With the holidays quickly approaching, it’s the time of year that many of us anticipate. We spend time with family and friends, give thanks for our good fortune, and give back to the causes we care about. Unfortunately, the season of giving is also a popular time for scammers to try to take advantage of our goodwill. The best way to protect yourself from becoming a victim is to arm yourself with knowledge.
So, we sat down with the experts on the Lake Trust Fraud Team to learn more about common scams during the holidays. One old but true piece of advice they shared with us: If an opportunity sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. And remember, if you think that you’re the victim of a scam involving your Lake Trust account, call us immediately at 888.267.7200.
Check out four common fraud tactics and learn more about how to protect yourself from being scammed.
Online Loan Scams
Let’s say you need a little extra cash for an emergency car repair. Maybe you forgot about Lake Trust personal loans and you decide to apply for a loan from an online lending company. Good news, you’re approved! All you have to do is provide your Online Banking user ID and password so the lender can deposit the funds. Easy, right?
However, once you give out your information, the “loan company” deposits a counterfeit check through mobile deposit. Then they attempt to transfer the funds using Bill Pay or person-to-person transfer. A couple of days later, the check gets returned. Now you have a negative balance, a returned check fee, and a compromised Online Banking account.
Quick Tip: NEVER give out your Online Banking username or password. No legitimate company will ever ask for this sensitive information. If they do, it’s a scam and you should not continue corresponding with the company.
It’s a Friday evening and to top off your hectic week, you just got a phone call from a Microsoft representative who said your computer has a virus. Great. The good news is that the representative said that he can get rid of the virus for you after you download an application that allows him to remote access your computer.
The bad news is that as soon as you download this application, you’re giving the scammer access to your computer. From there, he may trick you into clicking malicious pop-ups or attempt to gain access to your Online Banking account or other personal accounts.
Quick Tip: Microsoft does not cold call their users. If you receive an unsolicited call from someone who you believe is impersonating a Microsoft representative, hang up and report the incident at Microsoft.com/reportascam*. Learn more about common tech support scams on Microsoft’s website* or on the Federal Trade Commission's website*.
Advance Fee Scams
This popular type of scam can come in many forms, but the most common ones that we see are associated with a work at home job offer or a recent item posted something for sale.
In the first scenario, let’s say you’ve just been hired for a work-from-home job. The company sends you a check so you can purchase equipment that you’ll need for your position. When you get the check, however, it’s much more than you were expecting. Weird. You contact the company and they apologize for the error. They tell you to go ahead and deposit the check and send the excess funds back to them. A few days later, the check is returned and your account is negative.
Let’s look at this scam from another (but very similar) angle. You post an item for sale online and an interested buyer sends you a check for an amount above the sale price. She instructs you to deposit the check and send the excess funds back to her. Should you do it?
Quick Tip: There is no scenario where it makes sense for someone to send you funds and instruct you to send a portion of it back to them. The scammer may even tell you that you can keep a little extra money for all of your troubles. Don’t deposit the check and don’t hand over the item that you’re selling. Learn more about this type of scam on the Michigan Attorney General's website*.
Gift Card Scams
The execution of these scams tends to vary but they end in a scammer insisting that you pay for something via gift card. Let’s look at two common scenarios.
In scenario one, you just accepted an offer to be a secret shopper and provide feedback about various stores. You get a check in the mail with instructions to keep a portion of the check as payment and then withdraw some of the funds (uh oh, see where this is going?). Then, you’re supposed to go to the stores to purchase gift cards.
After you buy the gift cards, you call the “employer”, share your feedback, and give them the gift card information over the phone. A few days later, the check is returned and you’re left with a negative balance while the scammer gets to enjoy a shopping trip on you.
In the second scenario, the scammer tries to play on your emotions. One day you receive a call from an individual who claims that you need to pay an outstanding debt. As you start to panic about a bill that you may have missed, the caller threatens jail time if you do not pay the debt with a gift card. You’re instructed to purchase gift cards from various stores, call back, and share the gift card numbers over the phone.
Quick Tip: Never deposit a check for more than the amount that you agreed upon with another individual. Especially if the check came with instructions to send part of the money back. Also, legitimate companies will never instruct you to use gift cards as payment. The Federal Trade Commission* and Amazon* are great resources to learn more about this type of scam.
Learn More Or Get Help
The Federal Trade Commission* is a government agency dedicated to educating consumers and investigating questionable businesses. On their site, you can also file a complaint about a business, report ID theft, get a free credit report, and sign up for consumer alerts.
Remember that you can always contact us if you feel uncomfortable about a financial transaction. Don’t be embarrassed to call us if you want a second opinion or if you think you’ve been a victim of a scam. And if you receive a check that you’re unsure about, ask our Member Experience Associates what they think. We’re here to help you and keep your hard-earned money safe.