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Staying educated on the latest scams and schemes can save you from becoming a victim of fraud and crime.
All information below is courtesy of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI). Please take time to visit their website for a full list of scams and more descriptions on how to avoid becoming a victim.
Listed below are some of the most commonly experienced scams and schemes, but there are certainly many more. Please take the time to educate yourself, your family, friends and colleagues. It can save you from experiencing financial losses and from becoming a victim of Identity Theft.
Achy Fakey Heart
You’ve heard of romance scams. But do you know how they happen? They start when scammers create fake profiles on dating apps or social media. Then, those scammers strike up a relationship with their targets and work to build trust. Sometime later, they make up a story and ask for money. So how do you spot a romance scammer? Here are some things to watch for.
Advance Fee Schemes
An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value—such as a loan, contract, investment, or gift—and then receives little or nothing in return.
Bitcoin or Cryptocurrency Scams
Bitcoin is a type of cryptocurrency or digital money. Cryptocurrency scams are now a popular way for scammers to trick people into sending money. The FTC website lists ways to avoid a cryptocurrency scam.
Charity Fundraiser Scams
When you get a call from a charity fundraiser, how do you know the caller is telling you the truth? Here are a few tips from the FTC.
Fake Check Scam Targeting College Students
A scammer posing as a professor sends you an email. It uses a college domain name and a format like email@example.com. The scammer offers you a job. Then, the scammer sends you a check, asks you to deposit it, send some of the money to someone else, and keep the rest as payment. The bank notices the check is fake and deducts the original check amount from your account. So, if you deposited a $1,000 check, they’ll take that back. But if you sent $400 to someone else, you’re now out $400 of your own money. Read more about this fake check scam.
Gift Card Scam
Did someone tell you to pay with gift cards? It’s a scam. Did they say you’ve won a prize or they're from the government and calling about a problem with your Social Security number? And, to collect your prize or solve the issue, you have to pay with gift cards? If they insist that you pay by gift card, it's a scam. Read more and watch a video about this scam by the FTC.
Gift Card From Your Boss Scam
Did you get an email from your boss asking you for a favor? Does your boss need you to send gift cards to pay for an upcoming office party? Before you go out and pay up, ask yourself: is that really your boss? It could be a scammer trying to get your money. Read more about getting an unexpected email from your boss asking for a gift card.
Jury Duty Scam
The phone rings. You pick it up, and the caller identifies himself as an officer of the court. He says you failed to report for jury duty and that a warrant is out for your arrest. You say you never received a notice. To clear it up, the caller says he’ll need some information for "verification purposes"—your birth date, social security number, maybe even a credit card number.
This is when you should hang up the phone. It’s a scam.
"Congratulations! You may receive a certified check for up to $400,000,000 U.S. CASH! One Lump sum! Tax Free! Your odds to WIN are 1-6. Hundreds of U.S. citizens win every week using our secret system! You can win as much as you want!"
Sound too good to be true? That’s because it is. International con artists use lottery scams such as this to defraud Americans out of more than $120 million a year.
What should you know about foreign lotteries? They’re illegal. Federal law prohibits the cross-border sale or purchase of lottery tickets by phone or mail. They’re losing propositions. Foreign lottery scam artists will drain your bank account or steal the money you sent to pay for the tickets, duties, and taxes.
Natural Disaster Fraud
Hurricanes and other natural disasters bring out the best in people, who volunteer to help with cleanup efforts and make charitable contributions to victims. But a disaster also brings out the worst in people—and not just crooks and scam artists. Donate to relief efforts by visiting charitable websites directly. Do not click links in emails, texts or donate via unexpected phone calls. Contact the charity yourself and donate.
Nigerian Letter or "419" Fraud
Nigerian letter frauds combine the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter mailed from Nigeria offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars that the author—a self-proclaimed government official—is trying to transfer illegally out of Nigeria. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationery, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a fax number provided in the letter. Some of these letters have also been received via email through the Internet. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim, who has demonstrated a “propensity for larceny” by responding to the invitation, to send money to the author of the letter in Nigeria in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons.
- If you receive a letter from Nigeria asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply in any manner. Send the letter to the U.S. Secret Service, your local FBI office, or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. You can also register a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission’s Complaint Assistant.
- If you know someone who is corresponding in one of these schemes, encourage that person to contact the FBI or the U.S. Secret Service as soon as possible.
- Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials asking for your help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
- Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
No money, honey.
It’s never too late to find love, and lots of dating sites and apps are there to help. But scammers are out to steal your heart, too…and then steal your money. This Older Americans Month, let’s talk about romance scams. These can happen when someone makes a fake profile on dating sites, apps and social media. They then message you to get a relationship going, build your trust, and connect.
Then, they hit you up for money. “Baby, I want to come see you but I’m short on funds. Can you send me $500 for a ticket?” Or, “I love you, honey. But we may not be able to talk anymore because my phone is about to get cut off. I need $300 to pay the bill…” Get the idea?
In the name of love, you send money. They come back with other lies to get still more money. Then the messages stop. You can’t reach them. They’ve taken off with a piece of your heart and big chunk of your wallet.
Read more on how you can avoid these heartless imposters.
Online Auction Fraud
There are a variety of online auction frauds, but here are some of the more common ones to watch out for:
- Overpayment fraud targets the seller. A seller advertises a high-value item—like a car or a computer—on the Internet. A scammer contacts the seller to purchase the item, then sends the seller a counterfeit check or money order for an amount greater than the price of the item. The purchaser asks the seller to deposit the payment, deduct the actual sale price, and then return the difference to the purchaser.
- Wire transfer schemes start with fraudulent and misleading ads for the sale of high-value items being posted on well-known online auction sites. When buyers take the bait, they are directed to wire money to the crooks using a money transfer company. Once the money changes hands, the buyer never hears from them again.
- Second-chance schemes involve scammers who offer losing bidders of legitimate auctions the opportunity to buy the item(s) they wanted at reduced prices. They usually require that victims send payment through money transfer companies, but then don’t follow through on delivery.
Online Dating Scam
Here’s how the scam usually works. You’re contacted online by someone who appears interested in you. He or she may have a profile you can read or a picture that is emailed to you. For weeks, even months, you may chat back and forth with one another, forming a connection. You may even be sent flowers or other gifts. But eventually, a time will come when your new-found “friend” is going to ask you for money. So you send money…but rest assured the requests won’t stop there. There will be more hardships that only you can help alleviate with your financial gifts. Your friend may also send you checks to cash since he or she is out of the country and can’t cash the checks themselves, or your friend may ask you to forward a package to him or her. In addition to losing your money to someone who had no intention of ever visiting you, you may also have unknowingly taken part in a money laundering scheme by cashing phony checks and sending the money overseas, and by shipping stolen merchandise (the forwarded package).
Reveton is described as drive-by malware because unlike many viruses—which activate when users open a file or attachment—this one can install itself when users simply click on a compromised website. Once infected, the victim’s computer immediately locks, and the monitor displays a screen stating there has been a violation of federal law.
The bogus message goes on to say that the user’s Internet address was identified by the FBI or the Department of Justice’s Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Section as having been associated with child pornography sites or other illegal online activity. To unlock their machines, users are required to pay a fine using a prepaid money card service.
The IC3 (Internet Crime Complaint Center) suggests the following if you become a victim of the Reveton virus:
- Do not pay any money or provide any personal information.
- Contact a computer professional to remove Reveton and Citadel from your computer.
- Be aware that even if you are able to unfreeze your computer on your own, the malware may still operate in the background. Certain types of malware have been known to capture personal information such as user names, passwords, and credit card numbers through embedded keystroke logging programs.
- File a complaint and look for updates about the Reveton virus on the IC3 website.
Rental Car Scams
Scammers are posing as rental car companies, setting up their own websites, and advertising fake customer service phone numbers, all to convince travelers they’re legit. Then, they’re asking people to pre-pay with a gift card or prepaid debit card. To avoid rental car scammers driving off with your money, read more.
Romance scammers are wooing people on dating apps and social media by lifting photos to create an attractive profile or stealing the identity of someone else. They will take the time to gain trust. Last year, people reported a median loss of $2,600 from romance scams.
Click here for more information from the FTC with ways to avoid romance scams.
Senior Citizen Fraud
The threat to seniors is growing…and changing. Baby boomers (born between 1946 and 1964) are now the largest segment of our population—about 78 million people. That means that the number of senior citizens is rising. Many younger boomers also have considerable computer skills, so criminals are modifying their targeting techniques—using not only traditional telephone calls and mass mailings, but also online scams like phishing and email spamming.
Below are a few tips to avoid being victimized:
- Shred credit card receipts and old bank statements.
- Close unused credit card or bank accounts.
- Don’t give out personal information via the phone, mail, or Internet unless you initiated the contact.
- Never respond to an offer you don’t understand.
- Talk over investments with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor.
- Require all plans and purchases to be in writing.
- Don’t pay in advance for services.
Social Security Scams
A growing scam of people calling and pretended to be from the Social Security Administration (SSA) and try to get your Social Security number or your money is happening. Click here for some examples of what these Social Security scams sound like.
Spotting Scammy Emails
Let’s say you get an email about a charge to your credit card for something you aren’t expecting or don’t want. Your first instinct may be to immediately call the company or respond to the email and to stop the payment. Scammers know that, and are taking advantage of it in a new phishing scheme. Read more.
Tech Support Scam
How can you spot a tech support scam? Before you click the link in the pop up or call that number, stop. Talk to someone you trust. Read and watch a video about tech support scams by the FTC.
Everyone’s seen them—seductive work-at-home opportunities hyped in flyers tacked to telephone poles, in newspaper classifieds, in your email, and all over the web, promising you hundreds or thousands of dollars a week for typing, stuffing envelopes, processing medical billing, etc. And it’s just a phone call or mouse click away...
These opportunities might be tempting during these uncertain economic times, but beware of any offers that promise easy money for minimum effort—many are scams that fill the coffers of criminals.
Below are a few of the most common work-at-home scams:
- Advance-fee: Starting a home-based business is easy! Just invest a few hundred dollars in inventory, set-up, and training materials, they say. Of course, if and when the materials do come, they are totally worthless…and you’re stuck with the bill.
- Counterfeit check-facilitated “mystery shopper”: You’re sent a hefty check and asked to deposit it into your bank account, then withdraw funds to shop and check out the service of local stores and wire transfer companies. You keep a small amount of the money for your “work,” but then, as instructed, mail or wire the rest to your “employer.” Sound good? One problem: the initial check was phony, and by the time your bank notifies you, your money is long gone and you’re on the hook for the counterfeit check.
- Pyramid schemes: You’re hired as a “distributor” and shell out big bucks for promotional materials and product inventories with little value (like get-rich quick pamphlets). You’re promised money for recruiting more distributors, so you talk friends and family into participating. The scheme grows exponentially but then falls apart—the only ones who make a profit are the criminals who started it.
- Unknowing involvement in criminal activity: Criminals—often located overseas—sometimes use unwitting victims to advance their operations, steal and launder money, and maintain anonymity. For example, they may “hire" you as a U.S.-based agent to receive and re-ship checks, merchandise, and solicitations to other potential victims…without you realizing it’s all a ruse that leaves no trail back to the crooks.
“You’ve won! Now pay us” Scam
If you get a call from someone saying, “You’ve won,” don’t believe the hype. They'll ask you to pay a processing fee, shipping fee, or taxes to claim your prize. Don't let them steal your money. Read more about this scam at the FTC's comsumer information website.
Remember, NWSB Bank will never:
- Call, email or text you asking for your Online Banking password, Wire PIN, token codes, account numbers or debit card numbers. If you receive such a call, email or text message, do NOT give out any information.
- Direct you to a website that asks you to update your personal account information.
- Send an email to you containing computer software updates.
- Visit your place of business and request to perform maintenance on your computer.
Important: If you receive a phone call, email or text message that you question, please take the time to call and ask us to validate the communication before taking any other action. Do not use the contact information provided in the email or text message that you receive. Use the number advertised on our web site or on the back of your debit/credit card so you know you are speaking to us.