Guest Commentary: Here’s how to become wired to detect and avoid impostor scams
According to recent Federal Trade Commission data, U.S. consumers reported more than a 30 percent increase in monetary losses due to fraud and scams in 2022 compared with the previous year. Scammers continue to find new twists on old tricks.
Among the most common scams today are impostor scams in which fraudsters persuade their victims to send wire transfers under false pretenses. The scammer pretends to be from a government agency, tech support firm, bank or other legitimate and trusted company, then tricks the victim into sharing personal information and/or sending money.
While not the only method, wire transfers have emerged as a common tool used by “bad actors” in their schemes to request and receive funds from victims. A wire transfer is an immediate form of payment — it’s like handing someone cash. Scammers are using wires because they know that once the victim authorizes and sends a wire payment, funds are usually transferred quickly and are rarely recoverable. Wire payments are often used for larger transactions, such as home purchases.
Vigilance and awareness are your best defense against all impostor scams. Stay aware to stay secure.
• Tip 1: Verify before you trust who is contacting you and before you send money. If you receive an unexpected text, email or voice message requesting a payment, do not reply, click links or call phone numbers included in that communication.
• Tip 2: Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers are able to “spoof” phone numbers to make it appear the call is coming from a trusted source, such as your bank or utility company. Contact the person or organization directly, using verified contact information. If it’s your bank, you can use the number on the back of your debit or credit card.
• Tip 3: Don’t share personal information. Never give out passwords, personal identification numbers (PINs) or access codes. Your bank won’t call and ask you to share your one-time access codes, PINs, passwords or full Social Security number. If you provide scammers that information, you may be giving them access to your accounts.
• Tip 4: Don’t be pressured or rushed into making a transaction or wire payment. If you’re being pressured to send money immediately, it’s most likely a scam. Remember: Your financial institution won’t ask you to send a wire payment in order to verify an account, receive a refund or prevent possible fraud.
If you are planning to wire funds — such as to complete a real estate or home purchase — and get a last-minute email asking you to send it to a new or unexpected account, contact the trusted recipient directly to make sure the changed instructions are not from a scammer.
Other examples that should raise a red flag:
• If you get a call asking you to wire funds for an urgent investment, pause, think twice and research the company and individual asking you to make the investment.
• If you get a frantic call from a family member saying he or she is in distress or in a crisis situation and needs immediate financial assistance via a wire transfer, do not wire funds to a random account. Talk to other family members first to verify whether the story is true.
Remember, when in doubt, wait to send it out!
For more information about spotting and avoiding scams, visit the Wells Fargo Security Center at bit.ly/3YXPQ6f.
Dan Cusick is a fraud and claims executive with Wells Fargo bank. ◆
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