Avoiding the Latest Crypto Scams and More


Hands with a handful of coins with various cryptocurrency symbols such as Bitcoin on the coins.


Tune into this week’s episode of Money, I’m Home as Lynne is joined by Consumers Fraud Specialist Kristy Desimone about the latest tricks scammers are using to steal your hard earned money.



0:00:06.5 Lynne Jarman-Johnson (LJJ): Money I’m Home. Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. From finance to fitness and fraud, we have it all. And guess what? We have our fraud specialist, Kristy Desimone, and she is with us every single month. I’ll tell you what, Kristy, you have got the best information, most recent, most up-to-date. You and I’ve been chatting a little bit about what’s been going on because it seems like all of a sudden our members are calling a little bit more.

0:00:34.5 Kristy Desimone: Yeah.

0:00:34.6 LJJ: There’s some scams hitting the ground aren’t there?

0:00:36.8 KD: There are. And a big one that we’re seeing a lot of is the Grandparent Bitcoin ATM scam.

0:00:43.6 LJJ: Okay. Hold on. This seems like an oxymoron to me, grandparents.

0:00:48.1 KD: Right.

0:00:48.9 LJJ: And Bitcoin.

0:00:48.9 KD: Yeah. I mean, Bitcoin is all the rage now, and we’re starting to see it become a fraudster’s paradise where they call in and they’re like, “Hey grandparent, do you know if your child’s okay? Or we need you to take your money out of Consumers because somebody’s trying to steal your money and it’ll be safer if you put it in a Bitcoin ATM.”

0:01:11.8 LJJ: And so, what happens is the trust level… You’re all of a sudden fearful.

0:01:17.3 KD: Yeah.

0:01:17.3 LJJ: And you want to make sure that you’re doing something accurately. To be honest with you, I know what Bitcoin is, I wouldn’t even know where a Bitcoin… What does that even mean? A Bitcoin ATM?

0:01:27.8 KD: I know, and I wouldn’t have either until I was at the mall the other day in Grand Rapids, and I saw one sitting in one of the lobbies. And it is an ATM that you can deposit funds into someone’s Bitcoin wallet. And it’s untraceable, once it goes in there, we’re not really sure where it goes, but they are everywhere, now they’re in gas stations.

0:01:48.2 LJJ: Kristy, we mentioned the fact that Bitcoin ATMs these… They’re in malls now, you just said.

0:01:53.6 KD: Yeah.

0:01:54.0 LJJ: And the thing that I don’t understand is, A, I don’t understand Bitcoin.

0:01:57.1 KD: Right.

0:01:58.0 LJJ: Right? Number one. Well, why all of a sudden is this becoming so popular? And why is it dangerous?

0:02:03.6 KD: Yeah, so it’s not backed by anything and we can’t trace it. So, once it enters that Bitcoin ATM, it is untraceable and hard to, if ever, recover. And the scammers know that and it’s an easy way for them to get funds and then just disappear from authorities who may be looking for it once a police report is filed.

0:02:23.3 LJJ: And trust in your financial institutions. Ask them about insurance coverage of your money. It’s your money. And if all of a sudden there’s no backing, you can say, “bye-bye money!”

0:02:36.1 KD: Right. And you’re not alone either because we have talked to a clerk at a gas station where there was one, and they mentioned they see elderly people coming in all the time throughout the day depositing money into it. So, you’re definitely not alone. There’s a lot of these scams happening. And the sooner we know, the more likely we are to step in and help.

0:02:55.1 LJJ: We’ll have to delve into Bitcoin a little bit more one of these days.

0:02:57.7 KD: Yeah. It’s a playground for fraudsters at this point.

0:03:01.3 LJJ: And so really what we have to do is again, remind everybody that when phone calls come in or texts come in or a weird email comes in and they say certain things like, I need something from you.

0:03:14.8 KD: Yeah, pause and actually go into Consumers or call Consumers on a number you’ve reached us before. They can spoof our number and then you think it’s Consumers and it’s not and so we want to make sure you take that moment to pause.

0:03:28.1 LJJ: And that’s really interesting because I think last month there was so many calls with a email that had gone out and a text and it had our accurate number.

0:03:38.7 KD: Yeah.

0:03:38.7 LJJ: So how is someone supposed, if they call in, are they getting to the right number? Or what they’re hoping is what happens?

0:03:45.3 KD: Is that when you call, you aren’t paying attention to the number or they’ve spoofed it. And so it appears to be our number, but it’s not really our number. And you wouldn’t know, because on your caller ID, it shows up like it’s ours.

0:03:56.4 LJJ: But here’s what is very important. If all of a sudden somebody from Consumers contacts you, what are the things we will not do to make sure that people keep their accounts safe?

0:04:08.8 KD: Yeah. We’re not going to ask for any of your information. So, we’re not asking for social security numbers. We’re not asking for debit card numbers. We are not after that information. We will make sure that we talk to you about your accounts. And if we’re calling you, we’ve already verified you because we’re using numbers that we have in our system.

0:04:24.6 LJJ: Boy, I’ll tell you, it’s really spooky, isn’t it?

0:04:26.5 KD: It is. It’s a little scary.

0:04:27.4 LJJ: And I know that your passion, Kristy, on this is to make sure that we keep our members safe. But just now, you were just talking about an instance that happened where a phone call came in, and it just breaks your heart what people are able to do now.

0:04:43.2 KD: Right. And people alter images, they spoof numbers, they alter websites, all different ways that they can fool you into thinking that you’re talking to someone that you’re really not talking to. And so for us, the scary part is then we’re willing to give out that information. And if someone calls you and has to coach you through a transaction when you’re walking into a Consumer’s Credit Union, that’s a moment where you pause and say, “Should I be coached on what to say to my own financial institution?”

0:05:09.6 LJJ: So, they’re trying to say to you, “Hey, they’re going to try to tell you this?”

0:05:12.5 KD: Yeah.

0:05:13.0 LJJ: But I am the real deal.

0:05:13.9 KD: Exactly, yeah.

0:05:16.1 LJJ: Right.

0:05:16.8 KD: And they either tell you that someone in consumers is in on it so you can’t trust them. So, you tell them that you’re withdrawing funds for home improvements, when in reality, you’re doing it to put it in a Bitcoin ATM.

0:05:29.0 LJJ: Wow, wow.

0:05:29.3 KD: Yeah.

0:05:29.8 LJJ: What is it about seniors? Because it isn’t like… I can call myself a senior, it isn’t like we’re more vulnerable, is it some point that we’re a little bit more trusting or they really are preying on the fact that maybe they can find some information that will hit my heart?

0:05:46.7 KD: Right. They pull on the emotional heart strings but it also is the fact that the generation gap, was a generation where they didn’t grow up with these types of things. It was a lot more check scams, a lot more of those kind of rudimentary scams and now they’ve gotten very complicated with the Bitcoin, that’s new, and it’s hard to understand, I’ve watched a bunch of videos on it and at moments I’m still like I don’t get it. [laughter]

0:06:11.2 LJJ: There was a family member of mine just about a month ago, and they were talking about the fact that they couldn’t get their television… Their cable wasn’t working. And that next day, an individual called and was from the cable company, and that’s really where you’re, “That freaks me out.” And I know they say your phones are listening, but is that what’s going on too?

0:06:37.4 KD: Or they’re phishing on social media. So, a lot of times we post about the grievances of daily life, when things don’t go well, or where something’s messing up, and people can find that information very easily and then call you from the “cable company” to help fix something that they were able to phish offline.

0:06:53.8 LJJ: So, tell us, what are some of the things, I mean, okay, it’s the first day of school, right? We’re automatically putting up kids pictures at school. This month is everybody’s going back somewhere, right?

0:07:06.7 KD: Yeah.

0:07:06.7 LJJ: But a lot of times too much can also be very, perhaps, daunting in the sense that someone can really kind of try to scam you out of things. So like vacations and things that people post.

0:07:19.1 KD: Yeah, like dates you’re leaving, where you’re going, things like that. For kids, they tell you don’t put the school they’re going to, don’t put an address, don’t put any of that identifying on those cool little signs that you can make, because somebody can get that information and use it to engineer a story that your kid is not safe, or isn’t at school, and all these different things, so making sure we just keep the information to the basics and nothing too complicated. [laughter]

0:07:45.5 LJJ: Now, our role is not to scare you.

0:07:47.5 KD: No.

0:07:47.5 LJJ: It is not. It’s to inform and help you remember what those little red flags are. Kristy, once again, just give us a reminder of some of those red flags that we should always be thinking about. And believe in me, don’t be embarrassed, I almost went down the road where I thought an FBI agent was calling me and I was ready.

0:08:07.1 KD: Yeah, yeah. [laughter]

0:08:07.5 LJJ: I was ready to do whatever to help!

0:08:10.1 KD: Yes. And so any time someone ask for personal information or to confirm information. “So, I have the last four of your social. Can you just fill in the rest?” Or any time someone is like, Hey, take your funds out, send them back via gift cards, Apple Pay, Bitcoin ATMs, all of that stuff, any time that stuff comes out, that is the red flag to pause and think about what’s going on.

0:08:33.4 LJJ: And you know what I found, the minute that I said, “I’d like to speak to your supervisor,” was the moment that click happened and I thought, “Wow, I really went down the path.”

0:08:47.4 KD: Right?

0:08:48.1 LJJ: And I was going there, and then all of a sudden I remember, “Okay, Kristy tells me every month, don’t do that.” [laughter]

0:08:53.0 KD: “Don’t do that. Pause.” But it gets you for a second, but it’s okay because you didn’t complete the actual fraud or anything like that. So, for a moment you just have to pause and think to yourself, if someone was telling me this, would I agree with what’s going on? Would I say, “Yeah, that sounds great.” Or would I be like, “Woah, slow down.”

0:09:12.0 LJJ: Let’s pretend that I didn’t stop and went down through the whole rabbit hole. And I gave them information that I realized, Uh-oh, I probably shouldn’t have given. Kristy, what do I do?

0:09:24.6 KD: Call us, stop in, talk to us, let us know so that we can protect your accounts. We can restrict them, open new ones, we can do all these great things, but we have to know, and so communicating with us is the easiest way to do that.

0:09:36.8 LJJ: And I do love the fact that you say don’t be embarrassed.

0:09:39.2 KD: Yes. All of us have fallen for it. I have, everyone has. It’s not a matter of if now, it’s a matter of when. And when it happens, you have to talk to us and let us know.

0:09:48.2 LJJ: Great. Well, thank you for talking to us. Next month, we’re going to talk to you about some social media scams that are happening. And I’ll tell you what, you might be really excited because somebody wants you to be a model, think again. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson. Thank you Jake Esselink, for your production skills. Kristy, thank you so much.

0:10:07.2 KD: Yeah. Thank you for having me, I love it.

0:10:08.9 LJJ: Everybody have a fabulous week.


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