Staying Vigilant in Difficult Times

By now anyone who is reading this blog understands that the world is dealing with a situation unparalleled in recent history – a worldwide pandemic driven by a Coronavirus strain known as Covid 19. In these uncertain times, unsubstantiated fear and panic sometimes leads people to make rash or irrational decisions out of fear which only serves to exacerbate this very serious problem. It’s important to remember not to panic.

To be clear, the Covid 19 pandemic is extremely serious and being acutely aware of the risks involved and following the recommendations of health officials (i.e. washing your hands, staying home if you do not feel well and maintaining a safe distance from others) is important to get us past this crisis.

And we WILL get past it in due time by practicing continued strong vigilance to contain the spread of the virus which will permit those who most need medical care the opportunity to get it.

As often happens during periods of uncertainty, unscrupulous characters emerge and exploit this fear and vulnerability to take advantage of those most susceptible to their schemes, in particular, the elderly. As such, it is best to be on guard to avoid these schemes and not fall victim to criminal intents or actions.

Following are a few tips to recognize and avoid these schemes and what to do if you suspect one:

Be Wary of Scams!

Social Security Fraud – This scene typically occurs by phone when a person calls and identifies themselves as a government employee and claims there is an identity theft issue or some other problem with your SSN, account, or benefits. They often make threats of arrest or other legal action if money is not paid immediately, or they may claim they can help you increase your benefits, protect your assets, or help you resolve this so-called identity theft if you follow their directions.

Do not fall for it! The Social Security Administration (SSA) never issues threats of arrest or imprisonment or demands money be sent immediately and primarily conducts their business via mail correspondence, not via phone, email or text. The SSA encourages the public to report these phone scams by calling them directly or using their online form at https://oig.ssa.gov/scams to report these incidents.

Passing Fake Checks – In the fake check scam, a person you don’t know asks you to deposit a check for a sum much larger than what is typically owed, for example, if they are buying something from you or vice versa. The scammer lays out a juicy story to explain why you can’t keep all of the money from the check as some of it is needed to cover fees, pay taxes, buy additional products you will need, etc.

After you receive the check from them, deposit it into your account and send them the amount beyond what is owed (typically requested in gift cards, money orders via Money Grams), the check fails to “clear” your bank even after the funds have appeared in your account. Fake checks can sometimes take weeks to be discovered as fraudulent. So, to avoid falling victim to this scam, never accept a check from someone you don’t know or trust for an amount beyond what is owed as it is most assuredly a scam, and don’t believe something is “free” if you have to send money to get it.

“Relative in Trouble” Who Needs Money – One other popular scam is the long distant or estranged relative you haven’t heard from in years who contacts you needing money “in an emergency” to keep their electricity from being shut off, buy food for their family, or bail them out of jail, to name just a few. Unless you can be certain this person IS a relative and sincerely needs your help, do not oblige the request! Many scammers impersonate others and tug on people’s heart strings to fund their crimes and these are just a few examples of the many ways they may attempt to relieve you of money.

Keeping Your Money in Your Mattress – We have all heard stories about people hiding money in their mattresses (especially during periods of social distress) because they feel their money is safer in their hands. Realistically, leaving your money with F&M Bank keeps it much more secure and protected, and within certain dollar limits, your funds are guaranteed by the federal government, so you won’t lose them even if the bank experiences hard times or goes out of business.

As such, leave your money on deposit with us where it will continue to grow and earn interest, and where you can access it online or via an ATM if you need some extra cash.

Remember our job at F&M Bank is to serve and support our communities and we can do this best when we look out for each other and take the appropriate and necessary steps to keep all of us and our loved ones (and anyone else we may interact with) healthy, especially in times of crisis. Demonstrating true vigilance will help us get past this pandemic and emerge stronger in spite of it.

published on 03/24/2020