Fraudsters are continuously adjusting their tactics to try to catch you off guard. That’s why your credit union is here to help you outsmart these scammers, by predicting what they might have up their sleeves as we head into summer.
Vacations and travel, graduation celebrations, wedding season, and summer DIY projects are just a few reasons money circulates quickly during the summer months. Here are three types of fraud that are likely to heat up as the weather warms:
Work from Home Scams
As many begin to search for jobs in a slower job market post-graduation, fraudsters will roll up their sleeves to target young professionals seeking attractive work from home jobs. You may come across a job listing that looks like a legitimate opportunity, or a “recruiter” may reach out to you for a potential role that fits your expertise.1 But once you finish a long interview process and get your job offer, that’s when the true scam kicks in.
In these Work From Home scams, your interviewer (or another representative from the phony company) will ask for your personal information under the guise of sending you a check to purchase equipment. The check they send is for more than the cost of the equipment you’re purchasing. When you wind up with a surplus after your shopping trip, the scammer will ask you to send the remainder back to them, or to someone else. If that sounds suspect to you, you’re right—it is. When it’s returned, the check will bounce after 7-10 business days and you’ll be on the hook to cover the funds.
Facebook Marketplace Fraud
While there are some great virtual garage sale finds on Facebook Marketplace in the summer months, unfortunately, scammers know the allure of getting something for a nice price and use it to their advantage. Some of the most popular forms of Facebook Marketplace scams include trying to take the payment process offline so it can’t be traced or asking you to pay in an untraceable manner such as a gift card or cryptocurrency.2 Similar to the Work From Home scam, they may also overpay for an item using a check and ask you to reimburse them, only for their check to bounce and leave you on the hook for the funds.
Scammers may also post fake listings to entice you to pay them for an item you’ll never receive, ask you to send them an item they want before they submit payment, or ask you to text them a four-digit code to “prove you’re real,” only to use that code to compromise your account using two-factor authentication. Remember, if a buyer's or seller’s behavior is setting off internal alarm bells, it’s better to step away from the sale now rather than be sorry later.
Though check payments aren’t as common as they used to be, that doesn’t mean scammers aren’t out looking for any loophole they can find.
First, a seemingly old-school technique on the rise involves snatching checks right from your mailbox. Around graduation time, thieves know many people receive and send checks to their loved ones. So, if they can read your mind and time it just right, they will drive right up to your mailbox and take the ingoing or outgoing checks from you. Then, they take it home to “wash” it with a cleaning product to dissolve the ink, make it out to whomever they want, then change the dollar amount.3
Second, another type of scam revolves around getting you to deposit funds that then need to be wired somewhere else, only to discover the check you deposited bounced. This can take the form of the Work From Home scam detailed above, but some enterprising scammers will “hire” you as a personal assistant or mystery shopper to buy gift cards, then send them the card PINs.4 The gift cards are drained, the check they gave you bounces, and you’re left responsible for covering the missing funds from your account.
So how can you protect yourself?
Being aware of these summer scams is the most important means of protection – simply being alert to the possibility of this type of fraud on the rise. Here are some ways to be extra careful this season:
- Explore a potential employer online, and if you feel unsure about their digital presence, find the company’s phone number and call them for more information on their current openings.
- Double-check buyer and seller reviews on Facebook Marketplace, and make sure you’re dealing with people local to you if possible.
- Avoid sending checks from your home by mailing checks from your post office. You can also sign up for the free Informed Delivery service through USPS to receive emails of images for everything that will be delivered to your home that day, so you’ll know what to expect.
- Avoid depositing a check from anyone you don’t know and trust.
Have questions or need assistance reporting a scam?
Our credit union experts are always here for you. Contact Elements Financial for support of all your financial needs — and stay safe this summer!
Sources: 1. FTC.gov, https://consumer.ftc.gov/consumer-alerts/2022/05/want-work-home-spot-scams-first 2. Kim Komando, https://www.komando.com/security-privacy/facebook-marketplace-scams/865731/ 3. Bankrate.com, https://www.bankrate.com/banking/common-types-of-bank-account-fraud/#check-fraud 4. FTC Consumer Advice, https://consumer.ftc.gov/articles/how-spot-avoid-report-fake-check-scams#Types