We are continuing as a contemporary society to struggle with scams that involve some degree of social engineering. ID Theft is rampant and a continual theme for just about every financial loss that crosses our desk. Fraudsters are constantly attacking our members and, in some circumstances, our very own business enterprises. I wanted to call out a few scams in this article to ensure that we are putting our best fraud prevention foot forward on them. Here are just a few of the socialized scams that are currently circulating throughout the US.
Business Social Networking Websites
This is a pretty serious scam that targets professionals by usually tricking them into connecting with persons who are not who they portray themselves to be. Before you “link up” with an unknown person please take some time to scrutinize whether this individual is working for your current or former employer. Pay particular attention to the industry that they claim to work in and ask your colleagues if they can vouch for an unknown connection if you suspect that they are not legitimate. The goal of many fraudsters is to fictionalize their profiles in order to gain insider information about your email address, phone numbers and employment status which is typically visible as soon you agree to connect profiles. Criminals will often mimic or spoof your phone number in order to gain rarified access to your personal financial accounts so please remember to never post your personal cell or home number on a professional networking website. My mantra is pretty simple: If we need to meet or have a conversation then I will initiate it using common sense while protecting my personal information.
Phone Scams Galore – Just Hangup!
The newest array of telephony scam involves a fraudster calling your number and repeatedly asking you a series of questions to garner the answer “YES” from you which they will promptly record and claim as authorization for a variety of unauthorized services and purchases. There has been a high degree of publicity for this scam and my main concern here is that our members are going to fall prey to it if we don’t do a decent job of communicating with them about the perils of saying “YES” to complete strangers over the phone.
Little Johnny’s in Jail – He Needs Your Help!
This classic bail bond scam unfortunately targets grandparents and family members. I have had my own experiences with this one when a good friend of mine received a phone call telling her that I was in jail in Mexico and needs immediate bail bond money and to my chagrin, without simply calling my cell, she sent it to the tune of $900 that she will never get back. This was sad and so easily remedied had she paused, hung up and dialed me to confirm my whereabouts. Please keep in mind that when social scammers are targeting victims they are fully prepared with a variety of tricks that focus on urgency, danger and time constraints. If you are dealing with members who suddenly appear to be purchasing prepaid debit cards or wiring money overseas then please stop them to inquire if there is any possibility that they are falling victim to a scam. Remember: Love makes the most logical person illogical at times.
The Connection between Prepaid Payment Cards & Unpaid Parking Tickets
Many scams today involve the coercion and or confusion of our members. It is not uncommon for scammers to contact consumers with an ominous warning that something important has been ignored in their lives like jury duty, unpaid utility bills and delinquent parking tickets. Prepaid payment cards often have a starring role in these scams because the fraudster instructs our members to run down to the local drugstore to purchase a prepaid VISA or MasterCard. The fraudster calls the member back at a prearranged time asking them to provide both the card number and the activation values that are hidden until “scratched off” by the purchaser. When this information is read over the phone the fraudster immediately uses the card information to make a purchase or withdrawal within minutes of finishing the call with the consumer. Bad news here: You are out of $500 and your fictitious unpaid personal matter could have been avoided if you simply hung up, verified and proceeded with caution.
The Stay Safe Theme
Hang up, verify and proceed with caution is a mantra that is easy to recite after someone falls victim to an emotionally-charged and socially engineered scam. There is a degree of shame and regret involved in every circumstance when consumers are left holding the bag on financial losses from scams. If you think that there will ever be a time that these scenarios will not be a part of our lives then you are more optimistic than I am. I prefer to try to educate the public with the message that it is perfectly acceptable to slow down, take a breath and validate social contact with strangers and others who portray themselves as close associates and colleagues.
If you are a working professional and feel that you are having communications with unknown parties it is always in your best interest to use extreme caution by vetting and verifying that you are speaking to the authentic business contact. Two extra minutes of scrutiny can protect your organization from social engineering scams and malware and ransomware attacks.
Report Scams to CO-OP Financial Services
CO-OP Financial Services will continue to perpetuate the sharing of information each month during our FraudBuzz webinar events. Be sure to register now for the 2017 series, held monthly on the third Thursday at 11 a.m. Pacific (2 p.m. Eastern). Register today at www.co-opfs.org/fraudbuzzwebinar.