As the Manti Te’o girlfriend hoax dominates sports headlines, the world is once again seeing the importance of being vigilant when using the Internet. Granted, we don’t know all of the details of this particular story, and they may change before the pixels settle, but the story we’re hearing right now is nothing short of disturbing.
Manti Te’o is a smart guy, and for him to potentially fall victim to such an elaborate scheme should make anyone pause and think about the people they talk to online. Do you know everyone you’re communicating with on the Internet? Have you met them in person? While Te’o’s story is currently one of love and heartbreak, many times, these stories also involve financial crimes, so we want to use this opportunity to remind our community to be vigilant when building relationships online.
1. Keep it casual
It’s not a bad thing to meet people online. That’s where we’re heading as a society. We’re living our lives on the Internet, and that includes meeting new people. As long as your relationships are simple and friendly, being an online pal is great. Once you get into deeper situations, i.e. romantic relationships or financial transactions, this is the time to move away from the computer and get to know your new friend in real life (and it’s best to do that initial meeting in a public place that’s well-lit and populated – i.e. a Coffee Shop, Restaurant, Mall, etc.).
2. Look for red flags
A red flag can be anything that seems a little funky, and Te’o’s story had a pretty big one. His “girlfriend” consistently found various ways to avoid meeting him in person. HUGE RED FLAG! If someone is asking you for something, especially financially, you should do everything you can to meet the person before following through. If that isn’t possible, then you should either end the relationship, or proceed VERY carefully. Nice people, who usually get caught in the middle of these scams, will often try to avoid hurting someone else’s feelings. But if the other person is on the up and up, he or she will be happy to comply. If the individual is just trying to scam you, why do you care what they think anyway?
Also keep in mind, if someone contacts you claiming to be a representative of your financial institution, either through e-mail, by text, or over the phone, he or she already has your personal information (social security numbers, account numbers, addresses, etc.), so any request for this info should be another big red flag.
3. Ask your friends and family
No matter how smart and logical we may be, we’re still human, and we can still be deceived by our own emotions. Darn you, brain! That’s why you should share these online relationships with your trusted friends and family so you can hear their reactions. They will be much more critical and skeptical of the people you’re talking to, which is a good thing! They care about you and want to keep you happy and healthy, so they might give you some real feedback that your lovestruck or money hungry brain won’t like, but eventually you’ll appreciate that they kept you from making a giant mistake.
Right now, the Manti Te’o story seems like a movie, and his situation is actually very similar to a 2010 film called “Catfish” (hence the term being used to describe the hoax). Unfortunately, these types of online schemes are all too real, and we’re all potential victims to similar hoaxes that can not only harm us emotionally and financially.
If you’re a 3Rivers member, and you think someone is defrauding you financially, please contact us so we can help you protect your accounts and end the situation before it’s too late.
We’re partnering with the Indiana State Police, U.S. Postal Inspection Service, and Better Business Bureau (BBB), for “Shred It Day” on Thursday, June 28. A mobile shredder will be provided by Iron Mountain at our Dupont Road Branch from 11am-2pm.
This is a great opportunity for both members and non-members to bring any unwanted papers or credit cards that you no longer want or need to be destroyed free of charge. This is also an alternative for those of you who would normally burn your documents, but can’t under the current burn ban.
For more information on fraud and how to keep yourself safe, visit our Protecting Yourself from Fraud page on our website.
Not only does our 3Rivers Visa Platinum boast a great rate, no annual service charge, and free balance transfers, it also comes with Falcon security – which detects potential fraudulent activity and notifies you when your card and credit may be in danger.
That last item may seem like one of those “perks” that’s “nice to have” but it’s so much more. In fact, that one feature can make a tremendous difference in your life if it’s ever needed.
Fort Wayne Journal Gazette columnist Frank Gray recently shared with his readers, one of our member’s experiences. Here’s a small excerpt of Karen Lothamer’s story after she had completed a purchase at what she thought had been a reputable website…
“Within less than a minute Lothamer’s phone rang. It was 3Rivers Federal Credit Union, where she banks, wanting to know whether she really wanted to give her credit card number to that website.
That call ended up saving Karen from a susbstantial loss and damage to her credit. We also cancelled Karen’s card and issued a new one quickly so it would further protect her good name and minimally disrupt her everyday money matters.