Financial scams are on the rise across the nation. In periods of disruption, scammers often introduce new ways to defraud you. From the start of COVID-19, we’ve seen several new scams as well as more aggressive attempts to use known forms of fraud against Americans.
Take precautions. Talk about the spike in scams and fraud with family and friends so they are alert. Contact your Heritage Banker with any questions or suspicions.
Fraudulent Unemployment Benefit Assistance
The United States Secret Service is investigating an extensive fraud scheme exploiting the COVID-19 crisis that involves the use of stolen personal identifying information, e.g. name, address, SSN, date of birth, etc., to fraudulently claim unemployment benefits that are then paid out by state governments. Fraudsters apply online with the stolen identifying information, and they direct payment of the benefits to an account using information such as account number and routing number that they received directly from the account holder through an online dating scam. After funds are deposited in the identified account, the fraudster then asks the bank customer to withdraw the funds, transfer them to other accounts via money transfer apps, purchase bitcoin and other virtual money, or purchase gift cards and other merchandise that is then shipped to the fraudster.
This fraud network is expected to result in potential losses in the hundreds of millions of dollars, and banks across the country have been targeted, including local banks, credit unions, and large national banks. If someone you meet online needs your bank account information to deposit money, they are most likely using your account to carry out other theft and fraud schemes. Please contact us immediately if you received unexpected deposits from a state agency or if you believe this has happened to you!
There are a few versions of the “grandparent scam”. Seniors might be contacted about a grandchild in jail who needs bail. They might hear from relatives who need money for emergency medical procedures or help returning from a foreign country. The situation is always urgent, there’s a request to transfer money, and the caller will often ask that the senior not involve other family members to avoid embarrassment (i.e. "Don't tell my mom I need help.").
When seniors panic and rush to get cash to a family member in need, they often neglect to check in with other family members or confirm the request comes from a family member. Once the wire or cash transfer is done, the money is gone. A few times, Heritage Bank employees have noticed an elderly customer was transferring a large sum of money out of state or out of the country, asked a few questions and stopped the scam in its tracks.
Recently, the Secret Service warned banks about a COVID stimulus scam. Fraudsters, posing as U.S. Treasury officials, contact and direct potential victims to a website to register to receive a stimulus check. The websites are designed to collect victims’ personally identifiable information, bank account information, email addresses, passwords and more.
It is important to understand you do not have to do anything and pay anything to receive your stimulus check or any other government payment. The IRS will not contact you by telephone, email, text message or social media with information about your stimulus payment. The IRS will not ask you for your Social Security Number, bank account information or government benefits debit card number. Anyone who asks for this information by phone, email, text or social media is phishing for your information.
Also, the IRS will never tell you to deposit a stimulus check, then request you send them money because they overpaid you. It's called a "fake check" scam. You should contact your bank and the IRS if you are targeted by these requests.
Phishing (with a Ph) and Supply Scams
Scammers are impersonating health organizations and businesses to gather personal and financial information. Another version of this scam involves selling fake test kits, supplies, vaccines or cures for COVID-19.
Scammers are creating fake shops, websites, social media accounts and email addresses claiming to sell medical supplies currently in high demand, such as surgical masks. When consumers attempt to purchase supplies through these channels, fraudsters pocket the money and never provide the promised supplies.