Bravo Star Falls Victim to Imposter Scam



Bravo Television personality Andy Cohen recently appeared on the Today Show, revealing that he had fallen victim to an imposter scam. He had lost his debit card and, the next day, received an email that appeared to be from his bank’s fraud alert department. It was not.

Scams come through many different channels — including text, voice calls, and emails. In an imposter scam, the victim receives a fake fraud prevention alert via text, pretending to originate from a bank or credit union. It often includes information about a suspected fraudulent purchase from a major retailer. It might provide a fake number to call or link to click in the initial message, or you might be asked to reply “yes” or “no” to verify that you made the listed transaction.

If you reply, the scammer will call you pretending to be from your financial institution’s fraud department — they can even spoof the phone number, so it appears it is coming from your trusted institution. IF YOU ARE CONTACTED, DO NOT REPLY. JUST HANG UP OR IGNORE IT AND CALL YOUR INSTITUTION’S LEGITIMATE, PUBLISHED NUMBER TO VERIFY.

There are many different imposter scams, including:

  • Super low-priced offers for streaming services such as Netflix
  • Phony job offers
  • Alerts about package deliveries (UPS, USPS, FEDEX)
  • Fake Amazon security alerts

Many people admitted to providing their Social Security numbers and other personal information to the scammers.

In Cohen’s case, they were after his bank account. He clicked a link in the fraudulent email, which took him to what appeared to be his bank’s sign-in page. He entered his information, unknowingly giving the scammers access to his account. He eventually discovered the alerts were not legitimate, but the damage had been done.

“When money is wired out of your account, it’s gone,” Cohen said. “This is an active case with the NYPD Cyber Security Unit. It’s very easy to fall prey to.”

The scheme was quite elaborate, and you can read all about it (or watch the video) and get Cohen’s tips for avoiding the same misfortune at the Today Show website.

Remember: The First Bank and Trust Company of Murphysboro will never contact you by email, text or phone to ask you for personal account information — that includes your card number, PIN, account number, online banking password. Never reveal this information to someone who contacts you. Never click on links or respond to unexpected texts.

Better safe than sorry — if you are not sure a message is legit, contact us at 618-687-1711 or via email at Do not use the information in the text message. For more helpful information on fraud and scams, or to report fraud, visit Texting is cheap and easy, and scammers are counting on the ding of an incoming text being hard to ignore.



How to Avoid Identity Theft Online: 4 Internet Safety Tips

A little bit of vigilance goes a long way when it comes to protecting your identity online. Adding an extra layer of security can be as simple as keeping an eye on your accounts, looking out for suspicious activity, and shredding sensitive documents. Some data breaches are out of our control, like when retailers or other companies get hacked. We must trust certain entities to handle personal data, but we encourage people to do all they can to protect their private information.

Complete privacy is difficult in the digital age, so users must be cautious and wary. Take these precautions to make sure identity thieves do not steal your personal information.

Monitor Your Credit Reports

Keeping an eye on your credit is an important way to make sure no one is trying to mess with your personal financial information. If you want to see who is making inquiries about you credit, you can request a free credit report from any of the three national credit reporting companies:

We recommend reviewing your credit reports occasionally to make sure there is no suspicious activity, and everything appears as expected.

If you want an extra layer of protection, a credit freeze is an effective line of defense against fraud and identity theft. As of September 2018, there is no cost, so learn how to freeze your credit for free.

Be On the Lookout For Unusual Statements Or Bills

Pay attention to statements, receipts, and bills. If you are signed up for electronic bills or statements, it is easy for them to get lost in your email inbox. Regularly looking at statements will help you notice if there is suspicious activity happening in any of your accounts. If you become a target for fraud, you will want to catch it as soon as possible and contact your bank for help.

Shred Documents Containing Financial Or Personal Information

Do not throw sensitive documents in the trash! Use a paper shredder or shredding service to dispose of anything with your full name, phone number, address, social security number, bank account information or other private personal details. Check out this helpful shredding guide, and consider shredding documents such as:

  • ATM Receipts
  • Bank and Credit Card Statements
  • Paid Bills and Invoices
  • Pay Stubs
  • Credit Offers

Use Caution While Traveling

You are more vulnerable to certain types of fraud and identity theft while traveling. If you want to protect your identity online while traveling, take extra precautions. Let your bank know where you’re going and how long you’ll be gone and ask the post office to hold your mail. If any bills are due while you are gone, see if you can plan payments before you leave.

While you are on your trip, observe extra safety measures to protect your personal items and information.

  • If you need to pay a bill online while you’re away, make sure you’re connected to a secure Wi-Fi network.
  • Ask your hotel if your room has a safe and use the safe to protect valuables and extra cash when you’re not in your room.
  • Exercise caution when using your debit card to pay local vendors and retailers; when in doubt, pay with cash.
  • Carry copies of important travel documents, and make sure to store them separately from the original versions. It is also a good idea to have a digital copy of your passport stored online, just in case.