Scams are a major problem.
In fact, Americans lost almost $8.8 billion last year as a result of scams.
And according to the same report, the most common contact method (22%) used for scamming is text messaging. $330 million was lost last year due to text message scams.
Scams can particularly be an issue when it comes to banks, such as Wells Fargo—which is why consumers need to beware of getting duped by a Wells Fargo text message scam.
Because of these types of scams, not just with Wells Fargo but with any bank or financial institution, customers could get cheated out of thousands of dollars.
But don’t worry! We’ll walk you through what you need to know in order to be on guard against these scams and keep your hard-earned money safe and secure.
(We’ll focus on “Wells Fargo” here in this article but the same concepts would be true for any bank.)
A Wells Fargo text message scam may start off with a warning via text that your account has been frozen and/or that suspicious activity has been detected on your account.
(Image from Wells Fargo)
From there it will escalate to the point of trying to get you to provide private information, such as an account PIN. They may even try to get you on the phone, pretending to be bank representatives in order to convince you to provide your information.
Another possibility is that the scammer could send a false link to a phishing website that looks like your bank’s online banking site. When you enter your account login information into this fake site, the scammer is able to see that login information and is able to access your account.
Really there are endless possibilities for the number of approaches scammers could take as they reach out to you. But when it comes down to it, they want to get information from you to get money out of your account.
For example, if the scammer gets access to your account, they can make wire transfers (some of which may be irreversible), or they can try to manipulate you to authorize these types of transfers, stealing up to thousands from your account right under your very nose.
Here are a few tips to help you avoid falling prey to a Wells Fargo text message scam, or a scam from any other financial institution.
The primary way to avoid being scammed is to view any text message (or phone call) supposedly initiated by your bank with suspicion. Always come into the interaction with the assumption that it is a scam.
You should never give away your PIN number or password, even if the bank contact was legitimate. In fact, you should be careful about giving away any sort of information and taking any action from a conversation supposedly initiated by the bank over the phone.
While the bank may legitimately send account text alerts, they will not ask for personal information. They may, for example, ask if a recent charge was legitimate, to which you can simply give a yes or no answer. But they won't ask for a PIN number or password over a text message
Never click on a link supposedly sent by a bank unless you’re absolutely certain the link is legitimate. There’s a strong possibility that the link will take you to a phishing site that’s trying to steal your information, or will install malware on your device.
Wells Fargo recommends that you should always take things slow when it comes to these kinds of interactions. A legitimate bank communication shouldn’t demand that you take action immediately.
It is wise to take your time to evaluate what the message is saying and not make any quick decisions.
If you’re ever in doubt as regards to the validity of a message you supposedly received from Wells Fargo or any other bank, you can simply call the bank’s official customer service line or visit a nearby branch to confirm.
They should be able to let you know whether the interaction you experienced was legitimate or not.
Scammers can be very convincing, but don’t be fooled by the confidence they project.
Here are some red flags to watch out for.
According to Wells Fargo, some of the phone numbers they will commonly use to reach their customers include the short codes 93557, 93733, 93729, 93767, or 22981.
If you receive a text message from an unknown number (or worse, from an email address), be very suspicious.
Note that if the phone number turns out to be a legitimate bank number, that is still not a guarantee that the message is legitimate, because phone numbers can be spoofed.
You should be very hesitant about a message if it asks you to click on a link.
Bank text messages may sometimes ask you to reply (such as the above example of asking to reply in order to confirm if a recent purchase was legitimate) but won’t typically ask you to click a link.
As mentioned above, scammers will try to make you think that urgent action needs to be taken right away in regards to some major issue.
If a message is trying to push you to take immediate action about something, consider that to be a red flag that the message is probably illegitimate.
If you notice any misspelled words or obvious grammar errors in the text message, delete it and run far away.
Wells Fargo, or any reputable bank, won’t send you any texts that contain those kinds of errors.
So if you receive a scam text message, what should you do?
Here are a couple of ways you can report it.
If you’ve identified that a message is likely a scam but haven’t responded with any personal information, you can report the scam to Wells Fargo (or whatever other bank you use) if you’d like. However, the main reason you’d need to do this is if you want to confirm whether the message actually was a scam or not.
You can contact Wells Fargo at https://www.wellsfargo.com/help/contact-us/.
Wells Fargo also requests that you forward over the scam message to email@example.com.
Now, if you’ve actually fallen prey to the scam and provided the scammer with personal information or clicked on a link in a scam message, you’ll want to contact Wells Fargo immediately at 1-866-867-5568 and they’ll help you with next steps.
The FTC notes that you can report scam messages to your wireless carrier by forwarding the message to the short phone number 7726 (SPAM), or by using the “report as spam” or “report as junk” option on your mobile phone.
Reporting a message as spam to your wireless carrier helps give them information so that they can improve spam-combatting efforts on their end.
You can also help the fight against fraud on a broad scale by reporting the scam attempt to the FTC.
Doing this won’t help you directly, but the more information that the authorities can collect regarding the fraud schemes that are victimizing Americans, the more they can do to help protect the public and prevent scams from victimizing more people in the future.
Here are some examples of bank text message scams.
(Image from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory)
A few different elements make this scam identifiable:
(Image from Verified.org)
This example is tricky because it’s actually a legitimate message from Chase. However, scammers can send very similar messages, so you would be right to be suspicious of the phone number included in the message and you would want to verify by checking the phone number on the back of your card.
(Image from the University of Sydney)
This example showcases how scammers can sometimes spoof a legitimate phone number so it looks like the message is really coming from the bank. However, the message can be identified as illegitimate:
(Image from CNET)
This text message is an example of one of the more difficult scams to identify. The recipient explains her difficulty in evaluating the legitimacy of this message and concludes that ultimately she discovered that this message was illegitimate by contacting the bank. Some warnings signs included:
All of the above points are red flags indicating a text message scam.
It’s obvious that scams are out there and you need to be savvy about not getting caught up in them. But the bottom line is that when it comes to texting scams, as long as you don’t give out any personal info and as long as you double-check with your bank if you’re ever suspicious, you’ll be just fine. So watch out for text scams, but don’t let fear run your life!
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