I was under the weather recently and when I’m sick I like to binge watch Netflix. I was watching one of my favorite sitcoms and they spoofed a financial scam where the victim is sent an email from a foreign prince promising money in return for some very small favors. It was hilarious until I realized this was a very prevalent scam several years ago. Many people lost their savings to this prince. Fear not! I will review with you several more recent scams so you don’t get caught up.
You owe money!
This scam is one of the most despicable, in my opinion. Someone will call your phone and tell you that you owe money on your electric or your taxes or your water. They will choose something everyone pays for and something you can’t live without. They will try to keep you on the phone until they secure payment. They do this by threatening to send the police over to arrest you. Earlier this year, these low-lives were successful with the Green Dot cards from CVS and Walgreens. Once those businesses got wise, the scammers switched to….get this….iTunes cards. What? Let me reassure you: the electric company, the IRS, and the water people do not want your iTunes. If you receive a call from a legitimate collector, they will allow you to hand up and call them back to verify their identity.
You finally landed a job after an extensive search and it sounds really interesting! You have been hired to be a secret shopper. You are sent an official-looking email with the offer and instructions. Fairly soon after, your new “employer” will begin communicating with you via text. The check they send you is written for more than your agreed-upon wage. The scammer will then tell you that you are to take the check to your bank and cash it. Take your wage from the cash then, for your wage from the cash then, for your first assignment, you will be shopping Western Union. All you will need to do is send hundreds of dollars to a person the scammer has assigned to you and report back to the “employer” on how the Western Union did.
See any red flags? Your company will not communicate with you exclusively via text. There is never a legitimate reason why someone would send you a check written for more than the agreed-upon amount. Also, there is a reason they want you to use your bank. You have a relationship with your bank where they will make funds available to you even before they could possibly know they are going to be paid. It can take weeks for a check to come back fraudulent and you are responsible for 100% of the check. The person you are sending the cash to is most likely a trusted friend of the scammer. Once picked up, that money is unrecoverable. How do they know to go pick it up? Well, your “shop” gave them all the information they needed.
This one appeals to the Type A people. You get a job offer to be a personal assistant or be a nanny for the family that is moving to the U.S. from another country. They will have you set some things up for them before their arrival. They will send you a check for much more than your wage (red flag!) telling you to use the rest to purchase items for them online for their new home. They impress upon you the urgency with which all these items must be purchased. That is because the check is fraudulent and the online posting are their own. They need you to deposit the check, let it clear, purchase the items they don’t intend to ship and cut you off before the check bounces. If it sounds too good to be true, it is.
I like to call this one “the Long Con.” They pose as a single person looking for love online. Only after chatting for a while will they reveal they are actually located in a foreign country. They usually lay on the compliments and are very agreeable. They are all too happy to talk to you for hours on the phone. They invest in you because the bigger the investment, the bigger the payoff.
Once they have you saying things like “I love you,” that’s when the requests for money begins. They need money for internet or their cell phone bills are too high to keep calling. These are small. Once you agree to these, they see the opportunity for more. They will ask for money for plane tickets they never intend to use or for a visa application they don’t intend to file.
The worst I’ve seen is when they use your account to launder money. In one instance, the woman came in to the bank to find out why her account was frozen. The wire she received from Canada was due to East Africa where her fiance was. After talking to her, I determined she met him online, became engaged over the phone, and had never actually met the man who had all of her financial information. She said the funds were intended to buy a diamond. Using a multi-layer scam, the “fiance” in East Africa had Lady #1 deposit a fraudulent check in Canada, let it clear and wire it to Lady #2. Lady #2 then wires it to the “fiance.” Lady #1 is on the hook for tens of thousands of dollars. Once the “fiance” is done, Lady #2 becomes Lady #1 in the next scam and the scammer disappears.
Stay tuned ladies and gentlemen! Next week, we will cover a few more common scams. Have you been a victim of a scammer? Tell us about it!
Until next time,
June was born and raised in the south where “bless your heart” is an insult. Self professed serial dater and an expert in all matters of the heart. June also enjoys volunteering, dancing and sewing.