Who’s Afraid of Fraud? We All Should Be
By David Pickron
I have a neighbor who over a year ago received a call from the FBI, seeking her assistance in targeting a group of individuals who were performing illegal wire transfers. Over the year she had assisted with other tasks and had become a trusted ally of the FBI. Then recently, the FBI asked her to increase her involvement after having gained the trust of the illegally operating group. They told her they had set a trap to finally catch these guys and that they would keep her updated on their every move. They thanked her for her willingness to do her part to catch the bad guys. Then the call came in with her FBI contacts directing her to transfer $700,000.00 to this group, where they could then track the money to see where it went and then make an arrest after 18 months of work. The FBI guaranteed the return of the money once the transfer was completed and they were able to make the bust. She agreed, transferred the $700k, and waited… and waited. After a few days she began to wonder when the money would be returned. Not understanding how long the arrest might take, she was patient. After a couple of weeks went by, she decided to call the FBI and ask about her money….as you already guessed, they had no idea what she was talking about or even who she was.
These stories of fraud are becoming all too common. The minute details and the elaborate amount of work these fraudsters are going through to trick you are amazing. We used to worry about our mail being stolen, then our email being hacked, but we are entering all unfamiliar territory. Your need to stay vigilant is more important than ever; consider these six vital tools in your fight to protect what is yours.
- Freeze your credit. https://www.experian.com/freeze/center.html
With your file frozen, others will not be able to access credit in your name. When you need to access your credit for real, simply login to Experian and put a “Thaw” on your file. This is completely free, and you can do it as often as you like. As a Private Investigator, I am often asked how to protect yourself from identity theft or people opening fraudulent accounts in your name. This is my first go-to.
- Treat your bank account number like your social security number. For years we passed out a piece of paper called a check which contained routing numbers and account numbers. With ACH transfers and wire transactions, your bank account information has become the new gold standard for criminals.
- Use a credit card for most transactions. There are protections that credit cards offer. If something is fraudulent, you can dispute, and the company involved with that transaction is usually found at fault for letting a fraudulent transaction go through their system.
- Expect your bank to be more diligent when it comes to wire fraud. What used to be an email request for me now requires in-person, ID scanning, code-giving experience. A little frustrating, but these financial institutions are only trying to protect you.
- Be specifically cautious when buying a home and going through a title company. There are countless stories about fraudulent wiring, where the down payment you thought was going to the title company actually went to the Congo. Check the URL and make a phone call to the title company to clarify the wire. Don’t hesitate to go back to a certified cashier’s check right from your bank.
- Verify the URL on all emails that require you to change your password to your financial institution or any website. Fraudsters know we use the same passwords on many online sites. Getting your email account and password you use at Starbucks could unlock your account at Bank of America. I always suggest having sole and separate passwords on all websites. It is hard to remember, so if that’s too much, at least change the financial institution credentials to be unique.
I could not possibly cover all the ways you can get scammed today. With AI and Chat GPT, the spelling is getting better on the emails and the graphics are looking more legit. I can promise you with all the data breaches, your identity is most likely out on the dark web, so treat your transactions as if everyone is fraudulent at first. This country was founded on innocent until proven guilty, your transactions should be considered fraudulent until proven legitimate.
David Pickron is President of Rent Perfect, a private investigator, and fellow landlord who manages several short- and long-term rentals. Subscribe to his weekly Rent Perfect Podcast (available on YouTube, Spotify, and Apple Podcasts) to stay up to date on the latest industry news and for expert tips on how to manage your properties.
Members of National REIA can take advantage of special pricing from RentPerfect; the solution for rental property owners and managers for screening & managing tenants. Learn more by visiting www.rentperfect.com or calling 1-877-922-2547.