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Don't Be Fooled: How to Avoid Bank Fraud: Interview with Mike Worthington


By: Treacy Colbert, Brand Ave. Studios Contributing Writer

Don't Be Fooled: How to Avoid Bank Fraud: Interview with Mike Worthington

Consumers were swindled out of a whopping $330 million in 2022 when they were duped by fake text messages impersonating a bank. That’s more than double the reported amount from the previous year, according to a 2023 Federal Trade Commission analysis. The real figure is undoubtedly larger, as the FTC report relies on consumer-reported fraud. Many people keep the loss quiet out of embarrassment after they realize they’ve been had.

You can avoid fraud and keep your money out of scammers’ hands with help from your bank, said Mike Worthington, Chief Risk Officer at First Federal Bank. With branches in Twin Falls and throughout Southern Idaho, First Federal has protections in place to help shield customers from con artists.

Vigilance is Vital

“The biggest thing is to be alert and recognize that there are people out there trying to take advantage of you and access your funds,” Worthington said. Refuse any request to wire money that comes from someone you don’t know well, even if you’ve communicated with that person on social media or a dating site. Don’t let a hard-luck story about needing money to get home from overseas or for medical care for an ill child tug your heartstrings and fleece you out of your money.

Worthington said older adults are especially vulnerable to “tech support scams.” With this type of rip-off, a message pops up on your computer claiming to be tech support and directing you to click a link or call a phone number on the screen. Don’t do it, Worthington said. “Once you click on a link, you might be giving access to your computer and to your banking records,” he said.

Stop, Think, and Don't Click

“Any urgent request means it’s time to stop and ask yourself, ‘Does this make sense?’” Worthington said. “Scammers use a sense of urgency to pressure people so they don’t have time to think through their actions,” he said. An email or text claiming that you must act right now to protect your funds is probably the opposite — not a means of safeguarding your money but a scheme to rob you.

Monitor Your Accounts

Worthington urged individual and business customers to check their accounts regularly online or on the mobile banking app and to review monthly statements. “Call the bank about any transaction that doesn’t look right,” he said. This is especially important for business customers who can fall prey to thieves who pose as regular vendors, ask for account information and generate fake checks. Stay on top of your account to flag and stop any fraud immediately.

Rely on Your Bank for Support

First Federal Bank staff are trained to watch out for possible fraudulent transactions and to alert customers, Worthington said. “If we’re asking questions about a transaction, it means we have a concern and are looking out for you.” For example, a large wire transfer by a customer who doesn’t usually transfer money that way raises a red flag, he said. “We can limit access or shut down the account if necessary.

“We have a large presence in the community and we know our customers,” Worthington said. “Know the phone number for your bank branch and call to verify any messages about your account. If you’re suspicious that something might be a scam, chances are we’ve seen it before and can help you avoid it.”

To learn more, please visit our Fraud Protection & Security page.

Interview with: Mike Worthington, Chief Risk Officer