Financial fraud is a major threat to everyone in the United States as the number of scams, identity theft attempts and other money stealing schemes is constantly growing.
In 2020 alone, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau handled 542,300 complaints, a 54% increase over 2019. Financial experts say the numbers are likely even higher as many people are reluctant to report these crimes out of embarrassment, which limits public awareness of this important issue.
As World Elder Abuse Day approaches on June 15, many reports will focus on the particular impact on seniors, but it's also a good time for everyone to review ways to reduce the risk of being the next victim no matter the age.
Charles McClafferty, Manager of Business Management for TD Bank's Fraud Risk Management team, said the two most common scams targeting people involve someone posing as a family member or a potential love interest who needs money immediately.
For example, people may get calls, emails or Facebook messages asking them to wire money to a young relative who has just been in an accident, or to a potential romantic partner in a financial bind.
“Criminals try to fool people into thinking that there’s some kind of emergency and that the money needs to be sent in an untraceable way, such as gift cards or wire transfer, so that once that money goes out, it’s never coming back,” Charles said. “It’s heartbreaking to see when they finally realize, after they’ve lost thousands of dollars, that this was all just a big fake.”
Scammers set up fake profiles on dating sites to prey upon vulnerable people, telling them that they would like to meet them but can’t because of a financial emergency. By exchanging messages with socially isolated people, scammers build trust over time and can convince victims to send money.
Tips for preventing financial fraud
Below are some of the most effective ways to help prevent fraud.
- If a relative calls asking for money, call them or their loved ones back using the phone numbers you have to ensure you’re not speaking with a scammer.
- Be mindful that if you haven’t met someone in person, you can’t know for sure who they are.
- There’s no legitimate reason to request money in the form of gift cards.
- If someone instructs you about what to say to a bank employee to facilitate a transfer, that’s a red flag. Don’t feel pressured to act quickly and without telling loved ones. If someone is pressuring you to act, take your time and reach out to a trusted person.
Never share your personal financial information
People should be very cautious about sharing personal information such as account numbers, usernames or passwords with people they don't know and even family and friends who are not directly involved with their finances. Another important suggestion is to never share your PIN for bank accounts with other people.
For more detailed information on this topic visit TD Bank Fraud Prevention Tips.
Openness is key to helping prevent someone from becoming a victim of financial fraud. Friends and family should encourage each other to call immediately if they receive a request for money or personal information that they’re unsure about.
“People who talk about scams are much less likely to fall for them,” Charles said.