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Dec. 6, 2023

‘Tis the season for twinkling lights, cocoa, Christmas trees, caroling and festive fun. However, the holidays are unfortunately also a time when we sometimes see an uptick in scams. To keep spirits holly and jolly, here are some common scams and how to avoid them:

  • Virtual Currency/Bitcoin Scams. This type of scam has become more prevalent. While our area does have many legitimate Bitcoin/cryptocurrency machines, scam artists will use these devices to gain access to a person’s money. Scam artists often will create a false sense of urgency to trick their victims into withdrawing cash from their bank account. The scammer then directs the victim to deposit the cash into a virtual currency kiosk. As the victim purchases the virtual currency, it is then sent to the scammer’s crypto wallet. Scammers can accomplish this is through the following scenarios:
  • Romance scams, which begin when criminals contact victims through online social networking and dating apps. Scammers gain the victim’s trust before asking for funds to help with “emergencies” and/or “legal fees”. In this situation, they will request the payment to be sent via virtual currency kiosk.
  • “Pig butchering” scams start when the victim receives a random text message from an unknown number. The scammer will then attempt to get the victim into a conversation with them using a messaging app, often building a relationship for weeks to months. Once a relationship is established, the scammer will pitch an investment idea to the victim, which requires the victim to “invest” their personal funds via virtual currency kiosk. With this situation, the scammer will even ask their victims to send the funds to an “investment site,” which in reality is their own personal crypto wallet.
  • Investment advisor scams also attempt to gain trust of the victim by pitching a “great” investment opportunity. Like the previous examples, this scam also convinces the victims to invest by putting their cash into the virtual currency kiosk, which of course, goes back into the scammer’s hands.
  • Fake virus protection alerts. In this scam, victims will see pop-up alerts on their computer screens that advertise anti-virus protection software. Victims are asked to follow the alert instructions, which often direct them to a “help desk” phone number to receive the advertised protection software. Scammers will then pose as helpful customer service staff. From there, they will convince the victims that hackers have their personal bank information and to correct this issue they must convert their cash to cryptocurrency via a virtual currency kiosk.
  • Home emergency scams. In this scenario, a scammer may pose as a legitimate business, such as the victim’s electric company. The scammer will threaten to cut the power to the victim’s home unless a payment is made via virtual currency kiosk. If you receive a similar call, hang up, and call your actual electric provider.

While all the above scams do involve virtual currency, these same scams can also target traditional bank accounts. Scammers will always attempt to appear legitimate by claiming to be from established businesses, government agencies, and even financial institutions. To avoid becoming a victim, please do not pay anyone who contacts you and demands advanced payments in cryptocurrency, gift cards or money transfer. If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of anything related to your finances, do not hesitate to give us a call at 800-468-6682.

Other holiday-related scams to be mindful of include the following:

  • Fraudulent social media advertisements. As so many folks frequent social media in general, these platforms unfortunately can be the perfect opportunity for scammers. With an influx of online shopping during the holiday season, the risk of falling victim to fake ad scams increases. According to the Federal Trade Commission, over the past few years Americans lost $2.7 billion to social media scams on sites like Facebook and Instagram. To avoid being a victim of this scam, do not click on an ad through social media. Instead, find the company online at its real IP address to see if it is offering the same item and price as advertised on social media.
  • Gift card scams. Gift cards are one of the most popular Christmas presents. However, be mindful of any outlandish fees that can add to the purchase price or drain your card’s value. This can be avoided by only shopping with trusted retailers. Another common card scam is when someone poses as a friend or family member who needs money. This “friend” then insists that they must be paid in the form of a gift card. If you experience any requests like this, assume it is a scam.
  • Charity scams. Giving to charitable causes is a great way to spread goodwill during the holiday season. However, scammers will often pose as fake charities. They might do this via phone, online, or even through door-to-door interactions. Before you contribute, ask for more information and/or research the charity. Also, it is best to not donate any money via gift card, cryptocurrency or wire transfer.

From all of us at Ohio Valley Bank, we wish you a happy, safe and scam-free holiday season!

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