New scams target online banking


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Scammers seek gift cards and remote access to personal computers to steal money; learn how to protect against these frauds.

If someone dressed like your best friend, came to your front door and asked for your house key, would you hand it over?

Of course not!

However, when it comes to their computers, some folks are unwittingly giving away digital keys like passwords and PINS. Lately, we’ve seen an uptick in fraud where scammers impersonate well-known, big companies to get remote access to members’ personal computers and devices, and then use that access to steal money from bank accounts.

Here’s what happens. The scammers initiate contact by phone, email or text, pretending to be from a company you’re familiar with, like Amazon, Walmart or CVS. When you respond, they claim that there is an issue with your account or that your computer has a virus. Next, they promise to fix the situation and ask for permission to access your computer remotely. Here’s where people give away the equivalent of their house key—they give the scammer their online banking login credentials to get the so-called problem fixed.

Two ways the scammers scam

Once a scammer snags an online banking username and password, the real trouble begins. The scammers make one or both of the following moves:

  • The money shuffle: They claim you’re owed a credit, and they need access to your online banking account to process the credit. Once they access your online banking, they pretend to put the money in your account. (In reality, they’re just transferring your own money from one account to another.) Then they claim there was a mistake; the credit was too high. To correct the situation, they ask you to buy online gift cards that you turn over to them.
  • The software sneak: A scammer claims there’s a problem with your account caused by a computer virus. They offer to fix it, but to do so they’ll need remote access to your computer. Once they gain access, they install malicious software that gives them access to your online banking. They use the access to fraudulently send funds to their own accounts.

In both cases, the scammers steal money.

Clues that you’re talking to a scammer

Everyone who uses online banking should be aware of several clues that someone is a scammer.

  • Scammers initiate contact and ask for a username, password or PIN. If someone calling wants personal information like account numbers or PINS, end the call. If you get an email or text from a sender you don’t know instructing you to click on a link, do not click on it. Consumers will never ask for your online banking login credentials; don’t share them with anyone.
  • Scammers ask for gift cards to correct an error. Think about it; why would your bank or a retailer want a gift card? You don’t go to the ATM to get gift cards; banks operate with cash. Retailers sell gift cards; they don’t buy them. It just doesn’t make sense that either would want gift cards from you. Anyone demanding payment by gift card is a scammer.
  • Scammers will ask for remote access to your computer. Consumers will never ask to access your computer remotely. We can’t think of a single instance where any bank would ask remote access.

Keep your accounts and personal information secure

Scammers are good at pretending to be someone they’re not. Knowing the signs of fraud is your first line of defense. Other ways to keep your accounts and information secure are:

  • Never click on pop-up windows that appear while browsing online. Clicking on malicious pop-ups is a common way viruses can be downloaded to your computer.
  • If someone calls from a company to report fraud activities on your account, never provide sensitive information. Hang up and call a number you’re certain belongs to the business.
  • Share this information with everyone in your household, especially if you share computers or devices.
  • If you need to contact Consumers about your accounts or online banking, our number is 800-991-2221.

Guard access to your online accounts, personal information and computer as carefully as you guard the keys to your home.

Learn more about protecting yourself from other scams.

Consumers provides banking services for more than 100,000 members. If you have banking questions, call us at 800-991-2221. We make it easy to bank how you want, when you want.

Federally insured by NCUA

Tools and resources

Consumers has a lot of great financial wellness articles.

Check them out

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