The New Identity Theft Frontier: Trends, Prevention, and Your Bank’s Role

We all hear and read stories about rampant identity theft and fraud, but when you put hard data behind the conversation, the sheer size of the problem — and how fast it’s expanding — becomes clear. 

Take a look at this research from the Federal Trade Commission and National Council on Identity Theft Protection:  

infographic of identity theft stats

For comparison, if U.S. fraud was an industry, it’d be as big as the entire parking industry or plant-based food industry. And if it keeps growing at this rate, fraud would beat out the U.S. egg industry or airline industry in a year. 

Key questions that grow out of all this:  

What can we all do to avoid scams and identity theft — and how can Merchants & Marine Bank help?

Here are our insights:

Know the Latest Fraud and Identity Theft Trends

Scammers are always adapting tactics, and while old-fashioned phishing (tricking someone into clicking a link and sharing personal information) is still rampant, technological advances have made fraud far more sophisticated.  

Just a few of the many ways scammers use technology to defraud consumers in 2023: 

  • Deepfake Scams: AI technology is sophisticated enough to reproduce voices and visuals with uncanny accuracy. Scammers may call posing as someone you know and ask for confidential data or a financial transfer.  
  • P2P App Fraud:  Many of us use mobile apps to send or receive funds, and scammers take advantage of that familiarity. Someone may contact you via phone, text, or email, posing as a fraud department employee and claiming attempted fraud through a P2P app. They often ask to walk you through “fixing” the issue, convincing you to send a fraudulent payment.  Another common P2P tactic: unexpected payment or overpayment, with a request to refund or forward those funds. Often, the original payment is fraudulent and gets taken back. 
  • QR Code Scams: You may scan a QR code to access a restaurant menu or log in to a streaming TV app. Scammers prey on that familiarity by putting codes leading to malicious links in inconspicuous places. 
  • Online Shopping Scams: These tactics range from fake social media marketplace listings to fully rendered, fraudulent e-commerce stores. Puppy scams are among the most common, but this can include anything from clothing to furniture. 
  • Job Scams: These prey on people looking for work. The scam can be sophisticated, with a fake employer, a seemingly legitimate operation, and a detailed “interview” process. After offering a “job,” the scammer collects your personal information, and/or requires you to purchase equipment, training, or access to a program.

Know Your Vulnerability

Many people assume that older Americans — those who grew up without constant connection to the internet — are the prime targets of identity thieves and scammers. 

Data that may surprise you: According to the FTC, millennials (anyone born between 1981 and 1996) are 25% more likely to report losing money to fraud than their 40-and-over counterparts. 

Millennials are twice as likely to report losses to online shopping scams, 93% more likely to report fake check scam losses, and more likely to report losses to scammers who promise job, investment, or business opportunities or to fix debt-related problems. 

That’s not to say only millennials should be concerned about scams, fraud, and identity theft. It’s a reminder that we’re all vulnerable, no matter how digitally savvy or familiar we might be, and that we should all be aware of ways to protect ourselves. 

Know How to Protect Yourself

Scammers use pressure tactics to get victims to move quickly and ignore red flags, like requests for personal information or one-time passcodes, or demands for payment with gift cards, cryptocurrency, wire transfers, or money orders.  

Important things to keep in mind:  

  • Don’t rush. 
  • Do your research. 
  • Stay skeptical. 
  • Add safeguards (like multifactor authentication) to your accounts. 

How Merchants & Marine Bank Helps 

These are a few of the tools we use to protect our Clients against fraud: 

  • Card Protect: We offer the Card Protect app to help you manage your debit accounts. With it, you can set transaction limits, control locations where your account is used, lock and unlock your account, and get real-time alerts about potential unauthorized or fraudulent activity.
  • Fraud Protection: When you pay with your Merchants & Marine Bank personal credit card or business credit card, you’re covered by zero fraud liability—meaning you won’t be liable for fraudulent purchases when your card is lost or stolen. (More details on how that fraud coverage works here.)
  • Text Alerts: If our system detects suspicious activity, it immediately sends text alerts with the charge amount and merchant. You can easily confirm via text, or, if you don’t recognize the charge, disable your card and get assistance. 

Important to remember, too: Merchants & Marine Bank will never contact you to request your confidential information. 

More questions or concerns? Our community bankers are happy to provide guidance. Visit the Merchants & Marine Bank location closest to you or contact us online.