The most common scams to avoid in southeast Louisiana

Posted by Garick Giroir on September 20, 2022

The most common scams to watch out for in southeast Louisiana

You work hard to save money and keep your finances in check. Don't let a scammer ruin that. 

As of September 2022, Louisianans have lost over $19 million to fraudulent activity.

Top 10 reported fraud in Louisiana (1)

With the rise of the internet and mobile activity, scammers are casting a wider net to snag their victims. While you may pride yourself on your ability to sniff out phonies, falling for a scam is as easy as missing your turn nowadays.

Here are the most common scams plaguing southeast Louisiana right now – and how to hopefully avoid them.

 

  1. Imposter scams
    1. Romance scams
    2. Job scams
    3. Gift card scams
  2. Online shopping scams
    1. Mystery shopper
    2. Check overpayment scams
    3. Other
  3. Phone scams
    1. A text from yourself
    2. Phony financial institution
  4. Fake prizes and lotteries
  5. Financial relief scams
    1. Bogus debt relief
    2. Credit repair scam

 

 

 #1: Imposter Scams 

Imposter scams come in many varieties, but work the same way: a fraudster pretends to be someone you trust to convince you to send them money.

Here are some of the most common imposter scams to look out for.

Romance scams

Online dating fraud hit record highs in 2021, with losses of $547 million.

How the scam works.

Scammers create fake profiles on dating apps, Facebook and Instagram, using an attractive photo they found on the web as their profile picture. The scammers then aim cupid's arrow at an unsuspecting victim and proceeds to chat with them.

After earning the person’s trust, the fraudster convinces the poor victim to send money so they can, for instance, buy a plane ticket to visit, or pay for some tragedy in their life.  

Here’s where it gets worse. In many situations, the victim unknowingly becomes a “money mule” — a term you may recognize from crime dramas like Scarface or The Wolf of Wall Street. A “mule” is someone who transfers money illegally on behalf of others. After developing a trusting relationship, the con artist convinces their victim to open a bank account under the guise of sending or receiving funds. Shortly after, the account is used to funnel money from any number of illegal activities. If the account is flagged by the financial institution, it may be closed and the cybercriminal will either persuade the victim to open a new account or begin grooming a new victim.

So far, the victim’s age, education and income bracket vary, but the FBI has identified women, senior citizens, and widows or widowers as the most targeted demographics.

How to avoid this scam.

Online dating is a perfectly fine path to finding love, but it's important to use good judgment.

First and foremost, never send money or gifts to a sweetheart you haven’t met in person.

If you suspect your online fling may be playing you for money, search for the type of job the person has to see if other people have heard similar stories. For example, you could do a search for “oil rig scammer” or “US Army scammer.”

Additionally, cyber criminals do not use their own photographs; they use an image from another social media account as their own. A reverse image search can determine if a profile picture is being used elsewhere on the internet, and on which websites it was used.

Job scams

If you’re job-hunting, be sure to watch out for scammers posing as companies seeking new hires. 

How the scam works.

There are several variations of job scams. 

In some cases, an alleged rep from a well-known agency, government institution or hiring firm may reach out asking you to send the funds for a screening fee to be considered for a job. While the job does exist, the person contacting you is a scammer who will pocket the money and run.

Alternatively, you may receive a job offer in your email inbox. You will be asked to fill out an application, which prompts you to share confidential information. The job offer never comes true, and the scammer now has your personal information.

You may get hired to work a remote position. When payday arrives, your check will be written for an unusually high amount. The employer will ask you to cash the check and mail back the extra funds. Unfortunately, when the original check doesn't clear, you'll realize you've been hustled.

How to avoid this scam.

Before applying to or accepting a job offer, do thorough research. Ask for references of past or current employees and check out the company website to see if it’s secure and has real information about the firm, including a street address. Check out the company’s social media pages, like LinkedIn, as well. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask the employer, or the person doing the hiring, any questions you may have about the company or the job.

Gift card scams

Gift cards are a popular and convenient way to give someone a gift. They’re also an increasingly common way for scammers to steal money from you.

How the scam works.

In this scam, fraudsters place a call or email to an unsuspecting victim with urgent news or a convincing story. They then pressure you to send them a gift card, like an iTunes or Google Play card. This scam is usually performed under some sort of veil and will sound sincere. For example, the fraudster might contact you and claim to be the IRS, tech support, family members or even your boss.

Depending on who the message appears to be from, the victim may feel pressure to quickly act on the transaction. If you were in this situation, would you feel comfortable questioning your boss about an urgent request? If the answer is no, then you're much more likely to fall victim to this sort of scam.

On the flip side, someone may offer you a gift card. It may seem like a miracle, but unfortunately, it's actually a scam. Once the "kind stranger" has hooked your interest, they will ask for your personal information or ask you to pay a handling fee. Sometimes the scammer will send you a gift card, then claim to have mistakenly sent more money than was agreed upon. You'll be asked to refund the excess amount or forward the amount through to a third party. After you've sent the money, you may discover that the original gift card has already been claimed, or has a balance lower than the amount promised.

Phone scam

How to avoid this scam.

If someone comes to you requesting or offering you a gift card, remember that gift cards are for gifts, not payments. You have two options: Either you don’t engage with the requester, or if it appears to be coming from somebody you know, call them and ask about it.

Decline sketchy transactions with real-time alerts.

 

#2: Online Shopping Scams 

When shopping moved online, it created a wave of new scams. Many of them can be difficult to spot and offer no way for the victim to reclaim lost funds. 

The mystery shopper

If you ever see an advertisement or website promoting the perks and pay of becoming a mystery shopper, you should look the other way.

A mystery shopper is a person hired by a retail company to evaluate the quality of service in their stores. Typically, the shopper is reimbursed and can keep the product or service. Sometimes the shopper receives a small payment, as well.

Yes, this is a real thing people do. Unfortunately, the landscape is littered with fraudulent mystery shop company waiting to prey on people looking to get paid to shop.

How the scam works.

Scam artists create websites where you can “register” to become a mystery shopper after paying a certification fee. The certification offered is almost always worthless. When you realize and try to get a refund from the company, you will be out of luck

How to avoid this scam.

Honest companies pay you to work for them, not charge you. If the company asks you to pay upfront to get the opportunity, walk away. No real job opportunity, including mystery shopping, involves paying for the job. If you want to become a mystery shopper, you can easily find jobs and list of companies that use mystery shoppers on the internet for free.

Check overpayment scams

If you’re selling something online, you may get a response from someone offering to pay with a cashier's check, personal check or corporate check for the item you're selling.

How the scam works.

The buyer will send you a check for more than the asking price, claiming it was a mistake and asking if you could wire back the difference after you deposit the check. By the time the check bounces, the scammer will have already ghosted. Thus, leaving you liable for the entire amount.

How to avoid this scam.

If you ever receive a check that comes from an unknown party, use caution. Regardless of how insistent a buyer may be, never cash a check and immediately wire money from it. Talk to your credit union if you have any concerns about a payment you receive.

Other online shopping scams

Some of these scams can be difficult for the untrained eye to spot. Here’s what you need to know to recognize an online shopping scam before it happens.

How the scam works.

Most online shopping scams involve someone ordering a product they saw advertised on social media that never arrives. If it does, it’s a cheap knockoff of the product, instead of the item that was purchased.

In another variation, a shopper finds an item online and tries to make a purchase. They’ll be asked for sensitive info, such as their checking account number. The shopper will be unable to complete the transaction and will run into repeated site errors. Unfortunately, the scammers now have their information and can empty their accounts, or worse.

In a third version, a seller clicks on an ad, or on a site that came up in a Google search for one of their favorite stores. They’ll proceed to make an order, not knowing they’ve clicked into a scammer’s fake site. The rest of the scam will follow one of the scenarios described above.

How to avoid this scam.

Watch out for these warning signs when purchasing something on the internet:

  • Prices are too good to be true.
  • The offer urges you to act now.
  • The seller demands a specific means of payment.
  • The website is full of typos.

 

#3: Phone Scams 

Online scams may be on the rise, but the telephone still remains a tried and true weapon for scammers. Here are some common phone scams to be on the lookout for.

A text from yourself

Scammers are always creating news ways to manipulate you into a conversation. Now they’re sending spam texts to you from your own phone number.

How the scam works.

Out of the blue, you’ll get a text from your own number with a message thanking you for paying your bill, along with a link to claim a free gift.

Do not click it! That link could expose you to scams, download malware or add your phone number to lists that are then sold to other scammers.

Why do they use your phone number? It's simple. They change the caller ID to look like your number because it's more likely to grab your attention and prompt a response.

 

How to avoid this scam.

If you receive a text from an unknown entity or person, your best move is to ignore it.

Phony financial institution

Scammers have been attempting to solicit personal information by masquerading as your bank or credit union. Their goal is to gain access to your bank account – and hope to trick you into letting them in. The number of locals falling victim to this scam continues to rise at an alarming pace.

On the bright side, the more you understand how this trick works, the more secure your account information and money will be.

How the scam works.

Scammers will send you a text or voicemail urging you to call them, or to click a link to log in to your online bank account. When you follow the link and sign in, you end up sharing your personal financial information with the scammer on the other side.

Text Scam financial institution

If you receive a text about your bank account, do NOT reply. Call the bank at their main number.

 

 

How to avoid this scam.

If you receive a text, email or phone call about your bank account, your best move is to ignore it.

Always stop and think before you click anything. 

Your financial institution will NEVER contact you directly to request the following information:

  • Social security number
  • Credit or debit card numbers
  • Security code or CVV
  • PIN (Personal identification number)
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Online banking login information
  • Verification codes
  • Passwords

The most important thing is to NEVER share your security credentials with anyone and, if something doesn’t seem right, report it right away. Your vigilance is our most effective form of fraud prevention.

 

 #4: Prize Winnings and Lottery Scams 

 

Fake lottery

Everyone dreams of winning the lottery. Scammers can turn that dream into a nightmare by posing as a legitimate lottery company to con you out of your money.

Emails claiming you’ve won the lottery, sweepstakes, a sum of money or other prizes can be exciting. In many cases, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

How the scam works.

In a fake lottery scam, a scammer will reach out via phone, email or social media to inform you that you've won a large amount of cash or a major prize. Alternatively, they may offer to let the target play a “free round” of lotto, which will miraculously result in an instant win.

To prove their "authenticity", the scammer may claim to represent a major lotto company, like Mega Millions or Louisiana Lottery. In some cases, they’ll pretend to represent a government agency, like the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or a fake, but real-sounding program like the “National Sweepstakes Organization”.

Ultimately, the fraudster will ask you to share personal information, and/or to pay fees for covering “processing costs” to receive your prize. Of course, if information is shared, it will be used to empty your accounts. If money is sent, you'll never see it again. 

How to avoid this scam.

Watch out for these red flags, which can alert you to the likelihood of a fake lottery scam:

  • A letter, email, popup window or social media message claiming you’ve won a lottery you’ve never entered.
  • You’re offered the opportunity to enter a lottery or sweepstakes at no cost.
  • You’re informed you’ve won a foreign lottery, or offered the opportunity to purchase tickets to one.
  • You’re asked to share sensitive information over the phone or via email.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to receive your prize.
  • The area code of the scammer’s phone number is foreign.
  • The email claiming you’ve won a prize is written poorly and has typos.
  • You are instructed to keep your win confidential or risk losing your prize.
  • The “lottery rep” offers to wire your winnings directly into your checking account.
  • The caller offers to send you a check for more than you’ve allegedly won, and then asks you to send back the surplus via wire transfer or prepaid debit card.
  • You’re told you can “verify” the prize by calling a specific number.


 

 #5: Financial Relief Scams 

 

Bogus debt relief

Debt relief service scams bully you into paying debts that don’t actually exist, or paying back real debts to the scammer, instead of your actual lender.

How the scam works.

These operations often charge cash-strapped consumers a large up-front fee, but then fail to help them settle or lower their debts – if they provide any service at all. Some debt relief scams even tout their services using automated "robocalls" to consumers on the do-not-call list.

These scams can also take the form of abusive debt collection. In this variation of the scam, a caller collects money for a legitimate debt, but uses abusive and illegal practices to complete this task.

Debt relief scams target consumers who may have a lot of credit card debt under any or a combo of the following guises:


  • Service to remove negative credit report info
  • Promise to reduce credit card rates
  • Demand immediate payment for an alleged outstanding debt

The target, who is desperate to shed their debt, will pay any price for the promised outcomes. The scammer then fails to come through as promised, leaving the consumer even deeper in debt.

How to avoid this scam.

These red flags can help you identify a debt relief scam:

  • The service guarantees to bring your credit score up by a specific number of points within a short time.
  • The service promises to get rid of factual credit report information on your credit file.
  • The service demands an up-front payment.
  • The service claims to be affiliated with a credit card company, but that company doesn’t recognize the service.
  • The service tells you to cut off all communication with creditors. 

Credit repair scam

Repairing your credit is not an instant fix. It takes months of hard work, negotiating with creditors, reworking your budget and identifying the factors that are making your credit score lag.

Naturally, the promise of a quick fix is appealing to those with low credit scores. Unfortunately, when they’re done with you, not only will your credit score be just as low as when you started, but you’ll also be out hundreds or thousands of dollars, and may even be facing criminal charges.

How the scam works.

These operations entice you to purchase their services by falsely claiming that they will remove negative information from your credit reports, even if that information is accurate.

The fake debt relief company collects payments in small increments, promising to bring your credit score up quickly. 

How to avoid this scam.

There are legitimate credit repair companies, but without educating yourself, finding them instead of the scammers who only want your money can be tricky.

Don’t believe anyone that guarantees to boost your score by a certain amount in a specified timeframe. Also, if someone promises to scrub negative information from your credit file, they're almost guaranteed to be a fraudster.

 

Always remember, your vigilance is the most effective form of fraud prevention.

Make sure your financial institution has your current address and phone number on file, so that they may reach you if they suspect fraudulent activity on your account.

If you believe you've fallen victim to a fraud scheme, please contact us at 985.652.4990 so we can stay at the forefront of any potential scams targeting our members.

Fraud attempts start to spike around the holidays, so we recommend that all of our members download the MyCardRules app. It's 100% free and gives you the power to shut off your Louisiana FCU card at any time.

TAKE CONTROL TODAY.

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