7 Signs You’re a Victim of Financial Fraud
Financial fraud is on the rise, leaving regular folks wondering what they can do to keep themselves from becoming victims. In 2020, consumers reported losing more than $3.3 billion to fraud, a sharp increase over the previous year. Now more than ever, it’s important to know the signs to keep from being victimized – also so you can take immediate steps to resolve any problem that arises.
The most common types of financial fraud include:
- Theft of government benefits/fraudulent applications
- Credit card fraud
- Identify theft
- Tax fraud
How Do You Know You’ve Been Victimized by Financial Criminals?
Sadly, there seems to be a con artist around every corner. At this point, most people are wise to unsolicited notifications that they’ve won the lottery, urgent requests for money from strangers, and other obvious signs of deception. But fraudsters are getting smarter, as well. To protect yourself, familiarize yourself with these telltale signs you may be dealing with some form of financial fraud:
- Unusual or atypical payment requests. Any request for payment or personal information that is unexpected or unusual should be treated with suspicion. If you’ve responded to an urgent request for money or sensitive personal information from an unfamiliar source, you may have fallen victim of fraud.
- Invoices or bills for items you didn’t purchase. Any unrecognized item on your credit card bill should be reported immediately. While odd emails, voice mails and text messages saying you owe money can usually be ignored or deleted, signs that someone has access to your bank account or another account need to be taken seriously. Even phone, electricity, and gas accounts have been opened by criminals using someone else’s identity. Always contact your existing account instead of opening an attachment or returning a suspicious phone call.
- A credit card or another type of account taken out in your name. If you begin receiving mail suggesting you own a credit card (or anything else) that you don’t, take steps to nip it in the bud. You want to be sure no one else is using your name, address, medical insurance account number or any other personal information.
- Unauthorized charges. Similarly, report any unauthorized charges immediately. A stolen card or card number can usually be rectified by having it canceled and requesting a new one.
- An unexplained withdrawal from a financial account. There’s a reason ATMs issue receipts. Keep an eye on those, as well. If the amount seems unusually low, do some investigation to be sure your information (or your card) hasn’t gotten into the wrong hands.
- A suspicious tax form. Some people only find out they’ve been victimized after receiving an inaccurate 1099-G tax form or when the benefits they’re expecting don’t arrive. If your benefits have been stolen, or you suspect someone has applied for benefits in your name, alert the proper authorities immediately.
Budget Wisely: Keep Track of Unemployment, Social Security, and Other Government Benefits
One cause of the recent increase in fraud has been the high rate of unemployment identity theft during the pandemic. Increased and extended unemployment benefits were a great help to countless people, but they also attracted those looking to make an easy buck. A year into the pandemic, billions in improper unemployment payments had already been reported.
Smart budgeting doesn’t just mean smart spending – it also means keeping track of the dollars you have and any that should be coming your way. The more time that passes, the harder it can be to reverse a problem with payments or benefits you are owed.
Use Secure Financial Services in Your Community at Your Local CCEA
It’s important in today’s world to do business with legitimate and trustworthy organizations. Community Currency Exchanges (CCEAs) throughout Illinois are a source of easy-to-use financial services created with clients’ financial safety and data protection in mind. Check out Red Flags of Identity Theft, a brief, online training course to learn more about security threats posed by identity theft.
Next time you’re picking up your latest paycheck and need a place to cash it, or you need to send someone a large amount of money, it’s important to use a service you can trust. Carrying cash can be risky, and the best solution is usually one that comes with a digital paper trail that will stay on file if you need it. Financial services such as electronic bill payment, check cashing and wire transfers are all ways that CCEAs ensure your funds are safe.
With over 350 locations, many open nights, weekends, and holidays (and several stores with 24/7 availability), you can rest easy knowing your financial needs can be taken care of when you need them most. We’re in the heart of every community. Don’t believe us? See for yourself.