1 week ago

Financial fraud targeting college students: How to stop the scam

“Hey, I can help you earn some quick cash.”

To some, those words are an immediate red flag. Surely, this must be a scam. Just say, “No, thanks,” and move on.

But wait. The person making the offer has someone else with him. And that person has a stack of cash.

They sing the guy’s praises. “Hey, it worked for me. All I had to do was cash a check for him – and he paid me a lot.”

In other cases, there’s a story about an urgent need – some down-on-my-luck concoction that appeals to the conscience of the person who the criminal is trying to lure.

“Hey, I’m new here, and I just haven’t been able to get my bank account set up yet. I’ve gotta get my power and water turned on. I just need someone to deposit this check and give me the cash. I’ll even give you a cut of the money,” they say.

It’s happening nationwide.

Often, college campuses are ground zero.

Security experts at Regions Bank say they – and their counterparts at other banks – are seeing more cases of financial fraudsters preying on young adults. And as students head back to campus this fall, there are two clear warnings:

  • Don’t fall for it.
  • If you do, there may be little chance of recovering what’s lost.

“At first, the amount of money someone wants to move through your account may seem small enough. You might think, ‘What’s the harm?’” said Jon Kucharski from Regions Bank’s Enterprise Fraud Prevention division. “But there’s plenty of harm. The checks they want to deposit are fraudulent. And if you’re assuming ownership of these checks, and you’re even giving these people access to your account, you’re making yourself part of the fraud. You’re setting yourself up.”

The criminals have a lot of experience. They know how to convince people to take part. They also know when to vanish. And because they’ve conned their way into getting your bank account information, they drain the money that’s in there as they disappear.

“It’s basically their full-time job,” Kucharski added. “It’s up to all of us to be on guard. There is no good reason to do what these people are asking you to do.”

And keep in mind, while the crime often begins in-person, a lot of college students are recruited online or through social media.

(Photo: Regions Bank)

No matter how it starts, the results are often the same.

“We see too many cases where the student has even given someone their online login or their debit card and PIN,” said John Joyce of Regions Corporate Security. “The conmen will sometimes coach the student on how to try to trick their bank into thinking all these deposits and withdrawals are legitimate. Sometimes they’ll get the student’s login ID and password and then change the online banking credentials and lock the student out of the account.”

While banks are seeing a lot of students falling into the scheme, they caution that anyone could get drawn in. And when someone essentially hands over the keys to their account by giving someone else their login ID, password, debit card and other private banking information, they have little recourse for getting their money back.

“Our teams are working every day to detect and prevent fraud. We have many cases where our associates detected something was wrong, and they took action to help protect the customer,” Joyce added. “But ultimately, if you’ve chosen to deposit a fraudulent check, or if you’ve given someone access to your account and they take off with the money, there may be little that we can do to recover what they take.”

Regions Corporate Security recommends a handful of simple steps to protect your account.

  1. Don’t take the bait: Remember, the fraudsters are good at adapting. They’ll come up with some persuasive story about why they need your help. But it’s never a good idea to put a stranger’s check in your account.
  2. Decline, move on, and speak up: If you’re approached by someone running a scam like this, politely explain that you cannot take part, and move on. Then, let your local bank branch – and law enforcement – know what happened. The more people are looking out for activity like this, the less likely it is for criminals to succeed.
  3. Take immediate steps to secure your account if you’ve fallen into a scheme: Change your password. Review your account carefully. And let your bank know. If the fraudsters have already taken money because they were given access, that money might not be recovered. But alerting bank staff can help protect what remains – while raising awareness of fraudsters operating in your area. The safest bet is to never share personal financial information with anyone.

“Our focus is protecting customers,” Kucharski concluded. “And in cases like this, awareness and prevention are the best defense.”

More information on financial fraud prevention can be found on Regions.com. Also, Regions offers financial advice and guidance specifically designed for college students and graduates in the Next Step section of Regions.com. The information is accessible to anyone for free.

So be aware as the new semester begins – someone may try to separate you from your money. Don’t fall for it. And continue to check Doing More Today in the coming weeks and months as we share additional insights and resources designed to help protect accounts – and combat fraud.

(Courtesy of Regions Bank)

33 mins ago

Alabama Dem. chair doubles down on racism charges against DNC, Jones — Will ‘be burning in hell for taking away people’s voting rights’

The rollercoaster internal battle among Alabama Democrats and the Democratic National Committee (DNC) reached another milestone on Thursday when a DNC committee voted to recommend stripping Alabama Democratic Party Chair Nancy Worley and Vice-chair Randy Kelley of their credentials.

The committee decision will now go before the full DNC this weekend for a final vote.

The vote in San Francisco, CA, came after a committee hearing in which Worley passionately doubled down on charges recently made against the DNC and those looking to unseat Worley, led by Senator Doug Jones (D-AL).

Per The Montgomery Advertiser, Worley said the Jones-led efforts are simply a reaction to last year’s state party elections not going to his liking.

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“The problem is if we had not won that election … there never would have been a challenge,” Worley said. “And so it all had to do with who won and who was mad because we’ve won.”

She also emotionally suggested her opponents were undermining the legacy of civil rights activists in Alabama by looking to take power away from black Americans in the state party.

“You’re going to be burning in hell for taking away people’s voting rights,” Worley declared.

This escalated the sentiment expressed by Alabama Democratic Party Secretary Val Bright last week when she penned an open letter accusing Jones and the DNC of racism.

“Although blacks have been faithful to the Democratic Party and are largely responsible for electing Doug Jones and any white seeking office in this state, once elected on the backs of blacks, the urgency to remove black leadership begins,” Bright wrote.

“In other words, as long as we’re working in the fields all is well, but when we move to positions of authority, a challenge begins,” she added. “From slavery through Reconstruction, Jim Crow and the Civil Rights movement, we are constantly being shown how little respect blacks receive for being hard working and loyal.”

Bright went on to say the electoral challenge to Worley is “a smoke screen to make it appear that Jones and the DNC is not attacking his true target, blacks.”

State Rep. John Rogers (D-Birmingham) on Wednesday told Yellowhammer News he disagrees with Bright’s charges of racism against Jones.

According to Gulf Coast News Today, Jones defended himself to members of the Baldwin County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) in recent days.

“I know voices in this state are questioning my commitment to the African American community,” Alabama’s junior senator said. “Because I have had the audacity recently to challenge those who have controlled the Democratic party for a generation and clung to power despite the fact the party has been spiraling towards extinction under their watch … because I believe a viable two-party system is the only way for a state to truly progress and build on the NAACP mission of prosperity for all.”

“If my life’s work … are not enough let me be crystal clear, I am with you. I am there for you. I have never left you and together we will remain vigilant in the mission of the NAACP, our shared mission and we’ll keep on a walking, keep on a talking and we’re not going to let nobody turn us around until the promise of America is made real for all Americans,” Jones added.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

1 hour ago

2019 Yellowhammer ‘News Shapers’ series continues with second rural broadband installment

Join the Yellowhammer News team Tuesday, September 17 for a “Yellowhammer News Shapers” event in Dothan.

Entitled, “Connecting Alabama’s rural communities,” the event is Yellowhammer’s second on rural broadband this year. This latest installment will focus on building partnerships and community awareness.

The event will feature a networking reception followed by a live forum on expanding broadband access and technology across the Yellowhammer State.

Confirmed forum panelists include State Senator Donnie Chesteen (R-Geneva); Brad Kimbro, CEO of Wiregrass Electric Cooperative; Jimmy Copeland, director of special projects for Troy Cablevision, Inc.; Dr. Carmen Lewis, associate dean of Troy University’s Sorrell College; and Sean Strickler, vice president public affairs of the Alabama Rural Electric Association.  

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Areas of focus will include exploring partnerships that work, implementation obstacles and best practices, community awareness and future needs and next steps for program advancement.

The event will be held in Everett Hall on Troy University’s Dothan campus: 502 University Drive, Dothan, AL 36303.

The reception will begin at 5:00 p.m., with the moderated forum to follow at 5:20 p.m.

Sponsorship opportunities are still available. Please contact courtney@yellowhammernews.com for more information.

The legislative edition of Yellowhammer News Shapers kicked off 2019’s series and was followed by the rural broadband edition on July 18 in Guntersville, “Prepare for Launch” in Huntsville on July 31 and “West Alabama and the coal industry” on August 8 in Jasper.

More Yellowhammer News Shapers events will take place across the state this year. The series is non-partisan, on-the-record and designed to localize issues and highlight thought leaders.

Continue to visit Yellowhammernews.com for announcements during the 2019 calendar year.

2 hours ago

Limestone County sheriff’s attorney blasts ‘draconian’ ethics act after indictment

After it was announced on Thursday that longtime Limestone County Sheriff Michael Anthony “Mike” Blakely has been indicted on 13 state ethics counts, separate press conferences featuring his personal attorneys and the spokesperson for the sheriff’s department pumped the breaks on those looking to equate Blakely merely being charged with actually being guilty.

First, Mark McDaniel, the lead attorney for Blakely’s defense, emphasized that the sheriff would be entering in a plea of “not guilty” on all counts and looks forward to trying the case in a court of his peers.

WHNT carried McDaniel’s comments to the media, in which he emphasized that a large part of the defense will be challenging the constitutionality of Alabama’s ethics statute.

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“Virtually anything you do as a public servant now under that act is illegal, so we’ll be contesting the constitutionality of the ethics act also,” McDaniel said.

He called the ethics act “draconian” and added he will file a motion asking the court to strike it down.

Asked what about the ethics act they will be challenging, McDaniel responded, “A lot of things.”

McDaniel specified that one of those things will be how overly “broad” the statute is.

“You don’t even know what you’ve done [wrong],” he added, saying that the public should stay tuned to see their motions “attacking” the ethics act’s issues.

In a press conference shortly afterwards, Limestone County Sheriff’s Department spokesman Stephen Young stressed that Blakely continues to serve as the sheriff and that the department’s operations will not be affected by the ongoing legal situation.

Young also cautioned people about utilizing indictments as indicators of guilt.

“A grand jury indictment is not a conviction,” Young advised. “In fact, it’s the process typically used when an agency cannot obtain enough probable cause to obtain its own warrant. As Sheriff Blakely once told me, ‘You can indict a ham sandwich.’”

Watch:

Blakely served in the U.S. Marine Corps and as an Alabama State Trooper before becoming the county sheriff in 1983. He has also served as an officer in the Alabama National Guard.

McDaniel said it is an “honor” to represent the sheriff and that he is “proud” to defend Blakely against the charges.

The attorney noted that Blakely “absolutely” intended to continue serving. The sheriff was back at work immediately after posting bond on Thursday.

A Democrat, Blakely is the longest-serving sheriff in state history. He won the statewide “Bobby Timmons Sheriff of the Year Award” as recently as 2017.

Sean Ross is the editor of Yellowhammer News. You can follow him on Twitter @sean_yhn

4 hours ago

Alabama postpones 50th anniversary tour over singer’s health

Country band Alabama says it is postponing the remainder of its 50th anniversary tour as lead singer Randy Owen battles health complications.

The group announced Wednesday that the 69-year-old Owen is suffering from migraines and vertigo, and doctors say he needs more time to recover.

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The news comes after a string of already-canceled shows due to the singer’s health.

Bass player and vocalist Teddy Gentry wrote in a statement that though he and the rest of the band are disappointed, Owen’s recovery is the priority.

The 50-city tour was scheduled through Nov. 23, where it would have ended in Salisbury, Maryland.

Rescheduled dates will be released in the coming weeks.
(Associated Press, copyright 2019)

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How Alabama’s Iron Tribe Fitness sets the standard for group workouts

Iron Tribe Fitness, founded in Birmingham, Alabama, is leading the way for workout programs across the nation. Ranked as one of the top five workouts in the nation, this 45-minute HIIT group workout class offers participants exciting and effective workouts in a time frame that works with any kind of schedule.

Recently, the gym hosted Coach 201, a weekend training session for their instructors in their downtown Birmingham corporate location. This session brought together all of Iron Tribe’s local coaching staff to review training guidelines and program goals.

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In hosting this training, Iron Tribe is living out their core value of delivering a consistent experience. Forrest Walden, Iron Tribe’s founder and CEO says this training session taps into the heart of what the program does — which is creating communities that change lives.

“It’s always great to see the entire team come together to fellowship and dive deep into why we do what we do every day,” Walden said.

During the training, Iron Tribe coaches were given the opportunity to learn more about the classes they teach and strengthen their relationships with each other. As a result, the coaches are empowered to return to their home gyms and lead their athletes with renewed skills and confidence.

“Kyle Sottung, our director of product development, is extremely thorough and talented at what he does. To see him lead our Birmingham coaches is always such a blessing. Our coaches are more empowered now than ever to pour into the Birmingham community,” Walden stated.

According to Walden, Iron Tribe is successful because the program is more than just a workout, but a way to strengthen the communities they serve.

“Iron Tribe stands on a list off essential core beliefs. These beliefs steer what we do every day, both inside and outside the gym. It’s our hope that by continuing to develop ourselves that we can be exceptional coaches and role models within our communities,” Walden said.

Ready to get in the best shape of your life? Learn more by visiting irontribefitness.com.