Every year, scammers and identity thieves steal countless dollars and sensitive data from unsuspecting consumers. Many communication methods are used to initiate these attacks, such as telephone calls, text messages, emails, regular postal mail, and internet websites. Scammers use tactics like attempting to gain your trust, pressuring you to cooperate or else legal action will be taken, or describing an immediate or urgent need to provide sensitive information or money, to trick you into the scam. While each scam may look a little different, they all have the same goal in mind.
Protecting your information and your money is a top priority for Dutch Point Credit Union. Knowing how to spot a scam can help you avoid becoming a victim. Here are a few examples of the most common scams circulating the marketplace today, and ways you can protect yourself, your finances, and your personal information.
Now more than ever, fraudsters are attempting to use the COVID-19 crisis to take advantage of consumers. Here are a few examples of coronavirus scams reported by consumers.
- Vaccine Scams: If you get a call, text, email, or even a person at your door offering access to the vaccine in exchange for payment or your personal information, it’s a scam. Visit your state and local health department websites to find out how, when, and where to get a COVID-19 vaccine in your community.
- Phishing Scams: Scammers send emails which contain an infected attachment or a link to a malicious website. The emails are made to appear like they come from the Centers For Disease Control or the World Health Organization. Never click on links in emails or texts you didn’t expect to receive.
- Government Relief Check Scams: Fraudsters pretend to be from a "government agency" offering a special stimulus grant. Clicking on a link takes you to a bogus webpage where you are asked to enter personal information and/or banking details. The links may also download malicious software onto your computer. The government will never reach out to request this information from you – anyone who does is a scammer.
Text Message Scams
Identity thieves pose as credit union representatives and send a text asking you to verify an account transaction. When you reply, the fraudsters call and lead you to believe your account information has been compromised. They request online banking login information as a form of verifying your identity, but what they’re really doing is logging into your account, changing your password and your contact information, and stealing your money. Avoid providing personal information when you did not initiate the call or text message. Never give your secure access code to someone else as a means of identification.
Gift Card Scams
Scammers will ask you to pay for something with gift cards, whether they say they are from the IRS collecting taxes, from Tech Support trying to fix your computer, or even a family member in an emergency. What they all have in common is an urgent need for you to send money right away. Once you buy the gift card, the caller will demand the gift card number and PIN on the back of the card. Those numbers let them immediately get the money you loaded onto the card. And once they’ve done that, the scammers and your money are gone, usually without a trace. Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer.
Mystery Shopper Scams
A scammer reaches out to you to be a secret shopper, where you’ll need to evaluate the performance of a store and/or its employees, or evaluate the effectiveness of a money transfer service. You receive a check in the mail which you are told to deposit in your account and withdraw a specific amount in cash. Then, you are told to take the cash to the store or money transfer service specified, and typically, purchase reloadable prepaid cards or send the money to a person via electronic transfer. You are asked to evaluate your shopping experience, but no one collects the evaluation. Many legitimate and safe mystery shopping positions do exist, but they will never involve sending or wiring money back to a person.
Online dating is more popular now than ever, and fraudsters are using this channel as a way to try and steal your money. In this emerging scam, fraudsters create fake profiles on dating sites and social media platforms. The profiles are filled with just enough material to make them look real to an unsuspecting eye. They will frequently claim to be outside of the United States, and often claim they are in the military, which is why they can only communicate online. The fraudster will then form a “relationship” with their targets, building trust and a sense of romance and emotional connection. This process can span months, until the scammer feels it’s time to strike – they tap into the bond they’ve built and ask you to send money to them for a problem or need they are facing. If you find yourself communicating with someone online who matches this profile, stop all contact immediately. If you are asked to provide money for a plane ticket or medical expenses, or you are asked to wire money or send gift cards due to an emergency, don’t do it. While the love and romance can feel real, this is most definitely a scam.
Being familiar with popular scams can help you recognize one, and ultimately help you avoid falling for one. However, if you think you may have provided a fraudster with money or your personal information, file a report with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC can use this information to build legal cases against scammers, spot trends, and educate the public.
Dutch Point Credit Union in Connecticut is committed to educating our local community members on ways to spot and avoid scams. Learn more about fraud prevention on our website, and be sure to follow our Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram pages to see posts about trending fraud alerts.