As we complete our transition into 2023, fraud continues to be an issue for consumers and businesses alike. Now that the holiday shopping is finished, and tax season is quickly approaching, it is a great time to make sure your accounts are sufficiently protected.

With Valentine’s Day also right around the corner, the romance in your life may be heating up! However, what about romance scams? Romance scams occur when criminals use a fake identity online to gain a victim’s affection and trust to acquire personal & financial information. They will come across as if they genuinely care for you, and they are present on most social media & dating apps. They also may attempt to solicit you over the phone.

The romance scammer tends to move quickly, and push through steps of a “relationship” at a highly accelerated rate. They may propose plans for a meet up or marriage, but all these steps are building up to them asking for your money.

Consider these tips to avoid Romance Scams, courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI):

  • Share personal information wisely. Scammers will often try to use information from your social media & dating sites to target you.
  • If you are interested in someone on the internet, research them!
    • Check to see if their details have been used anywhere else, under a different name.
  • Scammers will try to get you to communicate with them directly as quickly as possible.
    • Be weary if they are rushing you off the social media/dating service you use.
  • NEVER send money to anyone you have only communicated with online or over the phone.

Romance scams are not the only type of fraud that is prevalent this time of year. Check fraud is still on the rise as we enter the early days of 2023. According to a Cybersecurity research Group at Georgia State University, mail-related check fraud has been rising since August, 2022. Despite check use being in decline for many years, check fraud has been increasing.

A common reason for this increase is the practice of check washing. This involves changing the payee name and the dollar amount on checks to fraudulently deposit them. The damage is likely done by the time you even notice the issue.

Consider these tips to avoid becoming a victim of check washing:

  • Retrieve your mail frequently, and never leave it in an accessible mailbox overnight.
  • Leaving town for an extended period? Call the Post Office and have them hold your mail until you return.
  • Did you receive a check you weren’t expecting? Call the issuing bank and see if it is a legitimate item.
  • If you are looking for ways to protect your business from check fraud, visit First Bank’s Cash Management page.

If you are looking to learn more about online scams and how to properly protect yourself, click here to visit the National Cybersecurity Alliance website.