We are collectively bombarded by all sorts of scams on a daily basis, and bank account scams are some of the most common and dangerous scams of all.
The FBI 2021 Internet Crime Report tells us a grim story of 847,376 complaints of suspected internet crime. That’s an increase of more than 380,000 complaints from 2019 and the reported losses exceeded $6.9 billion.
Here are the most common bank account scams:
- Phishing Emails and Texts
- Phishing Calls
- Employment Scams
- Giveaway Scams
- Inheritance Scams
- Email Account Compromise
- Unsolicited Check Fraud
- Fake Check-Cashing Scams
- Automatic Withdrawal Scams
- Government Imposter Scams
- Support Agent Imposter Scams
- Unsolicited Bank Card Scam
- Fake Support Number
- Overpayment Scams
- Online Lending Scam
1. Phishing Emails and Texts
This is the quintessential bank account scam. It is designed to trick you into giving the scammers your personal information concerning your bank account.
A typical phishing message will pretend it’s coming from a reputable company or even your bank and will contain a link that leads you to an official-looking website where you’re supposed to enter your sensitive information.
I’d argue that there isn’t an adult that hasn’t gotten at least one phishing email or text from scammers in their lifetime. FBI analysis kind of backs this up because the federal agency got 323,972 complaints in 2021 alone, with adjusted losses of over $44 million.
Sending phishing emails and SMS texts is incredibly easy for perpetrators as the whole process is done en masse, and the scammers have millions of fishing lines in the water at all times.
2. Phishing Calls
Phishing calls are similar to phishing emails and texts. The person on the other side of the line needs to have your personal information and even your bank account details for various official-sounding reasons.
If you give them your information, your bank account will be like an all-you-can-eat buffet for them.
Phishing calls are easily recognizable as the phone number is often weird-looking, the person on the other side of the line has an accent or is even a robot.
Phishing phone calls are so prevalent these days that I don’t even answer my phone if the call comes from an unlisted number.
Never ever share any account numbers, SSNs, credit or debit card numbers, passwords, or any other sensitive information with anyone, unless it is a person you know and trust or you know for a fact it’s a legitimate request.
3. Employment Scams
Every day, millions of people are looking for new job opportunities. This includes browsing job boards in search of our next employment.
And although the vast majority of the jobs listed are legit, sometimes scammy listings might appear. As a part of the hiring process, the recruiter will ask you for your ID and even your SSN.
If you hand those over, the scammers will steal your identity and possibly access your bank account.
There are also other forms of this scam. The scammer might promise you work in return for an upfront fee. Or, they will ask for your bank account details so they can transfer the payment to you.
Look up the company or the recruiter and never pay anyone to get hired, and use reputable job boards exclusively.
4. Giveaway Scams
With so many giveaways, it’s no wonder scammers are looking for ways of getting money or information from unsuspecting victims.
In a giveaway, award, or lottery scam, the scammer will contact you by email, text, DM, or phone to tell you that you’ve won something and that you either need to give them your bank account details so they can wire the money to you and/or that you need to pay some tax or a release fees before they can send you the money.
If you haven’t entered any sweepstakes, simply disregard any and all emails about the topic.
If you did, diligently verify that the email or person contacting you is legit. Make additional inquiries with the company in question about the fact. Also, never pay a “fee” to redeem prizes.
5. Inheritance Scams
Inheritance scams are very similar to the above-mentioned giveaway scams. The scammer will contact you to tell you that you’ve inherited money, land, or something else from an unknown relative.
In 2021, there were almost 6,000 instances of reported inheritance, sweepstakes, and lottery scams. Those accounted for $71 million in loss.
There are probably scores of unreported crimes as well because people are often very ashamed that they’ve fallen victim to such a scam.
Use your best judgment, and don’t give your personal information if you suspect fraud. Always verify with official third parties, and don’t trust any information at face value.
6. Email Account Compromise
Business email compromise (BEC) and email account compromise (EAC) are incredibly lucrative scams. In 2021, victims lost a whopping $2.4 billion (with a B) to this sophisticated scam.
Both businesses and individual people are targets of the scam.
Scammers and fraudsters carry it out by compromising email accounts via social engineering or hacking.
Some of the more advanced versions of this scam involve using virtual meeting platforms like Zoom and inserting a still photo of the CEO, and directing the employee to initiate a wire transfer.
EAC scams target individual people instead of businesses and can be almost as equally devastating. The money that the scammers collect gets immediately transferred to crypto wallets and then further dispersed. This makes it that much more difficult to recoup.
The FBI recommends that you “never make any payment changes without verifying the change with the intended recipient; verify email addresses are accurate when checking email on a cell phone or other mobile device.”
As soon as you recognize the fraud, contact the financial institution you transferred the money to and request a recall or reversal and report the crime to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).
7. Unsolicited Check Fraud
Another “popular” scam that is fairly easy to pull off is the unsolicited check fraud that you receive to your address. It might look inconspicuous, and an unsuspecting victim could cash it in, thinking it’s a refund for an overpayment or a rebate.
However, once you cash the check in, you might be heading into a legally binding contract such as a membership, loan, or other types of commitment that will be costly to you.
Avoid cashing checks you weren’t expecting and read any fine print on the front or the back of the check.
8. Fake Check-Cashing Scams
In this old-school scam, the scammer will wait for you outside the bank and ask you to cash a check for them as they don’t have a bank account at the moment.
You, being a kind and caring person, cash the check and give them the money. The check bounces after a few days, and the money is taken out of your pocket.
Obviously, you should never cash someone else’s checks as it could cost you.
9. Automatic Withdrawal Scams
Automatic withdrawal or automatic debit scams are unauthorized or unknowingly authorized withdrawals of funds from your bank account.
They can be one-off or even regular withdrawals until you notice them and cancel the direct debits.
There often isn’t much you can do to prevent them if they already have your information, but you can and should check your bank account daily for any suspicious activity.
10. Government Imposter Scams
Most people don’t like debt and don’t want to owe any money to the government or any federal agencies. That’s where scammers come in, counting on fear from the FBI, the FTC, SEC, or any other three-letter agency.
The imposter will impersonate a government agent and even threaten you with prison if you don’t pay off your “debt” immediately.
The truth is, no agency will use this strategy to collect payments from you. They have different methods, such as taking the money directly from your bank account or raising a lawsuit.
11. Support Agent Imposter Scams
This is a type of phishing scam where the fraudster is impersonating a customer support agent from your bank, mobile phone company, ISP, and similar company.
They will either request payment for something or, more often, ask for your personal data as they can help you reverse a transaction or give you a prize, for instance.
Again, no official support agent is going to ask you for these details, and you shouldn’t share them with anyone.
12. Unsolicited Bank Card Scam
Similar to the unsolicited check scam, this one involves getting a bank card to your home address. It has all your details on it, even though you have never opened an account at this establishment.
You see, in 2017, Equifax announced a data breach that exposed the personal information of 147 million people in the US. That means criminals can use this data to open bank and other accounts to collect unemployment benefits, COVID relief funds, and other benefits.
You shouldn’t simply disregard and throw away this unsolicited card. Call the institution that issued it and demand that the account is closed. Contact law enforcement and report it to the FBI.
Perhaps the biggest issue is that unemployment compensation is taxable income and is reported to the IRS. This means that you could be liable for tax at the end of the year and have more headaches trying to solve the issue with the IRS.
13. Fake Support Number
Using bank accounts and cards can lead to some issues that require help from a customer support agent. That means that you will have to call them on the phone perhaps.
You google the support phone number and enter the top result into your phone. However, on the other line is an impersonator, and you unsuspectingly give them your sensitive data.
This can happen because scammers post fake customer support numbers online and even find ways to make their numbers appear at the top of your Google search results.
Always double-check the number with the official website or any documents you may have at hand. Google the number again, this time with the word scam beside it, to see if anything comes up.
14. Overpayment Scams
Overpayment scams target retailers and merchants and can involve checks or proof of payments. They claim that they overpaid for goods or services and ask for a refund of the difference.
Because the original payment was fraudulent, if the vendor returns the money to the scammer, they will lose both amounts (original and refund).
This scam is also targeting people selling items on Craigslist, which is often a minefield for both sellers and buyers.
Cash only checks with the right amount, or better yet, ask for a different and more secure kind of payment.
15. Online Lending Scam
There are many fake websites targeting people that are looking for a loan. They know people are sometimes desperate because they can’t get a loan from a bank.
If you give these scammers your data, they can open real loans in your name (without giving the money to you, of course) or give you a false loan and request payment right away.
You should obviously only borrow money from official and licensed lenders and banks.
You should always be wary of any emails, texts, or phone calls that come out of the blue asking for your personal information or even a payment.
Scammers and fraudsters are never asleep and are coming up with new and more creative ways of stealing your hard-earned money.
For that reason, never give your personal information to strangers, update your passwords regularly, and find out if your information has come out in any data breaches in recent years.