Tag Archives: fraud prevention

10 Things You Can Do to Avoid Fraud

Crooks use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine new technology with old tricks to get people to send money or give out personal information. Here are some practical tips to help you stay a step ahead.

Spot imposters. Scammers often pretend to be someone you trust, like a government officiala family membera charity, or a company you do business with. Don’t send money or give out personal information in response to an unexpected request — whether it comes as a text, a phone call, or an email. 

Do online searches. Type a company or product name into your favorite search engine with words like “review,” “complaint” or “scam.” Or search for a phrase that describes your situation, like “IRS call.” You can even search for phone numbers to see if other people have reported them as scams.

Don’t believe your caller ID. Technology makes it easy for scammers to fake caller ID information, so the name and number you see aren’t always real. If someone calls asking for money or personal information, hang up. If you think the caller might be telling the truth, call back to a number you know is genuine.

Don’t pay upfront for a promise. Someone might ask you to pay in advance for things like debt relief, credit and loan offers, mortgage assistance, or a job. They might even say you’ve won a prize, but first you have to pay taxes or fees. If you do, they will probably take the money and disappear.

Consider how you pay. Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t. Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back. That’s also true for reloadable cards (like MoneyPak or Reloadit) and gift cards (like iTunes or Google Play). Government offices and honest companies won’t require you to use these payment methods.

Talk to someone.  Before you give up your money or personal information, reach out to your credit union, a friend, or a family member talk to someone you trust. Con artists want you to make decisions in a hurry. They might even threaten you. Slow down, check out the story, do an online search, consult an expert — or just tell a friend.

Hang up on robocalls. If you answer the phone and hear a recorded sales pitch, hang up and report it to the FTC. These calls are illegal, and often the products are bogus. Don’t press 1 to speak to a person or to be taken off the list. That could lead to more calls.

Be skeptical about free trial offers. Some companies use free trials to sign you up for products and bill you every month until you cancel. Before you agree to a free trial, research the company and read the cancellation policy. And always review your monthly statements for charges you don’t recognize.

Don’t deposit a check and wire money back. By law, banks must make funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. If a check you deposit turns out to be a fake, you’re responsible for repaying the bank.

Sign up for free scam alerts from the FTC at ftc.gov/scamsGet the latest tips and advice about scams sent right to your inbox.

If you spot a scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint. Your reports help the FTC and other law enforcement investigate scams and bring crooks to justice.

From our friends at the Federal Trade Commission


Questions about how to protect your USAgencies accounts from fraud? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 4, visit Account Security page, or head into our branch on the corner of 1st and Taylor in Downtown Portland. 

Social Security Number Scams – On the Rise

Have you received a call or voicemail from someone warning that your Social Security number or benefits are suspended due to suspicious activity? Scammers are hoping you’ll be scared into believing their claims. They usually ask you to confirm your Social Security number and pay money to “reactivate” your number, protect it, or restore your benefits.

Social Security scams now outnumber other types of scams, including Internal Revenue Service (IRS) scams, which were formerly the most common. Pretending to be a representative of the government is a common way for fraudsters to trick people into giving up their money or personal information. Knowing how to tell the difference between a scammer and a genuine call from the federal government is important.

Here are the facts:

  • The government will not threaten to take away benefits or ask for money or personal information to protect your Social Security card or benefits.
  • Scammers can fake your caller ID, so don’t be fooled if the call seems to be from the Social Security Administration’s (SSA’s) real phone number or the SSA Inspector General’s Fraud Hotline number. You can always call the Social Security Administration directly at (800) 772-1213 to find out if they are really trying to reach you.
  • If someone calls you asking for your Social Security number, bank account number, or credit card information, hang up.

Spread the word about Social Security scams and report them

We worked with the Social Security Administration and the Federal Trade Commission to create a new fraud prevention placemat to help you avoid Social Security scams. You can order free copies  of the placemat to use at a meal site, or to share with friends and family. The placemat is in English on one side and Spanish on the other side.

Talk about it! You may have heard of IRS scams or other types of scams targeting government benefits, but Social Security scams haven’t been as common until recently. Share the message with others to make them aware of this type of scam.

Report Social Security scams to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov/complaint and to the SSA Office of Inspector General Fraud Hotline at (800) 269-0271 or oig.ssa.gov/report.

Brought to you by our friends at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau


Questions about your accounts? Connect with us online or via telephone at 503-275-0300 Option 4. We are here to help!

4 Tips for Preventing Identity Theft During the Holiday

With the help from our friends at cuinsight.com

Some people love taking what doesn’t belong to them. During the holidays this year, be extra careful to make sure that you’re keeping your finances safe from questionable individuals. Here are four tips for protecting your identity during the holiday season.

1. Keep an eye on your credit report. If checking your credit report isn’t something you do regularly, you should change that. If a thief opens an account in your name, this will be an easy red flag to detect. Although it may be a hassle, there are a few sites that provide free credit reports. Do some research and find the one that best suits your needs.

2. Don’t toss it, shred it. When you take your garbage out each week, make sure you are not throwing away that a fraudster could find valuable. Anything that contains account numbers, banking information, or social security numbers would be highly desirable to a thief. Make sure you anything you are not sure of gets put in a shredder before the trash can. Don’t have a shredder? We provide a secure and free shred bin in the lobby of USAgencies Credit Union for all our members! Bring your shred down during business hours, and we are happy to help you safely dispose of documents.

3.Be cautious online. Cybercriminals can get your information a few ways, one of which is phishing. Phishing is when cybercriminals defraud you of sensitive information by posing as a legitimate company that you trust. Don’t click a link in an email that is asking you for personal information. Anything that looks fishy should be verified with the company first. Also, make sure you are not doing sensitive activities like logging into your credit union account from a coffee shop’s unsecured Wi-Fi. Stay up to date with current Fraud Schemes by visiting our dedicated page on our website, designed to keep our members aware.

4.Update your passwords. Password is not a password. Winter123 isn’t either. It is time to make better passwords. Think of a phrase or question like, “How long would it take me to walk 500 miles?” Then use the initials, symbols, and numbers to create your password. That would look like this :”Hlwittw500m?” No one can guess that one. According to howsecureismypassword.net, it would take a computer 63 Thousand years to crack that password.


Questions? Connect with us at 503.275.0300 option 3 or visit us at www.usacu.org

Letter from the CEO: Check Scams

Great news! You just received a letter stating that you won a cash prize- and the check to cover the taxes for the prize is included. Now all you need to do is deposit the check and wire the extra funds back to the sender. When they get the payment, you get the full cash prize.

Sounds too good to be true, right?
That’s because it is.

This is an example of a fake check scam. And, unfortunately, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that these types of scams are on the rise. If you were to deposit the check and wire the money, you could potentially be out hundreds of dollars–or more. Typically, the money you wired can’t be retrieved, leaving you responsible for reimbursing the funds.

Counterfeit or fake checks are being used in a growing number of schemes. My son was recently targeted in a rather creative way when he answered an online employment ad. He Skyped with someone who said they were an artist and needed an assistant. My son said he researched the person online and he appeared to be legitimate. The “artist” (con artist, maybe?) sent him a cashier’s check for $2,490 to purchase a computer/scanner/etc. and said he’d be in contact. When my son told the “artist” he was going to wait until the check cleared, he was never contacted by him again… and the check bounced two weeks later. If he’d followed through with the scammer’s instructions, he could have been liable for almost $2,500!

Although our staff are always on the lookout for fraudulent checks or unusual activity, they can’t always determine when a check isn’t legitimate. When you deposit a check, we are required by federal law to make the money available long before we can be certain the check is valid. Best advice: if you get a check from an unknown or questionable source, don’t use the funds for at least two weeks.

Here are some other steps the FTC suggests you take to avoid counterfeit check scams:

  • Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. If it’s free or a gift, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Free is free.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It’s illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail or the telephone, and most foreign lottery solicitations are phony.
  • Know who you’re dealing with, and never wire money to strangers.
  • If you’re selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check. Don’t send the merchandise.
  • As a seller, you can suggest an alternative way for the buyer to pay, like an escrow service or online payment service. There may be a charge for an escrow service. If the buyer insists on using a particular escrow or online payment service you’ve never heard of, check it out. Visit its website, and read its terms of agreement and privacy policy. Call the customer service line. If there isn’t one — or if you call and can’t get answers about the service’s reliability — don’t use the service.
  • If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that’s not possible, call the bank where the check was purchased, and ask if it is valid. Get the bank’s phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the check or from the person who gave you the check.
  • If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers don’t pressure you to send money by wire transfer services. In addition, you have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction.
  • Resist any pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.

If you think you or someone you know was the victim of a fake check scam, please consider taking the following steps:

  • Contact your financial institution.
  • Contact your local law enforcement.
  • Contact your state’s attorney general.
  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission to file a complaint.
  • If you or the victim is an older adult or a person with a disability, contact your local adult protective services agency – you may find local resources via the Eldercare Locator or by calling 1-800-677-1116.

Jim Lumpkin, President/CEO, USACU
Jim Lumpkin
President/CEO
USAgencies Credit Union

Protect Yourself: Tax Scams

It’s tax season. Unfortunately, that also means it’s tax scam season too.

It’s important that you’re aware of the various ways scammers may attempt to steal info and money, so that you can better avoid becoming a victim. The more informed you are about tax scams, the better you’ll be at spotting, and stopping, fraudsters.

What do tax scams look like?

  • The scammer usually presents themselves as an employee of the IRS or State in a call/email to the targeted individual, falsely stating they want to “help” with tax filing.
  • Typically, this type of tax scam involves an unsolicited, bogus email regarding a tax refund or bill, or threatening an audit if the bill is not paid right away.
  • Tax scam emails often look very official, and can link to a phony website – in order to appear to be more legit.

How can you protect yourself against tax scams?

If you get an email regarding federal or state taxes:

  • Don’t reply to the message.
  • Don’t give out personal or financial information.
  • Forward the email to phishing@irs.gov and then delete it.
  • Don’t open attachments or click on links, as they may contain malicious code or viruses.
  • For tax scams involving a state’s filing office, check the office’s website to see how they recommend reporting an attempted attack.

If you get a call regarding federal or state taxes:

  • Ask for a contact number and an employee badge number and then call back to verify its legitimacy.
  • Call the IRS or state tax authority to inquire further and verify the accuracy of the call.
  • Contact the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration. Use TIGTA’s IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting web page to report the incident.
  • Report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission through the FTC Complaint Assistant on their website (add “IRS Telephone Scam” to the comments section).

In general, it’s a best practice to be extremely critical of ANY emails or phone calls you get from someone claiming to be an employee of the IRS or state tax authority, especially those that demand immediate payment. These governing bodies will NEVER:

  • Initiate contact with you by phone, email, text, or through social media outlets to ask for your personal or financial information.
  • Require that you pay your taxes with a certain payment type, such as a prepaid debit card.
  • Call you and demand immediate payment. The IRS or State will not call about taxes you owe without first mailing you a bill.


For more in depth information on how to detect or report tax scams, visit https://www.irs.gov/uac/tax-scams-consumer-alerts.

For more online security resources from USACU, check out the Security tab on our site.

Tips to Avoid Fraud This Holiday Season

From our friends at NCUA

While the holidays can be a time of celebration, they can also unfortunately be a time of higher rates of fraud. Here’s a list of tips to help you avoid becoming a victim this holiday season:

Stay Protected Online

  • Do not respond to unsolicited spam email.
  • Understand the risks of using unsecured or public wireless networks. If it’s open to the public, it’s possible that your personal information or your computer could be compromised.
  • Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
  • When shopping online look for the padlock. Secured websites will have an icon of a locked padlock that appears, typically in the status bar at the bottom of your web browser, or right next to the URL in the address bar, depending on the internet browser you use. Don’t enter your personal or credit card information into a website if that icon isn’t present.
  • Never put your credit card information in an email.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email.
  • Always compare the link in the e-mail to the web address link you are directed to and determine if they match.
  • Log directly onto the official website for the business identified in the e-mail, instead of linking to it from an unsolicited e-mail.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.
  • If your members are asked to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get their victims to act quickly.
  • Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them directly using their main contact information.
  • If you see something, say something. Report possible cybercrime to the FBI through the Internet Crime Complaint Center. Go to https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

Package Delivery Scam

  • If you receive an email with the subject line reading “USPS Failed Delivery Notification,” or something similar, do not open it. The emails claim to be from the Postal Service and contain fraudulent information about an attempted or intercepted package delivery.
  • Clicking on the link activates a virus, which can steal personal information such as user names, passwords or financial account information. These emails look almost identical to official notifications from the real shippers by using legitimate-looking email addresses and even the official logos.
  • This scam is not limited to the USPS. Similar email and text scams are also circulating that appear to be from other shipping companies such as UPS and FedEx.

Using Public Wi-Fi

  • Using your laptop, tablet or smartphone at Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities and other public places is convenient, but often they’re not secure. If you connect to a Wi-Fi network, and send information through websites or mobile apps, it might be accessed by someone else. The bad guys are there too, shopping for your information.
  • One way scammers obtain your information is by putting out a Wi-Fi signal that looks just like a complimentary one. Choose the wrong Wi-Fi and the hacker now sits in the middle and steals your personal or financial information. When you use a Wi-Fi connection in a public place, it is better not to use your credit card.
  • To protect your information when using wireless hotspots, send information only to sites that are fully encrypted, and avoid using mobile apps that require personal or financial information.

Online Gift Card Scams

  • Gift cards purchased through online auction sites are often fraudulent or stolen. The safest way to purchase gift cards is directly from the merchant or retail store.

Stripped Gift Card Scams

  • You should also be careful when purchasing gift cards at retail stores, as well. Thieves can write down the code or use a device to scan the magnetic strip on the back of gift cards that are available on racks. Every few days, the thief will check the balance and redeem the card’s value online without the gift recipient’s knowledge.
  • When buying a pre-loaded card, always have the cashier scan the card to verify that the full amount is available.
  • Also, check to make sure that the packaging hasn’t been tampered with or damaged. This may be a sign that the gift card has been compromised, or replaced with a stripped gift card. If possible, register gift cards with the retailer for additional protection if it’s lost or stolen.

Charity Scams

  • The holidays are a time of giving. Before giving to a charity, take a look at two websites from the Federal Trade Commission on the warning signs of charity scams:
  • Also, the Internal Revenue Service has a search feature on its website that allows consumers to find legitimate, qualified charities to donate to. To learn more, visit http://go.usa.gov/cZrTF.

 


 

For additional info and resources on keeping your personal information safe, visit USACU.org/fraud

Going Somewhere this Summer? Use your Cards with Confidence

USAgencies Credit Union is looking out for you in the fight against fraud.

Nearly 60 percent of Americans are taking a vacation trip this summer. Whether you plan a white water rafting trip close to home, or a Caribbean cruise, you can use your credit and debit cards with confidence.

As your financial services partner, USAgencies Credit Union is looking out for you. One of the ways we do that is by offering monitoring systems that help you track your card use. You can easily set up email or text alerts to notify you of transactions, deposits and other activity on your account. Report any suspicious activity to us immediately so we can help to protect you and stop the fraud.

We offer the new EMV chip cards. They provide you with an extra layer of security because every time you buy something, the chip card creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. There are some things you should be aware of when it comes to EMV cards. For example, if the merchant doesn’t have a chip reader then you have to swipe the card. If you are buying something online, of course, there is no chip reader. That’s why we recommend that you monitor your card activity and alerts.

When you travel, remember the convenience of the CO-OP ATM Network which gives you access to thousands of ATMs where you won’t pay a fee.

Unfortunately, thieves can place “skimming” devices on ATMs to steal your card and PIN numbers, so they can make fake cards and steal your money. Look for anything unusual near the speakers and beside the screen. Pull or twist on the device where you insert your card to make sure it’s secure. If it is loose, there may be a skimming device inside. If you find a  skimming device has been attached, don’t use the ATM – call police immediately.

When you’re entering your PIN number, use your other hand to shield the number from anyone who may be watching. Know that your PIN can be stolen in other ways too. There is a heat signature left on non-metal keypads for several minutes after you use it. Infrared cameras installed on Smartphones can be used to measure this heat signature and obtain your PIN. Stop this fraud by resting your fingers on other keys while typing in your PIN.

One of the things we do to prevent fraud is to keep our eyes open for any unusual use of your cards. For example, if you normally only use it locally and all of a sudden charges occur at a European resort, that could indicate suspicious activity. For your protection in that case, we might block further transactions from your card and try to contact you. You can avoid that inconvenience by letting us know when and where you’ll be traveling.

Take your receipts with you—never leave them at the counter or in your shopping bag. They might contain information helpful to thieves.

In case you do have to report fraud or suspicious activity, make a list of cards and account numbers, but keep it in a secure place instead of in your wallet. This list will help to stop fraud as quickly as possible.

If you fear you may have lost your card, but you’re not sure, contact us as soon as possible. We have the ability to put a “soft block” on your card while you look. This ensures that no one could find your card and use it while you look. If you did indeed lose the card, let us know and we’ll block it and issue you a new card number.*

If you suspect your card has been stolen, we are here to help. If you report suspicious activity to us we will stop further use of the impacted card, replace it and issue a new card number at no cost to you.

Don’t get burned this summer; Take these small easy steps to protect yourself from fraudsters… and don’t forget that sunscreen!

 

*There is a fee associated with lost cards.