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Is That Really Your Bank Calling?

Is That Really Your Bank Calling?
Learn to spot fake calls and protect yourself

Every day, thousands of people fall victim to fraudulent emails, texts, and calls from scammers pretending to be from their bank. While these scams get more sophisticated every day, banks have also increased their sophisticated security measures to help their customers stay one step ahead. Learn how to spot fake phone calls, what to do if you speak to a scammer, and how to react if you’ve been scammed.

Signs A Phone Call Might Be Fake

Sometimes it’s hard to tell a legitimate phone call from a scam. Here are a few hints that an incoming call might be from a scammer pretending to be from your bank.

  • Is the call from an unknown number? By itself, this isn’t a sure sign of a scam call, but it should raise your awareness if you decide to answer the phone. Your safest action is to only answer calls from numbers you recognize and let the rest go to voice mail or your answering machine.
  • Does the caller ID seem odd? Have you ever looked at your home or cell phone and seen your own number or even your own name in the description? Or maybe you’ve seen what looks like a real phone number that seems to be from your area code or a government agency? This is called caller ID spoofing and it’s when a scammer falsifies the text that shows up in your caller ID. Scammers do this to make you think the call is valid so you’ll pick up. Another reason is because it prevents call blocking. Again, your best bet is to never answer a call if you don’t recognize the caller ID.
  • Did your phone ring one time only? This is called a single-ring call. The goal is to tempt you to return the call which, most of the time, is to a number outside the United States. The scammers use the return calls to charge you for international or toll calls. Callers may also leave voice mails asking you to return the call. The best advice is to never call back a number you don’t recognize.
  • Is the call unexpected? If a caller says they are from your bank, first ask if you were expecting the call. Does the caller ID match where the person claims to be from? Does the caller give you a full name and the name of your bank? Is the call being made during the bank’s normal operating hours? Be wary of any call that you weren’t expecting. Add up all the clues—time of day, nature of the call, demeanor of the caller, the stated purpose of the call—and act based on that information. If you are suspicious, hang up and call your bank directly.

Indications You May Be Talking to a Scammer

During a call, watch for signs that suggest you’re speaking to scammers pretending to be from your bank.

There’s not a person on the other end of the line, but rather a pre-recorded message. Lots of companies use pre-recorded messages to inform their customers of important information, but most don’t ask you to take an action in their messages. For example, does the message ask you to press 1 to speak to a real person? Do they ask you to use the keypad to enter personal details like your bank account number, Social Security number, or passwords? This process is often part of a mass targeting scam that only works if large volumes of people are called and rely on a few people to fall for the scam prompted by the message.

The caller claims to be from your bank and asks odd questions. Legitimate calls from your bank are rarely unexpected. If someone claims to be from your bank and then asks you to confirm personal or financial information like your bank password, don’t fall for it. These scammers often follow a standard script. It may go something like this: “Hi, I’m with XYZ Bank. Can you please verify your account PIN?” The scammer tries to go through this script quickly to catch you off guard, hoping you’ll answer without thinking.

Here are some details these scammers may ask for:

  • Account number
  • Username or password
  • Social Security number
  • PIN
  • Birthday
  • Address
  • Answer to a security question

Never provide this information to anyone who randomly calls you. If you’re suspicious, hang up and call your bank directly.

What To Do If You’ve Been Scammed

Anyone can have an off day. Scammers depend on it. They hope to catch you when your guard is down. Here’s what you to do if you suspect you’ve been scammed via a phone call.

  • Change your password. If a scammer convinced you to reveal your password, change it immediately. You may be able to do this on your bank’s website or mobile app. (If you use the same password on multiple sites, change it everywhere it’s used.) Choose a strong password, which includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols. It should not use recognizable words, or words or numbers easily connected to you, like your name or birthday. You can also use password manager apps, which generate strong passwords for you and track their use on different sites.
  • Call your bank immediately. If you shared personal information with a scammer over the phone (or clicked a fraudulent link in an email or answered a suspicious text), let your bank know immediately. Your bank’s customer service representatives can guide you on what to do next to protect yourself and your account.
  • Stop payments. If a scammer persuaded you to send money, stop the transaction if you can. Speed is of the essence, so do this quickly. This may include calling your bank or money transfer service to stop payment. Ask to have the transaction or transfer reversed if it has already happened, however, that may not be possible.
  • Set up credit report monitoring. The three major U.S. credit bureaus are Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. Contact each to freeze your credit report, which helps stop scammers from opening fraudulent accounts in your name. Currently, credit freezing is a free service. You must contact each bureau separately and you’ll need to temporarily lift a freeze whenever you need access to your credit report (such as when you apply for a loan or credit card).

The American Bankers Association helps inform consumers about fraud, helping them learn how to spot scams and protect themselves. They partner with banks, like First Midwest Bank, to spread the word.

Visit FirstMidwest.com/Safe to learn more about how to protect yourself from other scams.