Swindler Stories from our Fraud Files, Vol. 1
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that Americans lost more than $5.8 billion to fraud in 2021. Here are stories of real members from the Stanford FCU Fraud Files. The names were changed to protect the victims, but the stories and lost money are real.
Conned by Cupid
Liang began a romance with an amazing person she met on match.com. Her new friend shared personal details about their life, and one day asked Liang if she could help pay for some family medical issues. Kind Liang wanted to help, so she was told to get a cashier’s check payable to her friend at a shared branch and deposit it at a Wells Fargo bank account. This way Liang’s friend could have immediate access to the much-needed money. By the time Liang realized she was caught in a romance scam, she had lost $15,000.
Lesson learned: Never send money to people you don’t know very well.
Ben received a call about fraud on his Stanford FCU account from an 800 number. The caller said they worked in our fraud department and needed Ben’s login ID and password to fix the issue, which Ben provided. The caller then informed Ben that they were sending him a text to confirm his identity, and Ben should read aloud the verification code. Ben complied and was grateful that his accounts were safe.
A short time later, a real Stanford FCU employee was reviewing a $7,800 wire transfer request that looked suspicious. When she called Ben to make sure that the request was legitimate, Ben realized that he had been scammed. He not only provided the fraudster with his Online Banking login credentials, he also gave them the secure access code that is sent to the account holder when there’s a login from an unregistered device. The fraudster already stole $2,340 and it was too late to recover that money. Fortunately we were able to stop the $7,800 wire request and prevent any more losses.
Lesson learned: If you get a call from us that you don’t expect, hang up and call us directly at 888.723.7328. Stanford FCU will never call and ask for your login credentials or your secure access code.
Home Loan Hoax
Joe was having a great experience working with Stanford FCU to purchase his first home. He was nearing the end of the escrow process, getting ready to close his loan and needed to wire $165,000 to the title company to cover the down payment and closing costs. Joe received an email from the title company and sent the funds—only to discover that his email had been hacked!
Emails from the title company and another from a Stanford FCU employee were both spoofed—they looked real, but if Joe paid more attention he would have noticed the “from” email addresses were not correct. The fraudster hacked into Joe’s email account weeks earlier and closely monitored his communications, looking for an opportunity to steal money.
Lesson learned: Digital payments like wire transfers are money you can’t get back, so be very careful to triple check before you send them. This is exactly why fraudsters ask for wires.
Retired Hamid received an email from Amazon confirming a $300 iPhone purchase. When he called the phone number in the email to dispute the purchase, the representative offered to help with a refund. Hamid gave the representative remote access to his computer, and logged into his online account as the representative guided him.
Then the representative said she accidentally refunded $30,000 instead of $300, and Hamid should wire transfer the extra money back immediately to avoid having a record with Amazon. Fortunately Hamid grew suspicious and was able to cancel the wire right before it was sent.
Lessons learned: Trusted names like Amazon and Stanford FCU are used by fraudsters to trick people into thinking it’s the actual company calling or emailing them. Don’t click on emails or provide any information—call the company directly. Also keep an eye on elderly friends and family—they’re a key target for scammers.