In the wake of the recent COVID-19 pandemic, business as usual is anything but as consumers and businesses, including financial institutions, are finding alternate ways to interact and conduct business.


With stay-at-home orders in many communities around the country including the Coastal Bend, online, mobile and other virtual financial transactions are becoming more commonplace for customers of First Community Bank (FCB) and other financial institutions. Sadly, these changes are providing new opportunities for widespread fraud.


FCB is urging banking customers to be aware of the recent uptick in new scams, such as fraudulent communications claiming to represent Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), an independent U.S. government agency protecting insured deposits in FDIC-insured bank and savings associations.


The FDIC has reported that fraudsters are using the FDIC’s name and logo, and even the names of actual employees, in emails, phone calls, letters, text messages, faxes, and social media to try and scam consumers. The messages might ask for recipients to "confirm" or "update" confidential personal financial information, such as bank account numbers. In other cases, the communication might be an offer to help victims of current or previous frauds with an investigation or to recover losses.


"Financial institutions and government agencies will never reach out to consumers to request personal information," said First Community Bank President Wes Hoskins. "With so much business taking place online these days, it’s even more important for consumers to be aware of the potential scams designed to separate them from their money and/or identity. Fraudsters are counting on possible confusion surrounding the new norm with e-commerce and electronic messaging, hoping to capitalize on consumers’ uncertainty as to what is legitimate and what is not. And with government stimulus checks on their way, thieves know additional funds will be available for the taking."


According to the FDIC, other scams have included official looking forms for filing insurance claims, bankruptcy claimant verification forms, and notices regarding unpaid debt including threats of a lawsuit or to arrest for nonpayment, which can play on the fears of those currently unemployed.


Consumers should remember:


* Banks, credit card companies, and government agencies, including the IRS and FDIC, will never contact consumers to ask for personal details, such as bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, social security numbers, or passwords.


* Government agencies including the IRS and FDIC do not send unsolicited correspondence asking for money or sensitive personal information, and never engage in threats.


* No government agency will ever demand payment by gift card, wiring money, or digital currency.


"We always advise our customers to safeguard their personal information and to be aware of ‘phishing’ scams, but it’s even more important now at a time when our sense of normalcy has been shaken up. Everyone feels a little vulnerable, so we must all be more cautious to avoid becoming a victim."


Consumers can find more information regarding the latest scams, including those related to coronavirus, on the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.


Learn more about First Community Bank at fcbot.com. Member FDIC | Equal Housing Lender.