Fraud Education 101: Protecting Yourself from Social Engineering Scams

Fraud Education 101: Protecting Yourself from Social Engineering Scams

Americans lose billions of dollars to fraud every year. In 2022, the Federal Trade Commission reported consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to scams—a 30% increase from the year prior. The good news is there are simple steps you can take to keep your personal and financial information safe and secure.

We’ll explain one of the most common fraud tactics—social engineering—to help you understand what it is and know how to protect yourself from various types of fraud including tech support, romance, and imposter scams.

What is social engineering?

Unlike traditional fraud tactics that rely on technical weaknesses in devices or  software, social engineering involves the psychological manipulation of a person. With social engineering, fraudsters prey upon a person’s vulnerabilities, tricking victims into disclosing sensitive information and paying them money.

However, these scams aren’t always obvious and can be convincing, especially if you’re unaware of the different tactics. We’ll explain the most common forms of social engineering scams so you can identify fraud before it happens.

Phishing scams

Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails, texts or placing phone calls purporting to be from reputable companies in order to trick you into revealing personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers..

These scam attempts aim to gain your trust, using company logos. Frequently, scammers send urgent messages in hopes that you will click malicious links and attachments or reveal personal information, such as login credentials or account numbers. Then, scammers use that data to commit identity theft and gain access to your accounts.

Common types of phishing attempts include:

  • Emails from fraudsters posing to be an employee’s boss or CEO requesting urgent information or money.
  • Calls from scammers pretending to be a representative at your financial institution, often asking for personal or financial information to gain access to your accounts.
  • Texts from subscriptions you use urgently stating you need to provide information to continue using their services.

Imposter scams

Imposter scams are another name for widespread phishing attempts. The most common imposter scams include:

  • Social Security scams, where imposters claim there is a problem that needs to be addressed to distribute or increase your benefits.
  • Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scams, where scammers impersonate the IRS and claim you owe money, threatening legal action.
  • Grandparent scams, where fraudsters target older victims and pose as grandchildren or relatives in need of urgent financial assistance.

Fraudsters prey upon victims’ fears and emotions. They attempt to build trust to trick victims into sending money and provide personal information.

Think twice when you receive unexpected notifications and calls, especially if they request personal or financial information. Rollstone Bank & Trust will never call or email you asking for personal or financial information. If you receive a suspicious email, call, or text from someone asking for information, it’s best to stop communicating with them immediately and directly contact the business or person they’re claiming to be, using a number from a known source, like your bank statement or your own Internet search.

Fake tech support scams

When someone calls you and tries to convince you that your computer or phone is broken, has a virus, or needs urgent attention, this is a fake tech support scam. Scammers use a variety of tactics to gain access to your personal and financial information, using technical terms to confuse you while building their credibility to earn your trust.

They may even request remote access to your device claiming they need access to troubleshoot or install warranty programs. But in actuality, they install malware that gives them access to personal information stored on your computer or mobile device.

Fraudsters may also ask for debit or credit card information to pay for software and repairs. They may also send links requesting payment information.

If you get a phone call, email, text, or pop-up claiming there’s an issue with your computer or mobile device, it is likely a scam, especially if it demands immediate action. Think twice before calling a number, clicking a link, or providing information. If you suspect a problem with your device, contact a known, trusted source for help directly.

Romance scams (catfishing)

Catfishing or romance scams are a type of social engineering that relies heavily on emotional manipulation. Scammers create fraudulent profiles on social media or dating apps and start “romantic” relationships with victims.

Then, the scammer leverages their fake emotional connection to ask the victim to send money so they can travel to see them or for other urgent needs. The scammer usually disappears once the victim sends the money, leaving victims in emotional distress and at a financial loss.

Fraud avoidance and protection

In today’s digital age, understanding social engineering scams can help protect you and your finances. Here are some simple steps you can take to spot and stop fraud before it happens:

  • Never click links or open attachments unless you’re absolutely certain they are legitimate.
  • If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Proceed with caution before providing personal or financial information.
  • If you’re pressured to act quickly, it is likely a scam.
  • If the email is unexpected or out of the ordinary, contact the sender directly for confirmation—do not reply to the suspicious email.
  • Listen to your gut. If something feels off, it probably is.

At Rollstone Bank & Trust, we prioritize financial security and believe that education is the best defense against fraud. Remember that we’ll never contact you for your personal or financial information, like account numbers or login credentials. If you receive communications requesting this information, do not respond and contact us directly by calling 800.640.1166.

You can also report fraud or scam attempts to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

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