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Credit card fraud is on the rise: Here’s how you can protect your finances

The COVID-19 pandemic has led to an increase in online shopping — and online scams — from fraudsters who try to trick you into sharing personal information so they can access your accounts. To help keep you safe, we’re sharing new and growing financial scams to watch out for, tips to help protect your accounts and resources for more information.

Stay alert to these new and ongoing scams

  • Offers for in-demand items like COVID-19 home testing kits, treatments and masks seem to be everywhere right now. Chris Garcia, Corporate Investigations Manager for Commerce Bank, encourages customers to avoid online offers or phone calls for coronavirus-related items, especially anyone trying to sell you a cure for COVID-19. “Don’t click links on texts or emails you’re not expecting, and always research sites before buying anything online,” he adds.

  • Donation requests related to COVID-19 or social justice issues. Fraudulent organizations often mimic legitimate sites in order to fool you, so watch out for red flags. For instance, a scammer may pressure you to act fast or make your donation via prepaid debit cards. Or, the scammer may ask you to purchase gift cards, then read the numbers and PIN off the back of the card, making you think that the gift card donation will go to the worthy cause, instead of into the scammer’s pocket.

    While there are plenty of charity organizations that could benefit from your goodwill, the legitimate ones are always transparent about how they use donations, and they won’t use high pressure sales tactics. Before you give, research the organization or check them out on websites like the Better Business Bureau’s Give.org and Charity Watch.

  • Phishing emails, texts and phone calls. “There are lots of fake websites right now related to stimulus payments and unemployment filing that want you to enter your personal information,” explains Garcia. He adds that these sites will deliberately try to look like they’re official and appear helpful, but they’re not. He also notes that the government will never ask for your personal information though an email, text or phone call.

Other ongoing financial scams that continue to grow

  • Payment app scams that work like this scenario: You’re shopping online and find an item to purchase, such as a pair of shoes. The merchant requests payment through a money transfer app, like Venmo or PayPal. Your transaction is processed but you never receive your purchased item. Then you can’t find any trace of the seller online.

  • Online romance scams take advantage of people likely to be isolated or lonely. Once the scammer feels they can be trusted, they’ll tell their love interest that they’ve fallen on hard times and ask the unsuspecting victim to send money, never to be heard from again. Unfortunately, people lose thousands of dollars to this scam every year.

Tips to protect yourself (and your financial accounts) from fraud

“One of the most important things people can do is to take a minute and make sure that their contact information, like email and phone number, is up to date with their bank,” explains Chris Morley, Assistant Vice President, Consumer Credit Card Product Manager for Commerce Bank.

Sandy Ozier, Senior Vice President, BankCard Security & Operations, encourages cardholders to sign up for suspicious card activity text alerts. “It’s free and easy to do,” she explains. Ozier also encourages cardholders to contact Commerce Bank’s card security department  if they’re about to make a transaction and something just doesn’t feel right. “They’re available 24/7 and can quickly verify whether or not the transaction or merchant is legitimate,” she adds.

Other tips to keep your account safe include:

  • Don’t click on links or download files you weren’t expecting, even if it looks like it’s from a company or person you recognize
  • Don't share personal information — such as Social Security, Medicare and credit card numbers — in response to an unsolicited call, text or email
  • Do change your passwords regularly
  • Do monitor your accounts regularly using online and mobile banking
  • Do check your credit reports; you can now request weekly reports for free through April 2021

What to do if you’ve been scammed

If you think you’ve been a victim of financial fraud, contact your bank immediately. You may also want to notify law enforcement if you’ve been a victim of an online scam and file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center. In addition, Morley recommends locking your cards to temporarily block new purchases and ATM withdrawals. “Even if you’re just suspicious, you can lock and unlock your Commerce Bank credit card quickly and easily by pushing a button.”

Helpful resources

Continue to stay alert to new and ongoing financial scams by visiting The Federal Trade Commission’s Coronavirus Advice for Consumers page. The FTC can also help you with reporting and recovering from identity theft.

Commerce Bank customers are encouraged to take advantage of security features to help prevent fraud, including:

If your finances are impacted by COVID-19, we’re here for you. If you are a Commerce Bank customer facing financial hardship due to the impact of the pandemic, please call us at 833-518-3458 to discuss your current accounts.


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