Financial Dangers During COVID

    Just after the one-year mark of COVID-19 hitting the United States, many are still suffering from the impacts of job loss due to forced closures throughout the country. Fraudsters have found new ways to take advantage of less-than-ideal situations. From PPP loan fraud to retail banking, scams are at an all time high. It is important to protect yourself, as scammers are evolving with the pandemic.

     Meredith Hanson is a 68-year-old retired teacher who was not expecting fraud when she received a call from a scammer. Meredith shared her experience, hoping others will not fall for the same scam. “It seemed like it was the bank. They knew some of my information, and the number on the phone was registered to the bank. I gave them the code that was sent to my phone…. After I gave it to them, I noticed the top of the text said, ‘We will never ask for this code.’ So, I hung up.” Meredith’s quick thinking saved her life savings. She called her bank, and they were able to stop any charges from coming through. “I am so thankful. I bank with my small-town credit union and they’re great.”

     Michele Gagonway, a local bank representative, has been seeing this more frequently since the pandemic. “I’m seeing it several times a week now. People are vulnerable–people are on lay off or too scared of the virus to work in public. It puts a financial strain. So, when a scammer calls and says they can help, they want to believe them.” So how can you protect yourself?

     In a virtual world, be cautious with information you post online. It has become common to see online “quizzes” on Facebook that ask the same common questions as security questions. “What’s your favorite color?” may seem harmless, but it could be one of the last lines of defense before a fraudster accesses an online account.

     Many banks now require two-factor authentication to log in to online banking. The codes sent to your phone will never be asked for verbally. If someone asks you to repeat this code, hang up and call your bank immediately.

     Most reputable financial institutions will not place outgoing calls to ask you for personal information. If you are ever unsure, hang up and call the phone number on the back of your card. This will ensure you are speaking with the bank and not an imposter.

     Ultimately, the best practice is to be cautious. If you are ever in doubt, call your bank.