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‘Card-cracking’ fraudsters target social media savvy millennials

Sienna Kossman

Social media outlets are meant for sharing selfies and status updates, but fraudsters are now using the popular platforms to convince young adults to share bank account and PIN numbers in a plot to skim money from banks.

Using Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, scammers are soliciting individuals with schemes that promise quick cash if victims share their debit account information, PIN number or ATM card. It’s an emerging scam known as “card cracking.”

Card cracking fraudsters target social media savvy millennials

Here’s how it works: Once someone reads the message, falls for the scammer’s financial promise and passes along his or her checking account number, online account credentials or PIN, the scammer deposits a fake check into the victim’s account and then quickly withdraws all money, during the brief time when the bank credits the account, but hasn’t yet cleared the check.

When it’s discovered that the check was bogus, the “victim” goes to his or her bank and reports the deposit and withdrawal as a fraud — without mentioning their participation in the plot. If the bank believes the victim was innocent, the bank reimburses the fraudulently withdrawn amount.

The attraction for the victim is that the fraudster promises to give a kickback of the withdrawn money. When the crime works, the victims get their bank balances restored, plus they keep the kickbacks, and only the bank loses money.

Banks are understandably eager to discourage this, and are pointing out the criminal and financial consequences for the participants.

“Banks have developed an increasingly sophisticated system for detection,” the American Bankers Association says in a statement released this week about card cracking. “Fraudsters and consumers who are caught face a variety of consequences, including the loss of an account, the loss of money, damaged credit and possible jail time.”

If you’re now thinking, “Who would give a random Tweeter access to his or her bank account?” that’s a valid question, but it actually happens more often than you’d think.

Card cracking accounted for $11.6 million in stolen funds last year, the ABA says, and 19- to 25-years-olds, college students, newly enlisted military members and single parents are most frequently targeted because they are the perfect victims for card crackers.

What college student wouldn’t like a little extra Friday night pizza money, right?

In one infamous case in Chicago, rap moguls pursuing a flashy life of money, fancy cars and clothes have also found card cracking appealing, using their social media presence and connection to young adults to crack cards.

Chicago rapper Bandman Kevo — aka Kevin Ford — frequently posted photos online of guns, cash, expensive apparel and even a Maserati sports car, but according to federal charges this lifestyle was supported by more than his music career.

Ford was allegedly just one member of a 29-person card cracking ring busted in Illinois last year, exposing a group called “The Rack Boyz,” who posted a rap music video on YouTube titled “For the Money” referring to the card cracking ring’s activities.

According to the charges, Ford made his profits by sending numerous Facebook message solicitations to individuals promising up to $1,900 in profit for each successfully cracked account.

Cha-ching?

Regardless of how enticing a promise of fast money may be, these social media money schemes can make a mess of the victim’s bank accounts — and credit — for years to come.

Whether you’re a college-aged social media junkie or a parent looking for information to pass along to your children, here are some tips for stopping card cracking scammers right in their digital tracks:

1. Never, ever share your debit account and PIN number.

Every time you share sensitive information with someone — especially that friendly looking stranger you met on Facebook but don’t actually know in real life — you increase your risk of fraud. Keep your private information private.

2. Do not file a false fraud claim with your bank.

If you do what a fraudster asks — go to your bank after the withdrawal and falsely claim you knew nothing about the fraud — you just made yourself a criminal accomplice.

If you try to hide your mistake as information theft fraud, you could get up to 30 years if your bank uncovers the truth, according to the ABA.

3. Report suspicious postings, links and users on social media.

Even if the solicitations are not directed right at you, help keep others safe by reporting social media users that spread spammy-looking links online.

If you are directly contacted by someone advertising a “quick cash job,” or something of the sort, don’t reply. You know that block button you often use to keep those obnoxious baby/wedding/clingy couple Facebook status updates at bay? Use it for something actually harmful and block the spammer.

Card cracking solicitations may sound appealing at first, but keep in mind that easy money is rarely legal. Try waiting tables or babysitting instead.

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