As a financial institution, we see people effected by online scams on almost a weekly basis. Here are some tips to avoid falling victim to these virtual thieves.
- When making a purchase through a community site, like Craigslist, deal locally and face-to-face. Craigslist advises that if you follow this one rule, you will avoid 99% of scam attempts.
- Do no send money to anyone you have not met in person. This includes transactions via Western Union, bank to bank wires, personal checks or cash. Anyone who asks you do that is most likely a scammer.
- Be wary of accepting money orders or cashier/certified checks from someone you don’t know. Most times these checks are fakes. If you have to accept payment that way, DO NOT send the product/goods until you know the funds have cleared. If the funds come back as fraudulent, you are held responsible for making sure the financial institution is paid those funds, not to mention you’ll be out whatever you sent the cyber scammer.
- Keeping along the same lines, if you accept payment in the form of money order or cashier/certified check for MORE than the agreed upon amount, DO NOT send them the difference back. They have sent you a fraudulent payment and when your financial institution is notified of that, you’ll be out whatever money you sent the scammer, plus bank fees. Remember, if it seems to good to be true, it probably is.
- Beware of phone call scammers. They may tell you that your utilities are about to be shut off and you have to go purchase prepaid cards and call them right back with the card information. Once they receive the card information, the money is debited and there is no way of getting your funds back. Any reputable company will not call you and demand payment via Western Union or prepaid credit cards.
- Do not give out any personal information. This includes your bank account information and social security number. You are setting yourself up for identity theft. If you see a job on a site like Craigslist, be very careful about what type of information you send. These could be scammers looking to access your personal information.
Any get rich quick type of schemes online are not legitimate. These scammers are the only ones making money. If you are uncertain about funds you’ve received, bring it to your financial institution. They should be able to help determine the validity of the check. Westport Federal Credit Union always advises its members who believe the funds are legitimate to deposit the check into an account and do not send any money to the person who gave you the check. We will place an extended check hold to ensure enough time has passed to determine if the check is valid. If the check is returned to us as fraudulent or stolen, we will withdraw the funds that were deposited, plus a $5 fee. This is the safest way to go about it and prevents the member from being out hundreds, if not thousands of dollars.
For more questions, please call us at 508.679.0197 or visit one of our locations.