A lot of things seem off in the message you’ve received. Every other word is misspelled. There’s a picture of a guy holding a stack of green bills in front of his customized sports car. It promises hundreds of dollars a month without having to do anything—and all you need is a bank account. What’s the worst that could happen? Here’s how the get rich quick scheme works.
The get rich quick scheme explained
On social media, someone pretends to be a friend of a friend and sends a private message. A fake job offer. A way to make easy money. At some point, you’re asked for your ATM card, personal identification number (PIN) and the answers to your security questions. Other times, it means accepting a transfer or depositing a cheque with your phone, and then sending them the money.
NEVER give your debit card or PIN to anyone. On social media, avoid replying to messages from people you’ve never met or don’t know very well. If someone claims to be a friend of a friend, check whether that’s true by talking to them in person. Be careful if the friend in question seems concerned: they may also have fallen for the scam!
The story varies, but the ending is the same. The money is deposited in the bank account. You then have to withdraw it and give it to a friend of “Mr. Modified Sports Car” in exchange for a monetary reward. Once the process is under way, the promise that “you can change your mind whenever you want” often falls by the wayside. And often, so does the reward.
Where does the money come from?
Fraudsters embezzle money in a variety of ways. For example, they may use phishing, cheque fraud or scams to get money from their victims. If they deposited it in their own bank account, they wouldn’t be in business for long, so they use young accomplices as intermediaries to get the money without attracting attention to themselves.
Even if you don’t have a lot of money in your bank account, it’s not the money that fraudsters are after. It’s the account itself, which allows them to access the illegally obtained funds through a mechanism that seems legitimate. The operation is much harder to detect when an accomplice discreetly receives and withdraws the money instead of the fraudster.
No harm done?
Even if it may appear shady, criminals have plenty of good arguments to convince us, such as:
- “Just say you don’t know what happened with your account and they’ll reimburse you.”
- “You don’t risk anything!”
When you voluntarily give access to your account, you risk being responsible for the transactions made and the fraudulent amounts could be claimed. It’s no fun to start life with several thousand dollars of debt, be blacklisted by financial institutions or face criminal charges. Simple things like depositing your paycheque or borrowing to buy your first car become a lot more complicated.
This type of stain on your record and reputation may make it impossible to enrol in certain study programs or find a job in finance, security or justice, for example.
Caution on social media
To avoid getting caught in a trap, you need to be cautious on social networks. Choosing high privacy settings for your account—including private messages—helps block unwanted requests. Now that you know about the get rich quick scheme, you’ll be wary of similar offers, whether online or elsewhere. If it sounds too good to be true, it’s probably a scam. So trust your instincts!
By limiting the information you share and being careful, you reduce the risk of being a victim of money or identity theft.
Don’t be afraid to talk about it
If you’re approached and recognize the broad strokes of the scam, don’t respond to the offer and tell an adult you trust. Then contact your financial institution. Finally, notify the police and the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre at 1-888-495-8501 or via the website: They’re well aware of the scam and you need to give them information to prevent others from being taken in.