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Bank Mobile Alert Scam: How to Spot Text Message Scams and Outsmart Fraudsters

Text messages and instant notifications from your bank are beneficial for letting you know when you have low funds or a high credit card balance. But what happens when you receive a text message or fraud alert that you’re not sure is real? And how should you respond if you find out it isn’t from your banker?

Just because something says it’s from your financial institution, doesn’t mean it is. The unfortunate element about living in a high-tech society is that very smart people have figured out how to use technology to scam people. That means every single person must be extremely careful and use due diligence when it comes to digital technology and the ever-evolving online banking industry.

Let’s take a close look at the bank mobile alert scam and how you can protect yourself from it and other common fraudulent activity to be aware of.


Bank Mobile Alert Scam: What Are They?

A bank mobile alert scam is a text message that you receive stating that there was a hold, fraudulent activity, or an update to your account. This fake fraud alert will generally tell you to act right away by calling a specified number. While a real message from your bank will be beneficial and keep you from harm, the purpose of this scam text is to get your personal information to be used maliciously. If you call the number the fraudulent text message tells you to, you’ll be routed to a person asking about your personal bank information, such as your savings account number, PIN number or even your social security number.

There aren’t specific demographics or types of accounts that scammers try to target — they’re just attempting to get anyone’s financial information who has a mobile phone and banks with the financial institution they’ve chosen to pretend to be.

If scammers get your personal banking information, they can use it to create fake checks or even trick your bank into sending real ones to them from your account. They may also be able to access your funds.


What To Do If You Get a Text from Your Bank

The very first thing you should do when you receive a text from your bank that may be questionable is not to panic. They will generally message you about stressful situations that may cause you to want to fix the problem as soon as possible. Take a deep breath.

It’s important to consider if you’ve given your bank consent to contact you via text message. If you haven’t, they definitely wouldn’t communicate with you this way. According to CNET, most banks will never text, email, or call you asking for personal or account information. They also won’t ask you to verify your identity by clicking a link — especially not one that’s not directly from their website through an unsolicited text message. If you aren’t sure, you can check your settings to see if delivery settings, alerts or notifications are set to text message.

If you have given consent, is it a message that you’re expecting — a one-time-access code (which you may have asked to receive, but should never share with anyone else), or an informational update, such as a balance report, or transaction record.

Next, take a detailed look at the message itself. First, your bank will never ask you to disclose personal or confidential information via text message. They also won’t ask you to verify your identity by having you click a link. Pay attention to the tone of the message. If urgent words are used like “act quickly” to avoid a disastrous situation, they’re probably trying to scare you into making quick decisions. Lastly, look at the link that the sender put into the message. If it’s your bank’s website with nothing added to it, then it’s probably fine. But cybercriminals will make the website look legit but add additional information to the link that shouldn’t be there.

If this message is fraudulent, or if you’re unsure, you should report it right away. You can do this by contacting your bank directly. Use the number on the back of your credit or debit card or the official website — not the number that texted you. Take a screenshot of the message, then delete the message from your phone. Next, report the text message to your bank as well as the FTC. If you interacted with the text message in any way, you should contact your bank’s fraud department about the situation.

The American Bankers Association lays it out very plainly. Here are the organization’s top tips for dealing with text message scams:

  • Don’t click links.
  • Never send personal information.
  • Delete the message after you’ve reported it.


Phishing and Smishing: Other Fraud Trends to Be Aware Of

Phishing and smishing are both methods criminals use to trick people into giving up personal and financial information. It’s not just text message scam types that you need to be aware of — there are tons of other fraudulent methods criminals will use. Some of those fraud trends include a smishing and phishing scam. Phishing has to do with emails while smishing is the use of SMS text messages.

Common phishing and smishing scams include:

  • Making false promises in the hopes of receiving personal data and money.
  • Posing as legitimate companies with questions about your account or transactions.
  • Requesting donations for a charitable cause by posing as a community organizer or politician.
  • Gaining sensitive information to use it in identity theft phishing scam.


Cathay Bank Has Your Back

Keep yourself and your personal information safe from bank mobile alert scams and other suspicious activity by keeping yourself informed. Cathay Bank is ready and available to answer questions and walk through any potential fraudulent activity you may be experiencing.

Reach out to our team to get started.



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This article does not constitute legal, accounting or other professional advice. Although the information contained herein is intended to be accurate, Cathay Bank does not assume liability for loss or damage due to reliance on such information.

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