PLEASANTON, Calif.–Credit unions and financial institutions in this market are reporting what they are calling a “wave” of financial fraud in which criminals are paying victims to open accounts, then turn over the account information so they can commit fraud.

The “twist” in this case, according to one CU, is that the victim is told that they won’t get into trouble because the credit union is “insured.”

“The credit union will get their money back, don’t worry,” scammers are telling those they are drawing into the ruse.

“We’ve seen this fraud in Oakland, Berkeley and, in particular, San Leandro,” said Greg Pulliam, 1st United Credit Union’s chief administrative officer, in a statement. “The scammers are primarily targeting 16-24-year-olds as well as the elderly.”

At the core of the scam, victims are paid a fee to hand over their credit union debit card and PIN number or online banking credentials, according to the credit union. In one case, a 16-year-old was paid $500 to send a copy of his Social Security Card to a criminal who proceeded to impersonate the victim with the credit union.

The credit union is reminding consumers that when the account activity comes back fraudulent, the victim is left owing the credit union money and is held responsible for the fraud, regardless of whether or not the bank or credit union is insured.

“We want our community to understand that if they give their personal and/or banking information accidentally or purposefully to someone who uses that information to commit a fraudulent act, they could be held responsible – not the financial institution,” said Pulliam.

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