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As the number of COVID-19 infections continue to increase, so too has the number of financial fraud scams related to the pandemic. Over the past several months, the U.S. Treasury Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) has released a number of advisories including ones on unemployment fraud, cyber-enabled crimes, imposter scams, and money mule schemes related to the disease.
While the tactics used are not new, cyber criminals are using the pandemic to exploit both individuals and institutions alike. The impact on consumers is being confounded by the level of fear and uncertainty the pandemic is causing. In addition to the financial implications on consumers and institutions, institutions face the risk of an adverse impact to their reputation if they are the vehicle by which scammers gain access to individual customers. This can leave your customers with negative feelings towards the institution and may ultimately lead them to take their business elsewhere. Protecting your reputation by protecting your customers is a win-win.
Here are 10 tips to remind your customers to keep in mind to avoid falling victim to financial scams:
- Know who you are doing business with and verify their reputation. Before establishing accounts with businesses, read their policies and terms of condition. Visit the Better Business Bureau and/or search online for consumer reviews and complaints. Don’t let a good marketing email or commercial offer be the sole reason for opening an account with any given company.
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails and/or text messages. Phishing was the top internet crime by victim count in 2019, according to the FBI Internet Crime Report. Always check the sender’s name and domain to verify they are accurate and check for obvious grammatical errors. When in doubt, err on the side of caution and go directly to the business website to check your account for notifications. You can also call the business directly by using the phone number on the website — not the email or text message — to verify the request.
- Consider opting out of pre-approved credit card direct mail offers. In addition to reducing the amount of clutter, opting out of mail offers reduces your potential exposure to identity fraud that may occur if someone gets ahold of your offer and applies for accounts on your behalf. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides guidelines and options for opting out of both mail offers and phone calls. If you choose not to opt out, be sure to still follow best practices around disposing information by shredding all correspondence that contains personally identifiable information and offers.
- Re-think the information you’re sharing online, particularly on social media. “Dumpster diving” on social media is a key way cyber criminals gather information about individuals they later use to exploit. While “sharing” is a way to stay connected with family and friends, it is important not to “overshare” information that could potentially get in the wrong hands. The National Cybersecurity Alliance provides a complete listing of how to manage privacy settings for various social media channels.
- Always use strong and unique passwords. It is extremely important to create unique, strong passwords and set up multi-factor authentication for all accounts and devices. Passwords should not only be strong and unique, but also updated regularly to thwart identity theft.
- Do not wire money or send payments in the form of gift cards. Honest and legitimate companies will never request this type of payment from you. Be aware of “too good to be true” messages and offers and always question the source of these especially if they are asking for you to give something in order to get something. If you do suspect a scam of this nature, immediately report it to the FTC.
- Don’t always believe your caller ID. Just like emails, scammers can spoof the call to make it appear as if it’s your bank name or reputable business calling you. If the unsolicited caller is asking you to share your bank pin, credit card info, or social security number, hang up immediately and report the complaint.
- Never give out financial or personally identifiable information unless absolutely necessary. This includes to your family and friends. According to Forbes, based on the Javelin Strategy & Research 2018 Identity Fraud Study, of all NAF victims, over half (51%) reported they personally knew the individual(s) committing the crime.
- Install online data protection software for all of your devices. It is imperative to install antivirus along with anti-ransomware, anti-spyware, and anti-phishing software on anything you connect to the internet. Do your research and make sure you are being protected by a reputable service, not just the one with the best offer. Investing in your software today will save your identity in the future.
- Sign up for a comprehensive identity protection service that includes credit and identity monitoring. Be aware that not all identity protection services will protect you equally, so make sure to enroll in a service with powerful monitoring capabilities and 24/7 resolution support. In addition to comprehensive protection, Iris provides access to certified and compassionate resolution experts who are ready and able to help resolve identity theft cases, providing you peace of mind that your identity theft incident will be resolved while also saving you time and reducing stress.
Financial fraud impacts the financial institution just as well as the consumer. If the victim has been burned by fraud once or multiple times, they’re more likely to switch to a different bank/credit union that has more controls in place to better protect them. Remember: it costs 5x as much to attract a new customer than it does to retain one. You can build loyalty by offering your customers Iris Identity & Cyber Protection services to provide them peace of mind as they browse the internet and go about their daily lives.
Interested in offering Iris to your customers? Request a demo today to learn more.