Scams and Schemes – Tips to Protect Yourself and Others

Here are some common scams and schemes and ways to keep you and your financial information protected. 


SMS Text Message “Smishing” Scam

A person received a text message that appeared to be from his local bank. The message stated his debit card has been deactivated and instructed him to call a toll-free telephone number, which he did. When he received a recording that asked him to enter his debit card and PIN, he hung up. He then called his bank and spoke to a representative who stated his debit card was working properly and the text message was a scam.

Text messages like these are quick to grab your attention. Studies show that most text messages are opened within 15 minutes of receipt. Scam artists know this and sometimes target consumers with “Smishing” scams via text message or SMS (short message service).
Smishing occurs when scam artists use deceptive text messages to lure consumers into providing their personal or financial information. The scam artists that send smishing messages often impersonate a government agency, bank, or other company to lend legitimacy to their claims. Smishing messages typically ask consumers to provide usernames and passwords, credit and debit card numbers, PINs, or other sensitive information that scam artists can use to commit fraud.
Don’t be misled by smishing scams. Government agencies, banks and other legitimate companies never ask for personal or financial information, like usernames, passwords, PINs, or credit or debit card numbers via text message.
Don’t “click” open links in unsolicited text messages. Clicking the link may infect your mobile device with a virus or malware designed to steal the personal or financial information stored on the device.
Don’t call a telephone number listed in an unsolicited text message.

Grandparent Scam

A grandparent receives a phone call from their “grandchild” saying that they have been in an accident or have been arrested. They say they need money to pay the emergency room bill or the lawyer and court costs. They might not even sound like the “real” grandchild but insist that the request be kept confidential. The scammers play on the grandparent’s sympathy for their grandchild and provide instructions to wire money or forward funds in some other manner. If calls like this are received, make sure to contact the grandchild on his or her cell phone or contact their parents to see if the grandchild is even in the area the caller stated. Make sure to deal with the “real” grandchild and not an impostor.

Romance Scam

Two parties meet on the internet, possibly through a dating website, or over the phone. It all seems innocent enough and as time goes on, there seems to be a real relationship. Even though they have never met face to face, one party may start asking the other for money. At first it may be smaller amounts, with the promise to repay when a meeting is finally arranged. Then, there always seems to be some delay because of other family member’s illnesses or work complications. The money amounts requested become larger and sometimes gift cards are to be purchased and forwarded to the person. Often, they may ask for account information or online banking credentials to set up a PayPal transfer or an automatic withdrawal. They are persistent and promise great things when both are finally together. However, this meeting never happens. The scammer has gotten away with the money and the other person is left with a broken heart.

Mystery Shopper or Employment Scam

A person answers an ad in the newspaper or online. It is a job opportunity and can work from home. The person might even receive an official check as a starting bonus or it is to cover the cost of “account activation.” The scammer hopes to receive these funds before the fake official check clears at the bank and the person, as the new employee, realizes they have been scammed.

Another scenario is the person is promised a sum of money for being a “Mystery Shopper.” That seems easy enough and one could always use some extra money. The person is to evaluate the customer service at a business and also the money transfer service. A cashier’s check or other check is received to deposit to the person’s individual account. Then they are instructed to withdraw the amount in cash and use the local money transfer business to send the funds back to the “employer” and evaluate the service provided by the business. Soon after the funds are sent out, the fake check is returned to the person’s bank as a fraud and the “mystery shopper” is out the funds that were deposited.

Lotteries, Sweepstakes and Inheritance Scams

A person receives notification that they have won a lottery or sweepstakes. That is great news! However, the person doesn’t recall ever entering such a contest. Or, maybe a person receives word that a relative with the same last name has died in a foreign country and they are entitled to an inheritance. Instructions are received that in order to “claim” the winnings or inheritance, “taxes and fees” must be paid before the person can receive the prize or inheritance money. A fake cashier’s check or other check is sent, which the scammer asks the person to cash and wire back the funds to cover taxes and fees. Remember, if the contest or inheritance is legitimate, you will never be asked to remit funds to claim your prize or money.

Always remember….If something sounds too good to be true, then most likely it is fraudulent or harmful.