At our bank, security is our number one priority. Our customers can rest assured that we utilize best and latest security software tools available, along with constant vigilance by our security and tech staff, to safeguard your data. You should also know that there are some things you can do yourself to greatly decrease the possibility of fraud and identity theft.
Reviewing the information below and checking out the links to more important security information will be well worth your time.
Dirty Dozen: Taxpayers should be on the lookout for these scams
All tax scams put taxpayers at risk. This is the first of two tips taking a closer look at the IRS Dirty Dozen tax scam list. This year, taxpayers should be especially, watchful for aggressive schemes related to COVID-19 relief, including Economic Impact Payments.
Here is a recap of the scams in this year's Dirty Dozen.
Phishing: Taxpayers should be alert to potential fake emails or websites looking to steal personal information. The IRS will never initiate contact with taxpayers through email about a tax bill, refund or Economic Impact Payment. Don't click on links claiming to be from the IRS. Be wary of emails and websites − they may be nothing more than scams to steal personal information.
Fake charities: Criminals frequently target natural disasters and other situations, such as COVID-19, by setting up fake charities to steal from well-intentioned people trying to help in times of need. Fraudulent schemes normally start with unsolicited contact by phone, text, social media, email or in-person using a variety of tactics.
Threatening impersonator phone calls: IRS impersonation scams come in many forms. A common one remains fake threatening phone calls from a criminal claiming to be with the IRS. The agency will never threaten a taxpayer or surprise them with a demand for immediate payment. Scam phone calls include those threatening arrest, deportation or license revocation if the victim doesn't pay a fake tax bill.
Social media scams: Taxpayers need to protect themselves against social media scams, which frequently use events such as COVID-19 to try tricking people. Social media enables anyone to share information with anyone else on the Internet. Scammers use this information as ammunition for a wide variety of scams. These include emails where scammers impersonate someone's family, friends or co-workers.
Economic Impact Payment or refund theft: This year, criminals turned their attention to stealing Economic Impact Payments. Many of these scams are identity theft-related. Criminals file false tax returns or supply false information to the IRS to divert refunds to wrong addresses or bank accounts.
Senior fraud: Senior citizens, their friends and family need to be on alert for tax scams targeting older taxpayers. Their growing comfort with technology, including social media, gives scammers another means of taking advantage of them. Phishing scams linked to COVID-19 have been a major threat this year. Seniors should be on alert for a continuing surge of fake emails, text messages, websites and social media attempts to steal personal information.
Scammers targeting individuals with limited English proficiency: IRS impersonators and other scammers are targeting groups with limited English proficiency. These scams are often threatening in nature. Phone scams pose a major threat to people with limited access to information, including individuals not entirely comfortable with the English language.
A common one remains the IRS impersonation scam where a taxpayer receives a telephone call threatening jail time, deportation or revocation of a driver's license from someone claiming to be with the IRS. Recent immigrants often are the most vulnerable to these scams. They should ignore these threats and not engage the scammers.
Dishonest return preparers: Taxpayers should avoid so-called "ghost" preparers who expose their clients to potentially serious filing mistakes as well as possible tax fraud and risk of losing their refunds. Ghost preparers don't sign the tax returns they prepare for taxpayers. They may print the tax return and tell the taxpayer to sign and mail it to the IRS. For e-filed returns, the ghost preparer will prepare but not digitally sign as the paid preparer.
With many tax professionals affected by COVID-19 and their office locations potentially closed, taxpayers should be especially careful to select a credible tax preparer.
Offer in Compromise mills: Taxpayers need to be cautious of misleading tax debt resolution companies that can exaggerate chances to settle tax debts for "pennies on the dollar" through an Offer in Compromise. Dishonest companies oversell the program to unqualified candidates so they can collect a large fee from taxpayers already struggling with debt.
These scams are commonly called OIC "mills," which cast a wide net for taxpayers, charge them pricey fees and churn out applications for a program they're unlikely to qualify for.
Fake payments and repayment demands: A con artist will steal a taxpayer’s identity and bank account information. Then the con artist will file a false tax return and will have the refund deposited into the taxpayer's bank account. Once the direct deposit hits the taxpayer's account, the fraudster places a call to them, posing as an IRS employee. The taxpayer is told that there's been an error and that the IRS needs the money returned immediately or penalties and interest will result. The taxpayer is told to buy specific gift cards for the refund amount.
Payroll and HR scams: Tax professionals, employers and taxpayers need to be on guard against phishing designed to steal Form W-2s and other tax information. These are called Business Email Compromise or Business Email Spoofing. These scams have used a variety of tactics including requests for wire transfers or payment of fake invoices.
Ransomware: This is malicious software that is often downloaded by the user after clicking on a malicious attachment that encrypts their data making their data inaccessible. In some cases, entire computer networks can be affected. The IRS and its Security Summit partners have advised tax professionals and taxpayers to use the free, multi-factor authentication feature being offered on tax preparation software products.
Bank Customers May Become Complicit in Unemployment Insurance Fraud Schemes
Nationwide fraud schemes are stealing Unemployment Insurance payments that are meant for legitimate out-of-work applicants. These fraudsters depend on bank customers to assist them in their fraud. Bank customers who assist the fraudsters in these schemes are subject to investigation by the IRS and Secret Service. Serious charges could be filed against them by investigative agencies .
How the schemes work:
- These scam artists use phishing techniques to find bank customers who will give them their account number and other personal information.
- The crooks then file a fraudulent unemployment insurance claim and direct the state agency handling payments to deposit the funds to the customer’s account.
- The crooks promise the bank customer that a portion of the funds will be left in the customer’s account as payment for their help. The crooks then transfer most of the funds out of the customer’s account. Or, they may direct the customer to transfer the funds to them via Western Union, MoneyGram, gift cards, or other methods. In either case, the bank customer has now become complicit in a serious crime.
- Our bank is carefully monitoring these types of deposits for suspicious activities. We are required to report unemployment insurance fraud to appropriate federal agencies when discovered.
Our customers should be aware that participating in these schemes can result in federal investigation, serious charges, and severe penalties. Please be aware of this widespread fraud activity and report any related phishing attempts to us immediately.
TEXT SCAM MAY ENDANGER YOUR ACCOUNTS
A text scam operation is affecting customers of banks and other financial institutions across the country. Some of our own online banking customers have been scammed. Please be vigilant to safeguard your accounts.
Here’s how this scam works:
Customers receive a text from a scammer claiming to be from our fraud department. The text asks for a YES or NO answer to a question about a fictitious purchase or charge to the customer’s account.
The scammer will then follow the text message with a phone call and attempt to trick the customer into giving his or her card number, PIN, and/or internet banking login information. Our 276-783-3116 telephone number, or our 800 number, shows up on the customer’s caller ID. PLEASE BE AWARE: OUR NUMBER HAS BEEN SPOOFED BY THESE CROOKS!
If the customer gives the scammer sufficient information to log into the customer’s internet banking, the scammer will make Person-to-Person (P2P) transactions to steal the customer’s deposits.
We have taken these temporary emergency measures to thwart this scam:
- We have temporarily suspended P2P transactions.
- We have temporarily suspended external cash transfers.
Please remember that we never call customers to request their secure access code, card information, account numbers, or PINs. Only crooks and scammers do that!
Don’t be a victim of this scam that begins with an innocent looking TEXT. Hang up if the scammer calls you. Then contact us to report the attempted scam.
Please don’t help a scammer steal your money.
Questions or concerns? Please call 276.783.3116 or 800.772.1807 and ask for our Debit Card Department.
Additional important security advice:
Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a charity, a government official, or a company that you do business with. In our region, a crook will often pose as a bank employee. Remember: NEVER give out any personal or financial information in response to an unexpected request, whether it comes by a phone call, a text or an email.
Can Scammers and Crooks Sink Any Lower?
Scammers are taking advantage of fears surrounding the Coronavirus outbreak. They’re setting up websites to sell bogus products and using fake emails, texts, and social media posts as a ruse to take your money and get your personal information.
The scammer’s emails and posts may claim to be promoting awareness. They may offer fake virus prevention tips. They may ask you to donate to Coronavirus disease victims. They may offer you fake or unproven treatments. And they may send you emails that contain malicious email attachments. Be wary and be safe.
The Federal Trade Commission has provided tips to help you keep these scammers at bay.
One of the more devious scams comes from hackers who use fake Coronavirus tracker maps to load malware onto people’s computers. The scammers use social media or misleading emails to attract victims to fake Coronavirus tracker websites. These phony sites imitate legitimate Coronavirus trackers, like Johns Hopkins University’s tracker map. Once the victim is in the site, malware is unleashed that can steal usernames, passwords and even the victim’s banking data.
American Banker has more information about this and other Coronavirus scams.
Romance scams are on the rise here in Southwestern Virginia and the Tri-Cities. Here is an important warning from FBI, Richmond:
Don’t Be a Victim of Romance Scams
Valentine’s Day and the days leading up to it can be exciting, but it can also lead to heartbreak, embarrassment, and financial loss. Skilled criminals search dating sites, apps, chat rooms, and other social media networking sites attempting to build “relationships” for the sole purpose of getting your money or your personally identifiable information.
FBI Richmond suggests taking these points into consideration to avoid becoming a victim.
- Only use reputable, nationally recognized dating websites and be aware that scammers may be using them too.
- Research photos and profiles in other online search tools and ask questions.
- Never provide your financial information, loan money, nor allow your bank accounts to be used for transfers of funds.
- Do not allow attempts to isolate you from family and friends.
- Do not blindly believe the stories of severe life circumstances, tragedies, family deaths, injuries, or other hardships geared at keeping your interest and concern.
- If you are planning to meet someone in person you have met online, meet in a public place and let someone know where you will be and what time you should return home.
- If you are traveling to a foreign country to meet someone check the State Department’s Travel Advisories beforehand (http://travel.state.gov/) and provide your itinerary to family and friends. Do not travel alone.
Victims may be hesitant to report being taken advantage of due to embarrassment, shame or humiliation. It’s important to remember, romance scams can happen to anyone at any time.
If you suspect your online relationship is a scam, cease all contact immediately. If you are a victim who has already sent money, report the incident to your financial institution immediately, contact law enforcement, and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crimes Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov).
DIRECT TV / AT&T SCAMS ARE ON THE RISE!
There are several versions of this scam targeting customers of DirecTV, which is now owned by AT&T.
In many versions, the crook will call DirecTV customers and claim to be a DirecTV representative. The crook will then offer half-price monthly bills, subscription or equipment upgrades, and/or pre-paid debit cards. The victim is then given a toll-free number to call to take advantage of this fake offer. The crook says the toll-free number is “proof that this is not a scam.”
Don’t be fooled. When victims actually call the provided number, they are pressured to give the crooks their bank account number, debit card number, or other personal information.
If anyone calls and asks for your bank account number, debit card number, or up-front payments for you to take advantage of their too-good-to-be true offers, hang up the phone and call your bank immediately!
10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud
From The Bank of Marion Security Department and the Federal Trade Commission
Crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. We offer the following practical tips to help you keep your money and your identity safe:
- Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a charity, a government official, a family member, or a company that you do business with. In our region, a crook will often pose as an employee of your bank. Remember: NEVER give out any personal or financial information and NEVER send money in response to an unexpected request, whether it comes by a phone call, a text or an email.
- Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.
- Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like loan offers, mortgage assistance, or debt relief. They might even say you’ve won a prize but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they can take your money and disappear.
- Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. Government offices and honest companies won’t ask you for advance payments.
- Talk to someone. Before you give up your money or personal information, talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, consult an expert, or tell a trusted family member or friend.
- Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, just hang up. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.
- Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and then bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.
- Don’t deposit a check from someone who you don’t know and trust. Often, scammers will send people checks and ask that money be wired back to them. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you will most likely be responsible for repaying the bank.
- If you use a computer, you can do online searches on a suspected company or product. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.
- Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scams. Get the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.
- If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.
If a suspected scammer claims to be with The Bank of Marion or any of our branches, hang up and call us at 276.783.3116. Our Security Department is always available to help and advise. If you have an account with us, we can review your account for any suspicious activity.
Identity (ID) theft is a crime where a thief steals your personal information, such as your full name or social security number, to commit fraud. The identity thief can use your information to fraudulently apply for credit, file taxes, or get medical services. These acts can damage your credit status, and cost you time and money to restore your good name. You may not know that you are the victim of ID theft until you experience a financial consequence (mystery bills, credit collections, denied loans) from actions that the thief has taken with your stolen identity.
Here are some basic steps that you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft:
- Secure your social security number. Don’t carry your social security card in your wallet or write your number on your checks. Only give out your social security number (SSN) when absolutely necessary and make sure the person you give it to is trustworthy.
- Don’t respond to unsolicited requests for personal information (your name, birthdate, social security number, or bank account number) by phone, mail, or online.
- Watch out for “shoulder surfers.” Shield the keypad when typing your passwords on computers and at ATMs.
- Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home.
- Pay attention to your billing cycles. If bills or financial statements are late, contact the sender.
- Review your receipts. Always ask for receipts of all transactions and for any incorrect charge slips as well. Promptly compare receipts with account statements. Watch for unauthorized transactions.
- Shred receipts, credit offers, account statements, and expired cards, to prevent “dumpster divers” from getting your personal information.
- Store personal information in a safe place at home and at work.
- Install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer.
- Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Change your passwords if a company that you do business with has a breach of its databases
- Order a copy of your credit report once a year and review to be certain that it doesn't include accounts that you have not opened. Check it more frequently if you suspect someone has gained access to your account information.
IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource for identity theft victims. The site provides streamlined checklists and sample letters to guide you through the recovery process. Click on this button for the government’s excellent Identity Theft website:
Please let us know how we may help if you suspect identity theft. Our Security Department is always available to help and advise. If you have an account with us, we can review your account for any suspicious activity. You may call us at 276.783.3116 or Long Distance at 800.772.1807.