Protect Yourself and Your Family From Social Media Scams


Consumers' podcast graphic with image of hands holding a smart phone scrolling social media

Fraud specialist Kristy Desimone joins our podcast this week to share how you can avoid social media picture scams. A huge red flag is to understand that email checks aren’t a thing!



0:00:06.9 Lynne Jarman-Johnson: Money, I’m Home! Welcome in. I’m Lynne Jarman-Johnson with Consumers Credit Union. From finance to fitness, we’ve got it all. And today we are focusing on, again, fraud, because it is so important to make sure to keep it out of your life. Kristy Desimone is our fraud specialist, and she’s with us today. We have so many members. You know what? They might be on Facebook. They might be on Instagram. Now there’s TikTok. Okay, post a picture, and all of a sudden I get what’s called the DM, direct message, ain’t you glad I even know that.

0:00:40.6 Kristy Desimone: I am.

0:00:41.5 LJJ: And in it was like a, “Hey, Lynne, we really want you. Can we use your picture to do A, B and C? And also we’ll pay you.” And I’m like, “Yeah, okay. I’m no model, so whatever.” Right? But this is happening as a big scam now, isn’t it?

0:00:54.1 KD: It really is, and they sometimes say your photo is an inspiration to me, so I’m going to create an art project with it. I’m going to send you money via an email check. Email checks are not a thing. [laughter] And you’re going to send me back …

0:01:08.5 LJJ: Here’s an email check.

0:01:09.8 KD: Yeah. “Here you go. It’s in your email.” You’re going to send it back to me a little bit for supplies, and then you keep the rest. And, so you send it back via gift card, Apple Pay, Cash App, Zelle, any of those money transfer systems.

0:01:21.2 LJJ: So they’re literally giving you an enticement of saying, “This picture is so good that we want to use it and pay you for it.”

0:01:28.9 KD: Exactly. And the younger generation wouldn’t know that emailing your check is out of the ordinary, because they haven’t seen a lot of checks. They aren’t taught how to write checks in school. They aren’t taught that it’s paper, anything like that, so it just gets emailed with their name on it, and they’re like, “Cool, we’re good to go.”

0:01:44.5 LJJ: And think about how simple it is now to pay people through apps.

0:01:48.6 KD: Exactly.

0:01:49.5 LJJ: Through whether it’s Venmo or PayPal, you can literally just transfer money over, which by the way, you can do at Consumers Credit Union, too, as a member, very safe, very secure.

0:02:00.6 KD: Yes.

0:02:00.8 LJJ: But you know what, it’s so easy, so you’re just thinking, “Okay, I’m going to go print this check out.” What then happens? They find out later that it’s … Look at it, “I can’t cash it.”

0:02:08.5 KD: Exactly. So a lot of times they take a screen shot, and they try and mobile deposit it. So that’s where we come in.

0:02:14.3 LJJ: Yes.

0:02:14.7 KD: And we get to see the mobile deposit as it comes in, and you see that it’s typed in on the back. They didn’t sign it, anything like that. And we get to call them and say, “Hey, talk to us a little bit about where these funds are from.”

0:02:27.4 LJJ: Well, and how important is that though. You can stop it before it even starts, really.

0:02:33.1 KD: Exactly. We can see it and then we can ask questions. And in asking questions, you get to break down that scam and actually have a really good teaching moment with a generation that doesn’t use checks often.

0:02:42.7 LJJ: Well, and we talk about the fact that I said about Consumers being safe and secure, but anyone who’s utilizing Venmo or PayPal as their deposits and keeping large amounts of money in there, what’s an issue that comes along with that?

0:02:57.9 KD: Yeah. It’s really easy to scam those or scammers will ask for that information, and they will be able to get into it and try and transfer that money out. We’ve seen that where they get their information and they’re like, “Oh, it’s for a loan, so we’re going to give you our information and you can use my Cash App account,” and they transfer those funds out.

0:03:13.3 LJJ: And away it goes.

0:03:14.2 KD: And yeah. And it’s hard to trace. It’s hard to figure out where it’s going. So those apps sometimes are prone to scams.

0:03:20.8 LJJ: The other aspect that you always mention is about these scams where you get an email or you get a text and it looks like it is from your account. It looks exactly like it’s from PayPal as an example.

0:03:35.3 KD: Yeah. Exactly.

0:03:36.1 LJJ: And, “Hey, you have an invoice for this amount.” And it’s truly just not even real.

0:03:40.2 KD: No, and sometimes they’ll throw in a number or a number for them to feel a little bit more legitimate, but it’s really not. It is them scamming. They’ll even take you to a website that could potentially look exactly like the website you were trying to get to, but it’s really just a spoofed site.

0:03:56.0 LJJ: And then when you take a look at the whole conversation about someone is all of a sudden wanting to feel, “Oh, wow, my picture,” whether it be your personal image or a picture that you took and put up, you’re getting that flattery. You see all over the news, all of these influencers that are making millions of dollars, and so all of a sudden, why wouldn’t you think, “Oh, this is where I can break into that business.”

0:04:22.1 KD: Yeah. Exactly. And so that’s kind of what they’re playing on, is that little bit of vanity, and then the world we live in where influencers are making a lot of money doing those kinds of things with their images. And so they’re able to say, “Hey, you’re going to do this. You’re going to give us this, and it’s going to be this beautiful art piece,” and then it’s not. It’s just a scam.

0:04:40.0 LJJ: Where is it that someone can really understand that this is truly an offer, because someone really does want to utilize your talent, and it’s an authentic location versus this, “Hey, look at … ” And is it 99% of the time, “Hey, we’re going to send you an electronic check.”

0:05:00.4 KD: Yeah, it really is. And a lot of times with influencers, and from my knowledge of that, there’s a lot of brand deals and things that they do that are not text messages or direct messages. So if somebody really wants to get a hold of you to use your images, there will be other ways in a professional setting that they can get a hold of you besides the DM.

0:05:17.3 LJJ: Right. And so important, isn’t it?

0:05:19.9 KD: Yeah, it is.

0:05:21.1 LJJ: Do you think that that’s kind of like where the hesitation should come in, even just right at the beginning with the DMs?

0:05:27.1 KD: Yeah, I think it should be. You should at least be skeptical. And then when they say, “I’m going to email you a check,” that’s where the red flag is, and you have to say, “Ooh, I know that’s not a thing.” [laughter]

0:05:36.6 LJJ: In those apps, when we say DM, it’s direct message … It’s like an email, right?

0:05:40.6 KD: Exactly. Yeah, it’s kind of like an email, but it’s also more of a chat. So if someone wants to send you an email from a brand or something that’s very professional and that kind of thing, they will. But a direct message, I feel like is more of like a chat maybe.

0:05:53.7 LJJ: Okay, okay. And it’s inside the app.

0:05:55.8 KD: Yeah, it’s inside the app. So you can do it on Facebook Messenger, you can use, and then Instagram has direct messages, things like that.

0:06:02.3 LJJ: So, Kristy, I have a niece who is an influencer, and she has hundreds of thousands of followers and does a fabulous job, but as her aunt, I look at it and I’m like, “Oh, my gosh. It makes me nervous.” How do you protect your kids if they’re on and could be really influenced by these scams?

0:06:21.8 KD: Yeah, so communication is the most important thing. You have to be able to communicate about what’s going on. I know certain parents will have the logins and be able to log in and make sure everything’s okay, checking out the messages, things like that. But it really is communication and education. So make sure they understand what could happen, what scams are out there by educating yourself, listening to these podcasts or talking to other financial institutions or us about the scams that are going on.

0:06:49.6 LJJ: And you know, the hard part is you want the independence of your children as they grow older, right? But in today’s social world, whether it’s gaming or apps on your phones, there are people out there trying to do harm.

0:07:03.7 KD: Yeah, 100%. And that’s a scary part as a parent is that you have to just understand that they may be faced with these kinds of messages, and the only way for them to know that it’s not okay is to talk to them and educate yourself as well as your kids.

0:07:16.9 LJJ: And it’s a scary world we live in right now, but I bet at least once a week, there is a news report of an instance where someone met someone on social, they were younger. And thankfully, there’s a lot of people that will step in, in advance before harm is done, but that really is the, to me, that’s the thing that as a parent, I can say, “Look, this is why we really need to make sure we have open policies on where you’re surfing and what you’re doing.”

0:07:47.1 KD: Right, and it’s important to say, “Hey, you know if you fall for a scam, that’s okay, but you got to talk to me about it. You got to let me know so that I’m aware so we can learn together” and that kind of thing moving forward.

0:07:57.2 LJJ: One of the things, Kristy, I think that we offer here at Consumers that can help a parent, what about joint accounts that you can open up with your child, so you can see what’s going on.

0:08:05.8 KD: Yeah, so you can step into any Consumers and open a joint youth bank account with your son or daughter, and then you can help monitor or teach about how to use a bank account, what goes in there, any deposits that come in. You can ask questions and talk about it, and it’s a great way to keep kind of an open dialogue about that.

0:08:22.3 LJJ: Well, how often are you receiving information and calls? Is this something that’s so prevalent that we just are like, “Wow, this really is happening right here in West Michigan?”

0:08:32.0 KD: Yeah, I think I’ve gotten three already this morning where it’s like, “Hey, your address is un-deliverable from UPS,” and/or it’s, “Hey, your account at this financial institution has fraud on it.” And I’m like, “I don’t even have an account at that financial institution.”

0:08:47.2 LJJ: So you personally have received three today.

0:08:49.6 KD: Yeah, today. Yeah, just about things that I’m like, “That doesn’t make any sense.” But in the moment when you get it, you’re like, “Well, this could be true. UPS could be trying to send me something.”

0:09:00.9 LJJ: The UPS one gets me every time.

0:09:01.9 KD: Yeah, I know, right?

0:09:02.0 LJJ: I was like go, “Wait a minute, I don’t have anything at … I don’t think.”

0:09:05.2 KD: Exactly. Yeah, see, for a second you doubt yourself. You’re like, “I may.” [laughter]

0:09:10.1 LJJ: Don’t click the link.

0:09:11.4 KD: Don’t do it. Don’t do it.

0:09:13.2 LJJ: When we talk about that, whether it be … Now, texting is so prevalent. I think I did receive actually two over the weekend, and one I just said, “Stop” to both. How important is it that you stay on your game and block those numbers and report that information.

0:09:28.5 KD: It’s super important. That’s the only way you can combat fraud is by education and blocking the attempts that you have, so it’s very important to make sure you do that.

0:09:37.0 LJJ: And don’t be shy, right? You’re not going to hurt anybody’s feeling.

0:09:39.8 KD: No, don’t be shy. No, come to us. Talk to us. We want to make sure that you take care of those scammers, and you give them the boot. We don’t want them on your phone, so make sure you block everything.

0:09:49.5 LJJ: Well, and when you block someone, that means that that number no longer can contact you, correct?

0:09:55.8 KD: Correct, yeah.

0:09:57.5 LJJ: Yeah, and is blocking the same thing as just deleting?

0:10:00.6 KD: No, so deleting it can come back, so you haven’t blocked the number. Blocking is like, “Hey, don’t let this number ever contact me ever again. If they try and call, it goes straight to voicemail, but they can’t leave a voicemail, so.

0:10:11.0 LJJ: Now, Kristy, let’s say I block someone, just like you said to do. That doesn’t mean like they can’t change to a different number, or another scammer can’t be out there trying to reach me.

0:10:21.1 KD: Right, and we’ve seen where there’re actual call centers, where this is their job is to try and scam people. So blocking one number is great, but it doesn’t save you from other attempts. So you got to stay on your game.

0:10:32.1 LJJ: Don’t do that to your grandparents or anything.

0:10:34.5 KD: Don’t do it. Yeah.

0:10:37.3 LJJ: But do it to those scammers.

0:10:38.1 KD: Yes. Goodbye, scammers. [laughter]

0:10:41.7 LJJ: Well, Kristy, thank you again for this month’s topic. It really is important that we stay on the ball, and you know, too, at Consumers if you ever need a question answered, whether you walk in, pick up the phone and call, we’re here to help you really get through the times where you’re just not quite sure.

0:11:00.6 KD: Right, or the times where you’re like, “I think this is a scam. Let me just talk to Consumers and find out.” We will always be here to answer the phone.

0:11:05.8 LJJ: Hey, thank you guys for listening. I’d like to thank Jake Esselink for his production skills. And, Kristy, thank you so much. What a great conversation today!

0:11:13.1 KD: Thanks for having me.

0:11:15.0 LJJ: Have a wonderful week out.


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