Royal is sharing these true stories to help our Members understand different types of scam situations and stay aware of recent fraud trends. Be in the know about different schemes and learn how to protect yourself with these real-world examples.
The Money Mule Romance Scam
A Royal Member requested a $55,000 cash withdrawal from their account. The Member explained that he was helping his fiancé move funds from an overseas account to his Royal accounts before their wedding later this year. When the funds were deposited to his Royal account, the deposit details did not match the Member’s information. This prompted a review of the situation, and it was determined that the Member was being used as a money mule by overseas scammers.
A money mule is someone who transfers or moves illegally acquired money on behalf of someone else. Organized criminals recruit money mules to launder the proceeds of other scams or crimes to make it more difficult for the criminals to be caught. In this case, our Member was unwittingly assisting the criminals, and he was also led to believe he was in a romantic relationship.
Don’t be fooled: if you’re asked to move a sum of money into someone else’s account or to make a large withdrawal, stop and think things through.
The Gift Card-Loving Girlfriend
A Member received a $1,500 check for funds drawn on an out-of-state church account from his online girlfriend. He admitted that she asked him to keep $100 of the check and use the rest to purchase gift cards to send back to her. Recognizing the signs of a scam, Royal was able to take the Member aside and help him realize that he was being used by an online scam artist.
Don’t be fooled: any unexpected requests to purchase gift cards should raise a red flag. Legitimate companies or government offices will never request gift cards as payment. Requests for pictures of the account numbers on the back of a gift card are also signs of a scam!
The Email-Hacking Wire Fraudsters
Wire fraud is a popular option for fraudsters as the funds move very quickly, with no limit on the amount that can be sent. A Member was purchasing a large RV from a dealership in another state. The transaction was being completed by email, and the Member was instructed to wire $77,000 to the dealership’s account numbers in an email. After verifying the information for the wire, it was determined that the RV dealership did not make the wire request, and the funds were actually being sent to a scammer who had been intercepting the dealership’s email messages.
A second real-world example of email and wire fraud took place during a land purchase. A Member who was buying a parcel of vacant land and received an email from someone that he thought was a company representing the land seller. The email confirmed the transaction closing date and time, and included wire transfer instructions for sending the company $188,000 to complete the transaction and have the closing paperwork ready to sign. A few hours later, the Member learned that the seller’s company had not sent the email. Instead, the email came from a fraudster posing as a company representative, and the wire instructions would send the funds to the hacker’s bank account.
Don’t be fooled: in these situations, there are a few different red flags. First, if you’re conducting a transaction by email, it may be wise to confirm key details with a phone call that you initiate using contact information that doesn’t come from the email conversation. Second, if you’re making a wire transfer, stop and think through the situation. Wires are an efficient way to move lots of money fast, but they are very difficult to reverse. If it seems strange that you’re being asked to wire funds instead of sending a cashier’s check, or if the timeline of a deal has suddenly accelerated, these could be indications of a scam.
Loan Insurance Final Notice Letters
A Member received a paper letter in the mail that said someone was trying to reach them about their new mortgage and that this was their final notice. The letter included loan-specific information like the closing date, loan amount, and lender name (Royal Credit Union). The letter requested that the Member call the company about their loan. The letter didn’t contain a company name, only the loan and lender information, so the Member thought the letter came from Royal Credit Union.
In this case, a company used public records from the Member’s local county courthouse to include real loan information in the letter. The company creates a deliberately concerning letter to trick recipients into taking action, and features the lender name in large type to make the letter seem official.
While not a scam by itself, this letter tactic can be very confusing for the recipient. It’s likely that people who call the number are pressured into purchasing an additional form of loan protection or insurance that they didn’t request. It’s also easy to see how this type of letter could be used to facilitate a scam.
Don’t be fooled: if you get this type of letter, ignore it or ask Royal about it.
By sharing these scam stories, Royal Credit Union hopes that our Members will be able to better recognize the signs of a scam when they encounter it. As always, don’t be afraid to reach out to Royal for help if you think you might be involved in a scam.
Note: Certain scam details have been changed to protect personal information.