How to Protect Yourself from Online Sweetheart and Unemployment Scams
According to the BBB Institute for Marketplace Trust (BBB Institute), more than 37,000 consumer scams across Canada and the United States were reported in 2019. These scams cost consumers hundreds of dollars per incident and cause millions of dollars in damages every year. While susceptibility decreases by age, the median loss per fraud increases.
Additionally, Econsumer.gov, a partnership of more than 35 consumer protection agencies around the world, reported a new record of international consumer frauds in 2019. U.S. cases recently skyrocketed in the first two quarters of 2020 and are expected to reach an all-time high by the end of the year.
Considering these worrisome trends, we would like to provide you with valuable information on how to identify and protect yourself from online Sweetheart and Unemployment Scams, both of which have become more and more prevalent in the Quad Cities Area. BankORION is committed to helping you deter and prevent fraud with tools like eNFACT Fraud Detection, ID TheftSmart, and BankORION Alerts Powered by VISA®. Please visit our Fraud and Identity Theft website for instructions on identity theft or suspect activity.
Online Sweetheart/Romance Scams
Sweetheart/Romance Scams target online dating users and cause average damages of $3,000 per incident. Scammers typically follow a process from contacting victims with fake profiles through dating sites or social media to establish an often platonic yet romantic relationship, then they eventually ask for money because of emergencies or similar circumstances.
The BBB recently provided a detailed case-study and report on different methods and examples, ranging from targeting patriotic individuals by pretending to be veterans to targeting single-parents by pretending to care for a sick child.
The FTC recommends a simple rule: never send money to individuals you haven’t met in person. Pay attention to how conversations address money. Ask friends or family for input if you suspect a scam attempt. You can also google the person by using Google’s reverse image search. This tool looks for individuals who have experienced similar situations.
If you suspect to be the victim of fraud, please file a report at the FTC, contact any involved financial institution and notify the FBI.
Some of these scams target anyone who carelessly provides sensitive, personal information. They use this information to file unemployment insurance claims on your behalf and eventually intercept the unemployment payments.
The FBI released a statement on how to identify and prevent Unemployment Scams. Look out for calls, emails, bank transactions and other suspicious activities related to unemployment insurance; especially when you have not applied for it. Do not give away information that can be used to file an official case, especially when someone urges you to give them this information. If you fall victim to unemployment scams, contact your bank and report any identity theft to the FTC’s IdentityTheft.gov website.
A similar scam, the Employment Scam, targets job seekers. Alleged employers may ask for a down payment for work equipment or request sensitive information through a fake application process. This information can then be used for the Unemployment Scam or a variety of other harmful fraudulent activities. The BBB’s Employment Scam report states median damages of around $1,000 per incident. 32% of incidents occur on Indeed.com, followed by LinkedIn, Facebook and Careerbuilder.com.
Online Sweetheart/Romance and Un/employment scams can be prevented by staying vigilant. Here is a summary of the BBB’s recommended 10 steps to protect yourself and your loved ones from these and many other scams:
- Never send money to strangers, especially without traceable channels like wire transfers or gift cards.
- Do not trust unsolicited emails, especially when they come with unidentifiable links, attachments or urgent call-to-actions.
- Do not let anyone take advantage of your good nature. Do your research and talk to friends and family when you get a funny feeling about people you have met online, but not in person. The same applies to online purchases through suspicious websites.
- Regularly update your online passwords and do not share private information with strangers. Not only can they be used for identity theft, they can also help scammers win your trust over time.
Please reach out to your BankORION banker through www.bankorion.com with any questions.
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