In the modern, digital age, technological advances drive us forward. Unfortunately, as technology progresses, scammers and other criminals also gain access to new and sophisticated methods of breaking the law for their own benefit and to the detriment of regular citizens. Criminals that use scams and phishing can take advantage of a host of tactics and technologies to gain access to private information and use that information, whether it be personal or financial, to scam their unsuspecting targets.
With the boom in the popularity of digital banking, it’s no surprise that phishing and scams are on the rise. With that in mind, it has never been more important for us to fully understand the risks involved and how we can protect ourselves. Let’s take a closer look at scams and phishing, and touch on the all-important measures we can take to protect ourselves and our finances online.
What are Scams and Phishing?
Let’s start with the basics. What exactly are scams and what exactly is phishing? They are both illicit techniques that target financial institutions and their members. Banks and credit unions are ideal targets for these scammers because they are charged with managing vast amounts of personal and financial information.
Scams are fraudulent attempts to gain access to money or sensitive information belonging to individuals. While scams can come in various forms, the sophistication of scams in recent years has become a huge issue. Whether the scams involve phone calls, emails, text messages, or social media posts, distinguishing scams from legitimate content has become tricky.
Sometimes, scammers have been known to use social engineering strategies to trick victims. This is where we move into the realm of phishing.
Phishing is one specific type of scam where the criminal pretends to be a trustworthy entity, lulling the victim into a false sense of security, and taking advantage of this to elicit sensitive information. More often than not, phishing will take place over email, text, or social media, and the links that scammers provide for individuals to follow will look virtually identical to the legitimate site it is pretending to be. These fake websites have become so convincing that phishing is becoming more and more of a problem for people and the financial institutions responsible for their data and money.
Examples of Scams and Phishing
Anyone who is a fan of Leonardo DiCaprio movies will be familiar with some of the most famous examples of scams in our world today. Investment scams like those in The Wolf of Wall Street, job scams like the one so successfully managed by a young Frank Abignale Jr. in Catch Me If You Can, or indeed whatever label we can give to DiCaprio et al’s corporate-secret-stealing dream-sharing scam in Inception.
Other popular scams include fake lottery and other prize scams, where the target is told they have won a large sum of money or a similarly desirable prize, but they must pay a fee or provide details to claim their “prize”. Charity scams are another example, where, similar to phishing, the scammer poses as a legitimate charity representative and looks for donations from unsuspecting individuals. Needless to say, this money never reaches any charity.
As we’ve said, phishing can take many forms. One of the most common is an email that will appear to be from a company looking for account information or will come from a very believable fake version of a legitimate website. Once targets click on the website link, they are prompted to enter details which, if they submit, will grant the attacker access to their victim’s information and financial accounts, allowing them to steal money or, worse, the person’s identity.
One very common, financial scam involves a fraudster posing as a bank examiner and telling the target that their account has been compromised. To remedy the situation, the target is instructed to transfer money to a “safe” account or to provide personal details. Whichever remedy the person chooses, the scammer is stealing from them, either in the form of money or personal details and information.
Protection and Security
Protecting yourself from scams and phishing is a vital part of anyone’s digital life these days. It’s important to be vigilant, and not to panic if you receive a strange or unexpected message or email. Many people panic as soon as the fraudulent message arrives and rush to fix the problem before considering who the message came from, through what method of contact it has come, or what it actually says.
Never, ever give out sensitive information, such as social security information or bank account details. On top of this, you should also use strong passwords for any online account and also take advantage of any multi-factor authentication features on offer. There are additional security measures that people can take, including installing and regularly updating antivirus and antimalware software, and avoiding suspicious links or attachments in emails or text messages.
While we must all take action to keep our financial information safe, some of the responsibility falls on our financial institutions to help protect their members from scams and phishing. Let’s take a quick look at some of the measures that credit unions and banks take to do just that.
How Credit Unions Protect Members
Financial institutions have a certain level of responsibility when it comes to protecting members from scams and phishing. The first thing credit union staff must do is warn all members to be cautious whenever they are providing someone with any personal or financial information, even if these people claim to be from the credit union. They should also advise customers to regularly check their accounts to identify any unauthorized transactions and report these transactions immediately.
Credit unions, in particular, go to great lengths to help protect members from scams and attempted phishing. There are regular updates on the latest criminal tactics, and tips on staying safe and accessing fraud prevention tools, such as identity theft protection, and credit monitoring.
Furthermore, multiple security measures are employed by virtually every credit union in the country: encryption; firewalls’ fraud monitoring; and dedicated response teams are all common security features and tactics used at banks and credit unions.
Combining these preventative measures with a cooperative attitude, credit unions and their members have a much better chance of protecting themselves against scams and phishing.
Credit unions are known for their strong focus on member safety and security, and when it comes to scams and phishing, we want our members to feel safe.
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