‎Originally posted on USAA, 05-14-2015 03:32 PM

The number of USAA members falling prey to primarily Instagram-based card cracking scams is rising, thanks to criminals targeting military personnel and young adults with the lure of quick, easy money.

An example of a card cracking scheme, also known as card popping, occurs when fraudsters pose as USAA officials on social media channels and offer money or deals in exchange for members’ account information. Fraudulent funds are deposited into members’ USAA accounts, and the posers take what they want as payment before the check bounces and the fraud is detected. Because members participate in the scam — regardless of whether they’re aware it’s a scam — they can be held responsible for the fraudulent funds.

Brent Mosher, USAA’s executive director of financial crimes investigations and recovery, and True Brown, director of financial investigations for USAA, have some tips to help members spot a scam:

  1. Offers of free money. “USAA is not going to post something like that on social media,” Brown says. “We use social media for marketing or advertising products.”
  2. Odd phone numbers. “(A USAA number) won’t have a random area code,” says Mosher. “With USAA, it’s either a 210 or 800 number.”
  3. Requests for your information. “Fraudsters ask for things we would never ask for,” Brown says. “Personal identifiers, debit card information, account numbers — we already have all that.”
  4. Unprofessional pictures. “The pictures (fraudsters use) on Instagram might show cash or risqué images of women,” Brown says. “They are not images representative of legitimate bankers, investors or USAA employees. That’s not our image.”
  5. Directions to send money back. “We recently had a conversation with a fraudster posing as a USAA official,” Brown says. “The scam was an offer to deposit unclaimed insurance money into the member’s account but required a 50% fee to be sent back to the fraudster after the deposit was made. USAA would not deposit funds into a member’s account and ask them to send half back to us,” Mosher says.

Mosher and Brown advise members to immediately report the fraudulent activity to a USAA member service representative. USAA may be able to put a freeze on the account, which may help minimize the amount of money withdrawn. Members can also contact local law enforcement and report the scam through the social media platform itself.

“Each social media site has a mechanism to report a scam,” Mosher says. “It would be great if members would report (the scam) and repost to warn their friends on social media that this is out there.”

More Resources

See examples of real messages used by scammers in Too-Good-To-Be-True Cash Offers Probably a Scam Targeting Military.

Card popping criminals are targeting young military members. Here are four other scams to watch out for.