Top Scams of the Week for March 1, 2016
Each week, the Identity Theft Resource Center works with some of the top industry experts to provide consumers with updates about threats to their personal data.
The Better Business Bureau leads the way by publishing a recurring and continually updated list of scams, fraud attempts, and other threats each day in its Scam Tracker. It’s worth noting that IRS Imposter Scams are still topping the list of reports to the BBB, and that isn’t likely to change until well after tax season. In the meantime, take a look at some of their other recent top scams or fraud attempts.
#1 – Nigerian Money Exchange Scam
You’ve probably heard of the “Nigerian prince” emails, but have you ever wondered how they’re intended to work? In any form of money exchange scam, you agree to hold money for someone in exchange for getting to keep a portion of it. There are really two different pitfalls here: the first is that you’ve just accidentally engaged in money laundering (a serious crime), and the second (more likely) scenario is that there is no money, but you’re tricked into thinking it’s been deposited into your account. When you go to send the individual back his portion, you’ve really just drained your own bank account.
There’s something interesting to note about the Nigerian prince emails. You’ve probably noticed that the grammar and writing are exceptionally bad, and that the story is so farfetched. There’s an intentional reason for that. According to multiple sources, the poor quality helps the email get past the spam filters that are programmed to look for certain phrases, and the scammers only want gullible people to fall for it. If a savvier person reads the email and dismisses it as a hoax, then he’s not wasting the scammer’s “valuable” time.
#2 – Disability Assistance Scam
In a new scam that was reported to the BBB last week, the victim received dozens of phone calls and text messages from various people, all claiming to work for the same service. The very genuine-sounding callers purported to be with an organization that helps individuals who’ve been turned down for disability benefits.
In this case, the scammers are just throwing darts at a list of phone numbers, hoping someone they contact has applied and been turned down. All they’re really after if the victim’s identifying information, particularly his Social Security number.
Never, ever give out your personal information to someone who contacts you. If they’re legitimate, they would already have all of your information. And no, they don’t need you to verify it for them. They called you, remember?
#3 – Direct Deposit Scam
If you’re ever contacted by any agency, organization, or company and told that you’re owed a refund that must be paid by direct deposit, it’s a scam. In this week’s report to the BBB, a victim reported that a company called her office and stated several owed payments were being held since the only method of payment from the company was direct deposit. The caller then stated that he needed their bank account number and routing number in order to process those payments.
False. You will never set up direct deposit over the phone with a caller who reaches out to you without prior notification. In most cases, direct deposits are set up via a signed (and sometimes notarized) form anyway, so handing over your bank information and your account number to a stranger who calls you is a surefire way to have your account drained.
For the rest of this week’s top scams, visit the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker site or the ITRC website under the Current Scams & Alerts section. Be sure to share this information with others so they can stay informed and protect themselves.