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Recently Reported Scams: What to Watch For

Help us help you keep your money safe

The following article appeared in the March 1, 2023, edition of the Canton Citizen newspaper, under the headline, “Recent Account Fraud: What to Watch For,” by Senior Vice President of Operations Peter Shea.

We’d like to alert readers to recent fraudulent activity that our customers have reported.

Fake Antivirus Alerts: We’ve received multiple reports of customers receiving fake antivirus alerts leading to fraud, both via email and text. One individual received an email about an “outstanding balance” with an antivirus provider. He called the customer service number in the email, and the antivirus representative who answered requested remote access to the individual’s cell phone to resolve the issue. Once that access was granted, the representative had full access to the individual’s phone, including stored passwords and financial information. The end result: fraudulent gift card purchases of more than $1,000.

Another individual’s fake antivirus experience was more complex. She received a text alert about her computer being involved in fraud. She was put in touch with a Federal Trade Commission agent (with a caller-ID-verified FTC phone number & government identification), who enlisted her help to catch the perpetrators. The FTC agent requested remote access to her desktop in order to put $9,000 of traceable “bait money” into her account. She granted the agent’s request. The agent then instructed the individual to log off and transfer that $9,000 (which turned out to be the individual’s own money from another bank account) to the perpetrators’ Bitcoin address, which she did. But it was all a scam, and that $9,000 was lost.

Account Takeovers: One fraudster had gathered enough authenticating information about his victim to access the victim’s bank accounts. When the fraudster contacted the bank for additional assistance accessing funds, we reached the real customer, who was unaware his account had been compromised. This story has a happy ending: not only was the fraudulent activity stopped at our bank, but the alert prompted the victim to contact his other banks and investment companies as well, where other fraudulent withdrawals were in process and were fortunately stopped in time.

Contractor Scams: A customer had been persuaded he needed repairs on his house. The contractors required several advances, worth tens of thousands of dollars. Each time the customer visited the branch to withdraw money, our bankers attempted to intervene and warn him of various scams that could be in play. Out of concern for the customer, our security officer drove to the customer’s residence and observed there were no signs of construction. No building permits had been issued. The next day, when the customer attempted to withdraw another $15,000 in cash, we contacted local law enforcement about the situation. Police officers visited with the customer and discovered he had been transferring his withdrawals to an untraceable Bitcoin address the contractors gave him. Although we were able to prevent the last $15,000 from being stolen, his initial withdrawals were gone.

Sadly, there are many more stories like these. And before you judge, understand that many fraud victims are not gullible people. They’re just like you and me. They get caught in unexpected, emotional situations and want to do the right thing.

Criminals never announce themselves; they are government agents, police detectives, service providers, and antivirus software reps. They’re talented actors. They call or text from trusted companies and verified phone numbers, and send scans of official badges and identification. They have good explanations for why you need to take certain actions, and why you should ignore your banker’s advice if they try to intervene.

  • If you find yourself in an unexpected situation involving requests for money or computer access, remember:
  • Don’t allow remote access to your computer or mobile device.
  • Don’t send money via Bitcoin or purchase gift cards on anyone else’s behalf.
  • Don’t share a texted verification code so that someone else can access your account.
  • The police or government will never seek your involvement in a criminal investigation.
  • If you’re the slightest bit uncertain about the authenticity of someone you’re communicating with, stop communicating and contact the organization using a publicly available phone number or email address. Do not use the contact information the other person gives you.

And finally, please listen to your banker if they raise concerns about a transaction you want to make. We see (and stop) several fraud attempts every year; we’re trained to spot the warning signs. And you can always ask us for advice if you’re not sure.

Please remember these tips, and help us help you keep your money safe.

Peter Shea is the senior vice president of operations at Bank of Canton, and president of the Canton Area Helpline. For additional financial security tips and information, visit www.ibankcanton.com/security. Bank of Canton: Member FDIC. Member DIF. Equal Housing Lender. NMLS #408169.

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