Having already announced $175 million in donations to help the most vulnerable during the current crisis, Wells Fargo is going the extra mile to help guard everyone against phishing scams.
Officials at the banking giant said they want to make sure that personal information remains safe as more activity shifts online during the coronavirus pandemic.
“Scammers follow the headlines, and unfortunately, we tend to see a rise in fraudulent activity in times of vulnerability as criminals try to catch people off-guard,” Gary Owen, Wells Fargo’s chief information security officer, said in an online post at WellsFargo.com.
“Scammers are becoming increasingly adept at spoofing friends, family, and businesses, so people need to be aware of what scams are out there, and stay vigilant about what information they are giving out.”
In the post, the bank noted that the U.S. Secret Service recently issued a coronavirus phishing alert in anticipation of a spike in phishing and social engineering scams related to the pandemic.
Calling the coronavirus situation a “prime opportunity for enterprising criminals,” the alert is one of many from government organizations cautioning the public against scammers trying to manipulate people into divulging confidential information.
Phishing through emails or texts is one of the most common techniques used to acquire sensitive information such as usernames and passwords, Wells Fargo officials noted. Scammers have been exploiting coronavirus fears by posing as health and medical organizations.
The World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention have both been impersonated through emails that ask people to click fake links to important coronavirus information.
These links can download malicious software or direct people to malicious sites that harvest essential data that is later used for fraudulent activity. Social engineering scams targeting people through online websites and communications are also on the rise.
“These include false charities seeking coronavirus-related donations, as well as romance scams, where criminals build a relationship with their victims online, then ask for money to be wired because of an unfortunate circumstance — being quarantined due to coronavirus, for instance,” Wells Fargo officials warned. Awareness remains critical, especially as digital interactions increase with more people telecommuting and schools moving instruction online due to social distancing measures.
“Be aware of who is calling and what you’re clicking on,” Owen said. “If there is any uncertainty, do not respond to requests for information, and go straight to the source to verify legitimacy if possible. When Wells Fargo contacts a customer, for example, we will never ask for a card PIN, access code, or online banking password. If you are unsure, call the number on the back of your card to verify the legitimacy of any request.”
For a list of other best practices, and more information about Wells Fargo’s initiative, click here.