What are mobile deposits?
Mobile Deposits are paper checks deposited by their recipient using a camera or scanner without the need to visit a physical credit union or bank branch location. It is a feature on most mobile banking apps that allows you to take a picture of your check and upload with just a few clicks, no matter where you are. All HFS accounts, except Business Accounts, are eligible to use Mobile Deposit as long as they are enrolled in Online Banking and have downloaded the Mobile App.
Mobile Deposits allow you to quickly and securely deposit your funds directly into your savings or checking account, all without ever having to step foot into a branch. Using the service is easy. Simply open the HFS App on your smartphone or tablet and follow the on-screen prompts.
There are numerous benefits to using mobile deposits. Including the ability to deposit checks 24/7, no charge to utilize the feature, and you can rest assured that your information is secure when depositing. No more waiting in long lines on your lunch break!
Mobile Deposits, as the name says, often involves a mobile device (such as a smartphone or tablet) with a camera and a compatible mobile application. This can also make it a prime opportunity for fraudsters to commit a range of check scams.
How does a mobile deposit scam work?
Mobile deposits are remarkably simple to make and are used by millions of American consumers on a daily basis. If you have never used your banking provider’s smartphone app to deposit a check previously, it is a safe, quick, and convenient way to make your life simpler.
However, like every aspect of your money and banking habits, you should be aware of ways that scammers may try to use mobile deposits for illegal personal gain. Fake check scams typically involve a scammer contacting their victim through email or social media posting as a potential employer, lender, or interested buyer on a marketplace site. The fraudster will often provide the victim an opportunity to earn money quickly by depositing a check to their account. The scammer will further request the victim’s bank account information and may even ask for online or mobile banking login credentials. Most commonly, these schemes involve temporary hire for work such as mystery shopping or evaluating a product.
The victim deposits the fake check using mobile deposit. While these payments are seemingly legitimate, they often come with an overpayment and a request to immediately return a certain amount via certified funds like a cashier’s check or money order, wire transfer, or purchase of gift cards. The check will later be returned as fraudulent and the victim ultimately takes the loss.
Types of Mobile Deposit Scams
Job/Income Scam: It starts with an advertisement for jobs that do not exist, like mystery shoppers or online data entry positions. These jobs usually involve the receipt of a check which is deposited to the victim’s account, at which time they are instructed to send a portion of the funds elsewhere via wire transfer or money order. Meanwhile, the check is fake, leaving the victim with the loss.
Catfishing (fake dating profile): This occurs when the scammer adopts a fake online identity to gain a victim’s trust and affection. The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and/or steal from the victim.
Loan Scam: Fraudulent online loan scams are similar to job scams. Advertisement for loans that are not legitimate can lead to a victim depositing a fraudulent check and being left with a loss.
Fake Contests: This occurs through a phone call, email, or letter saying you’ve won a sweepstakes, lottery, or cash prize. The victim is asked to pay a fee or tax to claim their prize and urged to send the money via wire transfer or purchase gift cards and give them the card numbers. Often, mobile deposit fraud tactics involve capturing account login information for trial deposits or “better odds” if the information is provided.
Remote Deposit Scams: This involves the scammer gaining access to a victim’s bank account and depositing fraudulent checks. They will then ask the victims to withdraw the funds and send it back through a third-party money transfer service.
How to Protect Yourself
The key thing to remember with these scams is – if it sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Especially if they involve requests for funds to be sent back or for bank account or personal information. It’s important to be vigilant and trust your instincts when considering whether or not to mobile deposit a check you have received. Never share your information or accept any form of payment when you are desperate or under pressure.
Don’t Give Out Private Information
Your personal and account information should be safeguarded. Legitimate employers, friends, and contests will never ask you for this type of information in exchange for payment. When you are asked to send information in exchange for payment, ask yourself why and if there are other options. If you are communicating with someone you’ve never met in person or a company with no online information who is asking for your information, it’s most likely a scam.
Monitor Your Account Activity
Don’t wait for your monthly statements to check your accounts. With mobile banking, it’s easy to check accounts at your convenience to validate that your expected payments have been processed and fraudulent transactions have not. The sooner you notice suspicious activity, the sooner something can be done to stop it.
Your instincts are often your greatest asset and shield against becoming a victim of fraud. You should regularly ask yourself whether the party you’re engaged with – whether an employer, a significant other, a friend, or a business affiliate – is behaving as expected and is asking you to take reasonable risks. If your conscience feels compromised, slow down and take time to reassess your options.
What to do if You Think You’ve Been Scammed
The information and steps shared above are great ways to ensure you’re informed and equipped to protect yourself against mobile deposit fraud. However, scammers are talented and convincing, and you may be exposed despite your best efforts.
If you think you may have become a victim of a mobile deposit scam, contact your local police department immediately and notify your financial institution as soon as possible. They can place additional safeguards on your account.
Remember, if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. If you aren’t sure, trust your instincts and don’t proceed. If you have questions about protecting your identity and your accounts online, visit hfsfcu.org or call 808-930-1400.