Jan 21, 2022

Cases of fraud – and fraud attempts – continue to multiply, according to government agencies and consumer watchdog groups. The pandemic has generated an increase in attempts to swindle people using digital accounts, particularly through mobile deposit apps. In many cases, consumers get fooled by false promises. Scammers make offers that sound too good to be true…and of course, they aren’t. The process typically goes like this:

The consumer is contacted by someone they don’t know. Most communication is made through social media by someone the consumer has never met, though the scammer may claim to be a “friend of a friend” or a similar connection.

The scammer asks for “help” with a substantial amount of money. The scammer says he has received a large sum of cash as an unexpected bonus, an inheritance, or sometimes simply a “gift,” but needs the consumer’s assistance to obtain it.

The scammer wants something in return. In exchange for a share of the money, the scammer wants the consumer to repay him through gift cards, cash, or wire transfer. The scammer may even ask for account numbers or access to the consumer’s online account.

The scammer deposits a fake check via mobile deposit. The check immediately appears in the consumer’s account, so the consumer sends the scammer the gift cards or cash.

The check is detected as fraudulent, and the consumer loses the money. Financial institutions have review systems in place that detect fraud very quickly; however, the scammer has fooled the consumer into sending money before the fraud alert can be activated. As a result, the consumer has little hope of ever recovering the money that was lost.

The good news is, this type of fraud can be prevented.

Education and awareness remain the best ways to defeat scammers. Keep these tips in mind to prevent fraud:

Ignore offers for “quick cash” or other unregulated financial situations. If the message seems to be from someone you know, double-check by calling the person or reaching out and confirming their identity via a separate email message.

Do not get pressured into acting immediately by a deadline or “limited time offer.” That’s a common practice by scammers – they want consumers to act without thinking things through.

Do not share any personal information – social security numbers, birthdates, account numbers, and so on, unless you initiate the contact.

As the saying goes, you can’t get “something for nothing” – offers that seem too good to be true are designed to fool you.

Continue to follow established guidelines for preventing fraud and identity theft. A few simple steps can help you from falling victim to the false promises of an experienced scammer.