Consumer Alert: BBB warns of cash app scams, fake loan offers

Published: Sep. 12, 2021 at 11:38 AM CDT
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GREEN BAY, Wis. (WBAY) - The Better Business Bureau (BBB) in Wisconsin says citizens lost $93,000 to scams this summer.

People say they got an e-mail that appears to be a legitimate loan company, with a logo and contact information.

One victim told the Wisconsin BBB that “the money will be available the next day, but then it will be rejected by your bank three days later.”

Before the check clears, the fake lender demands you buy insurance for the loan.

Victims don’t realize it’s fake until after they pay the insurance.

The BBB offers these four tips to avoid fake loan offers:

  • Avoid unsolicited loan offers. Scammers use offers of quick cash to lure you in–don’t fall for it. Whether they contact you by phone, email or text or send loan offers by mail, approach all unsolicited offers for money with caution.
  • Expect a credit check. These scams often prey on people who may not easily qualify for a loan. No legitimate lender will provide you with a loan without performing a credit check.
  • Ensure the business contact information matches the email sender information. Brand identifiers can easily be copied and included in the body of an email, so the most important information for a consumer to verify is the email address of the sender. The domain for the email address typically matches the domain of the official website and should be free of random letters or numbers.
  • Research loan providers before accepting an offer. When doing business with an unfamiliar company, don’t just verify they’re legitimate by searching their name online because you could be missing surprising information. View ratings and reviews to see what other people are saying, and check for a BBB business profile.

Another warning about scammers involves Venmo.

If you get an out of the blue Venmo request from a friend who needs money, double check before you give that money.

The Better Business Bureau says scammers are using cash apps to trick people, and although it could look like your friend’s username and profile photo, a closer look will show that the friend’s name is a character or two off from their real Venmo account.

Unlike a credit card company, many digital wallet vendors will not cover the cost of fraud.

Here are five tips to help protect yourself from a Venmo impersonation scam:

  • Double check with your friend before sending cash. If you get an unusual request, call or text your friend to confirm their story. If you can’t reach them, you can also tap on their Venmo profile to view their public transaction history and information.
  • Keep your transactions private. Scammers use the information visible in Venmo’s public feed to find targets. By keeping your transactions private, you reduce your risk of being targeted by scammers. Here’s privacy setting information from Venmo.
  • Use money transfer with friends: Protect yourself from scams by only using money transfer apps for their intended purpose -- sending money to people you personally know.
  • Enable additional security settings: Check your account settings to see if you can turn on additional security measures, such as multi-factor authentication, requiring a PIN, or using fingerprint recognition like Touch ID.
  • Link your money transfer app to a credit card. Like many other purchases, using a credit card will help protect you if you don’t get the goods or services you paid for. Linking to a debit card or directly to your bank account does not give you that added protection.

A third and final reminder about scams - Sunday is National Grandparents Day, and older adults are often targets for scammers. It’s important to talk with your grandparents to protect the scammers.

Remind them about scammer tactics, emphasize the criminal nature of the callers - who pretend to be from Medicare and Social Security.

Scammers also use emergency scams, sometimes referred to as “grandparent scams”, and impersonate their targets’ family members or friends, and make up an emergency situation, pleading for help and money. Scammers are able to look up information and stories on social media sites, use nicknames, and real travel plans to convince their targets. The victim then wires money to the scammer, and finds out later their family member is safe.

Consumer experts say the scam can also work in reverse, where the scammer poses as the grandparent, and calls their grandchild asking for help.

BBB officials offer these three tips to spot this scam:

  • Resist the urge to act immediately, no matter how dramatic the story is. Check out the story with other family and friends, but hang up or close the message and call your loved one directly. Don’t call the phone number provided by the caller or caller ID. Ask questions that would be hard for an impostor to answer correctly.
  • Know what your family members are sharing online. You may not have control over your family’s social media accounts, but familiarize yourself with what they are sharing online.
  • Don’t wire any money if there is any doubt about the call. If a person does wire money and later realizes it is a fraud, the police need to be alerted.

The BBB says if constant calls continue, it may be worth changing the phone number.

You should also encourage grandparents to ignore the calls or emails, which will help save them from a scam.

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