A startling surge in bank impersonation scams via text messages has been reported by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), sounding the alarm for consumers nationwide. In 2022 alone, these scams saw a twenty-fold increase from 2019 levels, resulting in consumers losing over $330 million. This escalating threat underscores the vital importance of vigilance in protecting one’s financial assets, particularly as losses due to fraud or scams are not covered by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or National Credit Union Administration.
Despite banks being traditionally viewed as secure places to store money, the increasing sophistication of scams requires consumers to take additional precautions. Scammers often employ pressure tactics, creating a false sense of urgency to trick consumers into acting hastily. These tactics, coupled with unsolicited communication, form the core strategy of such scams. In 2022, major banks such as Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Citibank were the most commonly impersonated institutions, according to FTC data.
Alarming Rise in Bank Impersonation Scams, FTC Reports
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recently disclosed that bank impersonations are the most reported text message scams. The number of such reports in 2022 have escalated to 20 times the number recorded in 2019. In 2022, losses to text message scams exceeded $330 million, and losses due to bank fraud or scams are not insured by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or National Credit Union Administration.
Be Wary of Urgent Money Moves
Scammers often create a sense of urgency, pressuring their victims into immediate action. They do this by sending alarming messages, warning of suspicious activity and insisting on quick responses. "Any type of pressure tactic is not legitimate — that is not your bank,” warns Paul Benda, senior vice president of operational risk and cybersecurity at the American Bankers Association. It’s crucial to make financial decisions without feeling scared, stressed out, or under pressure.
Don’t Trust Unsolicited Texts and Links
A Security.org poll revealed that 66% of respondents have received suspicious texts from unknown senders, and about 20% clicked on links texted from strangers. This is ill-advised, as these unsolicited messages can lead to scams. In 2022, scammers often masqueraded as major banks like Bank of America, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Citibank.
Be Careful with Phone Numbers Texted to You
Just as with unsolicited links, don’t trust phone numbers texted to you by unknown senders. Instead, find your bank’s official phone number on its website or mobile app and initiate contact yourself. Tremaine Wills, a financial advisor and founder of Mind Over Money, stresses that making that call can be the difference between being scammed and avoiding a scam.
Steps If You Get Scammed
If you fall for a scam, immediately alert your bank and local law enforcement. These steps are critical in trying to recover any illicitly taken cash. Also, file a complaint with the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov and report the incident to the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. It’s also recommended to forward suspicious text messages to 7726 to help wireless providers intercept similar texts.
With the rise in bank impersonation scams, it’s crucial to stay alert, scrutinize unsolicited texts, and be wary of pressure tactics. Regularly monitoring your account activity can also aid in safeguarding your money from scams. As Wills suggests, if you’re well-acquainted with your account activity, you’re more likely to be alarmed by a text claiming to be from your bank.