Common Scams & How to Protect Yourself

It’s the most wonderful time of the year! The busy holiday season is now upon us, or as your WWFCU Financial Gurus refer to it, “The Scam Season!”

With Christmas festivities in full swing, and everyone busy deciding which presents to buy, the scammers are hard at work. They are constantly learning new techniques and tricks to get as much money from their victims as possible. Unfortunately, here at WWFCU we are no strangers to seeing the handiwork of fraudsters and scammers. As a member, if you happen to be a victim of a scam, just know our number one priority is helping you fully recover from it. You can rest assured knowing your financial gurus have tips on how to spot a scam and what to do if you find yourself a victim.

One of the biggest scams around is known as the “romance” scam. In today’s digital age a lot of us turn to social media or online dating apps to meet new people. This is a scammer’s paradise. By creating fake profiles, the scammers can easily connect with you and build a relationship. These relationships tend to progress very quickly from occasional messages, to requests to contact you outside of the app or social media platform. Yet, despite many attempts to contact you using various methods, the scammers will always have an excuse about why they can’t meet you in person. Popular excuses are they work out of the country, they’re in the military, or maybe even working on an oil rig somewhere. Once these con artists know you are invested in the relationship, that’s when the requests for money begin. They might claim they need help paying a medical bill either for themselves or a family member, money for a plane ticket to see you, even money to help them secure a Visa to live in the United States.

All scammers, not just romance scammers, want your money, and they want it quickly. Scammers often request money in a way that is difficult to get back such as through a wire transfer, cryptocurrency, or their absolute favorite form of payment… gift cards. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission reported an estimated loss of $547 million dollars due to romance scams.

If you find yourself in a situation like this, here are a few tips on how to avoid losing your hard-earned money to these scammers.

  • Stop communicating with this person at once
  • Talk to someone you trust and ask their advice on the situation
  • Research common scams using an internet search engine for more information and other helpful tips. Some examples to search for are “Romance scam”, “Army scammer” and “Oil Rig Scam” all of which will give you a ton of information
  • Most importantly do not send any money, gift cards, or give out your account information

If you happen to have fallen victim to a scam, you are not alone. Did you know that 1 in 3 adults said they or someone they know had been asked at some point to pay a bill or claim a prize by buying gift cards? This is referred to as the “Gift Card Scam”. In 2021, AARP reported nearly 100 million dollars in losses due to this scam. Keep in mind that no legitimate business or government agency will ever demand you make a payment using a gift card. Scammers love gift cards because they are readily available, nearly untraceable, and are easily converted to cash.

Gift card scams are usually started with a phone call, text message, or through social media. These requests are always urgent, and they will say almost anything to get you to buy gift cards. They will often tell you what specific cards to buy like Apple, Google, eBay, Walmart or Target just to name a few. They may even tell you to go to multiple stores and buy cards, so the cashiers don’t get suspicious. The scammer will ask you to give them the card number and pin or take a picture of the card information to send to them. All these types of requests are very suspicious, and the workings of a scammer. Here’s a list of the most common gift card scams:

  • Government agency scam. Scammers will say they’re from the social security Administration, IRS or other government agencies. They will demand payment right away and even threaten severe consequences if you fail to pay. Take it from us, no legitimate government agency will contact you demanding an immediate payment or prefer a gift card as the payment type.
  • Tech support scam. You receive a call from someone claiming there’s a problem with your computer or device. They may claim to work with Microsoft, Apple, or Google. The scammer will ask for remote access to your device and demand payment to get your device fixed. This is a scam. You should never give anyone access to your computer as it stores sensitive data about you and sometimes your close family members.
  • You’ve won a prize or lottery scam. Scammers say you’ve won a prize or a lottery, but before you can receive your prize you must pay taxes on the item or shipping and handling fees. Again, they will most likely request payment with a gift card. Ask yourself, “Did you enter to win this prize? Did you enter a lottery drawing at all?” If the answer is no, you are surely being scammed.
  • Check scam. Scammers may send you a large check to deposit because they don’t have their own account or can’t access their own account for some reason. The scammer will tell you that you can keep a part of the money, but you must send them the difference in the form of a gift card. The check is fraudulent, and if you negotiate it, you will be held responsible for paying back any money taken from that check. If you are ever in doubt about a fraudulent check, please reach out to us. Your Financial Gurus can teach you how to spot the signs of a fraudulent check.
  • Work From Home Scam – As remote jobs have become very popular; scammers have taken full advantage by using these types of scams to obtain personal and confidential information. Some common work from home scams are mystery shopper jobs, medical billing, and personal assistant jobs. The scammer offers the job through the internet or other means, and through the “hiring” process, the scammer obtains all your personal information and potentially any assets you may have. Here are some steps to figure out if a work from home job is a scam:
    • The job is too good to be true.
    • There is little to no information on the company.
    • There are warnings about it online.
    • The employer is very eager to hire.
    • You must pay to work.
    • The potential employer communicates poorly.

As scammers get bolder and more creative, a new scam is becoming more popular. The “Home Banking Scam”. The scammer will call you and let you know that you have been approved for a loan. However, this loan will require your online banking username and password so the funds can be directly deposited into your account. Once the scammer gets your information, they now have control of your account. The first thing the scammer will do is change your password blocking you from any online access. This may result in money being taken from your account that you did not authorize and could potentially create a serious financial hardship. A financial institution or lender will never call you saying you’ve been approved for a loan that you hadn’t applied for. The best advice we can give you to avoid falling for this scam is never give out your login information to anyone, even people close to you.

Please feel free to contact us if you find yourself in a situation that you’re feeling uneasy about, or if you would like more information about scams like these. At Wayne Westland Federal Credit Union, we have a variety of services to offer you including Identify Theft Insurance and Credit Report Monitoring. We can also help dispute fraudulent charges on your account, help you put alerts on your credit report, and get you started on the path to financial recovery. As the old saying goes, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is! Give us a call to set up an appointment with one of our Certified Financial Counselors today. As always, we are working toward your financial success!


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