Bank executive warns about scams during pandemic
Since Jan. 1, more than 109,000 people have reported COVID-19-related fraud to the Federal Trade Commission with losses over $71.3 million.
California is ranked second highest in the nation for claims of identity theft and fraud.
Doris Roof can attest to the validity of the claims.
She has been with Montecito Bank & Trust for more than six years and was recently promoted to fraud manager because of her experience with various schemes.
“Initially, the high fraud areas were in debit-card fraud and check fraud. A process was needed to follow the trends and monitor the fraudulent activity. Our department and the bank focus on preventing fraud, protecting and educating our customers about fraud and taking action when fraud occurs,” said Mrs. Roof.
She noted that fraud is different today than it was six years ago.
“Since the pandemic began, tech support scams have become especially prevalent. With people being asked to stay at home and to work at home, they are spending more time at their computers. The scammers know this, and an email will be sent saying that a virus has been detected on the computer, and the person should click on the link for support,” said Mrs. Roof.
“Once you click on the link, scammers will have access to your computer. Do not click on the link. Sometimes deleting it doesn’t get rid of it. My advice is to turn off your computer and reboot. If you do click on the link, you may want to take your computer to have it serviced by someone you trust to see if access has been gained.”
Check fraud has been a big issue in our area, according to Mrs. Roof.
“The scammers go ‘phishing’ or vacuuming for mail in boxes at private homes or the blue government boxes looking for envelopes that have some kind of payment in them like utilities, credit card companies, department stores, etc. They take the checks and ‘wash’ them by replacing the payee’s name with their own and changing the amount on the check,” said Mrs. Roof.
“The (mail) boxes on Patterson Avenue that have been in the news have been hit so many times, and so have the ones on Anacapa Street by the main Post Office. They have been targeted especially since March.”
To avoid becoming a victim, she suggests dropping off mail in person at the post office or giving it to the mail carrier.
With job layoffs and businesses closing, there has been an increase in work-from-home job offerings.
“If the offer is to deposit a check that they will be sending you to purchase gift cards with the funds, don’t do it. Gift card scams are very common, and no legitimate business will ask for a gift card payment,” Mrs. Roof said.
“The scammers will ask for the numbers on the gift card and will deplete the amount immediately. Never pay for a service or someone requesting payment by gift card. This is 100% fraud.”
According to the ftc.gov website, online shopping/negative reviews and imposter scams were the top scams in Santa Barbara County as of June 30.
“Imposter scams can be someone from the IRS threatening action against you for not making a payment or a text stating to be your bank or Amazon and telling you to click on the link to receive additional information, hoping you will provide personal information such as your Social Security number, your debit or credit card numbers.” said Mrs. Roof, who offered the following tips and resources to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
— Never, ever give your personal information to anyone over the phone.
— Report any cyber type of crime to www.ic3.gov, an FBI website.
— If you believe you have been a victim of identity theft, notify the Social Security office and three major credit bureaus — Experian, Equifax and TransUnion — immediately.
Montecito Bank & Trust has a program, “Fraud Fight Recognition,” which recognizes employees who have prevented fraud from occurring to the customer because they noticed “red flags.”
“For example, if a customer withdraws an amount that is unusual — $3,000 instead of $500 — anything out of the ordinary, we will question,” Mrs. Roof said.
“We recently prevented a $50,000 wire transaction scam. We were able to retrieve the amount, which is very rare.”