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Received a fishy message? Here’s how to respond

SHARE Received a fishy message? Here’s how to respond
With two alleged scammers set to stand trial in Salt Lake City, the FBI is warning other Utah business owners from falling into similar email fraud scams.

Devon Yu, Adobe Stock

I’m a banker, but despite that I still get fishy-looking email and text messages that appear to be from banks. They usually tell me I need to click on a link or call a number to update my payment information, or to activate an account, or any number of other things.

These fishy messages are really fraudulent phishing messages — attempts to get me to disclose critical information so that scammers can steal my money, plant viruses in my computer, or use my credit card numbers.

It is unfortunate, but evil people exist out there who want to steal from us. They want our identities, our passwords and our data, which allows them to steal our assets and dramatically disrupt our lives.

If they get the right data, they might even try to blackmail us. The University of Utah was forced to pay extortionists $457,000 last July after a ransomware attack.   

With more and more of our transactions and everyday activities being conducted on-line, the scams and swindles are increasing, becoming a real crisis. The American Bankers Association notes that, “Every day, thousands of people fall victim to fraudulent emails, texts and calls from scammers pretending to be their bank.”

And the ubiquity and connectivity of the internet allows these cyber criminals to operate from anywhere in the world.

The Federal Trade Commission’s 2019 report on fraud estimates that American consumers lost a staggering $1.48 billion to phishing scams the year before. The problem has only grown worse during the COVID-19 pandemic, given the increased use of online and digital banking tools.

Scammers try to make their messages look legitimate, using the logos of banks, utility companies, retail stores, all sort of on-line services and subscriptions, and other legitimate enterprises.

But scammers seem especially fond of masquerading as banks to conduct their illegal and disgusting hoaxes. For that reason, the American Bankers Association will conduct a major anti-phishing campaign starting Oct. 1, with the theme “#BanksNeverAskThat” to help customers and all consumers avoid being victimized by these swindlers.

The campaign will use social media and other communications channels to raise awareness among banks and their customers of best practices for phishing defense.

After Oct. 1, consumers can visit banksneveraskthat.com to learn how to spot phishing campaigns, how to report fraud and recover from it, as well as take as an interactive quiz to put their skills to the test. Those who take the quiz and then share it on Twitter will have a chance to win one of 15 gift cards or the $1,000 grand prize at the end of the month.

If you ever receive an email message asking for your bank account number, you can be assured it is a scam. Banks will never ask that. They will never ask you to click a link in a text message, and will never randomly call to verify an account number.

Be wary of any email that asks for personal information. Rather than provide it, hang up and call the bank or other business that appears to be requesting the information.

Be especially careful with scare tactics, like messages that say your account has been hacked or will be locked up if you don’t click on a link and provide information. Banks will never ask for confidential information in emails or text messages. Don’t be rushed into anything. Even if you think a message is possibly legitimate, make a call to verify.

We protect our physical security by locking our doors at night and installing security cameras and alarms. Similarly, we must take steps to protect our financial security and keep our on-line information safe from thieves.

I hope all of us will take the time to become better educated so we can avoid being victimized by cyber criminals.

A. Scott Anderson is CEO and president of Zions Bank.