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Thursday, September 6, 2018

If you think you can't be fooled...think again
By: Polly Saltmarsh, VP Financial Education & Business Development
Do you have those movies you stop and watch, EVERY TIME, as you scroll through hundreds of channels looking for something remotely entertaining? As a Paul Newman/Robert Redford movie fan, give me Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or The Sting and I will watch - again and again. (Side note: It's Interesting to consider that both movies have to do with financial crimes and I happen to work in financial services.) Sadly, many people reading this may not even know who those actors or movies are, but, I digress. As I meander to my real topic, I heartily recommend these films for all.

So, what does my love of these movies have to do with NHFCU? In the film The Sting, Robert Redford and Paul Newman are grifters looking to play the BIG CON, the LONG GAME, on rival criminals. The film depicts the planning and myriad of details involved in undertaking such a con. The level of detail and the number of people involved is impressive, as is the patience it takes to lay out their long game plan. All the scheming and planning is thoroughly entertaining and makes one appreciate the intelligence and strategic vision & execution skills of these con men.

Here's what struck me as I watched the film recently. The preparation and detail that went into the "con" in the The Sting happens today - in the real world - only FASTER and with even more detail and finesse! First, we have the Internet and social media, serving up all the little details a potential con artist/fraudster can use to fool even the most skeptical mark. In five minutes or less, someone with malicious motives can often discern where you live, who your family members are, their ages, and a plethora of personal information they can employ to convince you they are for real. Just last year, I was at my desk, doing my job, when my phone rang. A familiar voice came over the line - my dad's. In his quest to protect his grandson from his overbearing mother (depends on who you talk to!), the conversation went like this:
Dad: Yah, Polly. Do you know where X is today (X is the alias I am using to protect the identity of my son).
Me: No, I don't. Why, do you need him for something?
Dad: No, (with a higher than normal pitch to his voice) I was just wondering if he was around, that's all.
Me: (Sniffing something not quite right). Tell me why you are asking. (this is an edited version of the conversation, I had to spend some time getting my father to "fess up").
Dad: Well, I don't know if I should say anything... is there any way he might have gone to Florida for a friend's wedding? Does he know someone there?
Me: No. Unless he flew there when he left work at 6 am today, I don't think he's been to Florida for a wedding. What's this about, Dad?
Turns out, someone called my father, claiming to be my eldest son. And, he stated he was in trouble. According to the caller purporting to be my son, he had been in a car accident after drinking at a wedding and needed bail money wired to him in Florida!  "X" did not want Mom or Dad to know. My father even asked "X" for his parents' first names, just so he could verify he was really talking to "X". The caller knew our names and where we worked. 
My "son" tearfully begged his grandfather not to tell me or my husband about the incident. When my father asked why he did not sound like himself, the explanation was easy. He had broken his nose in the car accident so he sounded funny! My father took the number and said he would have to call him back. My dad did not want to jeopardize his relationship with my son by letting me in on what was going on, but, he ultimately he called me and told me the story.
This is a SCAM! A CON! It's common! It happened to my father, and has happened to many unsuspecting victims who do not happen to have relatives working in a financial institution who can tell them it is a SCAM. These people are convincing. This kind of trick can be especially damaging when communications among family members are strained or infrequent. This caller knew what he needed to say, knew who we were, where we lived, and had a plausible answer for every question.
My dad is not the first, nor is he the last person we have spoken to who has been through an experience like this. Just look at the testimonial at the top of this newsletter. This is only one example of the details fraudsters gather and the ploys they develop for their big CONs. They use these techniques because THEY WORK.
Here are just a few tip offs that should make you think twice about what people are telling you:
  1. The situation is a DIRE emergency and you need to act right away.
  2. You are asked to keep this a secret (i.e. "PLEASE don't tell my wife, mom, dad, etc.").
  3. Your payment has to be by wire transfer(s) or gift card(s) or some other non-refundable means (as well as a means that does not allow you to stop payment).
If you ever question the validity of what someone is telling you when they ask for money or payment, talk to us! We are here to help protect you and your money, always.

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