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Security & privacy

Convincing bank text scam could cost you thousands

Online banking is convenient and safe as long as you take some precautions. While it’s nice to avoid standing in long lines waiting for a teller, there’s always the chance for hackers and scammers to get involved. Tap or click here for three online banking mistakes putting your money at risk.

One of a scammer’s favorite methods to get your money is impersonation. They pretend to be a company or organization you trust and hope you fall for it. They can be pretty convincing.

A new text message scam involves crooks impersonating your bank and employing scare tactics to get you to send them money. Here’s what to watch out for.

Here’s the backstory

The Better Business Bureau has been getting reports of a new texting scam. Victims receive messages like “Bank Fraud Alert – Did you approve a transaction for $1,000? Reply YES or NO.” That’s enough to scare anyone.

Next, you’ll get a call from your bank. At least, that’s what the caller ID indicates. The person on the other end says they work for the bank and are here to help. If you want to stop the fraudulent charges, just send some money to yourself using a payment app.

The helpful caller will even assist in connecting your payment app of choice to your bank account if you haven’t already done so. They’ll ask you to verify the connection by giving them the authentication code you receive from your bank.

It seems simple enough. But the entire thing is an elaborate scheme. Here’s why:

  • Replying to that first message lets the sender know you’re taking the bait. It tells them they have reached an active number.
  • The “bank representative” is a scammer.
  • When you give them your code, they can set up an account with your contact information and tie it to their bank account.
  • When you send money to yourself, you’re actually sending money to the scammer’s account.
  • Good luck disputing the charges — many payment apps make you assume the risk. Plus, you approved the transaction.

RELATED: Received money from a stranger on Venmo? Don’t do this

Wells Fargo fraud

One victim reported their experience to BBB Scam Tracker. They received two texts from the Wells Fargo fraud department asking about a Zelle transfer. The victim replied “No” and got this text: “Thank you, no further action is needed, a representative will call you from 800-869-3556.”

Sure enough, they received a call from someone stating they were with Wells Fargo. The caller ID confirmed this. The caller said they could reverse the transaction if the victim signs into their online account and opens the Zelle app.

The caller asked if the victim could see their name and confirmed that they would be sending money to themselves. After the caller hung up, the victim received two texts saying that funds for $2,500 and $1,000 would be transferred to their Wells Fargo account.

When the victim logged into their account, there was no evidence of any deposits. But $3,500 had been taken out of their account and disappeared.

Here’s how to stay safe

It’s tough when criminals can trick you through caller ID, but there are some ways to detect a scam no matter how legitimate it appears:

  • Your bank will never ask you to send money to yourself.
  • An unexpected call or text from your bank is always reason enough to get your guard up. Don’t answer the call or text. Contact the bank directly using the phone number on the back of your credit or debit card to confirm if anything is wrong.
  • Never give out personal information if you don’t know the sender of a text or email or can’t verify their identity.
  • Use two-factor authentication (2FA) for better security whenever available, but never share your one-time passcodes with anyone under any circumstances. Tap or click here for details on 2FA.
  • Don’t reply to suspicious texts. Replying to unsolicited text messages lets the sender know they have found an active phone number. Ignore and delete any texts from unknown senders.

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