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How to spot spoofed bank phone numbers
© Tero Vesalainen | Dreamstime.com
Security & privacy

Think that’s your bank calling? It could be a scam

There shouldn’t be a reason for your bank to call you unless a critical issue needs correcting. Many might be reluctant to pick up the call, and for good reason. Scammers wiggle their way into different communication methods, and you can never be sure if the call is legitimate.

The widespread spoofing of banking communications is again in the spotlight as the United Services Automobile Association (USAA) warns about fraudulent calls.

Read on to see how criminals fool your caller ID and try to steal your money.

Here’s the backstory

When your mobile phone rings and, at first glance, it appears to be your bank, it could signify that something is wrong. But as the conversation progresses, the caller starts asking for personal details or claims they need to verify your data.

This should be the first sign that you could become a victim of fraud if you supply the details. According to USAA, the incidences of fraudulent banking calls are rising, and you must be aware of how the criminals operate.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) corroborates USAA’s assessment that the malicious actions cost American citizens billions in losses. For example, criminals swindled more than $2.3 billion last year through impersonation scams, which increased from $1.2 billion in 2020.

Speaking to KSAT in San Antonio, Texas, USAA’s Stacey Nash details how the criminals use relatively simple but effective techniques. The most common method is spoofing the Caller ID number.

That is when criminals use software to change the text that displays on your phone’s caller ID function. In theory, scammers can change the caller ID to reflect legitimate numbers from banks, government agencies or insurance companies.

What you can do about it

The most effective way to stay safe don’t blindly trust caller ID. In most of these scams, the numbers are fake, and the criminals will start asking for personal details or online banking passwords. If you hand over the data, your money is as good as gone.

Here are some FTC suggestions to stay protected:

  • Don’t answer calls from unknown numbers. If you answer such a call, hang up immediately.
  • If you answer the phone and the caller or a recording asks you to hit a button to stop getting the calls, you should hang up. Scammers often use this trick to identify potential targets.
  • Do not respond to any questions, especially those that can be answered with “Yes” or “No.”
  • Never give out personal information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, mother’s maiden names, passwords or other identifying information in response to unexpected calls or if you are at all suspicious.
  • If you get an inquiry from someone who says they represent a company or a government agency, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, in the phone book, or on the company’s or government agency’s website to verify the authenticity of the request. You will usually get a written statement in the mail before you get a phone call from a legitimate source, particularly if the caller is asking for a payment.
  • Use caution if you are being pressured for information immediately.
  • Talk to your phone company about call blocking tools and check into apps that you can download to your mobile device. The FCC allows phone companies to block robocalls by default based on reasonable analytics. More information about robocall blocking is available at fcc.gov/robocalls.

Don’t forget to check your voicemail regularly to ensure you’re not missing important messages. If you find spam messages in your voicemail inbox, delete them ASAP.

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