Financial Awareness Tips: Recognizing and Avoiding Scams

According to CNBC, American consumers lost more than $5.8 billion to fraud last year, an increase of more than 70 percent over 2020 numbers.

Some well-known scams masquerade as organizations and people pretending to know you.  Often, a scammer will reach out to you seemingly on a government’s behalf or say there’s a prize or a problem requiring an immediate response. Then, they ask you to pay up now and apply pressure.

Recognizing the signs of a potential scam and taking the following steps will ensure your financial security remains intact.

Expect the Unexpected

Simple, but unexpected requests may catch you off guard. Know that legitimate firms will rarely contact you with calls, emails, or texts.

Even if an email link is sent from a company with which you do business, resist the temptation to click the link.  Instead, contact the business through its website or independently look up its phone number, rather than calling a given number or a caller ID number.

Just Say No

Never give out your financial or personal information, such as bank account numbers, credit card numbers, and Social Security numbers. Block unwelcome calls and texts to prevent repeat fraudulent requests.

Do not pay an entity, person, or firm with a gift card or through a money transfer company.  Above all, don’t deposit a check from an unknown entity and send money back to the same entity.

Never respond to possible criminal requests online or over the phone.  Here’s the key: If you believe the personal request is real, initiate contact on your terms, not theirs.  For example, if someone is calling you and claims to be from our bank, and they are asking for suspicious information, simply hang up and call us to check on the safety of your accounts.

Stick with the Names You Know

Banking with well-known financial institutions like Merchants & Marine Bank provides an immediate layer of protection for your finances. It is important to extend this rule to other product and service providers in the world of financial services such as lenders, brokers, and insurance agencies. Institutions like ours are supervised by state and federal regulators to provide the highest levels of security and protection for our clients, and we are vigilant in our efforts to continuously improve the security of your accounts.

Take a Breath and Protect Yourself

Remember, resist the temptation to act immediately upon a request that requires a decision. If someone is pressuring you to act quickly, they are more times than not, a scammer.

Scammers often insist on you making a quick decision, telling you to pay or there will be immediate consequences. But, taking time to talk with our trusted professionals, colleagues, neighbors, friends, or family members gives you the added time to pause – heading off scams before they escalate to lost money.

Leverage Professional Resources

If you feel an online scam, fraud, or robbery has been committed, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at 1(877)382-4357.  Certainly, if you believe your accounts here are at risk, contact your local branch.