woman looking at her phone with concern

The simple, short answer is that fraud can look like many different things, and anyone can fall victim.

I got a call on my cell phone yesterday around 5:00. The number was unknown so I let it go to voicemail. A minute or two later I had a notification about a message so I pulled it up and put it on speakerphone to listen to it. A young woman had left me a very professional, very legitimate sounding voicemail letting me know that they had just gotten approval to help me with my student loan debt, but that it was a limited time offer and if I called her back very soon she would be able to help me out in getting them forgiven.

Ha. Nope.

You see, I paid off my student loans a few years back. But if I had still had loans in my name I might have had a moment of joy, or I might have picked the phone up to call her back.

So how do you know the difference between a legitimate call and a fraudulent one?

Well, it can be tricky, and my personal approach maybe seems a little over-the-top, but I have found it to be quite effective. Unless I specifically reached out to a company and requested a call-back about my account, or am expecting a call from someone at a certain time of the month or year then I never return the call to the person who called me and left a message. I never hit the call back button and I generally go find a document, already in my possession, that has the company phone number or customer service line on it and then I inquire as to whether someone from that company is trying to reach me. Even better, if they leave a fairly detailed message or a name, I can ask for the person who left the message.

Only once has this caused me a little trouble, and that was recently with a medical supply company. The email and voicemail I got from someone who was legitimate just raised a few too many hairs on the back of my neck so I didn’t return that call. It wasn’t long before a representative I was familiar with reached out to me to inquire as to whether I was okay. We got it all straightened out quickly, and no harm was done.

However, that same company reached out yesterday and I once again called them to ask if anyone was trying to reach me. As far as anyone there could tell no one was actually reaching out and the last logged call they had of them reaching out to me was last month! So the man who called yesterday is NOT getting call back.

We’ve done a number of posts regarding fraud, including tips for protecting your information and scams to keep an eye out for, but there’s always something new. To look back at some of the old tips visit our archive of posts that have any mention of fraud or identity theft at http://blog.centralnational.com/category/fraud-identity-theft/

In these last few months we’ve seen a few new cases of a scam we’re not as familiar with, so I’ll lay it out for you here. How it starts is that a customer will respond to an advertisement online promising that can get help with bank and credit card fee refunds, automatically, if they sign up for a service and pay a fee. The ad promised “industry expertise in fee negotiation.” If you’ve never been tricked into giving up your money to a fraudster you might be laughing at the irony of a customer being willing to pay a third party a hefty fee to help them get their fees somewhere else forgiven. But when you’re on the receiving end of this mess it’s not a laughing matter. And it is happening to an alarming number of people as our world becomes increasingly more reliant upon digital services and technology.

At some point we, the bank, received a letter from this company doing what they said they were going to do – try to negotiate her fees. While that in itself sounds legitimate, you should know that no bank or credit union is going to work through a third party to discuss a customer’s fees. Why? It’s against the law for us to talk to anyone but you about your account. In order to work with another entity we must either have a legal, court order to do so, or permission from the customer who may have an attorney, friend or neighbor assisting them with financial matters.

The main problem with these scams is that so many Americans are hurting right now and looking for love, get-rich-quick schemes and get-out-of-debt-free cards that we’re willing to fall for just about any trick that has any hint of truth, or hope to it. And the scenario that you might fall for is going to be entirely different than the scenario your neighbor might fall for. The worst part is that so many people are utterly embarrassed about their situation that they’re scared to warn their friends and neighbors about scams and how they work.

So, in the end, the only way you know what to look for is if you’re the one who got hit with a scam or you’re inclined to educate yourself on the topic. If you’ve gotten this far into this article, please tell your friends. They don’t even have to bank with us to read the articles and tips on our blog or follow us on Facebook so they get notice of new articles when they come up. It’s time we speak up and start looking out for each other, because if 2020 taught us anything it’s that online fraud and scams are not going away any time soon. Your friends at Central National Bank are here to help with NO judgements!  If you think you might be getting scammed, talk to one of our trusted bankers at Central National Bank.  We’re here to help!

What does fraud look like?
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