Please enjoy this FREE E-Book from Mutual Credit Union as a gift to Kick Start your Successful Financial New Year in 2019! This workbook is designed to help you set goals, track them throughout 2019 and make your financial dreams a reality!
Scammers are always trying to con victims out of their information and money. They are, unfortunately, often successful. Scammers are expert impersonators, using sophisticated technology and their best acting skills to convince you they represent a business, institution or government agency you may trust. They also tend to prey on the most susceptible victims, including those who are down on their luck or are exceptionally naïve and trusting.
Here at Mutual Credit Union, our biggest priority is your financial wellness, and that includes keeping you and your money safe. To help you achieve it, we’ve put together this guide about recognizing the signs of fraud and protecting yourself from scams.
Five red flags of scams
While the details surrounding the way a scam plays out can vary greatly, most follow a similar theme. They try to get victims to share personal information or to pay for a service or product that doesn’t exist. Here are five ways to spot a scammer:
They demand detailed information before agreeing to process an application. A favorite ploy among scammers is asking for sensitive, non-public information like your date of birth, Social Security number and login information for online accounts. They will typically do this before processing any application for an alleged product, service or job.
They insist on a specific method of payment. If an online seller or service provider will only accept payment through a wire transfer or a prepaid debit card, you’re likely looking at a scam.
They send you a check for an inflated amount. Another favorite trick among scammers is to overpay a seller or “employee,” and then ask the victim to return the extra money. In a few days’ time, when the original, inflated check doesn’t clear, the victim realizes they’ve been conned but it’s too late to get back the “extra” money they returned.
You can’t find any information about the company the caller allegedly represents. A scammer representing a bogus business can easily be uncovered by doing a quick online search about the “company.”
You’re pressured to act now. Scammers are always in a rush to complete their ruse before you catch onto their act.
Who are the targets?
Scammers usually cast a wide net to ensnare as many victims as possible. However, lots of scams focus on a subset of highly vulnerable targets. Here are some of the most common targets of scams:
The unemployed. The internet makes it easy for scammers to learn that you’re looking for a job. If you’re job hunting, be careful not to respond to any emails offering you a “dream position” you never applied for or even knew about.
The aging. Older people are another favorite target for scammers. Retired individuals often spend lots of time online, making them more vulnerable to scams. Also, as relative newcomers to the online world, they may be less aware of the dangers lurking on the internet.
Children. Sadly, the youngest members of society are another huge target pool for scammers. Children are naturally trusting and will more readily share information with strangers, which can then be used to steal their identity. Small children will likely not be checking their credit for years, which means a stolen identity can go unchecked until the child grows into a young adult. By that time their credit can be wrecked, almost beyond repair.
What do scams look like?
Here are some of the most common scams:
Cyberhacking. In this scam, hackers gain remote access to your computer and proceed to help themselves to your personal information.
Phishing scams. Scammers bait you into sharing personal information via a bogus job form, an application for a service they allegedly provide or by impersonating a well-known company or government agency.
Mystery shopper. A bogus company will “hire” you to purchase a specific item in a store and then report back about the service experience. Before you get started, though, you’ll have to pay a hefty fee, which you’ll never see again.
Job offers. Scammers “hire” you for a position and then scam you by sending you an inflated check, as detailed above.
Sweetheart scams. A scammer pretending to be an online lover will con you into sharing your personal information and/or sending them money and gifts.
Fraudulent investments. Scammers reach out to potential investors with information about lucrative investments that don’t exist.
10 ways to protect yourself from scams
Keep yourself safe by following these rules:
1. Never share personal information online. 2. Don’t open unsolicited emails or text messages. If you already have, don’t click on any embedded links. 3. Never send money by insecure means to an unknown party. 4. Protect your devices by using the most up-to-date operating systems, choosing two-factor authentication and using strong, unique passwords for every account. 5. Choose the strongest privacy settings for your social media accounts. 6. Keep yourself in the know about the latest scams and learn how to protect yourself. 7. Educate your kids about basic computer safety and privacy. 8. If you have elderly parents who spend time online, talk to them about common scams and teach them to protect themselves. 9. Don’t take the identity of callers at face value, even if your Caller ID verifies their story. If a government agency, utility company or financial institution reaches out to you and asks you to share personal information, tell them you’ll contact them on your own and then end the call. 10. Never accept a job or agree to pay for a purchase or service without thoroughly researching the company involved.
Above all, remember the golden rule of scams: If it’s too good to be true, it’s probably a scam.
Once an individual falls prey to a scam, there is very little that can be done to mitigate the loss. Full financial recovery can take years. It’s best to protect yourself from scams before they happen by educating yourself and asking Mutual Credit Union for help.
Your Turn: How do you keep yourself safe from scams? Share your best tips with us in the comments.
Every year, about this time, we see an increase in fraudsters trying to hustle our members out of their hard-earned money. They’re constantly finding new ways to deceive good people and COVID has allowed for some additional challenges. Some areas that are often targets for fraud are:
Zelle or BillPay money transfers to someone you don’t know.
(Mutual will NEVER call and ask for your information)
Spoofed phone numbers. Fraudsters love to copy phone numbers that you know and trust.
(Mutual will NEVER call and ask for your information)
Pretending to be a trusted service provider such as, Apple or Verizon.
(They will never call and ask for your information)
Emails asking for you to click to verify your identity
(Even if they look legit, go directly to that website, DON’T click on any links)
Some things to watch for that indicate fraudsters are trying to get your information:
Calling or emailing at odd hours
Spelling or grammatical errors and inconsistent speech patterns
Creating a sense of urgency (Act now or you may be locked out!)
Threatening adverse consequences if you don’t act (You will be fined, or you won’t be able to use the service)
If you receive a call asking for information, tell the caller you will call back. Then, hang up and call your institution directly. DO NOT use any number the caller gave you, use the number you can find on the legitimate website, such as mutualcu.org.
The holidays are a time of togetherness and happiness, don’t let a fraudster spoil this time of year.
Everyone loves a surprise package, and scammers are taking the excitement out of that experience by using bogus packages as a cover for a nefarious scam that tricks victims into sharing their personal information — and their money.
Here’s all you need to know about the pending package text scam:
How the scam plays out
In the circulating package delivery scam, the victim receives a text message from a contact who is an alleged mail carrier, or someone representing a package-delivery service. The contact tells the victim they were unable to deliver a package to the victim’s home. The message might claim the package is a gift from a friend or relative and may be worded professionally, making the scam difficult to spot.
The victim is asked to reply to the message to confirm their identity; however, as soon as they engage with the scammer, they will be asked to share their personal information or credit card details to schedule delivery. This, of course, places the victim at risk for identity theft.
In other variations of the scam, the victim is contacted by email or phone. In each scenario, the scam plays out in a similar manner, with the victim convinced there’s a package waiting for them, and willingly sharing sensitive data with a criminal.
Some scammers take the ruse a step further by sending the victim a text message or an email containing an embedded link. The victim is instructed to click on the “tracking link” to track the package or change their delivery preferences. Unfortunately, clicking on the link will download malware into the victim’s device. Alternatively, the link connects the victim to a form asking for their personal information, which the victim often shares willingly.
There are two primary red flags that can serve to warn you about the pending package scam.
First, the original text, email or phone call, will generally not inform the victim of the identity of the company they represent. The scammer will only claim to be an employee of a mail or package delivery service, but will not verify if they work for UPS, FedEx or another legitimate organization.
Second, the scammers don’t always check if the victim actually has a package in transit. They’ll either assume the victim has recently ordered something online or they’ll claim a friend or family has sent a surprise gift. If you know that neither of these is true, you can be on the alert for a possible scam.
Don’t get scammed!
Take these precautions to avoid being the next victim of a pending package scam:
Be wary of unsolicited communications. Your mail carrier and package-delivery services will never contact you via text message or phone call. If a package cannot be delivered for any reason, they will usually leave you a note on the door.
Be wary of “professional” emails sent from unsecure addresses. Any online communications from the USPS or a mail delivery agency will be sent via their own secure domain. Always be suspicious of emails sent from unsecure addresses.
Track all incoming packages. After placing an order for an item, record the tracking number for the package so you can easily verify its whereabouts. This way, you can quickly confirm the authenticity of any suspicious texts, emails or phone calls about your package.
Never share personal information with an unverified contact. Be super-wary when asked to share sensitive information via text, or when online or on a phone call. If you suspect fraud, end the conversation immediately and do not engage further.
Never click on links in unsolicited emails. Links in emails can download malware onto your computer or device. Don’t click links in emails from people you don’t know or from companies you have not asked to contact you. Be wary of official-looking email; popular brands can easily be spoofed.
If you’ve been targeted
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam, it’s important not to engage with the scammer. Delete any suspicious text messages and block the number of the contact. Similarly, delete suspicious emails and mark them as spam. You can also report the scam to the local authorities and to the Federal Trade Commission. Finally, it’s a good idea to warn your friends and family members about the circulating scam.
Your Turn: How do you determine if you’ve been targeted by a pending package scam? Tell us about it in the comments.
We are excited to participate in a NEW way of giving to the United Way of West Central Mississippi at Mutual Credit Union. Starting Thursday, October 1st – Saturday, October 31st we are offering visitors to any Mutual CU branch or drive-thru the opportunity to contribute $1 or more to the United Way of West Central Mississippi. Those who contribute by donating a $1 or more will have their name written on a brick and posted around our teller lines. If you are not planning to visit a Mutual CU branch by the end of October, you can call 1-877-457-3654 option 0 for the call center Monday 0 Friday during normal business hours and they can assist you with your contribution. Just $10 weekly provides medical services to 10 individuals, $20 weekly provides 10 families in crisis with emergency assistance, $40 weekly provides food, shelter, & services to an abused child for one year.
The United Way of West Central Mississippi is a 501(c)3 nonprofit serving Warren, Claiborne, Sharkey, Yazoo, Issaquena counties, and the tip of Madison Parish while working to advance the common good by focusing on education, income and health. These are the building blocks of a good life- a quality education, enough income to support a family, and good health. By bringing together people and resources to address these issues, and by attacking their underlying causes, the United Way hopes to make lasting, fundamental change for everyone. We measure ourselves not just by the amount of money raised for the community, but also by the impact we and our community partners have on changing community outcomes.
For more information about Mutual Credit Union, please follow this link to our webpage. For additional questions, please contact the marketing department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 636-7523 ext. 1226.
On Thursday, October 15th, Mutual Credit Union, along with more than 56,000 credit unions around the world, will celebrate International Credit Union Day (ICU Day). Celebrated for the first time in 1948, this annual event raises global awareness for the credit union movement through outreach, volunteering, fundraising and other ICU Day-themed activities. Credit unions bring financial inclusion and a promising future to people all over the world, and ICU Day is a chance to spotlight and celebrate these achievements.
To celebrate You and International Credit Union Day we INVITE members of Mutual Credit Union and the Public to visit any of our six branch locations for some Mutual CU goodies on Thursday, October 15, 2020 from 9:00 a.m. – 5:00 p.m. Items will be distributed thru the drive-thru tubes, at teller windows, or in member services offices. Please follow this link for location details. Mutual Credit Union items are available while supplies last.
Celebrate with us in this worldwide movement that has made helping people its No. 1 priority for more than 160 years.
International Credit Union Day is brought to you by World Council of Credit Unions (WOCCU) and Credit Union National Association (CUNA)—WOCCU’s direct member organization in the United States.
“This year’s theme for ICU Day is ‘Inspiring hope for a global community,” said Michelle Kamke, marketing projects manager at CUNA. “What better way to show how credit unions from across the world provide hope through financial services, education and support than to highlight how credit unions have advanced the lives of members during the economic uncertainty brought by the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic.”
Participating credit unions can showcase how members and non-members alike can turn to them for financial services, guidance and relief to overcome everyday hurdles, unexpected loss or disaster. You’re encouraged to share your ICU Day highlights with credit unions worldwide on social media using #ICUDay.
“Throughout the COVID-19 crisis, credit unions around the globe have continued to provide a high level of service to their members and demonstrated a generosity to their local communities that has set them apart from other financial institutions. We are truly inspiring hope for a global community. I can’t think of a better theme around which to celebrate International Credit Union Day 2020,” said Brian Branch, World Council of Credit Unions’ President and CEO.
In a year like no other, credit unions can embrace this day to celebrate how they are different and the difference they make.
Credit Union National Association (CUNA) is the only national association that advocates on behalf of all of America’s credit unions, which are owned by 115 million consumer members. CUNA, along with its network of affiliated state credit union leagues, delivers unwavering advocacy, continuous professional growth and operational confidence to protect the best interests of all credit unions. For more information about CUNA, visit cuna.org. To find your nearest credit union, visit YourMoneyFurther.com.
World Council of Credit Unions is the global trade association and development platform for credit unions. World Council promotes the sustainable development of credit unions and other financial cooperatives around the world to empower people through access to high quality and affordable financial services. World Council advocates on behalf of the global credit union system before international organizations and works with national governments to improve legislation and regulation. Its technical assistance programs introduce new tools and technologies to strengthen credit unions’ financial performance and increase their outreach.
World Council has implemented 300+ technical assistance programs in 89 countries. Worldwide, 85,400 credit unions in 118 countries serve 274 million people. Learn more about World Council’s impact around the world at http://www.woccu.org.
For more information about Mutual Credit Union please follow this link to our web page. Any additional questions, please contact the marketing department at email@example.com or by calling (601) 636-7523 ext. 1220.
Vicksburg, Miss. – – Mutual Credit Union is pleased to announce the selection of Roderick Bradford as branch manager of the Mutual Credit Union Cherry Street branch located in Vicksburg, MS effective August 31, 2020. Roderick is a graduate of Grambling State University where he earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Management in 1999. He brings to Mutual Credit Union over 20+ years of management experience and over 7+ years of specialized experience in the financial services industry working for both Capital One and Chase Home Mortgage. Roderick serves in the Men’s Ministry at Calvary Baptist Church and is an active member of the Omega Psi Phi Fraternity. Roderick is a veteran of the United States Air Force where he served his country between 1989-1991.
We are excited to welcome Roderick Bradford as one of the newest members of the Mutual Credit Union family.
For more information about Mutual Credit Union, please follow this link to our webpage. For additional questions, please contact the marketing department at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (601) 636-7523 ext. 1226.
MEMBER: Can you tell me what I can expect to happen if my house goes into foreclosure?
CREDIT UNION: Well, let me first ask you this; are you having trouble paying your mortgage?
M: Not yet. But the holidays are coming up and my credit cards limits are starting to lose the wiggle room I used to count on. So, I’m thinking I’ll just skip my mortgage payment next month. Then, I can use that money for holiday expenses.
CU: You’ll what?
M: I know … it sounds crazy. But you heard right — skip paying the mortgage for a month, maybe two.
CU: (Sigh) You know I am going to have to break the news to you that going this route is never a good idea, don’t you?
M: I know, I know … foreclosure and all that. But tell me what I could expect to happen if I go this route.
CU: Whoa — let’s back up a second here. You’re looking for a way to cover your holiday expenses, right?
CU: Well, there are much – MUCH – better ways to do that than skipping your mortgage payment!
M: Like what?
CU: First of all, you can try to scale back this year. Take a look at your list of holiday expenses and trim it as much as possible. There’s no need to go deeply into debt just to get through the holidays.
M: I can do that. But even after I cut back on my holiday spending, I’ll definitely have some expenses I can’t afford. Still need some cash. And the mortgage payment …
CU: OK, hear me out. After you cut your budget as much as possible, look into your options for finding the funds to pay for it all.
M: Like what?
CU: Well, for starters, you can take out a personal loan at Mutual Credit Union. Our personal loans feature low interest rates and a reasonable payback plan you can probably afford. You can also choose to open up a Mutual Credit Union credit card with a generous spending limit, but that might not be the smartest move if you’re already pushing your existing credit card limits.
M: I see. Well, the loan might work for this year, but I don’t want to fall into the cycle of taking out an annual loan for the holidays.
U: Mmm hmm. Smart. Paying for expenses with a loan means paying more for your purchases because of the added interest charges.
M: Is there any other way?
CU: Actually, there is. You can open a Mutual Credit Union Christmas Club Account to help pay for your holiday expenses.
M: A Christmas Club Account? What’s that?
CU: It’s a way for you to cover your holiday expenses in an affordable manner.
M: Through another account at the credit union?
CU: Yes, but this is one is built especially for the holidays.
M: How’s that?
CU: Your Mutual Credit Union Christmas Club Account is a savings account we created to help you better finance your holidays. You’ll contribute a little bit to the account throughout the year so that you’re planning ahead for these expenses instead of being hit with a mountain of bills each January.
M: So I keep this money in the account and add to it all year until the holidays?
CU: That’s right. There’s a penalty for withdrawing your funds more than twice in a twelve month period of time, so you’ll want to keep the money in the account until the holiday shopping season begins.
M: That makes sense.
CU: Yes, it does. A Christmas club account is a way for you to plan for the holidays responsibly.
M: It sounds amazing. My holiday expenses will be so much more manageable when they’re spread across the entire year.
CU: Exactly. And don’t forget the dividends!
CU: Yes. Instead of being charged interest by a credit card issuer or a lender for the privilege of borrowing to pay for your purchases, the money you save will earn dividends so it actually grows.
M: Wow! Why didn’t I think of this?
CU: That’s what we’re here for! The current APY rates on a Mutual Credit Union Holiday Club Account can be found by visiting mutualcu.org. Your money will grow just by being here.
M: Wow! Is there a minimum balance for opening a holiday club account?
CU: There is a minimum, but it’s very reasonable, at just $10. We understand that you’ll be saving up for the holidays all year, so you might not have a large sum to work with when you first open the account.
M: This sounds fantastic! I’ll be putting away money for the holiday season all year, and when it’s time to hit the shops, I’ll have the funds I need waiting for me in my Christmas club account. No more Santa shock in January! And my money will be growing all this time, too.
CU: Doesn’t this beat going into foreclosure?
M: You bet! Where do I sign up?
Interested in opening a Christmas Club Account? Visit mutualcu.org 24/7 for complete details.
Rosemarie Groner knows what it’s like when your financial aspirations are in conflict with your personality. After all, she’s been there herself.
When Groner left her job as a state trooper to be a full-time mom, her family had spent its way into $30,000 of debt. By her own admission, most of her financial mess could be attributed to the family’s disorganized lifestyle.
“We spent a fortune in groceries,” she writes on her blog, “only to let them rot in the fridge when we got busy and had to eat out. Our sink was always piled high with dishes, making it hard to cook at home, and we tried everything to stop spending so much money only to fail time and time again.”
After lots of frustrating trial and error, Groner and her husband, Jon, finally discovered a strategy for organizing their lives and their finances and pulling themselves out of debt. Through her self-developed 90 Day Budget Bootcamp, the Groners learned that budgeting and efficient home management cannot be separated. By focusing on improving home management, they successfully paid off $30,000-plus in debt and slashed the family’s annual spending by more than $23,000, all while finding a way to make up for the lost income upon leaving Rosemary Groner leaving her job.
When she had reached her goal, she was so ecstatic with her newly organized home, life and finances, that she launched a blog, The Busy Budgeter, to share all her newly discovered wisdom. The blog exploded and has been visited by 18 million readers since its launch in 2014. Through her insightful posts on all things financial, and her tried-and-true system for home and life organization, hundreds of thousands of followers have pulled themselves out of the paycheck-to-paycheck cycle and have started living financially responsible lives.
The Busy Budgeter focuses on organization and home management, and aids those who find it impossible to create a budget, track monthly expenses and stick to a spending plan. Through Rosemarie Groner’s innovative tips and strategies, the chronically disorganized can learn the secrets of successful home management and budgeting.
Blog visitors can choose from a wide variety of trending posts to read, like How to Play Pickleball: A Budget-Friendly Game and How to Quit a Job You Hate. Topics also include How to Budget; Organization; Easy Meals and Make Money. Tips and tricks are always presented in a down-to-earth language, making for easy reading and almost effortless implementation.
For visitors looking for more intensive training, the free 90 Day Budget Bootcamp is the perfect beginner’s guide toward organized living and budgeting. Participants receive a daily challenge to help them make small yet significant changes in their daily routines.
Groner also offers several paid courses to teach participants how to transform their homes and their budgets with organized, efficient systems.
As she says, “[T]here is absolutely nothing standing between you and a life with less stress, constant money wins instead of fails and a house that you’re excited to come home to.”
Do you want to be an outstanding homemaker and budgeter? Check out Groner’’s blog and follow her on Facebook and Twitter to learn the Busy Budgeter’s secrets.
Your Turn: Are you a Busy Budgeter follower? Tell us in the comments how you’ve applied the advice in your own life.
Q: With interest rates falling and home prices rising, it seems like a great time to tap into my home’s equity using a home equity loan. What’s the best way to use these funds?
A: A home equity loan, can be a fantastic way to source extra funds during a falling-rates environment. Tapping into your home’s equity, or the positive difference between what is owed on a home and its current value, will give you the funds you need for a large expense with no additional strings attached.
With interest rates on a Mutual Credit Union Home Equity Loan as low as 4.00% APR*, the repayment plan is always affordable. If approved, you’ll receive the funds in one lump sum within a few days. There are no restrictions on how to use these funds, but since you’re essentially risking the loss of your home with this loan, it’s important to choose wisely when deciding how to use the funds.
Here are four forward-thinking uses for a home equity loan:
1. Home improvements
One of the most popular uses for home equity is for home renovations and improvements. These can be as major as adding a 1,000-square-foot extension to your home, as minor as replacing old carpet with new hardwood flooring or anything in between.
Using your home’s equity for home improvement projects is a smart choice for multiple reasons. For one, the money you put into the renovations acts as an investment. If you choose improvements that increase your home’s value, you can make back the money you spent or even see a return when you sell your home. Also, if you use the funds from a home equity loan to increase your home’s value, you may be able to deduct the interest paid on the loan from your taxes (be sure to consult with your tax adviser if you plan to go this route).
If you plan to use your home equity funds for home improvements, be sure to choose wisely. It’s best to go for improvements that add lasting value to your home instead of blowing big bucks on superficial remodeling projects that may look dated just a few years down the line.
2. Debt consolidation
Another popular use for a home equity loan is to consolidate high-interest debt. Paying off multiple debts at high interest rates can be cumbersome and difficult to manage. Worse, the heavy interest rates mean more of the borrower’s money goes toward the lender and less goes toward paying down the principal of the debts. Using a home equity loan to consolidate debt to a single and no-interest or low-interest loan can slash a pile of debt by several thousands of dollars and help shorten repayment time by several years.
3. College education
When interest rates are falling, funding a college education through a home equity loan instead of a high-interest student loan can be a smart choice. Similarly, homeowners struggling to meet their student debt payments without defaulting on the loan might want to use their home’s equity to pay off the debt quickly and replace it with a more manageable low-interest loan. It’s important to note that paying off a federal student loan with home equity might not be the best choice, as these loans are sometimes eligible for partial or complete forgiveness.
4. Emergency fund
Most of us know that financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of living expenses stashed in an emergency fund to be used if the need arises. But reality keeps this magical-sounding fund a distant dream for too many people. If you’ve been struggling to get your own emergency fund off the ground, tapping into your home’s equity can be a great way to get that boost you need. You’ll have a large stash of cash to build your fund, and the manageable payment plan will help ensure you put money into savings each month. As a bonus, if you experience a financial emergency of any kind after taking out your home equity loan, you’ll already have the funds on hand to help pull you through.
Before you take out a home equity loan
A home equity loan can provide homeowners with the funds they need for a home improvement project, to get their debt under control, pay for their college education or to build an emergency fund. However, before making either of these moves, it’s important to run the numbers so you are sure you can easily meet the regular loan payments. Otherwise, you risk defaulting on the loan and losing your home.
If you’re ready to take out a home equity loan, look no further than Mutual Credit Union. Our rates and terms are always competitive. Call, Click, or visit to get started. Apply online by visiting mutualcu.org.
* APR = Annual Percentage Rate and is valid as of August 24, 2020. Some Listed APR is AS LOW AS and is based on credit qualification. Eligibility is based on credit history and proof of income. Applicant must be or become a member in good standing. Rates are subject to change based on market conditions and borrower eligibility. Other restrictions may apply. Federally insured by NCUA.
Your Turn: How did you use the funds from your home equity loan? Tell us about it in the comments.
Q: I love the convenience of payment apps, like Cash App and Venmo, but I’ve heard there’s been an increase in scams being pulled off within these apps. How can I continue to use my payment apps without compromising my safety?
A: Payment apps offer users the ability to effortlessly send payments to friends, making it easy to split the tab at a shared meal, buy a present for a mutual friend and quickly pay back a small loan. Unfortunately, though, scammers are using these apps to cheat people out of their money.
Here’s all you need to know about payment app scams and how to protect yourself from being the next victim.
How the scam plays out
There are several variations of the mobile payment app scam, most of which involve the scammer hijacking the victim’s linked checking account or credit card and using it to pay for their own purchases. Now, though, with the COVID-19 pandemic changing people’s attitudes toward money, there is another, more nefarious scam being played out through mobile payment apps.
In this trending scam, a payment app user is invited to participate in a contest on Twitter or another social media platform. The host of the contest is giving away a bundle of cash to one lucky winner as a way of helping them through the economic downturn caused by COVID-19.
After entering the contest, the victim receives a message informing them that they’ve won the giveaway — but they need to pay a small fee to verify their account and, later, receive their cash prize. Thrilled to be the winner and suspecting nothing unusual, the victim will gladly pay the fee and wait for their big payday. Unfortunately, though, the money never lands in their account, and they won’t see the funds they used to pay the “fee” ever again.
In the above scenario, the contest the victim entered may actually be authentic, but the follow-up post they’ve received is the work of a scammer.
Sometimes, the victim has not entered any contests but receives a message appearing to be sent directly from the payment app informing them they’ve been randomly chosen to win a cash prize — with a small processing fee attached.
Other times, scammers take the ruse one step further. After asking the victim to send the fee via mobile payment app, the scammer hacks the victim’s linked account or credit card and uses it to make their own expensive purchases.
Scammers use keywords like #coronavirus and #emergencyfunds to make their social media posts appear authentic; their efforts often pay off.
“My goal is to help those in need,” one scammer in Florida wrote. “Your deposit allows us to immediately send you your payment.”
The scam can be pulled off through any payment app, but is especially popular with Cash App users who are familiar with the app’s “Cash App Fridays.” To the unsuspecting victim, the new freebies seem like an extension of the app’s existing giveaways.
Likewise, the scam can be executed through several social media platforms, but is most commonly found on Twitter. The social media giant is a popular host for contests of this sort, and another cash giveaway hardly stands out. The “Retweet” culture on Twitter also makes it easy for scammers to pick up on a legitimate contest and choose a participant to target.
“This behavior is absolutely against our rules and outlined as such here,” Twitter spokesperson Lauren Alexander wrote in an email. “Users who see such scams should go to the ‘Suspicious and Spam’ category to report the scam.”
Luckily, you don’t need to give up on the convenience of mobile payment apps just yet. Protect yourself from this scam by learning about the medium used to pull it off and how to recognize the scam’s red flags.
Here’s what you need to know about Cash App and other mobile payment apps:
Cash App will never ask customers to send it money as a “processing fee” or for “verification.”
Cash App will not ask users to share their PIN or sign-in code outside the app.
Cash App currently has only two official Twitter accounts, @cashapp and @cashsupport, both of which have blue, verified check marks. If you receive a tweet from another account appearing to be from the app, it is likely bogus.
If a post or tweet looks suspicious, don’t take any chances; ignore it and move on.
If you believe you have fallen victim to a mobile payment app scam, contact the app’s support through the app or website. If the scam is reported early enough, they may be able to reverse the transaction. You can also report the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov and let your friends know about the circulating scam so they don’t fall victim to it themselves.
Mobile payment apps make transferring money easy, but they also make it easy for scammers to con victims out of their money. Stay alert and practice caution to keep your money safe.
Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a payment app scam? Tell us about it in the comments.