Financial fraud is a growing crime. The United States Federal Trade Commission reported consumers lost nearly $8.8 billion to fraud in 2022, with 2.4 million consumers reporting scams. 

The most commonly reported were imposter scams; online shopping scams; prizes, sweepstakes and lottery scams; and investment and business-related scams. 

Now more than ever, it is important to stay alert and be aware to protect your personal and financial information.

Scammers can target victims in many ways, including emails (known as “phishing”), text messages (known as “smishing”), by phone (known as “vishing”), and even in person or by mail. 

The most common tactics used by scammers that you should be aware of are:

• Unusual requests: Scammers might request unusual forms of payment, such as gift cards or money transfer services. 

• Impersonating authorities: Scammers may pretend to be someone affiliated with your bank, the government, or a law office.

• Sense of urgency: Scammers will likely pressure you to act with urgency by requiring you to give your information or send money within a specific timeframe.

• Encouraging secretiveness: Scammers may encourage you to withhold your interactions with them from your family and friends in hopes that others won’t realize you are being scammed.

• Playing on your emotions: Scammers may present an offer that plays on your emotions. For example, requesting money to help a family member or friend, or offering a prize or reward that might seem too good to be true.

Scams impersonating your bank or banker are also common and seek to obtain your account information. Scammers may request your account number or your password and one-time verification codes to your online banking account or person-to-person payment accounts such as Zelle. 

If you receive a suspicious phone call, text message or email that you are unsure about, be sure to contact your bank directly to verify the request.

If you or someone you know believe you’re being targeted with a scam, remember: Don’t respond quickly to the request. Stay alert and take time to assess these tactics to identify the scam. 

If you become a victim to fraud, be sure to report it as soon as possible to your bank, your local police department and the Federal Trade Commission. 

Staying safe from fraudsters works when we all do our part! 

Diana McDougall is the Lowcountry Regional President at Coastal States Bank, serving on the bank’s management team since its inception in 2004.