January is the season for fraud. Why? Because many of us conducted an awful lot of transactions during the month of December and aren't paying close attention to our bank accounts right now. Fraudsters know this and take advantage. The key to stopping fraud is being diligent. If you find something wrong in your account and report it right away, the fraudster gets stopped in their tracks. Whereas folks that aren't paying attention will enable the fraudsters to get away with much more before they get caught.
There have been a couple of local banks who have reported that fraudsters are calling their customers pretending to be from the bank and asking for account information.
I also read in yesterday's Hartford Courant that some frausters are claiming via email that their bank declared bankruptcy and you should "click here" to find out how to reclaim your money. When the recipient clicks on the link a virus is installed on the computer.
The other scam I read about recently was a fraudulent mobile banking application for the new Android phone. Once the application was downloaded for First Tech bank, the fraudsters were able to obtain user IDs and passwords for online banking.
What can you do to protect yourself? Be smart and use your common sense. A bank isn't going to call you and ask you for information about your accounts. They have your account numbers and they have your debit and credit card numbers. They may ask you to verify pieces of information in order to confirm your identity. Those questions are typically mother's maiden name, date of birth, date of last deposit, address, etc. They will never, ever ask you for your PIN to verify your identity. They don't have it as PINs are encrypted before they are stored and should never be visible to a bank employee.
If you receive a call be suspicious. If you're uncomfortable, then tell the caller you're in the middle of something and ask for a name and number you can call back at. That'll give you a chance to check in with your bank personally before giving out details.
And here's one rule to remember, it is HIGHLY unlikely that your bank will ever email you looking for information. Financial institutions know that email is not always secure and have policies in place to avoid exposing your information. When in doubt, contact your institution and ask them if they sent the email.
Finally, pay attention to your account. Review your history online, look at your statements, and if you see anything that's not your activity alert them right away.