Always be suspicious of financial requests.
Scammers will typically pose as an authority figure; i.e. government officials, loan officers, lottery officials, etc. Victims are usually led to believe that they owe money or are entitled to a large sum of cash and need to pay processing fees. Sometimes, those requests are for payments to be made in gift cards.
A great example would be the Jamaican Lottery Scam; A “winner” receives a call that they won the jackpot but fees need to be paid before the winnings can be disbursed. This is not possible, as only legal citizens can participate in each country’s lottery system.
While not a scam, it is important to be cautious when taking advantage of “free trials” of products/services requiring a credit or debit card to accept the offer. Consumers will often be charged after a “trial” period if the offer has not been cancelled. Make sure to read the fine print so you know what to expect.
TIP: Be wary of online romantic relationships where someone urges you to give them money or share your onling banking credentials. It may sound innocent, but the person might be trying to gain access to your accounts or credit cards.
Know the checks you’re cashing.
Thieves attempt to commit fraud by contacting a seller or buyer regarding an item for sale. This can happen if you are selling or buying an item or service.
A more common scam involves the “buyer” purchasing an item by sending a check for an amount larger than the sale price. The draft is usually a fraudulent certified check that looks real. Once you receive the check, the thief states that it was a clerical error and asks the seller to send back a check or wire funds for the difference. When the check is returned as fraudulent, the seller is now responsible for the overdraft fees and the full amount of the sent check.
While apps like CashApp or Facebook Pay seem like more secure alternatives to checks or cash, these services can also be used fraudulently. Be sure you really know who you are sending money to when using these kinds of apps.
TIP: Anytime you endorse the back of a check, you are stating that you believe the funds are available… keep that in mind when cashing checks from an unfamiliar source.
Be cautious when using the web.
Unsuspecting internet users can be directed to a fraudulent website through fake emails, links, attachments, or typing in the wrong URL. Some imposter sites look identical to the one you are trying to reach, but the name may look slightly different. These sites hope you will enter personal information that could allow them access to your accounts. These sites can also be hidden in an email sent to “phish” for information from the recipient.
TIP: As a rule of thumb, don’t send personal or financial information via email, be careful when opening links, and refrain from entering private or financial information while using public Wi-Fi or shared computers.
To minimize your risk, review your financial statements often. By signing up for online or mobile banking, you can see fraud faster and review your accounts sooner than waiting for paper statements. Immediately report suspicious activity.
In addition to reviewing your accounts, use available tools to safeguard debit and credit cards:
- Freeze/unfreeze your debit and credit card using digital banking. This is a perfect solution if your card is misplaced or you just want to deactivate it (without completely cancelling it) for a period of time.
- Be aware of the fraud monitoring systems that will initiate an email, text, or phone call to a cardholder if potential card fraud is detected. You will be asked to confirm or deny if a transaction is fraudulent. Simply reply with “fraud” or “no fraud” and the system with handle the transaction as directed.
- If you are ever contacted regarding your debit or credit card, never provide your card number, expiration date or PIN, unless the contact was initiated by you.
Along with your accounts and cards, monitor your credit history. The credit score isn’t important when watching for fraud, only the information history on the report. To do this, request your free copies on annualcreditreport.com or utilize a reputable credit monitoring service, like Credit Score.
While looking at your credit report, keep an eye out for incorrect personal information, unfamiliar accounts, and credit inquiries you didn’t authorize. If you find info you feel is wrong, you have the right to dispute the information. Contact all three credit bureaus when reporting discrepancies.
Don’t carry confidential information in your wallet.
Always try your best to remember sensitive information such as your social security number and PIN rather than writing it on a piece of paper. A lost wallet or peek over your shoulder can go from bad to worse if you accidentally leak private information that can be used to create new accounts or drain out your checking account.
As a general rule, you should avoid using your address, birthdate, phone, or social security number as your PIN.
TIP: Never leave the signature portion on your cards blank. If you lose your wallet or a card, someone could sign your name to the back, creating a new signature that may not be questioned by stores or businesses.
Buy a shredder.
One piece of office equipment can save you a huge headache. Shred all documents with confidential or private information. This would include mail, old loan or financial documents, statements, etc. By shredding papers and cutting up old cards, you are preventing dumpster divers from finding your info and wreaking havoc.