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How to Avoid Scams

Spot the red flags of phishing.

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Know the red flags

The most common types of scams will target you through fake emails, text messages, voice calls, letters or even someone who shows up at your front door unexpectedly. No matter which technique the scammer uses, you may be:

  • Contacted unexpectedly by phone, email, text, direct message or pop-up with a request for personal information or money. Never click a link or download an attachment from someone you don't know. Bank of America will never text, email or call you asking for personal or account information.
  • Pressured to act immediately with an alarming phone call, email or text that plays with your emotions. Scammers may pose as an employee from a familiar organization, such as Bank of America and say there's a problem that needs immediate attention. Do not act unless you have verified the person who has contacted you and the story or request is legitimate.
  • Asked to pay in an unusual way, like gift cards, bitcoin, prepaid debit cards or digital currency, including Zelle® to resolve fraud. Bank of America will never ask you to transfer money to anyone, including yourself and will never ask you to transfer money because we detected fraud on your account.
  • Asked to provide personal or account information, such as an account verification code, bank account number or PIN. When in doubt, don't give it out. Bank of America will never text, email or call you asking for an account authorization code.
  • Offered a free product or 'get rich quick' opportunity that seems too good to be true? If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never cash a check for someone you don't know.

If you authorize a transfer or send money to a scammer, there's often little we can do to help get your money back.

Check your security level with our security meter located in the Security Center in Mobile and Online Banking. Increase your meter level by reviewing the 5 Red Flags that Signal a Scam — and learn more about scams and how to stay safe.

Online sales scams

Whether you're thinking about purchasing event tickets, adopting an animal or just browsing the web, be cautious if you see an online promotion that sounds too good to be true - it probably is.

Scammers set up fake stores selling fake goods, and after you've made your purchase, the store suddenly disappears. They may use social media platforms to contact you and build a relationship, telling you about an offer that's hard to resist, then instructing you to download an app or send money to take advantage of the offer.

How to help protect yourself:

  • Slow down and use caution if pressured to act quickly - scammers want you to act without thinking about the consequences.
  • Research the seller and products independently, check reviews for possible scam notices, and compare prices with other websites. Make sure they have a refund policy, information on privacy terms and conditions, and ways you can contact them.
  • Verify the website by looking carefully at the URL address bar or domain name to ensure you are visiting the correct domain and not a fake. Look for secure URLs (https://), and while an encrypted site does not guarantee safety - beware of buying from sites with no encryption.
  • Use caution if asked to pay using untraceable means such as a wire, money transfer or gift card. If you do, you may not receive your purchase or the return of your money.
Watch the video

Be aware of a trending payment scam

Beware of scammers impersonating banks and fraud departments. By spoofing legitimate phone numbers to call or text you, the requests can be very convincing. While Bank of America may send you a text to validate unusual activity, we will never contact you to request that you send money using Zelle® to anyone, including yourself or to share a code to resolve fraud.

Here's what happens:

  • You receive a text that looks like a Bank of America suspicious activity alert.
  • If you respond to the text, you've engaged the scammer and will receive a call from a number that appears to be from a bank.
  • The “representative” or scammer will offer to help stop the alleged fraud by asking you to send money to yourself with Zelle®.
  • Then, they ask you for a one time code you just received from a bank. If you give them that code, they will use it to enroll their bank account with Zelle® using your email or phone number.
  • The scammer now has the ability to receive your money in their account.
Being vigilant is your first line of defense — here's how to help stay protected:
  • Don't be pressured to act immediately — this is what scammers want you to do.
  • Don't trust caller ID — it's not always who it says it is.
  • Don't share codes based on a call you receive.
To learn more: watch this educational video layer from Zelle®

Know the scams

Scammers use different tactics to get victims to fall for their schemes. In some cases, they can be friendly, sympathetic and seem willing to help. In others, they use fear tactics to persuade a victim. Select the scam type from the following list to see a typical message from a scammer and the red flags that should cause you concern.

  • Scammers may pose as businesses or people you know — like your bank, utility company, phone provider or even a friend or relative. They may ask you to send funds to yourself or others using Mobile or Online Banking. They may spoof legitimate phone numbers to call or text you to make the request more convincing.
  • How to help protect yourself:
    • Be cautious if being pressured to respond immediately — this is what scammers want you to do.
    • Be wary of unfamiliar calls, computer messages, texts or emails requesting money or personal information. Verify you are sending to a trusted recipient by calling a trusted or verified phone number from a recent bill, receipt or by visiting an official website.
    • Remember that Bank of America will never request that you transfer money to anyone for any reason, between accounts or to your own account.
  • Whether you're thinking about purchasing event tickets, adopting an animal or just browsing the web, be cautious if you see an online promotion that sound too good to be true - it probably is. Scammers set up fake stores selling fake goods, and after you've made your purchase, the store will suddenly disappear.
  • How to help protect yourself:
    • Research the seller and products independently, and compare prices with other websites. Make sure they have a refund policy, information on privacy terms and conditions and ways you can contact them.
    • Use caution if asked to pay using untraceable means such as a wire, money transfer or gift card. If you do, you may not receive your purchase or get your money returned.
    • Verify the website by carefully looking at the URL address bar or domain name to ensure you are at the correct site. Look for secure URLs (https://) and check reviews for possible scam notices for the site.
  • Whether you are looking for a vacation rental or are purchasing or refinancing a home, you may still be a target for scammers. Scammers can take over a rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, then listing it on another site. They may send you an email that appears to be from your real estate agent, title company, or settlement agent/attorney with last minute updates to wiring instructions. Or you could get a quote for moving your items to your new place that turns out to be significantly higher and they'll hold your belongings until you pay.
  • How to help protect yourself:
    • Before you send any money, always independently confirm wiring instructions in person or via a phone call to a trusted or verified phone number. Once the money is gone, there's almost no way to get it back.
    • Be cautious if pressured to urgently send a security deposit or make a payment to hold the property before you even see it or sign a lease.
    • Pay attention and do your research on the companies, owner(s) and/or listing: Is it vague? Do the photos have watermarks? Does the rent amount sound too low? Are there any scam warnings or complaints about them online? Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.
  • Be wary if you are contacted by “investment managers” or receive an unsolicited request (via social media, pop-up, text, email or phone call) that presents a “great investment opportunity.” Offers that promise guaranteed returns, or the chance to get rich quick or double your money are likely a scam.
  • How to help protect yourself:
    • Think twice if you're asked to send money through digital currency/crypto currency or instant money transfers. Remember, once you send the money, there is very little we can do to get that money back.
    • Always validate requests for money, research investment managers/offers and use caution if asked to provide personal or financial information.
  • Romance scammers may contact you online via dating aps or social media and try to establish a trusting, caring, and believable relationship — as quickly as possible. Then, scammers make an emotional plea, telling you a story that ends with a request to transfer money through untraceable means like a wire transfer or gift cards. Be vigilant — if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • How to help protect yourself:
    • Be careful when posting personally identifiable information on social media. Enable security settings on your social media profiles to limit what you share publicly.
    • Never send money, provide financial information or other sensitive information to anyone whose identify you cannot independently verify.
    • Research who you are talking to. See if their images, name and details have been used elsewhere.
  • If you get an unsolicited request to remotely access your computer or mobile device, it's probably a scam - and you could lose money. Scammers often pose as employees of familiar companies and ask you to provide remote access or download an app. They may call, use pop-up screens or email to convince you that your device has a virus or that you're owed money.
  • How to help protect yourself:
    • No matter what reason you're given, never grant device access or download any app at the request of unknown companies or individuals.
    • Always confirm the identity of someone requesting access by calling a trusted and verified phone number (the one they provide could be part of the scam).
  • Scammers may try to target you through a fake business, social media or email account. The cyber criminal may use a hacked or fake account that looks legitimate to trick you into sending funds.
  • How to help protect yourself:
    • Never trust unknown individuals. Verify everything they claim and do not send sensitive information to anyone whose identity you can't confirm.
    • Give all requests for funds a second look. If an email looks strange, look up the sender and email or call them (don't use the number they provide).
    • Invest in antivirus software and other cyber security software that can flag suspicious emails and websites.

If you feel you may have been a victim of a scam, contact us immediately

CHECK CASHING SCAM

(typical message): “Excuse me, I left my wallet home, can you cash this check for me?”
Red flags include: You’re approached outside a bank branch and asked to cash a check for someone who claims they don’t have an account or left their ID home. The bad check will be held against your account when it doesn’t clear.

FAKE GOODS SCAM

(typical message): “We can offer you those goods at a considerably lower price than retail.”
Red flags include: You’re asked to pay a very low price for typically expensive items (for example: $49 for a $300 pair of sneakers). Never transfer money (for example, by using Zelle®) to someone you don’t know.

FAKE RENTAL SCAM

(typical message): “Hi, I see you received my rental deposit and wanted to follow up about the move in date.”

Red flags include: Your house is legitimately listed for sale online, but scammers have set up a fake website and listed your house as a rental. You receive inquiries from prospective renters about deposit checks they sent you (which they really sent to the scammer).

OVERPAYMENT SCAM

(typical message): “Go ahead and deposit the check and wire the difference to the account number attached.”
Red flags include: You receive an overpayment for an item you’re selling, immediately followed by a request to deposit the check (which turns out to be a bad check) and then send the difference via a wire or gift card.

STUDENT AID SCAM

(typical message): “Your student aid is at risk: Click this link to verify your information and validate your security.”
Red flags include: The link in the email isn’t familiar and the message has grammatical errors and doesn’t address the student by name.

TECH SUPPORT SCAM

(typical message): “We've detected malware on your computer, let's go ahead and get this fixed for you.”
Red flags include: You receive a request from tech support claiming your computer has malware and requesting payment to fix the defects or access your computer.

CHARITY SCAM

(typical message): “Hi, the reason for my call is to see if you would consider donating to help preserve our local park.”
Red flags include: You receive a request to donate to a charity that you've never heard of and for which you can’t find an official website.

DEBT RELIEF SCAM

(typical message): “I can help you reduce or eliminate your debt.”
Red flags include: You receive a request for payment in order to establish a service relationship to pay, settle or get rid of debt.

EMAIL COMPROMISE SCAM

(typical message): “There's been a change in the transfer details for completing your purchase. Please send the funds to the following account.”
Red flags include: You receive an unexpected request to redirect funds.

GRANDPARENT SCAM

(typical message): “Grandma, I'm in trouble! I need your help — I need some money really fast!”
Red flags include: You receive a call or text message from someone claiming to be a grandchild or loved one asking for money to help with an emergency, plus instructions on where to send the funds.

IMPOSTOR SCAM

(typical message): “I'm with the IRS and a lawsuit is being filed against you for non-payment of back taxes.”
Red flags include: You receive a request from a government agency asking you for a payment and/or to verify your personal information.

INVESTMENT SCAM

(typical message): “Glad I got you! A while back you requested information about one of our programs. Are you ready to invest?”
Red flags include: You receive a request to invest in a business opportunity with promises of high returns and/or getting rich quick.

LOTTERY/SWEEPSTAKES SCAM

(typical message): “Your email address was randomly picked to receive a major prize in our drawing. To receive your prize, simply follow these instructions.”
Red flags include: You receive a request to prepay fees or taxes in order to receive a large prize you supposedly won.

ROMANCE SCAM

(typical message): “I'd love to come to see you, but I don't have the money to travel right now. Can you help me out?”
Red flags include: You receive a request for financial support from a new partner in an exclusively online relationship.

MORTGAGE CLOSING SCAM

(typical message): “URGENT: New Instructions For Wiring Your Closing Funds.”
Red flags include: You receive an email or text message that looks similar to your real estate agent’s contact info that indicates there is a last minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells you to wire closing costs to a different account.

ONLINE SHOPPING SCAMS

Red flags include: You find an amazing deal online but is it too good to be true?
Research the seller and products independently and compare prices with other websites to ensure you are on a legitimate shopping site.

Additional Resources

  • Parents: Read how you can help protect students in your life from scams
  • Read about senior red flags: more about the red flags of senior financial exploitation

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