Member Fraud Awareness

Many people think they can spot and outwit a scam, but the truth is that scams become more savvy and sophisticated every year. You may not be able to keep up with every new scheme, but there are red flags for every type of potential fraud. Knowing some basics and being vigilant can keep you and your money safe from scammers. Below are a few of the most common scams to be aware of:

USC Credit Union will never call you to ask for your information.  Know that USC Credit Union will not call you to ask you to provide a security code you may have received via text or email, passwords, your account number, debit card number, credit card number, or online banking credentials. If you receive a call or text message asking you for personal information, contact USC Credit Union immediately. Report the incident by calling us immediately at 1-877-670-5860 to let us know.

Counterfeit Checks

  • Fake checks are on the rise due to lack of customer or member fraud awareness.
  • Scammers use high quality printers and scanners to make the checks appear authentic, which at times may even contain watermarks.
  • Fake checks are printed with both fake or legitimate names and addresses of legitimate financial institutions.
  • Even though the bank, account number, and routing number listed on a counterfeit check may be real, the check can still be faked.
  • These checks may take weeks after deposited or cashed to discover they are counterfeit.


Examples of Scams

Sweepstakes or lotteries (foreign or domestic)

A letter is mailed to the victim stating they have won a foreign or domestic lottery and the cashier’s check is included with instructions of how the funds must be allocated to cover the taxes and fees. The instructions will include depositing the check and wiring a portion (or possibly everything) of the funds back to pay the taxes and fees.

Check overpayment

Commonly done when selling cars or other valuable items through classified advertisements or online auction sites. The scammer writes a check more than the purchased price and asks the seller (victim) to wire back the difference.

Secret shopper

A job advertisement is posted (online or paper) to hire someone and be a secret shopper. The responsibility of a secret shopper is to evaluate the efficiency and effectiveness of an entity. The most common secret shopper scam is evaluating a money transfer service (e.g., financial institutions).

  • The victim is given a check.
  • Instructed to deposit the check to their bank account.
  • Withdraw the amount deposited in cash.
  • Take the cash to another money transfer service specified.
  • Send the funds to a person or entity internationally or domestically.
  • Evaluate the effectiveness of the process.

Rental scheme

A potential tenant (suspect) reaches out to the landlord (victim) about the available space posted (online or paper). The suspect shows interests and states they expect to move in soon and informs the victim he plans to hire moving workers to move his furniture in. The suspect sends a check more than the rental fees and asks to wire the difference back to pay the movers.

Work at home

One common example would be processing payments. Scammers would send you the checks with instructions of depositing them in your bank account and sending them the money back minus your “salary or commission”.

Inheritance scheme (A.K.A. Sudden Riches)

A letter is mailed to the victim explaining they have inherited money from a long lost great grandparent who recently passed on. However, the victim must deposit the cashier’s check attached with the letter and wire a certain amount back to cover taxes and customs fees associated with the inheritance in order to claim the funds.

Love losses

Meeting someone (suspect) online and in order to be with you, wiring funds to cover travel expenses must be done. At times, the suspect may even send the victim a check to be cashed in order to wire the funds back.

Cash App Scams

While they’re an easy way to send money to friends and family—unfortunately payment platforms like Cash App, PayPal, Venmo, Apple Pay and others are also vulnerable to scams that can result in losses to the user. Victims can be scammed out of hundreds, if not thousands of dollars because the apps are connected directly to debit card and/or bank accounts.

Mobile Banking Scams

As we change our banking habits due to COVID-19, it’s more important than ever to be vigilant about potential scams. The FBI warns that hackers are using the upsurge in app-based banking as an opportunity to scam unsuspecting mobile banking users. To combat potential app-related threats, the FBI recommends only downloading banking apps from official app stores (like the Google Play Store for Android and the Apple App Store for iOS), or directly from the financial institution’s website, and to always use strong passwords. If you encounter something in your banking app that looks suspicious, contact Cal Coast or the financial institution for the app right away.

Contact Tracking Scams

The California Attorney General issued a warning to be on the lookout for a new scam involving phony COVID-19 contact tracing. Contact tracing is an important tool that helps local public health departments identify and inform people who may have been in contact with a COVID-19 infected individual. In this new fraud scheme, scam artists pretend to be contact tracers in order to trick Californians into divulging their private personal information such as Social Security Numbers, financial information, or health insurance information. These scam artists are contacting Californians by phone, email, and/or text. Legitimate contact tracers will never ask for personal or financial information—they will only ask about your medical symptoms and the people you have been in contact with. If a contact tracer asks you for personal or financial information, or tries to charge you money, it’s a scam. You can report contact tracing scams to the California Office of the Attorney General.

Employment Offer Scams

Scammers are taking advantage of those who are seeking income or new employment. Be cautious of companies requesting money, either up front or after accepting the offer. Sometimes they will say it’s for background checks, position guarantee, supplies, or even part of the job requirement. Do not send cash, checks or buy gift cards for potential employers. Do your research on the company, visit their website and contact them directly via phone to verify legitimacy.

Unemployment Claim Scams

Fraudsters often steal people’s personal information in order to make false unemployment claims in their names. The fraud is often discovered when the individual receives a notice from the Employment Security Department (ESD) about a claim they did not submit. If you believe you may have been the victim of this scam, here’s what to do next:

  • Contact your Employer(s)
  • Contact the California Employment Development Department (EDD) to submit an Unemployment Insurance fraud report. If you live in a different state, contact the unemployment department for your state of residence.
  • Contact your local police department to determine if you should file a fraud report.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus, Experian, Transunion and Equifax, since the breach involves social security numbers, birth dates and other personal information.

Money Mule Scams

Scammers often use unsuspecting victims to receive and move stolen funds for them. If you help a scammer move fraudulent money, whether or not you know it’s a scam, you could be prosecuted for being what law enforcement calls a “money mule.” These scams are often perpetrated through online offers of employment, dating scams, or prizes. Scammers will send money to you, then ask you to send a portion of it to someone else. Learn more

Costco Stimulus Check Text Scam

If you receive a text message offering freebies for Costco Wholesale members that’s part of a “COVID-19 stimulus package” be aware that this is a scam. Do not click on any links in the message as they may include malware or ransomware. Learn More

Employment Scams

  • Scammers are taking advantage of those who are seeking income or new employment. Be cautious of companies requesting money, either up front or after accepting the offer. Sometimes they will say it’s for background checks, position guarantee, supplies or even part of the job requirement. Do not send cash, checks or buy gift cards for potential employers. Do your research on the company, visit their website and contact them directly via phone to verify legitimacy. Learn More
  • For more information on new or increased scams relating to the COVID-19 pandemic, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) site. If you believe you’re a victim of a scam or attempted fraud relating to COVID-19, you can report it by contacting the National Center for Disaster Fraud.


Protecting Yourself

  • Do not trust any offers that ask or “require” you to pay for anything back. If it’s free, you shouldn’t have to pay for anything back.
  • Avoid getting involved with any foreign lotteries since it is illegal to play a foreign lottery via mail or telephone.
  • Never send money to strangers and know who you are dealing with.
  • If you are selling something, do not accept a payment more than the agreed amount no matter how tempting it is.
    • If you accept check as a payment option, be certain to ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a cashier’s check. This way, you have an option of visiting or calling the local branch to verify the authenticity of the check.
    • If the buyer insists that you send funds back, this should raise a red flag and you should consider ending the transaction immediately.

 If You Think You’re a Victim