In our last trust newsletter (Click to read Common Financial Scams and How to Avoid Them), we discussed common financial scams and how to avoid them. Due to the importance of recognizing cyber fraud and how pervasive it has become, we decided to provide some additional information on online fraud to help protect you from falling victim to these scams. In this newsletter, we will go more in depth on a couple of scams we have recently seen that go far beyond a phone call or single email.
While many of us have received emails asking, “are you busy?” or informing us we have won the Nigerian lottery, there are cybercriminals that have become much more sophisticated and the types of fraud they are perpetrating are more believable and subject the victims to larger losses.
Cybercriminals are creating relationships with unsuspecting victims and have fake websites and contacts to create a feeling of legitimacy to the scam. In one scenario, a woman, Jane, meets a man, John, in an online dating website. After a couple of months of online chats, John asks Jane to transfer money from his bank account to a vendor to purchase supplies because he is out of the country and the bank’s security will not let him access his account. Jane uses John’s username and password and sends the funds as requested.
A couple of weeks later, John reports to Jane that he is locked out of his bank account and needs to pay another vendor. Because John cannot log into his account, he cannot pay the vendor and asks Jane to send the $15,000 payment. To convince Jane that he is good for the money, he reminds Jane that she has been in his account and that he has more than $2 million.
As it turns out, the entire bank website was fake. The website was designed to look like a legitimate bank’s website but the logging in and transfer of funds was all part of the scam.
In another scam, a man, George, met a woman, Kelly in an online dating site. After a couple of weeks of talking, Kelly informed George that she learned about an inheritance from a relative. The inheritance involves gold and diamonds in a safe deposit box in the Netherlands. Unfortunately, Kelly did not have the funds to open the probate action to get her inheritance. Kelly asked George for the money, approximately $22,000, to pay for the probate proceeding.
Recognizing that George would need additional convincing, Kelly provided George with a website for the bank where the gold and diamonds were held, a website for the law firm in the Netherlands that would handle the probate and a phone number for the lawyer. Kelly also provided George a picture of her passport. Having reviewed the websites and passport and having talked to the lawyer, George was ready to assist, but still had a couple of questions.
Upon discussion with his friend, George decided to dig a little deeper into the request. Upon such digging, George learned that the bank and law firm did not exist. Someone created websites for them, but neither could be verified through a search of corporate or banking records. Also, Kelly’s passport was a forgery.
These cautionary tales are a reminder that anyone can create a website. If you are unsure if something is legitimate, do not hesitate to do additional research or contact your private wealth advisor at FineMark for assistance.
2023 Second Quarter Review and Commentary
By Read Sawczyn
Senior Vice President & Private Wealth Advisor, Trust
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