The host of MTV’s “Catfish: The TV Show” is making sure that young people don’t fall prey to financial scammers online.
Over the past 10 years, Nev Schulman has seen countless situations regarding financial and romance scams. Over the course of the show, Schulman has traveled the country (and the world in some cases) helping people discover the truth about who these people are conversing with on the interview.
“While doing that, I’ve experienced situations that involve financial elements, where people have sent money or gifts to someone and then, of course, found out that person wasn’t who they say they were and were sort of taken advantage of,” said Schulman. “In some cases, I’ve dealt with people who were just scamming and using fake profiles to earn someone’s trust and essentially get them to send money.”
To help spread education and awareness of financial scams, Schulman has partnered with Zelle to produce short PSAs on Instagram and TikTok to help young people learn the warning signs in these situations so they can keep themselves safe.
“Lots of people have come to me with their problems or issues or questions about how to deal with these topics. Since I’m not in law enforcement, I don’t really have any experience with that sort of stuff,” said Schulman. “I was excited to learn more about it and partner with Zelle, who is on the forefront of creating a secure place for people to send and receive money and educate people on how to avoid getting scammed.”
The PSA series will have four videos addressing different kinds of scams that many people fall victim to. Though his audience is very broad, Schulman and Zelle are opting to post the PSAs on Schulman’s TikTok and Instagram, where his followers tend to be younger, so they can get the information they need.
“More than ever before, young people are handling their finances digitally and now every bank has a mobile app. The vast majority of young people mostly use their phones to pay and be paid for things. I don’t know that many young people that have checkbooks,” said Schulman. “It’s a changing world, with all the good that comes from the technology we all have, there’s still a lot of misinformation and a lot of education that doesn’t really happen. There’s no class in high school that teaches you how to use your mobile banking app and how to manage your money or how to avoid getting taken advantage of. So a lot of young people are just thrust into the world of handling their own finances and not really sure what to look out for.”
Schulman is also trying to make sure that young people have access to correct information with all of the misinformation that tends to be shared online.
“There’s a lot of misinformation on TikTok and Instagram, I think a lot of people get really bad advice from people who aren’t necessarily qualified to be giving it,” said Schulman. “We’re trying to put some good, correct, truthful information out there that hopefully people will come across it.”
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Over the past 10 years, Schulman says that in his experiences, the scams themselves haven’t changed that much in that the scammers are using similar tactics. What has changed is the technological side of things, including scammers cloaking real bank numbers or copying email addresses that look very similar to an actual email address that you might be expecting a transaction from.
However, Schulman acknowledges that the human heart has remained vulnerable over the years.
“You meet someone on the internet, there’s a flirtation and attraction and a relationship develops. There’s sort of an inevitable moment where they say, ‘I can’t wait to come and meet you, I just need you to help me buy my ticket, or pay for my car rental,'” said Schulman. “Unfortunately, people fall for it. And obviously, that is a different nature of sort of scam in one of the heart. But it still falls into the same category and getting people to think of that and be aware of that and look out for those red flags will prevent a lot of heartache and financial loss.”
Some common red flags that Schulman says people should look out for tend to be similar regardless of what kind of scam it is.
“In general, people get urgent calls from the bank, utility company, or whoever saying something happened, we noticed some suspicious activity and we need you to confirm this, or send money. The sense of urgency that gets used tricks people into making quick decisions without really thinking it through,” said Schulman. “That’s one tactic we see quite often, there are countless others. Whether it’s a romance scam, or utility scam, property rental scam, or just kind of a Craigslist marketplace scam, there are some patterns and red flags that tend to apply to all of them.”
At the end of the day, Schulman advises his audience that it is important to be diligent and to not be afraid to second-guess a situation if something doesn’t feel right.
“You have to be super diligent, double and triple check the details. That’s where we are at now,” said Schulman. “I’m reminding people that you always have to see things with a magnifying glass. Second guess everything, report any suspicious activity and always give yourself permission to take a minute and think about whether this feels right, and make an informed decision before you get pressured into doing something.”
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