Criminals have many ways of tricking you into sharing your personal and financial information. Taking the time to understand their common scams can help protect you against fraud and identity theft.
Scams that use telephone systems to garner confidential identification information are called vishing scams. In vishing attacks crooks claim to be with legitimate financial institutions or other entities.
There have been recent reports of fraudsters identifying themselves as calling from the credit union. They are asking consumers to “verify” or “re-submit” personal information such as bank account and credit card numbers, Social Security Numbers, passwords, and personal identification numbers.
Phishing e-mail messages are designed to steal your identity. They ask for personal data, or direct you to websites or phone numbers where you’re asked to provide personal data.
In phishing, links that you are urged to click on within e-mail messages, on websites, or even in instant messages may contain all or part of a real company’s name and are usually masked, meaning that the link you see does not take you to that address but somewhere different, usually a fraudulent website.
- They might appear to come from your financial institution, or a company or website you regularly do business with, such as a social networking site.
- They might appear to be from someone you know. Spear phishing is a targeted form of phishing in which an e-mail message might look like it comes from your employer.
- They might ask you to make a phone call. Phone phishing scams direct you to call a customer support phone number. A person or an audio response unit waits to take your account number, personal identification number, password, or other valuable personal data. The phone phisher might claim that your account will be closed or other problems could occur if you don’t respond.
- They might include official-looking logos and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate websites, and they might include convincing details about your personal information that scammers found on your social networking pages.
- They might include links to spoofed websites where you are asked to enter personal information.
The following graphic shows how resting (but not clicking) the mouse pointer on the link reveals the real web address, as shown in the box with the yellow background. The string of cryptic numbers looks nothing like the company’s web address, which is a suspicious sign.
Secret Shopper Scams
Members have received official-looking letters in the mail informing them that they have been selected as secret shoppers. A fraudulent check for several thousand dollars is enclosed with each letter. The member is then asked to evaluate service, cash the check, keep several hundred dollars as compensation, and wire back the remaining proceeds. Fortunately, such checks were detected to be fraudulent when presented at the credit union.
Members are receiving calls and e-mails claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service. These fake IRS contacts are informing victims that in order to receive additional tax-stimulus rebates, they need to verify bank account information. Do not give out personal account information over the phone or via e-mail.
Lottery or Sweepstakes Scams
Unless you entered a lottery or bought a ticket to win a prize, these are scams. Be particularly wary if you receive a “winners” check in the mail with instructions to cash it and wire back some of the money to cover taxes on the winnings. The fraudulent check then bounces and you are out the wired money.
During peak times of charitable giving, such as during the holiday season, year end, or surrounding natural disasters, take caution when donating to charities and be aware of donation requests from fraudulent charitable organizations. To avoid falling prey to these types of scams, be cautious when giving online. Go directly to a reputable charity organization’s website rather than responding to an unsolicited email message.
If you receive paper money which looks suspicious, examine it carefully. Protect yourself by learning how to check the security features in current and previous designs of bills at uscurrency.gov. Should you come across a counterfeit bill, report it to authorities immediately.