly, using robocalls, by spoofing legitimate numbers or a combination of the two. If it’s a legitimate call that’s important, the caller will leave you a message and you can always connect with them later. If you do answer a call from an unknown number, hang up immediately if anything seems suspicious. These types of criminals often pretend to work at real companies, and they offer detailed backstories and may have knowledge of your activity with the legitimate company so you should even be wary of what your phone’s caller ID says, as information can be spoofed to make these scammers seem legitimate.
No matter what, if you answer an unsolicited call you should never give out any personal or company information. This means do not give out your address, last four digits of your social security number, or other sensitive details. Again, don’t give out any personal or sensitive information — no matter how legitimate they seem.
Scams that target you via text message work similarly to email scams. The best way to avoid falling prey to these attacks is to never click on links sent to you from a phone number you do not recognize.
A bank impersonation scam is when someone reaches out pretending to work at a credit union or bank you use. Most of these scams are executed to either steal your credit or debit card information, get you to hand over money, or to get around your credit union or bank’s security protections to access your accounts directly. Many bank impersonation scams are disguised as the following:
To avoid falling prey to a bank impersonation scam, do not share sensitive information. DCU, and other credit unions and banks do not reach out to their members on an unsolicited basis asking for sensitive information, such as usernames, passwords or PINs.
For more consumer education, check out our Fraud and Security Resources. Learn more tips, and explore how DCU works tirelessly around the clock to protect our members’ financial data, and what to do should the worst occur. We also invite you to check out our simple guide for what to watch for regarding phishing and pharming scams.
Our not-for-profit credit union uses all available tools to secure your banking information, but should you fall victim to an impersonation scam and encounter fraudulent activity related to your DCU account, contact our fraud department by calling 800.328.8797 right away.
This article is for informational purposes only. It is not intended to serve as legal, financial, investment or tax advice or indicate that a specific DCU product or service is right for you. For specific advice about your unique circumstances, you may wish to consult a financial professional.