7 things your bank won't ask you to do

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Have you ever second-guessed a phone call, email or text from your bank or credit card issuer? It's convenient to communicate with our financial institutions these days, but it's also harder to tell if it's a fraudster on the other end of the line.

"Fraud is so prevalent in our country, and it's coming from all over the world," says Scott Hannah, president of the national Credit Counselling Society. "You have to be on guard at all times and be aware of things that can tip a person off that they aren't dealing with their bank."

"It's a changing landscape so you have to be cautious, for sure, especially now that banks can text you, call you, email you, send you mail, and other forms of communication," says Richard Moxley, author of The Nine Rules of Credit and spokesman for eCredit Fix.

Experts say there are some clear-cut lines that banks and creditors won't cross, though. Here's a look at seven things your bank or issuer will never do - but a fraudster might:

1. Ask for your PIN or other banking passwords.
If your bank reaches out to you, whether via a phone call, text or email, your bank won't ask for your PIN or online banking passwords. That's something that will only happen if you're talking to fraudsters trying to draw private information out of you.

Your bank "will never ask you for your bank account number, your credit card number or your login details," Hannah says. "They should have all of that information on hand already."

2. Address you as "Sir" or "Ms." on first reference.
Fraudsters are brazen, and it isn't uncommon for them to text, email or cold-call you. If you're getting a message that begins with, a "Dear Sir or Madam" or "Dear Valued Customer," you're wading into suspect territory.

Just like your bank representative will know your account number and your private details, they also will know your full name.

Pay attention to spelling mistakes, too, the Canadian Bankers Association says. That's another red flag that you're likely dealing with a fraudster.

3. Send you to an illegitimate website or call from an unknown number.
Check and double-check before taking a phone call from an unfamiliar number or clicking on any links in emails. Fake caller IDs can still show the name of your bank, while emails and websites can look like near replicas of your bank's. Your job is to zero in on the details.

"If you're banking at rbc.com and suddenly it's rbc.net, pay attention to that," Hannah says. "They'll use slightly different URLs or they'll direct you to a link, but you have to check to make sure it's legitimate."

"If they're emailing you at a new email address and you're not sure if you gave it to them or not, don't connect with them," Hannah says.

If you're dealing with a strange email or phone call, simply disconnect. Instead, call the number on the back of your bank card or credit card and make sure the messages were from your bank.

4. Send a representative to your home.
Banks, creditors and collections agencies won't show up at your door, the experts say.

"If someone is coming to your door posing as an official from your bank, don't buy it," Moxley says.

They could say they're couriers collecting information cards, collecting cash for fees or replacing bank cards. Let them know you'll visit your local branch instead.

5. Tell you there's money you need to deposit, or scare you with deadlines.
The lure of free money is enticing, and fraudsters know it works.

"Sometimes they'll tell you there's an email money transfer pending from some random person, or it's a financial company you invested in back in the day," Moxley says.

"They're not going to give you a deadline to respond, but if you don't recognize the sender, don't accept the so-called payment," Hannah says.

6. Ask you for test transactions or to make payments.
Your bank won't send you texts, emails or phone calls warning you about outstanding bills that need to be paid on the spot.

"Fraudsters will direct you to make a payment to this bank account right now, tell you to make a payment on the phone or online, or take you to a site to log in," Hannah says. "If you do it, you're falling prey."

In other cases, fraudsters will say there was a system-wide glitch and ask you to send a test transaction to make sure your account is working.

Log in to your account on your own bookmarked website or app before making any payments. You can also visit your bank to make a payment.

7. Advise you to buy certain stocks or commodities.
If your bank is suddenly calling you to take advantage of a great opportunity to invest in diamonds, gold, stocks or other commodities, be careful.

Banks that sell investments don't cold-call their clients. They especially won't urge you to send payments over the phone, online or through other transfers to accounts you don't recognize.

The same goes for deals, too: Your bank won't offer you a lower credit card interest rate by pressing 1 or 2 to confirm on the phone.

"It doesn't happen that way," Moxley says.

See related: Are you being safe with your account info -- or paranoid?, 5 reasons your card issuer is mailing you
Published August 18, 2017

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