In recent days there have been a couple major news stories about banks collapsing. The reasons for these banks entering conservatorship are outside the scope of this article (let’s just say that risky investments played a part, the sort of things your neighborhood bank or credit union are not likely to be involved with). However, it’s enough to make some people jittery about their own financial institutions, or the banking system in general. That’s understandable.
It’s also enough for scammers to integrate into their schemes. Reports of fraudulent messages claiming that the recipient’s bank has failed have already begun to circulate.
These generally fall under the category of phishing attacks, which are designed to trick victims into revealing personal or account information such as Social Security numbers, account numbers, passwords and PINs.
The goal of these messages is to stoke fear, so victims will respond quickly without thinking critically about the situation. "The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy" has the best advice for dealing with this sort of email or text message: DON’T PANIC.
Legitimate financial institutions collect your personal information when you open your account. They do not suddenly “forget” your information and need you to send it to them again. They gave you your account number in the first place; they do not need you to verify this information. Your PIN or password is not even known to your bank or credit union. They have zero reason to ask for it via email.
There is no reason for a bank or credit union to email (or text) you out of the blue to ask you to login to your account or provide personal information. Different financial providers have different ways of dealing with suspected fraudulent activity, but contacting clients and asking them to relay their account details bank to them is never the way.
Whenever someone presents you with information designed to make you afraid, whether of losing something or of missing out on a great deal, and then proposes that you give them money or personal information to make that fear go away, be extremely suspicious. Remember that scammers want you to react without thinking, and they will piggyback on any major news story to make their fraudulent claims look real.