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Tips to Protect Yourself from Common Financial Scams

Univest, as with most financial institutions, continues to see a significant increase in fraud attempts. Based on cases Univest has investigated and reports from our customers, some common scams have emerged stolen/altered checks as well as fraudulent emails, phone calls and texts. Below is important information and tips to help protect you from becoming a victim.

Mail Theft/Altered Checks:

Financial institutions in the greater Philadelphia region, and throughout the country, have seen a significant spike in checks stolen through the mail and subsequently altered and presented for payment. Often, consumers and businesses do not realize a check has been altered until the payee contacts them claiming past due payments or when their statements are balanced.

The specific methods used by fraudsters vary but, in most cases, involve stealing mail directly from businesses, blue postal service collection boxes, and residential mailboxes. The fraudsters alter these checks, sometimes using a chemical agent to erase the existing information and change the payee and/or amount. There are several ways to minimize this risk including changing the way you send mail and/or make payments and monitoring your account activity daily. Consider these tips:

  • Place your outgoing mail directly in a receptacle INSIDE the post office. If that is not possible, hand your mail directly to a carrier or place in the blue receptacles as close to the scheduled pick-up time as possible during postal facility business hours only.
  • Set up electronic payments for your bills to avoid placing checks in the mail – you’ll also save on postage!
  • Use your banking app(s) to create alerts when payments are posted to your account so you can quickly identify unknown transactions.

Other Popular Scams

In additional to mail theft and altered checks, there are many other ways fraudsters commit scams. In some of these instances, individuals provide their personal credentials which compromises their online accounts and results in fraudulent mobile deposits and subsequent transfers against those deposits. In other cases, we’ve seen our customers duped into providing personal information to take advantage of a job opportunity advertised on websites and social media. The result of these schemes has been identity theft, emotional stress and financial losses for Univest and our customers.

It is vital that you play an active role in recognizing and avoiding scams. The Federal Trade Commission  is an excellent resource for current scam trends. Check out below for some key info an links to more details on the FTC website.

Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like your bank, a utility company or even a charity asking for donations. They use technology to change the phone number that appears on your caller ID. So, the name and number you see might not be real.

Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer. Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information or that they need access to online banking in order to send you a refund. Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.

Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story. They might threaten to arrest you, sue you, take away your driver’s or business license, or deport you. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.

Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that you pay by sending money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back. Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.

What You Can Do to Avoid a Scam

Block unwanted calls and text messages.

Do not give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers. If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses will give you time to decide. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.

Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

Awareness is one of the best ways to help protect against fraud and identity theft. Keep these tips in mind and learn more in the Univest Security Center.

Univest Bank and Trust Co. is Member FDIC.