Here are summer’s most prevalent financial scams that are catching consumers by surprise. However, many of these scams are ongoing all year long and you should be on the lookout for them constantly.
1. Gift cards, secret shoppers, and fake offers.
How the scam works: Consumers are drawn in by a phony email or social media post to become a “secret shopper” in exchange for some form of financial gain. When a consumer agrees to participate, the fraudster seals the deal by delivering a very large counterfeit check. The criminal then asks the consumer to deposit the check and purchase gift cards with the funds – keeping a small portion of the proceeds as compensation for being the “secret shopper.” The victim is asked to email photographs of the gift cards, front and back, so the criminal can use them immediately – before the counterfeit check has a chance to bounce.
The takeaway: The bounced check and all associated damages are the responsibility of the consumer because the criminal and his or her email address are long gone by the time the check bounces.
2. “You can never be too rich or too thin” and other email scams.
Some consumers are attracted to “get rich” and “get thin” offers, and unfortunately an age old diet scam has surfaced again, targeting consumers with spam emails. When an unsuspecting consumer signs up for the “self improvement” deal, that individual agrees to recurring billing for the proposed service.
The takeaway: This ongoing billing arrangement is difficult to stop. And, in some cases, the stolen card information used for payment is also used for other fraudulent purposes.
3. Counterfeit money orders.
Fake money orders are frequently used for online purchases from websites like Craigslist. The problem is that high quality counterfeit money orders are hard to distinguish from the real thing.
The takeaway: If you think you could potentially have a counterfeit money order, call the U.S. Postal Service verification line at 1-866-459-7822. The U.S. Postal Service can verify the authenticity of money orders 48 hours after they are issued – and they can also offer tips on how to recognize fake money orders in the future.
4. “MSN” help desk fraud.
This form of fraud is usually directed at the elderly. A criminal calls an unsuspecting consumer and warns that his or her PC – however seldom used, is riddled with viruses. The fake technician offers to assist, and then dispatches the victim to a local big box store to buy prepaid gift cards which are given as payment for the tech support services.
The takeaway: Losses to victims of this scam can soar well into the thousands – and the criminals are willing to take every nickel without remorse. Some big box stores have started to try and identify consumers who may be embroiled in these scams, but they can run into roadblocks when victims are either mentally incapacitated – or reluctant to admit they have fallen for a scam.
5. Card cracking.
This rip-off scheme typically victimizes the younger crowd. A fraudster reaches out to a young person via social media and convinces the potential victim that they can both benefit by helping each other out – with the young account holder receiving a small sum of $100 or so, as compensation for cooperating with the fraudster. The victim then gives the criminal access to his or her online banking credentials, so the criminal can deposit counterfeit checks into the account. The fraudster also typically requires the usage of the account holder’s debit card and, in some cases, accompanies the co-conspirator to an ATM to perform withdrawals against the counterfeit checks that have been deposited. This is especially troubling if the account holder is a minor in the company of an adult criminal.
The takeaway: All financial damages, including non-sufficient funds checks, fall back onto the young consumer. And that easy $100 profit? It was fake as well.
6. Direct mail scams.
Bogus but official looking letters are delivered every day to random consumers with stern requests for Social Security Numbers and other personally identifiable information. Some of these letters are printed on what looks like big bank letterhead and in all cases, there is at least one “official looking” hard copy form that the consumer is asked to fill out and return.
The takeaway: The addresses on these letters and the return envelopes provided are criminal addresses. They are not P.O. boxes belonging to actual businesses or financial institutions. The main objective in this instance is identity theft, and this scam has been known to be very convincing to consumers.
Bottom Line: An informed consumer is an empowered one. Recognizing the signs of fraud will reduce your risk of becoming an identity theft victim. Don’t wait until it’s too late! Enroll in Sherpa identity theft protection from First Financial. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!
Article Source: John Buzzard for Co-Op Financial Services