Fraud and Security
We are always looking for ways to help improve your banking security. Read our tips to learn more about identity theft and how to avoid becoming a victim. We have also provided tips for our business and commercial banking customers to help safeguard valuable records and information.
Watch Out for These Popular Scams
Check Overpayment Scams
Check overpayment scams target consumers selling items through classified ads or online auction sites. The scammer replies to these ads or postings and offers to purchase the item with a check, then comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price for the item. The victim is instructed to deposit the check and then send the excess funds back to the fraudster via wire transfer, gift card, or another untraceable method. However, the original check or money order is often counterfeit or stolen, and the victim will end up losing the entire amount they sent to the fraudster.
Tips to avoid overpayment scams:
- Know who you are dealing with. Independently confirm your buyer’s name, street address, and telephone number.
- Never accept a check for more than your selling price.
- Be wary of requests to wire money or use gift cards as these are often preferred methods for scammers as they are difficult to trace.
- Resist pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good when the check clears.
- If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch. You can visit that bank branch to determine if the check is legitimate.
Phishing scams are a type of online scam where criminals send fraudulent emails, texts, or social media messages to trick people into sharing their sensitive personal information, such as passwords, credit card numbers, or bank account details.
These scams often appear to come from a reputable organization, such as a bank, government agency, or well-known company. The message may ask you to click on a link or open an attachment, which can then download malware onto your computer or take you to a fake website that looks legitimate but is actually designed to steal your information.
Here are some common signs of a phishing scam:
- The message asks for personal information, such as login credentials or financial account numbers.
- The message creates a sense of urgency or fear, such as claiming that your account will be suspended if you don’t take action immediately.
- The message contains spelling or grammatical errors, or it looks unprofessional.
- The message asks you to click on a link or open an attachment that you weren’t expecting.
To avoid falling victim to a phishing scam, follow these tips:
- Never click on a link or open an attachment in an email or message unless you’re sure it’s legitimate.
- Check the sender’s email address or phone number to make sure it’s from a trusted source.
- Look for spelling or grammatical errors in the message, which can be a sign that it’s a scam.
- Use two-factor authentication whenever possible to add an extra layer of security to your accounts.
- Use anti-virus software and keep your operating system and software up-to-date to protect against malware.
- If you receive a suspicious message, contact the organization directly using a phone number or email address you know is legitimate, rather than responding to the message.
Job scams are fraudulent schemes designed to trick job seekers into paying money or providing personal information for non-existent or illegitimate jobs. These scams can be found on job boards, social media, email, and even in newspapers.
Here are some common signs of a job scam:
- The employer asks for money or payment upfront for training or other expenses related to the job.
- The job description is vague or doesn’t provide enough information about the job or the company.
- The job posting or email uses generic language, contains spelling or grammatical errors, or appears unprofessional.
- The employer offers a job without ever interviewing you or conducting a background check.
- The job offer appears too good to be true, with high pay for minimal work or a job that requires no experience.
- The employer asks for your personal information, such as your Social Security number or banking information, before you’ve even been hired.
To protect yourself from job scams, follow these tips:
- Research the company and job opportunity before applying or providing any personal information.
- Be wary of jobs that offer high pay for minimal work or jobs that require no experience.
- Never provide personal information, such as your Social Security number or banking information, until you’ve been hired and have confirmed that the job is legitimate.
- Be cautious of jobs that require you to pay money upfront for training or other expenses.
- If a job posting appears too good to be true, do some research to confirm its legitimacy.
- Use trusted job boards and reputable companies when searching for jobs.
MA Unemployment Scams
Unemployment fraud is when someone fraudulently files an unemployment claim in your name. Should you become aware that a fraudulent unemployment claim has been made in your name, please visit: Report unemployment benefits fraud | Mass.gov to electronically report the fraud to the MA Department of Unemployment Assistance.
It is also recommended that you:
- File a police report with your local police department. Get a copy of the report that you can provide to creditors and credit agencies.
- Change passwords on your email, banking, and other personal accounts.
- Make a list of credit card companies, banks, and other financial institutions where you do business. Tell them you are a victim of identity theft, and ask them to put a fraud alert on your account.
- Get a copy of your credit report and dispute any fraudulent transactions. You can request credit reports online from the three major credit reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and Transunion) or by calling (877) 322-8228.
- Place a credit freeze with each of the three major credit reporting agencies. Call each of the credit reporting agencies at these phone numbers or visit their websites to freeze your credit.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit file. You can do this by contacting just one of the credit agencies to add an alert with all three agencies.
- Notify your HR Department.
You may also visit identitytheft.gov to create a customized identity theft recovery plan.
Skimmers are small, electronic devices that criminals use to steal credit or debit card information when people use their cards at ATMs or gas pumps. These devices can be hard to detect and can be installed quickly by a criminal.
A skimmer works by capturing the information on a card’s magnetic stripe when it’s swiped through the skimmer. Criminals can then use this information to create a counterfeit card or make fraudulent purchases. Skimmers can also include cameras or other devices to capture the victim’s PIN.
Here are some signs that a skimmer may be present:
- The card reader looks different from the other readers on the machine or appears to be an add-on.
- The card reader is loose or moves when you insert your card.
- The keypad or buttons on the machine look different or are hard to press.
- The machine displays an error message or doesn’t work correctly.
To protect yourself from skimming:
- Inspect the card reader before you use it. Look for anything that looks out of place or different from the other readers on the machine.
- Use ATMs and gas pumps in well-lit, public areas with security cameras.
- Use mobile payment services or chip-enabled cards whenever possible, as these are less susceptible to skimming.
- Check your bank and credit card statements regularly for any unauthorized charges.
If you suspect that a machine has a skimmer, do not use it and report it to the owner of the machine or your bank. By being vigilant and taking precautions when using ATMs and gas pumps, you can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to a skimming scam.
Money mules are individuals who are recruited by criminals to transfer stolen money or goods using their own bank account. Criminals use money mules to help them launder money or move it to different accounts to avoid detection.
Here are some common ways that criminals recruit money mules:
- Job ads or emails that offer easy work-from-home opportunities that involve transferring money or goods.
- Romance scams or online relationships where the criminal convinces the victim to help transfer money or goods.
- Phishing scams that trick the victim into providing their bank account details or other personal information.
To avoid becoming a money mule, follow these tips:
- Be cautious of unsolicited job offers or work-from-home opportunities that involve transferring money or goods.
- Never give your bank account details or personal information to someone you don’t know or trust.
- Be wary of requests from people you meet online, especially if they ask you to send money or goods on their behalf.
- If you’re unsure about a job or request, do some research to confirm its legitimacy before agreeing to anything.
- If you suspect that you’ve been recruited as a money mule, do not transfer any money or goods and report it to your bank and local authorities immediately.
- Regularly monitor your bank account for any unauthorized transactions or activity.
- Educate yourself on the common scams used by criminals to recruit money mules, such as job scams, romance scams, and phishing scams.
Remember, becoming a money mule is illegal and can have serious consequences, including fines and even imprisonment. By being aware of the risks and taking steps to protect yourself, you can avoid becoming a victim of this type of scam.
Romance scams are fraudulent schemes that use online dating websites, social media, or other online platforms to trick individuals into sending money or personal information to someone posing as a romantic partner. The scammer typically creates a fake profile, builds a relationship with the victim, and then requests money for a fake emergency or other reason.
Here are some common signs of a romance scam:
- The person you’re communicating with is quick to profess their love or affection for you.
- They ask for money for a personal emergency, such as medical expenses or travel costs.
- The person is unwilling or unable to meet in person or communicate through video chat.
- The person’s profile picture looks too good to be true or appears to be a stock photo.
- They ask for personal information, such as your Social Security number or banking information.
To avoid becoming a victim of a romance scam, follow these tips:
- Be cautious of people you meet online, especially if they quickly profess their love or affection for you.
- Don’t send money to anyone you haven’t met in person, no matter how convincing their story may seem.
- Be wary of people who are unwilling or unable to meet in person or communicate through video chat.
- Use reputable online dating websites and be aware of the common scams used by romance scammers.
- Educate yourself on the red flags of a romance scam and be vigilant in protecting your personal information.
- If you suspect that you’ve been the victim of a romance scam, report it to the dating website, social media platform, or local authorities immediately.
By being aware of the risks and taking steps to protect yourself, you can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to a romance scam.
Puppy Purchase Scams
Puppy purchase scams are a type of online scam that involves fraudulent sellers advertising puppies for sale online, but then either taking payment and not delivering the puppy, or delivering a sick or different puppy than advertised. This type of scam can be devastating for those who fall victim to it, both emotionally and financially.
Here are some common signs of a puppy purchase scam:
- The seller insists on payment upfront, before the puppy is delivered.
- The seller is located in a different city or country and asks for additional fees for shipping or customs clearance.
- The seller is unable to provide detailed information about the puppy’s breed, health, or history.
- The seller refuses to let you visit or pick up the puppy in person.
To avoid falling victim to a puppy purchase scam, follow these tips:
- Do your research and use reputable websites or breeders when looking to buy a puppy.
- Be wary of prices that are significantly lower than average, as this may be a sign of a scam.
- Never send money upfront without seeing the puppy or meeting the seller in person.
- Ask for references or reviews from previous customers to verify the seller’s reputation.
- Be suspicious of sellers who are unable or unwilling to provide detailed information about the puppy’s breed, health, or history.
- If possible, visit the breeder or seller in person to see the puppy before making a purchase.
By taking these precautions, you can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to a puppy purchase scam. If you do encounter a scam, report it to the relevant authorities and warn others about the scammer to prevent them from being scammed as well.
Tech Support Scams
Tech support scams are a type of fraudulent activity that typically involve a scammer posing as a technical support representative from a reputable company, such as Microsoft or Apple. The scammer may use a variety of tactics to convince the victim that their computer is infected with a virus or malware and that they need immediate assistance.
Here are some common signs of a tech support scam:
- Unsolicited phone calls or pop-up messages claiming to be from a legitimate company, such as Microsoft or Apple.
- Claims that the victim’s computer is infected with a virus or malware, even if they have no reason to suspect this.
- Requests for remote access to the victim’s computer, which can allow the scammer to install malware or steal personal information.
- Demands for payment, often in the form of gift cards or wire transfers, for fake technical support services.
To avoid falling victim to a tech support scam, follow these tips:
- Do not trust unsolicited phone calls or pop-up messages claiming to be from a legitimate company.
- Do not give remote access to your computer to anyone you do not know or trust.
- Do not make payments for technical support services with gift cards or wire transfers, as these are often used by scammers to avoid detection.
- Be wary of any unexpected alerts or warnings on your computer, as they may be part of a scam.
- If you receive a suspicious phone call or pop-up message, hang up or close the message and contact the legitimate company directly to verify the information.
- Use reputable anti-virus software and keep your computer and software up-to-date to prevent malware infections.
By following these tips and being vigilant in protecting your personal information, you can greatly reduce your risk of falling victim to a tech support scam. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, report it to the relevant authorities and take steps to protect your personal information.
Business Email Compromise Scam
Business email compromise (BEC) scams are a type of fraudulent activity that target businesses, typically involving a criminal posing as a trusted individual or entity to trick employees into transferring money or sensitive information. BEC scams can take many forms, but they often involve impersonating a CEO, CFO, or other high-level executive to deceive employees into thinking they are receiving a legitimate request.
Here are some common signs of a BEC scam:
- Requests for urgent wire transfers or payments, often with the promise of a financial reward.
- Changes in payment or invoice instructions that appear to come from a trusted vendor or supplier.
- Spoofed email addresses that appear to be from a trusted individual or company, but are actually from a criminal.
- Requests for sensitive employee or customer information, such as Social Security numbers or banking information.
To avoid falling victim to a BEC scam, follow these tips:
- Verify any email requests for money transfers or sensitive information through a different communication channel, such as a phone call or in-person conversation.
- Be suspicious of urgent requests for money transfers or changes in payment or invoice instructions.
- Use multi-factor authentication for all email accounts and financial transactions to prevent unauthorized access.
- Train employees on how to recognize and report BEC scams and other fraudulent activities.
- Regularly monitor financial accounts and report any suspicious activity to your financial institution.
By being vigilant and taking steps to protect your business from BEC scams, you can greatly reduce the risk of financial loss or reputational damage. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a BEC scam, report it to the relevant authorities and take immediate steps to mitigate any potential damage.
Text Offer Scams
Text offer scams, also known as smishing scams, are a type of fraudulent activity that typically involves a scammer sending unsolicited text messages to individuals, offering them deals or prizes in exchange for personal information or payment. These scams are becoming increasingly common as more people use their mobile phones for online transactions.
Here are some common signs of a text offer scam:
- Unsolicited text messages offering deals, prizes, or free gifts.
- Requests for personal information, such as Social Security numbers, banking information, or passwords.
- Requests for payment or gift cards to claim a prize or receive a deal.
- Urgent or time-sensitive messages that pressure the recipient to act quickly.
To avoid falling victim to a text offer scam, follow these tips:
- Do not respond to unsolicited text messages or click on any links in the message.
- Do not provide personal information, such as Social Security numbers or banking information, in response to a text message.
- Be suspicious of offers that seem too good to be true or require payment to receive a prize or deal.
- Use caution when downloading apps or clicking on links in text messages, as they may contain malware or spyware.
- Use anti-virus software on your mobile device to prevent malware infections.
- Regularly monitor your bank and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions.
By being vigilant and taking steps to protect your personal information, you can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to a text offer scam. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, report it to the relevant authorities and take immediate steps to protect your personal information.
Online Loan Scams
Online loan scams are a type of fraudulent activity that involve scammers posing as legitimate lenders to trick individuals into providing personal information or making upfront payments. These scams often target people who are in financial distress and are looking for quick and easy loans.
Here are some common signs of an online loan scam:
- Requests for upfront payment or fees before you can receive a loan.
- Unsolicited loan offers that you did not apply for.
- Requests for personal information, such as your Social Security number, banking information, or passwords.
- Unprofessional or poorly written loan documents or website content.
- High-pressure sales tactics that pressure you to act quickly.
To avoid falling victim to an online loan scam, follow these tips:
- Research any potential lenders and check their credentials with the Better Business Bureau or other relevant organizations.
- Be suspicious of loan offers that seem too good to be true or require upfront payment or fees.
- Use caution when sharing personal information online and never provide your Social Security number or banking information to an unverified source.
- Read all loan documents carefully and ask questions about any terms or conditions you do not understand.
- Use secure payment methods, such as credit cards, to make loan payments.
By being vigilant and taking steps to protect your personal information, you can greatly reduce the risk of falling victim to an online loan scam. If you suspect that you have been the victim of a scam, report it to the relevant authorities and take immediate steps to protect your personal and financial information.
Business Banking Security
Small to medium sized business and government banking accounts are being targeted by criminals every day. Learn some of the best ways to keep your records safe and the actions that Cornerstone Bank takes to safeguard your information.
Learn about identity theft and read tips on safe banking practices to protect your financial security and avoid becoming a victim. You will also find helpful links for you to report suspicious activity and improve overall security in banking.