Mary Svoboda

Mary Svoboda, Interim President and CEO

One of the more challenging things we must deal with at JAXFCU is helping members avoid scams. With romance scams, it is particularly difficult to convince members that they are being tricked. Our fraud department estimates we receive several cases each week where, if not thwarted, would cost our members thousands of dollars. Over the years, we have posted tips about how to recognize these financial scams. If you are reading this and know someone who needs this information, please pass it on!

I have known three instances where my close family or friends were embroiled in a fraud scam. Each of these situations were textbook cases, but of course, the victims did not know that.

A professional woman who was recently widowed started online dating. For months, she was sweet-talked and romanced by a would-be boyfriend in another state. When her family members started to challenge her about why she had never “seen” this boyfriend, she began to push back and ask for a form of identification. The sweet talker appeared offended and made her feel as that his love was unrequited. He became aggressive and threatened to call the relationship off!

In another case, the victim was at a bar chatting up another patron, sharing information about his profession and travel plans. As he left the bar to go to his hotel room, he rear-ended another car. The other driver offered to take $1,500 cash instead of filing a police report or insurance claim. We learned that the patron and other driver worked together to target the victim as a potential mark for their fraud scheme.

In the third case, a JAXFCU member received a call presumably from the IRS. The caller indicated tax money was owed and must be paid that day. Since the member was awaiting the results of a tax audit, they believed the caller. They headed to the credit union to wire the money. Luckily, the member thought to text another family member who looked up the incoming call’s phone number. It was quickly identified as an IRS scam.

Here are a few tried and true ways to avoid being a victim of these types of crimes.

  • Be skeptical. If you are a trusting person who generally thinks the best of others, have another friend or family member give a second opinion. Their suspicions and research could be a life saver. If you do not have such a friend, contact the credit union or research yourself before giving out your personal information or money.
  • Do not give in to pressure. It is a crucial tactic these fraudsters rely upon. They want to force you to make a quick decision and to keep you away from your “support system” to avoid being exposed.

I am a big fan of the adage that our greatest strength taken to excess becomes our biggest weakness. This is likely the case for the virtue of “trusting”.