Government agencies warn of bank failure scams and other con tricks: Internet Scambusters #1,065
The threat of more bank failures after recent collapses has prompted crooks to get in on the act by sending bogus alerts to customers.
Meanwhile, money-conscious consumers are being tricked into buying cut-price postage stamps, which are useless and illegal counterfeits.
We have details of these latest frauds, along with a fascinating list of the most common lies used by romance scammers, in this week's issue.
Let's get started…
Bank Failure Scams, Fake Stamps, and Love Lies
Scammers are trying to cash in on news about recent bank failures by trying to scare customers into handing over their account details or transferring their deposits to sham accounts.
Many financial institutions have issued warnings to their customers. For example, online bank CapitalOne says: "Scammers are using this moment of change to take advantage of unsuspecting customers. By preying on common anxieties, fraudsters can trick you into sending money to a phony bank account or providing your personal banking information."
And America's cyber defense agency, the CISA, has issued a strong warning to businesses and consumers.
"Exercise caution in handling emails with bank-related subject lines, attachments, or links," the agency said. "In addition, be wary of social media pleas, texts, or door-to-door solicitations relating to any failed bank."
One tactic used by the crooks is to impersonate officials from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) - the organization that effectively guarantees individual deposits of up to $250,000 and acts as the receiver, responsible for sorting out the aftermath of bank collapses.
The scammers try to pass themselves off as named, high-ranking FDIC employees, warning of banking problems and asking victims for their account information and other personal details, including Social Security numbers.
The FDIC simply does not contact consumers and businesses to request this information. So, if you get a message asking for this, it's a scam.
Posing as the FDIC or even banks themselves, the fraudsters might also ask for a payment to secure your bank deposits or, supposedly, to increase your protection beyond the standard $250,000. Their trick is easily exposed - they usually ask for payment in cybercurrency, money wires, or even gift cards.
Again, legitimate financial organizations don't do this. If you bank with an FDIC-backed institution, which most banks do - plus the equivalent for credit unions - you don't have to pay any type of premium to protect your savings.
Another trick, particularly targeting businesses, is to pose as a product or service supplier, saying they've switched their account to another bank for safety. They ask victims to send their money to this new account, which they drain immediately.
Businesses and consumers should be wary of any type of contact that uses scare tactics to try to make you panic into following their instructions. Never act on this type of contact without independently verifying the supposed issue.
Meanwhile, another government agency has warned about a flood of counterfeit postage stamps being offered at massive price cuts of up to 50 percent.
Scam websites, seemingly from China, have been advertising bulk, low-cost stamp deals. The timing is perfect, since the US Postal Service (USPS) announced last month that it has filed to increase the price of first-class stamps from 63 to 66 cents.
The sites may look official with USPS logos and photos of mail trucks. But don't be fooled.
A spokesperson for the US Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) said that genuine stamps are never offered at big discounts. They may look realistic, but you can't use them. It's illegal and if you do you could land in court.
"The number of counterfeit stamps being sold from online platforms has escalated," the USPIS said.
"Scammers peddle fake stamps on social media marketplaces, e-commerce sites via third party vendors, and other websites. Counterfeit stamps are often sold in bulk quantities at a significant discount - anywhere from 20 to 50 percent of their face value. That's a tell-tale sign they're bogus."
If you need stamps, you should either get them from the USPS or one of the reputable "approved postal providers" such as certain warehousing retailers who often offer a small discount.
And for our third government-issued warning this week, we turn to the Federal Trade Commission, which earlier this year issued an alert about romance scammers - a topic frequently covered here on Scambusters.
Noting that last year alone romance scams cost Americans at least $1.3 billion, the FTC issued a list of the most common lies told by the fraudsters to try to convince victims they're genuine.
The top 8 lies (and variations of them) spun by romance scammers are:
- Claims that someone close is hurt, sick, or in jail
- Offers to teach you how to invest
- Pretending to be in the military, based overseas
- Requests for help with an important package delivery
- Suggestions of talking about marriage before a couple has even met
- Claims to have inherited a lot of money or gold
- Posing as a worker on an oil rig or ship
- Reassurances you can trust them with private photos
The biggest proportion of romance scams last year started out on social media, followed by websites and/or messaging apps.
This Week's Alerts
Amazon battle: Amazon, probably the world's biggest online retailer, has launched a new plea to customers to play their part in defeating scammers. The company says it initiated takedown of 20,000 phishing websites and 10,000 phone numbers used for impersonating Amazon in 2022. And it urged customers to report any suspicious messages and phone calls to help in the battle, stressing that it never asks customers to install an app or download software to get refunds or customer service help.
Resume formatting: Job hunters are being tricked into handing over cash and personal information in a new scam. The Better Business Bureau says bogus headhunters invite would-be applicants to upload their resume. But when they do, they get an error message saying the document is wrongly formatted. They're then supposed to visit a website to get it fixed. Once there, they have to pay a fee and provide personal details, all of which go straight into the crooks' hands.
That's all for today -- we'll see you next week.