No One Is Sending You Money from Nigeria: How to Protect Yourself from Frauds and Scams

June 24, 2015

by Richard D. Olson, SVP Retail Banking at Randolph Savings Bank

Technology. It enhances and improves our day-to-day lives in many ways: We can have face-to-face conversations with our loved ones across the globe using our smart phones, we have access to information on nearly any topic under the sun via the internet, and we can do just about anything on-the-go using the latest technology, from controlling the temperature of our home while we’re away to managing our bank accounts.

While simplifying our lives, there’s also a downside. In the wrong hands, your personal data can be used to steal your identity and destroy your financial well-being.

At Randolph Savings Bank, we take extraordinary measures to safeguard your data and to keep it secure. Protecting your information is our priority.

But you play a role in protecting your information and account security, as well. We’ve seen the impacts of the various types of scams in headlines lately – people in our own communities have fallen for these scams and have been cheated out of thousands of dollars of their savings. Scammers maliciously trick people into providing valuable information that can be used to steal their identity, their money, or both. It’s important that we’re all aware of the various types of scams and frauds and how we can best protect ourselves from becoming a victim to these fraudsters.

The types of spam are ever changing

Spammers aren’t stupid – which is frustrating. Think of the good they could do if they would use their smarts for good, instead! There are many different means spammers might employ to access your information – some scams are perpetrated by phone, some online, some through text message or email. And unfortunately, there are new methods of scams cropping up all the time. I’ve found the FBI Common Fraud Schemes website to be a helpful source of information on the various types of frauds.

Whether in the form of web pop-up windows online or fraudulent emails, phishing often presents itself as being legitimate, and individuals are urged to provide personal information or click malicious links, leaving your computer, your finances, and your identity vulnerable to spammers. No matter how legitimate the email or pop up looks – don’t click. Close the pop up window, delete the email. And when in doubt, always contact the financial institution directly with a phone number or contact information you were provided when you opened your account.

Telemarketing scams aren’t just annoying, they can do real damage. These callers are great at pitching stories – they talk fast, they ask you to answer questions on the spot, and they’ll tell you anything to win your trust. They may be asking for donations to a charity or claiming to be from the IRS or calling to let you know that you’ve won a sweepstakes.

While the thrill of being told you have won a sweepstakes or lottery can seem too exciting to pass up – the old adage remains fitting: If it looks too good to be true, it probably is. Unfortunately, you’ll never win a lottery you didn’t play or a sweepstakes you didn’t enter – but falling for one of these scams could instead cost you thousands of dollars of your own savings. When in doubt, just hang up the phone.

You’re going to be rich! Or… so says a letter or email from Nigeria which tells you that you’ve been selected to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author is trying to transfer out of Nigeria. Beware! This is a common scam, and you should absolutely NOT respond with any of your banking information or by mailing checks.   

What can you do to protect yourself and your personal information?

It’s always been a good idea to be cautious with your personal information – and with scammers on the rise, it’s even more of priority. One of the simplest (and most crucial!) things you can do is to safeguard your personal information – don’t give out your account numbers, social security number, PINs, or other identifying details in response to unsolicited communication. Most legitimate companies would never reach out to you requesting that information – and legitimate companies won’t mind at all if you call them to confirm whether or not they contacted you. When in doubt, hang up the phone or delete the email and contact the company yourself before providing any of your information.

Keep an eye on your accounts and your credit. The more closely you monitor, the more likely you are to spot something out of the norm as soon as it appears. The sooner you catch any wrongdoing, the sooner you can get to work repairing any damage.

And finally, if your identity is stolen and/or your accounts become compromised, notify your bank, credit card companies, the police, and other service providers ASAP. While you may not be able to completely prevent any harm to your accounts, acting fast will reduce the impact of the theft. Finding out your identity has been stolen can be very overwhelming and stressful – to help, we’ve got some worksheets and tips on our website to guide you through the process.

Be cautious, be smart – protect yourself

While the threat of fraud can seem very daunting, it’s important to remember that technology is not the enemy. Being vigilant with your accounts and cautious with your information can dramatically reduce the risk of having your identity and life savings stolen – and peace of mind just may be far greater than winning the lottery.