Are you safe, or are you being scammed?

Are you safe, or are you being scammed?

July 4, 2021

With the arrival of summer and more people getting out and about nationwide, especially during the months of July and August, people are planning vacations, looking for jobs, and starting home improvement projects.

Unfortunately, scammers are gearing up to take advantage of these summertime, post-quarantine activities with a wide array of schemes aimed at turning your plans, projects and aspirations into cold hard cash.

Know the red flags

The most common types of scams will target you through fake emails, text messages, voice calls, letters or even someone who shows up at your front door unexpectedly. No matter which technique the scammer uses, you may be:

  • Instructed to not trust the institution you bank with, or to respond to questions in untruthful ways
  • Pressured to send money
  • Threatened with law enforcement action
  • Told to purchase gift cards and provide codes as a form of payment
  • Asked to cash a check for a stranger or send money via wire transfer or Zelle®
  • Asked to deposit a check that overpays for something you’re selling, then send the difference elsewhere

If you authorize a transfer or send money to a scammer, there’s often little we can do to help get your money back.

New scams are targeting you: Learn the red flags for how to avoid them

Remote access scam:

If you get an unsolicited request to remotely access your computer or mobile device, it’s probably a scam and you could lose money.

Scammers often pose as employees of familiar companies and ask you to provide remote access or download an app. They may call, use pop-up screens or email to convince you that your device has a virus or that you’re owed money. No matter what reason you’re given, never grant device access or download any app at the request of unknown companies or individuals. Always confirm the identity of someone requesting access by calling a verified number from a trusted source or previous contact (the one they provide to you could be part of the scam).

Imposter scam:

Scammers may claim to be from the bank, state there is fraud on your account and tell you that you need to transfer money to stop it. Beware – it’s a scam! Don’t provide personal information or transfer money as a result of unsolicited calls, texts, emails or pop-ups. A legitimate bank, credit card company or government agency, will never reach out and ask you to transfer money for any reason.

Here are some top scams to be aware of

Scammers are taking advantage of the current environment to try and obtain your personal and financial information. Here are the top COVID-19 scams to be aware of:

  • Vaccine scams: Be alert when requested to send information or money for a promise to receive a vaccine. Scammers claim to be able to provide a vaccine sooner than expected for a fee.
  • Stimulus scams: You will never be asked to provide personal information in order to receive stimulus funds. Scammers ask for personal and financial information claiming it is needed to send you your stimulus payment.
  • Imposter scams: Don’t click on links from unknown sources. Scammers send phishing emails pretending to be an official organization such as the CDC and WHO. Clicking on links may download malware or allow access to information on your device.
  • Charity scams: Before donating, do your research. Scammers will reach out asking you to donate to a charity, but the charity is fake. Make sure you validate the request prior to sending money.
  • Employment scams: Scammers will make employment opportunities attractive by sending a fake check to purchase job-related supplies, often asking for funds to be returned.

Review all the tips in this article for the best ways to avoid being scammed and visit the FTC page on COVID – 19 – related scams for more information.

Know the scams

Scammers use different tactics to get victims to fall for their schemes. In some cases, they can be friendly, sympathetic and seem willing to help. In others, they use fear tactics to persuade a victim. Select the scam type from the following list to see a typical message from a scammer and the red flags that should cause you concern.

Scams that typically target students


(typical message): “Excuse me, I left my wallet home, can you cash this check for me?”

Red flags include: You’re approached outside a bank branch and asked to cash a check for someone who claims they don’t have an account or left their ID home. The bad check will be held against your account when it doesn’t clear.


(typical message): “We can offer you those goods at a considerably lower price than retail.”

Red flags include: You’re asked to pay a very low price for typically expensive items (for example: $49 for a $300 pair of sneakers). Never transfer money (for example, by using Zelle®) to someone you don’t know.


(typical message): “Hi, I see you received my rental deposit and wanted to follow up about the move in date.”

Red flags include: Your house is legitimately listed for sale online, but scammers have set up a fake website and listed your house as a rental. You receive inquiries from prospective renters about deposit checks they sent you (which they really sent to the scammer).


(typical message): “Go ahead and deposit the check and wire the difference to the account number attached.”

Red flags include: You receive an overpayment for an item you’re selling, immediately followed by a request to deposit the check (which turns out to be a bad check) and then send the difference via a wire or gift card.


(typical message): “Your student aid is at risk: Click this link to verify your information and validate your security.”

Red flags include: The link in the email isn’t familiar and the message has grammatical errors and doesn’t address the student by name.


(typical message): “We’ve detected malware on your computer, let’s go ahead and get this fixed for you.”

Red flags include: You receive a request from tech support claiming your computer has malware and requesting payment to fix the defects or access your computer.

Scams that typically target parents, working adults or retired adults


(typical message): “Hi, the reason for my call is to see if you would consider donating to help preserve our local park.”

Red flags include: You receive a request to donate to a charity that you’ve never heard of and for which you can’t find an official website.


(typical message): “I can help you reduce or eliminate your debt.”

Red flags include: You receive a request for payment in order to establish a service relationship to pay, settle or get rid of debt.


(typical message): “There’s been a change in the transfer details for completing your purchase. Please send the funds to the following account.”

Red flags include: You receive an unexpected request to redirect funds.


(typical message): “Grandma, I’m in trouble! I need your help — I need some money really fast!”

Red flags include: You receive a call or text message from someone claiming to be a grandchild or loved one asking for money to help with an emergency, plus instructions on where to send the funds.


(typical message): “I’m with the IRS and a lawsuit is being filed against you for non-payment of back taxes.”

Red flags include: You receive a request from a government agency asking you for a payment and/or to verify your personal information.


(typical message): “Glad I got you! A while back you requested information about one of our programs. Are you ready to invest?”

Red flags include: You receive a request to invest in a business opportunity with promises of high returns and/or getting rich quick.


(typical message): “Your email address was randomly picked to receive a major prize in our drawing. To receive your prize, simply follow these instructions.”

Red flags include: You receive a request to prepay fees or taxes in order to receive a large prize you supposedly won.


(typical message): “I’d love to come to see you, but I don’t have the money to travel right now. Can you help me out?”

Red flags include: You receive a request for financial support from a new partner in an exclusively online relationship.


(typical message): “We’ve detected malware on your computer, let’s go ahead and get this fixed for you.”

Red flags include: You receive a request from tech support claiming your computer has malware and requesting payment to fix the defects or access your computer.


(typical message): “URGENT: New Instructions For Wiring Your Closing Funds.”

Red flags include: You receive an email or text message that looks similar to your real estate agent’s contact info that indicates there is a last minute change to the wiring instructions, and tells you to wire closing costs to a different account.

Know the best ways to avoid being scammed

Don’t respond: If you’re not 100% certain of the source of the call, email or text, then hang up the phone, don’t click on the link in the email and don’t reply to the text message.

Don’t trust caller ID or answer phone calls from unknown numbers: If you recognize the caller ID but the call seems suspicious, hang up the phone. Phone numbers can be easily spoofed to appear to be from a legitimate caller.

Don’t give out your information: Never provide any personally identifiable information unless you’re absolutely certain the person and reason are legitimate. Remember: A legitimate bank, issuing credit card company or government agency will never ask you to send them personal information such as an account number, Social Security number or Tax ID over text, email or online.

Research and validate: If the individual or organization seems suspicious, make sure the request being made is legitimate by calling the organization through an official number from their website or consulting with a trusted family member or friend.

If you feel you may have been a victim of a scam, contact the spoofed bank, issuing credit card company or government agency immediately.

Zelle and the Zelle related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC.

(Sources: Cyberscout, Newsweek, edesk, Amazon, and Bank of America)