TOWNSHIP OF WASHINGTON, N.J. -- If you ever receive a suspicious email, phone call or letter asking for money or important financial information, be sure to think twice.
"There are more hackers and scammers now than ever before," said Michele Calise, senior vice president of retail banking at Township of Washington-based Oritani Bank. "That's why it's important to be aware and make sure you’re protecting yourself."
For instance, the "frozen account" email is one common tactic scammers use to pilfer bank login information. "If you receive a call or email asking to refresh online banking or unfreeze your account, do not do anything," said Calise. "A bank will not ask for your PIN or password unsolicited over the phone or by email. Requests to do so are often scams." Instead, account owners should contact their bank directly and confirm there is an issue with their account.
Another common scam is the impersonation of a government organization, such as the IRS. Targets often receive calls or letters from what appears to be the IRS, informing victims they must either pay a fee or risk jail time. "The IRS is never going to call and threaten repossession or other penalties out of the blue," said Calise. "They have a very formal process and will be in conversation for some time if actual action is needed." Contacting the IRS directly can also ensure that suspicious documents are correctly identified as scams.
When dealing with money and finances, it's incredibly important to exercise caution and good judgment. However, sometimes even the most vigilant person can be tricked. "Scammers can pose as representatives from Microsoft, FedEx or really any other institution," said Calise. "If you recently ordered something online, why wouldn't you click on an email from what appeared to be the shipper?" In instances when security is compromised, it's important contact both local police as well as your bank. "If you have been defrauded, file a complaint, contact police and see if there’s a way to recoup your money," said Calise. "It may not always be possible, but you should attempt to do so."
Scams are constantly changing and evolving, which is why banks like Oritani serve as important resources and guides. "As bankers, we're informed of the scams that are out there, and have a good sense for what is legitimate," said Calise. "If you’re wondering about a check or being asked to pay money, your bank is a good place to seek guidance."
Seniors can report scams directly by calling the Elder Fraud Hotline at 877-746-7850. Identity theft can be reported by calling 877-IDTHEFT (877-438-4338)