Don’t fall for fake.
That’s the American Bankers Association’s best advice to avoid falling victim to fraud. Unfortunately, distinguishing what’s fake from what’s legitimate is easier said than done. In 2022, over $8.8 billion was stolen from the public by scammers. The majority of this is lost to phishing emails, texts, and calls made to look like they’re from a trusted institution.
There’s one simple, fool-proof way to fight against these types of phishing attempts: consistent communication and branding from banks.
First, let’s outline how to spot a scam. Bad actors pretending to be financial institutions typically have grammatical errors and misspellings in their messaging. Additionally, there are five red flags of phishing to watch out for in calls, texts, and emails according to the American Bankers Association:
- The use of urgent language and scare tactics
- Sending an attachment in the message
- Asking customers to handle an issue using a payment app
- Requesting personal info like PINs, passwords, social security numbers, or debit card numbers
- Asking you to click on a link
With this in mind, there are several obvious safeguards available to financial institutions to prevent spoofed communications. One example is using proper grammar in all written communications, whether that is via email, ad copy, or even texts between bankers and customers. This allows a red flag to go off immediately when customers see a poorly written communication piece claiming to be from their bank.
Another easy way to train customers to spot a scam is ensuring consistent messaging when communicating with customers. Scammers tend to use urgent language, wanting victims to panic without thinking through the situation logically. Training employees to calm customers, instead of panicking them, will help customers learn how to reasonably process banking issues. Bankers should encourage customers to come into a branch to solve problems or call a familiar bank phone number from the back of their debit card or their bank’s official website.
This leads to another critical element of fighting fraud: A bank cannot overshare its contact details. Putting the bank phone number and web address on every communication piece goes far in promoting security. It should be easy for customers to find their bank’s contact information. That way when scammers attack, customers can quickly find their institution’s contact information to remedy the problem.
Finally, a surefire way to ensure customers raise the alarm when fraud is suspected is a solid brand identity. This includes a strong, recognizable logo that is consistent across bank branches, websites, and advertisements. It also includes 2-3 specific brand colors, 1-2 fonts, and a consistent, recognizable voice in ad copy. Even standard email signatures/fonts in company emails allow customers to easily recognize authentic messages from their bank.
To take it one step further, building a brand identity also includes training employees to be ambassadors for the brand. That way even during face-to-face interactions, customers can depend on similar language and attitude regardless of employee status. So if a phishing phone call occurs, customers will see a clear difference in the way they are used to being spoken to by representatives of their financial institution.
The bottom line is this: protecting customers from phishing attempts doesn’t just fall to the fraud department. This can be a bank-wide effort, including marketing, IT teams, and front-line employees.
And if a customer is ever in doubt, the best thing for them to do is call the number on the back of their credit card or visit a branch.
For more ways to identify and combat bank fraud, visit BanksNeverAskThat.com.