Don’t Get Scammed!
These days, there are more ways to connect to other people than ever before. And unfortunately, that means scammers too. Lots of apps and websites that are supposed to make our lives easier can also make it easier for criminals to steal your money or your identity.
We want to help protect you. Below is valuable information about fraud protection and identity theft, along with steps to take should you become a victim.
NEW: Beware of COVID-19 (Coronavirus) scams!
With the spread of COVID-19 (Coronavirus), some scammers are sending out emails and making phone calls related to the outbreak. Beware of these new scams:
- Emails appearing to be from official organizations like the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO). These emails contain phishing links or malicious attachments.
- Emails or phone calls offering bogus work-from-home opportunities. Scammers may offer fake “business coaching” programs or jobs like stuffing envelopes at home, but ask for a substantial sum of money up front.
- Emails to college students claiming to be from your college’s financial office asking you to click a link in the email to check your account.
- Emails or texts from scammers pretending to be contact tracers from the Department of Public Health, claiming you’ve been in contact with an infected person and sending malicious links for you to click on.
- Emails or texts warning you to stock up on certain supplies.
- Emails, texts, or even door-to-door visits offering bogus coronavirus “cures” or “tests.”
- Emails or texts asking for your personal information for government loan programs (or for the Paycheck Protection Program.)
- Calls or emails asking for charity donations for COVID-19 studies, for food distribution programs, or for victims of the outbreak. Scammers may apply high pressure in asking for your credit card number or bank account information.
- Calls or emails “thanking” you for a charity donation you didn’t make and pressuring you to match or exceed that donation immediately. Again, high pressure may be used.
- Emails claiming to have a new, or updated, list of COVID-19 cases in your area. These emails could have dangerous links or attachments.
- Calls claiming that a friend or family member is desperately ill with “Coronavirus” or COVID-19 and needs money for treatment.
- Emails requesting an immediate wire transfer to help make payroll demands or some other business need caused by the pandemic.
- eBay/Amazon notification listings from scammers claiming to sell high-demand items that are in short supply at grocery stores. Once you send payment for the item, you never receive it and the scammer vanishes from the platform before the site can shut down their account.
Remember that you should never click on links or download attachments from an email that you weren’t expecting. If someone asks you for personal information over the phone, HANG UP immediately.
Here are some ways to spot and avoid these COVID-19 scams:
- Get your information on the pandemic from reliable sources, like the CDC website or the WHO website.
- Never give money to anyone offering you a job or a “business coaching” opportunity.
- Never click suspicious links in emails, especially ones that insist you have to log in to a private site (online banking, credit card account, university ID login, etc.) through that link.
- Only donate to charities by typing in the URL to their official websites, not by clicking on links in emails.
- Do not give in to pressure from a “charity” call. Charities do not handle emergency medical situations.
- If you get an emergency call about a sick relative, call that relative directly to verify the information. Only use the number you already have. NEVER use any phone numbers that the scammer gives you.
- When buying from an online vendor, ALWAYS check their reviews and how long they’ve been on the site. There is no real shortage of supplies. You will be able to get everything you need eventually. Urgency and pressure are tools used by scammers to steal your cash and identity.
NEW: Watch out for romance scams!
Are you exploring online dating? Romance scammers are out to steal your cash and identity! Stay safe and watch out for romance scams:
- Be careful what you post online about yourself. Scammers may target you using your social media profiles.
- Always check out the person’s photo and profile using online searches. Scammers often use other people’s name, photo, and other details to make their persona seem genuine.
- If the person seems too good to be true, they probably are. Don’t let anyone rush you into meeting in person too soon.
- Never send anyone from a dating site money or compromising photos that could be used to extort you later.
- Beware if the person keeps coming up with excuses not to meet or talk on the phone. This is a red flag that they may not be who they claim.
- Don’t share any financial information on social media or dating sites (for example, talking about an inheritance or a big raise.)
If you suspect that someone you’re talking to online is a scammer, cut off all contact immediately. If you have been the victim of a romance scam, file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.) Help stop scammers before they steal from someone else!
NEW: Watch out for Economic Impact (Stimulus) Payment scams!
Since the announcement of the Economic Impact Payment (EIP), fraudsters are out to get your personal and bank information. Beware of fake IRS phone calls asking you to:
- “Verify” or provide your Social Security number to receive the EIP
- “Verify” or provide your bank account number and/or routing number in order to get the funds
- Pay a fee in order to collect the EIP
If someone asks you for personal information over the phone, HANG UP immediately. Here are some other ways you can spot scams:
- Neither the Treasury, the Social Security Administration, nor the IRS will call to ask you to verify or provide information to “expedite” these payments (or anything else really.)
- Be extremely wary of any requests by phone, email, text, or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information to “speed up” the process to receive the funds.
- Likewise, nobody can assist a person in “expediting” or “speeding” up distribution of these funds….not even for a small fee.
- Some payments will be going out in check form; however, there are no checks issued by the IRS that request a call in to verify information or confirm receipt in order to cash said check
- As obvious as it may seem, anybody asking for you to hand over your EIP funds in exchange for even more money is up to no good.
- Be cautious of anybody using the terms “stimulus check” or “stimulus payments”. The official term is Economic Impact Payment.
- NEVER click any links or open attachments from emails you weren’t expecting and sources you don’t know…not even if they claim to be from the CDC or WHO.
How do I protect myself from Online and Telephone Fraud?
Here are seven tips to help you steer clear of fraudsters and stay scam-free.
- Never give anybody your login credentials and passwords. A legitimate business will NEVER ask for your online banking login.
- Don’t fall for “secret shopper” scams. Never give information or money to someone who contacts you with a “secret shopper” opportunity. There are legitimate secret shopper companies, but you should be the one contacting them. Never do business with “mystery” or “secret shopper” firms who:
- Advertise for shoppers in classified ads or through email
- Require that you pay for “certification” or to get access to mystery shopper jobs
- Guarantee you a job as a mystery shopper
- Ask you to deposit a check for them and wire some or all of the money to someone.
- Don’t get scammed by an online buyer. Selling something online? Look for these warning signs that your buyer might be out to scam you:
- The buyer can’t meet in person
- The buyer offers more money than you were asking
- The buyer asks you to send money through Western Union or MoneyGram
- The buyer only sends you text messages and won’t speak to you on the phone
- Watch out for tech support and virus removal scams. If you receive a pop-up message, phone call, spam email, or other “urgent” message about problems with your computer, don’t respond. Don’t click on any links, don’t give out any information, and don’t send any money.
- Beware of fake IRS agents. The IRS will never call you about past due taxes and threaten you over payment. And they’ll never ask you to “confirm” your Social Security number or bank account information.
- You can’t win a lottery in a foreign country. You can’t win a lottery you didn’t enter. Scammers may try to pressure or trick you into giving them personal information, but don’t fall for it!
- Verify all emergency calls. Scammers may call or contacting you via email or text posing as relatives or friends. They’ll say that they’re in some terrible situation and beg you to send money immediately. Calls like this can be scary, and naturally you’ll want to help. But you should always verify any supposed emergency:
- Hang up and call the family member or friend at a number you know to be genuine.
- Double check the story with other friends and family.
- Never wire money, use money transfer apps, or send money via overnight delivery options to people or places you aren’t familiar with.
What are some fraud trends and how can I avoid them?
Here’s a list compiled for us by John Buzzard, Fraud Specialist for CO-OP Financial Services.
According to a recent Nilson report, global card fraud will reach $43.8 billion this year. While artificial intelligence, machine learning and other security innovations being implemented by financial institutions and credit card companies are helping to reduce fraud on all fronts, among the best weapons in this fight is an informed and vigilant consumer.
Here are this summer’s most prevalent financial scams that have been catching people by surprise – and for you to be watchful for all year long:
1. Gift cards, secret shoppers and the allure of fake offers
This scam works as follows: consumers are drawn in by a phony email or social media post to become a “secret shopper” in exchange for some form of financial gain.
When a consumer agrees to participate, the fraudster seals the deal by delivering a very large counterfeit check. The criminal then asks the consumer to deposit the check and purchase gift cards with the funds – keeping a small portion of the proceeds as compensation for being the “secret shopper.”
The victim is asked to email photographs of the gift cards, front and back, so the criminal can use them immediately – before the counterfeit check has a chance to bounce.
2. “You can never be too rich or too thin” – and other email scams
Some consumers are attracted to “get rich” and “get thin” offers, and unfortunately an age-old diet scam has surfaced again, targeting consumers with spam emails. When an unwitting consumer signs up for the “self-improvement” deal, that individual agrees to recurring billing for the proposed service. It pays to read and re-read the fine print to avoid a billing trap.
3. Counterfeit money orders
Fake money orders are frequently used for online purchases from websites like Craigslist. The problem is that high-quality counterfeit money orders are hard to distinguish from the real thing. It is suggested that before you exchange goods or services involving money orders that you at least require them to be US Postal Service money orders so that your local post office can help to verify them upon presentment.
4. “MSN” help desk fraud
This form of fraud is usually directed at the elderly. A criminal calls an unsuspecting consumer and warns that his or her PC – however seldom used – is riddled with viruses.
The fake technician offers to assist, and then dispatches the victim to a local big box store to buy prepaid gift cards which are given as payment for the tech support services. If you find yourself involved with similar circumstances you should refrain from purchasing gift cards or sending wire transfers. This scam is always fake. There are wonderful resources available from AARP’s Fraud Watch Network including scam alerts that are delivered directly to your email or phone.
5. Card cracking
This rip-off scheme typically victimizes younger consumers. A fraudster reaches out to a young person via social media and convinces the potential victim that they can both benefit by helping each other out – with the young account holder receiving a small sum – $100 or so – as compensation for cooperating with the fraudster.
The victim then gives the criminal access to his or her online banking credentials, so the criminal can deposit counterfeit checks into the account.
The fraudster also typically requires the usage of the account holder’s debit card and, in some cases, accompanies the co-conspirator to an ATM to perform withdrawals against the counterfeit checks that have been deposited. This is especially troubling if the account holder is a minor in the company of an adult criminal. Don’t be drawn into this scam by any means. Call your local police and ask them to help you with a suspected card cracking scenario.
6. Direct mail scams
Bogus – but official-looking – letters are delivered every day to random consumers with stern requests for social security numbers and other personally identifiable information.
Some of these letters are printed on what looks like big bank letterhead and, in all cases, there is at least one “official looking” hard-copy form that the consumer is asked to fill out and return. There is never a moment that your credit card issuer, credit bureau or financial institution will ever make a legitimate request for this information. If you question something you receive in the mail call your financial institution directly or visit your local branch. Don’t forget to take along a copy of the suspected scam documents.
7. What should you do if you believe you’ve been scammed?
The most important things that every consumer needs to do are monitor for unusual transactions on their individual credit card and checking accounts, followed by reporting any unusual transactions directly to the card issuer. If you suspect that someone is impersonating your financial institution or credit card issuer it is essential that you remain calm and contact the correct corporate customer service number to verify whether you are being victimized.
Many card issuers today offer online card alerts that deliver warnings to the card issuer when anomalous activity occurs and quite a few card issuers also offer card controls that enable the cardholder to literally turn their payment cards on and off at will.
If you stay vigilant, it can help you avoid being a victim of fraud. An informed consumer is an empowered one!
What is Identity Theft?
Identity theft happens when someone uses your personal information to steal your money and credit. This type of crime can ruin your credit and affect your ability to get insurance, mortgages, and even a job.
How can I protect myself from identity theft?
You can help protect yourself against identity theft with these tips:
- Do not give out personal information such as your account or credit card numbers over the phone unless you’re the one making the call.
- Report lost or stolen checks immediately, properly store cancelled checks, and examine new check orders to verify that no checks are missing.
- Destroy all credit card applications, financial documents, statements, and receipts before discarding them.
- Guard your ATM PIN. Don’t write it down anywhere.
- Make sure your mailbox is secure, and collect mail promptly as it’s delivered. If a locked mailbox isn’t available where you live, consider having bank statements & other important documents delivered to a P.O. box.
- Contact a credit-reporting agency annually to review your credit status and files. If you have minor children, check their credit reports too.
- Never click on links in emails that ask you to “update” or “verify” your account information.
- Never have your Social Security and driver license numbers printed on your checks.
- When shopping online, only buy from secure websites (web addresses should start with “https://” and should have a small lock icon next to the address in the browser window)
- Install good anti-virus software on your computer and keep it updated.
- Use strong passwords for your online banking and shopping accounts.
- Never carry your Social Security or Medicare card with you.
- Keep copies of all of your credit cards in a secure, locked drawer or safe in case your wallet is stolen.
Christian Community Credit Union will never send text messages, instant messages or email members asking them to provide and/or verify their Social Security Number, account number or personal identification information including passwords or Personal ID Number (PIN).
I think I've been a victim of fraud. What should I do?
If you have been a victim of this kind of fraud, or if you have mistakenly supplied confidential information to someone else, please contact us immediately at 800-347-CCCU (2228). We will take steps to protect you.
You should also contact:
- Your local Police Department
- The Social Security Fraud Hotline: 800.269.0271
- The FTC Identity Theft Hotline: 877.IDTHEFT (438.4338)
We have also compiled a list of other resources to help you recover from identity theft.
How can I protect my credit and debit cards from online fraud?
Visa Secure and MasterCard SecureCode give you peace of mind when you shop online. With Visa Secure and MasterCard SecureCode, you get an extra layer of security. It ensures you that only you can use your credit card online and also protects you from unauthorized purchases.