Don’t Be Bamboozled - Black Enterprise
Black Enterprise Magazine September/October 2018 Issue

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Dion Chavis was victim of an ATM skimming scam. (Photo by Keith Lanpher)

Small business owner Dion Chavis couldn’t figure out how $900 disappeared from his checking account. Chavis, also known as “Showtime,” the radio personality heard throughout the Hampton Roads area in Virginia, checked his bank statements and noticed a withdrawal had been made at an ATM some 120 miles from his home, yet his debit card was still in his possession.

Chavis discovered the missing monies in July, after a $50 purchase at Macy’s was declined. That morning he had paid $200 to install a new CD player in his car, but his account still should have had a balance of $1,500. A fraud representative at Bank of America told Chavis that the bank had frozen the account when withdrawals totaling $1,100 were made in less than 24 hours. Chavis was baffled. He later found out he’d been a victim of ATM skimming, a high-tech scam in which thieves attach an innocent-looking card-reading device over an ATM’s card scanner. The reader captures the person’s banking information; installed above the ATM is a hidden camera that records the user’s PIN number.

Chavis wasn’t the only victim. “When I spoke to the police in Richmond, they had 50 cases of ATM skimming that were actively being investigated,” he says. Although the thieves haven’t yet been caught, Chavis was lucky. Within 48 hours the bank refunded the full amount that had been pilfered from his account.

When the economy flattens, scammers are known to come up with innovative ways to separate hardworking folks from their money. In uncertain financial times, consumers are more willing to take risks to relieve the burdens of unemployment, foreclosure, and debt. That’s generally when opportunistic fraudsters step in. Since the recession began in December 2007, financial scams have increased, says John Breyault, director of the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center, a nonprofit in Washington, D.C., that advocates on behalf of consumers. Results of a recent UNISYS survey reveal that three in four Americans are concerned about increased vulnerability to identity theft and fraud in light of the economy. “[Scammers] look for things on the news that will help them connect with their victims,” says Breyault. “They have learned that a good lie is based in truth–which is why some scams are especially confusing.”

Some of the timely topics scammers exploit: identity fraud protection efforts by banks, urging customers to keep their account and Social Security numbers private. Scammers also use topics such as bank closings, tax breaks, and government giveaways related to the Obama administration’s economic stimulus plan to incite interest from potential victims.

Identity thieves are using these news stories to their advantage, setting up Websites that imitate those of official government agencies, like the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. or the Internal Revenue Service.  Scammers known as pretexters (because they contact you under a false pretext) call or e-mail consumers and urge them to fill out forms on these sites in order to receive bogus tax refunds, recover money lost in a bank closing, or recoup investments stolen from them in a scam.

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Marcia Wade Talbert

Marcia is a multimedia content producer focusing on technology at Black Enterprise Magazine. In this capacity she writes and assigns stories to educate readers about social media; digital integration; gadgets, apps, and software for business and professional development; minority tech startups; and careers in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). In 2012, she received two Salute to Excellence Awards from the National Association of Black Journalists and was recognized by Blacks in Technology (BiT) as one of the Top 10 Black achievers in the tech arena for 2011 at SXSW in Austin, Texas. She has spoken about technology on panels for New York Social Media Week, at The 2012 Rainbow/PUSH Wall Street Summit, as well as at Black Enterprise’s Entrepreneurs Conference and Women of Power Summit. In 2011, chose her as one of 28 People of Color Impacting the Social Web, and through crowdsourcing she was listed as one of BlackWeb2.0's/HP's 50 Most Notable African American Tastemakers in Social Media and Technology for 2010. Since taking on the role of Tech editor in September 2010, she has conceived and produced five cover stories on Technology and/or STEM and countless articles, videos, and slideshows online. Before joining as an interactive general assignment reporter in 2008, she freelanced with Black Enterprise beginning in 2003 while working as the technical editor at Prepared Foods magazine. There she further honed her writing skills and became an authority on food ingredients, including ingredients used in food fortification and enrichment. Meanwhile, her freelancing with Black Enterprise and helped her stay current on issues pertaining to the financial and business welfare of African Americans. As a general reporter for Black Enterprise she attended and reported on the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, where she interviewed Valerie Jarrett, senior advisor and assistant to President Barack Obama and U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder. Marcia has a Bachelor of Science degree in Agriculture with an emphasis in food science from the University of Minnesota, and a Master of Science degree in journalism from Roosevelt University in Chicago. En route to her secondary degree, she served as the editor-in-chief of the Roosevelt University Torch, a weekly, student-run newspaper. An avid photographer and videographer, Marcia is one of several employees at BLACK ENTERPRISE who interned for the publishing company as a college student. She lives in New Jersey with her husband, a food scientist; her seventeen-month-old daughter; and “The Cat”, but still considers Chicago home.