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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.

If you receive any suspicious communications or think you may have been a victim or fraud or identity theft, please contact Dupaco to alert us.

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.

What it might look like

  • 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.

How to see if a web address is valid

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.

How to see if a web address is valid

Learn more about how to tell if an email is legit.

A card skimming device is a piece of equipment fraudsters attach over card readers at ATMs or self-service payment kiosks at gas pumps, parking garages and elsewhere. Skimmers can also be installed inside the gas pump.

During the legitimate transaction, a card passes through the skimming device that illegally captures the card number. Criminals may also install a camera nearby to simultaneously record the cardholder’s PIN as it’s entered. Thieves then retrieve the card skimmer and the stolen card information.

How to spot a card skimmer

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.

Learn more about secret shopper scams

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.

Learn more about tax-related scams

Is the IRS really calling you?

How you can avoid Social Security 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.

Avoid charity scams while donating during disasters

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 Should you come across a counterfeit bill, report it to authorities immediately.

Scammers target older people, claiming to be a grandchild or an attorney representing a grandchild with an emergency need for cash.

The callers request money immediately to help pay for a crisis, like a car accident, medical emergency or even bail money.

Scammers might even say that a courier will show up at your home to pick up the funds. These “couriers” often work in groups, staying in the area for a couple of days before moving on.

Sometimes, the callers tell you to keep the conversation a secret, claiming there’s a gag order on the case.

How to avoid the scam

The Iowa Attorney General’s Office offers these tips to avoid this scam:

  • Set the privacy settings on your social media accounts so that only people you know can see your posts and photos.
  • Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer to verify the caller’s identity.
  • Don’t panic. Scam artists want to get you upset to distract you from spotting the ruse.
  • Resist the urge to act quickly or secretly. If someone’s asking for money right now using fear, excitement or sympathy, it’s probably a scam.
  • Call a genuine phone number for your grandchild, another trusted family member or friend to check out the story.
  • Don’t answer the door unless you know and trust the visitor.
  • Don’t give out personal information, cash, wire money or send a check or money order by overnight delivery or courier.
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