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Common Scams to Watch Out For
Financial Basics

Common Scams to Watch Out For

Angie Truscinski

Angie Truscinski
Risk Management, Security Officer

Mary Lautt

Mary Lautt
Electronic Banking Specialist


Fraudsters are always working on ways to take advantage of you, but you can protect yourself by being aware of anything that seems out of the ordinary. Here are a some of the most common scams to watch out for and what you should do if you feel something is too good to be true.


Check Overpayment

What is it? 
In a Check Overpayment Scam, a scammer will send a check payment for a higher amount than expected. They will instruct you to deposit the check and wire a portion of the amount back for reasons like paying for taxes, fees, or supplies. After you send money, the check is returned as fraudulent, and you are responsible for paying the money you sent the scammer. 

What to watch for: 

  • Scammers target people by pretending to be hiring mystery shoppers, claiming you won a cash prize, or will even target people selling items online. 
  • Anyone who sends you a check you were not expecting or a check for more money than what you were asking.
  • Anyone who asks you to send back a portion of the money they paid you.

What you should do: 

  • Don’t accept any checks that are for larger amounts than you were expecting.
  • Never send back a portion of a check payment by wire transfer or any other means.

Money Mule Scams

What is it? 
A money mule is someone who receives and transfers money through their personal bank accounts at the request of someone else. Criminals recruit money mules to help launder proceeds from illegal activities. Common recruiting channels for money mule victims include social media and dating websites. 

What to watch for: 

  • Receiving an unsolicited message that promises pay for little or no effort, especially work-from-home jobs. 
  • Requests to open a bank account and receive money into it, and then being asked to transfer that money out via wire transfer or money service business. 

What should you do? 

  • Never use your own bank account, or open one in your name, to transfer money for an employer or someone else.
  • Never agree to receive money into your account and then immediately transfer it back out.
  • Check the legitimacy of any company that offers you a job, especially a work-from-home job.

Support Specialist Scam

What is it? 
In a Support Specialist Scam, scammers pretend to be a support specialist from a known technology company. They will try to trick you into believing that your computer or device has a virus and ask to remote in to fix the issue. Once remoted in, the scammer has full access to any personal and financial information on your computer or device, and will often transfer money out of your accounts to accounts owned by the scammers.  

What to watch for: 

  • Support Specialists from legitimate companies will never cold call to help fix an issue with your computer or device. 
  • Anyone claiming to be a support specialist asking you to download an app or allow remote access to your computer or device.
  • Pop-Up Messages on your computer or device claiming your computer is infected. 

What you should do: 

  • Never share your online banking usernames and passwords, security questions/answers, or one-time passcodes. 
  • If you did not initiate contact, never allow a support specialist remote access to your computer or device, and do not download any apps at their request. 
  • End communication and visit a legitimate technology company to have your computer scanned and cleaned, if necessary. 

Phishing Scam

What is it? 
Phishing scams look like official emails, text messages, or other communications from banks or other reputable companies, but in reality, are fake communications created by fraudsters. The intent of these messages is to trick unsuspecting victims into giving out personal or financial information, which can then be used to steal money or your identity. 

What to watch for: 

  • Generic greetings 
  • Misspelling of words and grammatical errors
  • Variation of logos or names of known companies
  • Links to websites or login pages

What you should do: 

  • Never click the link or call the number provided in the communication.
  • Visit a trusted URL or call a trusted phone number for the company to verify the legitimacy of the request. 

Social Media Scams

What is it? 
Social Media Scams advertise goods and services on social media sites for very low prices. They will often urge you to complete the purchase within a specified amount of time or risk losing the sale price. 

What to watch for: 

  • Prices that are too good to be true
  • Any sale that urges you to complete purchase within a specified time limit 

What you should do: 

  • Do not click on any ads in social media to buy a product. Instead, go to the legitimate website for that product to complete your purchase. 

Imposter Scam

What is it? 
In an Imposter Scam, scammers will contact you pretending to be your financial institution, a government agency such as the IRS or Medicare, or even a charitable organization and try to get money or personal information. They may ask for payments for things like owing back taxes or having unpaid debt that needs to be settled immediately. 

What to watch for: 

  • Anyone reaching out to ask for personal information or demanding payment. Legitimate companies will not call you to verify personal information or demand payment on the spot. 
  • Asking for payment via gift cards, wire transfers, or person-to-person transfers. 

What you should do: 

  • End communications and contact the company or organization with trusted contact information to verify the legitimacy of the request. 

Debt Collection Scams

What is it? 
Scammers posing as law enforcement or debt collectors try to collect a debt that’s not actually owed. The scammer may go as far as threatening jail or even violence to receive payment, but will refuse to show any written proof of the debt.

What to watch for: 

  • Legitimate debt collection companies will never threaten you with jail time or violence to pay a debt 
  • A caller claiming you owe a debt who will not provide any information or proof regarding the debt 
  • Asking to pay by person-to-person transfer, wire transfer, or with prepaid gift cards. 

What should you do: 

  • Ask for the name of the company or organization that you owe a debt to, and then call back with a verified phone number.
  • Check your credit report to verify any debt claims.

ATM Distraction Scam

What is it? 

In an ATM Distraction Scam, a victim using an ATM is targeted. As the victim inserts their debit card into the ATM to begin their transaction, the scammer will come up behind the victim and watch the victim enter their PIN. The scammer will then place money on the ground and tap the victim’s shoulder, informing them they must have dropped some cash. When the victim goes down to pick up the cash, the scammer (or another scammer working in tandem) takes the victim’s debit card from the ATM, sometimes replacing it with a dummy card. The scammer now has the victims debit card and PIN and can make unauthorized withdrawals and purchases.

What to watch for?

  • People lingering around, but not using, the ATM machine.
  • Someone coming up behind you, approaching you, or offering assistance while you are at an ATM.
  • Someone claiming you dropped money on the ground while using an ATM.

What can you do? 

  • Wait until others have cleared away before using an ATM.
  • Be aware of your surroundings when using an ATM.
  • Always cover the keypad with your hand or wallet when entering your PIN.
  • Do not look or step away from the ATM during your transaction.

Remember that scams can happen to anyone at any age and falling for a scam is nothing to be ashamed of. By speaking out, reporting scams, and encouraging others to do the same, you can help protect others from becoming victims.

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