Scam Season is Here
The winds start to change, temperatures turn cooler, and the scammers stay inside creating fraud schemes. Who are we kidding? They are always finding new and innovative ways to get inside our wallets. But it is a bit more noticeable during the holiday season. Is it that they scam more? Or perhaps with everyone busy figuring out their holiday schedule and shopping (which is even more taxing during Covid-19) that we just let our guard down? Or does it just seem crueler to steal from someone around a holiday? Whatever it is, here are a few scams Credit Union of America has recently seen.
Evergy/Utility Call Scam
Have you received a call from a suspicious source saying they are with a utility company? Heavy static on the call and callers with heavy accents are common. Where a legitimate caller may speak with an accent, usually it will not be so thick that you have trouble understanding them, or their command of the English language will be better. Often the calls are automated, and they indicate that your power or service will be turned off in 30 minutes for a past due balance. It then instructs you to press one for more information. When you do, a live person answers. They will know your name and your address, but that is about it. The scammer then asks you for a confirmation/account number. If you cannot provide that quickly, they threaten to shut off your service. These calls often happen on the weekend. Your first clue? Utility companies do not terminate service on a weekend. If you get a call like this, hang up immediately. If you are still questioning the validity, contact the utility through their website or a phone number from their website, phone directory, or recent bill.
Individuals are contacted and urged to deposit money provided by a “company” that donates to charities. The victim is under the impression that they are employed by this company and they need the victim’s help disbursing funds to various charitable organizations. Fraudulent checks are given to the victim and they deposit it in their own account. Then, the victim is instructed to send funds to different charities. The initial checks deposited come back as a fraudulent item. The victim is out the money they sent, and the scammer receives the "charity checks" at an address they provided to the victim that’s likely a post office box or a street address where the victim’s checks are collected. The scammer closes the PO box or steals the checks from a legitimate address to cover their tracks.
Unfortunately, scammers love to hit people when they are down, such as when looking for jobs due to a COVID-19 layoff. It works like this: An individual applies for a job on a website that posts multiple job openings. The site is not the scammer. The "company" posting the job is. The victim is offered a job where they are urged to deposit large check(s) and then use the funds to purchase supplies to start working. The checks are fraudulent, the victim is out the money, AND they have no new job.
Secret Shopper Job Scam
During the pandemic and especially around the holidays, many take on side jobs to help ends meet or to supplement their budget for holiday spending. A job that is often a front for a scam is that of being a secret shopper. While there are many legitimate shopper opportunities, the scam works like this: Individual applies for the secret shopper job online. They get the job and then receive a check in the mail from the “employer” with instructions to deposit the check, withdrawal the funds, and go right away to purchase gift cards at a specific store. They are told to scratch the fields on the gift cards, call the phone number on the employer letter, and provide the gift card numbers to the person on the phone as "verification" that they completed the secret shopper job. The "employer" may even ask questions about the transaction. i.e. Did the clerk say hello, use your name, say thank you, etc. to make it seem more legitimate. Well, the fake employer takes the information and uses it to make purchases. All the while, the innocent employee does not get to use the gift cards as they have already been spent, they do not get a paycheck, and the original check is returned to the employee's account as fraudulent. In essence, the employee used their own money to buy the gift cards.
Common Fraud with Smart Phone Deposits
An individual is either expecting money from a loan they applied for from an unknown financial entity or someone they only know online was going to send them money. The victim gives out their online banking credentials (username, password, account number) expecting to receive the funds sent straight to their account. Fraudulent checks are deposited from the unknown source into the victim's account, they spend the money, the checks come back as fraudulent, and the victim is out the money. Since the criminal now has access to the bank account, they may even spend the victim's money that was in the account before the deposits.
There are many variations of these scams. If something seems odd, out of place, or your gut senses something is wrong, call your trusted credit union at 800.256.8049 before you give out information, or make deposits to your account from funding sources you are not personally sure of. We're ready to help and will be happy for you when you thwart a scam!