Email Fraud's Latest Design

Help your members combat the evolving forms of email fraud by offering them prevention tips.


If there’s one country I’m usually not in the mood to deal with, it’s Nigeria. When I get a message from someone in Nigeria apologizing for not releasing my overdue payments, I’ve got them stereotyped within a nanosecond.

They’re in an Internet café sitting on a little wooden chair in front of a slow, outdated computer. They have on too much cheap cologne. They’re crazy with energy, but their eyes are red with exhaustion. And they’re not really that sorry about my “overdue payments” – because I’m one of thousands of people they’re trying to bilk out of money.

It’s easy to spot Nigerian scams, but an increasing number of credit union members are encountering more sophisticated frauds through email solicitations, phone calls and even text messages. In recent weeks, credit unions like SESLOC Credit Union ($526.7M, San Louis Abispo, CA) have reported that members are continuing to field these phishing scams, with an increasing number that are targeting the elderly. For example, one SESLOC member reported receiving a fake phone call about her grandchild being in police custody in Canada and needing money to be released. Another reported hearing that she’d won a prize by paying her utility bills on time, but she needed to give out her personal information to claim it. SESLOC posts members’ reported scams on its website to help other members to beware.

It’s the ideal time to remind your members be on guard for scams with the holiday season approaching and many members likely to shop on the internet, where they’re even more prone to being a target. Remind them to not to open and to delete emails if they don’t recognize the sender, as Lockheed Federal Credit Union is telling its members. The Burbank, CA,-based credit union ($3.1B) tells its members that it will never request personal financial information through an email and never includes attachments in email. So if they get an email that seems like it’s from their financial institution but asks for private information or includes attachments, they can delete it. It also reminds them to keep their anti-virus software and browsers up-to-date.

Tell your members to be very careful if they get an email from your “system administrator” asking them to perform maintenance on their account. It’s a widespread phishing scam that Citibank, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, and many more financial institutions have all fallen victim to. Even emails that seem to be from friends should be opened with caution – those animated holiday eCards could redirect viewers to a site with malware. The eCard scam is also widespread, so much so that several companies have together launched a site called Slam The Online Scam, which details the latest scams.

And, finally, let your members know that if they get an email claiming to be from a wealthy Christian family in Iraq who needs help securing a bank in the U.S., they can delete it guilt-free. Because, according to Comparitech, that’s just the latest scam out of Nigeria.


Nov. 22, 2011


  • The headline shouts email fraud but the only examples provided are about phone calls. And why the need to "novelize" and create your "exhausted" Nigerian? Just silly.
  • These are excellent examples of when to put on the track shoes and run - fasat from scams like these. It used to be that scams were easier to detect: look for typos, check the URL, how ghastly is the grammar? And it was so obvious that the 1st act toward rescuing a friend stuck in some foreign country would be to pick up the phone and call them - or call someone else who knows them - or go find them in person. With practice comes expertise and the scams are getting more sophisticated which means we also have to raise our expertise in knowing what to look for and how to be on guard at all times. Sadly the Internet is a priceless resource and we are all dependent on it - far more than we realize. Thank you for keeping us informed and knowledgeable.