2018 was a record year for fraud in the U.S. and twenty-one other countries, according to Experian’s 2019 Global Identity and Fraud Report released earlier this year (February 2019). As the digital world advances, so does fraud.
Today, digitization of services from banking to online shopping has made us more vulnerable to fraud, and more reluctant to building trust online. Online fraud doesn’t just happen through your computer, laptop, or tablet, but often occurs through smartphone access, a trend that continues to grow. People prefer to access their financial information through their phones and are willing to provide their account information for purchases through mobile devices daily.
Online services that appear to be trustworthy, or mirror known businesses, are doing a better job of disguising themselves, opening a ‘path of trust’ for fraud to quickly occur to unsuspecting victims. When customers trust a business, they are more likely to do business with them; fraudsters know that disguising themselves is an easy way to target. According to the Experian report, the U.S. is experiencing the highest incidence of fraud in the world as online fraud increased by 80% over 2017. Online fraud remains a concern of businesses when their brand tarnishes, and customers are impacted by fraud.
It’s not only online fraud that is continuing to advance, but fraud through phone calls, and mail and package delivery services. Some surprising 2018 statistics compiled from U.S. consumers reporting fraud to The Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Sentinel Database:
- U.S. Citizens reported losing $1.48 Billion to fraud in 2018, an increase of 38% over 2017.
- The top scams reported were imposter scams, debt collection, and identity theft
- 43% of people in their 20’s reported a loss to fraud, whereas 15% of people in their 70’s reported fraud.
- When people in their 70’s reported losing money, the amount tended to be higher, and their median loss was $751, compared to $400 for people in their 20’s.
- Scammers like having money wired to them- $423 million was wired last year from unsuspecting U.S. citizens.
- Credit card fraud on new accounts with someone else’s personal information was up 24% in 2018.
Some tips to help you stay safe online, on the phone, or through the mail:
- Close your smartphone or computer browser after you access an app or website to view your financial information.
- Don’t download smartphone apps from companies to order products; go directly to their website to order.
- Type in the website address for the financial company each time you want to access your account (not through saved links) and refresh your browser each time you log out
- Avoid clicking on links sent to you through email messages unless you can validate they are legitimate from a trusted source you do business.
- Never give personal information over the phone or by text message; contact the intended institution to validate.
- Don’t respond to letters asking for money for overdue bill payments unless you legitimately owe or can confirm the bill. Fraudsters are mimicking the IRS, and utility company logos, demanding money on fake accounts.
- Use electronic bill notification and payments to avoid your check and account number being opened by a thief for their benefit.
- Destroy old statements or use online statement services from your financial institution, broker, or credit card provider to eliminate a paper trail that could be compromised.
*Advisory services offered through Trajan Wealth, L.L.C., an SEC-registered investment adviser.
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