Financial scams are widespread and come in myriad forms, from phony sweepstakes to fraudulent emails claiming to be from bankers. And, unfortunately, they haven’t slowed down during the pandemic; in fact, some hackers have seized on the anxiety caused by COVID-19.
But there is good news: These schemes are generally easy to spot. Scams often contain grammatical errors, omit certain necessary details and include requests that just don’t make sense.
Banking is a highly regulated industry, and these types of inconsistencies would raise concerns with various business lines within a financial institution. As we’ve said before, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
We want to ensure our customers – and any consumer, for that matter – are better prepared to recognize fraudulent activity. If you receive a suspicious request, keep the following in mind before going forward.
1. Watch Out for Small Inconsistencies
Scammers tend to be sloppy. For instance: If you were working with a bank you think is located in Minnesota – say Sunrise Banks, for the sake of example – you can assume that the bank will have a Minnesota area code, e.g., 651.
If you see contact information for a supposed banker that doesn’t match up with the bank’s location, like an East Coast area code for a Midwestern bank, you should be skeptical.
It’s important to look out for the little things, like making sure the bank’s names and addresses are correct. Sunrise Banks, for example, would never send out information under the name Sunrise Bank, without the “s” on the end of “bank.”
2. Bad Grammar Likely Means a Bad Deal
Scammers continue to get more sophisticated in their tactics; however, you can bet they don’t know how to use a semicolon.
Bad grammar is one giveaway that a correspondence might be fraudulent. Missing periods, commas, misspellings and arbitrary capitalization are all signs of a phony message. And you don’t need to be an English major to catch these errors, which are usually conspicuous.
- Using hyphens in unnecessary locations: “Your co-llateral,” as opposed to “collateral.”
- Capitalizing words that don’t need to be capitalized: “Your business is So important to Us.”
- Missing certain punctuation: “Congratulations, you have received a free $2000 gift card.” Here, we’re missing a comma in “$2,000.”
3. We Wouldn't Ask for That
Chartered banks are highly regulated institutions that abide by strict regulatory guidelines. Failure to do so can mean fines or worse. For this reason, know that your bank will likely never originate messages that ask you for personal information like account numbers or request data that might jeopardize your identity.
Call your bank if you’re asked to provide any of this information from a source you don’t trust:
- Your bank account number or pin
- Your Social Security Number
- Your date of birth
- Your address
- Information needed to wire money or make a transaction through a peer-to-peer payment network like Venmo or Cash App.
Related to this, if you’re receiving inquiries that you aren’t expecting, it could be fraud. Scams often use threats and scare tactics to swindle their victims. Never had as much as a traffic ticket on your record? It’s unlikely, then, that it’s actually the Federal Bureau of Investigation on the other end of the line.
If there’s ever a question of authenticity, reach out to your bank.
4. If You Haven’t Applied for a Loan, We Wouldn’t “Approve” One
This is a basic one, but important: Banks don’t offer loans to those who haven’t applied for one. And you definitely won’t receive an “approval” notice if you haven’t started the application process.
If you’ve been approved for a loan through Sunrise, a lender will likely reach out via telephone. However, customers who apply through uOpen, our online portal to apply for an account or loan, will receive a preliminary approval, pending specific conditions, via email.
But in any case, if an approval notice seems suspicious, contact your bank to make sure the approval is legitimate.
Still Not Sure? Give The Bank a Call
Call your financial institution if you’re not sure if a request is legitimate. What do you have to lose? Calling your bank will not only provide peace of mind, but it could also tip off the institution to similar scams and help them better protect customers in the long run.