Swindler Stories from our Fraud Files, Vol. 2
Swindler Stories, Volume 2 brings you more member stories shared by Stanford FCU’s Risk Management Team. The names were changed to protect the victims, but the stories and lost money are real.
End of School Scam
Aisha is a busy working mom and a dedicated supporter of her kids’ school. When she got an email asking for donations for year-end teacher gifts, she didn’t hesitate. With a quick click on her phone, she gladly sent $25. But her donation didn’t go to her school at all. Aisha was scammed by a PTA imposter!
Lesson learned: Before responding to a donation request, double check that it’s legit. Call or go to the organization’s website to confirm. Don’t click directly from the message. Aisha didn’t lose a lot of money, but we wonder how many thousands of other parents donated to a fake fundraiser.
Open Wi-Fi = open season for scammers
After storms knocked out Ren’s electricity, he worked from a café with Wi-Fi. While there, he got a pop-up notification from Apple Pay about a suspicious Zelle® transfer and quickly clicked to cancel the payment. Then he was notified this was part of a larger international breach. To protect his remaining assets, he was instructed to wire his money to the Federal Reserve.
Stanford FCU alerted him it was a scam, but he was unconvinced. Despite multiple staff members begging him not to complete the transfer, Ren insisted on wiring the money and lost $325,000.
Lesson learned: Open Wi-Fi networks allow scammers to see your device and send you imposter messages. Don’t access sensitive information while using open Wi-Fi. Please consider our warnings. We don’t want you to get scammed. Contact us or the mobile payment company directly to confirm an alert is real. Don’t use the callback number in the message, it’s fake too. Wire transfers and mobile payments are irreversible. Once you send it, it’s gone forever.
When typos spell rtouble
Janelle wanted to do some online shopping, so she typed in the URL of her favorite store and got busy. At checkout, the store didn’t remember her and required her to reenter her payment information. Instead of getting new clothes, she got hundreds of dollars in fraudulent credit card charges…because Janelle was never on the store’s website at all! She mistyped the URL in her browser’s address bar and entered her credit card info on a scammer’s lookalike site.
Lesson learned: Before you click, double check URLs and search results. Scammers buy domain names based on common typos and create replicas of popular websites, even buying search ads for them! Then they patiently wait for unsuspecting shoppers to come through their virtual door. Slow down. If things don’t look right, close out of the webpage and start fresh.
Child pornography claim
As a retiree, Kathy kept a careful eye on her savings, so after reading a fraud text alert she called the number immediately. “Your account’s been used for child pornography,” the Stanford FCU impersonator lied. Kathy was horrified. “Your assets will be frozen unless we move your money now to a safe government account.”
Kathy rushed to her local Stanford FCU branch, where a concerned Member Advisor questioned the large cash withdrawal. Scammers had already warned Kathy she must not disclose any details, or she’d jeopardize the investigation. “It’s…for my employees,” Kathy stammered. When our Fraud team followed up, Kathy interrupted, “I already did it. Why are you calling me again?” We helped her understand it was a scam, but she’d already deposited $30,000 into a bitcoin ATM.
Wicked wire transfer
“Your account’s been compromised, please call us immediately,” the text read. Renaldo jumped into action to protect his money—after all, the text said it was from Stanford FCU. An impersonator told Renaldo the U.S. government would seize his assets unless he moved his money to a safe account.
Renaldo went online and set up a wire transfer, sending $18,000 to “Federal Account” at Green Dot, an online-only bank frequently used by scammers. Our watchful employees flagged the unusual transaction and reached out to verify. Thankfully, with Green Dot’s help we were able to recover some of Renaldo’s funds, but the majority was lost.
Lesson learned: Stanford FCU will never instruct you to move money out of your account to secure it. If you get a text about fraud, don’t click. Call our contact center directly. Don’t be afraid to tell us the whole story, no matter how alarming it sounds. We’ve heard it all and can help you spot the scam.