Recent Events in the news
There is an increase in criminals making phone calls and they may provide fake details about potential fraud on your account to trick you into giving additional information about your account(s). Their goal is to gather enough personal information to impersonate you to the Bank, and commit actual fraud. If you receive one of these calls, please do not provide any personal information, write down the number you received the suspicious call from, and immediately call the Bank of the West Contact Center at (800) 488-2265, option 3 (TTY 1-800-659-5495).
Please remember we will NEVER ask you for your password, PIN or OTP code.
Fraudsters will often promise to pay customers large sums of money for helping them move funds to another account. Moving money for someone you don't know is illegal and can place your own bank accounts at risk.
Amazon, Microsoft, and the Internal Revenue Service don’t call or email you asking for payment via gift cards or wires, nor will they ask to obtain remote access your computer. Only fraudsters pretending to work for these companies will operate in this way.
September is National Preparedness Month
Are you and your family prepared for the Next Emergency?
Do you have a Home Emergency Kit that includes a 3-day supply of food, water and medication for every family member? Have you checked your insurance policies and coverage for the predominate hazards in your area such as floods, earthquakes, wildfires and tornados? Do you have a communication plan? If not, now is the time to focus on this important topic. September is National Preparedness Month. Sponsored by FEMA, this effort encourages all of us to prepare for emergencies at home, at work and in our communities. Learn more.
Amazon or Tech Support Scams
The Bank’s Fraud Prevention Team has identified a scam trend customers should be aware of. This scam typically begins with a phone call prompting you to speak to an Amazon representative. The fraudster will tell you that you have unauthorized transactions on your Amazon account and ask if you have a laptop or a PC to get a refund. The fraudster will ask to take over your computer via a screen-sharing or other “support” tool, accessing your online banking account to transfer funds from your savings to checking account and then request funds via Zelle®, wire, or gift cards for payment sent to them.
Avoid accepting unanticipated calls from anyone claiming to be from Amazon or any other business, and never allow a third party to share your screen or control your computer unless you are going through a known, secure channel initiated by you. Be particularly alert for any business or individual that requests payment or refund via nontraditional methods. Call the business yourself to validate the information and never provide your banking credentials to anyone.
Identity Theft and Unemployment Benefits
Because of the pandemic, millions of Americans lost jobs permanently or temporarily in 2020 and received unemployment benefits issued by state agencies.
However, in some cases, criminals sought to exploit the situation, filing for fraudulent unemployment benefits using stolen identities.
Because unemployment benefits are taxable income, states issue Forms 1099-G, Certain Government Payments, to recipients and to the IRS to report the amount of taxable compensation received and any withholding. Box 1 on the form shows "Unemployment Compensation."
Report Fraud to the States
Taxpayers who received a Form 1099-G for 2020 unemployment compensation that they did not receive should take the following steps:
- Contact issuing state agency to report fraud. The U.S. Department of Labor maintains a list of state contact information to report unemployment compensation fraud.
- Ask state agency to issue a corrected 1099-G. The state will need time to investigate the fraud complaint and make any correction.
- File an accurate federal tax return reporting only income received, even if a corrected 1099-G has not yet been received.
Follow Federal Trade Commission recommendations for identity theft:
- Review free credit reports for signs of additional fraud from the credit bureaus;
- Consider a credit freeze or credit fraud alert through the credit bureaus;
- File an identity theft complaint with the U.S. Department of Justice's National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) by completing an NCDF Complaint Form online, or by calling 866-720-5721.
Scams and Social Media
Data released by the FTC shows that the number of complaints about scams that started on social media more than tripled in the last year. People reported losing more than $117 million to this type of scam in just the first six months of 2020 compared to $134 million for all of 2019, according to the FTC's latest Consumer Protection Data Spotlight.
Online shopping topped the list of complaints from consumers who reported a scam to the FTC that originated on social media. Of these consumers, many were responding to an ad they saw on social media and reported that the item they ordered never arrived. Most of those consumers (94 percent) who identified the social media service in their complaint cited Facebook or Instagram as the platform they used.
Other top consumer complaints about scams that started on social media related to romance scams or economic relief or income opportunities, which often target people who have lost a job or other income because of the pandemic. About half of all romance scam reports to the FTC since 2019 involve social media, usually on Facebook or Instagram.
For more information and tips on how to avoid being scammed while on social media, check out the FTC's data spotlight.
Fake prize offers don’t pay
The FTC knows that people who talk about scams are less likely to fall for them, and we hope to spark discussions by offering conversation-starting ideas.
Prize and lottery scams can start many ways, but they often begin with an unexpected phone call. The scammers may claim to be from the government. Or an official-sounding organization. They make wild claims about big winnings, and demand payment up front. If you get a call like this, hang up. You probably already know that. But you may know someone who doesn't. So give a call to someone who might be a bit isolated, who could use a reminder about these scams. Chances are, they would like to hear from you, and have a chance to talk about how things are going and what's on their mind.
Here are a few tips you can share about prize and lottery scams when you chat:
- Legitimate contests don't ask you to pay a fee, or give your bank account or credit card number to get your prize.
- Never send money by wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency. Anyone who asks you to pay for things that way is a scammer.
- Don't trust caller ID. Scammers can make it look like they're calling from anywhere.
After you talk, invite your friend or relative to call you back if they have questions, or if they get a surprise phone call. If they say they already spotted a scam or sent money, please ask them to report to ReportFraud.ftc.gov. You're welcome to file report for someone, if they ask for help.