"Money Flipping" scams
How the scam works
Social media sites like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook are prime for scammers to promote get-rich-quick schemes to unsuspecting victims. Posts promoting “money flipping” are showing up more often in consumers’ newsfeeds. Usually, the post contains a photo of cash and the caption boasts of how easily a small amount can be “flipped” into a large amount. The profile of the poster seems legitimate including photos, followers, and even thank you messages from other “investors”.
If a consumer messages the profile they’ll receive a response with directions to put money on a prepaid debit card from a local convenience store and then share the card number and pin with this “investor” and he/she will flip the money for the consumer. The prepaid debit card number and pin allow anyone with them to withdraw the money on the card. After the consumer shares this information with the “investor,” the “investor” usually drains the card and then blocks the consumer from contacting their social media account.
Example of TikTok scam:
You are scrolling through TikTok when you come across a video showing a pile of cash. The creator says they earned the stack of money in just a few days by investing in cryptocurrency. You may not know much about cryptocurrency, but this “investor” can help you get the same kind of return for a modest fee. Better yet, they have a 100% guarantee that they can triple your money in less than a week.
When you contact the supposed investor, likely through WhatsApp, Telegram, or another messaging app, they will be polite and professional. They will ask you to send money – usually, a few hundred dollars to start – through a digital wallet service like PayPal, Zelle, or Venmo. They may even ask you to purchase the cryptocurrency yourself and send it to them. Then, they “invest” your money in the stock market, where it allegedly starts multiplying right away.
As always, the scam isn’t what it seems. When you try to get your money back, the scammer will claim you need to pay fees. At first, these amounts may seem harmless. Since your few hundred dollars now turned into a few thousand, what’s the harm in spending a couple hundred in fees, right?
Scammers try to extend this con for as long as possible to get as much money as they can. They may ask for fees several times, always promising you will get much more back than what you are spending. If you question them, they may resort to scare tactics, telling you that if you don’t pay, you’ll miss out on the giant return or that they can take legal action. Unfortunately, any money you send will end up in the scammer’s pockets. You won’t be getting a return on your investment, and you won’t be getting your initial deposit back either.
How to avoid money-flipping scams:
- Use good judgment. Get-rich-quick schemes and investments that are guaranteed to give you a huge return are nearly always scams. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
- Do your research. Before you contact someone through TikTok or another social media platform, look up their name, phone number, and company name (if they have one) online. If they have conned others, you’ll likely find complaints online about it.
- Don’t give into scare tactics. If an “investor” contacts you, they may try to convince you the investment will only work if you act right now. Or, if you’ve already sent them funds, they may threaten you with legal action if you don’t pay their fees. In any case, don’t give in to scare tactics. Recognize them as the hallmarks of a scam.
- Understand how digital wallet services work. Treat any money you send through a digital wallet service like cash. Once you send the money, there will be little you can do to get it back if it turns out you were scammed. It’s best to use these apps only with people you know and trust.
- Use dual-factor authentication (DFA) when available. Though many find this inconvenient, having DFA prevents accounts from being hijacked simply by email reset. This helps prevent many forms of account hijacking and can also alert users of hijack attempts.
- Do not change your account information based on outside requests. There is no legitimate reason to change your account information to that of someone else’s. Cash App is not locked by social media settings and anyone that attempts to convince you otherwise is likely attempting to gain access to your information. Be cautious.
- Do not click on links and verify who you’re conversing with. If you are having an unusual conversation with someone on social media and they attempt to solicit money or account information, question this and give them a phone call. Talk to your friends live, ask questions, be skeptical, and do not click on links as they may be directing you to a malicious webpage. Online, anyone can be anyone else. Trust, but verify. If the money transfer application has a security pin feature that requires PIN entry before authorizing a transfer, use it!
- Search Online – Before contacting the social media account promoting the “investment,” search online for their username and phone number. You might find other victims have posted complaints and other information.
- Prepaid Debit Cards = Cash – Remember to treat prepaid debit cards as if they were cash. Anyone with a card number and pin will be able to withdraw the money. If you wouldn’t give a stranger cash then don’t give them the account information.
- Trust Your Instincts – If it sounds too good to be true it most likely is. Users should trust their instincts and use common sense when trying to supplement their income. Get-rich-quick schemes rarely have the payback they promise.
- Be Aware of Hacker Hostages – While you may share similar interests with your online friends, you shouldn’t trust their online content as it may not actually be them liking and sharing the posts you see. Hackers may have taken over their accounts or they may be victims of clickjacking, a technique used by scammers to trick people into clicking something they normally wouldn’t.