know fraud to stop fraud
part 2

By: Michelle Purcell
June 7th, 2018

sweetheart scam

Sweetheart Scams and Phishing Fraud

Fraud is a constant risk and increasing in frequency. Odds are you or someone you know has had someone attempt to scam them or may have even succeeded. There are many types of fraudulent activity but today I’ll be discussing two types of fraudulent scams: Sweetheart Scams and Phishing Attacks.

So what is a sweetheart scam?

A sweetheart scam is when a boyfriend/girlfriend (a sweetheart) uses emotional manipulation to scam money out of their partner. Their targets are often lonely or elderly. The scammer asks the vulnerable victim for things such as money to purchase tickets to come for a visit or for money to help a sick relative. These scammers are only in the relationship for financial gain. They will often move from one victim to another. The FBI states that the average victim is scammed out of $15,000-$20,000 each, which is double what it used to be 10 years ago. While online dating sites have made this scam simpler to pull off, they can just as easily be done in person. One of the biggest problems is getting accurate data on the scam because those who have been scammed will not report it; often from embarrassment or denial. Remember, if your sweetheart asks you for money, it might be a scam.

A phishing attack is…?

A phishing attack is a type of scam where a scammer poses as a business in order to lure a victim into providing personal or financial information. Scammers will use phone calls, emails, text messages or even pop up ads that will try and convince you to give them information. Emails ask you to click links or download an attachment which contains spyware. Be wary of any communication that requests confidential or personally identifiable information such as your social security number, birth date, address, bank account number, login ID, passwords, PIN or card numbers. MidWest America will NEVER contact you to request this information. Don’t respond to any link or attachment that looks suspicious or comes from an unknown source, even if they threaten to close your account or that your account has been compromised. If you receive a message concerning your MidWest account that seems suspicious, please contact us.

Scammers try to get money out of their victims in a number of ways:

  • by asking a victim to wire funds or send ACH credits to their account;
  • turning a bad check into good money by having the victim deposit their check and purchase gift cards or reload cash on a card;
  • convincing a victim to co-sign and/or apply for a loan or apply for new credit/debit card for them; or
  • asking their victim to withdraw cash and give it to the scammer.

REMEMBER, scammers will say or do anything they need to in order to get $$$. Here are some examples of people I know that were phished or almost phished.

My husband’s grandmother received a call one day from someone claiming to be her grandson and that he was in jail and needed money. They were trying to get her to wire money to them. Since he was her only grandson, she called everyone in the family trying to locate him to find out what happened and why he was in jail. Fortunately, he was at home and could call her to prove it was a scam.

I also had a member recently get scammed by a fraudster claiming to be from Apple. The hacker managed to get into the member’s phone and freeze it with only one button on the screen. Once clicked, the button took you to an “Apple Representative” (a.k.a. the scammer) who said that he needed to purchase iTunes gift cards for the company in order to get his phone fixed. Unfortunately, he did buy the gift cards and was scammed out of $400.

My sister fell for a car extended warranty trick and thankfully was able to get the transaction stopped before they could take the money. She had just bought a new car and received a call saying her warranty expired and she needed to pay a certain amount to get it reinstated. She signed up, thought more about it, and called the dealership. They stated that her warranty was fine and that they had no idea who the other company was. She then called MidWest America to get her card turned off so the charge didn’t go through.

Finally, beware of scams involving Venmo which is a mobile payment device similar to PayPal. This service is designed to be used to exchange money between family and friends and is not recommended for small business transactions and online sales through place like Craigslist or eBay and does not offer protections to buyers or sellers. Also, Venmo does not immediately pull funds from the purchaser’s account and scammers have used this to their benefit. How the scam works is the scammer finds a victim who is selling something and offers payment through Venmo. The seller sees the funds in their account instantly, but the fact is that payments through Venmo take several days to be fully processed. The seller thinking they’ve been paid gives the merchandise to who they believe is the buyer, but is actually someone the scammer has hired to go pick it up, thus maintaining anonymity. After the merchandise is exchanged, the buyer disputes their Venmo transfer or closes their account or never had the funds to complete the transaction in the first place. Venmo then notifies the victim that the funds are no longer available and they need to talk to the buyer to be paid by other means. The victim can then no longer contact the buyer and the merchandise has already been exchanged.

The best defense against fraud is to be cautious and aware. For more information on catching and preventing fraud as well as how to report a scam, visit www.consumer.ftc.gov. New updates daily.