Fraud Alert Center
Be safe. Be aware. Be vigilant.
Knowing how to identify a scam or fraud is the first step in protecting yourself from becoming a victim. A good rule of thumb is that if it seems too-good-to-be-true, odd or out of place, it likely is.
It is never wrong to reach out to verify the authenticity of a request. In fact, we always welcome those kinds of calls or emails, and we are certain that other businesses do as well!
With COVID-19 and the increase in online and mobile transactions, scam artists have been hard at work developing new schemes. They steal billions of dollars each year using text messages, email, phone call and more to “trick” consumers into giving up information.
Some common things to be on alert for:
Every day, thousands of Americans receive calls, text messages, and emails from scammers pretending to be a bank or credit union. Depending on how much information the scammers have been able to find about the consumer, they may even pose as the consumer’s actual bank or credit union. In order to gain access to your accounts, the scammers need certain information from you. Luckily, this information is standardized across the financial industry as information that banks do not ask for including your account number, social security number, PIN number, or online banking password. If you receive a call like this, hang up and call the bank or credit union at the number listed on their website, not the number you received a call from.
If you receive an email or other message from White Crown Federal Credit Union stating that your online banking access is locked, contact us. This may be a fraudulent message. We always welcome these kinds of calls! And if you have provided any sort of information, call us even if it’s after the fact, so we can secure your accounts.
A dangerous type of email scam is called spear phishing, and it is becoming more and more common as thieves gain access to information online and via social media.
In a spear phishing scam, criminals target specific individuals via email to obtain information they can use to steal money. Often these emails look to be from a coworker, boss, friend or family member, but something seems a little “off”.
In these cases, the scammer will have done some research, including reviewing a company’s website, or any public social media information to get the name and title of both the target and the sender they plan to impersonate, as well as other information to help make the email seem more authentic.
Often they will ask for money or to click on a link or open a file. However, there are some tips to identify these types of scams:
- Always check the email address next to the name of the sender to verify that it’s correct.
- If you receive an email that looks like it’s from someone you know, does the phrasing, tone, or request seem out of character? Does the email look like others they have sent you? If anything seems off, pick up the phone and call them to verify the request or start a new email to them at their correct email address to verify.
- Check for misspellings and grammatical errors. Spear phishing emails are commonly known for poor grammar and spelling.
Be mindful of calls from random numbers claiming to have frozen your social security number, will shut off your electricity, or that the IRS is looking to collect money from you. A good rule of thumb is to not answer unfamiliar numbers, or to use a spam blocker if available from your wireless company.
A common scam is for a scammer to target an unsuspecting consumer by paying with a cashier’s check, normally a very trusted document. However the scammer will pass the cashier’s check for more than the agreed upon amount, and then asks the victim to send them back the difference, perhaps by cash, in gift cards, or by wire transfer.
Unfortunately the cashier’s check then is returned for insufficient funds, or deemed fraudulent, and the consumer has suffered financial loss.
Even the most cautious consumers can fall victim to cashier’s check fraud. If you find yourself in such an unfortunate situation, report the crime immediately to the following:
- The financial institution where you deposited the check
- The financial institution that supposedly issued the check
- The website or service where you encountered the scammer
Scammers have taken to using mobile devices more and more to steal and access personal data. A scam growing in popularity involves receiving a text message claiming to have found a UPS, FedEx or Amazon package, and asking you to click a link to claim it. This is a phishing scam, put in place to steal and access your personal information via the link.
Another text message scam, popular in Colorado, indicates that you need to click a link In order to take this required test by the federal government. The scammers use words like “mandatory” and “federal government” to scare you. Upon clicking the link, you are asked for personal information that the scammers will use for no good.
If you receive a text message like this, ignore and delete it.
Scammers sometimes pretend to be government officials to get you to send them money. They might promise lottery winnings if you pay “taxes” or other fees, or they might threaten you with arrest or a lawsuit if you don’t pay a supposed debt. Regardless of their tactics, their goal is the same: to get you to send them money.
Don’t do it. Federal government agencies and federal employees don’t ask people to send money for prizes or unpaid loans. Nor are they permitted to ask you to wire money or add money to a prepaid debit card to pay for anything.
Before you get caught in this type of scam, look for indicators:
- You’ve “Won” a Lottery or Sweepstakes – Someone claiming to be a government official calls, telling you that you’ve won a federally supervised lottery or sweepstakes.
- You Owe a Fake Debt – You might get a call or an official-looking letter that has your correct name, address and Social Security number. Often, fake debt collectors say they’re with a law firm or a government agency — for example, the FTC, the IRS or a sheriff’s office. Then, they threaten to arrest you or take you to court if you don’t pay on a debt you supposedly owe.
Five Ways to Beat a Government Imposter Scam:
- Don’t wire money.
- Don’t pay for a prize.
- Don’t give the caller your financial or other personal information.
- Don’t trust a name or number.
- Put your number on the National Do Not Call Registry. Register your phone number at donotcall.gov.
Tech support scammers may call, unsolicited, and pretend to be a computer technician from a well-known company. They say they’ve found a problem with your computer and often ask you to give them remote access to your computer to pretend to run a diagnostic test. Then they try to make you pay to fix a problem that doesn’t exist, or worse things, such as accessing all of your personal data and passwords, or locking your device and rendering it unusable until a ransom is paid..
If you get a phone call you didn’t expect from someone who says there’s a problem with your computer, hang up.
Scammers may also try to lure you with a pop-up window that appears on your computer screen which may have spoofed logos from trusted companies or websites. The message in the window warns of a security issue on your computer and tells you to call a phone number to get help.
What to Do If You Were Scammed
- If you provided a scammer with a credit or debit card number contact your credit card company or financial institution right away and ask them to block the card.
- If you paid a tech support scammer with a gift card, contact the company that issued the card right away. Tell them you paid a scammer with the gift card and ask if they can refund your money.
- If you gave a scammer remote access to your computer, update your computer’s security software. Then run a scan and delete anything it identifies as a problem.
- If you gave your user name and password to a scammer, change your password right away. If you use the same password for other accounts or sites, change it there, too. Create a new password that is strong.
Cyber crime may involve tactics using ransomware, where criminals lock you out of your files until they receive a ransom, fraudulent websites, or links to harmful websites.
Protect yourself from a range of online crimes by taking these precautions:
- Back up your files regularly in case of loss of device.
- Create strong passwords and share them only when necessary.
- Don’t respond to spam e-mails.
- Download any files or attachments with caution.
- Do not click on links in an email unless you are certain what it is, and who it is from.
- If an email looks suspicious or seems out-of-character, don’t reply. Be sure to check the “from” address as scammers usually create a fake email address.
- Monitor your financial accounts online regularly for fraudulent activity.
- Don’t visit suspicious websites or follow links to sources you don’t trust.
- Protect your computer by using a firewall, as well as updated antivirus and antispyware software.
- Don’t share your personal information with sources you don’t trust, especially pop-ups.
- Have different passwords for work related and non-work related accounts.
- When you’re not using your computer, turn it off.
- Don’t give control of your computer to an unauthorized third party, including ones that call and tell you that there is something wrong with your computer.
If you think you may have been a victim, contact us immediately so we can secure your accounts.
Holiday Online Shopping Tips
Follow these tips for hassle-free online shopping especially during the holidays:
- Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name and there are many fraudulent online shops appearing all the time. If you have never heard of the shop, confirm the online seller’s physical address and phone number in case you have questions or problems. And if you get an email or pop-up message that asks for your financial information while you’re browsing, don’t reply or follow the link. Legitimate companies don’t ask for information that way.
- Read the seller’s description of the product closely, especially the fine print. Words like “refurbished,” “vintage,” or “close-out” may indicate that the product is in less-than-mint condition, while name-brand items with bargain basement prices could be counterfeits.
- Check out websites that offer price comparisons and then compare “apples to apples.” Factor shipping and handling into the total cost of your purchase. Do not send cash or money transfers under any circumstances.
- Can you return the item for a full refund if you’re not satisfied? If you return it, who pays the shipping costs or restocking fees, and when you will get your order? A Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rule requires sellers to ship items as promised or within 30 days after the order date if no specific date is promised. Many sites offer tracking options, so you can see exactly where your purchase is and estimate when you’ll get it.
If you pay by credit or charge card online, your transaction will be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act. Under this law, you can dispute charges under certain circumstances and temporarily withhold payment while the creditor investigates them. In the event that someone uses your credit card without your permission, your liability generally is limited to the first $50 in charges. Some companies guarantee that you won’t be held responsible for any unauthorized charges made to your card online; some cards provide additional warranty, return, and purchase protection benefits.
Print or save records of your online transactions, including the product description and price, the online receipt, and the emails you send and receive from the seller. Read your credit card statements as you receive them; be on the lookout for charges that you don’t recognize.
Don’t email any financial information.
Email is not a secure method of transmitting financial information like your credit card, checking account, or Social Security number. If you begin a transaction and need to give your financial information through an organization’s website, look for indicators that the site is secure, like a URL that begins https (the “s” stands for secure). Unfortunately, no indicator is foolproof; some fraudulent sites have forged security icons.
How to Report Online Shopping Fraud
If you have problems during a transaction, try to work them out directly with the seller, buyer, or site operator. If that doesn’t work, file a complaint with:
- Your financial institution
- The Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov/complaint
- The state Attorney General, using contact information at naag.org
- Your county or state consumer protection agency. Check the blue pages of the phone book under county and state government, or visit consumeraction.gov and look under “Where to File a Complaint.”
- The Better Business Bureau
Federal Trade Commission: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts
Bureau of Consumer Protection: https://www.ftc.gov/about-ftc/bureaus-offices/bureau-consumer-protection
Better Business Bureau serving Greater Denver & Central Colorado: https://www.bbb.org/local-bbb/bbb-of-denver-and-boulder
NCUA Fraud Prevention Center: https://www.mycreditunion.gov/fraud-prevention-center