Security Articles & Alerts

Fraud Chronicles: Crypto, Romance Scams and Tax Time

Stats: Cryptocurrency
Cryptocurrency— a blockchain-based digital currency which only exists electronically — has been a hot button topic for investors and fraud investigators alike. Because crypto is not connected to regulator banks or government insurance, fraudsters have found a rich decentralized market to commit their scams.

  • Scammers around the world took home a record $14 billion in cryptocurrency in 2021, thanks in large part to the rise of DeFi, or Decentralized Financing.
  • Losses from crypto-related crime rose 79% from 2020.
  • Cryptocurrency theft increased 516% from 2020, to $3.2 billion worth of cryptocurrency. Of this total, 72% of stolen funds were taken from DeFi protocols.
  • Consumers between the ages of 20-49 are five times more likely to report losing money to a cryptocurrency investment scam.

Trending: Romance Scams
According to the Federal Trade Commission victims of romance scams lost $547 Million in 2021, an 80% increase from the year before. Any age range is a target for this scam, but the loss is highest for victims 70 and over, where median loss is $9,000.00. While many of these scams start on dating sites over one third of reported romance scams began on Facebook and Instagram.

Using attractive photos swiped from social media accounts fraudsters create a persona to lure victims in, often weaving in excuses for not being able to meet in person. Some claim to be traveling outside of the US, deployed in the military, working on an oil rig, or a doctor working abroad. While scammers will say anything to convince victims to send money, their standby is often a plea for help due to a financial or health crisis, asking the victim to send money, gift cards or even cryptocurrency. More recently scammers have also begun promoting investment opportunities.

Some tips to avoid romance scams:

  • Never give personal or banking information out over social media to anyone
  • Never send money, gift cards or cryptocurrency to someone you have never met in person and never follow their investment advice
  • Talk to someone you trust (and listen if they’re concerned about your love interest)

Check out the latest on Romance Scams.

Spotlight: Tax Season
As the New Year begins, the Internal Revenue Service reminds taxpayers to protect their personal and financial information throughout the year and watch out for IRS impersonation scams, along with other schemes, that try to trick people out of their hard-earned money.

These schemes can involve text message scams, e-mail schemes and phone scams. The IRS also warns people to watch out for signs of potential unemployment fraud.

Quick reminders:

  • Text message scams: Do NOT click links or open attachments in unsolicited, suspicious or unexpected text messages – whether from the IRS, state tax agencies or others in the tax community.
  • Email phishing scams: The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. The IRS initiates most contacts through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service.
  • Phone scams: The IRS does not leave pre-recorded, urgent or threatening messages. Criminals can fake or “spoof” caller ID numbers to appear to be anywhere in the country, including from an IRS office. This prevents taxpayers from being able to verify the true call number.
  • Unemployment fraud: Watch out for claims of unemployment or other benefit payments for which you never applied. States have experienced a surge in fraudulent unemployment claims filed by organized crime rings using stolen identities. Criminals are using these stolen identities to fraudulently collect benefits.

Learn more about tax scams.

If you believe you have been the victim of a scam, contact our Customer Care Center immediately at (617) 969-4300 and report it to the FTC at reportfraud.ftc.gov.

Security Articles & Alerts

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month

Did you know that National Cybersecurity Awareness Month is observed every October? Launched in 2004, the effort looks to ensure every American has the resources they need to stay safer and more secure online. With the help of the American Bank’s Association and the National Cybersecurity Alliance, we will be promoting awareness and providing resources for our customers about staying safe when banking online.

Here are some resources you can refer to at any point in time:

American Banks Association:

National Cybersecurity Alliance:

Follow us on social media as we post more tips and tricks throughout the month!

 

Security Articles & Alerts

Rising fraud cases come in many different forms

Unfortunately for citizens of the United States, fraud never has been more prominent. Banks around the country have seen the number of fraud incidents in 2021 surpass the total from all of 2020, and we’re not even through the summer yet. Customers of The Village Bank should beware of many different types of fraud. Here are a few examples, along with some ways to protect yourself:

IMPOSTER SCAMS

How they work: You might get a call or email from someone pretending to be a friend, a member of your family, a government official or someone you met online. The fraudster will ask you to wire him/her money for a number of different reasons, usually an emergency.

What you can do: The smartest action would be to call that person. If the email in question is from a family member, call them to confirm their situation. Odds are they would have called and not emailed you in the first place. The same strategy applies if the message is from a government official. No real government agent or agency will ever ask you to wire money to them.

IDENTITY THEFT

How it works: A fraudster will obtain your credit card information, social security number, Medicare number, etc., and compile a bill in your name.

What you can do: The best defense against identity theft is to use strong and secure passwords for all your accounts. Also, never give out your social security number unless it is a trusted source on a secure platform. Another way to protect yourself is to shred any document that has this information of it before throwing it away.

CHARITY SCAMS

How they work: You will be contacted by someone asking you to make a donation to a charity. It might sound like something you’ve heard of or even donated to in the past. Typically, the fraudster will try to pressure you into donating quickly with cash or a money wire. Often they will not send you any specific information about their “charity” or what the money will be used for.

What you can do: One way to deal with this is to ask the “charity” to send you information in the mail. If the person agrees, make sure to do some research before the information arrives to be sure it is a legitimate source. Another option is to ask the “charity” a lot of questions. For example, you could ask how the charity wants to be paid, if the donation is tax deductible, how much of it goes to the charity, what the money will be used for, etc.

“YOU’VE WON” SCAMS

How they work: Somebody will contact you saying you’ve won something, perhaps a trip, a car or another expensive prize. The fraudster will sound excited on the in order to make you to feel like it is real. Then, in order to claim your winnings, the fraudster will tell you there’s a small fee and that your credit card or bank is required.

What you can do: Unless you remember entering a contest and can prove it’s real, never give out this type of information to someone claiming they need it.

At The Village Bank, nothing is more important to us than the privacy and safety of our customers. We are committed to keeping your accounts and personal information safe. If you ever have questions about a potentially fraudulent situation, contact our Customer Care Center immediately at (617) 969-4300.

Security Articles & Alerts

Tech and romance scams on rise

Dear Village Bank customers,

Tech support and romance scams have risen dramatically in recent months. In some cases, the fraudster claims to be a service provider verifying a charge you didn’t make. In others, the fraudster reaches out through social media under the guise of starting a romantic relationship. In both cases, the fraudster wants access to your money and personal information.

If someone you don’t know contacts you unexpectedly, always keep in mind:

  • Never give out personal or bank account information.
  • Never give remote access to your computer to anyone.
  • Never call a provided number. Always look up the number online first.
  • Never send money to people you met on social media.

The Village Bank is committed to keeping your accounts and personal information safe. If you ever have questions about a potentially fraudulent situation, contact our Customer Care Center immediately at (617) 969-4300.

Security Articles & Alerts

How to Spot, Stop, & Report Government Imposter Scams

 

Consumers reported more than 498,000 imposter scams to the Federal Trade Commission in 2020.

  • Nearly 1 in 5 people reported losing money
  • Overall, reported losses were nearly $1.2 billion
  • The median loss was $850
  • Almost one-third of the imposter scams reported involved someone posing as a government representative

How to Spot the Scam

Scammers will call, email, text, or direct message you on social media.

  • Scammers say you did not appear for jury duty and must pay a fine or you will be arrested.
  • Scammers say you will be fined, arrested, or deported if you do not pay taxes or some other debt right away.
  • Scammers say your Social Security or Medicare benefits have been suspended because of COVID-19-related office closures.
  • Scammers say you can get a free COVID-19 test kit from Medicare in exchange for giving personal or financial information.
  • Scammers say you owe back taxes, there is a problem with your return, or please verify your information.

STOP. These are all scams!

How to Stop & Report the Scam

  1. Don’t give information or money to anyone who calls, texts, emails, or direct messages you on social media. Keep your Social Security, bank account, debit and credit card numbers to yourself.
  2. Never make a payment to someone you don’t know, especially by gift card, mobile payment apps, money transfer, or cryptocurrency. Only scammers will demand you pay that way. They know these payments are hard to reverse.
  3. When in doubt, check it out. If you’re concerned about the request, contact the agency directly. Look up the government agency’s real number on the agency’s site and call to get the story.
  4. Report the scam to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Tell your bank, and be sure to share these tips with your friends and family.

Learn more at ftc.gov/imposters and aba.com/consumers

 

Newsroom Security Articles & Alerts

Online Shopping Safety for the Holidays

With the holidays already here, many of us will be purchasing items and gifts online; this has become commonplace but is especially true this year as we all deal with the COVID-19 pandemic. Adobe Analytics estimates that online sales this November and December will surge 33% year over year to a record $189 billion making the already rich pandemic cyberspace even more attractive to cyber thieves.1 Cybercrime has become an industry all on its own and gets more and more sophisticated every year and want us to live in a world of fear, uncertainty, & doubt (FUD), but we can protect ourselves by following good personal cyber-hygiene practices.

Everyone can play a role in protecting themselves, specifically around information safety and securing their systems & devices. There are many steps individuals can take to enhance their cybersecurity without requiring a significant investment or the help of an information security professional. Below are several tips you can put into action now:

  1. LOCKDOWN YOUR LOGIN: Make a long, unique passphrase. Length trumps complexity. A strong passphrase is a sentence that is at least 12 characters long. Focus on positive sentences or phrases that you like to think about and are easy to remember, Use 2-factor authentication or multi-factor authentication (like biometrics, security keys, or a unique, one-time code through an app on your mobile device) whenever offered.
  2. WHEN IN DOUBT, THROW IT OUT: Links in email, tweets, texts, posts, social media messages, and online advertising are the easiest way for cybercriminals to get your sensitive information. Be wary of clicking on links or downloading anything that comes from a stranger or that you were not expecting. Essentially, just don’t trust links.
  3. KEEP A CLEAN MACHINE: Keep all software on internet-connected devices – including personal computers, smartphones, and tablets – current to reduce the risk of infection from ransomware and malware. Configure your devices to automatically update or to notify you when an update is available.
  4. BACK IT UP: Protect your valuable work, music, photos, and other digital information by making an electronic copy and storing it safely. If you have a copy of your data and your device falls victim to ransomware or other cyber threats, you will be able to restore the data from a backup.
  5. OWN YOUR ONLINE PRESENCE: Every time you sign up for a new account, download a new app or get a new device, immediately configure the privacy and security settings to your comfort level for information sharing. Regularly check these settings (at least once a year) to make sure they are still configured to your comfort.
  6. SHARE WITH CARE: Think before posting about yourself and others online. Consider what a post reveals, who might see it, and how it might affect you or others. Consider creating an alternate persona that you use for online profiles to limit how much of your own personal information you share.
  7. GET SAVVY ABOUT WIFI HOTSPOTS: Public wireless networks and hotspots are not secure, which means that anyone could potentially see what you are doing on your laptop or smartphone while you are connected to them. Only connect to known Wi-Fi networks; beware of network names that have typos or extra characters. Limit what you do on public WiFi, and avoid logging in to key accounts like email and financial services. Consider using a virtual private network (VPN) or a personal/mobile hotspot if you need a more secure connection.

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) also reminds shoppers to remain vigilant. Be especially cautious of fraudulent sites spoofing reputable businesses, unsolicited emails purporting to be from charities, and unencrypted financial transactions.2

CISA encourages online holiday shoppers to review the following resources.

If you believe you are a victim of a scam, consider the following actions.

1 Adobe Communications Team, Oct 28, 2020
2 Online Holiday Shopping Scams, November 24, 2020

Security Articles & Alerts

Malicious Cyber Actor Spoofing COVID-19 Loan Relief Webpage via Phishing

CISA Release Date: August 12, 2020

Summary

The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) is currently tracking an unknown malicious cyber actor who is spoofing the Small Business Administration (SBA) COVID-19 loan relief webpage via phishing emails. These emails include a malicious link to the spoofed SBA website that the cyber actor is using for malicious re-directs and credential stealing.

Technical Details

CISA analysts observed an unknown malicious cyber actor sending a phishing email to various Federal Civilian Executive Branch and state, local, tribal, and territorial government recipients. The phishing email contains:

  • Subject line: SBA Application – Review and Proceed
  • Sender: Email sender will be marked as disastercustomerservice@sba.gov
  • Body: Text in the email body urging the recipient to click on a hyperlink to address: hxxps://leanproconsulting.com.br/gov/covid19relief/sba.gov

Below is a screenshot of the webpage arrived at by clicking on the hyperlink.

Click here to read the full alert.

 

Security Articles & Alerts

FBI Reports Increase in Online Shopping Scams

CISA Release Date: August 05, 2020
CISA, Revision Date: November 18, 2019

The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) Internet Crime Complaint Center (I3C) has released an alert on a recent increase in online shopping scams. The scams direct victims to fraudulent websites via ads on social media platforms and popular online search engines’ shopping pages. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) encourages users and consumers to be diligent and be on alert for indicators of fraud and tips to avoid being victimized, as well as CISA’s tip on Shopping Safely Online.

Why do online shoppers have to take special precautions?

The internet offers convenience not available from other shopping outlets. You can search for items from multiple vendors, compare prices with a few mouse clicks, and make purchases from your home. However, the internet is also convenient for attackers, giving them multiple ways to access the personal and financial information of unsuspecting shoppers. Attackers who are able to obtain this information may use it for their own financial gain, either by making purchases themselves or by selling the information to someone else.

How can you protect yourself?

  • Do business with reputable vendors – Before providing any personal or financial information, make sure that you are interacting with a reputable, established vendor. Some attackers may try to trick you by creating malicious websites that appear to be legitimate, so you should verify the legitimacy before supplying any information.
  • Make sure your information is being encrypted – Many sites use secure sockets layer to encrypt information. Indications that your information will be encrypted include a Uniform Resource Locator (URL) that begins with “https:” instead of “http:” and a padlock icon. If the padlock is closed, the information is encrypted. The location of the icon varies by browser; for example, it may be to the right of the address bar or at the bottom of the window. Some attackers try to trick users by adding a fake padlock icon, so make sure that the icon is in the appropriate location for your browser.
  • Be wary of emails requesting information – Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending emails requesting that you confirm purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log on to the authentic website by typing the address yourself.
  • Use a credit card – There are laws to limit your liability for fraudulent credit card charges, but you may not have the same level of protection for your debit cards. Additionally, debit cards draw money directly from bank accounts, unauthorized charges could leave you with insufficient funds to pay other bills. You can minimize potential damage by using a single, low-limit credit card to make all of your online purchases. Also, use a credit card when using a payment gateway such as PayPal, Google Wallet, or Apple Pay.
  • Check your statements – Keep a record of your purchases and copies of confirmation pages, and compare them to your bank statements. If there is a discrepancy, report it immediately.
Security Articles & Alerts

National Elder Fraud Hotline

National Elder Fraud Hotline 1-833-372-8311

Senior citizens are one of the largest groups targeted by financial fraudsters. Last year there was an estimated combined loss of over a billion dollars in elder fraud schemes nationwide. In response to the fraud, The Department of Justice launched a National Elder Fraud Hotline, which will provide services to seniors who may be victims of financial fraud.

If you or someone you know suspects that they have been a victim of fraud, call the hotline’s toll-free number 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).

The Hotline is staffed by experienced case managers who can provide personalized support to callers. Case managers will assist callers with reporting the suspected fraud to relevant agencies and by providing resources and referrals to other appropriate services as needed.

When applicable, case managers will complete a complaint form with the Federal Bureau of Investigation Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for Internet-facilitated crimes and submit a consumer complaint to the Federal Trade Commission on behalf of the caller.

Security Articles & Alerts

Scam Alert: Government Relief Checks Trigger Latest Coronavirus Scam

Source: Better Business Bureau®

The proposed federal stimulus package announced this week includes sending every American a check to offset lost income from the coronavirus crisis. Scammers wasted no time in taking advantage of this news! BBB is already getting reports on BBB Scam Tracker (BBB.org/ScamTracker) about government imposters calling about the checks. Watch out for these phony government grants that ask for personal and banking information.

How the Scam Works
You receive a message or see a social media post claiming that you qualify for a special COVID-19 government grant. With the news stories about the proposed stimulus plan, you figure it must be true. You click the link and are taken to what seems to be an official website asking you to enter your personal information and/or banking details. It’s “necessary” to verify your identity and process your grant.

As always, there are several versions of this con. BBB Scam Tracker has received reports of people contacted through text message, social media posts and messages, and phone calls. One variation is a Facebook post telling seniors about a special grant to help pay medical bills. The link leads to a website claiming to be a government agency called the “U.S. Emergency Grants Federation” (phony, of course). The site requests your Social Security number under the guise of needing to verify your eligibility.  In other versions, scammers claim that you can get additional money – up to $150K in one case – or even receive your funds immediately. All you need to do is share personal details and pay a small “processing fee.” 

No matter what the message, don’t click! In addition to taking your money, these sites also can download malware to your device and use your information for identity theft.

Tips to Spot a COVID-19 Grant Scam: 

  • Remember, government agencies do not communicate through social media avenues like Facebook. So, be wary of unsolicited messages.  
  • Do not pay any money for a “free” government grant. If you have to pay money to claim a “free” government grant, it is not really free. A real government agency will not ask you to pay an advanced processing fee. The only official list of all U.S. federal grant-making agencies is Grants.gov
  • Check for look-alikes. Be sure to do your research and see if a government agency or organization actually exists. Find contact info on your own and call them to be sure the person you’ve heard from is legitimate.
  • Don’t assume an offer in a social media message is from a real friend. It’s easier for scammers to impersonate real people on social media. Call your friend to verify they contacted you (and share this Scam Alert with them if they are spreading false information).

For More Information
Read more about government grant scams in this BBB tip. For more information about scams in the wake of coronavirus, see BBB.org/Coronavirus.

If you’ve spotted a scam (whether or not you’ve lost money), report it to BBB.org/ScamTracker. Your report can help others avoid falling victim to scams.

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