As we talked about in the last blog and the scams that are surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it has been brought to our attention that “money mule” scams are also on the rise. Money mule is defined as a person who is used to transfer or launder illegally obtained money at the direction of or for someone else. Often times, you may not realize you are participating in illegal activity because the scammers make you think you are conducting business transactions or helping them out in some way.
Here’s examples of ways this type of scam could play out. Scammers will send “earned” money to a victim after they believe they have found an amazing “work from home” job opportunity, met someone on an online dating site asking for monetary help, or they are under the impression they’ve won a prize. After the scammer has sent the money to the victim through wire transfers or gift cards, they will ask them to take a portion of the money and send it to a “third party” and to keep some for themselves., more than likely, the “third party” account is the scammers account. They perform this scam because it is less likely for them to get caught with suspicious fund and activity and the victim is left to face the consequences.
How to avoid money mule scams:
- – Never accept a position that asks you to transfer funds. Be aware that “normal” business transactions are not performed in this manner and it is a way they are using you to perform these illegal transactions.
- – If you find a love interest on an online dating platform, do not send money to or from this person, they are likely getting you to move money for them.
- – Never send money to collect a prize, that’s not how that usually works. They are scamming you into performing their transactions for them.
What if you fall victim?
The best advice we can give you, if you are to fall victim of a money mule scam is to immediately cut off all contact with the potential scammer and notify your financial institution and the company the wire or gift card is from. Then, report it to local law enforcement and Federal Trade Commission.
Read the following article from the FBI to learn more about money mule scams:
Fraudsters and scammers thrive when feeding off of victim’s fear or in times of need. As we know, the coronavirus pandemic has done just that. People are becoming more desperate and fearing for their future, their financial state, the plans they made & sadly, fraudsters are thriving by presenting victims with “opportunities” that require personal information or payments and then take your money and run.
Types of scams seen during the coronavirus pandemic:
Phony job listings
Fraudsters will post fake job listings posting as company stating that you will make X amount of dollar from your home. Because of the new definition of normal, people often fall into these scams hoping to pick up some extra cash. To ensure the position and company you are looking into is legitimate, research the hiring company name only. Fraudsters will often add words like “company” or “Inc.” to the end of a website to make it look more realistic. Always do your own research before getting involved with an employment opportunity that sounds way too good to be true (because it probably is).
Misinformation & rumors / fake websites & phishing emails
Never answer emails or click on links that you are not expecting or appear to be suspicious. For example, emails that include things like “Quick get this deal while you can” or “important click here”, fraudster use wording like this to create a sense of urgency to their victims.
To check the following sites for legitimate facts and updates regarding the COVID-19 Pandemic:
Check, loan, & economic impact payment scams
Watch out for fraudsters that are asking you to make a payment so you can get your economic impact checks faster. Do not respond to any phone calls, emails, or messages about the economic impact payments from the government. Never give out any personal information such as your social security number to anyone over the phone. Keep in mind that the government, more often than not, will contact you via official letters.
Donation/ charity scams
Fraudsters will set up fake charity organizations looking for donations to help stop the spread of COVID-19, help for those who have lost employment, or those sick and in need. Never donate to causes that you are unfamiliar with, always do your research about the charity and the organization.
Now, we understand that there are exact offers going around that are legitimate offers and from legitimate companies. To hopefully help clear up some confusion, read these tips on how to recognize what is real and what is fake.
- If anyone contacts you and asks for your Social Security Number, bank account number, credit card information, driver’s license number, or any other personal information – DO NOT share this type of information over the phone, through text messaging, or email.
- Never click on unusual links, emails from company’s you weren’t expecting, answering phone calls from unknown numbers, and be cautious when browsing the internet.
- Ignore online offers and be suspicious of donation requests especially those that ask for cash, wire transfers, or gift cars.
NOTE: If you do fall victim to a scam IMMEDIATELY report the issue and change your passwords to avoid further damage to your accounts.
As we all know, social media has become second nature to our world. Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter are a few of the most popular social media platforms and throughout the years have continued to grow. With the vast amounts of account holders can also come with a vast amount of scammers and quite frankly, people often look over the fact that social media can be seen by many and holds a lot of personal information. Social media is a great place to reconnect with people from your past, keep in touch with your friends, and an easy way to meet people with interests like you. However, social media needs to be taken seriously when it comes to online safety. We have put together easy ways for you to help protect you from social media scammers.
Don’t reveal too much
Revealing too much information over social media is a common risk; people will post confidential information such as locations, full names, birth date, etc. usually without realizing that it makes them an easy target for someone to gain access to even more sensitive information. This is why it is so important to stay aware when posting anything on a public profile of social media.
Set up your privacy
Most, if not all, social media platforms have the ability to create a private account. These private accounts allow you to accept and deny follow/ friend requests. This is very beneficial because you can monitor who sees what you post based on if you accept or deny their request. Be careful when accepting friend requests, it is common for people to create “fake” accounts and make you think they are who they say. Setting your personal accounts as private is the most effective way to keep your accounts secure and to keep your information safe.
Secure your device
Securing your device as a whole will help the possibility of someone hacking or stealing the information store on your phone. The best way to do this is with a passcode and/or biometrics. Always keep your passwords to yourself to ensure they are secure. If you are not on your personal device, be sure to log out so the next person does not have the ability to gain access to your account.
Pay attention to the things you are posting to social media platforms and take all the precautions necessary to keep you and your personal information safe.
As we know, with the digital age we are living in, fraud and identity theft are becoming more common. However, we have to keep in mind that something as small as “junk mail” tossed in the trash can be used as a tool for them to put the pieces together and commit fraud.
We’ve all done it, thrown away that “amazing offer” that we received in the mail. Your name and address are printed n the envelope, if the wrong person finds that mail in your trash can – they could look you up on social media and find out your hometown, favorite sports team, maiden name, pet names, and where you went to college. Just like that your security questions are answered.
No, this doesn’t mean you have to shred every piece of paper that crosses your mailbox. What we are trying to say is be aware of the things you are throwing away. We’re going to share with you some helpful things to note when deciding what to keep or shred to try to decrease the chances of identity theft.
What should I keep?
- – Birth and Death Certificates
- – Social Security and ID Cards
- – Passports
- – Adoption Papers
- Copies of Wills, Trusts, and Powers of Attorney
- Marriage License and Divorce Decrees
Note: This list is not limited to these items only, please keep in mind what documents are deemed important to you.
What should I shred?
It would be a good idea to shred any document that contains any of the following to help decrease the risk of fraud.
- – Full name and/or address
- – Social Security Number
- – Account Numbers
- – your signature
Things to keep in mind:
Be carious about what you throw away, any document with personal information could be used as a tool for fraud. Don’t forget about non-paper items that may have addresses and names on them too. For example, boxes, prescriptions, etc. Kids and deceased are often at higher risk to be a victim of identity theft. Check your credit reports often to make certain of no uncommon issues, if there is – report immediately.
Note: There are many documents, not listed in this blog that should be kept, shredded, ad scanned. The purpose of this blog is to create awareness against identity theft and fraud, Be cautious when throwing items away and when shredding to ensure you are protecting your identity the best way possible.
Clean Up and Manage Your Credit:
Your Credit Score can make a huge impact on your financial life – be sure to stay up-to-date on it. It’s recommended to check your credit score every 4 months to be familiar with your credit report. When you know your credit score it helps you to continue to set goals and improve your responsible credit habits.
Pay Your Bills on Time & Manage Your Automatic Bills
In today’s world, there are so many options to pay your bills with mobile and online banking. However, it is still important to manage these bills closely and to cancel any unnecessary automatic bills like unused subscriptions.
Organize Your Important Documents & Safely Dispose of Outdated Paperwork
Organize your important documents like checkbooks, mortgage paperwork, vehicle titles, and any other documents that have your Social Security Number, account numbers, or routing numbers. Keep all of these documents in a safe place where you can easily find them but someone else cannot. Step 2 is to shred or burn any outdated paperwork that has any personal identification printed on to it.
Protect Your Accounts
With digital transactions more prevalent than ever, it’s more important to protect yourself from consumer fraud and identity theft. Keep a close eye on your accounts and credit report to ensure no fraudulent activity is found. Also, to prevent falling victim to an online scam, practice good browsing habits and never click on unusual links and messages.