By Steve Nuñez, vice president and relationship manager for Mission Valley Bank
If you’re old enough to remember the flimsy plastic masks children wore with costumes one night a year on Halloween, then you’ll appreciate the irony that the same principle of disguise is being used today by cyber criminals masquerading all year round — though this time with unparalleled sophistication.
Disguised as legitimate businesses or government agencies, customers are tricked into divulging valuable personal information over the computer, phone or other electronic devices. The criminals end game is always the same — to drain bank accounts and assets.
Be aware that cyber criminals use new technology such as smartphones to commit fraud. Smartphone users are being targeted by scammers because users almost always have their phone handy and tend to respond to calls and emails quickly. A user’s fast response may inhibit them from realizing a message is fake until it’s too late. Not only that, fake websites may be harder to spot on a small screen.
Stop and think before giving personal information to an unsolicited request, especially one marked as urgent. It’s normal for your financial institution to ask for your login ID and password when you first log in but your bank won’t ask you through a pop-up window to type your name and sensitive information such as your date of birth, mother’s maiden name or account numbers. The unexpected pop-up window is likely a sign that a hacker has infected your computer with spyware and now trolling for enough information to commit identity theft and gain access to your accounts.
Only communicate with your financial institution using phone numbers or email addresses you are certain about, such as the customer service number on your account statement or the back of your card.
Finally, only install programs that you know are from legitimate websites, such as your internet service provider, financial institution, wireless phone company or trusted app vendors. Consider using anti-virus software specifically designed for smartphones and other mobile devices to safeguard against a wrong move.
Steve Nuñez is the vice president and relationship manager at Mission Valley Bank, a locally-owned, full service, independent community business bank with Preferred SBA Lender status serving the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys. Steve can be reached at 661-753-5681 and by email at [email protected] or at www.MissionValleyBank.com.