Have you received a congratulations email on winning the lottery? Or maybe one is claiming that your long-lost relative in a foreign land needs help getting back to the United States? How about a phone call from a ‘bill collector’ or a letter in the mail notifying you of a balance owing that must be paid or the police will be at your door? There are multiple ways this communication can be sent and received, but a common theme amongst them all is they want you to send them something – money! Maybe not right off the bat, but eventually these scammers will either gain your trust or scare you into giving them enough personal identifying information to do real damage.
Recently there have been warnings issued to consumers popping up on our local and national news – IRS calls and letters, Consumers Energy notices, people posing to be representing a particular charitable organization, etc… these scams are happening throughout the United States, including right in our own backyard.
As an employee of a financial institution I have heard of and seen my fair share of scams and the devastating losses that can result. When a consumer provides their account information to a scam artist their funds are now compromised and it is much easier for unauthorized account activity to take place. Consumers who unknowingly cash fraudulent checks are held financially responsible when that check is returned unpaid. This can sometimes result in several thousands of dollars of loss.
I have the opportunity to speak to staff and our members about different ways they can protect themselves from falling victim to a scam. I can’t stress enough that talking about these scams is so important! Make sure your family members, friends, neighbors, and church groups, are aware that these scams are out there and real. I direct many people to the Federal Trade Commission, which provides a lot of very useful and helpful information to consumers and I urge you to visit their website at www.consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.
How to Protect Yourself from Common Scams:
- Be cautious when answering personal advertisements or solicitations, including Craig List, eBay, Facebook, or Emails.
- Contact reputable Employment agencies and be cautious when contacting agencies offering “Work from Home” opportunities.
- Deal only with legitimate Mystery Shopper programs – visit the FTC for more on Mystery Shopper Scams.
- Watch your account statements and report any unauthorized account activity immediately
- If you sell an item and you receive more money than what you sold it for, do not cash that check. You’ve likely been instructed to send the ‘extra’ money somewhere and in the long run you will owe the financial institution who cashed the check.
- If you receive an email or text message claiming that your debit or credit card has been compromised, contact your institution directly, do not click on links or respond to the text message.
- Talk to your financial institution - trust and communicate the details of the money you’ve received and let your bank or credit union guide you. It will be well worth the conversation if they can help prevent a loss in the long run.