Tips to Avoid These Two Money Laundering Scams Happening Right Now
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How the basic scam works:
- You’re contacted by someone through email, phone or social media who claims to be a U.S. service member or citizen abroad, or anyone claiming they need financial assistance during this time, and requests your help to access their money, including COVID-19-related issues such as unemployment checks.
- The scammer asks for your bank account information or arranges for a second communication from someone claiming to be with the government to ask for your bank account information to deposit a check, wire, or automatic deposit.
- Once the money is in your account, the scammer tells you to transfer the money or withdraw cash and mail the money to him.
A similar scam involves COVID-related loans, such as Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) or Payment Protection Program (PPP) Loans:
- Scammers use the same tactics to get your banking information as described above. But with this scam, you receive a deposit of EIDL or PPP loan funds into one of your personal accounts, and you’re asked to send the funds to the scammer.
- Please note that for businesses to even be eligible for PPP loans, they must have been in existence since February 2020.
- If you receive unemployment benefits or any other money that doesn’t belong to you, or if you receive EIDL or PPP loan funds into your personal account, you should request your financial institution to return the funds to the sender. If you remove the funds from the account, you can be held accountable to return the money, and you should be prepared to speak with law enforcement.
- Government officials will never ask for your personal identification number (PIN), online banking password, or Social Security number (other than possibly the last four digits to confirm your identity).
Be aware that the U.S. Secret Service is investigating these frauds and personally visiting account holders who are receiving these fraudulent payments.
How to avoid becoming a victim of these types of scams:
If you question the validity of a call, email, or text of someone requesting assistance with unemployment or EIDL/PPP loans, please visit your nearest Ascend branch and speak with a Member Service Representative, or call Ascend at 800-342-3086.
For more information on the most current scams and how to detect fraudulent activity, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s website or the Federal Bureau of Investigation website.