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In 2017, scammers stole more than $211 million from over 15,000 victims in online confidence scams. This type of fraud has evolved to become more innovative and intimate—and is more common than you might think.

Confidence fraud happens when a scammer assumes an online identity to befriend a victim or form a personal connection. This effort to gain trust could last months or years before the scammer makes a financial request, but eventually the scam grows to target the victims’ bank account. Once they have access to an account, they can drain the funds in a number of ways, transferring it to other institutions, opening new accounts in your name to move money or simply disappearing with your savings. 

There are a few guidelines to keep in mind when interacting with people online so that you can prevent and detect these confidence scams:

Scams don’t always involve a request for you to send money

Sometimes, a scammer will ask for your online banking login information in order to send you money or offer you a “once in a lifetime” opportunity.A common example of this is the grant scam, where a fraudster contacts you claiming to represent an official organization, and congratulates you for being awarded a government grant. They offer to deposit this grant straight into your bank account—either for free or for a small “processing” fee—and ask only for your account information in return. Don’t be fooled, any offer to give you free money is likely a scam. Review the complete list of all official government agencies that award grants here, and get more tips from the federal government on how to combat grant scams here. No matter the request, never give access to your bank accounts without verifying the source.

Never give money or financial information to an individual you have not met in person 

If you are approached by someone online wanting access to your account or asking for a loan, do your due diligence first. Offer to meet them in person to verify their identity. Scammers will often try to create emergencies or time constraints as an excuse for why they cannot meet, or to pressure you into a decision that you have not had time to think through. No matter whether your interaction is brand new, or you have messaged back and forth for a long time, do not trust anybody you have not met. Contact your bank or the fraud monitors at First Tech before giving away your personal information online. Providing your financial information to someone you only know through the internet can destroy your financial standing. The damage that can be inflicted—from ruining your credit score to depleting your bank accounts—can sometimes be irreversible. 

First Tech will never solicit your financial information from a third party website

Social media is a common forum for confidence scammers, as victims can be courted easily through their public profiles. First Tech does not partner with any organizations that would request your personal financial information, nor do we ever ask for that information through a third party. Your financial security is our top priority, and we are working diligently to identify and eliminate scam threats wherever they occur. You can help in this effort by safeguarding your financial information while interacting with others on the internet. 

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