Scams & Frauds
Prevention of Financial Abuse • Smishing Schemes • Mortgage Relief • FDIC Emails • Fraudulent Official Checks & Money Orders • Fraudulent Emails Seeking Information • Nigerian Purchase Scam • Lottery Scam • Costly Compassion • Grandchild Scam • Fraudulent IRS Phone Calls
Prevention of Financial Abuse
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) indicates that one in five older Americans fall victim to financial exploitation. Financial exploitation is defined as “the illegal or improper use of a person’s funds, property and/or assets.” While anyone can be targeted for financial exploitation, the elderly are considered to be at a greater risk for financial abuse.
Financial abuse takes many forms, so it is important for you to be aware of how it can occur, as well as to know what to do if you believe you, or someone you know, may be the victim of financial exploitation. Common cases of financial exploitation involve the following:
Identity theft and coercion, which could include address changes followed by account changes, a new third party individual representing an older adult, an older adult not being familiar with or aware of account changes, requests to send account statements to a third party’s address, coercing an older adult to become contractually obligated for loan proceeds where the older adult receives no benefit.
Behavioral changes, which could include a change in the older adult’s personal appearance and hygiene, mentions of lottery or sweepstakes opportunities or winnings, and the inquiry of international wire transfers.
If you believe you, or someone you know, may be the victim of financial exploitation, you are not alone! Contact your local law enforcement agency and your financial institutions immediately to make them aware of the situation.
Smishing is the act of sending fraudulent text messages to bait a victim into revealing personal information.
Be leery of text messages that indicate a problem or question regarding your financial accounts. In this scam, fraudsters direct victims to follow a link or call a number to update an account or correct a purported problem. The link directs the victim to a fraudulent website or message that appears legitimate. Instead, the site allows the fraudster to steal any personal information the victim provides.
Current smishing schemes involve fraudsters calling victims’ cell phones offering to lower the interest rates for credit cards the victims do not even possess. If a victim asserts that they do not own the credit card, the caller hangs up. These fraudsters call from TRAC cell phones that do not have voicemail, or the phone provides a constant busy signal when called, rendering these calls virtually untraceable.
Fraudulent Mortgage Relief Programs
During challenging economic times, many people are looking for ways of getting out of debt or just hanging on to their home, and nearly as many scammers appear to be taking advantage of these desperate situations. Because the federal government announced or expanded several mortgage relief programs, all kinds of look-alike websites have popped up trying to fool consumers into parting with their money. Some seem like they are a part of a government agency, or even as a part of the Better Business Bureau or other nonprofit consumer organization. Most will ask for an upfront fee to help you deal with your mortgage company or the government (both of which are services you could easily do yourself for free), and almost all of them leave you with even more debt than when you started.
Fraudulent Emails Claiming to be from the FDIC:
The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has become aware of emails appearing to be sent from the FDIC that are asking recipients to download and open a "personal FDIC insurance file" to check their deposit insurance coverage. These emails are fraudulent and were not sent by the FDIC. The FDIC is attempting to identify the source of the emails and disrupt the transmission.
The subject line of the fraudulent emails includes the wording "Check your Bank Deposit Insurance Coverage." The emails ask recipients to "visit the official FDIC website" by clicking on a hyperlink provided, which appears to be related to the FDIC, and directs recipients to a fraudulent website. The website includes hyperlinks that appear to open forms that will cause an unknown executable file to be downloaded.
The FDIC is working with the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) to determine the exact effects of the executable file. Those who receive this email are to consider the intent of the software as a fraudulent attempt to collect personal or confidential information. Consumers should NOT access the website or download the executable files provided on the website.
Fraudulent Official Checks and Money Orders:
Con artists know that consumers trust cashier's checks, money orders, and other official bank checks because the bank guarantees the funds. That's why con artists are increasingly counterfeiting official checks, especially for use when dealing with individuals over the internet and face-to-face transactions with large ticket items (i.e. someone is selling a used car through an ad in the local newspaper).
Another element of the fraud may involve a cashier's check for more than the amount originally intended. For example: You're selling a $5,000 item online to a buyer overseas who offers to pay with a cashier's check from a bank in the U.S. When the official check arrives, it is for $10,000 and you are instructed to deposit the $10,000 check into your bank account and wire the excess amount to the buyer's account abroad. You comply and later find out that the cashier's check is not genuine. Depending on the circumstances and state law, you may be held responsible for the entire amount of the fraudulent cashier's check that you deposited into your account. Using our example, you may need to reimburse the bank for $10,000, even if it’s far more money than you have in your account.
Please note, because we have made the proceeds of an item available to you, it does not mean that the item cannot be returned and charged back against your account. If you have any reason to be suspicious of a check you deposited into your account, you should contact the Bank on which it was drawn and request confirmation that the item was paid. You should also alert Elmira Savings Bank of your concerns.
What can you do to protect yourself? Independently confirm the name, address, home number and work number of the purchaser by consulting a phone book, directory assistance, or an internet database. Insist on an official check drawn on a local bank or a bank that has a local branch so you can make sure it is valid. If that's not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased (get the bank's phone number from directory assistance or an internet database, not from the person who gives you the check) and confirm with the bank that the check is good. As an alternative, ask someone at Elmira Savings Bank to inquire about the check.
Fraudulent Emails Seeking to Capture Consumer Information:
You should be aware of "Spam" emails that appear to come from familiar companies. The exact scam may vary, but the objective is always the same, to gather information. The email will claim there may be a problem with your account or an order has been mistakenly placed and you need to cancel that order. You are asked to submit personal, financial, and even password information to a website. This type of activity is often referred to as "phishing". Through the use of a familiar-looking web page or email address (i.e. theelmirasavingsbank.com versus the genuine "elmirasavingsbank.com"), you may be deceived into submitting personal, financial, and password information. For more information on email scams and similar threats, visit the FBI’s website.
The Nigerian Purchase Scam is a new form of fraud, taking victims online. This is becoming widespread in auction sites and on business’ ecommerce websites. A buyer will bid on or seek to purchase big-ticket goods (i.e. cars, boats, etc.) from the website. They will pay by forged cashier’s checks and ask the seller to ship the product overseas. The buyer will “accidentally” overpay the seller, stating “they wanted to make sure there were enough funds for shipping”. The buyer will then ask the seller to deposit the check and refund the amount of the overpayment. The seller will deposit the counterfeit cashier’s check and send the overpayment to the buyer prior to the check clearing through the international banking system. The seller is out the funds equal to the overpayment. In addition, the seller could be down the value of the shipped goods if those are sent at the same time.
To protect yourself, always be careful when transacting with unknown parties. If you question the legitimacy of a buyer, talk with your local branch office to determine the best way to validate the check and funds prior to shipping any goods or providing a refund for the overpayment.
Lottery scam emails are increasing at an alarming rate. They are an extension of the Nigerian 419 advance fee scams that have existed for years. In the lottery scam, an unsuspecting consumer receives an email claiming that they have won an international lottery. In order to claim their winnings, the recipient must contact the claims agent, typically at a free email address. The agent then sends the recipient a claim form by which to verify their identity. The consumer must return the form with their personal details, along with copies of their passport and driver’s license to “verify their true identity.” This is where the scam begins. The fraudsters now have enough information to duplicate the consumer’s identity. In addition, in order to claim the winnings, the victim is required to wire funds to the fraudsters to cover the transaction, insurance, tax, and legal fees associated with receiving their winnings. Victims transfer the money as requested via Western Union. The victim is now out the funds that they have wired to the fraudsters.
The Costly Compassion Scam:
Consumers have reported to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) requests from foreign nationals politely promising big profits in exchange for help in moving large sums of money out of their country. In the event you should receive such an offer, the FTC suggests you stop and ask yourself two important questions:
- Why would a perfect stranger pick you - also a perfect stranger - to share in a financial fortune?
- Why should you share your personal or business information, including your bank account numbers or your company letterhead, with someone you don't know?
If you receive such a request via email from someone claiming to need your help in getting money out of Nigeria, or any other country, forward that information directly to the Federal Trade Commission at firstname.lastname@example.org.
In the grandchild scam, a caller pretends to be the victim’s grandchild. The caller will say, “Hello, grandpa (or grandma), this is (grandchild’s name). Please don’t tell mom and dad, but I am in trouble. I need your help to get out of jail.” The phone is then handed off to another individual, who says, “Hello, this is (grandchild’s) attorney. Unfortunately your grandchild has gotten into trouble and needs money to get out of jail. Please wire $3600 (or other amount) to this address.” The victim will be told that, “Time is of the essence, so you need to wire the money today.”
Seniors who have been subjected to this scam often say that the voice on the line sounds exactly like their grandchild. There is a vast amount of personal information available on the internet, making it very easy to find out the names and ages of family members. When someone calls and identifies themselves by name, the listener may be predisposed to believe they are actually talking to that individual. It is recommended you never assume the person asking for money is a relative. Instead, contact your grandchild on their phone, to verify that they are safe.
Fraudulent IRS Phone Calls:
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) has recently indicated that taxpayers throughout the U.S. are receiving phone calls from individuals impersonating IRS Officials. Taxpayers are receiving unsolicited calls from individuals who claim to be “IRS Officials”, as well as “robocalls” in which an automated recording, allegedly from the IRS, delivers a message demanding payment for past due taxes.
The callers in this scam are extremely aggressive and demand immediate cash payments be sent in the form of prepaid debit cards, money orders, or wire transfers. They threaten extreme consequences should an immediate payment not be made. Examples of their threats include being charged with criminal violations, grand jury indictments, immediate arrest, deportation, a loss of a business, or even a loss of your driver’s license.
Callers in this scam may know personal identifying information, such as the last four digits of your social security number. In some cases, the callers have setup fraudulent IRS Caller ID information which displays on Caller ID enabled phones, and have been known to send bogus IRS e-mails to follow up the fraudulent calls in an effort to scare you into sending an immediate payment. These callers have also been linked to fraudulent calls from the police and the department of motor vehicles, both of which support the threats of the fraudulent IRS caller and reflect Caller ID information connecting them to the corresponding legitimate government agencies.
As with any unsolicited phone call or email you receive, it is imperative that you do not share any personal identifying information, or payment information, with the caller or sender of such an email.
In most cases the IRS generally contacts taxpayers by mail, not by phone, regarding unpaid taxes. The IRS does not ask for payment via prepaid debit cards, money orders, or wire transfers, and they will not ask for a credit card number over the phone.
If you are contacted by someone claiming to be from the IRS asking for payment you have options!
- If you owe, or think you owe, Federal taxes hang up and call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS workers at this number can help you with your payment questions.
If you do not owe Federal taxes, fill out the “IRS Impersonation scam” form on TIGTA’s website, www.tigta.gov, or call TIGTA at 800-366-4484.
- You may also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at www.FTC.gov and be sure to add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments in your complaint.