Online Scams

What Are Online Scams?

Online scams come in many forms, but they're all designed to get you to hand over your money or steal your identity. Criminals do this by tricking people with fake products and services, job offers, online profiles, charities, event tickets and more. The fraudster is conveniently offering something you want – whether it's a great apartment, hypoallergenic pet, dream job or even romantic partner – but after the money changes hands, the fraudster disappears and so does the item you thought you were getting.

Learn about the types of online scams and how you can protect yourself.

Rental Scams

How they work: Sometimes criminals pose as legitimate rental agents, posting real rental listings on fake websites. Their end goal is to collect application fees and security deposits for either short-term rentals, such as vacation properties, or long-term rentals like an apartment lease.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • See the place in person. Ask for the rental agent's ID. It should be a photo badge issued by the company that owns or manages the property.
  • Compare prices. If the rent is much lower than comparable rentals, it could be a swindle.
  • Never pay with cash, wire transfers or gift cards. If you are asked to pay this way, walk away.

Report Fraudulent Activity on Your Accounts

Contact us immediately if you are a victim of an online scam and suspect fraudulent activity in your BECU accounts.

  • During regular business hours: Call 800-233-2328, Monday - Friday, 7 a.m. - 7 p.m., Saturday, 9 a.m. - 1 p.m. Pacific Time. For TTY support, dial 711 to access the Telecommunications Relay Service (TRS).
  • BECU debit card after hours: Call 888-241-2510 or 909-941-1398 (collect outside U.S.).
  • BECU Visa credit card after hours: Call 866-820-2999. For credit card TTY support 24/7: 888-918-7323.
  • To pause your debit card anytime: Log in to Online Banking, select Account Services, then select Manage Your Card. In the mobile app, select Card Manager from the dropdown menu.

Pet Adoption Scams

How they work: Individuals trying to adopt pets see ads of adorable, perfect pets, available from a “breeder” several states away. On fake websites or through social media, email, or text messages, they pay for the pet, shipment costs and additional fees for things like a travel kennel or insurance fee. The pet never arrives – it was all fake.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Ask for multiple and specific pictures of the animal. To make sure the pet exists, request photos of the animal with unique items (a local newspaper, a tennis ball, etc.).
  • Compare prices. An unusually low price for a purebred may be a sign of a scam.
  • Adopt locally. That way you can meet the animal in person and do a face-to-face transaction.

Online Selling Scams

How they work: Criminals conduct a range of swindles on platforms like Craigslist, OfferUp and Facebook Marketplace, including trying to trick sellers into accepting fake payments and making bogus refund requests.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • For local sales, meet in person. Cash transactions and in-person hand-offs can lower your risk.
  • Only accept payment through approved methods. Most sites recommend specific payment methods to protect both buyers and sellers. Do not accept personal checks, cashier's checks, wire transfers or money orders.
  • Take advantage of seller protections. If the site offers seller protections, make sure you're using them.
  • Be wary of refund requests. If the buyer overpays for the purchased item and asks you to refund the money, instruct them to talk to their financial institution to resolve the error.

Online Buying Scams

How they work: Criminals may create fake websites or use simple misspellings in a web address to trick victims into thinking they are on a legitimate retailer's site.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Make sure the URL matches the store's name exactly: Scammers will often use simple misspellings in a web address, adding a letter or transposing letters.
  • Check for the “s”: Look for an "s" in the https:// portion of the web address. An insecure website will not have the "s" and may not be safe to use.

Job Search Scams

How they work: Scammers pose as recruiters and contact job seekers with amazing job opportunities and offers. They request sensitive information such as bank account information to “deposit paychecks” and Social Security numbers for the “hiring process.” They may conduct fake interviews, set up phony onboarding portals, and demand the “new hire” pay for their company computer or other equipment.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Verify job openings before you apply. Reach out to the company directly, using contact information that you've verified as legitimate, to confirm the job opportunity and get more information.
  • Watch for warning signs. Look out for things like emails from personal accounts not affiliated with the company, interviews conducted only on email or chat, job offers that seem too good to be true and salaries way above industry norms.

Charity Scams

How they work: Criminals may impersonate a charitable organization to trick victims into giving up money or information.

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Contact charities directly to donate. If you decide to give to a nonprofit, donate to the organization directly and not to an individual, who may or may not be a real representative of the organization.
  • Never make an impulse donation in response to an ad or plea you see on social media.
  • Take time to research the charity. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) recommends searching for a charity's name or a cause you want to support with terms like “highly-rated charity,” “complaints” and “scam.”

Online Dating Scams

How they work: Fraudsters connect with victims on a dating site or social media channel. After they have gained the victim's trust, they ask for favors and/or money. It might sound innocent enough at first: “I want to come see you, but I'm too broke to make the trip,” or “My mom just had a stroke and I can't afford to go see her.”

Tips to protect yourself:

  • Meet someone in person before trusting them with deeply personal information or money. When you are first getting to know somebody in an online relationship, resist the urge to help the other person financially.

Report Online Scams

If you suspect you've encountered an online scam, it's important to report it to help the authorities and to get the word out to other potential victims.