umpqua bank fraud

(L to R) Umpqua Bank manager, Mark Piper, and relationship banker, Nick Porter, explain the dangers and pitfalls of sophisticated scams designed to separate the innocent from their hard-earned cash during a forum on Wednesday, May 29.

Picture yourself sitting at your computer, typing in the password to your banking account online. You suddenly get a popup that identifies itself as a warning from Google. It states that attackers are possibly trying to steal the information that you're logging in. 

The popup window adds that when Google tried to connect to the website,, it sent back unusual and incorrect credentials. It then helpfully suggests such things happen when an attacker  is falsely presenting itself as the actual website you're trying to sign into. A convenient check box is provided so you can send "Google" some system information and page content.

It all seems legitimate, but the second you click on the box you're done for -- compromised. You've just provided the attacker with the username and password to your account, and possible given them access to your entire computer system. 

ID theft scams are now much more sophisticated than the old Nigerian Prince schemes of decades past. That's why Umpqua bank took it upon themselves to offer an informational meeting on the subject.

Bank manager Mark Piper, and relationship banker, Nick Porter, gave the presentation on Wednesday, May 29. 

Porter noted the progress of scam sophistication, noting that popular websites such as Craigslist are ideal for scammers. Porter noted that a customer used Craigslist to sell an engine. Someone from the east coast  called and wanted to buy the engine.

He offered to send a check for a large sum to ship and purchase the engine and asked that the equipment owner cash the check and pay the shipper, who would be coming along in a few days. Thankfully, the man didn't cash the check or give the equipment to the shipper.

The buyer had stopped payment on the check, and had it been cashed, the equipment owner would have been out the engine as well as responsible for the check amount that he spent because banks no longer wait until a check is clear before allowing a customer to access up to 50 percent of a large deposit.

Piper spoke of other popular scams, including the "secret shopper" scam, which sounds plausible because many businesses hire secret shoppers to go to a particular store to shop and rate the clerk, etc. In the scam version, the company sends a check for say, $2450. The mark is told to keep $350 for themselves and withdraw $1050 two days running and immediately buy $1050 of gift cards from separate locations and rate the shopping experience.

The company will also ask the mark to send photographs of the gift cards and codes so they can recoup their money. A few days later, the original $2450 check bounces and the mark is responsible. 

"You're out that money," Piper said. "There's nothing we can do to dispute the purchase of those gift cards because you legitimately went in and purchased those cards." He added that some major retailers are now aware of the scam and limit gift card purchases.

He also said that legitimate secret shopper offers do not ask consumers to buy gift cards and send the codes. 

Piper also warned against calls from credit card companies that ask for information updates that include account numbers, etc. He also said that banks occasionally call to tell customers of suspicious activities, but they do not ask for such information.

Just the Enterprise branch of Umpqua Bank gets 15-20 queries a month regarding suspicious activity. Porter said the Craigslist scam is the one he sees the most. Piper agreed although he said the secret shopper scam was gaining traction. 

"We hire secret shoppers to make sure we're providing good customer service, but we're not going to pay you in gift cards." Piper said. 

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