Bank investigator scam uses common red flags of fraud
FCNB is warning New Brunswickers about a modern twist on an old scam known as the ‘bank investigator’ scam after being alerted that a Saint John resident recently lost money to this fraud.
Circulating since the 1950s, this telephone scam involves a scammer calling you pretending to be a representative of a financial institution working on a fraud case.The scammer says they need your help to stop this fraud, and they want to use your bank account in the sting operation.
In this particular case, the scammer called the victim in the early morning claiming a suspicious purchase of iTunes gift cards was made on the victim’s credit card. The scammer later said that the victim had been approved to participate in a sting operation to catch suspicious employees at local bank branches involved in the suspected scam.
When the victim questioned the legitimacy of the sting operation, the scammer provided specific information about the individual’s bank account to make it sound legitimate. The victim was also advised not to contact the bank because it would “tip them off” to the investigation.
The victim was instructed to go to a particular store to buy $1,400 of iTunes cards. The scammer implied that the store may be involved in the scam as well. Once he purchased the iTunes cards, the victim was instructed to provide the scammer with the codes on the back of the iTunes cards so they could be tracked.
The victim was then given the name of a security personnel to call at the local bank branch at a specific time to learn the results of the sting investigation. When the victim called the branch, he discovered the investigation was a hoax.
How to Spot the Common Red Flags in the Bank Investigator Scam:
You receive a telephone call early in the morning, often when you are still sleeping, from someone claiming to be a representative from a financial institution (Red Flag: Catches you off guard).
You are rushed into making a decision or giving personal information (Red Flag: Pressures you to act fast).
You are asked to make a purchase of iTunes gift cards or other company gift cards, pre-paid credit cards or cryptocurrencies, like bitcoin (Red Flag: Pay with unusual methods).
You are asked to keep the information the scammer is providing secret (Red Flag: Ask you to keep it a secret because you might be warned it’s a scam!).
How to protect yourself from this scam:
Be alert when dealing with your financial matters.
Never provide personal or banking information to someone you do not know on the phone, in a text or in an email. Call your bank with a number from your records, or the phone book to confirm if this is in fact legitimate.
Always question urgent requests for money.
Do not forward or transfer money to people you do not know.
Never make a payment to a financial institution using iTunes gift cards. A financial institution or legitimate organization will never ask you to pay using these gift cards.
Don’t transfer money or codes to anyone that you do not know.
Do not assume the phone numbers appearing on call display are accurate. Criminals use “Call Spoofing” technology to mislead victims.
Where to report the Bank Investigator Scam:
If you think you have been a victim of this scam, contact your financial institution immediately, your local police or RCMP and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
Bargain hunting season could turn into a wild goose chase
The biggest online shopping events of the year are coming up. Nearly half of Canadians are expected to be joining the online hunt for bargains this Black Friday and Cyber Monday. If you’re one of them, before going wild take a minute to learn about an advertising trend that’s on the Competition Bureau’s radar: cancelled discounts.
This is how it works: when shopping on a popular retailer’s website, you find a super deal on a video game, computer, fashion accessory, clothing or houseware. You place the item in your basket, check out and pay. You then receive an email purchase confirmation. Everything seems normal.
Later on, you receive an email from the retailer’s customer service. They say there was an error and they can’t honour the advertised price. They cancel your order. Surprisingly, when you go back to the website, the exact same product is still being offered but at a higher price.
Under certain circumstances, failing to provide the product at the advertised bargain price could be seen as an illegal bait and switch. That’s why it’s important that you know what to look out for, what your rights are and where to complain.
Be sure to:
Always keep email purchase confirmations and credit card statements.
Get a complete refund if the order can’t be fulfilled at the right price.
Confirm that the money is back into your account.
Keep any email exchanges with the retailer’s customer service, especially a confirmation that they’ll give a full refund.
Double-check the website if they claim the item is unavailable at the price offered. If the ad is still up, take a screen shot, ask questions and request that it be corrected so fellow bargain hunters don’t fall into the same trap.
Keep records and file a complaint with the Competition Bureau if the retailer claims the item is unavailable at the price you paid but it’s available at a higher price.
Know that depending on provincial or territorial consumer protection law, the retailer may have to honour the advertised price. Contact your local consumer protection agency to learn more.
Here are some extra precautions you can take when shopping online:
Use a credit card; many offer protection and may give you a refund.
Regularly check your credit card statements for frequent or unknown charges.
Don’t hesitate to contact the retailer’s customer service if you have questions, especially if your money is gone and there’s no product in sight. You might only have a small window of time to flag the problem and alert your credit card provider.
If you believe you have been misled, contact the Competition Bureau and file a complaint by phone at 1-800-348-5358 or online.
A new twist on the emergency scam is targeting New Brunswickers.
FCNB has received reports of a scam artist calling New Brunswickers pretending to be an employee of an ambulance service. In one case, they reported being from “Ambulance Saint John.” In another case, they pretended they were calling from an ambulance service in Maine.
The scammer claims that a relative has been injured in an accident and money is needed to cover the relative’s medical bills. They say the money needs to be sent immediately so treatment can continue.
How to recognize the Ambulance Emergency Scam:
This scam is a variation of the Emergency Scam (sometimes referred to as the Grandparents Scam). This scam has been around for years and typically involves a grandparent receiving a call from a con-artist claiming to be one of his or her grandchildren.
The caller goes on to say they are in some kind of trouble and need money immediately. Wanting to help their grandchild, the victim sends money by money transfer.
In this latest scam, the scammer pretending to be from an ambulance service may ask questions to get you to reveal personal information.
What to do if you receive a phone call:
Take time to verify the story. The scammer is counting on you to respond quickly to the emergency situation.
Hang up and call the person they claim has been injured, or a close family member of the person, to see if the story is true.
Never send money to anyone you don’t know.
Never give out any personal information to the caller.
Where to report the scam:
Report the ambulance emergency scam to your local police or RCMP, or the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, either online or by its toll free number: 1-888-495-8501.
A Fredericton woman was recently the target of an email scam that preys on the generosity of her friends and contacts.
Hackers took control of her email account and sent everyone in her contacts an email asking for a favour. The email went something like this: “I need a favour from you. I need to get iTunes gift cards for my niece. It’s her birthday, but I’m currently traveling. Can you pick them up from a store around you? I’ll pay you back as soon as I am back.”
Friends who responded to the email request were told to purchase $200 worth of iTunes gift cards, scratch the back of the cards to reveal the PIN numbers, take a photo of the PINS and send the photo back.
This scam is also called confidence fraud. The scam artists pretend they are somebody you know and care about and play on your desire to help your friend. Once the scammers get the iTunes gift cards pictures, they cash in by selling the codes for a fraction of the retail price.
Some of the woman’s friends realized it was a scam and alerted her about the hack. Because the hackers had rerouted replies to the fake email, she had no way of knowing what had happened.
How to recognize this type of scam:
The email may be poorly written and contain grammatical mistakes.
You are asked to reveal the PIN codes, take a photo of them and send them in an email.
What to do if you receive an email like this:
Ignore it and delete it.
Advise your friend their email has been hacked by calling them. Your friend may not have access to their hacked email account.
What to do if your email has been hacked:
Contact your email service provider to report the hack. They will help you through the steps to take back your email account from the hackers.
Change your email password and your security questions.
Notify everyone on your contact list. Tell them to watch for any suspicious emails from you.
Scan your computer with an updated anti-virus program.
Online lenders are targeting New Brunswickers to offer them fraudulent loans, FCNB warns.
While many online lending options may be legitimate, there is also a rise of scam artists offering fake loans to unsuspecting consumers.
How the Advance Loan Scam Works:
A consumer applies for a loan and it seems to be approved or guaranteed. However, when the consumer contacts the company to receive the funds, the company requests a fee (such as a deposit or loan insurance) before the funds will be transferred.
Once the scam artist receives the payment from the consumer, they disappear. Their contact lines are disconnected or they simply ignore consumer inquiries. Often the website is shut down only to reappear under a different name so the scammer can continue to target unsuspecting consumers and avoid being pursued by law enforcement.
Victims of the advance loan scam report that the websites appear legitimate. For example, they may display a licensing number, a tax number, or incorporate digital signature technology on their platform to give it the semblance of being real.
In these situations, the names of the company targeting consumers may change but the scam remains relatively similar. It’s important to know the red flags of this scam.
How to recognize a loan scam:
You’re asked for a fee or deposit before receiving the funds. In Canada, it’s illegal for lenders to request a deposit before the loan is given. If a lender asks for advance funds to “secure” or “confirm” a loan, it’s a scam.
You’re contacted out of the blue by phone or internet. Unsolicited loan offers may be legitimate, but proceed with caution.
You are guaranteed a loan or interest rate regardless of your credit history. Legitimate lenders use your credit history to determine if they will lend you money, and at what rate.
You’re asked to send payments using gift cards such as iTunes, or wire transfer service such as Western Union.
What to do if I suspect a loan is a scam:
Do your research. Scammers use names that sound like legitimate company names, to try and trick you into feeling safe. If you’re unsure, do an internet search for the company name followed by the word scam. If you see many results attesting it’s a scam, tread very carefully.
Often, fraudulent sites will display a page about their “board of directors”, but steal the pictures of the board members from other, legitimate websites. A reverse image search can help you determine if their board members are really who they claim.
Verify the company exists. Get a physical address that you can verify or get the company’s contact information from directory assistance or the phone book.
Be cautious of lenders that are based outside of Canada, because if it is a scam, it will be particularly tough to get your money back.
Be careful where you share your personal information. If you do not trust the website or company and if you can’t verify that it is legitimate, do not share sensitive information.
Even if documents appear legit, tread carefully because it’s easy to fake “official” looking paperwork.
Remember, just because they advertise through a recognized media outlet such as Facebook, does not mean the company is legitimate.
Report it with the RCMP. They may already know about this and tell you whether a company is fraudulent or not.