Ask Mary: Is the Grim Reaper More than a Scary Story?!

Dear Mary: It seems like our account holders are always being preyed on by fraudsters. Is it just us?

When you work in the financial industry, it can feel like Halloween ALL YEAR ROUND, with cyber spooks lurking around every corner. While some of this is unpreventable, sometimes we are easy prey and make it easier for the grim reaper to victimize our accounts.

Our human nature is to genuinely trust others even if we don’t know them. Most of us have received at least one call from an unknown number, claiming we have an outstanding balance, but they can help us get it under control. Here is a horror story encountered by one unwitting account holder.

Teresa’s had five missed calls on her cellphone from an unknown number but thought if someone had tried to call her five times it must be something important. When she called the number back, she explained she had five missed calls from his number. “Bob” thanked her for calling back and proceeded to tell her the free Amazon Prime membership she had signed up was about to expire. If she didn’t cancel the service today, she would be charged $35. Bob told Teresa he could help her walk through the process on her computer.

During the transaction, Bob started yelling at Teresa, saying she had put in $3,500 instead of $35. He told her that he was going to get fired as a result and insisted she let him remote into her home computer so he could help her fix the problem. When she was hesitant, Bob yelled at Teresa even more because “she had really messed this up and even he couldn’t fix what she had done on her computer.”

Bob told Teresa the only way to make it right was to go get $3,000.00 in gift cards at Target and give him the card numbers. Bob cautioned Teresa that the associates at Target may question her about the cards and that she should tell them they are for wedding presents. Wanting to follow orders, Teresa bought fifteen $200 Visa gift cards. As she got into her car, Bob called her to make sure she got the cards (so he didn’t lose his job, of course). She proceeded to give him all the card numbers and he told her that the gift cards ‘didn’t work,’ and she needed to get new cards. He told her he would reimburse her for the cards she bought. Teresa looked at her account online and there was an additional $3,000.00 in her checking account.

When Bob instructed her to go to a different Target and get new cards, Teresa complied. The same thing happened with those gift cards and Bob said they didn’t work. He told her to go to Walmart this time, those cards would work. Teresa looked at her account again and the $3,000 was back in her account. Teresa drove to Walmart got more cards and, crazy enough, they did not work either. Bob insisted she go to the other Walmart.

Then, it finally hit her. What was she doing? Why was he yelling at her? Bob had wasted her entire day. She told him he was going to have to figure out how to fix the error on his own. He kept calling her cellphone, telling her she needed to do it one more time. She refused.

The next morning, Teresa checked her account balance on her home computer. What happened to her savings?! Teresa was missing nearly $10,000! Then, it hit her. Bob had moved money from her savings to her checking so she could buy the cards, he had not reimbursed her like he said. But, how did he move the money when she did not give him access to her accounts, or her username and password? The answer: She had given him access to her computer and her passwords were saved into the computer.

Bob, the Grim Reaper, had placed a very dark shadow on Teresa. She didn’t want to be the reason that he was fired, but how could he have done this to her? How was she going to explain this to her husband? Would she be able to recoup any of the money? Who was Bob and where was he from?

Unfortunately for Teresa, her husband could not believe she had fallen for this and was furious. They decided that day that all future money decisions would be made as couple and there would be no more secrets. The money put on the gift cards was gone, and when the police report was made, she was told there was not much that could be done. The phone number Bob was calling from was located overseas.

We talk about fraud situations all the time at work, but do we share the information with our friends and family? The more we know about what is happening around us the more we can protect ourselves and each other.

Face Your Fears and Fight Fraudsters

There are many resources that you can share with your loved ones (or keep for yourself). Here are some of my favorites:

  • EPCOR's Did You Know videos. Our YouTube channel covers the many different ways fraudsters are trying to take your hard-earned money, including Phone Scams, BEC Scams, Love Scams and more. If you can't access YouTube, you can also view these videos on our website. If you're interested in hosting these videos on your institution's website to share with your customers, please reach out to Member Support.
  • CFPB FAQs. Losing money or property to scams and fraud can be devastating. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau's (CFPB’s) question and answer page can help you prevent, recognize, and report scams and fraud.
  • File a Report. If you or a loved one have been the victim of a scammer, don't remain silent. Report this to the Federal Trade Commision by filing a report.
  • Make a Phone Call. The AARP Foundation ElderWatch engages hundreds of volunteers each year to help older consumers recognize, refuse and report fraud and scams. This website provides additional information and tools to help protect consumers against financial exploitation. This site offers information for all age groups.
  • Money Smart for Older Adults. Older adults can be attractive targets for financial predators both known and unknown to them. Money Smart for Older Adults is designed to help older adults, family caregivers and others prevent, recognize and report financial exploitation.

Don’t Be SPOOKED by Scammers!

Stay on top of the latest fraud trends and join us on December 13th for our Quarterly Compliance and Fraud Review webinar. Together, we will examine the latest threats and challenges circulating the payments industry so that your organization can plan a proactive response. Current fraud schemes, compliance considerations and mitigation techniques will be also discussed. Register now!