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Fraud Prevention & Identity Theft

Protect Your Identity

Fraudsters and Scammers are working harder while becoming more creative and sophisticated in ripping people off. Fraud is at an all-time high and victims of scams are losing more money each and every day. In an effort to help educate members and our community about the latest fraud and scam tactics, our goal is to highlight the latest trends on this page.

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Fraud and The FTC

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provides many resources for consumers regarding fraud and scams. You can find the latest trends and scams, how they work, and even those most common in the area around you.

The FTC also makes it easy to report fraud and scams. When you report fraud and scams, it helps everyone. We encourage all members who have, or are dealing with fraud to make reports to the FTC.

COVID-19 Scam Warning from FTC & CFPB.

With the COVID-19 vaccine on its way, scammers are already pretending to be some sort of vaccination issuer. It’s possible that they may make a few claims:
  • They can get your name on the list faster.
  • They may try to sell you a treatment or medication.
  • If you are contacted by an unknown source in regards to the COVID vaccine that asks for any sort of personal information such as social security number or credit card information, hang up or close your door.

Learn More About COVID Scams

Red Flags and Tips to Avoid Fraud & Scams

If something seems too good to be true, it may be. Recognizing the following red flags may help you avoid falling victim to fraud or a scam:

  • You are pressured to act right away.
  • Gift cards are the required payment for goods or services.
  • Requires payment or investment upfront, even for a 'free' prize.
  • You are asked to overpay for an item and send back the difference.
  • You are required to provide login credentials to your online banking.
  • Insist on you wiring money via Western Union.
  • An investment opportunity guarantees success and/or unusually high returns.
  • Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, reach out to a legitimate, trusted source.

Common Scams

Online Loan Scams

How It Happens:

  • The online payday lenders required borrowers to provide bank account information so they could deposit the borrowed funds electronically and withdraw the repayment amount from the account later.
  • The lenders claimed that the repayment amount would be the amount borrowed plus a one-time finance fee, and that this amount would be withdrawn on a particular date.
  • The lenders lie about how much their loans would cost. The result of this scheme? The borrowers paid much more than the stated cost of their loans.

Learn more about the Online Loan Scam.

Fake Check Scams

Fake checks are used in many types of scams. Here are some examples:

Mystery Shoppers

  • Scammers pretend to hire people as mystery shoppers and tell them their first assignment is to evaluate a retailer that sells gift cards, money orders, or a money transfer service, like Western Union or MoneyGram.
  • The shopper gets a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account and wire it to someone else. But once the money is wired, the person on the other end can disappear.

Car Wrap Scams

  • As a way to earn extra cash, you find an offer to wrap your vehicle in an advertisement. To get started, the 'employer' will send you a check to cover your payment and also the cost of the wrap.
  • You are then told to deposit checks and send money to decal installers. These installers don’t actually exist. You have sent money back to the fraudster and will not be able to retrieve it.

Personal Assistants

  • People apply online and get hired as personal assistants. They get a check and are told to use the money to buy gift cards or to buy equipment or supplies for their new client.
  • Once the scammers get the gift card PIN numbers, they use them instantly, leaving the “personal assistant” without the money when the bank figures out the check is bad.

Learn more about Fake Check Scams.

Tech Support "Team Viewer" Scams

How It Happens:

  • Generally starts with a seemingly legitimate call from a software or computer company, or a pop-up on your computer.
  • The caller or pop-up uses an excuse such as your computer has reported an issue, or you paid for this service and we are going to fix your computer.
  • You grant this person access to your computer using legit software (usually called Team View).
  • The person downloads a file onto your computer that contains malware. The malware contains a bug on your computer to track websites you visit such as financial institution or other personal websites. They then have software that will track keystrokes and can compromise usernames/passwords to access your banking sites, compromising the accounts and ripping you off.

Learn more about the Tech Support "Team Viewer" Scam.

Apple & Amazon Support Scam

How It Happens: Victims have reported multiple scenarios when getting scammed.

Scenario #1

  • You’ll receive a ‘phishing’ email or phone call stating there is a problem with your Apple or Amazon account.
  • The issue can be a number of things. An Apple email or phone call may state that you are owed a refund of some sort. An Amazon email or phone call may state that you have a lost package or issue with delivery.
  • By clicking on the link, you are likely downloading malware onto your computer than may result in compromised personal information.

Scenario #2

  • Apple or Amazon states that you were refunded some money in error. Since the refund isn't yours, you need to pay it back. If you pay the refund back quickly, there would be no disruption or lockdown of your account or service. You don't see the credit yet, but if you don't pay right now, your account will be locked until the pending credit is paid off or backed out of the account.
  • To "pay off" your refund, they will ask you to visit a website or call a phone number (or press 1 to speak with someone now). By paying, the scammer is receiving your money that you didn't actually owe. It could also compromise your card number or other payment information. There is no refund really coming.

Learn more about Apple and Amazon Support Scams.

"Waiting Package" Phishing Scam

How It Happens:

  • You will receive a text message, or possibly email, stating there is an issue delivering a package that you are expecting. Since most people do a lot of online shopping these days, they likely think it is a package that they forgot about.
  • The link generally contains a piece of malware that will download to your device, giving hackers access to personal information that can compromise your personal, sensitive information.

Learn more about the "Waiting Package" Scam.

Grandparent Scam

How It Happens:

  • Targets older people who would be in the expected age of a grandparent, scammers will call and answer the phone similar to this: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?”
  • As the victim tries to figure out who might be calling, if they do have grandkids they may guess a grandkids name.
  • This opens the door for the scammer to pretend to be that grandchild and makes a claim that they are in some sort of emergency or bad situation.
  • They will ask for money to be sent to get them out of the situation and usually asks the grandparent to not tell their parents so they don’t get in trouble.
  • Money will usually be sent via Western Union wire transfers so that it is untraceable and cannot be recovered.
  • Rule of Thumb: Always ask the parent before sending money, even if it would get your grandchild in trouble. It’s better to have them safe and to confirm if it’s really them than to lose your money.

Learn more about the Grandparent Scam.

Romance Scam

How It Happens:

  • Someone who is lonely will meet someone else on a dating app or social media network.
  • They build trust over time (usually over a period of months, but sometimes over a year or more).
  • Generally, the scammer will have a reason that the two can never meet – they live too far away, or have a job that requires a lot of travel, etc.)
  • One day, the scammer claims that they need some money to get out of a situation or to help in a time of need.
  • Because the relationship has ‘evolved’ into something more than a friendship, the victim will believe this to be a true need.
  • The scammer manipulates victim into sending gift cards, or cashing a check and wiring money, or some other financial dealing.
  • Once the victim sends the money, it usually cannot be recovered. The scammer then, no longer returns messages, etc. and goes about their life while the victim digs out of the financial loss.

Learn more about Romance Scams.

Additional Scams

Lottery Prize Winning Scam
This scam revolves around you winning a large sum of money. Usually, the scammer contacts you by phone or email and claims that you were automatically entered into some lottery or contest that you have never heard of. However, before claiming your prize, you must make a payment for taxes, a fee or some other form of "bill" so that they can credit your account. The scammer has you send the payment, however there is never any prize/winnings that come in return. You're out the money with no way of getting it back.

Learn more about these lottery scams by visiting the FTC's website.

 

Overpaid Utility Bill Scam
In this scam, you receive a robocall saying you paid too much on a utility bill. To make up for this mistake, they say you’ll get a cash refund and a discount on your future bills. All you have to do is press a number to get your money and discount. Once you are re-directed, you'll be prompted to enter your bank account information. After you enter your information, the scammers can clean you out by accessing your accounts.

In reality, it’s not likely that a utility company will give cash refunds. Instead, they credit your account and a future discount on your bill is not likely.

Learn more about these utility scams by visiting the FTC's website.

 

Unemployment Benefit Scam
Scammers took advantage of the Coronavirus pandemic in a number of ways. One significant issue has been the attempt of earning unemployment benefits illegitimately. It's possible that scammers may be receiving benefits in your name. If you feel as though this is happening, there are a few things you should do:

  1. Report the fraud to your employer.
  2. Report the fraud to your state unemployment benefits agency.
  3. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to report the fraud to the FTC and get help with the next important recovery steps.
  4. Review your credit reports often.

Learn more about unemployment benefits scams by visiting the FTC's website.

 

How to Recover from Identity Theft

If you are a victim of Identity Theft, report it immediately!

  • Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Once filing the ID theft complaint with the FTC, you will have an affidavit assigned to you.
  • Contact your local police department to file your ID theft complaint. Once filing the complaint with your local police department, you will get a police report.
  • These two documents together are your Identity Theft Report and will aide you in resolving the issue.
  • Notify the credit bureaus. By letting the credit bureaus know you have been a victim of fraud, they can add fraud alerts that make any business or financial entity verify you before they can open accounts, loans, etc.

Experian: 1-888-397-3742 | www.experian.com

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111 | www.equifax.com

TransUnion: 1-800-888-4213 | www.transunion.com

Steps to Prevent Identity Theft

Take these pre-cautionary steps to protect your personal information:

  • Do not share important personal or banking information unless you initiated the contact and trust who you are dealing with
  • Pay attention to statements. Ensure all charges are what you authorized. If you see unauthorized transactions, notify your financial institution. 
  • Protect your online information. Create complex passwords that identity thieves cannot guess easily. Also install firewalls and virus-detection software on your home computer. 
  • Check your credit report annually. There are resources where you can view your credit report for free.
  • Protect your paper information. Collect your mail promptly, store important documents securely and when disposing of important documents or cards, be sure to shred the information.
  • Don't fall to common scams or unsolicited requests for personal information. Unexpected emails or calls from the IRS are typically a scam. Report these emails or calls immediately.
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