Scammers and their acts of fraud pose as many different wolves, all in sheep’s clothing. The more you know about scams, the more likely you will avoid them. Here's what we have seen recently:
They prey on good hearts, those that trust without question, and even lonely individuals of all ages.
- Fictitious profiles
- Overly attractive online selfies. Looks too good to be true? It likely is.
- Individual quickly asks for monetary help.
- Working on an oil rig, in the military, or a doctor working for an international organization.
- Living, working or traveling outside of the United States.
Romancers ask for money to pay for:
- Travel expenses, documents, and tickets
- Medical expenses
- Customs fees
- Gambling debts
- Court costs and even bail!
Romancers ask you to pay them or their friend by:
- Wiring money
- Using reloadable cards
- Purchasing well-known gift cards. e.g., Amazon, Google Play, or iTunes. These methods are almost impossible to reverse, and the scammer can get cash by these means quickly and anonymously.
How to avoid a romance scammer
- Never send money to a “sweetheart” you haven’t met in person.
- When tempted, check with your financial institution first. Don't be embarrassed to ask. You'll be regarded as sharp, intelligent, and wise if you ask first!
- If you send money and regret it, still tell your financial institution. At CUA, we'll do our best to advise you on the next steps, all without judgment.
- If you suspect something:
- Stop communicating with the contact immediately.
- Search for the type of job the sweetheart says they have to see if other people have heard similar stories. e.g., search for oil rig scammer
- Perform a reverse image search of the person's photo to see if it's associated with another name or details that don't match up, indicating a possible scam.
- Run the situation by a trusted friend.
- Contact your financial institution if your account information is compromised or if you're involved in a scam.
- If you paid a scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. They may be able to cancel the card and reimburse you, but don’t count on it.
- Report it to the FTC at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.
- Report it to the website or app where you met the scammer.
Sources: Federal Trade Commission, EPCOR
Individuals apply for a job or are contacted by an “employer” to start a new job, usually a work-from-home situation. The employee is sent money and told to use the funds to purchase equipment for the job. This often includes buying gift cards to send back to the "company" to purchase the programs needed to do the job. In one recent instance, the new employer paid off the employee’s credit card so they'd have an available balance. The member then used their available balance to purchase thousands of dollars in gift cards to send back to the company. The credit card payments/deposits from these companies were returned as fraud. The individual lost their own money when buying the gift cards.
Never pay a deposit to collect lottery or contest winnings. Scammers direct you to send thousands of dollars to receive hundreds of thousands, millions, or even billions of dollars in winnings. You may need to pay taxes on legitimate winnings, but taxes won’t be due before receiving your winnings. We've had individuals want to take out loans, send wires, or make large withdrawals to collect their winnings. CUA will question these transactions and then advise you on avoiding a loss of your money if this is a scam, which it almost certainly is.
Compromised Online/Mobile Banking
CUA deploys and routinely updates state-of-the-art technology to protect your accounts 24/7 which will protect your account from intrusions that try to attack the credit union’s systems. However, you must also play a part in protecting access points to your personal accounts.
- Keep your computer/device protection software up to date.
- Choose complicated passwords and change them frequently. Not just on your financial accounts but on your e-mail and social accounts.
- Use a password manager service to assist you in making passwords solid and unique, and BONUS, you won’t have to remember them.
- Increase your layers of security by using two-factor authentication (2FA) on any account that offers it.
- Use a VPN on your computer and smartphone, so your internet connections are encrypted and anonymous.
- Install and maintain a strong antivirus program on your computers, phones, and other devices.
- Secure your router and Wi-Fi.
- Keep all operating systems up to date.
Protecting Your E-mail Can Protect Your Accounts
- E-mail is a vast area of risk. If someone can get into your e-mail, they may have easy access to your financial accounts, including investment and retirement portals. You will typically receive password reset e-mails from your retail/online store, debit/credit card, and financial accounts, making your e-mail a primary point of compromise.
- Don't click on attachments or links that are unexpected or from unknown senders. Email/Messenger/etc. hackers can hack your friend's account and send malicious items that hack your account when opened.
- Never use public Wi-Fi or public computers to log into any of your accounts, e.g., CU/Bank, e-mail, Facebook.
We've had a few instances where someone is asked to help a friend or friend of a friend negotiate checks. Scammers might tell you that the unknown friend doesn't have a bank account, or their bank isn't local, so they can’t deposit a check. The member is given the check to deposit and is usually advised to deposit via ATM or mobile deposit/SnapCheck. Then they're told to send the funds via Cash App/Venmo or withdraw the cash and give it to the friend. The checks are returned, usually as stolen checks. We advise members not to use their account to process transactions for others as they will always be responsible if the transaction is returned/reversed or fraudulent. The account holder will be liable and will sustain a monetary loss.
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