Brian Atkins, community manager, and Jua Williams, branch manager at the Chase Skyland branch
Brian Atkins, community manager, and Jua Williams, branch manager at the Chase Skyland branch

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If you’ve ever mistakenly clicked on a link that might have provided personal information or answered a call and became a victim of fraud, you’re not alone.

“The important thing to know is that fraud is real. If it hasn’t happened to you, it’s happened to someone you know,” said Jua Williams, Chase Skyland Branch Manager.

According to The Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker online fraud rose during the Pandemic. In 2020, more than 46,000 scams were published on the BBB Scam Tracker, a 24.9% increase over the number reported in 2019.

“We have to take the stigma out of fraud. People get so embarrassed that they allowed someone to gain their confidence and got them to part with their money. Don’t be embarrassed. Overcome that feeling. Report it. Speak up and speak out,” explained Williams, who has been in the banking industry for more than 20 years. “In times of crisis scammers tend to work double and triple-overtime.”

But there are ways to protect yourself.

What You Need to Know to Avoid Scams

Financial institutions will never ask for confidential information — such as your name, password, PIN or other account information — when they reach out to you. Nor will they ask you to send money via popular payment platforms, wire transfer or check.
Experts suggest triple-checking any social message, bank email or solicitation you receive, especially if it mentions COVID-19 and provides links. When in doubt do not click the link, go straight to the source.
Avoid emails or texts that have an urgent call to action or suspicious links. For example, the IRS recently issued an alert about an increase in scams involving stimulus checks. The IRS reports that scammers will send a text or email claiming the individual qualifies for a stimulus check and that they must click on the link provided immediately. This is a scam.
The government or your financial institution will never call out of the blue to ask for money or your personal information (Social Security number, bank account, or credit card numbers).
Financial institutions or businesses will never ask you to purchase gift cards to prevent or stop fraud. Gift card scams against the elderly are very popular but are severely underreported because most senior citizens don’t speak up or are embarrassed. Know that you’re not the only one.
Act quickly! As soon as you suspect you have been victim to fraud, contact your local police and bank to report it.
Visit trusted websites such as the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business Bureau for information and tips on avoiding the latest scams.
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Things You Can Proactively Do:
Keep your online banking profile contact information up to date. This way your bank can quickly notify you of suspected fraud.
If you participate in digital banking, sign up for account alerts. By quickly verifying transactions, it can help you spot suspicious charges.
Sign up for Chase Credit Journey, a free credit monitoring tool for all consumers that sends you email alerts about critical changes to your credit that can help identify fraud.
Contact the Social Security Administration to request notification anytime your social security number is used.
Contact the major credit score agencies and put an alert on your name so that you are notified whenever an account is opened in your name.

Times of crisis – personal and public – render us more vulnerable to scams, experts say.

“They’re preying on residents at their lowest point,” said Brian Atkins, Chase Skyland Branch Community Manager. “When you’ve gone from underemployment to unemployment like many in Ward 7 and 8 have, you feel more desperate and might respond to a job inquiry that looks too good to be true, or click on a link that you shouldn’t have.

Atkins says education is key to keeping yourself safe. Learn what scams are trending and stay aware.

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WI Guest Author

This correspondent is a guest contributor to The Washington Informer.

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