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The festive holiday season, unfortunately, comes with an unwelcome guest—the threat of fraud. Amid the hustle and bustle, it’s all too easy for individuals to become targets of cunning scammers.

According to a study last year by AARP, a staggering 76% of Americans have been targeted by or experienced at least one form of fraud in their lifetimes. That’s three out of every four people! (Additional findings from this study are highlighted by the images in this post.)

Despite these alarming numbers, it’s not all doom and gloom. There are practical measures you can implement to protect yourself and your loved ones from becoming another statistic this holiday season. Let’s delve into some of the most prevalent holiday fraud scams and equip you with the knowledge to sidestep these potential pitfalls.

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Take Steps to Prevent Check Fraud

39 percent of respondents have been asked to donate to a fake charity.Even as the world becomes increasingly digital, check fraud remains a persistent issue. It might surprise you to know that checks are still a favorite target for scammers, who have been known to steal them from mailboxes. However, you can outsmart these fraudsters and secure your finances with a few simple steps.

First, consider switching to secure electronic payments. This can significantly reduce the risk of check theft. Whether you’re paying someone or expecting payment, electronic transactions offer a safer alternative. If you haven’t made this switch yet, it might be time to consider signing up for direct deposit or enrolling in online bill pay from your Byline Bank checking account.

But what if you need to write a check? There’s a simple yet effective trick to deter check fraud—using the right pen. A standard ballpoint pen may seem harmless, but its ink can be easily washed off paper checks with common household products. This gives fraudsters an opportunity to alter the payee name and amount on the check, consequently stealing your hard-earned money.

To counter this, use a gel ink pen when writing checks. The ink from gel pens is much harder to wash off, making it more difficult for fraudsters to alter your checks. It’s a small change, but it can make a significant difference in protecting your finances.

Steer Clear of Non-Delivery Scams

As the holiday season approaches, non-delivery scams are on the rise. This is when you pay for an item or service online, but it never arrives at your doorstep.

29 percent have been notified about a fake shipment.To protect yourself, always scrutinize the website’s URL where you’re shopping, especially because there are copycat online stores designed to mimic the looks of legitimate online stores. Look for “https” in the web address, a sign that it’s secure. If this is missing, refrain from providing any personal information or making a purchase.

If you’re considering a purchase from a new company, take an extra step and research their reputation. Check customer reviews and feedback about their products and services. You should also verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase.

27 percent have experienced package theft.When using online marketplaces or auction sites, don’t forget to review feedback ratings of sellers. Be cautious about transacting with those having predominantly negative feedback or no ratings at all.

Finally, if you spot a deal that seems too good to be true—a product significantly below its market value, for instance—it probably is. This could be a trap to lure unsuspecting buyers.

Stay Educated about Common Scams

As Benjamin Franklin wisely said, “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” By staying informed and vigilant about other common scams, such as those listed below, you can enjoy the holiday season without falling prey to fraudsters.

  • Charity Scams: During the season of giving, unscrupulous individuals may set up fake charities to exploit your generosity. Always research before donating. Legitimate charities are registered and provide transparency about how funds are used.
  • 26 percent have given or received a depleted gift card.Gift Card Scams: Be vigilant when purchasing gift cards off a rack. Scammers have been known to scratch off cards, record their numbers and PINs, cover these numbers back up, and then wait for the cards to be activated before draining their funds. As protection, consumers should buy gift cards online or from stores where cards are not left out in the open.
  • Seasonal Job Scams: Be cautious of job postings that require upfront fees or personal information before you’ve been hired. Legitimate employers will never ask for money upfront.
  • Missed Delivery Scams: Scammers send texts or emails about missed package deliveries, hoping to get your personal information. Always verify with the delivery company before clicking on any links or providing information.
  • Grandparent Scams: This involves scammers posing as grandchildren in distress, asking for immediate financial assistance. Always confirm with known family members before sending money.
  • Misleading Social Ads: Be skeptical of social media ads promoting high-demand items at shockingly low prices. These could be fraudulent schemes to get your money.
  • 12 percent have fallen victim to a travel or booking scam.Holiday Travel Scams: Be cautious of too-good-to-be-true travel deals. Use reputable travel agencies and double-check all arrangements.
  • Online Giveaways and Surveys: Scammers lure you with free gifts in exchange for personal information. Remember, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Gift Exchange Scams: Pyramid schemes often resurface during the holidays disguised as gift exchanges. Stay clear of these illegal scams.
  • Public Wi-Fi Hacking: Public Wi-Fi networks are often unsecured, making it easy for hackers to steal your information. Avoid using public Wi-Fi for financial transactions.
  • Mail Theft: Thieves often steal mail and packages during the holidays. Consider getting a lockable mailbox or having packages delivered to a secure location.
  • Shoulder Surfing and Card Skimming: Fraudsters can watch you enter your PIN or skim your card information at ATMs or checkout counters. Always shield your PIN, and regularly check your account statements for unauthorized transactions.

Financial safety is not a destination; it’s a journey. It requires consistency, long-term planning and adopting healthy habits. So arm yourself with the right information and tools this holiday season so that you can navigate it with confidence in your financial security.

Remember Banks Never Ask That

In 2023, for the third year in a row, Byline Bank once again joined forces with Banks Never Ask That—a nationwide campaign championed by the American Bankers Association. The initiative’s primary objective is to raise consumer awareness about the ever-present danger of phishing scams, arming individuals with the knowledge and tools needed to identify and avoid fraudulent bank communications. It’s our mission to flip the script on these cybercriminals, putting power back into the hands of our customers.

Regrettably, despite ongoing education efforts and heightened awareness campaigns, some Byline customers continue to be lured into these deceptive schemes. They mistakenly believe they’re interacting with a genuine Byline Bank representative, falling victim to these well-disguised scams.

We want to emphasize this crucial piece of information: Byline Bank will NEVER reach out to you—via call, text, email, or any other form of contact—to request or confirm your online banking credentials. Even if the communication appears to originate from us, it’s vital not to engage. Do not answer such calls, do not reply to such texts and do not respond to such emails.

Instead, we encourage you to take proactive steps: Reach out to Byline Bank directly. This simple action can make all the difference in safeguarding your financial security.

Remember, your vigilance is a significant line of defense against these unscrupulous fraudsters. Together, we can combat these threats, ensuring your banking experience—and your holiday season—remains financially safe and stress-free.

At Byline Bank, we’re here to help you learn ways to keep your accounts secure from scams and fraud. Check out our resources.

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