“Need cash quick with no strings attached? Have I got a deal for you!”

Everyone could use a little extra money, especially if you’re a student or just starting out in the world of adulting. But don’t be tempted! You could get mixed up in card cracking, one of the fastest-growing social media banking scams. In this article, we’ll look at how card cracking works, why it’s so dangerous, and how to protect yourself.

Who is at Risk?

Card-cracking scammers target people who might need extra cash. They use social media to lure you in. If you are a high school or college student, recently unemployed, a single parent, a member of the military, or an older adult, you are a prime target for these fraudsters.

How a Card Cracking Scam Works

Let’s look at how a card-cracking scam typically happens: You’ll see a post or get a direct message on social media claiming that you can make “easy money” or “get paid” – all you need is a bank account and a debit card.

The scammer will convince you to give over your debit card and your private account information – like your PIN and online credentials. In return, they will access your account to deposit one or more fake or stolen checks for large sums into your account. They might deposit the check remotely through a mobile app or use an ATM.

These days, a lot of fake checks look just like the real thing – and by law financial institutions have to make some funds available before checks clear – so money may show up in your account before the scam is uncovered.

As soon as the money is in your account, the scammer will withdraw cash from an ATM using your card information. In some cases, they take the money, drain your account, and disappear. In other cases, they may share a portion of the proceeds with you. This kickback is the “easy money” you were promised in the beginning. The fraudster then may try to coerce you into reporting your card lost or stolen – or your personal information as compromised – so you can get the funds back. Don’t do it! If you file a fraudulent claim, when the financial institution reimburses the stolen money to you, you go from being an innocent victim to being a criminal accomplice. If you’ve been scammed, contact your financial institution right away! Your financial institution can help you if you're honest about what has happened. If you try to hide the scam, it will only make the situation worse.

How You Can Protect Yourself

Now that you know what to look for, how can you protect yourself from a card cracking scam? Here are some tips for staying safe:

  • Don’t respond to online solicitations for making fast cash – if you get a message like this, ignore it.
  • Don’t share your debit card or sensitive info like your PIN and online credentials with anyone.
  • Don’t rely on checks from strangers – you’re ultimately responsible for reimbursing your financial institution for a fraudulent check.
  • Don’t be tempted into filing a false fraud claim with your financial institution – it never pays! This last point is especially important.

What to Do IF You're a Victim of This Scam

If you’ve been tricked into giving a stranger access to your account:

  • Contact your financial institution right away.
  • If the scammer contacted you on social media, alert the site.
  • File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov.

If something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never give out your debit card or account information to someone you don’t know. Remember these tips – and help crack down on scams! To learn more about protecting your personal information or managing your finances, talk to your financial institution today.