Internet Auction Fraud and Phishing

In past issues of our newsletter, The Compass, we covered the topic of internet fraud. Unfortunately, this type of fraud still exists and members should be aware of the practice.

If you have sold or intend to sell items via the internet, please take just a few minutes to read this article. Those few minutes might save you thousands of dollars. If you think a cashier’s check is as good as cash, think again. Fraud involving cashier’s checks has risen to a new level. The following is an example scenario involving counterfeit cashier’s checks.

You place an item for sale via the internet – it could be an automobile, recreational vehicle or any other high dollar item. You receive an email from an individual offering to purchase your item. Typically, the buyer is out of the country on business. The buyer states that he will send a cashier’s check for payment. Then, for one reason or another, he notifies you that the cashier’s check will be arriving and has been written for the wrong amount. The story he gives is quite convincing and he is very courteous. In any case, you are to deposit the check and wire the difference back to the purchaser via Western Union. As promised, you receive the cashier’s check. It looks legitimate and you follow the instructions given by the purchaser. More often than not, the cashier’s check is returned counterfeit. By that time, you have already wired the excess funds to the purchaser. In the worst case, you have also shipped the item to the designated spot or turned it over to a shipping company. Of course, the shipping company is as counterfeit as the check (and the purchaser) and can not be traced. At that point, you are not only out the funds from the cashier’s check but have also lost your vehicle.

If you choose to accept such an offer, take steps to verify the legitimacy of the check. Bring the check to any Beacon Credit Union branch office. We have the tools to verify the checks authenticity. Please, let someone at our office know before you deposit the item.

Phishing
Now let’s talk Spam Scam. Are you tired of receiving spam? If so, you aren’t alone. The technical term for spam is “unsolicited commercial email”. Most consumers find these emails annoying. But, what about “deceptive” spam? It is another form of internet fraud. Frequently, scam artists use spam because the cost is relatively low. Also, they can easily conceal their identity.

There are ways to reduce the amount of spam you receive. Spammers use computer programs that search public areas on the internet to “harvest” lists of email addresses. To avoid this, don’t display your email address in public spaces on the net (chat rooms, news group postings or online service membership directories). Check the privacy policies on a web site before giving your email address. The web site could sell your address. If you use chat rooms, use a separate screen name, something that is not associated with your email address. Consider using two email addresses, one for personal use and another for business.

You should be skeptical when responding to an email or pop up message. Scammers use these means to “phish” for your personal information. Then, they use the info to steal your identity. They can ruin your credit or even commit criminal acts while using your identity. Legitimate companies do not ask for personal information via emails or pop up messages. You should treat unsolicited emails with as much caution as you would telemarketing phone calls.

If you have any questions, feel free to email a question to beaconcu@beaconcu.org.

Remember- do not include confidential information such as account numbers in your email correspondence.