Advance-Fee Fraud: a form of fraud that typically involves promising the victim a significant share of a large sum of money in return for a small up-front payment, which the fraudster requires to obtain a large amount of money. Once the victim makes the payment, the fraudster sets up more fees or disappears. The scam is mostly used via email, promising the victim things that are too good to be true.
Have you seen the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau ads on television recently? I see them all the time when watching the local news. They warn against fraud scams like advance fees, among others. When the CFPB began in 2011, it was designed to be a resource for consumers dealing with all things finance. Since 2011, American consumers have become much more aware of fraud. Being more aware of fraud can lead to more creative fraudsters, and now we see things like the Advance-Fee Fraud. Because we see more and more instances of fraud, we wanted to give you some tips to avoid this scam.
- If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Rely on history. No matter how appealing the situation may seem, sending money to someone you do not know is more than likely not what it seems.
- Never agree to send money to someone unless you are sure that you will receive what the agreement entails. Talk to those involved. If you are still inclined to proceed (which we do not recommend), insist on speaking with someone directly, in person or via phone. Ask questions that will help determine what exactly is going on.
- Do some research. Use Google and Yelp. If the person is reaching out from another country – that’s a big red flag. Be wary of someone reaching out to you from afar without a personal connection or referral. Seek details. Ask the tough, direct questions. Fraudsters won’t have clear or distinct answers. The answers and details should make sense.
- Don’t bank on the money yet. Financial institutions do their best to stop fraudulent transactions, yet some slip through and are resolved weeks or months later when the card-holder challenges the charge. You shouldn’t assume the money is good until six months down the road. Maintain your control.
The end goal for fraudsters is to get your money, you may be eager to pay them, and that is what they are counting on. They will try to convince you just to pay them. To protect yourself, maintain your control, and limit their power. Take the emotion out of the situation.
- Don'tlet them frighten you. Once you start researching and asking questions, the fraudsters will usually ghost you. In the rare case they do not, they often resort to scare tactics to convince you to be an unknowing part of their scheme.
Hang up the phone, block that email address, etc. Yes, they may sound scary, but they are only on the other end of the phone or an email correspondence. Cut off communication and report them to the Federal Trade Commission and your local consumer advocates like the Office of Consumer Protection.
- Contact your financial institution. We are here to help. If you have gone through the above steps and are still not convinced, give us a call. We see fraud every day and would be happy to guide you through the process. If we can help you before the situation becomes a severely negative account balance, you will be much more comfortable.
We see people frequently who fall for something that seems too good to be true, and they end up owing thousands of dollars. Contact us first, granted our Member Service Representatives in the branch will most likely question any check like this and place a hold on the funds. Communicate with us your concerns, and we can help you navigate the world of fraudsters.
There you go, six tips to help you avoid being the victim. Please, always contact a trusted source before getting involved in a situation like this. I cannot stress enough, if it sounds too good to be true, it likely is. Be wary when dealing with folks online and never let anyone intimidate you into sending them money.
We hope this post helps guide you through Advance-Fee Fraud and how not to become a victim. Again, contact us at the credit union if you suspect something is not right and we will help you. RMCU is here to look out for your well-being and make sure that you have the tools you need to be financially secure.
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