Learn about fraud and scams to better protect yourself online

Fraud is on the rise. Criminals are always trying new tactics to manipulate people by phone, email, and even in person to divulge confidential information so they can gain access to accounts. If you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from Bank of the West or asking for your Bank of the West account information or credentials, do not provide any personal information, write down the phone number, and immediately contact Bank of the West at (800) 488-2265, option 3 (TTY 1-800-659-5495).

Please remember we will NEVER ask you for your password, PIN, or call you for your One Time Passcode.

Some trending fraud methods are:

  • Scams, phishing, and business email compromise related to recent bank closures

    Fraudsters and cybercriminals often leverage public events to make a profit, steal personal information and/or insert malware on victims’ devices. Be wary of incoming emails/text/phone calls related to recent bank closures as they could be phishing attempts or scams. Scam messages may present as offers to: set up a new bank account, recover money, provide assistance, or take part in a lawsuit against the closed banks.

    Be on the lookout for Business Email Compromise (BEC). These are emails that appear to be from a legitimate company or individual claiming to be a client at a bank recently closed by bank regulators who need to update the bank account information on file. They could be fraudsters trying to takeover the account to re-direct payments to accounts that they have opened.

    Examples and how to protect yourself:

    Phishing: A fraudster may send you an email that appears to come from a recently closed bank. The email indicates that your funds are safe and that they have been temporarily moved to a new account. The request is urgent and asks that you click on the link and enter your account information into the site to access your new account and funds. You enter your information on the new site; however, the next time you select the link in the email, the site cannot be accessed. You realize you have just given your personal information to a fraudster.

    Business Email Compromise: You work in Accounts Payable at a Small Organization and receive an email from the CEO of one of your suppliers. The email indicates they no longer have accounts with the closed bank. They are now banking with XYZ Bank and request that you send all payments to the new accounts, which are included in the email. Your policy is to confirm change requests of this nature by phone at a tenured number with a known person at the company. When you call the CEO on the phone number in your records, she confirms she never sent the email.

    What to look out for:

    • Requests for personal information
    • Requests to complete web forms
    • A sense of urgency or consequence if you don’t respond quickly
    • Fake links, which can be identified by hovering over them
    • Generic greetings instead of your name
    • Emails, texts, or calls from unfamiliar or suspicious sources
    • Email addresses that are inconsistent with the legitimate company’s email domain (e.g., john.smith@abc.org when it should be john.smith@abc.com) and email addresses with misspelled or added characters

    Business Email Compromise:

    • Requests that involve excessive urgency, persuasion, pressure, or manipulation
    • Requests to change destination payment information, including account number, phone number, address, country
    • Requests to send funds to a new/different account that does not match your existing records
    • Tips to protect yourself and your business:

    • Learn common social engineering ploys and methods of cyber and fraud attacks
    • Slow down – don’t select links or respond to emails that appear suspicious or unusual
    • Always verbally validate requests by calling a known contact on a tenured phone number on file; do not use the phone number provided in the email
  • Bank Impersonation Fraud – Fraud Department Agents

    Fraudsters are contacting individuals posing as employees from the Bank’s ”Fraud Department”. They may know information about you – obtained from social media or the dark web. The Bank impersonator indicates the individual has a "New Alert" from their bank and to select the link in the text message to see the alert. When individuals select the link they are taken to a fake banking login page that appears to be legitimate. Individuals unwittingly provide banking information to log in; fraudsters then use information collected to access their accounts.

    You receive a phone call or text from anyone claiming to be from your bank. They tell you about a transaction on your account that is ‘out of character’ for you. They tell you they can reverse it, if you provide access to your computer, or provide your log in credentials. When you log into your bank account, there is no credit, and often little funds remain.

    Things you can do to protect yourself:

    Important: Bank of the West will never contact you via unsolicited email, text or phone call asking for sensitive information such as password, PIN, or call you for your One Time Passcode.

    • If you get a call, voicemail, email, or text from someone claiming to be from Bank of the West and you think it’s suspicious, contact us immediately using the information on the back of your card or on the Bankofthewest.com site. Please don’t share any personal information.
    • Do not disclose personal information if you did not initiate the contact.

    What to look out for:

    • Requests for you to provide or confirm any kind of personal or financial information (incl. credit card or bank account information)
    • Requests to send funds through an intermediary or to an account at an institution different than the one the “Fraud Department” employee works at
    • Requests to complete web forms with your personal information or your signature on an agreement or contract
    • Watch for emails/texts/phone calls:
    • with generic greetings
    • from unfamiliar or suspicious sources with fake links (hover over them to ensure they are going to the correct website)
    • Be on the lookout for email addresses that are inconsistent with the legitimate company’s email domain (i.e. john.smith@botwamerica.com vs. john.smith@botw.com) and email addresses with misspelled or added characters
  • Bank Impersonation Fraud – Caller ID Spoofing

    Spoofing can occur when someone disguises an email address, sender name, website or phone number – often just by changing one letter, symbol or number – to convince you that you are interacting with a trusted source. Currently, scammers are altering telephone numbers displayed on caller IDs to appear as though they are from a legitimate company in an attempt to trick individuals into answering the call and providing personal information.

    Scammers will spoof phone numbers to trick caller ID technology into displaying false information on individuals’ phones to make it appear like they are interacting with a trusted source.

    Examples and how to protect yourself:

    A customer receives a call, the caller ID number displayed is the phone number of a well-known, trusted company. The caller claims there are unauthorized charges on the individual’s account and requests personal information to help fix the problem. In reality, the caller is a fraudster with no links to the company. Once the fraudster obtains the individual’s account information, they will attempt to conduct fraud on their account.

    Things you can do to protect yourself:

    • Never give out personal information over the phone. Do not give credit card or banking account details over the phone, unless you made the call and the number you are calling came from a trusted source.
    • Never give an unsolicited caller access to your computer or mobile device. If you receive an unexpected call about your computer or mobile device and the caller requests access, hang up – even if the caller claims to represent a well-known company or product.
    • Register your telephone number on the National Do Not Call Registry.
    • Do not give information to anyone calling and asking for your PIN or one-time passcode. Government agencies, banks and other legitimate organizations will never contact you asking for this information.
  • Acquisition-related phishing scams

    Cybercriminals often use significant business-related events (such as mergers and acquisitions) to target organizations and their customers with phishing campaigns. They may send fraudulent emails - appearing to be legitimate - to trick individuals into clicking on a malicious link or providing personal information such as passwords and credit card numbers.

    • Threat actors, or hackers, use public information and news releases about such events to devise emails that sound real and urgent to obtain customer information and/or system access. Please remain vigilant when reviewing all incoming emails.

    Bank of the West will never contact you via unsolicited email, text or phone call asking for sensitive information, passwords, PINs or call asking for verification codes (one-time passcodes). If you get a call, voicemail, email or text from someone claiming to be from Bank of the West and you think it’s suspicious, contact us immediately using the information on the back of your card.

    • Requests for personal information
    • Requests to complete web forms
    • A sense of urgency or consequence if you don’t respond quickly
    • Email addresses with misspelled or added characters
    • Generic greetings instead of your name
    • Emails, texts, or calls from unfamiliar or suspicious sources
  • Mail fraud – Stealing checks and changing payee and/or amounts

    Criminals have been targeting mail and carriers to commit check fraud. They typically steal personal checks, business checks, tax refund checks, and checks related to government assistance programs, such as Social Security payments and unemployment benefits. Following the initial theft and fraudulent negotiation of the stolen checks, criminals may continue to exploit their victims by using the personal identifiable information found in the stolen mail for future fraud schemes, such as credit card fraud or credit account fraud.

    How it works and what to look for:
    Criminals use stolen keys to open mailboxes, steal checks, and change the payee and amount on them.

    The USPS reported earlier this year that 299,020 complaints of mail theft were received between March 2020 and February 2021, a 161% increase from the previous year. According to the United States

    Postal Inspection Service, 1,079 mail theft cases were reported nationwide in 2021.

    Keep your mail and personal information secure-Make it difficult for your mail to be stolen or tampered with. If thieves can’t access your mail, they can’t steal it!

    • Buy and install a locking mailbox
    • Get a security camera or camera-equipped doorbell that monitors your mailbox
    • Retrieve your mail promptly every day or ask a trusted person to do so for you
    • Do not leave any outgoing mail with a method of payment or personal information in your mailbox
    • Take bills to a post-office rather than leaving them in your mailbox or placing them in a drop box outside a Post Office
    • Sign up for free Informed Delivery® to see incoming mail in your email so you know what can be expected to arrive in that day's mail
    • Make the switch to paperless billing so important bills are never in your mailbox
    • Know your billing cycles, and watch for any missing mail
    • Follow up if bills or new cards do not arrive on time
    • If you’ll be out of town for an extended period of time, submit a request to have the post office hold your mail delivery until you return
Read through our full list of common fraud techniques to help you avoid compromising your accounts and getting scammed.
  • Wire Transfer Fraud

    Wire transfers are an increasingly popular choice with criminals because of their speed and immediate availability of funds. Once the transaction goes through, it is difficult, if not impossible, to recover the funds.

    Businesses need to be especially aware of the risks associated with wire transfers. Criminals have identified opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities with internal business controls around wire processing and email requests. These emails are disguised as a trusted and known entity (vendor, supplier, broker, etc.).

    Common red flags of wire transfer fraud include:

    • An overt sense of urgency or confidentiality conveyed in the request
    • Wire transfer request contains new or modified payment instructions for known entities or individuals
    • A wire request was received from an individual at the business who does not usually make these requests
    • Suspicious solicitation by email, phone, fax, mail, or from an online acquaintance or business

    Reduce your risk of becoming a victim by:

    • Confirming the request with the sender verbally at a telephone number that can be verified (not what is provided to you)
    • Verify the request is legitimate through a reliable source
    • Research the request further if you have any hesitation
    • Ask questions

    If you still have concerns, do not send the wire transfer.

    What do you do if you believe you fell victim to a wire fraud scam?

    • Contact Bank of the West immediately (1-800-488-2265, TTY 1-800-659-5495) and request a wire recall due to fraud
    • File a report with the Internet Crime Complaint Center at https://bec.ic3.gov/
    • Save all of the emails involved with the transaction
  • Spoof Websites/Phishing

    Internet thieves attempt to "phish" for confidential information by means of "pop-ups" or emails with internet links to deceive you into disclosing sensitive information (such as account numbers, your Social Security Number, or online banking credentials).

    Often the email appears to be from a trusted source, like your bank, and directs you to a "spoof" website that closely resembles the real website that asks you to give sensitive information or even asks you to call a phone number and provide account information.

    What you should look out for:

    • Unsolicited requests for personal or business information. Bank of the West will never send you emails with embedded links or pop-up windows that ask for confidential information, such as your account numbers, Social Security Number, ATM or debit card number, or PIN.
    • Urgent appeals claiming your account may be closed if you fail to respond with your personal or business information. Bank of the West will never ask you to verify information this way.
    • Messages about system and security updates claiming the bank needs to confirm important information due to upgrades. The message may state that you must update your information online. Bank of the West will not ask you to verify information this way.
    • Offers that sound too good to be true. You may be asked to fill out a short customer service survey in exchange for money being credited to your account. You are then asked to provide your account information. Bank of the West will not conduct a survey this way, and these are often scams.
    • Typos and other errors. Be on the lookout for grammatical errors, awkward writing, and poor visual design.
  • Delayed Delivery Notification

    Deliveries may be delayed, but scammers are coming out of the woodwork right on cue—preying on impatient buyers with fake shipping alerts that require “verification” for delivery. In other words, they’re using our reliance on shipping services against us. When you click the link, or fill out the form, they could be installing malware on your computer or phishing for your information to gain access to other accounts.

    Don't click on a link sent to you. Instead, go to the original site and request delivery updates from there. Avoid emails with attachments at all costs. Unless someone you know explicitly says they will be sending an email with an attachment, don’t open it.

  • Romance Scams

    Another top consumer complaint is 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.

  • Business Email Compromise (BEC)

    BEC is an increasingly common type of payment fraud scam targeting businesses that regularly perform wire transfers.

    In some instances, the fraudster may also use BEC scams to obtain employee, or personally identifiable information, such as W2 forms, that can be used to perpetrate other fraud scam schemes.

    The BEC scam may start with a phishing email but is ultimately conducted using a combination of social engineering and infected computers and devices. This allows computer intrusion tactics that help the fraudster identify a business's procedures and protocols, including employees authorized to send wire transfers or release the requested information.

    Information obtained through these tactics can include employee email addresses, executive travel calendars, and previous wire details, including frequency, amounts, account numbers, and vendor names.

    BEC scams are a compromise or spoof of legitimate business email accounts—often belonging to the Chief Executive Officer or the Chief Financial Officer of a company for the purpose of conducting unauthorized wire transfers or other money movements. After compromising or spoofing the email account, usually via social engineering or malware, the fraudsters can send wire transfer instructions using the victim's email.

    BEC scams typically target businesses that conduct wire transfers; however, they may also target businesses that send ACH payments or checks. This depends on the company's standard practices.

    Source: http://www.ic3.gov/media/2015/150122.aspx

  • Email Account Compromise (EAC)

    EAC scams are similar to BEC scams in that the motive and method of execution are the same. However, EAC scams target individuals rather than businesses.

    Like BEC scams, EAC scams are typically phishing emails that infect computers and devices, allowing fraudsters to gather personal information such as personal identifying information, frequently contacted financial advisors, and confidential banking information. Once fraudsters have gained this information, email accounts are either taken over or spoofed and used to request unauthorized wire transfers, ACH payments, and even checks.

    • EAC scams typically target wealthy or high-profile individuals who have accountants, financial institutions, or other third parties managing their finances. However, anyone can be a victim
    • Fraudsters may hack into a legitimate email account, or use "spoof" email accounts, which will appear identical to legitimate email accounts making differences difficult to detect.
    • Victims are generally from the U.S. who regularly conduct business, travel to, or have international ties.
    • Fraudsters use EAC scams to trick victims to wire money from personal bank accounts.
    • Unauthorized wire requests almost always have a sense of urgency, request strict confidentiality, and are flagged as time-sensitive or highly confidential. The emails may be well-written, appear genuine, and align with normal day-to-day operations. However, they could be poorly written, contain typos, and appear suspicious.

    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 to your computer. Only fraudsters pretending to work for these companies will operate in this way.

  • Nigerian Letter/419 Scam

    This scam typically begins with an unsolicited communication from someone pretending to be Nigerian or foreign government officials. This "official" offers you a percentage in exchange for helping them deposit money in overseas bank accounts. You may be asked to send your account numbers, business letterhead stationery, or other kinds of information via a fax number they provide.

    Avoid any offers that involve the complex transfer of funds, particularly those that involve sending money overseas. Don't put your money, business identity, or reputation at stake.

  • Lottery or Sweepstakes Scam

    This scam begins with a notice that you are the winner of a lottery or sweepstakes. You may be asked to provide banking details, personal information, and copies of your driver's license or passport to prove your identity and complete the transfer of your winnings. If you give them what they asked for, the scammers will have enough information to steal your identity.

    To receive the "winnings," you must first pay a small percentage for fake "taxes" or other fees. The scammer typically instructs the victim to wire advance fees through Western Union. Once the money is transferred, the scammer moves on or requests additional funds, but the "lottery winnings" never appear.

    Legitimate lotteries or sweepstakes will not require payment to receive the winnings. Don't respond to emails, letters, or faxes that claim you've won money. Never give your confidential personal or business account information to anyone claiming to hold your "winnings." Participation in foreign lotteries is against the law.

  • Gift card scams

    Scammers are manipulating gift cards and tricking individuals into buying cards with no value. Gift card numbers/PINs are all that is needed to use a gift card’s balance. Scammers will ask you to provide the numbers and Pins, so they may take the funds which makes them worthless. They may also scan gift card numbers to use online later, or swap out new cards with used ones — all actions resulting in a useless non-refundable gift card for the customer.

    Examples and how to protect yourself:
    A customer purchases a gift card. When trying to use the gift card, the recipient finds the balance is zero because a scammer has already used it. Because it is a gift card (managed through a third-party vendor), the company it was purchased from will not provide a refund.

    • Look out for gift cards and/or gift card packaging that has been tampered with. Make sure the pin on the card has not been scratched off or the sticker to reveal the card number hasn’t been previously removed.
    • If you must activate your gift card online, only do so using the exact website on the back of your card. Scammers can create similar activation sites to collect your gift card information and funds.
    • Do not give information to anyone calling and asking for your gift card information or payment via gift card. Government agencies, banks, and other legitimate organizations will never contact you for this information.
    • Do not share your gift card number and/or PIN aside from when redeeming at the legitimate company (in person or online).
    • Ensure gift card details match information reflected on cashier’s terminal and receipt.
  • Pay yourself scams

    Scammers are using text and follow-up phone calls to scam individuals with notification of fraud alerts. They offer to stop the alleged fraud by having the victim send themselves money via Zelle®. Using a one-time code provided by the victim, the scammer is able to access a customer’s bank account and direct and receive the victim’s money into the scammer’s account.

    Examples and what to look for:
    You receive a text message fraud alert that appears to come from your bank about unusual activity. Once you respond to the text, you will receive a call from a scammer pretending to be a representative from your bank. The scammer offers to help stop the alleged fraud by asking you to send money to yourself with Zelle®. They will then ask you for a one-time code you just received from your bank, which the fraudster uses to enroll their bank account with Zelle® using your email or phone number. The scammer now can receive your money into their account.

    • The request involves using Zelle® to send money to yourself.
    • The request involves excessive urgency, persuasion, pressure, or manipulation.
    • The request involves sharing a one-time code.
    • You are unable to validate the phone number that supposedly comes from your bank.
  • Callback phishing scams

    Callback phishing occurs when cybercriminals, pretending to be service providers, send you an email stating your subscriptions (e.g., TV, internet or phone) are due to be renewed automatically. When you reach out to the number in the email to stop the automatic payment, they send you a “cancellation” email with malicious links.

    Examples and how to protect yourself:
    A cybercriminal, pretending to be a regional internet provider, sends you an email telling you that your subscription will be automatically renewed, and payment will be processed with your existing payment method. To prevent auto renewals and payments, you call the number in the phishing email to try to sort out the “mistake.” When you call the number, you speak to cybercriminals who send you a new email with a fake cancellation link that directs you to a website with malware. This malware is then used to launch ransomware on your system, which they use to extort you out of your funds.

    • The request involves a sense of urgency or has consequences for not responding quickly.
    • The request involves providing or confirming any kind of personal or financial information (incl. credit card information).
    • The request contains fake links or spelling errors in the email address or content.
  • False order scams

    Fraudsters are impersonating customer support agents from online retailers, calling individuals and claiming that large purchases have been made on their accounts. They claim they want to help reverse the charges as soon as possible.

    Examples and what to look out for:
    A customer support agent from a well-known online retailer calls and claims an order for a smartphone (or other expensive item) has been placed on your account. The caller offers to rectify the issue by refunding the transaction. They request your credit card information and/or remote access to your device(s). Once they have access to your account, they attempt to transfer money out of your bank account. The agent sounds very professional and acts with urgency to “help” fix this issue for you.

    Check out the tips below to learn how to avoid such scams

    • The request involves excessive urgency, persuasion, pressure, or manipulation.
    • The request involves providing or confirming any kind of personal or financial information (incl. credit card information).
    • The request involves visiting a website, downloading an app, or providing remote access to your device.
    • If you receive any unsolicited calls that require “urgent action,” hang up immediately and call the institution or company using information from their website.
  • Cryptocurrency investment scams

    Many investors want in on the newest, seemingly most lucrative investment offer – and right now, fraudsters are using market interest in cryptocurrency to lure investors into scams. They use high-pressure sales tactics and promises of high returns to trick victims out of their savings.

    How it works and what to watch out for:
    Victims are directed to a specific trading platform to convert their funds into crypto assets, and then encouraged to transfer these assets to a fake investment website to fund an “account.” In some cases, the victim may be instructed to download software to supposedly facilitate asset conversion and transfer, but instead provides fraudsters with remote access to their computer. Using false statements and the illusion of rapid gains, even allowing partial withdrawal of funds to build trust, fraudsters will strongly encourage investors to make additional deposits. Ultimately, requests to withdraw their assets will fail, fraudsters will stop replying to communications and the victim will lose their funds.

    Check out the tips below to learn how to avoid such scams

    • If you are unable to validate the investment firm’s reputation or the representative’s professional background with your own independent research.
    • If the investment representative encourages you to download specific software to supposedly assist with transferring funds or purchasing crypto assets.
    • If a company offers to recover funds lost to cryptocurrency fraud; this is often a secondary scam.
  • Employment scams

    During these difficult and uncertain times, unemployment has skyrocketed. Employment scams involve jobs offering easy money, high wages, flexible working hours, or exciting future opportunities. Some of the most common scams include car wrapping, mystery shopping and depositing counterfeit checks.

    How it works and what to watch out for:
    A fraudster may employ you to help with banking transactions. They may send you a check and ask you to deposit it into your bank account. Then, they will ask you to transfer the money to another account in exchange for a percentage of the original deposit value. When the original check is discovered to be fraudulent, you may find yourself on the hook for its entire value, plus the amount you unknowingly transferred to the fraudster.

    Check out the tips below to learn how to avoid such scams

    • If the job involves depositing checks or transferring funds.
    • If the job is being offered over email or text, with little or no recruiting process.
    • If the posting involves words like "guaranteed" or phrases like "easy money."
  • Overpayment scams

    If you’re considering selling your old devices or last season’s designer clothes online, watch out for "accidental" overpayments that exceed the agreed upon price. These scams involve tricking you into refunding money to a fraudster who has overpaid you with a bad check, stolen card and/or email money transfer (EMT) such as Zelle®, or wire payment.

    How it works and what to watch out for:
    A fraudster agrees to buy an unlocked mobile phone from you and “accidentally” sends you a check for more than the agreed-on price. The fraudster then contacts you to request a reimbursement for the excess amount. However, what you don’t know is that the fraudster is using a fraudulent check to buy the phone. You deposit the check using your mobile banking app and then the money appears in your account. Then, you send the excess money back to the buyer by Zelle®, Venmo, PayPal, etc. When the check bounces a few days later, the money from the sale of the phone and the reimbursement will be gone.

    Check out the tips below to learn how to avoid such scams

    • If someone pays you more than the price that you agreed on.
    • If they immediately request reimbursement for part of the payment.
    • If the transaction involves unusual shipping, processing, or customs fees.
  • Car Rental Scams

    When the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020 many travel-related businesses, including car rental companies, faced a sudden drop in bookings. As the demand for rental vehicles began to recover in 2021, scammers found new ways to take advantage of unsuspecting customers.

    Reports of car rental scams increased in the last few months as more people started to feel comfortable with the idea of travelling. The Federal Trade Commission issued a warning about schemes that use fake car companies, websites, and customer service departments to lure people into making phony reservations.

    How it works and what to watch out for:
    In a car rental scam, fraudsters create legitimate-looking websites for fake companies that advertise low prices. The website will provide a customer service number to call to verify the fee and make a reservation. However, it’s the way you pay that’s the catch.

    The fake rental company will ask that you reserve your vehicle by prepaying with a gift card or prepaid debit card, often claiming there is a special discount or promotion by doing so. Once you’ve provided the card number and PIN, the fraudster can quickly convert the card to cash, leaving you without a car or your money.

    Check out the tips below to learn how to avoid such scams

    • Companies that ask you to prepay with a gift card or prepaid debit card.
    • Deals or promotions that are too good to be true. If you’re suspicious about a deal or promotion, verify with the rental car company by visiting the official website and calling the number on the site.
  • Collection Scam

    Criminals have devised counterfeit check schemes targeting attorneys. Scammers will use the names of real companies and create fake email addresses to show a connection to the real company. Scammers will email, fax, or call the law firm requesting legal services in connection with a settlement.

    If the attorney responds, the scam begins, and the attorney will eventually receive a fraudulent settlement check (either a fake cashier's or business check). The attorney is asked to deposit the settlement check, keep a retainer fee, and wire the remainder of the settlement to the client's (scammer's) overseas account. The original settlement check is later returned as unpaid, and the attorney is left responsible for the funds wired out of their bank account.

    Be suspicious of a solicitation that offers a relatively large fee for minimal work and is outside your usual practice. Scrutinize unsolicited emails and calls from anyone requesting services with whom you've had no prior dealings, particularly if the offer comes from outside the U.S.

    Educate your staff to be cautious of these types of schemes. If you accept payment by check, ask for a check from a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. Then, visit the branch and have the bank verify that the check is valid. If a visit isn't possible, call the issuing bank, and verify that the check is valid. You can obtain the issuing bank's valid phone number online or via directory assistance. Monitor your bank accounts and ensure that settlement check(s) you deposit clear the banking system, and you get the funds as expected before you send money to clients.

How to avoid scams and protect yourself

There are so many scams targeting innocent individuals and businesses. Luckily, there are some common steps you can take to protect yourself:

  • Avoid giving out personal information. Especially non-publicly available information such as social insurance numbers and account numbers.
  • Limit what you post on social media. Scammers can target social media to discover personal information; this information can be used to manipulate a vulnerability.
  • Slow down. Avoid any ‘urgent’ requests and be mindful of responding too quickly with personal or financial information.
  • Reviews emails and URLs carefully. Emails and websites can look like they are from trusted companies, but if you review the email and URL carefully, you’ll notice a small difference like one extra letter, a period, or a .net instead of .com.
  • Say no to unsolicited calls or emails. If you’re unfamiliar with the caller or sender, proceed with caution or avoid altogether.
  • Be wary of anyone requesting gift cards, money orders, checks or wires. If anyone is requesting these types of payments, the likelihood of fraud may be higher.
  • Independently verify if the request seems out of ordinary.
  • Sign up for alerts with your bank. Bank of the West alert make it easy to keep track of your account activity and monitor for suspicious transactions. You can sign up through the App.
  • Keep your contact information up to date. Ensure your contact info is always current. That way, Bank of the West employees can contact you immediately if they detect unusual activity on your account.
  • Choose passwords that are unique and complex. Avoid common passwords like “123456” or passwords that include obvious personal info. Your password should be at least 8 characters long and combine upper and lowercase letters and special characters (numbers and symbols).

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