Fraud comes in many forms. Unfortunately, the tougher the economy gets the more the criminals look for ways to take from unsuspecting individuals. Sad to say we know some customers or family members that have been victims of fraud. Some victims are too ashamed to let their family know that they were taken advantage of. When caught early enough there could be measures to take to retrieve some of the money.
There has been a tremendous increase in fraudulent cashier’s checks and money orders, which has caused a loss for some of our customers. With the rise in social networking (such as Facebook and Twitter) there is also a rise in con-artists taking advantage of unsuspecting individuals.
Here are some popular scams we’ve seen at Home State Bank:
Lottery and contest winner: You receive a letter via mail or email stating that you are the winner of a lottery or contest. You are then sent a check and asked to deposit it and wire back a portion of the funds. The truth is you NEVER have to pay money to receive money you have won.
Online selling of items: You are selling something online and the buyer sends you a check for more than the selling price and wants you to wire or send them a cashier’s check for the difference. It is a scam and the check could be fraudulent.
Online dating or social networking sites: Someone you meet online, maybe through a dating service or social meeting website sends you a check asking you to deposit it and then wire the funds. You are not a bank and shouldn’t have to act like one.
Social Media Tragedy Scams: A popular scam on social networking sites, the “tragedy message” appears to come from a friend or family member and claims that a negative event, such as a fire or medical emergency, has taken place. The scammer then asks for money to be wired or transferred for help right away. Never send money without first confirming information or contacting the friend or family member directly. In addition, be wary of social media posts that contain suspicious hyperlinks, which could take you to malicious websites.
Charity Scams: Charity scams can involve emails, phone calls or mailings asking for donations to fake charities. Always confirm the validity of a charity before sending any money. The Better Business Bureau offers the following website to verify the existence of charities: http://www.bbb.org/us/charity/.
Fake iTunes Gift Certificate Phishing Scam: Cybercriminals continue to use the popularity of Apple devices, especially iPods, iPhones and iPads, to distribute phishing email. A new phishing scam that promises a $50 iTunes gift certificate has been reported. This message has the subject line “iTunes Gift Certificate,” with a malicious zip file attached. While it is possible to get a great deal on these devices, be wary of any online advertisements or suspicious emails that promise extremely low prices or free giveaways. In addition, only conduct online shopping at known and reputable websites that you visit directly. Lastly, don’t trust hyperlinks or attachments within emails, as they may take you to fake sites or contain viruses.
Secret/Mystery Shopper: You may receive a letter offering you advance payment from a business or organization for work you will be performing. One scam is that in response to a newspaper employment ad part of your job is to wire funds to the business or organization to test their system as a type of “secret or mystery shopper”.
Timeshare: There are legitimate ways to sell your condo or timeshare but it takes some research on your part to verify the validity of the service. Some of the fraudsters even have a legitimate looking website but their practice is based solely on stealing your money in an attempt to sell your timeshare for you. Any fees that you would owe from selling your timeshare/condo should be deducted from the selling price and you shouldn’t have to pay any upfront fees. Especially beware of any company that initiates a conversation with you wanting to sell your unused condo/timeshare. Some of these criminals are very convincing in their approach and make you want to believe that they have your best interest in mind. They can tend to be very aggressive in their attempts to get you to do what they want you to do.
A few things to remember are:
- Once a wire is processed, there is no way to get your money back.
- Never give anyone your debit or credit card information.
- Protect all of your passwords! Never use passwords that are easy to figure out such as your children or pet’s name, your birthday or hometown. Passwords should contain a mixture of numbers, letters and characters. Don’t share your password with anyone and don’t use the same password for all of your logins.
- Have appropriate security controls installed on home computers, such as an Internet firewall, up-to-date antivirus software and current security patches and updates.
- Following these tips will help prevent you from falling victim to Internet scams.