It is the Holiday Season and for most of us that means spending time with family and friends. But for others, it means finding new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting victims. Since the beginning of the pandemic, “alleged” cyber-fraud has been growing exponentially, but actually all types of fraud have been multiplying and seem especially prevalent at this time of year. If we can prevent even one person from being taken by these criminals, then this post will have served its purpose.
First, there are unauthorized entities claiming to be banks. This month, the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC) announced two:
The first (Dec. 9, 2021): A fictitious entity using the name Amarico Trust Bank and AmTrust Bank was using a foreign website that, by all accounts, looked like a legitimate, FDIC-insured U.S. Bank. It is not licensed or chartered, let alone insured. It is NOT a U.S. bank.
These scammers are clever. AmTrust Bank is a familiar name to many of us. In fact, there is a branch within walking distance of our office, right here in The City Beautiful, Coral Gables, FL. There have actually been two real U.S. banks that used the AmTrust moniker. One, AmTrust Bank, FSB, Boca Raton, FL, closed in 1995. The other began as a dba for Ohio Savings Bank, which used the AmTrust Bank trade name for its Florida and Arizona branches.
In 2009, 5-Star New York Community Bank (NYCB) purchased Ohio Savings Bank but continues to operate the branches under the names that are familiar to the communities in which they operate. Today, NYCB operates 40 branches under the AmTrust name in Arizona (14) and Florida (26). It also operates 28 Ohio Savings Bank branches in Ohio.
The following day, (12/10/21), the OCC reported that another fictitious entity going by the name of simply FNB, was robo-calling and robo-texting that the recipients $6,000 loan had been approved and to please call them so the money could be deposited into their bank account.
The Treasury Department is also reporting a number of telephone and email scammers. Some are claiming to work for a division of the Treasury (“Department of Legal Affairs” and “Grants Office” are two that were used recently). The scammers promise thousands of dollars after the victim provides financial details or makes a pre-payment of some kind.
Other scammers say they work for the IRS and are threatening prison time if payment is not made. The fact is, there is no shortage of scams, and the Holiday season seems to make them even more prevalent, both online and off.
Now is not the time to let your guard down:
- Have software to protect against malware;
- Use strong Password Authentications;
- Look for “https:” at the beginning of website addresses;
- Don’t open links on unsolicited emails;
- Make sure we are on a secure network when banking or shopping; and
- Are mindful of what we share on social media platforms.
- And, for heaven’s sake, you were not approved for a loan if you did not apply for a loan.
If anyone attempts to scam you (we hope they don’t succeed), please report the incident to as many of the following agencies as appropriate.
USA.gov has links to state, local and tribal governments. Remember, the faster you report fraud, the better chance you will have to recover any losses that resulted from it.
If the fraud involves telemarketing, spam, identity theft, internet services or online shopping, you will want to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
If the fraud involves U.S. mail, you contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service (USPIS). In addition to stimulus check scams, last year the USPIS reported individuals and business attempting to sell everything from fake surgical masks and wipes to fake COVID-19 cures. Then they moved on to “contact tracer” scams. A real contact tracer will NOT ask for your social security number or bank account information.
If the scam is IRS-related, you should file a complaint with the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA).
Regardless of how a fraudster communicates with you, if someone says they are from the Treasury and can offer you help in exchange for anything at all, contact the FBI.
Federal Banking Agencies:
- Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB)
- Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. (FDIC)
- Federal Reserve
- National Credit Union Administration (NCUA)
- Office of the Comptroller of the Currency (OCC)
Credit Reporting Agencies:
And of course, Bauer’s got your back. BauerFinancial only rates federally-insured banks and credit unions. Stay Safe and Keep your Deposits