At VCB, we realize fraud has many faces, and being able to recognize potential dangers will help you reduce your risk of becoming a victim. If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, read what immediate steps you should take.
Although you’re able to enjoy the convenience and accessibility of managing daily tasks online, the Internet also makes it easier for others to access detailed personal information that can be misused.
Other methods criminals use to commit fraud both online and offline have been around for years. Just keep in mind: If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is.Types of Fraud
Phishing (pronounced “fishing”) is the most common type of online fraud that uses email messages to lure victims into disclosing credit card, bank account and Social Security Numbers as well as passwords and other sensitive information. Fraudsters send out emails pretending to be from businesses that customers deal with on a regular basis, such as banks and credit card companies. The emails often instruct the recipient to “update” or “validate” information to keep accounts active by directing them to a fraudulent Web site that looks similar to (or exactly like) the legitimate business. Also, the emails may threaten to close or suspend an account if no action is taken. Unknowingly, victims could submit financial information to phishers, who could use the victim’s information to order goods and services and to obtain credit. To protect yourself from phishing, avoid responding to these requests.
View examples of recent phishing emails.
Spyware and Viruses are malicious programs loaded onto your computer without your knowledge. They can capture or destroy information, damage the performance of your computer, flood your Web browser with advertisements. Spyware can also spread through pop-up advertisements. When clicked on, some of these pop-ups will download spyware or adware onto your computer. These are serious threats to your computer, so install a firewall and use regularly updated security software.
Smishing, a crime similar to phishing, sends text messages through SMS (Short Message Service) to get personal and financial information by asking the victim to register for an online service or by threatening to charge for a service unless the order is cancelled. Smishing often directs victims to fraudulent Web sites or places a virus on the victim’s device. Again, the best policy to protect yourself is to avoid responding to these kinds of messages.
The Advance Fee Fraud cons victims into paying an “advance fee” in order to claim a fake winning, inheritance or other large sum of money. A phishing email or a letter may be sent, stating the recipient has won a lottery in a foreign country. To claim the prize, the recipient is instructed to pay taxes and transfer fees in advance as required by that country’s laws. The victim pays the fees but never receives the award. You should never feel required to pay advance fees to process an application, guarantee a loan or claim a prize; these advance fees are illegal.
Check Fraud poses a challenge to financial institutions because technology aids criminals in creating increasingly realistic counterfeit checks and fake proofs of identification. Criminals can reproduce unauthorized checks or other negotiable instruments, forge endorsements or alter the names or amounts on checks. To reduce your risk of becoming a check fraud victim, never accept suspicious checks, report lost or stolen checks and avoid putting unnecessary personal information on your checks. Also, remember that it’s safer to mail bills and other checks directly from the post office — and even safer to pay bills online.
Some con artists commit Telephone Fraud by posing as legitimate companies or financial institutions and asking you for personal and account information with the intent to misuse it. Be wary of callers who make the following claims:
- You have to “act now" or the offer won't be good, or you can’t afford to miss this "high-profit, no-risk" offer.
- To get a "free" prize or vacation, you have to pay postage and handling or other charges.
- Don’t think too long about it, or you’ll miss out; you just need to send money or give a credit card or bank account number.
- You don't need to check out the company with anyone else before responding to the offer.
- You need to verify possible fraudulent activities on your credit or debit cards.
Hang up if you suspect telephone fraud. And if you’re concerned about your account, you can call the company back using a phone number you know is legitimate.
In an Overpayment Scam, a seller on the Internet could be victimized by a buyer who sends a realistic-looking counterfeit check for more than the price of the purchase. The buyer asks that seller to send back the difference in a cashier’s check or wire transfer, knowing that the original check is a fake. To protect yourself, wait until a check clears before sending back overpayment. Generally, a check can take anywhere from a few days to more than a week to clear.
Lottery Scams are often carried out through U.S. mail, with letters appearing to be from legitimate companies. Victims are often convinced by official-looking checks and may be asked to send money to cover fees or taxes. Remember that you cannot win a prize in a lottery you haven’t entered and that it is illegal for anyone to request an advance fee to secure a prize.
Victims are sometimes deceived by Inheritance Scams that have them believe a long-lost relative has passed away and left them a large sum of money. Scammers may research family tree information and send convincing email or authentic-looking letters through U.S. mail that often ask the victim to send a check to help cover expenses associated with their inheritance. To protect yourself from Inheritance Scams, be cautious of unsolicited mail and ask your relatives about recent deaths in your family.
No matter the kind of fraud, following a few general tips can help prevent you from becoming a victim:
- Never respond to an unsolicited request to provide personal or financial information no matter how official and authentic it seems. Do not give sensitive information out unless you are sure you know the recipient. Most companies will not ask customers to confirm personal information via email.
- Report suspicious emails or Web sites to the legitimate company or agency using a telephone number, Web address or email address you know is authentic.
- Confirm that you are in a secure Web session before entering personal information online (In the browser address bar, look for https://).
- Don’t reply to spam. This will confirm that your email address is “live,” which will only generate even more spam. Just hit the delete button or use email software to remove spam automatically.
- Resist keeping check or credit card information saved on purchasing Web sites, even if you always shop online.
- Use regularly updated anti-virus software and install a firewall.
- Change your online passwords frequently.
- Avoid providing your Social Security Number, credit card or bank account numbers, check routing codes or other personal information over the phone to anyone who has called you or via any email you have received, without first confirming whom you are communicating with, why they need the information, and that they are who they claim to be.
- Get all promises of extravagant claims, gifts, or prizes in writing and review them carefully.
- Check out the company with your local consumer protection office or Better Business Bureau.
- Ignore and report as spam any unsolicited email that promises you a commission for assisting in the transfer of funds into an overseas bank account or tells you that you’ve won a sweepstakes or lottery you never entered.
- Never pay "advance fees" or "advance service charges" since it is illegal for anyone to charge any fees or taxes in advance for processing your application, guaranteeing your loan, or claiming a prize.
- Don’t be afraid to hang up the phone or delete the email if you are not interested or feel pressured.
View more examples of recent scams.
The Security and Privacy information contained on the Virginia Commerce Bank public Web site is intended to provide general information only and does not attempt to give you advice that relates to your specific circumstances. You should consult an appropriate professional for specific advice tailored to your situation.