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Common Romance Scams in 2024

Young woman having online date with fake boyfriend. Concept of internet fraud

With Valentine’s Day approaching, it is important to be wary of Romance Scams (also called Love Scams). In a romance scam, scammers target individuals by creating a fake online persona (through social media, email, etc.) and then making romantic advances at the targeted individuals. The scammer will then attempt to connect emotionally with the victim to gain their trust enough to either ask or blackmail the victim for money. These scams can appear in a variety of ways; below are some of the most frequent examples:

Photo Scams

A photo scam takes place when a scammer tries to convince their victim to send over sensitive personal information in exchange for intimate photos from the scammer. A reverse of this is also known to occur when a scammer coerces the victim to send intimate images; upon receiving these photos, the scammer will then use them as leverage to blackmail the victim. If your online love interest seems insistent on obtaining your personal information or sends continuous requests for intimate photos, particularly ones that include your face, it is vital to recognize these signs as red flags.

Fake Dating Website Scams       

Online dating has exploded in popularity in recent years, with online dating app users increasing from around 200 million users in 2015 to nearly 340 million in 2022. With such rapid growth come many new apps and websites looking to capitalize on this growing market. While some of these upstarts are trying to help you find love, others are scammers looking to manipulate victims and steal their information. These scams involve creating a website under the guise of a typical dating website. However, the user base is either full of scammers who will pry victims for information or the user base is incredibly small so the scammer can steal any info they can get when victims “register” for the site. Reminder, it is important to vet any website before signing up and offering personal information.

Military Romance Scams

Scammers will also try to manipulate victims by impersonating members of the military. These scams revolve around creating a compelling fake military persona and convincing victims they require financial assistance. In this scam, scammers will use a high volume of military-related terms and offer an official title or rank to gain the victim’s trust. They will then claim they need money to cover certain expenses. The most common request for funds is for “flights home” or even flights to visit the victim. In both scenarios, the scammer will simply pocket the money, make an excuse about how they couldn’t come home, and continue to ask for money from the victim. When exploring a relationship with anyone online, it is of the utmost importance to verify that they are who they say they are; failure to do so can lead to catastrophic financial consequences.

These are just a few examples of Romance Scams; many more methods exist, and more will come in the future. Protecting yourself and staying informed on how and when you could be targeted is more crucial than ever. Scammers use any leverage they can get their hands on, and unfortunately, emotionally vulnerable individuals are a common target. Love is in the air around this time of year, but it is vital not to get caught up dreaming only to wake up in a nightmare.

Source: Business of Apps & Norton

Employee Spotlight – Lora Scasta

Lora Scasta, Assistant Vice President of Lending | SouthStar Bank Hearne

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Lora Scasta is an Assistant Vice President of Lending at the SouthStar Bank Hearne Branch. Lora was with the bank for two decades before taking a brief one-year hiatus and returning in the Fall of 2023. Lora is ready to hit the ground running in her second stint with SouthStar, as she looks forward to furthering her knowledge and expertise. She enjoys being able to help people on both the lending and deposit sides of banking, leaning on her wealth of experience to guide her peers. Lora also thrives working in a team environment and loves to be able to help her customers and coworkers in any way possible.

Outside of work, Lora is very active in her church community, her local Chamber of Commerce, and the Salvation Army. She also loves traveling, especially if there is a beach within reach. Lora has traveled to a number of tropical destinations, including her favorite place to visit, Destin, Florida. A surprising fact about Lora is that the first concert she ever attended was George Strait at G. Rollie White Coliseum when she was 12.

Welcome Back Bryce Johnston

Bryce Johnston, Loan Review Analyst | SouthStar Bank Leander

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Bryce Johnston has rejoined the SouthStar Bank team as a Loan Review Analyst. Bryce originally joined the team in the summer of 2023, working as an intern in the Credit Department and exhibiting an excellent ability to thrive in a team environment. Bryce recently graduated with a degree in Finance from St. Edward’s University. He brings an inquisitive sense of curiosity that allows him to learn and grow in his position continuously. He believes each loan has a different story, which helps keep him engaged with all the loans that come to him for review.

Outside of work, Bryce enjoys golfing, watching sports, and following the stock market. He also loves to travel, and his favorite destination thus far has been France, where he was able to visit the World War II sites in Normandy and enjoy the excellent cuisine. One of Bryce’s most significant achievements was winning the Conference Championship as a St. Edward’s Lacrosse Team member during his time at the University.

Congratulations Amanda Aaron! New Credit Officer

Amanda Aaron 2022

Amanda Aaron has been promoted to the role of Credit Officer. She has proven to be an exceptional leader and motivator during her time with SouthStar Bank, first as the Leander Branch Executive and then as the SBA Credit Officer. Now, she has brought those traits into SouthStar Bank’s growing credit department.

At the beginning of 2023, she was promoted from Branch Executive to SBA Credit Officer. This role allowed her to lead the charge in growing and developing SouthStar Bank’s SBA Portfolio. As SouthStar Bank’s Credit Officer, she will expand her role to the bank’s entire portfolio of loans, reviewing and approving credits of all types, assisting in training, and developing and growing the Credit Department to accommodate the continued progress of SouthStar Bank as a financial institution. While in her new position, she will continue contributing to the SBA Department as an SBA Specialist.

Alongside her contributions to the bank, Amanda is also involved in several community organizations, including the Central Texas Association of Government Guaranteed Lenders (CTAGGL), a local SBA organization where she serves as VP.  

When she finds time to herself, Amanda enjoys watching all types of sporting events, coaching her daughter’s softball team, and spending time with family and friends.

Congratulations Greg Vesely & Miguel De La Riva New Area Managers

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Greg Vesely and Miguel De La Riva have been promoted to Area Managers in the Urban South and Rural North regions. Miguel and Greg have found incredible success in their previous roles as Loan Officers and, eventually, Branch Executives. Both men have shown exceptional dedication throughout their time with SouthStar, leaning on their knowledge and experience to offer premier service to their customers. In their new roles, Miguel and Greg will work closely with their teams of loan officers to develop and achieve goals that will help deliver the optimal lending experience to all customers.

Greg Vesely (Urban South) started his banking career in 1993 and became a lender in 1995.  He has been with SouthStar Bank since 2016 and has been the Branch Executive of the Steiner Ranch branch since 2017. Greg holds multiple licenses, including Series 6, 63, and Group 1. As a loan officer, Greg enjoys being his clients’ trusted advisor. By understanding their needs, he is able to help them achieve growth and success. One of Greg’s career highlights was being named a Top Mortgage Producer in the Austin Metro Area by Austin Business Journal and being awarded the Trail Boss award, one of SouthStar Bank’s highest internal honors for leadership. Big in his community, Greg is a former Marine and enjoys giving back through multiple organizations, including March of Dimes, Coats for Kids, Toys for Tots, and United Way. In his free time, Greg enjoys traveling across the U.S. with his family.

Miguel De La Riva (Rural North) has been in lending for more than two decades and has been with SouthStar Bank for two years. In his long career in the financial industry, Miguel has funded everything from small business loans, home loans for first-time buyers, and multi-million-dollar commercial real estate transactions. He specializes in using his strong analytical and problem-solving skills to find solutions for complex loans.  In his short time with the bank, Miguel has excelled as the Branch Executive of the Harker Heights branch, led the charge with the development of the ITIN loan program, and has been assisting as an extra loan officer in the Robertson County branches.  Miguel is a United States Marine Corps veteran and bilingual in Spanish. Outside of work, Miguel enjoys spending his time in the great outdoors, enjoying various bodies of water with his wife and loyal dogs.

Welcome Michael Lott

Michael Lott, AVP & Branch Manager | SouthStar Bank Steiner Ranch

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Michael Lott joins the SouthStar Bank Steiner Ranch team as an Assistant Vice President and Branch Manager. Michael brings a wealth of experience to his new position, with over two decades of experience dealing with the banking industry’s ever-changing landscape. Along with his knowledge, Michael is excited to bring his top-notch customer service skills to his customers and lead SouthStar Bank to be the standard for service in Texas. As a leader of the Steiner Ranch team, Michael is excited to work and share all of the knowledge that will help his team in their professional pursuits.

Outside of the office, Michael enjoys songwriting, singing, reading, and spending time with his three children. Michael’s hidden talent is his singing voice. He even once performed as Elvis at the Mirage Hotel in Las Vegas! Michael’s favorite destination that he has traveled to is Munich, Germany.

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