Fraud Protection Center
Protecting Your Privacy, Your Identity, and Your Money
At the IDB-IIC Federal Credit Union, Security over Member Information and Accounts is fundamental. Our job and responsibility is not only keeping your assets and personal information safe, but also ensuring that you know how to protect them with everyday decisions.
It is more important than ever to understand the different types of fraud, and what you can do to prevent yourself from becoming a victim. The following is some essential information to help you protect yourself against multiple types of fraud.
Help Protect Your Identity While on Vacation
It can be hard remembering to protect your identity while you’re on vacation or planning a trip, but identity theft can strike in a variety of ways at any time, and it’s something everyone should keep in mind. During high travel season, scammers often pop up looking to take advantage of people as they book their vacations, and while they’re on a “fun in the sun” trip.
There are many ways travel scammers can reach vacationers, according to AAA. When booking trips, some of the industry’s best practices for protecting your credit card data and other personal information generally apply. However, the risk doesn’t end with booking. Identity theft can happen at any time, on the road or even in a different country. Here are some tips to help you prepare to better protect your identity while traveling this summer:
Things to do before hitting the road
- When booking your reservations, including transportation, lodging and other activities, make sure to use a secure and reputable website. AAA recommends that people only book travel through pages they know or can find solid information about online. Additionally, any site that doesn’t have a secure checkout page (easily spotted by the lock icon before the web address) should be avoided.
- Lock up your home before leaving for your trip. Thieves will often target homes that are empty for vacation or holiday travel to steal valuables and personal information. While there’s no foolproof way to prevent a break-in, there are simple steps you can take, such as ensuring all windows and doors are locked before leaving, and setting timers for lights and other devices so that your house appears occupied while you’re away.
- Avoid posting every detail of your upcoming trip on social media. While your friends may enjoy the updates, it could also lead to ill-intentioned individuals taking advantage of an empty house. If you will be gone for an extended period of time, suspend your newspaper and postal service delivery to avoid the tell-tale signs of an empty house. And, for extra caution, have a trusted friend or neighbor keep an eye on the house until you’re back.
- Secure all sensitive documents including Social Security cards and birth certificates in a hidden safe. That way, even if thieves do gain access to your house, they are less likely to steal your identity. Remember that other valuables like jewelry and cash should be stored safely as well.
Things to do while on vacation
- Store important documents, like driver’s licenses, personal IDs and passports in a safe place, or carry them with you at all times. Hotel rooms that have digital keys have been reportedly easy to hack, according to an article in Business Travel Life. So, if you choose to leave your documents in the room, make sure to lock them in a safe with an itemized statement of the valuables you have inside.
- Update passwords and other layers of security on your mobile devices like phones, tablets and laptops, as suggested by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security. Be mindful of your surroundings and secure your devices from “shoulder surfers” trying to look at your passwords, as well as pickpockets.
- Use safe browsing habits when connected to public Wi-Fi or hotspots. On open connections, hackers or identity thieves could be using the same connection to intercept or steal the information you’re sending. Using the hotel’s secured connection or your phone’s network when checking banking information or other password-protected websites can help protect sensitive data.
- Keep a close eye on your statements. Check your statements and your online account regularly to make sure there are no fraudulent charges. Most debit and credit cards include fraud monitoring that detects out-of-the-ordinary spending patterns based on your account history. However, fraudulent transactions that don’t stand out may never get reported as suspicious activity if they don’t deviate much from your banking habits. Recognizing such charges to your cards as early as possible can save you a lot of stress.
In general, the best defense against travel-related fraud is often as simple as staying vigilant and using common sense. Be mindful of these tips to help protect your identity and have peace of mind during your much-deserved vacation.
Learn more about your identity theft protection through Identity Guard. Through credit monitoring and alerts that will inform you of certain activity that may indicate fraud on your credit files, Identity Guard is always working to help you protect your information while at home and abroad.
IDB-IIC Federal Credit Union has partnered with Identity Guard to provide a safe and secure solution for you. See our special rates for members!
Protect your Identity During Tax Season!
How to identify and avoid costly tax scams
Not many people like tax season. But one group loves it: scammers. In fact, the IRS reports that thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax fraud. Criminals use regular mail, email, phone calls, and even social media to target and defraud unsuspecting tax professionals and taxpayers like you during tax season.
The good news is, with a little care and knowledge, you can avoid costly tax scams. Here are a few common tax scams and how to avoid them:
The Phony Tax Refund Scam
One tax scam that is on the rise, according to the IRS, involves erroneous tax refunds being deposited into taxpayers’ bank accounts. Here’s how the scam works:
Tax scammers steal your personal information from tax professionals or by other means and file a fraudulent tax return using your bank account to deposit the refund. Next, the scammer tries to “reclaim” the money from you in various ways.
For instance, they might call you posing as an IRS collection agent, and demand that you pay back the erroneous refund to their company bank account. Or, they might use a recorded voice message to threaten criminal fraud charges, an arrest warrant, or “blacklisting” of your social security number if you don’t “pay back” the amount of the erroneous refund. You are then given a case number and a phone number to call and return the money.
To make matters worse, when you do file your real tax return, it is rejected because the IRS believes that you already filed your return, causing even more financial problems. This is why you need to make sure that you and your tax professional guard your personal information closely.
This is another sophisticated scam in which scammers call you using fake names and IRS identification badge numbers. They may even know a lot about your personal and tax information, making them seem legitimate.
They then tell you that you owe money that must be paid with a gift card or wire transfer. They may threaten you with arrest, deportation or the suspension of your business or driver’s license. Sometimes, the scammers become hostile in an attempt to bully you into complying with their demands.
These scammers have no shame, often targeting the deaf and hard of hearing using video relay services, and those with limited English using their native language.
How to Identify and Avoid Tax Scams
Fortunately, once you understand a few simple facts about how the IRS contacts taxpayers and requests information or payments, detecting a tax fraud is fairly easy. Here are signs that you are the target of a tax scam:
- Demand of Payment with No Bill: A sure sign of a scam is a surprise call demanding payment via prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. If you owe taxes, the IRS generally first mails you a bill and never demands payment using a gift card or wire transfer.
- Instructions to Pay a Non-IRS Entity. If you owe back taxes or penalties, the IRS, or collection agencies affiliated with them, always instruct taxpayers to make their payments to the “United States Treasury.” Often, scammers will claim to be IRS collection agencies and demand payment to their agency or bank account.
- Demand of Payment without the Right to Appeal: As a taxpayer, you have the right to question or appeal any amount you owe the IRS. Any legitimate IRS agent should advise you of this and other rights as a taxpayer.
- Threat of Arrest: A red flag that you are being scammed is if the purported IRS agent threatens to call local police, immigration officers or other law-enforcement officers to have you arrested for not paying. The IRS will never threaten arrest or deportation and cannot revoke your driver’s license, business license or immigration status.
If you receive a suspicious phone call from someone purporting to be from the IRS, you can contact the IRS at 800-366-4484. Fraudulent emails can be reported to email@example.com. If you receive a suspicious request, immediately contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-623-3363.
Identity theft can occur when an individual obtains personal information, such as your social security number, date of birth, address, and financial account numbers. Once this information is obtained, the thieves will assume or take on your identity, allowing them to illegally purchase items or obtain credit.
Tips for protecting yourself from Identity Theft:
- Review your account activity regularly. Make sure to look over your account statements each month and check any unauthorized charges or suspicious activity.
- Set up alerts on your account so you can get notifications whenever certain transactions take place on your credit card.
- Share your Social Security Number sparingly. Make sure to keep your Social Security Card in a safe place, and only share it when absolutely necessary.
- Shred financial statements and other important documents to prevent thieves from gaining access to any of your personal information.
- Use strong passwords and be sure to change them regularly.
Who should you contact if you suspect Fraud:
- Credit Bureaus. Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies -- Experian, Equifax and Trans Union. Ask that your account include a statement referencing the possibility of fraud.
- Creditors. Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name has been used fraudulently -- by phone and in writing. Monitor your accounts closely for any further fraudulent activity.
- Law Enforcement. Report the crime to police with jurisdiction in your case. Provide any documentation that you have collected. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the phone number of your fraud investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case.
- Financial Institutions. If you have checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, contact the institution to report the crime. Put stop payments on appropriate outstanding checks. Close your checking and savings accounts and open new accounts. If your ATM card is stolen or compromised, get a new card and PIN. When choosing a PIN, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your Social Security number, your date of birth, license number or street address.
- U.S. Postal Service. Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of your address with the post office or has used the mail to commit credit or bank fraud.
- Social Security Administration. Call to report fraudulent use of your Social Security number.
- Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Call to see if another license was issued in your name. Go to your local DMV to request a new number. Also, fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. Send supporting documents with the completed form to the nearest DMV investigation office. Request a driver's license number different than your Social Security number if available in your state.
- Civil Courts. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken by your impostor, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft. If you are wrongfully prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the state Department of Justice and the FBI.
Credit Card Fraud
Credit card fraud generally occurs when cards or card numbers are compromised. By following these simple guidelines your potential for loss can be minimized.
Tips for protecting yourself against credit card fraud
- Keep a list of all your credit cards including the account number and phone number to the issuing company
- Review your credit card statement as soon as possible. Match charges with your receipts to ensure all charges are yours and are for the correct amount.
- Always sign a new credit card immediately.
- When making a purchase with a credit card, make sure you get the card back and the receipt. Check the receipt for accuracy.
- When using a credit card at a restaurant or store, make sure that all blank lines are marked through so that no one can change the final amount.
- Never sign blank credit card receipts.
- Only travel with the credit cards you plan on using.
- Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you initiate the call.
Check Cashing Fraud
Check cashing fraud occurs when individuals use information taken from your check to access your accounts and commit fraudulent acts. By following these simple guidelines, you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Tips for protecting yourself against check cashing fraud
- Always safeguard your checks. Make sure they are always put away somewhere safe.
- Keep your blank checks and canceled checks in a secure location; destroy old blank checks if you are not going to use them.
- Limit the amount of personal information printed on the checks to your name and address. Use plain designed checks. The fancier the check the easier it is to forge the signature. Useful information for thieves includes not only your account numbers, but information used to verify your identity, such as your driver's license number, or social security number.
- Do not leave your bill payments sitting in an unlocked mailbox for pickup. Go to the Post Office directly or use a curbside USPS mailbox (the blue metal ones) and drop your bills in the slot rather than using less secure street mailboxes.
- Be discreet when writing checks in public places. Write your checks carefully and leave no space in which figures or words can be inserted.
- When you make an error in writing a check, be sure to destroy the check or write "canceled" across it and store it with your other canceled checks.
- If your checks are lost or stolen, report it immediately to your financial institution.
- Reconcile your monthly statements as soon as you can to ensure all transactions are accurate. Contact us immediately if you do not receive it when expected.
- When you reorder checks, mark your calendar. If you don't receive your checks within 15 working days, contact your financial institution immediately to inquire as to the status of the order.
- Consider alternatives to writing checks. For instance, paying by phone, online, Bill Pay or setting up automatic payments.
Debit Card Fraud
Debit Card fraud can occur when individuals lose their card, give their card to someone else to use, or when their Personal Identification Number's confidentiality is compromised. By following these simple guidelines you can greatly reduce your exposure to Debit Card fraud.
Tips for protecting yourself against Debit Card fraud
- Never write your Personal Identification Number (PIN) on your card or in your wallet. Memorize your PIN as soon as possible and do not reveal your PIN to anyone not authorized to use the account.
- Never use your date of birth, social security number, license number or street address as a PIN -- those are the first numbers a crook will try.
- Don't throw away your ATM receipts at the ATM location. Keep them to reconcile your account, then dispose of them properly when you get home.
- Always be aware of your surroundings when using the ATM. If it is late at night, try to use a machine that is well lit and avoid dark, remote locations.
- Always make sure to retrieve your ATM card from the machine when the transaction is complete.
- Be aware of people waiting in line behind you. Make sure no one can see you entering your PIN or how much money you withdraw.
- Review your statement promptly to ensure all transactions are accurate. Report any discrepancies immediately.
- Destroy old ATM cards immediately after receiving your replacement cards.
In addition to the types ATM fraud that most of us are now aware of, there are two new types that can clean out your account quickly -- card withholding and skimming.
Card withholding occurs when thieves put something in the ATM slot to make the customers’ cards jam. Then, when someone uses the ATM the thieves can watch as you enter your PIN number over and over again. This is very common at drive-up ATMs where the user may not be paying attention to other people or cars nearby.
Skimming is done at businesses that offer Point-of-Sale (POS) devices for you to pay with your ATM card, such as gas stations. Thieves will typically convince an employee to allow them to connect a laptop computer to the POS machine. The laptop is usually stored under the counter where the POS device is located. When you swipe your card in the POS device to make a payment the information on the magnetic strip on your ATM card is copied and loaded onto a disk. Thieves may also install a hidden video camera that records you entering your PIN. They then match the magnetic information to the PIN and access your accounts.
Internet Security - Phishing Scams
Phishing is an internet scam in which e-mail spam or pop-up messages are used to deceive you into divulging personal or financial information over the internet. Phishers will send you an email or a pop-up message that appears to be from a company that you deal with – your credit card company, credit union or a government agency. The message usually requests that you update or validate account information and it will direct you to a website that looks just like the legitimate organization’s website, but it isn’t. The purpose of the bogus website is to deceive you into entering your personal information so the scammer’s can steal your identity and commit crimes in your name.
Tips to protect yourself against "Phishing Scams"
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And don't click on the link in the message, either. Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company's correct Web address yourself. In any case, don't cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser — phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but that actually send you to a different sites.
- Never give your personal information via e-mail. IDB-IIC FCU will never request personal information via email.
- If you want to update your information, go directly to our website by opening a new browser window, and typing www.idbcreditu.org in the address.
Never go to our web site by clicking a link in an e-mail.
- When entering personal account information, verify that you are on a secure website. If the website is secure, you will find "https" in the address and a closed padlock in your browser's toolbar.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge. Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files.
Phone Security - "Vishing" Scams
Vishing is a scam similar to Phishing, a scam involves sending a spam email or pop-up message telling you that your account has been compromised and will instruct you to call a phone number to verify your account information. An official sounding automated message will ask you to enter your personal financial information such as your 16 digit credit card number. Some of these scams involve a telephone call to the victim directly in which the caller already has your credit card number but asks you to verify the valuable three digit security code.
Tips to protect yourself against "Vishing" Scams
- Never give your personal information over the phone. If you feel a call is suspicious, call the company directly to verify the authenticity of the call.
- Beware of organizations asking for charitable donations. If you want to donate money, contact the organization yourself to make sure that your money is going to the appropriate place.
Text Message Security - "Smishing" Scams
Smishing is a scam similar to Vishing for Phishing, but gets its name from SMS text messaging. Smishing is when a scammer sends you a text message claiming that there is a problem with your bank account and asks you to text back n order to reactivate your account. Other Smishing scam text messages may include a link to a website you that you must click on to resolve the “problem.”
Tips for protecting yourself against "Smishing" Scams
1. Don’t respond in any way to Smishing messages, even if it is just to ask the sender to leave you alone. Responding will verify that your phone number is active, and will prompt the scammer to keep trying
2. Never click on any links or call phone numbers in an unsolicited text message. Simply delete the message from your phone
3. Report the message to your cell phone service’s scam text reporting number, or the general customer service number.
Protect Your Privacy
Fraud comes in many shapes and sizes and unfortunately, it will never go away. Nor will the money and time spent fixing it. That’s why it’s vital to ramp up your security arsenal.
While fraud operators are constantly developing new viruses, spyware and online fraud schemes, the good news is that you can take action to protect yourself against online fraud.