Quick Summary

If someone calls you, purportedly from your bank, and tells you the following, it’s a scam.

  • Your account has been compromised, and you need to send a payment to your account using Zell or other application;
  • They ask you to provide a verification code;
  • They imply that if you don’t act quickly, you’ll lose your money.

The Longer Version

Scammers pretending to be from a bank generally call and say that your account has in some way been compromised. Less often, they say that there has been illegal activity associated with your account. Some have relatively sophisticated technology at their disposal that can spoof the bank’s number, making people believe that the call really is coming from the bank. Just because your caller ID says the call is from the bank, that doesn’t mean it really is. Don’t necessarily believe it. Here’s how to spot a genuine call from the bank as opposed to a scammer.

  • Scammers will generally ask you to pay or send money, often via Zell.
  • Scammers may ask you for your online account credentials.
  • Often, scammers will ask you to log into your online bank account and provide them a verification code. Real bank employees don’t request verification codes. Not ever!
  • Scammers will often employ a sense of urgency–you need to hurry up and block this transaction or you’ll lose your money. Bank employees won’t. They will likely also try to prevent you from hanging up and calling the bank by telling you that doing so will only cause delay, putting you at further risk of losing your money.

So what can you do to be safe? Always check your email. Banks usually email you if there are problems with your account, especially if you’ve enabled that in your settings. If you haven’t, please do so. Yesterday!

Secondly, hang up on the caller and call the number of your bank that you’ve obtained from your bank card or their website. That way you know you’re talking to real bank employees and not scammers.

Often these bad actors will ask you to use Zell to carry out their scam. Although Zell is used by many of the largest banks, it’s also used by scammers as well. The reason is that when you’re using Zell, you’re essentially sending cash. And your parents were right when they told you never to mail cash. Once the payment’s made, the money’s gone. banks won’t ever ask you to use Zell or any other cash payment app like Venmo or Cash App to “send money to yourself.” If you don’t know the person you’re sending money to, absolutely do not use Zell!

Lastly, don’t ever give someone who calls you any of your personal information. This especially holds true for your bank account numbers, social security number, driver’s license/state ID number, or Medicare/Medicaid number, and their equivalents in other countries.