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Protect Yourself Against Scams

Protect Yourself Against Scams

As your Credit Union, it is our responsibility to help you protect your financial assets and maintain the confidentiality of your personal information.

But take note: Teens and younger members can be special targets of unscrupulous individuals.

Mobile is now the top source for fraud. 60% of overall fraud originates from a mobile device according to Website magazine.

Look carefully at some of the following schemes, frauds and scams so you do not fall for any of them. Be aware that they are out there. Awareness and education are your best protection.

Do you recognize any of the following schemes and scams? Perhaps you yourself or a friend have been approached or even involved of one of these schemes.

Here are some of the more common schemes to separate you from your money, or to take your identity.

Free smartphone add ons scam

Many of us regularly use our smartphones not only for calls, but for messaging, internet access, gaming, viewing videos, social media, email, music and more. We personalize our devices to make them the most efficient for the different ways we use them.

Some companies target teens with free images, music, ring tones, games and program downloads. The problem is that these images, ringtones, games, programs and music can come with malware and viruses that can steal your identity, collect your personal bank information, or even charge your credit card if it is loaded into your phone to make your life miserable.

Also, beware if a free game asks you for too much personal information to play.

Or while these additions might be free and safe to download, they might not be free to use. Unanticipated new fees may suddenly appear on your phone bill each month. Or you might be billed separately.

Solution: Make sure to only download images, programs and other add ons from reputable companies (iTunes, Google Play, etc.). Also check to make sure there are no usage fees associated with the free download.

PopUps indicating the presence of a virus scheme

Occasionally when visiting a site on your smartphone, a popup may appear announcing that a virus has been detected. The message appears to be coming from your security settings. The message states that you need to click on the popped up button to remove the virus.

The scheme is that the visited website itself has actually produced the popup, and clicking the button will actually give your phone permission to install a virus on your phone, rather than removing it. The virus can then monitor all your keystrokes, including those when you enter your user name and password into accounts or perhaps steal personal information you have stored on your phone for use in further scams.

Solution: Never click on a button to remove a virus when visiting a site or when you did not initiate the scan. Simply click out of/close the page, or turn your phone/computer off. Many anti virus/anti-spam software applications now have mobile versions for greater protection.

Facebook "friending" scams

You receive a "friend" request from a friend. The request has a picture of your friend. All you need to do is to "confirm" their friendship request. The problem is that you are already their friend.

Fraudsters sometime create fake accounts with a picture from your friend's actual Facebook account. When you click the "confirm" button, the fraudster can now gain more private information from your personal Facebook settings since they now have access to it as a "friend." They might be able to use that information for illegal gains somewhere else.

Solution: If you detect something is wrong with the friend request, check your friends list. Fraudster Facebook friend requests usually have far less common friends than their actual Facebook page. Notify your friend if you receive the request. Facebook has provisions in place to quickly remove the fraudulent page.

Email phishing scams

You receive an email from a friend. It contains a general greeting, and a link to a strange sounding website with a message that would encourage you to click on the email link. It is different than any of the messages that you have received from your friend in the past.

Be aware. Your friend's email account has been hacked. Clicking on a link in an email from a source that you do not legitimately know could install malicious spyware on your computer.

Solution: Don't click on the link. Notify your friend that you received a message from them that could indicate their email has been hacked. Their solution: No need to close their account and change their email. Have them change their password and their security questions. Those are the only two ways a hacker can gain access to their email account.

The scam could also include apparent emails from your bank, PayPal, IRS, or other recognizable companies that are actually from scam artists. They ask you to verify information by clicking on a link which takes you to a look-a-like site. There scammers harvest information that you key in such as your user name and password. They may also ask you for additional information such as credit card numbers and/or your social security number, or other private information.

Legitimate companies do not solicit information by email just because of schemers and hackers.

Luxury/designer goods at inexpensive prices scam

You can't believe it. You've found that iPhone, iPad, prom dress, electronic gadget, or designer clothes item at a fraction of the price that other retailers are selling it for. It's too good to be true.

Too often it is! The inexpensive merchandise may not exist in the first place. Or if it does, the products are fake in these "discount" online stores.

So when an order is placed and paid for, the merchandize might never arrives. Or if it does arrive, it is a much cheaper version of what you thought you had purchased.

Solution: only purchase from reputable dealers. Name Brands rarely authorize "discount" stores to sell their merchandise.

Account verification over the phone scam

You get a call from an unknown number from a person asking you to verify information on one of your accounts. Chances are it is a scam. Scammers often call and read back some information that they have about you with the purpose of getting you to say "yes." They then can claim that you approved a charge.

As a result, an additional charge may appear on one of your present bills or from some other source.

Legitimate companies don't call their customers to "verify" information that they already have about you. If they do need to verify some information, it will be mailed to you to prevent fraudsters from stealing your information.

Learn more from the FTC on Phone Scams.

High profit money transfers for little work scam

These schemes often come in the form of an email where a high official from a foreign country needs your help to transfer money into the US. As a result, you'll receive a cut of the money transfer.

The scam occurs because you'll need to pay a fee initially before you receive your cut. One fee leads to another fee until the schemer drains you of as much as they can. When they do, they disappear.

Contests and competitions scams

The scheme begins often as a literary or art competition where you are asked to submit your work in a contest..

Not surprisingly, your entry has been selected to be included in a book or other publication. The schemers make their money by offering the publication to you for purchase for a special inflated price.

There are also competitions where the chances of winning are virtually zero. Scammers focus on gathering personal information that they can use as a means to identity theft. Avoid any contests unless it is from a well-known and trusted entity.

Online auction scams

There are several variations in auction scams that target teens and young adults. One variation occurs when an unsuspecting teen places a bid on a desired item at a much reduced price over retail. And they win!

However, when the unsuspecting winner makes a payment for the item, it never arrives.

A second variation occurs when an unsuspecting teen places an item on a bogus site for auction. The winning bidder suggests that the check/payment is on the way and urges the teen to send the item anyway. The payments never arrive and the teen has lost their merchandize.

Solution: only use reputable auction sites (such as eBay) and make payments in a manner that minimizes fraud such as payment by PayPal or by using a credit card with fraud prevention.

Summer jobs/employment scams

Part time and summer job employment scams target teens who seek limited employment opportunities. A sure signs of an employment scam is the requirement of money up front in exchange for job leads. Another sign is the the promise of a salary that is out of line with the experience and skills of the teen.

Solution: If you suspect a scam, check out the employer's website. Google the employer's website with the word "scam" and see if any results surface. You can also check the business out at the Better Business Bureau website.

Bogus scholarship or college funding

Schemes often trick you to send personal information such as bank account and/or credit card information. Scholarship or college funding schemes entice you to send this personal information in order to secure scholarships from sources that are not generally known to others.

Solution: check with your guidance counselor on how to determine whether an offer is legitimate or not.

Talent agencies and modeling scams

There are legitimate talent and modeling agencies. But scheming, bogus agencies seek up front money, require payments to purchase photos/headshots, a fee for them to act as their agent, or expensive modeling or acting lessons.

Solution: The Federal Trade Commission gives specific information on how to recognize modeling scams.

Instagram scams

Because of the popularity of Instagram among teens, some scammers place links in the comments section of some celebrities. Unsuspecting teens click on these links and are taken to sites with get-rich-quick schemes or other scams unknowingly.

These are so common that this type of scam is called an "Instascam."

Solution: Be aware that comments and links associated with celebrities on Instagram or other social media outlets are not necessarily endorsed by the celebrity or entity themself.

Callback scams

You get a call from some number that you don't recognize on your smartphone. The scammer hopes that curiosity will prevail and that you'll call back the number.

However, the area code is not from mainland USA. It's from the Caribbean or some other area, which your phone plan doesn't cover for free long distance. As a result, you can be charged an exorbitant per minute amount due to international calling rates.

Solution: As a matter of practice, never answer the phone from a number that you do not recognize. If it is important, they will leave a message. If it is not important, such as a sales call, you won't receive a message. Only answer or make calls from/to recognized numbers.

Prize winning scams

The scheme starts out stating you have won a lottery or a contest that you did not enter. You get a letter with a description of the prize. All you will need to do is to fill out a form with a handling fee to receive your award.

The form often asks you for personal information. Often you will need to send them money in order to process your award. When you fill in the form and/or send the required amount, it will be the last time you hear from them for they have scammed you for the information/money they want.

The scam may require you to fill out some personal information or provide bank routing information in the event you win so they will know where to send the money. Any lottery or contest that asks you for personal/banking information or an admission fee is a scam.

Solution: Companies and individuals are not going to award you prizes for contests you did not enter. Nor will they require personal/banking information in order to enter. These scams are not looking to award you. They are looking for information from which they can steal your identity or money.

So . . . take these protective measures

  • DO have updated anti virus and anti spamming software loaded to your PCs/Macs and Smartphone.
  • DO have the latest versions of your browser installed. Google Chrome and Firefox can automatically download the latest version. However, Internet Explorer updates must be manually installed.
  • DON'T do financial transactions over a public network since hackers may intercept your information. Starbucks is NOT a secure network.
  • DON'T give your credit card, bank, Social Security numbers or other information over the phone unless you initiated the phone call.
  • DO open and read all financial statements and bills as soon as you get them and look at transaction activity.
  • DO GET A COPY of your credit report and check for fraudulent activity at least once a year.

Resource links