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Fraud hero
• Mar 7, 2024

The phone rings with an unrecognized number flashing on the screen. You answer, and the voice at the other end promises good fortune — at a cost. Realizing the call is a scam, you hang up and move on with your day. However, fraudsters and scammers never give up in their pursuit of stealing other people's money — especially in an uncertain economic climate.

According to recent data from the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, these bad actors are finding success; consumers reported more than $10 billion in losses to fraud last year, which was a 14% increase from 2022.

Jay FitzGerald, TD Bank Fraud Risk Manager, notes that fraudulent scams are not only growing in number but also in sophistication.

“Even for the savviest among us, it can be really hard to know when we’re being conned,” he said. “First, scammers get your attention, mostly by email or phone but sometimes in person. Then they work to win your trust, at which point they’ll go for the score by asking for help with an urgent need, whether wanting money or your bank credentials.”

March 7th is National Slam the Scam Day, when Social Security provides tips and tools to help you prevent becoming a victim of a scam. So, it is also an opportune time to review some of the different types of scams that Jay and his team at the bank are seeing in early 2024 and ways to help keep yourself safe.

Grandparent Scams

This fraud preys on older people’s love and concern for their grandchildren or other young people dear to them. Fraudsters impersonate the younger person in distress, claiming they need urgent money for bail or some mishap.

To ensure you’re not talking to a scammer, who may have cloned your grandchild’s voice using artificial intelligence, insist on calling them back using known phone numbers to verify it’s them. If the caller says they’re using their one permitted call from jail or someone else’s phone, ask them to answer a question about some intimate detail of their past or someone you mutually know.

Another solution is to establish a family code word. This code word, known only within the family, must be provided by anyone claiming to be in distress.

Romance Scams

In the romance scam, perpetrators build romantic relationships with their targets over weeks or months, manipulating emotions to gain trust and affection. The end goal is to extract money or financial benefits under false pretenses, as happened in this story.

The solution to this heart-wrenching exploitation is due diligence: Conduct professional background checks and maintain a strict policy against sharing banking information. It's also advised to limit financial help to what you can afford to lose.

SIM Swap Scams

If your mobile phone suddenly stops working — no calls, texts, or data — criminals may have hijacked your phone number, taken it to a mobile phone store, and convinced a sales person they lost their phone so they can get a new one with your number assigned.

Afterward, they start using your phone number to call your financial services providers and begin all kinds of fraudulent activities, exploiting the two-factor authentication texts many financial institutions now use. To prevent this, most banks offer customers a way to make unique “voiceprints” to identify themselves. So, if your phone service is unexpectedly lost, make sure you notify your bank to pre-empt fraudulent activities.

Investment Scams

Frauds involving too-good-to-be-true investment or business opportunities are widespread, with con artists using high-pressure tactics to lure victims into making impulsive decisions. These scams often involve investments in precious metals, real estate, rare coins, stocks, or cryptocurrencies, as detailed in this article. Your best defense is a polite but firm refusal to engage in unsolicited offers and to rely on trusted financial advisors for investment decisions.

Mail Theft Scams

This scam involves the physical theft of mail to gather personal and financial information, which can then be used for fraudulent purposes.

Criminals steal mail from homes — especially standalone mailboxes — as well as from exposed business mailboxes in office parks or even, using stolen master keys, customer P.O. boxes in local post offices or blue neighborhood collection boxes. They either engage in "checkwashing" — a practice where fraudsters alter the payee's name to make the check out to themselves — or use the real check to create counterfeits that allow them to withdraw money from their victims' accounts.

The best defense is to set up electronic payments as much as possible and, if a check must be mailed, do so at the local post office.

Phone Call Scams

Scammers sometimes try to cheat you out of your money by impersonating your bank over the phone. In some scams, they ask you to dial a set of numbers (starting with *72 and ending with their actual call back number) which will forward all your calls to the scammer. If the bank tries to contact you to verify an unusual transaction, the scammer will receive the call instead of you.

Watch out for a false sense of urgency — never give out sensitive information and don’t rely on caller ID. Many banks will not ask for personal information, credentials or a One Time Passcode (OTP) when calling customers. Whether it’s a scammer impersonating your bank or a real call, stay safe by ending unexpected calls and dialing the number on the back of your bank card instead.

Ultimately, Jay stresses the importance of being aware and taking precaution when communicating with someone you don't know. “If you’ve been scammed, report it immediately both to your bank and the police,” he advises.

Social Security Scams

All scams have the same intent — to make the victim part with something of value, either their money or their personal identifiable information like Social Security numbers.

These scams create a sense of urgency, playing on the victim's emotions that ultimately forces them to act quickly or discreetly. Knowing the 4 P's — Pretend, Problem, Pressure, and Pay — is an easy way to recognize not only Social Security scams, but all scams.

Ultimately, Jay stresses the importance of being aware and taking precaution when communicating with someone you don't know. “Always verify who’s contacting you by legitimate, alternate channels and, if you’ve been scammed, report it immediately both to your bank and the police,” he advises.

For More on Personal Finance Topics

If you would like to learn more about how to protect yourself against fraud, visit TD Bank's Security Center.

If you have more questions about other personal finance topics that matter to you, visit the Learning Center on TD Bank’s website.

We hope you found this helpful. This article is based on information available in March 2024 and is subject to change. It is provided as a convenience and for general information purposes only. Our content is not intended to provide legal, tax, investment, or financial advice or to indicate that a particular TD Bank or third-party product or service is available or right for you.

For specific advice about your unique circumstances, consider talking with a qualified professional.

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