Grow Financial Federal Credit Union
August 10, 2022

Scam Alert: The FBI Warns of Reverse Instant Payment Scams

If you’re a person who owns a phone and has a bank account, you’re a potential target for a new scam that the FBI calls a reverse instant payment scam. We want to help you keep your money and personal information safe. Let’s talk about what this scam is and how to avoid it.

What is a reverse instant payment scam?

The basics of a reverse instant payment scam are simple, though the execution is a bit convoluted. Basically, criminals use social engineering to impersonate your financial institution, gain your trust, then get you to send them money without realizing what you’re doing. Here’s how the scam goes:

You receive a text message with what appears to be a fraud alert from your financial institution. It may say something like, “[Your Financial Institution] Fraud Alert – Did you send an instant payment for $6,000? Reply Yes or No.” If you reply No, you’ll receive another text with something like, “Our fraud specialist will contact you soon.” They’ll call you from what appears to be your financial institution at a 1-800 number and sometimes, they’ll call you even if you ignored the initial text message.

The caller will ask you to verify your personal information to establish credibility. They may already know some of your personal information like bank account numbers, the last four digits of your Social Security number or other data. This convinces you that you’re speaking with your actual financial institution. The caller will then explain that a fraudulent payment was made on your account and instruct you how to initiate another instant payment transaction to “cancel” or “reverse” the fraud attempt. But if you follow their instructions, you’re not actually sending the money to yourself like they claim: you’re sending it to the scammer’s bank account.

How to avoid reverse instant payment scams

Since we all rely on emails, phone calls and text messages for our communication these days, it can be easy to trust a text message or email that appears to come from a trusted source. To help keep yourself safe from scams, the FBI recommends the following precautions:

  • Be cautious of unsolicited requests to verify account information.
  • If you get a text or email about possible fraud on your account, do not respond directly. Instead, contact your financial institution directly through the official phone number posted on their website, not what’s listed in the message.
  • Enable Multifactor Authentication (MFA) for all your accounts, and do not share MFA codes or passwords to anyone over the phone. Grow Financial will never call you and ask you to read a verification code over the phone.
  • Know that financial institutions will never ask you to transfer funds between accounts to help prevent or reverse fraud.
  • Be skeptical of callers that provide your personal information, such as Social Security number and past addresses, as proof of their legitimacy. With several large-scale data breaches in the past decade, criminals have access to enormous amounts of personal data to assist them with committing fraud and other scams.

If you believe you’ve been a victim of a cybercrime, including reverse instant payment scams, report it immediately to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) for the best chance of recovering your stolen funds. For more about avoiding scams and keeping your accounts safe, visit our Protect Yourself page.

Posted In: