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How To Spot Bank Impersonation Scams (Text, Email & Phone)

Fraudsters target your bank account by impersonating bank employees via emails, calls, and texts. Learn how to spot the warning signs before it’s too late.

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      Did Your Bank Call, Email, or Text You? It Could Be a Scam

      In 2023 alone, Americans lost close to $2 billion to impersonation scams [*]  — with many scammers impersonating banks and financial institutions in order to trick victims into sending money, giving up access to their online banking accounts, or providing other sensitive information. 

      Fraudsters know that the majority of people will act quickly if they receive a text, call, or email claiming there’s an issue with their bank account. 

      In this guide, we’ll show you how to spot bank impersonation scams and combat fraudsters before you become the latest victim of this growing form of bank fraud. 


      How To Tell If You’re Dealing With a Bank Impersonation Scam

      Bank impersonation scams are a type of fraud in which scammers pretend to be bank representatives aiming to obtain personally identifiable information (PII) or trick people into sending money. 

      Typically, these scams happen over phone calls, text messages, or emails. The fraudster often claims that unauthorized and fraudulent activity has occurred on the victim’s account. To resolve the issue, the scammer asks for personal information — such as bank account numbers or PINs.

      Scammers impersonate bank representatives because there's a high chance of success, as millions of Americans bank with just four major financial institutions (Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, and Chase). People tend to trust their banks — and due to an innate fear of losing money, even the most vigilant individual can fall prey.

      Before we dive into the details, here are some high-level warning signs that you’re dealing with an imposter:

      • They ask for personal information. Your bank will not call, email, or text to “confirm” your identity. If anyone asks for sensitive financial information — especially your Social Security number (SSN) or banking details — it’s most likely a scam. 
      • They want you to give up passwords or 2FA codes. Two-factor authentication (2FA) is an authentication method requiring two or more verification factors to access an account. No bank or financial institution will ask you to reveal these details.
      • They say there’s an issue with your account. Fraudsters try to create a sense of urgency to get you to act without thinking. In these scams, they may suggest that your account is under threat and that you must take immediate action. 
      • They threaten to close your account. Scammers prey on your fear, using scare tactics — like the threat that the bank will close your account or freeze your savings. Your bank will never make such threats, so beware of any urgent or pressured calls from someone claiming to be from the bank.
      • They want you to transfer money to a “safe” account. No bank will ever ask you to wire or transfer your money to another account to “protect it” from fraudsters — this is a huge red flag.
      • They threaten you with fines, fees, or even jail time. Scammers sometimes say they will call law enforcement, or claim there's a chance you could go to prison if you don't pay a supposed outstanding debt. Again, these are not things any actual bank representative would say or do.
      • They send attachments and pressure you to download them. If you receive a text message that directs you to click on a link, don't engage — clicking on bogus links or attachments will download malicious software that steals your personal data.

      Scammers have endless techniques, angles, and tools to target you with bank impersonation scams. Remember these red flags whenever you receive a message or email from your bank or other financial institution.

      🏆 Get award-winning protection against imposter scams and fraud. Aura’s all-in-one solution monitors and alerts you to potential fraud across your financial accounts and can even block scam texts and calls before they reach you. Try Aura free for 14 days.

      How To Spot a Fake Bank Text Message

      Fake bank text messages — also known as "smishing" scams — happen when fraudsters use text messages to impersonate financial institutions and phish for sensitive information, like credit card numbers or PIN codes.

      a fake text message claiming to be from Wells Fargo asking the recipient to click a link to verify a purchase.
      Example of a fake bank phishing text message asking you to click a link. Source: Reddit.

      These scams take on various guises to make people panic, such as fake security notices or texts about withdrawals or purchase confirmations. With the speed and ease of texting, scammers can target hundreds or thousands of people daily.

      According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) [*]:

      Fake bank text scams are the most commonly reported bank impersonation scam, resulting in an average loss of $3,000 per victim — a 500% rise since 2019. 

      Here are six ways to spot a fake text message from your bank:

      • Spelling mistakes or obvious errors in the message. While some fraudulent texts may be convincing, many contain typos or poor grammar (such as spelling Ally Bank as Alli or Aly). These are telltale signs of a scam that a professional institution wouldn’t make. 
      • You're asked to click on a link to log in to your bank account. Fake bank text messages almost always include a link that is shortened or obscured. If you click, you'll end up on a login page that looks like your bank's homepage — but any information you enter will go straight to the scammer.
      • The text isn’t sent from your bank’s official short code. If a text message claims to be from your bank but doesn’t come from its official short code or number, it’s likely a fake message (texts from your bank come from a five or six-digit short code).
      • The text is sent from a spoofed email address. Scammers send texts from email addresses to make them seem more legitimate, but real banks will never send you text messages from an email address.
      • The message is from a bank you don’t use. Banks cannot send you promotional materials unless you’ve opted in, and they won’t alert you about fraud on accounts that don’t exist.
      • You’re told to call a phone number that isn’t your bank’s usual one. Don’t click on or dial any phone number that you receive via text message, as you’ll end up on the phone with a professional con artist. If you want to call your bank, use the number on the back of your card. 

      Did you receive a fake bank text message? Do this!

      Like most bank impersonation scams, fraudsters who send fake text messages prey on the fear of losing money. If you receive a suspicious text message from someone claiming to work for your bank, here’s what to do:

      • Contact the bank’s fraud department. Call the number on the back of your bank card (or listed on the bank’s official website) and tell them what happened. Ask them to freeze your accounts and cancel the cards immediately.
      • Take a screenshot of the message. Don’t keep this fake text on your device (in case you accidentally click on the link). Instead, take a screenshot and then delete the message.
      • Report the scam. After notifying your bank, alert the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) by filing a fraud report at You can provide full details, including screenshots of any suspicious text messages.
      • Scan your device for malware. Disconnect your device from your Wi-Fi and mobile network, and then use antivirus software to detect and eliminate any harmful code.
      • Secure your other online accounts. Scammers often use your personal information to target other online accounts, so take this opportunity to update all of your passwords.

      💡 Related: 2024 Bank Scams: 15 Ways To Protect Your Bank Account

      How To Spot a Fake Bank Email

      A fake bank email is a phishing scam in which the perpetrator sends an email that mimics communications from a financial institution. For instance, the email may include the bank’s logo, typeface, and domain name.

      a fake email claiming to be from Bank of America saying there has been suspicious activity on an account.
      Example of a fake bank phishing email asking the recipient to download a dangerous attachement. Source: Aura team.

      Fraudsters use phishing to gather personal information — including debit card numbers, credit card information, internet banking login details, sort codes, etc.

      Here are four ways to spot a fake bank email:

      • It doesn’t address you by name. If your bank really were to contact you, it would know (and use) your name — not refer to you as Customer, Sir/Madam, or by your email address.
      • Incorrect email address. Often, scammers can’t completely replicate your bank’s email address, so they create a close variation with a missing letter or number.
      • Grammatical errors. Many fraudsters are from countries where English is not the native language. When you receive an email from someone purporting to be your bank, carefully read the entire email for typos or odd language and phrasing.
      • They ask you to click on a link. Phishing emails aim to redirect people to a fake website, or install downloads by inserting bogus links in the email. Hover over links to see if the URL looks like a legitimate page from your real bank. 

      Did you receive a fake bank email? Do this!

      The simple act of opening the wrong email or clicking on a link can compromise your digital security. If you receive any suspicious emails from someone claiming to represent your bank, follow these steps:

      • Forward the email to your bank’s fraud department. Most banks have an email account to which you can forward suspicious or scam emails. For example, Bank of America customers can forward scam emails to
      • Contact customer support. If you're unsure how to report the fake email, contact your bank’s customer support department for help.
      • Save a screenshot of the email. For your records and any further reports to the FTC or police, save a screenshot of the email. Then, delete the original email and block the sender.

      💡 Related: How To Spot a Bank of America Phishing Email

      How To Spot a Fake Bank Phone Scam

      Spam calls from your bank are unsolicited attempts from someone pretending to be from your bank. As with texts or emails, the fraudster tries to trick or coerce you into disclosing sensitive information or transferring money.

      Scammers can use spoofing technology to display your bank’s name on your phone’s caller ID — making the scam more convincing.

      Here are five ways to spot a fake phone call from your bank:

      • They say, “Can you hear me?” Fraudsters ask this question in hopes that you’ll respond. It’s possible that someone could use artificial intelligence (AI) to record and clone your voice profile — and then use it to hack into your accounts or run other scams.
      • It sounds like a robocall. If you hear a pre-recorded message when you pick up your cell phone, it's likely some phone-related scam.
      • The call appears to be from your own phone number. Scammers spoof calls to confuse you, so don’t answer calls listed on your caller ID as coming from your number.
      • The person is guarded. If you press for information, but the caller is unwilling to identify themselves or tell you why they’re calling, it could be a ruse. 
      • You’re threatened or pressured to act quickly. Most phone scams include some sort of urgent request, like asking you to move money or give them remote access to your computer

      💡 Related: My Phone Number Is Being Spoofed — What Can I Do?

      Did you receive a fake bank phone call? Do this!

      If you receive such a call, be vigilant from the offset, and approach with skepticism. By sticking to the following steps, you reduce your risk of becoming the scammer’s latest victim:

      • Hang up. If you think it’s a scam, hang up before they can record your voice or get any information. Better yet, as a best practice, don’t answer unknown numbers.
      • Never give out personal information. Refrain from sharing any personal information, even if it's publicly available, such as a social media profile or email address.
      • Ask for a reference number, and tell them you’ll call them back. This response not only gives you greater control of the situation, but you can also forward any details the caller gives you to the FTC (as well as your bank and other financial institutions).
      • Block the number. Once scammers get a hold of you, they’ll continue to call — so block their number straight away.

      What Happens If You Fall for a Bank Impersonation Scam?

      As bank impersonation scams grow more sophisticated and convincing, your chances of falling victim increase. Here are four potential consequences if you fall victim:

      • Scammers could gain access to your bank account. Many bank impersonation scams are designed to steal your login details; even clicking on a single link can give fraudsters access to all of the information they need to bypass online bank security measures.
      • You could be tricked into transferring your savings. Scammers employ various tactics to persuade you to transfer money, such as claiming that you need to move your funds immediately due to a so-called issue with your existing account.
      • Your identity could be stolen. Scammers may use the information they obtain through a bank impersonation scam to steal your identity. For example, the fraudster could apply for a loan in your name, exposing you to further financial losses and potential legal troubles.
      • Your credit score can be negatively impacted. When identity thieves get access to your details, credit cards, and other accounts, they can quickly (and significantly) impact your credit score, which can take years to rebuild.

      The bottom line: Falling victim to a bank impersonation scam can cost you your life savings or even your identity. That's why it pays to protect yourself with an all-in-one digital security provider that monitors your accounts, warns you of scam texts and calls, and provides 24/7 support and insurance in case you get scammed. Try Aura for free today  

      What To Do If You’re the Victim of a Bank Impersonation Scam

      Nearly three-quarters of Americans have experienced at least one scam, with 27% falling victim on several occasions [*]. As phishing attacks and breaches of online platforms or services rise, you’re more likely than ever to be scammed online

      If you fall victim, here’s what to do:

      Contact your bank immediately

      As soon as you realize you've been affected by a scam, call your financial institution. Explain the fraud, and request that they cancel the cards and stop any pending payments. Your bank only has a small window to block or revert a transfer, so it's crucial to act quickly.

      Freeze your credit with all three bureaus

      Contact each of the three major credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion) to request a credit freeze. This will prevent scammers from using your banking information to open new accounts or take out loans in your name. 

      To put this temporary security measure in place, call the three credit bureaus individually:

      Experian Security Freeze — P.O. Box 9554, Allen, TX 75013
      Equifax Information Services LLC — P.O. Box 105788, Atlanta, GA 30348-5788
      TransUnion LLC – P.O. Box 2000, Chester, PA 19016

      Secure your online accounts

      After any data breach or compromise, you should create new passwords and enable two-factor authentication (2FA). Even if hackers only raided one account, it's best to update all of your login credentials to protect against further attacks.

      Document the fraud, and stop all contact with the scammer

      Download statements and take screenshots of emails, texts, and other correspondences so that you can share these with the appropriate authorities. Then, cut off all contact with the criminals.

      Review your financial records for signs of fraud 

      Inspect your credit reports, bank statements, and credit card statements for signs of fraud. This process takes time but can help you identify all unauthorized transactions and start disputes to get your money back from vendors. 

      💡 Related: How To Review Your Bank Statements For Fraud

      Check your insurance coverage

      Your home insurance provider or employer may cover fraud or identity theft. If not, consider getting dedicated identity theft insurance by signing up for one of Aura’s plans, which protects you and your family for up to $5 million in eligible losses due to identity theft.

      Contact the FTC

      The FTC investigates complaints about fraudulent checks and demands for wire transfers. You can file an identity theft report online and get an official affidavit confirming you are a fraud victim.

      💡 Related: Do Banks Refund Scammed Money (How To Dispute Fraud)

      How To Protect Yourself From Bank Imposters 

      Unfortunately, there’s no guarantee you’ll recover any money you lose to bank impersonation scams. It’s always better to protect your accounts and avoid scams in the first place.

      Here are nine steps to avoid bank scams:

      • Never share your bank account details. No one needs to know this information — even your bank. If someone asks for a 2FA code, PIN, or password, they’re trying to scam you. 
      • Use strong and unique passwords. Select a unique combination of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols for each of your online accounts. You can use a password manager to keep them secure.
      • Enable two-factor authentication. For added protection, use 2FA on all of your accounts, as this will prevent fraudsters from accessing the vast majority of your information (now and in the future).
      • Access your accounts via your bank’s website or mobile app. Make sure you are on your bank’s official website or app before logging in, as scammers often access sensitive data by spoofing these sites.
      • Use a spam call and text blocker. Aura includes an artificial intelligence (AI)-powered spam call and text blocker that can protect you from bank scams on your phone. 
      • Regularly review your bank account statements. Take note of anything you don't recognize, and immediately report suspicious activity to your bank. Even if you are unsure, it's best to query any unfamiliar transactions. 
      • Only access bank accounts on a secure network. It's easy for hackers to compromise unsecured public Wi-Fi networks, so avoid these whenever possible. If you do need to use public Wi-Fi for any reason, access it via a virtual private network (VPN).
      • Don’t get pressured into acting quickly — especially with bank transactions. If anyone calls you, don't let them pressure you into sharing information or taking any action with which you're not comfortable. Take your time to understand exactly who it is that you're talking to and whether the situation really requires urgent attention.
      • Sign up for a credit and financial transaction monitoring service. You can detect fraud in near real-time by using software to monitor your credit and financial activity. Services like Aura send alerts to let you know if any account is compromised. 

      Worried About Bank Impersonators? Aura Can Keep You Safe

      Scammers use bank impersonation tactics because they work. Bank customers reported combined losses of $330 million to text message scams in 2022 — more than double the previous year [*]. And with sophisticated technology, it’s getting easier for cybercriminals to dupe people out of their money. 

      You can stay safe by taking a proactive approach to protect your digital presence, and by responding quickly when you spot the warning signs of a scam. But for the best protection and peace of mind, consider Aura’s all-in-one solution for protecting your identity and finances from fraudsters. 

      Aura keeps you and your family safe 24/7 by monitoring your accounts, credit file, and identity. Aura’s Safe Browsing tools include ad blockers, spam call blockers, antivirus software, and a VPN. Even if you fall victim to a scam, Aura’s team of U.S.-based White Glove Fraud Resolution experts, and up to $5 million in identity theft insurance coverage, can help you make a fast recovery. 

      Get award-winning scam and fraud protection. Try Aura free for 14 days.
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