In the wake of recent data breaches, such as the Equifax debacle, consumers should be on high alert while making purchases this holiday season.

“While millions of credit and debit card transactions are conducted safely every day, it’s important that consumers are aware of the potential for holiday scams,” said Jonathan Winters, VP, Information Security Officer. “Fraudsters are becoming more and more sophisticated with devising schemes in an attempt to lure innocent victims into making donations to charitable causes or disaster-related campaigns.”

In an ongoing effort to assist consumers with safeguarding their information, whether shopping in stores or online, Franklin Savings Bank offers the following tips:

  • Monitor your account. Use online and mobile banking to keep an eye on your transactions, especially during the holidays. Notify your bank right away if there’s any fraudulent activity.
  • Beware of phishing scams. During the holidays, criminals will create a fake email for a deal that’s too good to be true. If you click on any links within the email, you may be downloading malware onto your computer, or you may be asked for payment information that could lead to fraud.
  • Limit large sums of cash. Even though we’ve seen financial crime migrate from physical to cyber, customers should be careful not to carry around large sums of cash when shopping. A bank will make you whole if there’s fraud against your account. If cash is stolen, your money is gone.
  • Secure your internet connection. If shopping online, make sure you do so from a password protected Wi-Fi network. Never access online banking from a public Wi-Fi network.
  • Shop safely. Before making an online purchase, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects.  If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

In addition to these tips, it is equally important to be cautious of fake check scams that could leave you owing money if you are not careful. Fake check scams have become more prevalent as online auction sites and classified ads have become increasingly popular. There are many variations of fake check scams, but the common thread is a stranger proposing to send you a check in exchange for you to wire money in return. The stranger may be someone offering to buy something you advertised for sale, pay you to work from home, or give you an advance on a sweepstakes you won.

According to Winters, “Regardless of how the contact is initiated, the bottom line is if someone you don’t know wants to pay you by check, but wants you to wire money back to them, then it’s a scam. Today’s technology enables fraudsters to create fake checks that look so real it is often difficult for experts to determine their authenticity.”

Since federal law mandates that banks must allow deposited funds to be made available within a certain period of time, an unsuspecting victim may be able to withdraw money on a fake check, even if it’s a cashier’s check or money order, which can be forged as well.

To avoid becoming a victim to a fake check scam, FSB suggests you remember the following:

  • There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask for you to wire money back;
  • If you are uncertain about the authenticity of a check, wait until the check has “cleared” before you spend the money;
  • If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a branch in your area.

For more information on how fake check scams work as well as how to avoid them, visit www.fakechecks.org.

Established in 1869, Franklin Savings Bank is an independent, mutually-owned community bank, offering a full array of commercial lending, personal banking and investment services throughout the Central Lakes Region and southern New Hampshire. Headquartered in Franklin, the Bank has offices in Bristol, Boscawen, Tilton, Gilford and Merrimack, as well as an office in Bedford for business lending. Franklin Savings Bank also offers investment, insurance and financial planning services through its wholly-owned subsidiary, Independence Financial Advisors, from offices in Franklin, Bedford, Gilford, Nashua, Rochester and Merrimack, New Hampshire. As a recognized leader in providing the latest in financial services technology, Franklin Savings Bank remains committed to serving the needs of businesses, families and the communities it serves, through a dedicated team of employees, a diverse line of financial products and services, and continued investment in emerging technology.

You can learn more about Franklin Savings Bank by calling 1.800.372.4445, or visiting www.fsbnh.bank, or following the bank on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter and YouTube.