Consumer Alerts

 

Don’t be a Victim – Know the Scams. 

The following information is provided to help you recognize and prevent scams and fraud.  Help protect others by sharing this information with your family, friends, and co-workers.


Sweetheart Scam

Scammers know millions of people use online dating sites.  They are there, too, hiding behind fake profiles.

Signs of a Sweetheart Scam:

  • Professes love quickly.
  • Claims to be from the U.S., but is overseas for business or military service.
  • Asks for money, and lures you off the dating site.
  • Claims to need money — for emergencies, hospital bills, or travel.
  • Plans to visit, but can’t because of an emergency.

What to do:

  • Slow down — and talk to someone you trust.  Don’t let a scammer rush you.
  • Never wire money, put money on a gift or cash reload card, or send cash to an online love interest.  You won’t get it back.
  • Contact your bank right away if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer.
  • Report your experience to:
    • The online dating site
    • Federal Trade Commission:  ftc.gov/complaint
    • Federal Bureau of Investigation:  ic3.gov

Money Transfer Scams

U.S. consumers lose millions of dollars each year to fraudsters using money transfers as part of their scams.  The initial hook can take many forms.  In every case, the scam ends the same way — you are asked to wire money, put money on a gift or cash reload card, or send cash.  And once you do, it’s usually gone for good.

Common Scams:

  • Fake lotteries and sweepstakes:  You get a card, a call, or an email telling you that you won!  Maybe it’s a trip or a prize, a lottery or a sweepstakes.  The person calling is so excited and can’t wait for you to get your winnings.  But here’s what happens next:  they tell you there’s a fee, some taxes, or customs duties to pay.  And then they ask you to wire money or they ask for your credit card number or bank account information.  Either way, you lose money instead of winning it.  You don’t ever get that big prize.  Instead, you get more requests for money, and more promises that you won big.
    • How to protect yourself: Keep your money – and your information – to yourself.  Never wire money to anyone who asks you to.  And never share your financial information with someone who contacts you and claims to need it.
  • “Relatives” in need of help:  You receive a desperate phone call, email, or even an instant message from someone posing as a grandchild or a friend.  He was arrested overseas.  She was mugged.  Please send money right away.  Except it’s not who you think — it’s a con artist.
    • How to protect yourself:  Call the friend or relative claiming to need your help to confirm whether their story is true, using a phone number you know to be genuine.  If you aren’t able to contact the person, call other friends or family members to confirm the situation.  Refuse to send money via wire transfer.
  • Secret shopper jobs:  After responding to a “help wanted” ad to work as secret shopper, your first assignment is to wire money.  You are sent a phony check with instructions to keep some for payment for your work and wire the rest.
    • How to protect yourself:  Never accept a mystery shopping job that requires a wire transfer or one that requires that you pay money or use your own bank account.  Also be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who guarantee a job, charge a fee, sell directories or companies that provide mystery shoppers, or advertise in a “help wanted” section or by email.

Are you a Money Mule? 

Criminals use money laundering techniques to conceal the identity, source, and destination of illicitly obtained money.  To do this, they rely on often unsuspecting money mules to transfer proceeds from their crimes without being detected by law enforcement.  Money mules are individuals who transfer illegally obtained money on behalf of others using bank accounts, wire transfers, money orders, or checks.

Criminals create elaborate stories to assume false identities.  Whether pretending to be entrepreneurs or bachelors looking for romance, their end game is to gain the trust of unsuspecting individuals and use them as money mules.  There are a few things you should know about common methods used by criminals to recruit money mules.

Employment

  • You receive an offer to make money quickly and with little effort.
  • You are asked to create a company and a business bank account.
  • Your duties are limited to opening accounts, and receiving and sending money.
  • The employment offer and other communications are poorly written and include spelling mistakes and grammatical errors.
  • The employer does not want to provide you a copy of a business permit upon request.

Romance

  • You meet an individual on an online dating or social media platform.
  • Your romantic partner claims to be stationed overseas as a member of the U.S. military, reside in another state, or live abroad due to personal reasons or visa issues.
  • Your romantic partner claims to be unable to open a bank account and asks to use yours to transfer money.
  • You buy a plane ticket for your romantic partner to visit you, but he or she doesn’t arrive because immigration or personal issues prevent him or her from traveling.
  • Your romantic partner urgently needs to transfer money because of an unexpected emergency.
  • Your romantic partner’s friend contacts you on behalf of your romantic partner to ask for money because of an unexpected emergency.

How to Protect Yourself from Becoming a Money Mule

  • Never share your bank account or other personally identifiable information with others.
  • Never open a joint account with anyone other than close family.
  • Never respond to an offer to earn quick and easy money.
  • Never agree to receive and send money on behalf of others.

For more information, please visit www.secretservice.gov


The following websites provide additional information on current consumer alerts and scams.

FDIC Consumer News and Information
FDIC Consumer Protection
Health Insurance Marketplace Fraud
IRS Tax Scams/Consumer Alerts
Federal Trade Commision Scam Alerts
Washington State Department of Financial Institutions


Security State Bank does not call our customers asking for your personal or bank account information.

Please be aware that Security State Bank does not call our customers asking for your personal or bank account information.  There have been reports of scams where an individual calls citizens in the area and claims they are from their local Banking Institution.  The caller ID appears to show a local number; even bank phone numbers are being spoofed by scammers.  The person asks them to confirm their banking information (Name/Date of Birth/Address/Phone Number/Account Numbers), and then requests that they reply to a text message the scammer is sending them.  DO NOT FALL FOR THIS!  If you receive a call and question the validity of the person on the line or the reason for their call, please hang up and call your local bank directly to confirm it is truly them trying to reach you.  Stay diligent and protect your identity. 


Beware of increased “Phishing” events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Keep your information secure and do not share it. 

There has been an increase in phishing events during the COVID-19 pandemic. Phishing events occur when a fraudster attempts to steal a person’s data, mainly login credentials and account or card information. The fraudster then uses this information to process fraudulent account or card transactions or ATM withdrawals. Fraudsters often utilize social media or information bought on the Dark Web to initiate scams.

An example of how a cardholder Phishing Scam works:

  • The fraudster gathers information from social media to make the fraud more believable.
  • Cardholder receives a phone call from the fraudster posing as a financial institution employee.
    • Fraudsters often spoof phone numbers from the financial institution when contacting the victim, making it seem legitimate.
  • Fraudster advises cardholder that they have fraud attempts on their card and they will receive a text with a case number.
    • While on the phone, the fraudster will perform a transaction they know will generate a fraud alert.
    • When the cardholder receives the case number, the fraudster asks for the case number over the phone so the card can be permanently blocked. Instead, the fraudster is using the case number to call into the Fraud Department and validate the activity as valid, so they can continue to use the card fraudulently.
  • The fraudster may suggest the cardholder transfer money into their checking account from savings to make it “safer,” thereby giving the fraudster access to more money.
  • The cardholder thinks the fraud was caught and stopped, while the fraudster is busy committing more fraudulent transactions and stealing more money.

As a reminder, Security State Bank will never contact our customers to ask for the following:

  • Account Number/Card Number
  • CVV
  • PIN
  • Passwords
  • Social Security Number
  • Online Banking Credentials

Security State Bank will never advise a cardholder to transfer money or withdraw money. If any information concerning suspicious activity is texted to the cardholder, our customers are not called and asked for information. When cardholders call into the Fraud Department to validate suspicious transactions, the Fraud Department will request the case number to authenticate them. The cardholder should always reply NO if they are unaware of the transactions in question received via a text or email, no matter what direction has been given to them.

If you are concerned about the validity of an email, text, or phone call you receive concerning your Security State Bank account or card information, please contact your local branch or call our Customer Care Center at 360.736.0763 or 800.242.2036 for assistance.


Beware of ATM Skimming Devices

Thieves are installing high-tech tools called “skimmers” on ATM machines in order to capture a person’s account information and steal their money.  The scam involves attaching devices to ATM machines that read the debit and credit card information when the card is swiped.  A camera may also be installed nearby to capture the person’s PIN, giving thieves everything they need to access that person’s account.  Skimming devices are usually only left in place for a short period of time and thus are not even securely fastened to the targeted ATM machine.  According to the FBI, criminals have become adept at creating skimming devices that look as if they are an original part of the ATM.

While ATMs in airports, gas stations, convenience stores and other well-traveled public places are most vulnerable to these devices, ATM skimming has happened locally here in Lewis County and throughout the northwest. 

What you can do to avoid becoming a victim of skimming:

  • Notice Your Surroundings.  ATM users should check machines for anything that looks out of place before inserting/swiping their card.  Be suspicious if you see anything loose, crooked, or damaged, or if you notice scratches or adhesive/tape residue.  Walk away from an ATM that looks suspicious or if you notice someone watching you.  Report this to the ATM operator or nearby law enforcement.
  • Cover Your PIN.  When entering your PIN, block the keypad with your other hand to prevent a possible hidden camera from recording your number.
  • If Your Card Isn’t Returned. If your card isn’t returned after the transaction or after hitting “cancel”, immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card. 
  • Review Your Account Statements. Regularly review your account statements and report unauthorized withdrawals or purchases right away to your bank or credit card company.