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How to Avoid Scams

Think you can spot a scam?

Think you can spot a scam?

To help you learn how, we're sharing the Explainer Series, "The Science Behind Scams", courtesy of Vox and Zelle®.
Learn more how to pay Zelle safe layer to help you stay secure

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:

  • Instructed to not trust Bank of America, or to respond to questions in untruthful ways
  • Pressured to send money
  • Threatened with law enforcement action
  • Told to purchase gift cards and provide codes as a form of payment
  • Asked to cash a check for a stranger or send money via wire transfer or Zelle®
  • Asked to deposit a check that overpays for something you're selling, then send the difference elsewhere

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

Rental scams

Looking for a vacation rental or thinking about renting a new place? Imagine showing up to your dream vacation or new home only to find out that you've been double booked - or that the place doesn't actually exist.

Scammers can take over a real rental or real estate listing by changing the email address or other contact information, then listing it on another site.

What to look out for:

Being pressured to urgently send a security deposit or make a payment to hold the property before you even see it or sign a lease.

Being asked to wire money instead of sending a check. Once the money is gone, there's almost no way to get it back.

Pay attention and do your research on the owner(s) and listing: is it vague? Do the photos have watermarks? Does the rent amount sound too low? Remember: If it sounds too good to be true, it usually is.

Here’s why you should be wary of money requests from unexpected calls or text

Beware of scammers impersonating banks and fraud departments. By spoofing legitimate phone numbers to call or text you, the requests can be very convincing.

Scammers are using a technique that asks you to send funds to yourself or others using online or mobile banking.

Being vigilant is your first line of defense - here's how to help stay protected:

  • Don't feel pressured to respond immediately, this is what scammers want you to do.
  • Verify the source of any request for money or personal information - check the phone numbers on their official website; your card, a recent bill or statement; or by calling your bank at the number on the back of your card.
  • Bank of America will never request that you transfer money between accounts or to your own account especially when we detect fraud.

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.


(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.


(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.


(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).


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


(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.


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.

Know the best ways to avoid being scammed

Don’t respond: If you’re not 100% certain of the source of the call, email or text, then hang up the phone, don’t click on the link in the email and don’t reply to the text message.

Don’t trust caller ID or answer phone calls from unknown numbers: If you recognize the caller ID but the call seems suspicious, hang up the phone. Phone numbers can be easily spoofed to appear to be from a legitimate caller.

Don’t give out your information: Never provide any personally identifiable information unless you’re absolutely certain the person and reason are legitimate. Remember: Bank of America will never ask you to send us personal information such as an account number, Social Security number or Tax ID over text, email or online.

Research and validate: If the individual or organization seems suspicious, make sure the request being made is legitimate by calling the organization through an official number from their website or consulting with a trusted family member or friend.

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

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