Last week, I almost got phished. Scammers are getting more sophisticated in the ways they try to steal your identity and money, so it’s easy to fall victim to scams. This phishing attempt involved fraud alert texts that looked like they came from my bank. The text message asked if I had authorized a $2,000 payment to a woman I had never heard of. It instructed me to reply yes or no to indicate whether or not I had made the transaction.
Since I thought this was an automated message from my bank, I replied no. Shortly after I got a call from what seemed like my bank’s fraud department. The caller ID showed my bank’s name, and the phone number was the same one I usually call when I have an issue. However, I found out later that it wasn’t really my bank—the scammer had just spoofed their number. So it turns out you can’t always trust your caller ID.
Never Give Out Personal Information to Random Callers
So far, the scammers had me convinced that I was talking to my bank by spoofing their number. I may have gotten scammed if I didn’t know this golden rule: never give out personal information to someone who called you or initiated contact first, even if you think it’s your financial institution. Call them back on the main number to verify that it’s really your bank before you start sharing account information or other sensitive financial data.
So when the scammer asked me for my social security number, I refused to answer and told them I’d call back on the main line. They warned me that wait times to talk to a representative were long and the fraudulent transaction could go through in the meantime, causing me to lose money.
I knew that they were using high-pressure tactics to try to keep me on the phone. That’s when I realized I was talking to a scammer and not my bank. If someone tries to tell you there will be dire consequences if you don’t provide financial information right now, that’s how you know it’s a scam.
What To Do If You Get Scammed
If you think you’ve gotten a scam call or email, you should contact your bank, especially if you gave out personal info. Remember to get your bank’s phone number directly from their website to ensure it’s the real helpline.
Your bank can advise you on what steps to take to minimize the damage, such as changing your account password. Since I didn’t give out any sensitive data, my bank simply asked me to report the fraud to one of their departments so they could investigate it further.
After I got off the phone with my bank, I decided to freeze my credit just in case. Freezing your credit is a great way to protect yourself from fraudulent activity. No one can take out loans in your name while your credit is frozen. As long as you don’t give anyone the PIN they need to unlock your credit, you’ll be a lot less vulnerable to fraud.
I’m also going to keep a close eye on my bank account activity and credit report. I had an unauthorized sign-in attempt on my Venmo account last week too. So it seems like someone may be trying to target me. I changed several of my passwords to make them harder to crack so no one can hack my accounts. I’ll also be keeping a much closer tab on my finances for the next few weeks.
Experts say scams are on the rise and are becoming more sophisticated. Criminals are even using social media to try to defraud victims and steal their money or personal information. It’s crucial to be careful about what you share online, take steps to protect yourself from identity theft, and educate yourself on common scams so you know what to look for.
I almost fell for this scam because their spoofing techniques have gotten so sophisticated. As a personal finance writer, I thought I’d be able to tell if a text or call wasn’t coming from my bank. I’m surprised I didn’t know it was a scam immediately. It just goes to show that no matter how knowledgeable you are about common scams, you still need to stay alert and keep your defenses up to avoid becoming the next victim. Criminals are always switching up their techniques and finding new ways to defraud us, so be on guard.
Have you ever been targeted by a phishing scam? What do you do to protect yourself from identity theft? Let me know in the comments section below!
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Vicky Monroe is a freelance personal finance and lifestyle writer. When she’s not busy writing about her favorite money saving hacks or tinkering with her budget spreadsheets, she likes to travel, garden, and cook healthy vegetarian meals.