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Avoid The Sucker Punch: 6 Scams On The Rise
Scams have been around for, well…forever. Whether it’s for information, money, or power, unsuspecting people have been duped time and time again.
According to the Federal Trade Commission, there have been more than 1.4 million reports of fraud in 2018. Twenty-five percent of those reports included a combined financial loss of $1.48 billion, a 38% increase over 2017.
How do scammers get away with cheating so many innocent people out of their money? Sometimes they don’t, but given the statistics, they score more often than you might think—a lot more. With advances in technology, the volume of personal information people are willing to divulge, and a little evil-minded creativity, scammers are getting smarter every day. If you’ve ever been a victim, you know how easy it is to fall prey, especially when you’re caught off guard.
Fraudsters concoct new ways of deceiving people daily, so it’s nearly impossible to cover them all. Here are six scams that have gained popularity and are making the rounds lately:
1. Facebook questions scam
Have you ever answered the random surveys on Facebook? Who was your first roommate in college? What was your first car? What’s your favorite food? How about “answer these 20 questions about yourself and then tag another person to do the same?” It may seem harmless, but you’re giving away a ton of private information that could jeopardize your account security. If scammers manage to get one or two of your questions and answers, they can easily reset the password to your social media accounts, bank account, Amazon account, Venmo or Paypal account, and more. In the meantime, keep scrolling when you see those question and answer posts.
2. The grandparent scam
Although this isn’t a new scam, reports of it have been on the rise lately.
A scammer has a child about the same age as the victim’s grandchild, call the grandparent in tears. “Hi Grandma, this is Johnny. Please don’t call my parents. I need you to bail me out of jail, and then I’ll explain.” Or it could be, “I got into a fight, and I’m at the hospital. I know I sound a little different, but that’s because my nose is broken…I have a terrible cold, or I’m really upset.” Whatever the excuse, they need money—and quick! A grandparent might offer a credit card number over the phone or wire cash with all intentions of getting the details later.
Seniors are especially vulnerable, so you need to impress upon them that any time a family member supposedly calls asking for money, they should be skeptical. How can they make sure it’s a real emergency? Hang up and call the grandchild back on their cell phone, call the courthouse if they’re asking for bail money, call the hospital if they need money to pay a bill, or call someone who can confirm their whereabouts. This scam is all about creating panic, so the victim simply reacts without trying to make sense of the situation.
3. Fortnite scam
With its 125 million players, Fortnite: Battle Royale might be the most popular video game in the world, but some of those players are there for a different kind of challenge.
V-bucks are the game’s currency, and oftentimes, scammers will offer players discounted or free V-bucks. The more V-bucks you have, the quicker you can elevate your game, and someone’s offering a deal? Heck, yeah! Just follow the simple instructions, and you’ll be advancing your “Battle Pass” standing in no time.
Most scammers will send you to a website where you share a code from your Fortnite account, which, in turn, will allow them access to your payment information. That third-party site will also lure you with tempting pop-up ads, too, which inevitably lead to downloaded malware. Stay focused on the game, play by the rules, and don’t share any personal information—it’s the only chance you have to be the last one standing!
4. Disaster relief scam
Sadly, in the wake of a disaster, fraudsters come out of the woodwork. They’ll create bogus charities, solicit donations from caring and genuinely concerned people who want to help, and then RUN!
Meanwhile, not only does the donor lose, but the cause it was intended for loses too. Take, for example, Hurricane Dorian, the category five storm that pummeled the Bahamas in September. The Tampa Bay Times reported that scammers posed as a popular television meteorologist and solicited donations that funded a phony Bahamas hurricane relief site.
How do you trust that you’re making a donation to a legitimate charity and that the money will benefit people in need? The most secure way is to do your research and verify the specific organization through Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, GuideStar, or the BBB’s Wise Giving Alliance. Never contribute by way of a social media platform. Instead, go directly to the charity’s website.
5. Airbnb scam
This Airbnb scam was active in 2017, but it seems to be rearing its ugly head again.
Most of us can agree that reserving an Airbnb is a relatively simple process. It can be significantly less expensive, more convenient, and just as comfy as a hotel room. It’s a fantastic alternative until you arrive at a house that’s already booked by someone else, or even worse, it doesn’t exist! How’s that for a dream vacation? Scammers are creating fake listings on the popular site and directing renters to a fraudulent third-party website to make their payment.
How do you avoid being caught up in this nightmare? You should never communicate outside of the Airbnb platform and never pay cash. Instead, use your verified bank account or credit card. Read the reviews and make sure they all sound like they’re describing the same place, and engage with the landlord through the Airbnb messaging system before you rent.
There’s also the reverse Google image verification. Once you find a place that looks like a viable option, make sure the images you see are the real deal. Right-click on an image, copy its URL and paste it in the search box at images.google.com. Hopefully, you’ll see the property that you expect.
6. Netflix scam
Netflix has 51 million paid subscribers around the world, which makes for a perfect place to phish for some chillin’ couch potatoes. Imagine this: You’re sitting down to watch the newest season of The Crown when you get an email that says your monthly payment couldn’t be processed and your account is scheduled to be suspended TODAY. The email looks official, but the logo is a little smaller than usual, and when you hoover over the “Click Here” link, you see ad oddly long URL.
If you clicked the link, you’d be directed to a page that looks like the Netflix website, where you can enter your credit card information. Submit it, and where does that information go? Straight into the scammer’s hands.
If you step back for a minute, you might notice that the name in the “To” line isn’t yours. The “From” line might include the word Netflix, but also a much longer URL. The subject line says “RE [Alert],” along with too much other random information. It’s a scam.
It may be quicker and easier to follow the link, but you run a significant risk of fraud for the few keystrokes you save. Instead, go to the company’s site, enter your username and password, and update your information within the safety of their system.
The Federal Trade Commission’s website includes an ongoing and cumulative list of scams and fraudulent activity. To file a complaint and open an investigation, click here.
New Venmo Scam Targets Payment App Users
“A new Venmo scam is making the rounds nationally, one that can lead to massive financial losses in your Venmo account.
Payment apps are a fairly new invention, especially peer-to-peer apps that are connected to your bank account or a credit card. Unfortunately, what is not new is phishing scams.”
Continuing reading this article at idtheftcenter.org.
Car Wrap/Car Advertising Scam
One of the biggest scams that we are seeing this year at Georgia’s Own Credit Union is the car wrap or car advertising scam.
Here’s how the scam operates:
You receive an email asking if they would like to make some money by having their car wrapped in a well-known brand logo (e.g. Oral B, Dr. Pepper, or Rock Star Energy Drink). The offer sounds good, especially since there is the option of removing the wrapped sticker after a number of months. Once the offer is accepted, the scammers will send a check for a large amount of money, according to the length of time the member wants to be a “mobile advertiser”.
The instructions for cashing the check indicate that a certain portion of the money is to be kept as the member’s payment and the rest is to be sent via wire transfer to the company who will supposedly wrap their vehicle. After wiring the money, the original check will be returned and the total amount of the check will be debited from your account.
Keep in Mind / Ways to Recognize this Scam:
- Remember, no major brand would hire just anybody to wrap their cars with advertising. It’s great to get paid to advertise on your car, but corporations are very careful about their image and typically have large marketing departments in-house.
- The scammers steal images from websites belonging to reputable companies that do professional car wrapping and make the email recipient believe it’s their business.
- Delete the email, not every online job opportunity that comes your way is real. If you receive a counterfeit check, please shred or you can contact ERM Security at [email protected]
Beware of Wire Fraud
Protecting our members from fraud is always a top priority at Georgia’s Own. One of the areas in which financial institutions are seeing an escalation of fraud relates to wire transfers. Unsuspecting members are deceived into transferring or receiving funds electronically to/from fraudsters. Wire fraud is an intentional act to defraud another individual or entity of his/its money and this is a federal crime.
Fraudsters use a variety of tools including phishing emails, compromised websites/emails, and fake friend requests on social media sites to commit these crimes.
Examples of Wire Fraud:
- Wire request sent to an individual’s name for a real estate closing, instead of an Attorney’s office.
- An email is sent from “a family member who is in jail”, or a person “getting a divorce and they don’t want the rest of the family to know, and they need help”, so the money has to be sent to the lawyer representing them.
- An email is sent from “a member who is travelling overseas and needs some money wired to them because they got robbed in a foreign country and they have no cash.”
- A social media friend sent an email that they received an inheritance and they want to transfer the funds to the United States. The recipient is then asked if the money could temporarily be deposited to the recipient’s account and an offer is made to pay a percentage of the money to the recipient, once the money is transferred to a safer bank. The victim would provide their account number for the transfer to be completed.
Always verify where the money is supposed to be wired to — especially if you get wire instructions by email. Hackers can alter emails (even from people you’ve been working with for several weeks) and instruct you to send money to the wrong place. Be vigilant; always call the recipient to verbally verify the wire instructions. Anyone can be a victim of this type of fraud and should take every precaution to protect themselves.
When you receive funds into your account it’s important to verify you actually received a “real wire deposit” into your account. Fraudsters like to take advantage of their victims when they sense the victim is somewhat confused by promising to send a wire transfer but actually sending the funds using a different (reversible) method. Ask yourself these questions:
- Who sent the funds?
- What were the funds for?
- Where did the funds come from?
Preventing Wire Fraud:
Here are some general rules you should follow to guard against becoming a victim of fraudulent wire requests.
- Confirm email requests from a known party by phone or in person, in case their email has been hacked.
- Be wary of email-only wire transfer requests and requests involving urgency.
- Never wire money to people whom you don’t know – regardless of how convincing or legitimate their wire request looks and sounds.
- Ignore any offer from someone you don’t know who asks you to deposit a check in your account and then instructs you to wire that money to someone else.
- Never open attachments in unsolicited email.
- Frequently update anti-virus and anti-malware programs.
- Closely monitor your bank accounts on a daily basis.
What should a Georgia’s Own member do if they become a victim of a wire fraud? Please contact [email protected]. We also recommend that members contact local law enforcement, as well as the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (ic3) at www.ic3.gov.
With fraud scams becoming more sophisticated and more prevalent, Georgia’s Own is not only ensuring our policies and procedures are thorough and practiced, but we also want to educate our members on what they can do to avoid being victims of fraud. That’s why we remain committed at Georgia’s Own to protecting our members from being victims of fraud. We also want to raise awareness as to what our members should do to stop these fraudsters. After all, prevention is the best protection when it comes to fraudulent activity.
New Scam Alert: Spoofing
A unique type of technology now enables fraudsters to fake the number they are calling from by making a false number appear on your caller ID. It’s extremely effective, because the number displayed appears to be your bank’s correct contact number.
This scam is called number spoofing. Using specialized technology, the number appears on the victim’s caller ID display. Here is what you need to know:
- Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof any number so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
- Don’t give personal information. Don’t provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct. Georgia’s Own would never ask members to verify your full SS#, full card number, card expiration date, CVV or PIN number.
- If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.
The best advice to beat the scam is simple – never assume that someone is who they purport to be just because the number displayed on your caller ID matches that of an organization you know. Always be suspicious if you’re asked for your four-digit PIN or full online banking passwords. Same goes for transferring or withdrawing money or giving your card to a courier. Remember, your Credit Union will never ask you to do any of these things.