Privacy and security / April 29, 2024

Unveiling elaborate bank scams: tactics, threats, and tips for protection

Nimmi Kanji

Nimmi Kanji

Director - Social Purpose Programs, For Good and TELUS Wise

Person using debit machine

Bank scams have become increasingly sophisticated over the years, with fraudsters employing various tactics to deceive unsuspecting individuals and organizations. According to Ipsos, 43% of Canadians claim to have knowingly been victimized by fraud or scams at some point in their lifetime. Credit card fraud is most commonly reported (21%), followed at a distance by debit card fraud (8%) or online phishing scams (8%). From card skimming to remote viewing of transactions in real time, these elaborate schemes can result in significant financial losses and personal information theft. Understanding the tactics used by fraudsters is crucial in protecting oneself from falling victim to these scams.

Card skimming is a common method used by fraudsters to steal credit or debit card information. This technique involves installing a small device, known as a skimmer, on ATMs or point-of-sale terminals to capture card details when the card is swiped. The stolen information is then used to make unauthorized transactions or create counterfeit cards. To protect yourself from card skimming, it is essential to inspect ATMs and card readers for any signs of tampering before using them. Covering the keypad when entering your PIN can also help thwart a fraudster’s attempt to make a quick buck

Another tactic employed by fraudsters is remote viewing of transactions in real time. In this scheme, hackers gain access to online banking accounts or mobile banking apps and then monitor their victims’s transactions as they occur, with the ultimate goal of identifying opportunities to steal funds or commit identity theft.

To safeguard against remote viewing, it is crucial to use strong and unique passwords for online banking accounts and enable two-factor authentication whenever possible. Regularly monitoring your account activity for unauthorized transactions can also help detect suspicious behaviour early on.

Follow-up scams are another strategy used by fraudsters to exploit individuals who have already fallen victim to a previous scam. In these cases, fraudsters pose as representatives from legitimate organizations, such as banks or government agencies, and claim to offer assistance in recovering lost funds. By gaining the victim's trust, fraudsters can extract additional personal information or request payment for fraudulent services. To avoid falling for follow-up scams, it is essential to verify the identity of any individual claiming to represent a reputable organization before providing any sensitive information or making payments.

Fake page setups, also known as phishing scams, involve fraudsters creating replica websites that mimic legitimate financial institutions to deceive users into disclosing their login credentials or personal information. These fake pages are often sent via email or text message and appear convincing, making it challenging for individuals to distinguish them from authentic websites. To protect yourself from falling victim to fake page setups, it is crucial to verify the legitimacy of websites by viewing site information (click the relatively new ‘tune’ icon on Chrome browser which appears by the website URL in the address bar) and avoiding clicking on links or downloading attachments from unsolicited sources.

Importantly, trust your gut, if you get a call or email that doesn’t sound right, even if it appears to be from your financial institution and they have details about your banking or transactions, don’t oblige with their requests. Contact your bank directly to confirm the details being shared with you before taking any action.

In some cases, fraudsters may resort to extreme measures, such as wiping a victim's computer to cover their tracks and prevent detection. This tactic is often used after a successful phishing attack or malware infection to erase any evidence of unauthorized access or fraudulent activities. To mitigate the risk of having your computer wiped by fraudsters, it is essential to regularly back up your data to external storage devices or cloud services. Installing reputable antivirus software like TELUS Online Security and keeping your operating system and applications up to date can also help prevent malware infections that may lead to data loss.

Recently, a friend unfortunately experienced a combination of these fraudulent activities; shortly after making a routine sales transaction at a grocery store, she received a call from someone claiming to be from her bank. They asked if she recently made a purchase at the said store, and shared the exact time and value of the transaction. They went on to say that they had reason to believe there is suspicious, fraudulent activity on her account and that she should immediately file an online fraud investigation report at the web address they provided. The address sounded legitimate and given they had provided her recent transaction information, she had reason to believe them, visited the malicious website and followed the provided instructions. From here the fraudsters infected her computer with malicious software, and having gained access to her account, they proceeded to make large transfers out of her account and then encrypted her hard drive. Needless to say, it was a very traumatic experience but it’s a story worth sharing if it can help others avoid similar situations.

To protect yourself from elaborate bank scams and the tactics fraudsters use, it is crucial to remain vigilant and proactive in safeguarding your financial information. By staying informed about the latest scam techniques and implementing security measures such as strong passwords, two-factor authentication, and regular account monitoring, you can reduce the risk of falling victim. Remember to exercise caution when sharing personal information online and verify the legitimacy of any requests for sensitive data. By taking these precautions, you can protect yourself and your finances. Thankfully, knowing what to watch out for can help you spot and avoid almost any online scam. How savvy are you in spotting scams? Test your knowledge with this quiz.

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Frauds & scams
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