Be On The Lookout for Two New Cyber-Scams!

Dennis O'Keefe |

Every so often, I'm amazed at how hard some people are working to steal our information.  It seems every day there is another tool in their arsenal.

Recently, I received the above text.  It looked very alarming.  Especially when it came up on my phone screen.  "LOCKED???  They locked my account?”  Did someone try and hack my account?

My credit card is very active in communicating to me - and usually they communicate the most important items via texts.  So I was certainly worried.  On the face of it, this seemed legitimate.

That initial panic subsided fairly quickly.  America is spelled with just one “C.”  It's hard to believe that Bank of America would misspell its own name.

And . . . . I don't have any Bank of America accounts.  I had a credit card from them years ago.  That's it.

If I had a Bank of America account and I were to call the phone number in question, no doubt they would ask me to verify my account information via an automated system or even a live person.  Then I would be informed that all was well and they had fixed the problem.

Seven seconds later, they would use my now-verified login credentials to clear out my bank account, rack up thousands in charges on my credit card and sell my information to another organization that may attempt to hijack my entire identity.

The good news is that there is a simple solution to prevent this from happening.  And it’s foolproof!  It’s a solution that I’ve advocated for over 2 decades.

Let’s hop back into our way back machine with Mr. Peabody.  (If I ever get another dog, I think I’m going to name him Mr. Peabody.)  The year is 1995.  Give or take.  

Your home phone rings. A live person is on the other end.  They are from “your credit card company” and have detected fraud on your account and want you to confirm your information.

Should you give them the necessary info?


The same strategy in 1995 still works today.  Disengage.  Use the proper avenue to contact your financial provider and check for fraud.

In 1995, that means you just hang up and call the number on the back of your credit card.

In 2020, it means ignoring the text or email and logging into your account as normal and checking for fraud.  Or going old-school and calling the phone number on the back of your bank card.

Beware The Long Con

Just a day or two ago, a client sent me a check made payable to her.  She didn’t sign it, so I immediately called her and asked her what was up.  She had no idea why she received this check.  She got it in the mail and sent it to me to figure it all out.

The check was legitimate.  Well, it was a check printed on check paper with magnetic ink and the whole nine yards.  It was like watching a scene from Catch Me If You Can with Tom Hanks and Leonardo DiCaprio.  Very sophisticated.

Not only was the weight correct, as well as the anti-fraud devices within the check, but the ABA number was correct and it was basically as if the person ordered checks from their local bank branch.

But the check was for almost $9,000.  And it was sent from a hardware store in middle-of-nowhere Alabama.  Like in the movie, the distance between Massachusetts and Alabama makes it harder to determine the legitimacy of the check in a timely manner - something the fraudsters are counting on.

At this point, I honestly wasn’t sure if it was real or not.  How could it?  But the check had zero errors on it.  They didn’t misspell America or anything. 

I called the hardware store.  I wasn’t the first person to call them.  Not by a long shot.  I felt awful for the folks answering the phone.  They probably got dozens of calls per day.

So what is the scam??  How do you use a fake check to get money from someone?  Let me tell you, it is a fair amount of work.

Here’s how it works:  You get a check in the mail.  A real check, as I said before.  One that has to be printed.  In every case, the check is for an odd amount.  It will never be $5,000 or $8,000.  It will be an amount that appears to be a refund or some other legitimate purpose.

You assume the check is legitimate and, being a good citizen, you cash it.  It has to be real, right?  Who would send you a check made payable to you if it wasn’t for you?

A day or two later, someone from the issuer (in this case, the Alabama hardware store) calls you.  They inquire about the check.  You tell them that you cashed it.  They then tell you that it was a mistake and either some or all of the money needs to be sent back.

So you write out a check, feeling terrible about the mixup, and send it along.  They might even have you make the check payable to CASH or have someone local pick the check up.  (How does a hardware store in Alabama have someone in Massachusetts to pick up a check?? Well, they are counting on you feeling awkward enough after cashing their check to do whatever they wish.)

Several days later, you receive notice from your bank that the original check is bogus.  By then it is too late.  Your check has been cashed and the scammers are long gone with your money.

As you can see, it’s complicated.  It takes a lot of work to get someone to actually fall for it.  But, in the end, it means thousands of dollars for the people attempting the con.  

I’m saving this check.  It’s amazing.  It’s real.  And yet it isn't.  It’s like a fake Monet that fools an art expert.  

As we enter the 2020 Holiday Season, expect these sorts of scams to increase.  Due to COVID-19, we are all doing more business online and via other electronic means.  Be ever vigilant no matter if it’s your computer, smartphone, telephone or mailbox.  When in doubt, doubt.  

If you still aren’t sure, give us a call.  We can certainly help and keep your financial life protected from unwanted attacks.

Thanks for taking the time to read our blog this week. If you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to email us at or call us at (800) 453-3209.  If you don’t already have a copy of my book, The Biggest Financial Mistakes Retirees Make, you can order it on Amazon or click here and we will get a copy out to you, free of charge!  

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This blog is the opinion of Successful Money Strategies, Inc. and is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended to provide any investment advice or service.  Statistics and other figures are accurate at the time of original publishing.  Any advice herein should not be acted upon without obtaining specific advice from a licensed professional regarding the readers own situation or concerns.  Always count your change.