Recent crime reports reveal a social media fraud scheme targeting
United Services Automobile Association (USAA) members. The scheme
may target other groups or financial institutions because the techniques can be easily
adapted. With this in mind, special agents with the U.S. Army Criminal Investigation
Command's Computer Crime Investigative Unit (CCIU) are strongly recommending that
anyone with a USAA account be wary if receiving communication on social media from
somebody claiming to be associated with USAA or another financial institution.
According to CID agents, the scammer, pretending to be an official representative of USAA,
contacts a USAA member on social media (e.g., Facebook, Twitter, Instagram) claiming the
member has won an award or is eligible for a customer incentive. In order to receive the
award payment, the member is asked to pay a finder’s fee, commission or service charge.
Conveniently, the fee can be paid from the proceeds of the award. The scammer asks for
the USAA member’s mobile banking credentials (username, password, and PIN) and uses
USAA’s mobile banking application to deposit checks into the member’s account. Then, the
member is asked to electronically pay the finder’s fee to the purported USAA official, usually
through a wire or money transfer service like Moneygram or Western Union. Wire and
money transfer services are used because traceability is often limited.
Predictably, the deposited award checks are not genuine and, after several days, are
returned unpaid and charged back to the USAA member’s account. While the deposits are
fake, the money the member wires to the scammer is very real.
Most likely, the scammers surf social media content (images and comments) randomly
identifying military personnel and their family members. Once identified, they are prime
targets for the USAA scam, not because the scammer has specific knowledge of any actual
USAA affiliation. Rather, the scammers shotgun their messages betting (and current
reporting indicates good odds of success) that at least some of the recipients actually have
CID agents recommend that if you are suspicious about any social media post claiming to
be from USAA, you should contact USAA at email@example.com. For similar scams involving
other financial institutions, please contact their security department, the Internet Crime
Complaint Center or the United States Federal Trade Commission.
Verify through established channels the authenticity of anyone asking for your personal
information, financial information, passwords, PINs and so forth, especially if you did not
initiate the interaction.
• Be suspicious when someone you do not know contacts YOU and asks for YOUR
• Never, in any social media setting, provide usernames and passwords to anyone; your
bank will not ask for personal information, including debit card numbers and PINs.
• Verify, verify, verify! Contact the financial institution directly.
• Use a telephone number or email you know to be valid; look on the financial institution’s
website, the backs of your debit or credit cards or statements.
• DO NOT rely on the person who contacted you to provide a verification telephone number
or email. Remember, you are verifying because you are skeptical of the person’s reliability.
Additional information about computer safety and cyber related crimes can be found on the
U.S. Army Criminal Investigation Command’s CCIU webpage at
http://www.cid.army.mil/cciu.html. Simply select the Cyber Crimes Advisories on the left side
of the page to review previous cyber crime alert notices and prevention flyers.