Protect Yourself Against Fraud
We are ALL at risk for potential fraud and identity theft attempts, however, there are many ways you can help protect yourself. Remember if an offer looks to good to be true, it probably is.
Listed below are many scams that you should be aware of:
Debit Card Fraud
Protect Yourself from Debit Card Fraud
Fake Check Scam
DEBIT CARD FRAUD
You can’t beat the convenience of using a debit card with today’s busy lifestyle, however card-users need to be aware of potential fraud situations using your debit card.
- Online Shopping: Pop up ads are not only annoying, but may pose a threat to your bank account. One way fraudsters con you out of cash is immediately after you make an online purchase, a pop-up ad will appear offering you cash-back rewards just by clicking on the ad. Before you know it, you are being charged monthly for a membership service. It can be almost impossible to cancel the membership and receive refunds. Pop up ads may also house ‘spyware’ or other harmful ‘malware’ designed to infiltrate or damage your computer.
- Phishing: Phishing is exactly what it sounds like… ‘phishing’ for your information. Phishing typically comes in the form of an email. You’ll open it thinking it’s legitimate from your bank, or other business, asking for you to enter and ‘verify’ your debit/credit card number, Social Security Number, etc. You click on a link and are then routed to a legitimate-looking website to enter your information. These scams can be VERY clever and real-looking. The fraudulent website may even have the exact logos and colors as the real one they are purporting to be.
Remember, your bank will NEVER contact you to ask you for your information – they already have it! Just ignore these emails and contact your bank if you have questions about any online correspondence from them.
- Skimming: Skimming is done by crooks setting up a device that captures the data on the magnetic strip and keypad information of a debit or credit card. The scammers try to steal your details so they can access your accounts. Once scammers have skimmed your card, they can create a fake or ‘cloned’ card with your details on it. The scammer is then able to run up charges on your account. Card skimming is also a way for scammers to steal your identity and use it to commit identity fraud.
Protecting Yourself from Debit Card Fraud:
- Do not keep your PIN with your card and do not give the card and PIN to friends or family to use.
- When at an ATM machine, be careful when putting in your PIN number as there may be someone watching you.
- If you are using an ATM, take the time to check that there is nothing suspicious about the machine. If an ATM looks suspicious, do not use it and contact the ATM owner.
- Review your monthly account statements when you receive them to verify the purchases made with your debit card actually belong to you.
- Consider signing up for online banking - you can review your account anytime to check your transactions.
- Ask yourself if you trust the person or trader who you are handing your card over to. If a shop assistant looks like they are going to take your card out of your sight, ask if it is really necessary.
- Notify your bank or card provider IMMEDIATELY if you notice any suspicious activity on your account!
FAKE CHECK SCAM
While these scams may vary in type, they typically lure victims in by fraudsters paying you for work or an item with a check and then they ask you to wire some of the money back. Beware of fake scam types, especially in these situations:
How Fake Check Scams Work
Fraudsters may claim that it’s too difficult to pay you direct because they are out of the country so they’ll tell you that they have someone in the U.S. who owes them money to send you a check or a money order.
When you receive the check or money order, it may be for more than you are owed. You’ll be instructed to deposit the item and then to wire the extra money back to the scammer, or to someone else. In the case of an “advance” or “sweepstakes,” the scammer will send you a check and ask you to wire part of it back to pay a fee to claim your “winnings.”
Sometimes, the scammer will tell you they will transfer the money direct to your account. They’ll ask you to provide your bank account information and they’ll send a ‘fake’ transfer to your bank (it looks real). When you check your balance, the fake money looks like it is in your account and you’ll be asked to wire money back to the scammer.
The Unfortunate Consequences of Fake Check Scams
Whether a scammer sends you a check or transfer money direct to your account, the outcome is often the same. After you wire the money back to the scammer, the check or transfer is found as a fake. In the end, it is the victim (you) that pays for the money lost.
How Can I Protect Myself?
One of the best ways to protect yourself is to use your common sense. It does not make sense for someone to send you ‘too much’ money and ask for you to wire some of it back. This is CLEARLY a scam!
Forgeries can sometimes take weeks to discover. If you think you have a potential fake-check scam situation, do NOT deposit the check given to you and NEVER wire out money or give out your account information. You should immediately contact your bank for assistance or questions.
Fraudsters still use some of the "old tricks of the trade," including calling you up on the telephone to get your information. Think about these points next time you are in doubt of a telemarketer:
- Always ask for more information (in writing) about the organization calling or the offer being presented.
- Never feel obligated to provide your credit/debit card number over the phone.
- Educate yourself about the cost of "900" calls and how you can block such calls from getting through.
- Get as many details as you can. The fewer the questions the caller can answer, the less likely he or she is legitimate.
- Get a call-back number so you can initiate the call yourself, or because you may need to report it later.
- If you get a call from someone posing as a representative from your financial institution and asking for your account or personal information, hang up immediately and call your bank to verify any claims. Remember, they will NEVER ask for your personal or account information - they already have it.
- If a telemarketer offers you a "get-rich-quick" opportunity, the best response is to hang up.
- Avoid offers informing you that you've won a prize. Typically, respondents are asked to pay for "shipping", "an application fee", or a "deposit" for a prize that does not exist.
- Be wary of calls soliciting contributions to charitable causes, particularly those regarding disaster relief. Many times these solicitors are not legitimate and you are better off choosing a worthy cause and contacting them yourself than to respond to a random request.
Oftentimes there are no warning signs that your identity has been stolen, however, there are many steps you can take to help protect yourself.
- Monthly bank and credit card statements, and other regular documents stop arriving in the mail.
- You start receiving bills from companies you don’t recognize.
- Credit collection agencies try to collect on debts that do not belong to you.
- Do not carry your Social Security card or number on your person. Also, do not carry your birth certificate or passport unless absolutely necessary.
- Do not put your Social Security number on your checks.
- Shred all personal documents, old bank statements, credit card pre-approvals, credit card receipts, and credit card checks before putting them in the trash.
- Be careful who you give your personal information to – do not feel obligated to give information over the phone or Internet to someone you do not know.
- Review your credit report from the three national credit reporting agencies every year to verify your information. You are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three credit agencies.
- Review your monthly credit card and bank statements monthly. If you find anything suspicious, contact your provider or bank immediately.
- Ensure your mailbox is secure. If not, rent a post-office box.
- Do not use simple passwords or PINs (i.e., your last name, 12345, mother’s maiden name, etc.). Mix capital letters, numbers, and characters to create your passwords/PINs and make sure to change them frequently.
ONLINE BANKING & SECURITY
Online banking makes it convenient to handle financial matters while traveling or during nontraditional bank hours. You can also help protect yourself by following these security tips:
- Make sure the anti-virus software on your computer is up-to-date.
- Install and update anti-spyware software.
- Use a strong password – not one that can be easily figured out by a hacker. A strong password contains a combination of letters, numbers and characters. Make sure to change your passwords often.
- Do not open or respond to email from people you don’t know and NEVER send your personal or account information via email.
- Always “exit” or “log off” after you are finished with your online business.
- Use your own computer to conduct business online. NEVER use a public computer or wireless “hot spot” to make online purchases or to send personal information.
- If you receive an email from your financial institution relating to an “urgent problem” or other matter pertaining to your account, call your bank to ask if it’s legitimate or to respond.