Who doesn’t dream of becoming an instant millionaire? You might even have some detailed plans for how you’d spend an unexpected windfall if it were to happen. Imagine if a distant relative who’d been rolling in the stuff suddenly passed on and left you as their sole heir. Your dreams could now become a reality! Wouldn’t you do anything to make that happen?
That’s what some underhanded scammers are counting on. Inheritance fraud has been around for a while, but scammers have recently made their ploy even more convincing.
If you’ve been targeted, you’ll receive a long-winded email from a foreign “lawyer” or “bank official” claiming that a long-distant relative of yours has just died intestate, making you the sole heir. You’ll be warned that immediate action is necessary to stop the government from seizing the money.
The letter will then go on to state that your inheritance is difficult to access due to government and bank restrictions, and that you’ll need to pay various fees as well as provide personal details for claiming it.
To make the email appear authentic, it will include identifying documents of the lawyer or bank official, such as a passport, along with legal documents, such as a power of attorney letter for you to sign. The scammer will also provide an overseas address for the bank in which the money is now being held. Recently, scammers have upped their game by using a local address for this step.
Unfortunately, there is no inheritance and the person contacting you is definitely not a lawyer or a bank official. If you respond to the fraudsters, they’ll start charging you various fees, which will gradually increase in size. They’ll remind you that this money will be small change for you once you receive the inheritance. They’ll also claim that all fees must be paid upfront before the inheritance money can be accessed.
Next, the scammers will ask you for your checking account information so they can finally transfer the millions of dollars that are supposedly coming to you. By this time, you may have already lost thousands of dollars to them. If you continue falling for their tricks and provide them with this information, you’ll open yourself to even more loss or identity theft. Of course, once they have this information, you’ll never hear from them again and all you’ll have left from the experience will be a massive loss.
Be on the lookout for these warning signs and protect yourself from becoming the next victim of inheritance fraud:
The email itself is your first clue that something is off. First, a bank official or a lawyer will never contact you via email over a matter of this magnitude. Second, if you take a close look at the wording, you’ll find many typos and grammatical errors. Third, if you’re asked to contact an email address using a public domain such as @yahoo.com or @gmail.com, that’s another alert. Banks and reputable law firms will use their own domains for security purposes.
Is the “lawyer” overly eager to share their personal documents? Is the “bank official” willing to show you account statements from their institution? This is a huge red alert. Nobody, especially a bank official or lawyer, would ever share personal documents with a stranger. Surely they would not do so online or by email.
Never send money, give credit card information or copies of your personal documents to someone you don’t know, and especially not over the internet.
The scammer will always share the name and address of the bank where your supposed inheritance is being kept. You can do a quick Google search on the address provided to check its legitimacy. It will usually turn out to be a bogus address, or at least not an address at which a reputable financial institution exists.
Recently, a scam has been circulating in which the “Royal Bank” of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania is the bank of choice. The address and bank do officially exist, but a bit of digging will reveal that the Better Business Bureau has rated this institution with an “F” because of its business practices.
Never agree to an overseas payment with a stranger via money order, wire transfer, pre-paid debit card or electronic currency. Once these transactions have been made, it is nearly impossible to recover the funds.
Have you been scammed? If you suspect you’ve fallen victim, remember to contact Wasatch Peaks Credit Union and your credit card companies immediately to minimize the damage. Also, be aware that you are now a likely target of other fraud, because fraudsters commonly share details of their victims.
How do you protect yourself from online and email fraud? Share your best tips with us in the comments!
Wasatch Peaks Credit Union is so excited to announce that we are now live with our new Peaks Money Manager™ product.
This is a data-driven money management tool that securely integrates into digital banking products and enables users to take control of their finances. Budgeting, account aggregation, auto-categorization, and debt management are just a few of the tools that this product offers.
It is easy to access – just login to your Wasatch Peaks account online and select Services, then select Peaks Money Manager.
There is also an app available for mobile devices. The apps can be found in the app stores! Follow this link to download for Androids or this link to download for Apple products. Once you download the app, it will ask for an access code. This is generated within the desktop version of Peaks Money Manager. Simply login to your account at your desktop or laptop and select Services and then Peaks Money Manager. From there go to Settings (top right-hand corner) and then select Mobile Devices and click on Generate Access Code.
This is a great way to see all of your accounts at Wasatch Peaks Credit Union as well as any other financial accounts you have elsewhere. You can look at your HSA, John Hancock Account, and many others in one place to help view your total financial picture. Download or access it on your desktop today and take control of your finances!
"Any sufficiently advanced technology is indistinguishable from magic," wrote noted science fiction author Arthur C. Clarke. Our computer technology is certainly advanced enough that, to many, it looks like magic. As a result, the kind of wizardry that those with technical savvy can perform can be simply baffling.
That confusion is exactly what some scammers have come to rely on for making their money. The Federal Trade Commission is warning about a range of scams featuring phony tech support. From fake phone numbers to malware-loaded scanning software, these schemes all have one goal: compromise your technology to steal personal information and money.
Even if your tech skills are legendary, these scams are set up to push your buttons. If you want to browse the internet in peace, you need to be vigilant. Watch out for these three tech support scams.
Data breaches always have two sets of victims. There are the people who were immediately affected, and then there are those who are victimized in the confusion following the breach. Yahoo's data breach appears to have found a new group of the latter.
Scammers have created a variety of replica sites that convincingly look like Yahoo help sites. Some of these detail common account problems and then offer a phone number for "Yahoo Customer Care" or something along those lines. If you call, one of several things might happen: You might be asked for credit card information to pay a support fee. You might be asked to allow remote connections to your computer. Or, you might be asked for account information, including your username and password.
Regardless of what the scammer requests, the help they provide is bogus, and the damage they can do is very real. Yahoo is very clear: It will never charge for tech support, nor will its employees ask for your password or to remotely connect to your computer. Most other internet platforms follow similar rules. While pay-for-support lines do exist, they're increasingly rare in an era of video tutorials and widespread internet access. Of course, you should never allow anyone you don't absolutely trust to make a remote connection to your computer.
Most commonly, this scam begins with a banner ad. A flashing icon on any ordinary webpage claims to have discovered infected files on your computer. A list of suspicious-sounding file names flash past, including some that are actually on your computer. The ad will inform you that you need security software and provide you with a download link.
As with many other downloadable software offerings, what happens next is largely a mystery, but it's most likely going to go badly. The piece of software may log your keystrokes so a hacker can steal your passwords. It could also allow remote access to your computer, allowing the scammer to riffle through your personal information. It could also be "ransomware," which encrypts all information on your computer until you pay a fee, which can sometimes be pretty hefty. Some of these scammers even have the gall to charge for the download!
The best way to protect yourself here is to be proactive. Don't download files from websites you don't explicitly trust. Get a reliable anti-virus software and a malware scanner, and run them regularly. That way, you can confidently ignore pop-ups that claim your computer is infected.
The FTC has also reported an uptick in unsolicited "tech support" calls. These scams usually start with a call from an unknown number. If you answer, the caller will tell you he's detected a problem with your computer. You'll be instructed to provide him with remote access so he can fix it. The person on the phone will even walk you through the steps.
Once the scammer has control of your computer, he'll do any of the things described in the previous scams. Worse yet, it's incredibly hard to reverse this process. You may end up losing your computer in the process!
No tech support company will call you about a supposed monitoring of your computer. If you get an unsolicited call from an unknown number about your computer, just hang up. Better yet, report the number at donotcall.gov.
Despite how advanced it looks, technology isn't magic. It operates by a predictable set of rules. Learning just a little bit about how it works can help keep you safe.
What's your best tip for staying safe while using tech support? How do you get the best advice while avoiding scammers? Let us know in the comments!