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Four Fraudulent Trends on the Rise in 2022

From fraudulent checks to pandemic-related schemes to romance scams, these trends are on the rise.

By Ryan Leblond
Manager, Fraud Prevention and Investigation, ESL Federal Credit Union

Have you ever had your ID stolen? Have you ever seen a charge you didn’t recognize on your bank statement and worried where it came from—and even worse, what it could do to your credit? If your account has been jeopardized, you need to consider all the steps to correct it: how to get your money back, who to call, and everything else that swirls in your head.

Most of us have either been or know a victim of fraud. In fact, fraud-related phone calls to ESL are up over 65% since last year, and cyber attackers are getting creative to access your information. We’re seeing a rise of synthetic identities that present authentication and digital strategy challenges, ongoing challenges with balancing fraud and friction, real-time and instant payment systems that present a need for multi-layered fraud tools, high rates of counterfeit check fraud, and escalating fraud costs, just to name a few.

In my role as a Fraud Prevention Manager at ESL Federal Credit Union, I work with our members to make sure the information that has been compromised is isolated, and I work with them on ways they can protect themselves even further—whether they have a fraud on a credit card, through a wire, or if their ID was stolen.

In this article, I’ll share four trends you should be on the lookout for. Remember, if you do fall victim to any of these attacks, you’re not alone and help is available. Keep reading.

Trend No. 1: Fraudulent checks

With advancements in digital technologies changing the payments landscape, incidents of the tried-and-true fraudulent check deposit scam continue to rise. Fraudsters target unattended and unlocked vehicles to steal wallets and with them, driver’s licenses, credit and/or debit cards, and often a checkbook. Whether they create a counterfeit of the check by making it payable to themselves, or they negotiate the victim’s check for cash using stolen credentials to authenticate it, this crime can result in a substantial financial and emotion burden.

We are also seeing an increase in scams where customers are approached through social media, convinced to deposit a check for someone they may not know, and are offered a “gratitude” for helping. What the unsuspecting victim doesn’t realize is that once the check is deposited and returns (for any variety of fraud-related reasons), their account will be impacted and at a loss.

ESL works hand in hand with our customers to educate and bring awareness to scams like these—we’ve even placed stickers on the side of our ATMs alerting customers to the potential danger of making deposits or withdrawals for strangers.

Trend No. 2: Fraudulent schemes related to COVID-19 pandemic

COVID-19 really changed how fraudsters work and brought with it a whole host of new issues. The pandemic forced financial institutions to change the way they provide services and encouraged many people to explore online shopping and cash-less transactions. These changes drove the need for services like digital account opening and contactless transactions like ATM check deposits. Criminals used the opportunity to prey on heightened consumer fear and anxiety, and as a result many institutions saw a dramatic increase in fraudulent online account applications. Going back to the door analogy, once criminals are in the system, whether they commit a crime immediately or wait to avoid detection using a “sleeper account,” these accounts must be investigated and monitored. Scams take a wide variety of shapes, from requests for online donations that fraudulently support disaster-related events (e.g., benefits, charities, and cyber scams), to money-mule schemes (e.g., work-from-home, confidence, and overseas scams) to phishing (e.g., targeting economic stimulus payments or creating fraudulent charities) to variations of third-party scams (e.g., imposter, investment, product, and advance-fee scams).

Trend No. 3: Online shopping scams

Beware of online sales transaction scams—when you think you’re buying something, send money, but never receive the item you think you purchased. There’s a specific issue when purchasing animals. We see a lot of situations where customers are convinced to buy a puppy they never receive. It’s also common with event tickets from an illegitimate source. Online shopping scams involve scammers pretending to be legitimate online sellers who use the latest technology to set up fake websites (that look real) and rip off innocent and unsuspecting shoppers. But there are warning signs.

Trend No. 4: Romance scams

The pandemic added fuel to an already vulnerable population when it comes to romance scams. The rise in online dating during COVID led to an increase in wire fraud, fraudulent traffic on the Zelle and Venmo payment platforms, and online card purchases from across the country or continent. These scams target all age ranges. It’s vitally important that you take the time to understand to whom and for what you are sending money.

But now what?

If you do fall victim to any of these fraud attempts, there are tools and resources you can use to guide you, and a member of your banking team can help navigate alongside you.

Here are some resources, ranging from fraud alerts you can put on your credit report to credit and debit card fraud/stolen information.

At ESL Federal Credit Union, we strive to support our customers, and to protect them even when they feel all hope is lost. We’re not above or below our customers—we want to be side-by-side with them. To help them protect their assets and their money, we need them to help us.

At the end of the day, we want to affect change. Even if you implement only one thing to protect your information, one thing can change your life, and better protect you from fraudulent attempts and activity.

Your finances matter, and we’re here to make sure you and your finances are taken care of.