I met someone online. She says she wants to help me with legal issues. She said her late father left her a business and she says she is selling the business and sending the money to my account. She says she needs: my full name my routing and account numbers Online information such as screen name and password. is this a scam?
Yes, this is always a scam. Anyone you meet online who wants passwords to access your finances is trying to scam you.
There are a lot of different ways this can play out, but the most common is that the scammer is going to transfer tainted funds into and then out of your account. When the transfer into your account is reversed, you will be left with a negative balance.
To make this very clear, from your financial institution's point of view, there is no legitimate reason anyone except you should ever need your online banking username and password, for any purpose at all, ever. This includes your financial institution, your friends, your relatives, and your employer - much less random strangers on the internet.
The financial industry has established, safe tools for legitimately moving money between accounts. This can be done via:
- Cash. Self explanatory.
- Paper check.
- Electronic transfer between banks, via ACH or other established protocol.
- Third party escrow service, such as Paypal.
None of these legitimate methods require the other party to know your online banking username and password.
Financial institutions also have methods for providing legitimate online banking access to your accounts for individuals who have a legitimate need for that access. So, even in the case where someone needs to access your finances, it won't be by sharing your own username and password. This can mean:
- You and your spouse are co-owners of a checking account, and your bank gives you each unique online banking access to the same account
- You're involved in managing a business's accounts, and the others with similar authority at your business all have unique logins to your bank's business banking website
- A lawyer or other party is designated as a custodian, trustee, or other non-owner role on an account that you are the owner of, and they are given their own credentials to access the account
Giving people access through these methods (vs sharing your username and password) allows your financial institution to follow regulations and their own protocols around establishing identity and rights for the other involved party, vs just sharing your username and password, which bypasses any sense of control or protocol around maintaining access to your accounts.
If someone asks for your username and password, take the following steps:
- Discontinue communication with them immediately
- Report it to your bank. Even if nothing has happened to your account, they may be able to use information to help track down the criminal. It's common for criminals to target specific institutions, knowing the details of your case may help their anti-fraud department take action.
- Report it to the proper law enforcement or authorities. The US government maintains an online safety website that includes resources to help you report crime appropriately.