Stay Safe from These Common Scams
Protect yourself from criminals who may try to steal your personal or financial information by being aware of these trending scams.
A prize scam is a specific type of scam where individuals are contacted and informed that they won a prize, such as a lottery or sweepstakes, but to claim the prize, they are asked to pay fees or provide personal information. This is a deceptive tactic used to defraud people by promising a prize that doesn't actually exist.
Tips for spotting this scam: If you're called out of the blue and told that you "won" a prize or lottery, be on alert. Watch out for any prize or lottery that is asking you to pay or wire money to receive your winnings, or that you have to deposit a check that they've sent to you. Never enter your card information in to enter a sweepstakes, for a chance to win a prize, or to claim your winnings. If it was truly free, they would not be asking for your card information. Look at the envelope that the mail came in and pay attention if your "notice" was mailed by bulk rate.
Gift Card Scam
Gift card scams start with a call, text, email or social media message. Scammers will say almost anything to get you to buy gift cards from stores like Google Play, Apple, Walmart or Amazon - and hand over the card number and PIN codes. Often times they will say it's urgent that you pay them right away, and threaten that something bad will happen if you don't. They will usually tell you which gift cards to buy and what stores to buy them from.
Tips for spotting this scam: No reputable company nor the IRS or any other government agency will ever demand payment via gift cards. If you get a phone call from someone telling you to make a payment with a gift card, hang up. If you get a text or email from a company asking you to pay with gift cards, delete the messages and do not click on any of the links. If you have any doubts as to whether the contact is legitimate, contact the company yourself by using their published phone number.
These scammers will contact you pretending to be your financial institution, a government agency such as the IRS, Medicare or even a charitable organization and trick you into sending money or providing personal or account information. These scams can be very sophisticated and seem quite real.
Tip for spotting this scam: Watch out for anyone reaching out to ask for personal information to verify your account or asking for payment via gift cards, wire transfers or person-to-person transfers. Legitimate companies will not call to ask for your personal information or for payment.
Urgency scams trick you into taking advantage of an unbelievable deal or collecting a prize, giving you a tight time frame in which to act. Their tone is urgent, and they want to steal your personal or financial information by asking you to do things like create an account or verify a password.
Tip for spotting this scam: Reputable companies or organizations won’t pressure you to react with tight time constraints or countdown clocks. If an email is asking you to act fast for the deal of a lifetime or to accept a prize, take pause. Avoid clicking on any links until you verify if the email is legitimate through a secondary source.
Phishing scams are official-looking emails, text messages or social ads meant to trick you into giving your personal or financial information. Because these appear to be from your bank or other known companies, they can be very effective in tricking you into sharing information.
Tip for spotting this scam: Look out for generic greetings, misspellings of words, grammatical errors or variations of logos or names of known companies. Avoid clicking links or downloading files as these can deliver malware to your device. Phishing scams can lead to identity theft.
These scammers will call you pretending to be a service provider such as an electric company and attempt to pressure you into sending a payment to avoid having your service turned off. These scams can appear very real and are effective because the urgent tone may pressure you into acting quickly.
Tip for spotting this scam: Utility companies will never ask you to make last-minute payments, especially over the phone or email. If making a payment over the phone, call your utility provider directly.
Support Specialist Scam
Scammers pretending to be a Technology Specialist from a known company try to steal your information by gaining access to your account or device. These scammers want to trick you into thinking that your computer or device is damaged and ask for remote access or for your account information to help you resolve the issue.
Tip for spotting this scam: Support specialists from legitimate companies do not cold-call to help you fix an issue with your device or account, nor will they ask you to download an app or request access to your device.
Pay Yourself Scam
This scam is often a text or an email that looks like a fraud alert from your bank asking if you authorized a transaction. If you respond, they’ll call as a bank representative offering to help you stop the alleged fraud and ask you to send money to yourself via transfer or person-to-person payment. Because they look like a real bank fraud alert and the incoming call can seem legitimate, these types of scams seem very convincing.
Tip for spotting this scam: First National Bank Minnesota will never call you to request information you received via email or text (SMS), or ask you to send money to yourself or anyone else. Do not give out any personal information over the phone or through email. Don’t provide your online banking log in credentials, one-time password, account number or personal information by email, text, or phone call. Using the First National Bank Minnesota published phone number, reach out to us directly to confirm that the request is legitimate.
Learn More About Scams Targeting
Youth Bankers: Age 17 and Younger
Social Media Scams
Social media is used by scammers to steal information through fake surveys, events or contests. They may also try posing as an unknown person trying to befriend teens with the intention of stealing personal information or taking their money.
Tip: Make sure teens set social media accounts to private so information and pictures are not easily accessible. It is important to talk to them about the risks of sharing personal or account information with someone they do not know.
Scammers will lure teens through social media with "free" ring tones, wallpapers, gift cards or other items so that they opt into their services. These services often have hidden, expensive monthly subscriptions that youth bankers oftentimes don’t realize they’re subscribing to.
Tip: Talk to your youth banker about how to research companies and that they should never share information by creating an account or opting into free trials that require payment information upfront.
Teens are tricked into bidding and paying for items that never arrive. Alternatively, scammers trick teens into sending items to sell but never receive their payment, or the auction never takes place.
Tip: Help your teen learn how to research any company or auction site thoroughly before participating in the biddings to make sure it’s legitimate. Help them to review and monitor transactions that you have approved.
Students and Young Adults: Age 18-29
Online Income Scams
Scammers hook their victims with the promise that they’ll earn quick and easy money right from their home. To apply, they must either send payment for the application or they’re sent a fraudulent check and required to transfer a portion of the check to the company.
Tip: Walk away from any job offers that require you to pay money upfront.
Scammers reach out to individuals who may be enticed by the promise that they can get their debts reduced or forgiven – for a one-time fee.
Tip: Reputable lenders will not require upfront payment. If they charge a fee, it will be deducted from the loan amount.
Fake Sale Listing Scams
Goods, services and housing are listed on job or community boards for very low prices that seem too good to be true. Once the victim sends payment, what was promised never arrives or never existed.
Tip: Research companies that make offers that are too good to be true and never give out any personal information or send payments to anyone you do not know.
Adults and Parents: Age 30-59
Property Foreclosure Rescue scams
Posing as lenders, loan servicers, etc., scammers will promise to refinance property at a better rate or stop a foreclosure. However, they’ll ask for a steep upfront payment or trick victims into signing documents that transfer the property to predatory companies.
Tip: Be wary of "lenders" who pressure you to act fast into deciding quickly or say they can guarantee stopping a foreclosure. Always research companies thoroughly.
Debt Collection Scams
Scammers posing as law enforcement or debt collectors try to collect a debt that’s not actually owed. They may go as far as threatening jail or even violence to receive payment but refuse to show any written proof of the debt.
Tip: Do not offer any kind of financial information to anyone calling to collect a debt unless you initiate contact first.
Like an upfront fee scam, lending scams happen when a victim thinks they’re applying for a loan through an online lender or lender app. Scammers entice victims with guaranteed approval even with bad or no credit but require paying upfront fees as "insurance" or for "processing fees."
Tip: Be cautious of any lenders who claim to guarantee a loan approval. Reputable lenders will have a set of requirements they abide by.
Older adults and grandparents: Age 60+
Government Impersonation Scams
Scammers use scare tactics to force individuals to wire money, send a prepaid credit card, gift cards or cashier’s check by pretending that they’re a trusted individual from a government agency like the Social Security Administration or the IRS.
Tip: Any government agency will first contact you through the mail, never by phone or email.
The Grandparent Scam
Scammers trick the victim by pretending to be family, a bail bondsman or an emergency service, notifying that their grandchildren are in dire need of money. They ask for funds to be sent through person-to-person payments or wire transfers.
Tip: Do not answer phone calls from numbers that you don’t recognize; let the call go to voicemail. Use a separate source such as the internet or a reverse phone lookup search engine to verify the company. Companies will not call or email you and ask for a cash payment to help a relative.
Counterfeit Prescription Drug Scam
Scammers entice the elderly with promises of prescription drugs or “miracle” drugs that can cure certain ailments at a majorly discounted rate but oftentimes the medication never arrives.
Tip: If purchasing prescriptions online, make sure they’re approved by the National Association of Boards of Pharmacy. It is best to always consult your physician.
Helpful Tips to Keep Your Personal Information Safe
In an era of digital connectivity, the security of your personal information has never been more critical.
Choose Unique Passwords
Use Two-Factor Authentication when Available
Avoid Public Wi-Fi and Computers
Sign Up for Alerts
Never Give Out Personal Information
Avoid Clicking Links in Suspicious Emails, Text Messages or Landing Pages
Protect Your Devices from Attack
Only Download the Official Banking App