Fraud and scams target individuals and businesses every day. At Bank First, we believe being informed is the first step you can take to help you protect your personal and financial information. We have a dedicated page in our Security Center (How to Protect Yourself) with specific tips to protect your identity and your business plus online, mobile and email security.
Posted below are common fraud attempts and scams targeting our area. We encourage you to be alert and on guard against these tactics.
Bank First customers, please contact your local office right away if you have provided bank account information, passwords to your online banking accounts, or paid funds as a result of these fraud attempts or scams.
Fraud & Scams Impacting Individuals
Tax-Related Identity Theft
Tax-related identity theft occurs when someone uses your stolen personal information to file a tax return. The IRS notes that you may be a victim of tax-related identity theft if:
- You get a letter from the IRS inquiring about a suspicious tax return that you did not file.
- You can’t e-file your tax return because of a duplicate Social Security number.
- You get a tax transcript in the mail that you did not request.
- You get an IRS notice that an online account has been created in your name.
- You get an IRS notice that your existing online account has been accessed or disabled when you took no action.
- You get an IRS notice that you owe additional tax or refund offset, or that you have had collection actions taken against you for a year you did not file a tax return.
- IRS records indicate you received wages or other income from an employer you didn’t work for.
The IRS offers valuable information on this topic in their newsroom: www.irs.gov/newsroom/taxpayer-guide-to-identity-theft.
Advance Fee Investment Fraud
Advance fee investment fraud solicits investors to either pay fees up front or require fees to access the principle or earnings. These fees may be described as a commission, taxes or operational expense. Fraudsters often fool investors with official-looking websites or provide false statements of earnings.
Advance fee investment fraud may involve the sale of products or services, crypto-currency, lottery winnings, lost inheritance, and many more. Watch out for red flags like:
- Investment offers that come “highly recommended” by unknown persons posting on websites or social groups.
- Offers that guarantee an unusually high rate of return.
- Pressure or sense of urgency to invest immediately.
If an investment sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For more information regarding advance fee and other investment fraud, visit the FBI’s White-Collar Crime webpage for additional information.
Fake Check Scams
- You are asked to accept a check(s) for payment on behalf of another party
- You are told to keep a portion of the funds as payment or for other expenses
- After receiving the check(s), you are told to send funds elsewhere (cash withdrawal, purchase of gift cards, electronic transfer applications like Cash App or Venmo, or directed to purchase Bitcoin)
- When the fraud is successful, the funds have been transferred to the fraudster and the fake check is returned unpaid
Don’t be a victim. If someone sent you a check and asked you to send money back – it’s a scam.
Overpayment Scams by Wire Transfer
- You are contacted by someone who claims to be from Microsoft, Amazon or an IT services company
- You are told that you are entitled to a credit or discount and are advised to login or provide your online banking credentials in order to initiate the “credit”
- The fraudster convinces you that an they issued an “overpayment” in error
- You are pressured to send back a sizable “difference” by wire and instructed to misinform bank staff about the purpose of the wire
If you were asked to provide sensitive banking details to an unknown party and an “overpayment” is involved – it’s a scam.
Unemployment/Cares Act Money Mule Fraud
- You are asked by an online acquaintance who requests bank account or personal identifying information to accept funds on their behalf
- You receive unfamiliar unemployment benefits payments or bank to bank electronic transfers
- You are ungently instructed to send funds elsewhere (cash withdrawal, purchase of gift cards, electronic transfer applications like Cash App or Venmo, or directed to purchase Bitcoin)
If you were asked by an online acquaintance to accept funds into your account and immediately withdraw the majority of the funds – it’s scam.
- Scammers create fake online profiles in order to build a relationship and gain your trust.
- They may claim to be working oversees or in the military and soon present a need for money. The reasons for their request vary - emergencies, gambling debt, travel or surgery.
- You are asked to pay by wiring money or gift cards - where they can get cash quickly and still remain anonymous.
- The scammer may offer to pay you back by check asking for your online banking login so they can process a mobile deposit.
Get Paid to Drive/Car Wrap Scam
- You are offered $250-$350 a week if you will have your vehicle (or motorcycle) wrapped to advertise a known product.
- If you sign up, you may receive a check for a couple thousand dollars, but are asked to deposit it and wire the rest to a company that will wrap your car.
- Weeks after you wire the money, the check bounces and you are out the funds and still responsible for the money you wired. Preloaded gift cards may also be presented as an alternate to wiring funds.
Fraud & Scams Impacting Businesses
Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant – Business Identity Theft
We have seen an increase in business identity theft situations in regards to the Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant:
- Some businesses have received “notice of potential identity theft” letters in reference to the grant for which they never applied.
- Some businesses have received “notice of denial” letters from various lending institutions about credit applications that were not initiated by the business.
The Wisconsin Department of Revenue provides the following information if someone received either of these letters in regards to the Wisconsin Tomorrow Small Business Recovery Grant:
- A business owner, or their authorized representative, may make a request for a copy of the fraudulent grant application by contacting the Department of Revenue customer service line at (608) 266-2772.
- Go to the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection (DATCP) website to find FAQs regarding the grant denial letters: datcp.wi.gov/
- Go to IdentityTheft.gov. This is the Federal Trade Commission's website that provides guidance to protecting the customer’s identity.
- Go to the Wisconsin Department of Financial Institutions at wdfi.org/corporations/#EntityIDTheft for information related to protecting a business.
Business Identity Theft
- Business identity theft occurs when identifying information and documentation is used to impersonate a business entity.
- Criminals may pose as an owner, officer, or employee to obtain money under false pretenses including fraudulently applying for credit.
Once a business becomes aware of any fraudulent activity, here are a few helpful resources and suggestions:
- Obtain a credit report for the affected individual or business from one of the three major credit bureaus at: Equifax, 800-685-1111; Experian, 800-311-4769; TransUnion, 800-888-4213 to see if other potentially fraudulent activity is present.
- Place a fraud alert or credit freeze with any one of the credit reporting agencies listed above.
- Consider a company policy for safeguarding sensitive business identifying or account information.
- Notify your bank. At Bank First, we also recommend setting a password on accounts as an added precautionary measure. These “out of wallet” questions or statements are very effective in thwarting identity fraud.
- Report the incident to your local law enforcement agency and retain a copy of the report.
- Report the incident to FTC for federal reporting.
Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Fraud/Scam Attempts
- Loan data, such as business name, type of business, address, PPP loan amount, funding date, number of employees, and financial institution, was made public by the SBA in December. In addition to the SBA, there are several online resources where this information is also published.
- As a result, fraudsters are taking advantage of this information and contacting PPP borrowers in an attempt to gain additional information and use it for fraudulent purposes. They may call or email you impersonating the SBA and/or your bank.
While there are legitimate businesses who may reach out to you with various services, we advise using extreme caution. Always be sure to contact your Relationship Manager directly to confirm the validity of any request from the SBA and/or your bank.
We encourage you to visit the SBA's website which provides additional information regarding SBA scam and fraud alerts: https://www.sba.gov/document/report-sba-programs-scams-fraud-alerts.
CEO Phishing Email
- An impersonation of your CEO with an urgent request to perform a task.
- Requested information may include paying a time-sensitive invoice, an urgent wire transfer, or request you to reply with confidential or personal information.
Clues that it's not your CEO: the email address or signature is not correct, the urgent tone of the email, even grammar errors. Verify the request with information you have on file before acting.