NOTES ON FRAUD --- Where The Money Is

Funny thing about your bank account — it’s yours.

Back in the 1930s and the 1940s there was a little guy named Willie Sutton who made a career out of robbing banks, getting thrown in jail, escaping and then robbing more banks. This went on for years, turning him into something of a folk legend.

Legend has it that, at one point when he was asked by a journalist, “Willie, why do you rob banks,” he answered, “Cause that’s where the money is.”

Today, crooks don’t have to walk into a bank with a shotgun and say, “This is a stick up.” That’s far too risky for what will, inevitably, be  a very small reward. Instead, they simply have to find a way into your bank account.

Today, your bank account where the money is.

And even if you’re happy to let your cable company and your credit card company and your cell phone company take what you owe them out of your account automatically every month, why on earth would you ever allow a total stranger to wade into your money and help himself?

You get an email, or a phone call, from someone purporting to work at your bank, saying that there have been several suspicious withdrawals from your account and, because they’re worried for you, they want to verify the suspicious activity. Hey, that’s my money, you insist, I never wrote those checks. That’s right, you’re told, we’re sure there’s something wrong, so let’s take a look. May we have your account number and pin number.

Or, you receive an email which says much the same thing: “… we have become aware of suspicious activities…” and provides a link to the bank’s site where you have to log in with your password and pin. You don’t notice, because you’re not looking, that while the site looks exactly like your bank’s, the address of that site isn’t quite the same as the bank’s official online site.

Or, you answer an ad for a work-at-home scheme that requires you to deposit third party checks into your account. We will pay you 10% of the total deposits, comes the promise. What’s more, comes the re-assurance, you won’t have to send any money out of your account until after the check you’ve deposited for us, clears. So you put a $4000 check from some company into your account, and three days later, when you see the deposit has been credited to your account, you wire out $3600. And that’s the easiest $400 you’ve ever made.

Unfortunately… three days after that, the bank informs you that the $4000 check was counterfeit. You say, but it cleared. And they say, no, it didn’t clear, we merely credited that money to you, and now you owe us $3600.

Put simply:

  • Anytime someone you think you know wants information by email or over the phone, ask yourself, would I give this same information to a total stranger if he asked for it on the street?
  • Never click on a link sent to you by email, unless it’s from friend, and even then, worry about viruses. If you need to check something with your bank, use the link they gave you when you opened the account, or go to the branch and do it face to face. Your bank will never send an email or phone you to verify your account number or pin.
  • Anyone who wants to use your bank account, especially if he’s willing to pay you for the privilege, is a crook!

© Jeffrey Robinson, 2010, 2012