Yampa Valley Bank sees increase in fraudulent reports, especially since pandemic onset | SteamboatToday.com

Yampa Valley Bank sees increase in fraudulent reports, especially since pandemic onset

Yampa Valley Bank in Steamboat Springs. (File photo)

STEAMBOAT SPRINGS — Yampa Valley Bank has seen an uptick in customers reporting fraudulent calls since COVID-19 hit the Yampa Valley in 2020.

Becca Knowles, senior operations officer at Yampa Valley Bank in Steamboat Springs, said fraudsters will often call a bank customer pretending to be a bank employee — often with a spoofed phone number appearing to match the bank’s number — and tell the customer they must give out personal information, such as a Social Security number, online bank password or debit card number. The fraudsters often threaten the customer and use fear tactics to convince them their account will be closed or they will owe a large sum of money if they do not comply, Knowles added.

“It’s just so rampant, and we want to make sure people in the community know it’s out there and know about these different types of scams,” Knowles said. “Fraudsters are aggressive, and they’re trying to scare people into submission.”

While bank fraudsters have always been an issue, Knowles said banks have seen an increase in reports during the pandemic, as more people are using online banking services. Many people are experiencing financial hardships and applying for online jobs where fraudsters sometimes ask for personal information, Knowles added.

“In this environment, so many people are relying on all of these different online channels to do everything — their business, their banking, their schooling,” Knowles said. “It’s really important for people to remember that they still need to protect themselves while they’re doing these things.”

If a customer receives a call or other notification they suspect to be a fraud, Knowles recommends hanging up and calling the bank, as a bank employee can confirm whether a call was real. Knowles also encouraged customers receiving suspicious calls to ask for a specific bank employee, if they know any.

“Fraudsters will usually get really quiet or make excuses for why you can’t talk to that person after that,” Knowles said.

Steamboat Springs Police Department Sgt. Rich Brown said community members also have reported an increase in fraudulent law enforcement calls, where a scammer will pretend to be a law enforcement officer and tell the victim there is a warrant out for their arrest, and they must either pay money or give away personal information or officers will arrest them.

“When someone starts asking you for personal information, you have to be highly suspicious of that,” Brown said. “Our biggest concern is you should never give personal identifying information to anyone over the phone.”

Brown said scammers will usually tell the victim the matter is urgent, then keep them on the phone for a long period of time, sometimes hours, while they intimidate the victim into giving out personal information or convince them to buy a gift card and read its numbers to the scammer, thus giving them access to the card funds.

“These fraudsters are successful because they press the urgency of the transaction,” Brown said. “Scammers scare these people and tell them if they hang up, we’re going to have an officer come arrest you.”

Similar to Knowles’ advice, Brown advised those receiving such calls to hang up and call the police department directly, as the department would never ask for money or personal information over the phone.

“You should never do anything that you have a bad feeling about because you want to get it done quickly,” Brown said.

Knowles said previous scams have typically been targeted at older people, who may be home more often and be less familiar with technology, but the bank has seen more young people be targeted as well.

“It’s not just older people anymore, it’s also the younger people that have been so reliant on technology for basically their entire lives,” Knowles said.

If a person has any suspicions, Knowles also advised those who use online banking to have secure passwords and to report suspicious activity before giving a caller any personal information, as it’s much easier to solve the problem before damage has been done.

“There isn’t much we can do to protect people unless they realize scammers aren’t legit,” Knowles said. “We just don’t want it to be too late.”

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