Fraud Trends — The Fake Loan Grift
By Sam Pement, Assistant Vice President of Fraud at Gulf Winds
I have been asked several times recently if I’ve noticed any increases in fraud since the beginning of the pandemic. My answer is always yes, however, it doesn’t involve any big stimulus check or Payroll Protection Program scams. No, the fraud that has really captured my attention is something that hits a little closer to home.
It goes like this:
You decide to go online and apply for a small loan. Nothing much, just something to keep you going for another month or two while your employer is closed for the pandemic. You find a website that advertises a low interest rate and no credit check. After submitting the application, you receive an email that you have been approved for a $5,000 loan, along with some instructions.
The email asks you to respond with your online banking username and password. Afterwards, $1,200 will be deposited into your account, which you must use to purchase gift cards. You are asked to send back the codes for the gift cards via text message to take care of the fees for the loan. After that, you will receive the full $5,000 into your bank account.
You’re not quite sure why a loan company needs your online banking information, but you provide it anyways because you really need the $5,000. As promised, the $1,200 is deposited into your account. You purchase the giftcards, send the codes, and wait for the rest of the loan. The next day your financial institution calls stating that the check for $1,200 was returned and is being deducted from your account. Instead of gaining $5,000 during a crucial time, you are left owing $1,200 bucks.
So, what happened?
The loan website was fake. The fraudsters used the application to obtain all your personal information (including your social security number) as well as your online banking credentials. They logged into your online account to deposit a fake check that was written to you and gathered all your bank account information as well. Before the check was returned as being fake, the funds were spent on gift cards and cannot be reclaimed.
People are falling for this sort of thing all the time these days and honestly, I can see why. The pandemic has increased the number of people in desperate situations. Desperation can influence an otherwise levelheaded and cautious person to do something they wouldn’t normally do; apply for a loan they wouldn’t normally apply for from a company they normally wouldn’t apply to. Fraudsters know this all too well and target those who are down on their luck.
Gulf Winds' Fraud Squad is a team of highly trained experts committed to protecting members from fraud and supporting members that have fallen victim to fraud. Visit our Fraud Center to find valuable resources and report fraudulent activity.
Remember these 3 things to protect yourself:
1. Keep an eye out for red flags such as requests for gift cards or your online banking information.
No legitimate company will ever need your online banking information, for any reason, ever.
2. Only apply for loans or credit cards from a known and trusted source, such as your financial institution.
Do your research and stay away from unknown online lenders.
3. If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Maintain a healthy skepticism and don’t be afraid to question something that seems odd. Ask us, we’ll take a look.
Stay safe out there.
Sam Pement is the Assistant Vice President of Fraud at Gulf Winds and leader of the Fraud Squad - our team of highly trained experts committed to protecting members from fraud and supporting members that have fallen victim to fraud. Sam has significant experience in this field, serving Gulf Winds members for the last 12 years after graduating from the University of West Florida with a degree in Criminal Justice. When Sam is not busy fighting fraud, he loves spending time with his wife and two sons, playing music, and competing in sports.