COVID-19 has given new life to predators that use schemes to access your personal information and steal your money. During this pandemic, it's important to be even more aware of and on guard for potential fraud and scams. Here are a few to look out for.
If someone sends you money and asks you to send it to someone else, beware. You may unknowingly be part of a scam, where you serve as the so-called “money mule.” This means you are helping a scammer to make it impossible to trace their illegally-acquired money.
Scammers disguise their ill intent behind schemes that involve a request to transfer illegal funds to other sources for payment.
Some of the schemes are clever and can happen in several ways. They are often related to online dating, work-at-home jobs, or prize-winning. Scammers send money to you, sometimes by check, then ask you to send some of it to someone else. They often want you to use gift cards or wire transfers.
The result: loss of your hard-earned funds, potential theft of your personal information or, if the money accepted was stolen, getting in trouble with the law.
“Phishing” is a scam that attempts to obtain your personal information through your email. The scam occurs when a fraudulent email appearing to be from a legitimate company directs you to a link that asks you sign on to another account. The fraudulent sender then captures your information in an attempt to steal your identity. Phishing emails can be very deceiving and often contain logos or have a look that is similar to the website or company they are mimicking.
Self-Help will never send an email requesting personal account information. If you see an email supposedly sent by Self-Help, asking for personal account information, it is a phishing scam.
Should you receive one of these emails:
* Forward the email to our Member Support Center
Here are a few of the most common deceptions that should raise red flags when you encounter them. Here’s what scammers do:
They ask for personal information, like your social security or your bank account number.
Do not share this information with anyone you do not know and trust. Reputable companies will not suddenly contact you and ask for this information over the telephone or by email.
They say they are collecting a fee for your government relief check, or they promise to send the check to you faster.
Hang up or delete immediately. There is no fee associated with government stimulus checks, and there is nothing you or any other individual can do to make it come sooner.
They claim to have medications or a cure for COVID-19.
This is especially vile as scammers try to take advantage of widespread anxiety and desperate wishes. Unfortunately, today there is no cure, vaccine or miracle medicine. For accurate medical information, rely on agencies such as the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
They send an email and urge you to open the attached document.
Be extremely cautious. If you don’t know the sender of the email, or if the message seems odd or unexpected in any way, do not open the attachment. Doing so can release malicious software on your computer that gives the sender complete access to your information. If the apparent sender is known to you and you have any doubts, double check with them in a separate message before clicking on the attachment.
They send an email that looks like it’s from a legitimate group—say, the World Health Organization—and provide a handy link where you can make a donation. Don’t click! If you want to donate, it is safer to go directly to the organization’s website.
They call and identify themselves as a big government agency, like the Social Security Administration. Or your grandchild who is having an emergency. Or Microsoft or Apple. Or some charming person you’ve met online.
These are called “imposter” scams, and the common thread is that they are usually asking you to respond to an urgent situation that requires money. Remember that no government agency or big company will call you out of the blue and demand money immediately. If the caller doesn’t want to give you time to consult with family members or advisers, they don’t have your best interests at heart.
To protect yourself from scams, please know that we won’t ask for confidential information—such as your name, password, PIN or other account information—if we reach out to you. See the Federal Trade Commission’s advice.
To guard against phishing, don’t open links in emails or texts unless you’re sure that it’s authentic. And never provide your usernames or passwords outside of the normal secure sites and apps you use, like our mobile app and self-help.org
If your Self-Help debit or credit card has been stolen or compromised as a result of a scam, please call your local branch or our Member Services Center at 800-966-7353 right away so that we can assist you.
Think you’ve been a victim of a money mule or other scam? Report it to the Federal Trade Commission or to your state Attorney General’s office.
The Financial Services Information Sharing and Analysis Center (FS-ISAC) has compiled robust lists of work-from-home security tips for institutions and individuals.
Learn more about fraud and account protection
Money Mule Scams
Pandemic Relief Fraud
You can find many good resources online, including this helpful article from Nerdwallet that focuses specifically on relief scams.
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