Just in case you think you can let down your guard while shopping online for financial services such as a personal loan or refinancing a mortgage, don’t do it!
In these days of increasingly elaborate scams, where criminals posing as financial institutions send e-mails or texts to lure you into sharing financial information and risking identity theft —or trick you into sending them money —it’s more important than ever to pay attention and educate yourself.
Recently, a resident living on the east side of our county reported that she be-came a victim of fraud to the tune of nearly $10,000 after applying online for a personal loan. She went onto a company’s website, completed a loan application, and soon afterward was contacted by a male individual who claimed to be a senior loan officer with the company.
The male subject told our victim she would receive a loan but must raise her credit score to get her loan approved – by buying gift cards and Bitcoin (digital currency created for people to send money over the Internet).
Of course he instructed her to send the gift card or Bitcoin information to him: By doing so, he gains control over the funds from the gift cards.
The victim reported that’s exactly what happened to her and our detectives are investigating this as a fraud.
The would-be loan officer electronically deposited $2,000 into her bank account. She purchased gift cards and sent him the PIN information. He told her it wasn’t enough and she should repeat the process to raise her credit score high enough. This time he de-posited nearly $8,000.
A few days later, this suspect called the victim and told her to contact her bank because her account had been hacked, along with his phone. That’s the last she heard from him.
Other similar scams include the online practice or phishing or smishing—de- signed to mislead people into divulging sensitive financial information.
Phishing involves someone sending e-mails that sound like they’re from legitimate, reputable companies seeking to get the victim to share passwords or credit card numbers. Smishing involves sending alarming, deceiving messages to cellphone users who are bank or credit -union customers.
Here are some things you can do to protect yourself from smishing scams:
Remember: Financial institutions will never ask for account numbers, PIN numbers, security codes, or full Social Security numbers in a text or e-mail. If they do, it’s a scam.
These tips come from Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody, who issues regular consumer alerts on her website, myfloridalegal.com/ConsumerAlert
The Volusia Sheriff’s Office receive complaints regularly from residents who have lost time and money in online scams. If you think you’ve been a victim of a scam, call our non-emergency number: 386.248.1777 or 911 in an emergency.
We’re always here to help.
Sheriff Mike Chitwood