Friday, April 10, 2015

Secret Shopper Scam Example


Today was my lucky day! Out of all the eligible email accounts in the world, I was selected as the recipient for this amazing Secret Shopper job offer. Below is the exact email that was sent;

Hello,
I am Michael Reyes, Recruitment Specialist with Platanium Corporation.“We have a mystery shopping assignment in your area and we would like you to participate". Secret Shopper® has been in business since 1990. We are a charter member of the Mystery Shopping Provider's Association (MSPA), the professional trade association for the Mystery Shopping industry. There is no charge to apply to be a Secret Shopper® and information is protected. Secret Shopper® is accepting applications for qualified individuals to become mystery shoppers. Its fun and rewarding, and you choose when and where you want to shop. You are never obligated to accept an assignment. There is no charge to become a shopper and you do not need previous experience. After you sign up, you will have access to training materials via e-mail, fax or postal mail.

ABOUT US
Secret Shopper® is the premier mystery shopping company serving clients across America and Canada with over 500,000 shoppers available and ready to help businesses better serve their customers. Continual investment in the latest internet and communication technologies coupled with over 16 years of know-how means working with Secret Shopper® is a satisfying and rewarding experience. Secret shopping as seen on ABC NEWS, NBC NEWS, L.A.TIMES.Since 1990, Secret Shopper® has delivered actionable intelligence to our clients, helping to drive exceptional bottom-line performance. Nearly 1,000 shoppers have registered this week, performing millions of mystery shops throughout North America and the Caribbean. When coupled with our continual investment in the latest internet and communication technologies, you can rest assured that working with Secret Shopper® is a satisfying and rewarding experience.Secret Shopper® is also a charter member of the industry trade association, the Mystery Shopping Providers Association (MSPA). Benefit from partnering with America’s premier mystery shopping company. We have been building our tradition of excellence for two decades.


Stores and organizations such as The Gap, Walmart, Pizza Hut and Banks. One amongst many others pay for Secret Shoppers to shop in their establishments and report their experiences. On top of being paid for shopping you are also allowed to keep purchases for free. Secret Shopper® NEVER charge fees to the shopper. Training, tips for improvement, and shopping opportunities are provided free to registered shoppers.Mystery shoppers are either paid a pre-arranged fee for a particular shop, a reimbursement for a purchase or a combination of both. Secret Shopper® has available for immediate assignment an inspection of the customer service of any walmart in your area. You are to shop secretly. This fee will be paid upfront. During this shopping, you will visit a location and make several observations as regards the customer service. You will be required to interact with the shopper clerk. You may conduct the shop alone or as a couple. The assignment will pay $200.00 per duty and you can be able to get up to 2- 3 duties in a week depending on how fast you are able to execute the first assignment. Kindly Fill Out the application form below and we will get back to you shortly with the assignment:
(The application form asked for name, address, phone numbers, age, and email address).

Let's break down how and why this "job" offer is a scam. (Our email filter by the way identified the email as probable spam). The email address of the sender was coming from an AOL email address that did not match the name of Michael Reyes noted in the first line. Also, why would a Recruitment Specialist for a real corporation use an AOL email address? Notice how the email was not addressed to anyone in particular. If a company was truly contacting someone for a job opportunity they would be addressing that person in their email. A quick Google check also does not reveal that a "Platanium Corporation" exists. If misspelled as "Platinum", not good to have your company name misspelled plus that company does exist with no connection to secret shopper programs.

Real secret shopper programs NEVER send money to strangers to purchase items and report back on their shopping experience. To say that "this fee will be paid upfront" is an obvious red flag of the scam. Real secret shopper programs focus on shoppers who visit their stores and transact business with their own personal money. They would then complete a very detailed secret shopper survey and be paid a nominal fee after the fact. It would NEVER be $200 for evaluating a shopping experience. The $200 carrot is out there by the scammer to attract people in difficult financial situations who see the offer as easy money. Also note that additional secret shopper duties might be available based upon the speed of your first assignment. Secrecy and speed are two components of any good scam.

The part that says "You will be required to interact with the shopper clerk" is the meat of the real scam since this is where they will have the victim to wire funds to a recipient provided by the scammer. The wire is almost always going outside of the country. The scammer will provide a counterfeit check after the applicant information is provided to cover the costs of the shopping items, wire amount (largest transaction of course), and the $200 fee for the mystery shopper. These counterfeit checks usually fall below $3,000 because of various banking hold policies and stiffer criminal penalties for larger fake checks.

These Secret Shopper scams have been around for some time and show no signs of slowing down. NEVER respond to the emails because they then have a valid email address and will continue to send additional fake offers in the hopes of having just one scam that finally works.

Be careful out there and remember that fraudsters are always inventing new ways to separate victims from their money. Feel free to contact me or our office staff if you ever receive a questionable offer that you would like to have reviewed.




Friday, March 20, 2015

Together Magazine - Spring Edition


The Spring edition of the Together magazine is now published and being circulated to members and our sponsor schools in the area. This is the second year of publication for this Together magazine for the credit union which is a big change from prior year newsletters. Many credit unions have stopped newsletters altogether because of mailing costs and limited interest by the members. Newsletters were more about giving event dates and sales promotion information. By contrast, the Together magazine reads like a normal magazine would. Real life events and financial education resources are featured in each edition to help our membership and the community with their financial decisions.

For example, this Spring edition of the Together magazine discusses how to regret-proof your next vehicle purchase. Buying a vehicle is a major purchase item. Unfortunately the credit union often hears from members after the fact of their vehicle buying horror stories. There is nothing worse than having buyer's remorse on a vehicle that has just been financed for five or six years.

The credit union's primary purpose is to help improve the financial condition of its credit union member-owners. Our Together magazine has been created by professional editors and writers to assist with this objective. I encourage our current and potential members to take a few minutes and read the publication. It is our strong belief that financial education value will be earned by doing so.

Here is a direct link to the e-version where you can flip pages like a regular magazine publication;
http://viewer.e-digitaledition.com/i/477028-spring-2015

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Teachers Have Come a Long Way......

Below is an old Teacher Contract from 1923 that is obviously for a female teacher. Makes you wonder what the male teacher contract looked like! Not sure of the geographic region of this contract however the Ohio area was mentioned as a possibility. Fortunately, women have come a long way in the workplace since 1923!


Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Closings and Delayed Openings


This winter season has presented multiple weather events that have resulted in the credit union having to close offices, delay openings, or close early. These decisions are not taken lightly. The number one priority for the credit union is the safety of our employees as they must travel to and from our various office locations. Predicting weather in the Tennessee Valley is not an easy task. Weather patterns can change and have done so in the past. Weather predictions are all about probabilities so the best we can do as decision makers is to try and make the right call based upon the information available. We generally do not follow the weather closing schedules of the various school systems. School systems have to worry about children waiting on buses or being transported on buses that must leave very early each morning. Credit union offices do not open until 8:30 am Monday through Friday so we have time to see how conditions are that morning before deciding on a closure or delayed opening. Generally, the goal is to make that decision by 6:00 AM if a decision deals with an office closure or delayed opening. We have to notify all of our employees through our communication channels and then we begin notifying our members by a variety of methods. Closing early during an existing workday is based solely on insuring to the best of our abilities that employees can arrive at their homes safely before poor driving conditions develop. 

There are multiple methods used to report office closings, delayed openings, or early closings. The top line of our web site at www.naecu.org will notate any office hour changes when they occur. Our Facebook and Twitter pages will be updated live. Members on our Constant Contact email group will receive an email noting weather closings and delays. This is why it is important for the credit union to have accurate email information for members. Finally, the three main network affiliates (ABC, NBC, and CBS) will be contacted to post our announcement along with other businesses in the area. Keep in mind though we have no control if or when the networks will post our announcements. The newsrooms typically do a great job of posting information for the public but they are also extremely busy during these severe weather events. 

The credit union has disaster recovery resources available to post member debits and credits whenever our offices must be closed due to weather or other natural disaster events. We are also very lenient on refunding overdraft fees and other charges that could have been avoided if our offices had been open. All members are encouraged to have a VISA Debit Card or at least an ATM card to access their funds if credit union offices are closed. 

Members are also encouraged to monitor potential weather storm events and make plans in advance for cash needs should an office closing or delayed opening become necessary. We want our members to remain safe also so usually the best place to be during severe weather events is at home with family and friends close by. 

Friday, February 13, 2015

IRS Impersonation Scams

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) is reporting a considerable number of phone scams being targeted towards taxpayers, including recent immigrants. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS but are not. These callers are con artists who will attempt to scare people into providing their personal information and credit/debit card numbers. Be aware that these fake callers are using spoofing technology to fool Caller ID into displaying that the call is originating from the IRS.

Victims are told that they owe money to the IRS and that their tax obligation needs to be paid promptly through a credit/debit card or a wire transfer. The fake IRS callers use fear as the main tool in obtaining what they want. Victims will be threatened with immediate arrest, account liens, seizure of homes and assets, deportations, and suspension of a business or driver's license.

Some fake callers can go the opposite route and claim that you are due a large refund and need your information so that the IRS can "make things right".

The IRS will never; (1) Call to demand immediate payment over the telephone, (2) Call about taxes owed unless they have mailed you a bill, (3) Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe, (4) Require you to use a specific means of payment for your taxes such as a credit or debit card, (5) Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the telephone, or ((6) Threaten to bring in law enforcement to arrest you for non-payment.

These fake IRS impersonation calls are growing in number. The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration reported in an October report that IRS impersonators had made more than 90,000 fake phone calls to consumers and had acquired more than $5,000,000 in stolen funds.

Report scammers to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration by phone at 1-800-366-4484 or forward suspicious e-mails to phishing@irs.gov. You can also file a report with the Federal Trade Commission online. Contact your financial institution immediately if you have given personal account information in response to a suspicious caller or email.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Large Cash Transactions: Bank Secrecy Act

Credit union members should be aware of what the Bank Secrecy Act means to consumers and the financial transactions they make in their financial institutions. All financial institutions are required to monitor transactions that take place and report any activity that is deemed suspicious either by definition or by circumstances. Cash transactions in particular are monitored by dollar amount and by frequency. All cash transactions above $10,000 on a daily aggregate basis would be reported. It is important to note though that account holders should not purposely stagger cash deposits over several days to avoid reporting of the $10,000 cash amount threshold. The practice of staggering deposits to avoid reporting is called "structuring" and could result in being reported as a suspicious activity, which is worse than just one large currency transaction. The practice of "structuring" cash deposits to avoid reporting can be prosecuted as a crime. This is especially true if the cash transactions can be connected to money laundering, tax evasion, or criminal activities where cash is being transacted. Most financial institutions have internal systems in place to monitor cash transactions over a period of time to trigger a concern over "structuring". 

There is nothing illegal about making a large currency deposit or withdrawing a large cash sum of money. There should not be any fear by consumers in making cash transactions. The origins of the Bank Secrecy Act was to establish a system that could assist with detecting money laundering and criminal activities. Terrorism concerns with large cash transactions have developed over time. The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is the federal bureau within the U.S. Treasury Department that has been charged with implementing, administering, and enforcing compliance with the laws associated with The Currency and Foreign Transactions Act of 1970, commonly called the Bank Secrecy Act. 

The Bank Secrecy Act and the laws associated with it are not a secret. They are a matter of public policy that every citizen can review on their own. The government FinCEN web site has information available for the public in understanding the Bank Secrecy Act. The web site is 
http://www.fincen.gov/ . 

All financial institutions are required to comply with Bank Secrecy Act regulations. Significant fines and penalties could be assessed to financial institutions that do not comply. 

Account holders are advised to be open and honest with their large cash transactions. Do not ask financial institution employees about how to avoid being reported for cash transactions because that is a sure way to get reported. The Bank Secrecy Act law requires it. 

Friday, January 2, 2015

CO-OP Network: Provides Thousands of Branches to NAECU Members

When people ask how many branches NAECU has, the answer might surprise you: Over 5,000 physical branches throughout the United States and foreign locations. That's right, over 5,000 branches. Many of the large regional banks don't offer that many locations. How can an $85 million dollar credit union like NAECU offer more branch locations than a multi-billion dollar regional bank?

Cooperation among credit unions, that's how. The CO-OP Network is a collection of individual credit unions all over the country that have banded together to provide common resources that benefit all credit union members within the network group. Participating credit unions offer their branches and staff to post transactions on your host credit union. Have a child attending college out of town in Tuscaloosa, Alabama? There are 4 CO-OP Network branches available there. Have a child attending college out of town in Auburn, Alabama? There are 2 CO-OP Network branches available there. Have a child out of state in Nashville, Tennessee? There are 13 CO-OP Network Branches available there. Members of NAECU can perform transactions on their NAECU accounts at these CO-OP Network branches. Available transactions include deposits, withdrawals, loan payments, account transfers, account history reviews, and known payroll check cashing. THERE IS NO FEE TO NAECU MEMBERS FOR USING THESE SERVICES. Cashier's checks can be purchased for a small fee.

The CO-OP Network also provides nearly 30,000 surcharge free ATM locations!

Members of NAECU with accounts older than 90 days can utilize the CO-OP Network and enjoy the greatly expanded access to their account(s) with NAECU.

Members are encouraged to visit http://www.allco-op.org/ for CO-OP Network information and a search engine for available locations by city or zip code. Phone apps and a texting option are available. An automated phone search for locations is available at 1-888-748-3266 or live help is available at 1-888-837-6500.

The CO-OP Network is an incredible free benefit available to members of NAECU. Check it out!