Financial Fraud: Outsmarting the Bad Guys

The first blog post I wrote for Conlon Dart was in 2014. The subject was financial fraud and how we try to protect you from it.

Sadly, four years later, the topic is more relevant than ever. The world is full of scammers who want to part you from your money, and they become more clever and tenacious every year.

When I wrote my original post, emails from Nigerian “princes” who somehow needed your financial assistance were all the rage. Today, email filters have largely brought down the princes’ reign, but there are plenty of other phishing emails that still make it to your inbox.

Phishing is a type of online scam in which a criminal sends an email that appears to be from a legitimate company and asks you to provide sensitive information such as your Social Security number or a credit card number. The cyberthief includes a link in the email that will appear to take you to the company’s website to fill in your information—but the website is fake and the information you provide goes straight to the crooks.

For instance, you might receive an e-mail from Bank of America that says “Urgent! Your account is in jeopardy! Click here to verify your details.” The idea is to scare you into acting immediately. My favorite of these scare tactics is receiving a message about “my” account when I don’t even bank there! In these instances, I simply delete the e-mail.

If you’re not sure whether an email is legitimate or not, open a browser and log into your account on your own instead of clicking the email link to get there. If there’s really a problem, you will see an alert. If not, you know the email was a scam.

You can also hover your mouse over the email link without clicking. Is the address that appears subtly different from the bank’s real web address? If so, it’s a fake website.

At Conlon Dart, we have our own policies to help protect you from financial scams. For instance, if we receive a wire transfer request from you via email, we will call you and verify that it’s a legitimate request. It’s an extra step that might annoy you, and it might delay the transfer by a day, but as a Schwab employee recently told me, “your client will be more annoyed if $150K is missing from their account.”

Touché.

For more examples of cybercrime tricks and advice for protecting yourself, check out this government website about common internet scams and frauds.