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Fraud Prevention


How to Avoid Scams Over the Holidays

As the holiday season swings into gear, let's talk about a crucial aspect of the festivities: staying safe from scams. Every year, scams increase as people prepare for the holidays. So, we've put together a no-nonsense guide to help you navigate the season without falling prey to those grinches out to spoil the fun.

Scams are the attempts of phony actors to convince people to send them money or sensitive information, oftentimes for products or services that don’t exist. If you fall victim, it is hard to recover funds, as scammers are difficult to identify. The best protection is to recognize the tell-tale signs of a scam and respond appropriately.

Red Flags of a Scam

While all scams are different, they follow similar patterns. Here are some red flags that may indicate that something’s off, and that you might be dealing with a scammer.

  1. Suspicious messages from familiar institutions: Scammers often pretend to be from banks or businesses you're familiar with. Be wary of unusual messages and always verify by reaching out through familiar channels – such as calling the number listed on the bank’s website. Avoid clicking on links in suspicious emails.

    Keep in mind that Southern Bank will never ask you for your full social security numbers, credit card numbers, passwords, PINs, or authentication codes. Never share any of this information through an email, text, or over the phone, especially if you’re unsure of who you’re communicating with.
  2. Pressure to Act Quickly: If you're pressured to make quick decisions involving money or personal information, it could be a scam. Scammers want to catch you off guard - take the time to think before acting.
  3. Requests for Immediate Payments via Specific Channels: Insisting on payment through specific channels, especially wire transfers, gift cards/prepaid cards, or cryptocurrency, is a red flag. Legitimate entities offer various payment options, and scammers try to limit your choices.
  4. Attempts to Access Your Computer: Be cautious if someone tries to get you to download software or grant access to your computer. This can lead to the installation of malware or unauthorized access to your information.

Types of Scams

Scams come in all shapes and sizes. Scammers use many different tactics to try and trick you into giving them money or sensitive information. Here are a few examples to watch out for:

  • Peer-to-Peer (P2P) Payment Scams – Scammers sometimes impersonate someone you know like a friend, family member or even your bank to manipulate you into sending them money through digital money transfer apps such as Zelle, Venmo, or Paypal. A false sense of urgency is often used to pressure you into sending the money quickly, and before you know it – the money is in their account. Never send money to people you don’t know, and if you’re unsure, don’t send anything. To read more about this type of scam, check out our article on The Pay Yourself Scam.
  • Holiday Shopping Scams – Holiday shopping scams exploit the festive season by enticing consumers with outrageous deals, fake websites, or counterfeit products, leading to financial losses and disappointment for those seeking holiday bargains. If it sounds too-good-to-be-true, it probably is.
  • Tech Support Scams – Fraudsters pose as technical support representatives, often through unsolicited calls or messages, to trick individuals into granting remote access to their computers or paying for fake services.
  • Prize Scams – You won a prize that you didn’t enter to win? Probably not. Prize scams lure victims with promises of winnings or valuable prizes but require them to provide personal information or pay fees upfront before collecting their prize.
  • Romance Scams – Romance scams involve building fake romantic relationships online to exploit individuals emotionally and financially, with scammers often requesting money for various reasons such as emergencies or travel.
  • Debt Collection Scams – Scammers impersonate debt collectors, employing aggressive tactics to pressure individuals into paying fake debts, often through threats or intimidation.
  • Travel Scams – Travel scams target individuals looking for vacation deals, offering fake promotions or accommodations and collecting payments without providing the promised services.

Best Ways to Protect Yourself

Here are a few tips to help keep you and your information safe from scammers.

  • Verify Information: Double-check information before taking any action, especially when dealing with unfamiliar contacts.
  • Don't Send to Strangers: Refrain from sending money or personal information to individuals or entities you don't know.
  • Research Businesses: Before making online purchases, research businesses and check their credibility. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is a valuable resource.
  • Socialize Wisely: Avoid sharing too much information online. Be cautious about befriending strangers and participating in quizzes that request personal details.
  • Watch Your Finances: Regularly monitor your bank accounts for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions. This can help you detect and limit potential fraud if you've unknowingly fallen for a scam.
  • Stay Educated: Regularly update yourself on the latest scams and tactics employed by fraudsters.

How to Respond if You Fall Victim to a Scam

If you know you’ve fallen for a scam, the most important thing to do is act quickly. Follow these steps:

  1. Contact Your Bank: Reach out to your bank or financial institution immediately to report the incident and take necessary actions to protect your accounts.
  2. Notify Consumer Protection Agencies: Report the scam to consumer protection agencies like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to help prevent others from falling victim.
  3. File a Report with Law Enforcement: Inform local law enforcement about the scam, providing details that may aid in the investigation.
  4. Keep an Eye on Your Accounts: Continuously monitor your accounts for any suspicious activities and take prompt action if you notice anything unusual.

By staying informed, verifying information, and adopting cautious online behaviors, you can significantly reduce the risk of falling victim to scams during the holiday season and beyond. If you do encounter a scam, take action right away to remedy the situation and inform the appropriate institutions.

Want to learn more about Fraud and how to avoid it? Check out our article with 9 Tips for Avoiding Fraud.