One of our main goals is to keep your account safe from fraud. One of the best ways we can do this is to inform our members about prevalent scams.
We would like to bring awareness to scams we have noticed becoming more common and widespread. One specific scam we have witnessed is the Secret Shopper Scam.
This scam typically begins as an email or a pop-up on your computer from a well-known retailer asking if you would like to make some additional money secret shopping their stores. This seems like a great way to make a couple extra dollars so some individuals have provided some personal information to get started.
Participants will then receive a cashier’s check in the mail with instructions to deposit the check into their account, which will “activate” their employment. Additional instructions will say to keep some of the funds from the cashier’s check as an advance payment and wire transfer or buy gift cards with the remainder. The purpose of this is to convert fraudulent funds into legitimate funds resulting in the victim taking a significant loss.
Here are some tips to help you avoid falling victim to this scam:
- Never wire money to someone you haven’t met in person. Wiring money is the same as sending cash. Once a wire has been sent, funds can’t be recovered.
- Never take pictures of gift cards and send the information to anyone. The picture contains enough information that the gift cards can be redeemed.
- Never agree to deposit a check from someone you don’t know.
- Never provide your online banking credentials to anyone!
Another scam we have witnessed is the Sweetheart Scam.
Sweetheart scammers are talented con artists who prey on vulnerable people by pretending to fall in love with them in order to win their trust and steal their money. While sweetheart scams can happen face-to-face, today’s scam often take place online. Scammers frequently use social media to create fake identities on popular dating websites or apps like Facebook or Instagram.
Signs of a Sweetheart Scam:
- A new friend request or message from an “old friend” attempting to reconnect.
- An individual who states they recently lost a spouse or experiences a tragic event. This pulls on people’s heartstrings in a manner that someone may feel guilty ignoring the attempt to connect.
- These individuals often claim to be a US Citizen traveling or working outside of the country.
- The scammers work to gain the trust of their victims by presenting a façade of unconditional love and support in a manner that can seem highly comforting.
- The scammer will offer to “take care” of their victim by offering to pay their bills.
The scammers are patient and will keep up the disguise until they earn the victims trust and make them believe they are in a committed relationship. It is at this point the scammer will begin to ask for money. Many scammers will request their victims provide them their online banking credentials so they can make a payment to their credit card. They often make a large overpayment and ask for the victim to purchase gift cards with the funds. Again, this is an attempt to convert fraudulent money into legitimate funds, which is the specific goal of this scam. It is at this point that these payments begin to be returned to the financial institution as “no such account” leaving the victim with a credit card that is significantly over the limit.
The dark beauty of these types of scams is the scammers have tricked their victims to do all the dirty work and they are left holding the loss. We would be happy to review any situation you may be suspicious of prior to any deposits or withdrawals being made. The large majority of these scams could have been stopped by not sharing online banking credentials or not purchasing gift cards. If you feel that you have received a fraudulent check or had a suspicious encounter regarding your account, please contact the credit union to speak to one of our representatives at 303.239.1150.