Common Bank Frauds

Below are brief descriptions of common types of cyber fraud.  By keeping yourself educated and vigilant,  you can avoid falling victim to these scams.  Scroll through for more details.


Man-in-the-Middle Fraud

The term "man-in-the-middle fraud" refers to a cyberattack where a hacker obtains sensitive information transmitted between two other parties online. The "man in the middle" is normally an unauthorized third party who intercepts a conversation or transaction between two other parties.

This type of fraud is easily accomplished using unsecured public WiFi networks or poorly protected home networks. It can also be carried out by installing malware on the target’s computer.  Man-in-the-middle hackers may also intercept emails between two parties, creating spoofed emails that cause individuals to provide sensitive data to the man in the middle.

Injured/Arrested Family Member Scam

These scams often target the elderly. A phone call, usually at night, starts with “Grandma?” or "Dad?" then you guess who it is. Now the fraudster has a name. The person may be hard to hear/understand and will instruct you to wire money. They may warn you not to tell you bank what you are doing. Once the money is gone it cannot be recovered or tracked.

IRS Scam

Fraudsters may call or email you,  claiming to be the IRS.  The IRS is NOT going to call you on the phone for payment. They will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes them. You CAN call the IRS to verify if you owe money or not. They do NOT accept Google cards, or money orders, or gift cards as payment. They do NOT threaten to bring in law enforcement to have you arrested. They DO give you the opportunity to question the amount or appeal the amount owed. They do NOT ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.
If you get an unexpected refund, call the IRS to verify

To sound more legitimate, fraudsters will use fake names and IRS badge numbers to identify themselves.  They may know the last 4 of your SSN.  They may spoof caller ID to make it look like the IRS or law enforcement is calling, and even use background noise like a call center.  They may threaten jail time and then call back and pretend to be law enforcement.

For those who think they may owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040.  Real IRS employees can help you.  If you receive a fraudulent call,  do not give out any personal information.

Secret Shopper

Do NOT answer an ad or phone call to work as a secret shopper.  In this scam,  the victim will get an envelope by mail, usually priority with a letter of instruction and Official Check inside.  They are then instructed to deposit the check and shop for gift cards or Western Union services up to a certain amount and then keep the rest as payment. The victim will either send the gift card codes to the fraudster, or Western Union them the money. Official checks can be returned weeks later and taken out of your bank account, leaving you holding the bag.
It is impossible to track the perpetrator, as they will use a fake address, fake name, fake company name, fake cashier’s check.

Facebook Friend Scam

Social Media Scams are becoming more and more prevalent.  You may have a person you don’t recognize ask to be your friend, email you, or meet you on a dating site. They may develop a relationship with you, sharing fake facts about their life, including a back story of why they need your financial help.  

They will then ask for your online banking information so they can deposit money into you account to be used for some “legitimate” use they have (avoid an ex wife taking it, sick child, out of the country with no bank, need money to come and visit you).  They will use that information to log on to your online banking and deposit a fake check, ask you to withdraw the cash and send it via Western Union or wire them the money and keep the extra for yourself. The check is returned fraudulent and you are left owing the bank money. Fraudsters may also ask for your account number and routing number so that they can create fake checks on your account to use in the same scam somewhere else
Also may set up online bill pay on your account and send themselves or others payments

Social Security Scam

Never give out your social security number to an unknown source.  One common Social Security Scam involves a Fraudster, posing as a Social Security representative calling to tell you your payment has been delayed.  They then ask you to verify your banking information to ensure it will deposit correctly.  Next, they will call the bank with your social, date of birth, address, and account number that you have “verified” with them over the phone and conduct fraudulent transactions. This can also happen with someone pretending to be Medicaid or a healthcare company and do the same thing.

Medicare and Prescription Drug Schemes

With Prescription Drug Schemes,  often times someone calls posing as a representative of the government health care program. They will call or email and ask for you to verify your identification details and Medicare information. They may submit fake bills on your behalf and have the money sent to them. They may also send you unnecessary medical equipment and submit fake bills for payment.

Some seniors might shop for cheaper prescriptions online. Some of these sites are offering counterfeit drugs and send bogus medications, while still billing Medicare or taking your credit card information for payment. Shop from only your doctor or your doctor approved website.

Bereavement Scams

Scammers look through the obituaries and then search for names of survivors and then will call or show up at funerals saying the deceased owed them money.  Those claims would need to be processed through claims against the person’s estate.  It is not your responsibility to pay those debts, and you should tell the person they will need to contact the attorney for the estate.

Another way that seniors can be preyed upon is by a disreputable funeral home. They may oversell you an expensive casket, service, or cremation that you do not need. Make sure to take someone with you who can ask the appropriate questions, as you might make an unnecessary purchase to try to compensate for your grief and loss.  Ask to see a detailed price list. Funeral homes are required to provide those upon request.

Investment Fraud

The scammer will call or send emails offering stocks or investments with unbelievable returns or rates. These rates often have fine print restrictions or fees attached to them.  Before agreeing to anything, check the company’s financial statements and inquire with your bank to see if the offer is legitimate. They may also have a similar rate or a better rate.

Computer Virus Scam

A Computer Virus Scam may seem extremely legitimate,  but be weary.  First, a screen pops up telling you that your computer may have a virus and you'll need to follow instructions on how to get rid of it by either calling or clicking on a link. Clicking on a link gives the hacker access to your computer. They can view what you are doing, what sites you visit, what your log on and passwords are that you are entering, along with confidential information such as date of birth, social security numbers, credit and debit card numbers, etc.

Calling the number makes you feel safer, but the fraudster then establishes a remote session and logs on to your computer and does the same thing.  They will also ask for your phone number to contact you and then start harassing you by phone as well demanding payment for their services.

A new scam is that they will contact you and tell you that you overpaid for virus protection and they owe you a refund. They will need your bank account information or your debit card information so they can send it to you. They then begin withdrawing money from your account or using your debit card number for purchases.

If this happens, unplug your computer from the internet and turn it off. You will need to take your computer to have it cleaned by a professional.

Computer Takeover

If you are a victim of a computer takeover, your computer screen will have a warning that it is locked. You will get a demand to pay them if you want your information back and it will instruct you NOT to shut your computer down. There is no way to get rid of this but to take your computer to someone to have it removed. Tell them exactly what happened.  Do NOT call the number on the screen and Do NOT click on anything on the screen.

Most importantly do NOT pay them.

Craigslist/Paypal Scam

Although many online transactions are sage, you should use caution when buying and selling items on websites such as Craigslist.  Some people may make promises regarding payments through PayPal,  but do not follow through. 

Fraudsters may offer to add on extra for shipping, or send fake cashier’s check by mail and ask you to send remaining amount back.  You send the rest back, then the cashier’s check comes back fraudulent, and you are stuck owing the bank and also losing the item you have for sale

Do not send payments prior to receiving the product.  Good rule of thumb, NOTHING IS FOR FREE!  

Lottery or Inheritance Scam

You may be targeted for a Lottery or Inheritance Scam if you receive phone call, email, or letter that you have won money,  and the caller asks you to deposit the check and then send some of the money back to pay the taxes.  The check is likely fraudulent and will be returned, leaving you owing the bank money. The fraudster may also say that you are a distant relative and that you are owed an inheritance, and just need to pay the taxes to claim it. They may also claim to be a legitimate charity, like a firefighter fund or police fund, wanting you to make a donations over the phone.

Things to remember:

  • You cannot win if you don’t play.
  • You should not have to pay to claim a prize. It is a prize.
  • You would not receive a check out of the blue for an inheritance. It would need to go through proper channels and validation steps before it got to you.

If it seems too good to be true,  it probably is!

Mortgage and Refinance Scams

Mortgage and Refinance Scams aim to convince you to take out a home loan with overly high fees/interest/penalties or unaffordable payments.
Ways to avoid these scams:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited advertisements
  • Be suspicious of anyone claiming that you can own a home with no down payment
  • Do not sign anything you do not fully understand
  • Do not accept payment from individuals for a home you did not purchase
  • Seek out your own mortgage counselor/lender

Beware of the vendors/home repair companies that approach you directly – they may try to coerce you into obtaining a reverse mortgage because they figure that you have no loan on the property and you can use your equity to pay them. If you HAVE recently purchased property (home, land, etc.) beware of letters from solicitors stating:

  • For a fee you can receive your Warranty Deed. The title company will mail that to you free of charge.
  • Stating that you can refinance your loan at a lower rate – you will end up paying more in closing fees and will not recoup the money that you are “saving” for approximately 10-15 years.

Another homeowner scam: a personalized letter on behalf of the County Assessor’s Office. The letter looks official but only displays public information, identifies the property’s assessed value and offers the homeowner, for a fee of course, to arrange for a reassessment of the property’s value and the tax burden associated with it.


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