Routing Number | 255077370

Financial Wellness

A Day in the Life of a Potential Fraud Victim—Part One

The following story is based on a true case of fraud that a scammer attempted on a Tower member. The name of the victim is a pseudonym for privacy, and the story is first in a series to convey a day in the life of people who help prevent fraud—each from a different person's perspective.

When Thomas, a Tower member since 2005, walked into his local branch prepared to submit a wire transfer of $100,000, he thought he was making the next move in a promising investment in a clothing company in Singapore.

He learned about the company from someone who had befriended him on Facebook six months earlier. After exchanging friendly messages and phone calls regularly, the two forged a bond.

Then, the friend told Thomas he needed his help to realize his dream of building a startup clothing company in his home country. He assured Thomas his investment would lead to great financial returns that would keep them wealthy for life, but he emphasized that Thomas must send him the money via wire transfer within the next day.

In the branch, as Thomas sat down at the desk of a Tower Member Service Representative, he kept his friend on the line on his cellphone, discreetly placing it on his lap. The friend told Thomas he anticipated the representative would ask follow-up questions—such as why he needed to transfer money to Singapore, a country he had never transacted with before—and that he needed to listen to Thomas's conversation to ensure the rep was making the correct transaction.

Thomas provided the representative with scripted responses advised by his friend before the conversation. He continued to refer to his friend as "the person of contact in Singapore," as per his friend's request. Thomas reiterated to the rep that the wire transfer was intended for investment in a clothing company.

But when the rep asked Thomas a question he didn't know the answer to, Thomas paused and began to look anxious before asking if he could step outside to speak to his person of contact. The rep obliged.

As Thomas paced outside for several minutes talking to his friend, the rep was on the line with their supervisor, who subsequently briefed a Tower branch manager that they were handling a suspected case of fraud.

Upon Thomas's return to the branch, the rep handed him his phone and explained how he needed to speak to the branch manager about his transaction. Thomas nervously took the phone, unsure of how his friend over the line would react to him speaking to someone through another phone.

One of the first questions the branch manager asked was simple: What's the name of the company you're investing in?

Thomas admitted he didn't know. Nervously, he explained he hadn't gotten that far in the process.

Next, the manager asked Thomas if he knew how he would be paid through his investment or if he had signed any type of contract.

The answers were still "no"—and Thomas now began to realize that his "friend" might not be a friend after all.

The manager informed Thomas that Tower was urging against the transaction and that they strongly suspected it to be fraudulent. If Thomas still wished to go through with the wire transfer, he would need to sign an Affidavit acknowledging the warning from Tower.

After a day of thinking it over, Thomas took Tower's advice, which also included temporarily locking his account, blocking the scammer and refraining from any further contact.

Unfortunately, Thomas' story was similar to many cases of fraud that lead to victims losing substantial assets from their bank accounts. But because he acted, Thomas didn't lose a dime.

Not everyone is as lucky as him, though.

For Thomas, the sole method to send his money to the scammer was via wire transfer, which he needed to do in-person at a branch to complete. Some scammers, however, can steal victims' money through checks, direct deposits or other digital transactions if granted access to their account by the member.

Had Thomas not cooperated with the Tower branch employees when they asked him crucial questions, Thomas could've faced a financial catastrophe.

That's why it's vital to report any suspected cases of fraud to Tower immediately.

Instead of trusting a virtual "friend" he had only known for a few months, Thomas chose to listen to the advice of the financial institution he had trusted with his money for the last two decades. And because of it, he could now feel more confident about the future of his finances than ever before.

Check back next month for Part two of our three-part fraud series. To learn more about how to act against fraud, visit Tower's Fraud & Security Center.