Banking Scams to Watch Out For

Several banking scams are on the rise. We are providing the following information to help customers recognize these scams before becoming victims:

Credit Card Phone Scam

Be wary if you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be calling from the Security and Fraud department at Visa or MasterCard, regardless of how official they may sound. The caller claims that your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and that they are calling to verify if you made this purchase. When you say that you did not initiate the purchase, the caller will continue, reading off your address for you to verify so that they may send you a "credit" for the unauthorized purchase amount and giving you a control number to which to refer should you have any questions. The caller will then ask you to verify the three-digit security code from the back of your card. Although the caller never asks for (or tells you) the actual credit card number, the minimal amount of information you provide them is enough for the criminals to use your card to charge unauthorized purchases. Real Visa and MasterCard employees will never ask you to verify the card's security digits, or any other information on the card.

Overpayment Scam

Seller, beware! This crime occurs when someone is selling something, usually over the Internet, and is approached by a "buyer" who convinces the seller to accept a check or money order for a larger amount than the item purchase price. In this scenario, the seller agrees to give the buyer the "change" between the item purchase price and the payment amount. Unfortunately, the check or money order is counterfeit and the "buyer" is usually long gone with the seller's cash before the check is returned. Law enforcement officials also caution consumers to be wary of sequentially numbered money orders, as they are usually counterfeit.

Nigerian Advance Fee Scam

This fraud occurs when you receive an unsolicited fax, e-mail or letter asking for your help with a business proposal in Nigeria or another African country. The proposal may deal with a "bequest" left to you or may sometimes involve "over-invoiced contract funds". At some point, you are persuaded to pay an advance fee, extend credit, or provide "change" for a counterfeit money order produced by the perpetrators.

Foreign Lottery Scam

Although it's illegal to participate in a foreign lottery, many consumers fall prey to scam operators enticing them to buy lottery tickets to "strike it rich," when in actuality the tickets are never bought. Or, a victim may be notified that he or she has won a prize. The "winner" is asked to divulge his or her bank account number so that the winnings can be deposited. Unfortunately, the thieves clean out the victim's account. Or, the victim may receive "winnings" via a counterfeit check or money order.

We've only touched upon a few of many scams being perpetrated each day upon unsuspecting consumers. Because we care about your financial safety, we may ask questions about your deposit items. Please be patient with us and know that we're simply concerned for your well-being.

To learn more about these and other white-collar crimes, visit Federal Trade Commission web site at If you wish to verify a postal money order's authenticity, call the US Postal Service toll-free at (800) 868-2443. And, if you believe you have been victimized by a financial scam, please contact any First Hope associate.