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Bank Scams and How to Avoid Them


Some of the most common scams involve going after your money. Fraudsters have invented a myriad of ways to either get money from you or get you to hand over your bank or credit card information. Bank and financial scams target everyone, from university students to senior citizens. 

Know which bank scams you may come across and how to avoid falling victim to them.

Banking scams that target students

Most college students don’t have a lot of extra cash laying around, so you wouldn’t think they’d be targets for banking scams. However, fraudulent schemes aimed at students are common because students often have fresh credit histories. Here’s some to keep an eye out for:

  • Student aid scam: You may get a message saying your student loan or financial aid is “at-risk” asking you to click some link to validate your information. The email may not address you by name or contain grammatical errors. If you suspect there’s a problem with your student loan, contact your loan lender directly — never click on suspicious links in emails. Learn more about student loan scams by listening to our Easy Prey podcast episode on the subject.
  • Scholarship scam: If you get an email or call saying you’ve been awarded a scholarship you don’t remember applying for, it could be a scam to get your bank account info. Bogus scholarship sites are also set up to collect email addresses for future scams. Be very careful when applying for scholarships that aren’t offered by your college or the US Department of Education.
  • Apartment rental scams: College students are often looking for places to live, and scammers take advantage of this. Never rent an apartment without seeing it in person, both inside and outside. Also, don’t make a deposit or pay rent over the phone. Try to work with reputable rental agencies if possible.

Banking scams that target parents and working adults

Scam artists want to steal your money no matter how old you are or what stage of life you’re in. For  adults who are non-students or people with kids, common scams include:

  • Charity scams: Charity fraud is common, as scammers try to take advantage of people’s goodwill. According to AARP, disaster relief and veterans’ funds are some of the most popular scams. Some warning signs of a fake charity scheme are pressure to donate right away, receiving a thank you for a donation you didn’t give, or a request for a donation by cash, gift card, or wire transfer. Use sites like Charity Navigator or Charity Watch to vet non-profit organizations. Listen to our Easy Prey podcast episode with the founders of Charity Navigator to learn more about charity scams.
  • Phishing scams: Phishing is widely used by scammers to get personal info like passwords, Social Security numbers, and bank account numbers. It’s a successful scamming method, and thousands of Americans lose money as a result of phishing scams every year. Scammers send you an email, text message, or even a social media message that looks like it’s from a legitimate organization. It usually requires you to click a link and fill out a username and password. If you get a message from what appears to be your bank, never click any links. Contact your bank directly if you think there’s an issue.
  • Employment scams: Fraudsters often promise work in exchange for a fee, paid upfront. They’ll also ask for your bank info so they can send you payments. If a job asks you to pay a fee before starting or promises a lot of money for little work, it’s likely a scam. Always practice caution and vet companies when you’re applying for jobs.

Banking scams that target seniors

Elder fraud is a major problem, and the FBI estimates that, as a group, senior citizens lose more than $3 billion a year to scammers. Some common schemes that target the elderly include:

  • Tech support scams: A tech support scam takes advantage of seniors who don’t have much knowledge of computers or cybersecurity. You’ll get a pop-up message saying you have to call a number to fix a tech problem. Once you call, the scammer asks either for remote access to your computer or a fee to “repair” your computer.
  • Grandparent scam: Scammers may call you randomly and say something like, “Hi Grandma, it’s me” or “Do you know who this is?” hoping that they’ll sound like one of your grandkids. Once they’ve convinced you that they’re a grandchild of yours, they’ll ask you to send money or solve some financial problem without telling anyone.
  • Medicare scam: Because everyone over age 65 in the U.S. qualifies for Medicare, fraudsters take advantage by posing as Medicare representatives. They’ll try to scam you out of your personal information or set up fake clinics to bill Medicare and pocket your money.

Listen to our Easy Prey podcast episode about cybersecurity best practices for seniors and learn more about common scams targeting the elderly.

Tips to spot and avoid bank scams

Although scams may target different demographics, there are some general rules for avoiding losing your money to a bank scam:

  • Never send money to someone you haven’t met in person.
  • Never give away financial information to a person or business you don’t know, over email, text, or any other medium.
  • Don’t click on links in emails from unrecognized senders.
  • Use better passwords.
  • Never give out your SSN.
  • Install antivirus software, a firewall, and spyware protection.
  • Only do online shopping with companies you know.
  • Never download software from ads or pop-up windows.

Avoiding bank scams

Bank and financial scams are out there, and they’re not going away any time soon. Use caution, be skeptical, and trust your gut — if something looks suspicious at all, don’t respond to it.

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