Identity Theft and Scams
In this day and age of technology, scams are becoming more rampant than ever. Have you ever heard the old saying "if something is too good to be true, it probably is"? This statement is especially true as criminals use their tactics to lure victims online. With proper discretion and your guard up, you can prevent yourself from being taken advantage of by both traditional and cyber criminals.
What is identity theft?
Identity theft occurs when someone uses the personal information of another individual to obtain credit or run up bills in that name instead of their own. Criminals will do anything to get your personal information so that they can illegally use your identity to get credit cards and even use medical services and leave you with the bill. That is why it is very important to safeguard your personal information, especially your social security number. Checking your credit report annually will alert you to any identity theft. If you have been or think you are a victim, please stop in or give us a call for further assistance.
What are some common scams?
One of the most common scams that we see happens when a member receives a fake check in the mail, often times with the instruction to cash the check and to send back a portion of the money via Western Union. When the fake check comes back bad, the member is now out that money as they owe it to the credit union. There are many variations to this scam, ranging from fake lotteries to pleas from Nigerian princes needing help. These checks can range from being blatantly fake to highly detailed and difficult to detect. For this reason, your teller may ask you questions about how you received your check, and if appropriate, turn it away or place an extended hold on the funds. This is nothing personal; we are merely protecting you from having to pay us back a large sum of money.
More and more scams are occuring with fake emails and phone calls from criminals pretending to be a financial institution. These criminals will ask to confirm personal information, including account numbers and debit card numbers, and then proceed to use this information to scam the victim. Always be extra cautious when dealing with such phone calls. Be alert: If something doesn't make sense to you, it may be best to hang up the call without giving out information.
What are some common cyber scams?
Cyber criminals are always coming up with new scams to trick you into giving out your information. Sometimes a criminal might call you posing as an employee of one of your creditors and ask you to reveal your information. Many criminals online send out imposter emails to groups of people in the hopes of getting some of those people to visit a harmful website link or send them their personal information. This is known as "phishing". You can prevent phishing by never giving out your personal information or following links from such emails.
Traditional scams can also happen online. Often times, a scammer will send a person a fake check or money order and ask the seller to cash that check and send it back to them, much like the earlier scam mentioned above. Always be cautious when selling anything on the internet.
At times, New Dimensions FCU may call you for legitimate purposes. We will never ask you for your debit card or account numbers. If you do not feel comfortable with the phone call, you can call us back with our phone number to be certain you are speaking with your credit union.
What resources are available to consumers?
NCUA recently published the following information regarding Identity Theft and the resources available to consumers:
“With the broad reach of the internet, we live in a world where personal information about everyone’s identity and finances is potentially vulnerable to thieves and crooks,” NCUA Board Chairman Debbie Matz said. “As part of NCUA’s overall commitment to consumer education and financial literacy, we want to help credit union members understand what they can do to prevent theft or where to get help when cyber fraudsters strike.”
More than 16 million Americans were victims of identity theft in 2012, the most recent year for which data are available, and the losses topped $24 billion.
Tax time is open season for identity thieves, and the Internal Revenue Service itself can be a target. IRS estimated it paid more than $5 billion in fraudulent tax refunds in 2013 while preventing another $24 billion in losses when it was able to detect fraud.
In conjunction with the Federal Trade Commission’s Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, NCUA has added a new page to its consumer site, MyCreditUnion.gov, with useful information about preventing or reporting identity theft that may be perpetrated using fake contacts that appear to be IRS requests for taxpayer information. Credit unions are encouraged to share this information with their members during the week, which runs Jan. 26 to 30.
MyCreditUnion.gov has several resources to help credit union members understand and prevent identity theft as well as frauds and scams generally. The agency also has videos on fighting frauds and scams on its YouTube channel.