FBI Warns of "Money Mule" Fraud
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) is warning about a new form of fraud that targets companies, schools and nonprofits around the United States.
According to the Associated Press, “money mules” are individuals who (often) unknowingly use their bank accounts to transfer funds for criminals. The FBI is especially concerned about the people who become involved in international money laundering schemes that result in large economic losses.
“They trial and error this stuff, and they see what works and they see what doesn’t,” said FBI Supervisory Special Agent James Abbott. “It’s a much higher success rate when you have a lot of money using somebody else’s account going through there, instead of trying to cross the border with a physical transportation of cash.”
As a result, law enforcement agencies around the world have increased their efforts against money mule fraud. In fact, this month, Europol Opens a New Window. announced that it had identified 1,504 money mules, arresting 168. The FBI revealed in June the arrests of 74 people, and launched a publicity campaign called “Don’t Be a Mule.”
One example of the fraud, according to the FBI, was a criminal posing as an overseas Army captain, who recruited a man he met online to help him make plans to travel home by transferring money in and out of his bank account. The agency noted that $10,000 was wired into the man’s account, which he was instructed to withdraw in small increments and send to a woman in Texas.
Since the mules are often elderly, lonely or confused, the FBI usually gives them stern warnings and skips prosecution.
“When we approach them and talk to them, and explain to them what they’ve been doing, a lot of times, the horror is there,” said Steven D’Antuono, an FBI section chief who specializes in financial crimes. “It’s all walks of life, all educational levels. Anyone can fall victim to this.”
Equifax Data Breach
Important Update: 2017 Cybersecurity Incident Settlement Reached
Equifax has reached a comprehensive resolution that includes a proposed class action settlement of the consumer class action litigation related to the 2017 cybersecurity incident.
Visit www.EquifaxBreachSettlement.com for information on the Equifax Data Breach Settlement.
September 2017 (Original Alert)
Equifax, one of the three national consumer credit reporting agencies, announced a major data breach in 2017. This breach affected approximately 143 million Americans. This is what we know according to Equifax: the data breach occurred May – July 2017, and the information stolen includes consumers’ personally identifiable information, including names, Social Security numbers, dates of birth, addresses and, in some cases, driver’s license numbers. Approximately 209,000 credit card numbers and dispute documents with personally identifiable information for approximately 182,000 consumers were also stolen. There is no evidence of unauthorized access to consumers’ credit reporting databases.
To be clear, Sutton Bank was not compromised and your information was not stolen from our bank. However, Sutton Bank takes the security of our customer information very seriously, and we are providing you with the information we know about this massive breach and the steps you can take to protect your personally identifiable information if you so desire. Following this unprecedented breach, we are also asking our customers to be extra vigilant and report any suspicious activity in your Sutton Bank accounts to us by calling 800-422-3641.
Equifax has established a website that informs consumers if they may be affected by the breach, provides additional information on the breach, and offers complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring. This information is available at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. To protect your identity and personal information, we strongly encourages our customers to take the actions noted below.
- Review your account statements to spot any suspicious transactions. You can also monitor your account activity online at any time at www.suttonbank.com.
- If you spot any suspicious transactions, please contact us immediately at 1-800-422-3641.
- Consider if you should place an initial fraud alert on your credit report (see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0275-place-fraud-alert).
- Consider if you should freeze your credit file (see https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0497-credit-freeze-faqs).
- Review your credit reports for accuracy. Call any one of the three credit reporting agencies to receive your free annual credit report or visit annualcreditreport.com.
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You should also contact the credit reporting agencies to notify them of any suspected fraud or identity theft. Equifax has established a dedicated toll-free number to answer questions you may have about the Equifax data breach and its effect on your personally identifiable information. You may call them at 866-447-7559.
If you believe you are the victim of identity theft, contact your local law enforcement office and/or your state attorney general. Finally, you may also want to consider reviewing information about recovering from identity theft, which is available from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at https://www.identitytheft.gov/ or by calling 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338). The FTC also offers general information to protect your online presence at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/privacy-identity-online-security.
Common Types of Scams and Fraud & Classic Warning Signs
What are some common types of scams? The CFPB (Consumer Financial Protection Bureau) wants you to know!
Scammers are constantly finding new ways to steal your money. You can protect yourself by knowing what to look out for.
What are some classic warning signs of possible fraud and scams?
There are several signs that indicate you might be dealing with a scammer.
They include contact from someone:
- Calling or emailing you, claiming to be from the government and asking you to pay money.
- Asking you to pay money or taxes upfront to receive a prize or a gift.
- Asking you to wire them money, send money by courier, or put money on a prepaid card or gift card and send it to them.
- Asking for access to your money-such as your ATM cards, bank accounts, credit cards, or investment accounts.
- Pressuring you to "act now" or else the deal will go away. Or someone who seems to be trying hard to give you a "great deal" without time to answer your questions.
To report a scam, you can submit a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. You can also contact your local police or sheriff's office or your state attorney general's office to report the scam. Visit the National Association of Attorneys General for the contact information of each state attorney general.
Tip: Remember that if something doesn't seem right, you can always hang up or walk away. Scammers often want you to make a quick decision without thinking about it. Slow down, do your own research about the offer or consult with someone you trust.
How to be Safer When Using a Smartphone or Tablet
Everywhere you look, people are using smartphones and tablets as portable, hand-held computers. "Unfortunately, cybercriminals are also interested in using or accessing these devices to steal information or commit other crimes," said Michael Benardo, manager of the FDIC's Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section. "That makes it essential for users of mobile devices to take measures to secure them, just as they would a desktop computer."
Here are some basic steps you can take to secure your mobile devices.
Avoid apps that may contain malware.
Buy or download from well-known app stores, such as those established by your phone manufacturer or cellular service provider. Consult your financial institution's website to confirm where to download its official app for mobile banking.
Keep your device's operating system and apps updated.
Consider opting for automatic updates because doing so will ensure that you have the latest fixes for any security weaknesses the manufacturer discovers. "Cybercriminals try to take advantage of known flaws, so keeping your software up to date will help reduce your vulnerability to foul play," said Robert Brown, a senior ombudsman specialist at the FDIC.
Consider using mobile security software and apps to protect your device.
For example, anti-malware software for smartphones and tablets can be purchased from a reputable vendor.
Use a password or other security feature to restrict access in case your device is lost or stolen.
Activate the "time out" or "auto lock" feature that secures your mobile device when it is left unused for a certain number of minutes. Set that security feature to start after a relatively brief period of inactivity. Doing so reduces the likelihood that a thief will be able to use your phone or tablet.
Back up data on your smartphone or tablet.
This is good to do in case your device is lost, stolen or just stops working one day. Data can easily be backed up to a computer or to a back-up service, which may be offered by your mobile carrier.
Have the ability to remotely remove data from your device if it is lost or stolen.
A "remote wipe" protects data from prying eyes. If the device has been backed up, the information can be restored on a replacement device or the original (if you get it back). A number of reputable apps can enable remote wiping.