I was a victim of cyberfraud – here’s what saved me

There I was, before anyone else was up, sitting on the balcony overlooking the water, enjoying my morning coffee, checking emails and following the news as is my normal routine on vacation.   Just about to put the phone down, I checked the email one last time… and am I ever glad I did.

There in my inbox was a notification that something had been changed with my online banking and the encouragement to call in the event I had not made any changes.  I certainly hadn’t made any changes, I was enjoying my coffee.  But immediately, I got my wallet, took out my bank card, and called the number on the back.

As is routine, they went through my recent transactions and all appeared fine until those fateful words “and the $3,000 eTransfer you sent this morning”.   My response, “No, that wasn’t me”.  They blocked the eTransfer and transferred me to the fraud department. During the course of the conversation, the representative said “I am sorry, I have to tell you, another representative is on the line with someone claiming to be you, demanding we release the eTransfer… and by the way, they have answered your security questions correctly.”   Thank heavens I called in as soon as I received that email alert.   What saved me $3,000:

  • Calling right away – immediately, without any delay, I called the legitimate phone number printed on the back of my bank card.

Fortunately in this story, the only negative was the inconvenience while I was away on vacation.  I had to shut down my online banking and debit card, but fortunately I still had credit cards and cash on hand.  When I returned, everything had to be re-setup and security questions changed.  But other than the inconvenience, everything worked out ok.   But how did they know my security question answer?

One possible answer, somewhere along the lines, me, a “financial expert” may have fallen for a phishing scam, perhaps a fraudulent email or phone call.  It got me thinking, if it can possibly happen to me, it really can happen to anyone.   A couple of tips to reduce your risk:

  • Never click/follow any unsolicited link in email to do with your banking or financial information. Meaning, if you aren’t expecting it – don’t click it.  Rather, call your financial institution directly using the number on the back of the relevant bank or credit card.
  • Never respond to a call from your financial institution about any matter. Rather, hang up.  Immediately call the phone number on the back of your card from that financial institution.   Even if they give a call back number, don’t call it!  ONLY call the number on the back of your card – it’s the only one you can trust as being legitimate.

Remember – fraudsters play on your fear.  Fear of tax authorities, fear for your family, fear of financial loss.  They catch you in the middle of the night when only bad calls come.  But any time it has to do with money, call a legitimate number for that institution, whether that is financial or government.  Be smart, be alert, you can reduce your risk of becoming a fraudster’s next victim.

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