February 2024: Protecting Yourself and Your Finances

Personal Finance Education | 02.01.2024
Protecting your financial information is our top priority and a responsibility we take seriously. From the Bank’s own security practices to equipping Merchants staff with the resources they need to help our customers fight fraud, we know it takes a team effort. That’s why we’re also asking you to get involved. Make sure you’re up to date with the most recent fraud and scam alerts to do your part to keep your personal information secure.

Scams to Watch Out for this Year

Digital or Peer-to-peer Payment Scams

Digital payment services, like PayPal, Venmo or Zelle, can be handy and allow for a seamless transfer of funds from your account to a peer account. But you should always exercise caution when using these services to avoid getting duped by a scammer. As technology advances, scammers adapt. 
Before performing an action through a digital payment service, ask yourself the following:
  • Do I know this person?
  • Is the person I am paying verified?
  • Have I been asked to provide unnecessary personal information?
  • Am I being asked to pay for something that I shouldn’t have to pay for to access (i.e., having to pay a fee to collect something you won)?
  • Do I feel comfortable performing this transaction?
  • Was I expecting this transaction?
  • Is someone pressuring me to make this payment?
You should also be cautious about any text messages or emails claiming to be from a digital payment service. This is especially true if any ask you to take urgent action or download another app to complete a transaction. 
Always take a moment to verify the sender by evaluating the sender’s email address or phone number, grammar and spelling, tone and language (like scare tactics or threats) and any included links. Ask yourself these questions:
  • Do I use this digital payment service?
  • When was the last time I performed a transaction?
  • Is this how the digital payment service typically contacts me?
  • Was I expecting this email/text message?
  • Is this message asking me to do something unusual (i.e., provide personal information)?
You are the best defense against digital payment scams. Be cautious. Be safe.

Package Delivery Scams

Many online shopping and delivery services send email and text messages to keep consumers in the loop on package transit. These messages often include a summary and a relevant link to track your package. 
Scammers have been imitating these messages by sending similarly formatted emails or text messages, but often include language attempting to scare you. For example, you may receive a scam message claiming that your package cannot be delivered until you confirm your address through the link provided. 
There are different elements you can evaluate in an email or text message to determine if it’s a scam:
  • The email or phone number. Does it make sense for the service?
  • The grammar and wording. Is there anything that is misspelled or mispunctuated?
  • The tone of voice or language used. Is the message demanding urgent action?
  • The directions stated. Is it asking for your login?
  • The link included. Does the link look suspicious?
  • The timeliness of the message. Have you ordered a package recently?
The best thing you can do after receiving a package transit update via email or text message is to go directly to the service’s website or application (i.e., USPS or FedEx) and look up your package’s status there. Another safe option is to contact the online shopping or delivery service directly to confirm that the message is legitimate. 

Online Job Scams

Scammers continue to find new ways to try and gain access to your personal and financial information. One scam that is on the rise, especially following the pandemic, is job scams. It’s easy to fall for these scams since the jobs are advertised as legitimate openings in newspapers, on social media and even job sites so they can blend in. Although this can make identifying a job scam trickier, there are checks you can do to confirm the legitimacy of a posting online.
First and foremost, it’s important to note that if a job sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. For example, if the job listing claims you will make thousands of dollars in exchange for little work in a short period, be wary. One of scammers’ favorite ways to entice people to “apply” for their job is by making the job as favorable as possible by claiming things such as:
  • You can be your own boss.
  • You can set your own schedule. 
  • You get to work from home. 
  • You get a bonus just for taking the job.
  • You don’t have to go through an interview process.
While there are some industries (i.e., caregiving) with a higher occurrence of job scams, it’s always good to be cautious when applying for any job online. Read this article from the Federal Trade Commission to learn more about these types of scams and how you can protect yourself.

Spam vs. Scam

“Your account has been locked, act now!” 
“Last chance: 50% off all jeans!”
“Urgent: account credentials required!”
“You’re so close to FREE merchandise!” 
In a world full of emails and text messages, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and have the sudden urge to control, alt, delete all your accounts. It’s moments like these when you’re more susceptible to falling for a scam and clicking on malicious links. Scammers know this and will often use it to their advantage. So, before you hit that control button or open that email, take a moment to educate yourself on the difference between spams and scams. 


In short, spam is promotional (and sometimes a little annoying). These are unsolicited, unwanted messages sent by entities for marketing purposes. Typically, the message attempts to sell you something or invites you to take advantage of a specific offer. For example, “Last chance: 50% off all jeans!” While these kinds of messages can be misleading, they are rarely malicious.


Scams on the other hand are messages sent with criminal intent. They try to get you to do something against the best interest of yourself, others or your company. These messages – known as text or email phishing - are intentionally deceitful, often made look like they are being sent by someone you know, and demand that you take urgent action. For example, “Urgent: account credentials required!” It’s common for these messages to include a link which if clicked on can jeopardize your personal information or download harmful software onto your computer or phone.
Information provided by KnowBe4.

Reminder: Never Share Login Credentials

If someone randomly came up to you and asked for your social security number on the street, would you give it to them? Absolutely not. What about your passwords? Okay, you’d probably still say no to a stranger, but what about if you received a text message from a number claiming to be your bank?
The American Bankers Association says it best: Banks Never Ask That. A bank will never ask for you to give login credentials over email, a phone or text message.
As scammers get craftier, it’s important to commit to protecting of all your accounts from entertainment to financial. One sure way is to eliminate password sharing. Additionally practice password diversification, which means using a different password for each account that you have. Here are some helpful do’s and don’ts for creating passwords:


  • Make your passwords long and unique to you.
  • Include upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols.
  • Update passwords frequently.
  • Utilize a secure password manager to keep track of your important accounts.


  • Include easily accessible information about you in your passwords (i.e., first name).
  • Put letters in alphabetical order or numbers in numerical order.
  • Use the same password across accounts or devices.
  • Store passwords somewhere that isn’t secure.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Fraud

If you think your bank account information has been compromised or you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.

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