Scams on social media are nothing new. However, recently, Solarity and other financial institutions have noticed an increase in fraudsters being successful with a newer check-cashing scheme. Here are the latest ways scammers are defrauding the unsuspecting:
- Scammers are finding their victims and connecting with them on social media. They woo the victim with all kinds of promises. This could be anything from asking them to be an influencer for a product or service to offering them a job for a “small fee.” The scammer promotes the opportunity in such a compelling way that the victim is emotionally invested.
- The scammer then goes after the victim’s money. The scammer sends the victim a check or a picture of a check, which the victim is asked to deposit into his or her account. The scammers then ask them to send some of the money back to them via a payment app like Cash App, PayPal or Venmo. The scammers are slick, coming up with a myriad of fake reasons - from having to pay for training supplies to fees for their services.
- The victim is told they get to “keep a portion.” Of course, the check is bogus and never clears, so the victim is out the money they sent to the scammers via the payment app. Adding to the misery, they may be on the hook for NSF or overdraft fees as well.
- Sometimes the scammers go after confidential information, too. While fake check scams are the most common ones we’re seeing right now, some scammers also ask for the victim’s sensitive financial information. This can include their online banking credentials, debit card number and pin, which can result in even greater losses for the victim.
- In more sinister cases, known as “card cracking,” the victim is in on it. The fraudster promises the victim a portion of the scam money in exchange for access to their account information. The bad actor deposits fake checks and immediately withdraws the money. When the checks are returned, the “victim” reports their card as lost or stolen or says their account has been compromised in order to receive reimbursement from the bank. Meanwhile, the scammer takes all the money and writes bad checks, robbing the victim of their money and their “cut.” The "victim" is often charged as an accomplice in the crime.
How to protect yourself
Rely on the old saying – if it sounds too good to be true, it is. You should never give personal information, particularly your banking information, to anyone. If a stranger approaches you by email, text message or social media with an enticing offer, proceed with extreme caution (or better yet, delete the message and don’t engage). You should never send money to anyone you do not know. Remember that a legitimate potential employer will never ask you for money before beginning an opportunity, no matter how great it sounds.
For those reading this article thinking, “that would never happen to me,” take note that fraudsters are professionals. They prey on your emotions and do extensive research to figure out how they can personalize their scam to you. If parents are reading this article, talk with your children – even if they’re adults and you think they know better.
What to do if you get scammed
If you are caught in a scam, you should immediately report the user to the social media platform being used and the specific payment app involved. Depending on how much information you shared, alert your bank or credit union so they can close your compromised account to protect you from further loss. If warranted, notify local law enforcement, and consider filing a police report. Additionally, filing a report with IC3.gov and FTC.gov helps the federal government keep track of trends and aids in any potential prosecution efforts.