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How Scammers Bilked $10 Billion from Americans in 2023

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Ten billion dollars. That is the reported amount Americans lost in 2023 to fraudulent activity. Remember this is the reported figure, think of the amounts stolen that went unreported.

Technology has opened the flood gates to scammers. Consider 2.6 million Americans (roughly the population size of Chicago) reported losing the $10 billion to scammers last year. These probably were smart, honest and hardworking people. They were hoodwinked and bamboozled by thieves that hide in the shadows and steal your hard-earned dollars. Fraud has never been so pervasive.

Law enforcement and private businesses have never been so engaged in the fight against scams like they are now. The real key to fighting this fast-growing crime is you. Understanding what is happening and knowing the red flags when dubious offers come your way are the very best weapons to end this crime spree.

Criminals are taking advantage of technology, coupled with a lot of creativity, to identify fresh new ways to steal your money. Our next safety series will explore scammers’ tools, lairs, new techniques and ways you can defend yourselves. This week will begin with some newly minted frauds on the rise now.

Check cooking is one of the new frauds. A serious concern in prior years was check washing. This was a process where thieves steal paper checks from mailboxes, wash the ink off with chemicals (leaving the signature), then fill in a new amount and payee. Now it’s check cooking. This process allows thieves to take a digital picture of a stolen check, then use commercially available software to alter it.

“It looks very real, even the watermarks,” explains Michael Bruemmer, vice president of data breach resolution and consumer protection at Experian. Criminals can then print a new phony check or deposit the altered image using a bank’s mobile app.

To protect yourself, learn how to pay your bills and send money to loved ones with electronic transfers from your bank. If you are more comfortable still using paper checks, then drop them off directly at the nearest post office rather than using a neighborhood mailbox or drop them off using the company’s mail slot that goes directly inside the company’s office. Continually monitor your bank checking account for any suspicious activity.

Remember you are the secret weapon to Keeping an Eye on Safety of your banking funds.