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Fraud Is Rising — Here’s How to Protect Yourself

Fraud Is Rising — Here’s How to Protect Yourself
Senior Woman Giving Credit Card Details On The Phone

The pandemic has been a hard time for many people. Unfortunately, scammers have used this crisis as an opportunity to prosper. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission (which tracks fraud reports across the U.S.), received 2.2 million fraud reports totaling more than $3.4 billion in stolen funds, compared to $2.5 billion stolen in 2019.

In Iowa, we’ve seen much of the same fraud trends that have emerged across the country. Stephanie Thomann, Transaction Verification Manager at Hills Bank, has dealt with a number of cases firsthand.

“People in our local communities are being targeted by scammers,” she said. “And it’s not just something that affects one particular group. Fraud really can happen to anyone.”

The most common types of fraud affecting Iowans today are known as “impostor scams” — where a scammer pretends to be someone you trust, such as a friend or family member, a bank employee, a Social Security official, or even a potential romantic partner on a dating site. They may ask you to transfer money or provide personal information, such as your banking credentials, account or debit card number, PIN, or other sensitive data.

“We’ve seen scammers come up with elaborate stories to mislead people into handing over their information,” Thomann said. “What’s more, they often have the technical skills to create communications that appear legitimate, as if it’s coming from a person in your life, or a real company or government agency.”

Here are Thomann’s top tips for protecting yourself against fraud:

Check your bank statements frequently: More than anything, fraudsters want cash. Watch for unexpected withdrawals or transactions and be sure to contact your bank right away if you see something suspicious.

Use known contact information to get in touch: If you’re contacted by someone claiming to be a person you know, call the person directly rather than reply to the communication. If you don’t have their number handy, try to get in touch with someone who does. If a person claiming to be from a company or government agency contacts you, make sure to use the contact information listed on the organization’s official website to determine if the request is legitimate.

Don’t spend money if you don’t know where it came from: One popular scam involves fraudulent checks. Scammers pretend to be offering job or income opportunities, lottery/giveaway winnings, loans, or payment for online sales. They will provide a check that “clears,” meaning the money appears in your bank account. But that doesn’t mean it’s really there. A check could still be returned as fraudulent after you have already spent or withdrawn the funds.

“Ultimately, you should trust your instincts,” Thomann said. “If something feels wrong, it probably is.”

For more tips on recognizing and preventing fraud, visit hillsbank.com/fraud.

Hills Bank Member FDIC