Fraud Protection Center
Protecting Your Privacy, Your Identity, and Your Money
At the IDB Global 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.
How to Keep the Gold in Your Golden Years
Your golden years are supposed to be carefree, relaxing, and financially stable. Unfortunately, scammers see seniors’ golden years as their golden ticket. In fact, according to the FBI* millions of seniors lose a total of over $3 billion every year to fraudsters.
The FBI says that seniors are frequent targets of scammers because they are generally more trusting, have more savings, own a home, and have good credit.
Fortunately, keeping the gold in your golden years is not too difficult with our security tips.
11 Common Scams Against Seniors:
Online Shopping Scams
Crooks create websites and social media accounts that look like legitimate retailers when they are merely facades to get your payment information or to sell you stolen merchandise. And make no mistake, these can look very convincing, offer great deals, and are highly prevalent. In fact, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)**, this scam was the most frequent fraud reported by seniors last year. So watch out for deals that seem too good to be true, typos, or odd URL addresses that don’t match the brand.
Tech Support Scams
Popup ads might appear on your computer that warn you that your computer is infected or defective and needs an update to be downloaded. In addition, you might be prompted to buy new software or virus protection or to call tech support. All of these have one aim: not to improve your computer. Instead, it’s to get your credit card or personal information. So never download any software you are unsure of, and always call legitimate tech support that you research yourself.
Crooks impersonate a Medicare representative to get your personal and medical information. Their ruse will likely involve a claim that you need a new Medicare card or that you are eligible for a further discount or more coverage. This is all to get your personal information to sell to an identity thief. Never blindly trust an incoming call or email; call the number on your card or documents.
Sweepstakes and Lottery Scams
Thieves contact you via phone, email, text, or letter congratulating you for winning a prize or being eligible for grand sweepstakes. They might ask for a fee to cover the prize or sweepstakes entry postage. But, of course, there is no prize or sweepstakes. And, as is familiar with scams, they might ask you for personal or financial information. So, again, never send money or provide sensitive information to any entity without independently verifying their credentials.
Home Repair Scams
Crooks offer home improvements or repairs, especially in areas recently hit by natural disasters. But they are merely after your personal and financial information. They charge an initial deposit or do subpar work, then disappear with your money. It’s best to stick with well-known repair businesses or get referrals from friends and neighbors.
Phony Charity Scams
Scammers prey on this generosity through fake charity scams. They often use an ongoing humanitarian crisis to get you to act emotionally and urgently, asking you to send money immediately. Fortunately, it is relatively easy to ensure that your money goes to legitimate relief rather than a black-hearted thief. Use Charity Navigator or a similar site to find legitimate charities for your donation.
Counterfeit Prescription Drugs
Scammers advertise prescription drugs that work better or are less expensive than your current drugs. But, after they get your payment or medical insurance information, they disappear and use it to steal your money. In the more dangerous version, they sell you less effective or phony medication. It’s best to stick to your care provider’s recommendations on getting your medicine.
The Grandchild Scam
Scammers contacts a senior and pretends to be their grandchild. The scammer then often pretends to be in a dire situation, such as being stuck away from home and needing money to return, in jail, or unable to pay an important bill. Then, they ask for money to be sent urgently, often by wire transfer or gift cards -- these cannot be rescinded. Finally, they might ask you not to tell other family members because they’re embarrassed about the situation. But of course, the real reason is that other family members would verify it’s a scam. So, if you suspect anything, ask questions only that family member would know or call another family member and verify the claims.
Online Romance and Friendship Scams
Fraudsters establish an online romantic or friendly relationship with a senior, only to con them out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Of course, the scammer might gain your trust by waiting weeks or months to ask for anything. But make no mistake, this can be a costly scam. According to the FBI, last year, they got more than 25,000 romance scam complaints, with one 79-year-old losing nearly $700,000 over the years. So, while being social is healthy and gratifying, always be cautious if monetary requests begin to be made.
Scammers prey on seniors that want to stay social, and active. For instance, a favorite scam is the offer of a stay-at-home or part-time job. The catch? Pay for training. But, of course, after you pay, the job disappears. Worse, scammers will often ask for personal information, then use it for identity theft. To avoid this con, always verify the business and be very suspicious of paying money to get a job.
Fake Health or Anti-Aging Products
Scammers target seniors who want to stay younger and healthier by selling them phony anti-aging products or cheaply made beauty products. Similar to fake prescription medication, this can be dangerous if it is something you ingest or inject. So always check with your trusted care provider before buying supplements or other “health” or “anti-aging” products.
How To Avoid Scams Against Seniors
Here are some tips that you or your loved one can take to stop scammers before they can harm you or take your money.
- Always ask questions. If someone claims to be a family friend or relative, ask them questions only that friend or family member would know or call a family member to verify their story.
- Always be wary of a deal, service, or product that seems too good to be true. It most likely is.
- Always verify that you are speaking to a legitimate entity. If an agency contacts you asking for personal information or money, research their contact information independently then call or email them back using that information. If they are legitimate, they will be OK with this.
- Never act out of a sense of urgency or panic. Scammers anticipate that you will act emotionally, not logically.
- Never send cash, wire transfers, or gift cards. These methods of payment are impossible to get back.
If you believe that you or a loved one has been the victim of a fraud or attempted fraud, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov, file a police report, and, if applicable, contact your financial institution.
How to Avoid Social Media and Zelle® Scams
Social media platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are great ways to bring family and friends closer together, or a way to meet new friends. Unfortunately, these platforms are also a way for thieves and scammers to steal unsuspecting victims’ money.
In fact, according to The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), in 2021 alone more than 95,000 people reported fraud initiated on social media, totaling a whopping $770 million. That is an eighteen-fold increase in just four years.
Scammers have taken a recent interest in banking apps, too - specifically the popular and convenient Zelle®. As our Credit Union members know, Zelle® is a fast, safe and easy way to send money to others you know and trust with a bank account in the U.S.* However, enterprising scammers have found new ways to trick you into thinking they belong to that trusted group.
Below you will find several ways to protect yourself, while still enjoying all the convenience of social media and Zelle®.
The Bogus Investment Scam
More than half of the people who reported losses to investment scams in 2021 said the scam began on social media. According to the FTC, these scams often involve cryptocurrency. In this scam, crooks use social media to promote phony investment opportunities, often posing as friends of friends or hacking a friend’s account as a way to gain trust. They then offer promises of impressive returns or great opportunities. You send them your money but get nothing in return.
How to Avoid: The best way to avoid this scam is the old-fashioned way: if you get a request for money or an offer of a great investment, do not respond via social media. Call the friend that is associated with the request to verify that the person asking you for money is legitimate. Be especially wary if the social media request asks you to use cryptocurrency, gift card, or wire transfer. Those are all payment types favored by scammers.
The Romance Scam
In case you haven’t seen Tinder Swindler yet, here’s how this scam works. You get a seemingly innocent friend request or introduction from a stranger on your social media profile. Smooth talk follows, perhaps an online relationship develops. Then, there is a request for money -- ruses run the gamut from claims they are in urgent trouble to requests for short-term loans. Scammers can be very persuasive, as evidenced by the fact that, according to the FTC, romance scams are the second most costly social media frauds, accounting for more than a third of online scams in 2021.
How to Avoid: First and foremost, says the FTC, slow down if someone new appears on your social media feed and rushes a friendship or romance. Above all, never send money to someone you have not met in person. Finally, as much as possible, vet the reason for their need for money.
The Phony Retail Scam
In this scam, phony retailers advertise counterfeit or non-existent products on social media. When you purchase the product, you get a product that does not fit the description, or, in 70% of the reported cases, nothing at all. Some scammers even have ads that direct you to websites that look like the real product’s website, but are in fact phony. Be especially wary of products advertised on Facebook and Instagram; they were named in 90% of the reports of social media retail scams, according to the FTC. Examples have run the gamut, too, from people paying for high-end vacuums and receiving low-end ones to phony brand-name purses and even “rare” gaming consoles.
How to Avoid: Before buying anything on social media, research the company thoroughly. Do not merely follow and trust the link to a website the promotion gives; use Google to search the company and product yourself. Also, search for the product or company name combined with the words “scam,” “fraud” or “complaint.” You would be surprised what you might find. Lastly, follow the old mantra: if the deal seems too good to be true, it probably is.
Protect Your Zelle® Account From This New Scam
Below are three key safety reminders for sending and receiving money safely when using digital payments. Digital payment safety is more important than ever, as a quarter of consumers surveyed reported being a victim of a scam, and almost half of the respondents reported knowing someone who was scammed according to the findings of an April 2021 study commissioned by Zelle®. Three safety reminders for sending and receiving money with Zelle®
- Only send to those you trust: Money sent can not be canceled if the recipient is already enrolled with Zelle®. So, it is important to only pay those you trust for items you know you’ll receive.
- Beware of scams: One example of a payment scam is buying concert tickets or merchandise at a price that seems too good to be true from a stranger and never receiving the item you paid for. If the seller asks you to use Zelle® to purchase the tickets, you should refuse unless the seller is a person you personally know. Neither IDB Global Federal Credit Union nor Zelle® offers a protection program for any authorized payments made with Zelle® – for example if you do not receive the item you paid for or the item is not as described or as you expected.
- Treat Zelle® like cash: Confirm you typed your recipient’s information correctly before you send them money. When in doubt, contact your friend to verify the email or U.S. mobile number they used to enroll with Zelle® before you hit “Send.”
In the case where an IDB Global Federal Credit Union member sends a Zelle® payment to an unintended recipient, which can be done by mistyping an email or U.S. mobile number, we recommend contacting us immediately to file an incorrect account-customer error dispute claim. Zelle® does not hold or handle any funds. Zelle® provides messaging between the sender’s financial institution and the recipient’s financial institution to facilitate the payments.
Important Information from IDB Global Federal Credit Union and Zelle®:
Zelle® and the Zelle related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.
*U.S. checking or savings account required to use Zelle®. Transactions between enrolled consumers typically occur in minutes.
Please note that Zelle® through IDB Global Federal Credit Union, is only available for primary account owners only; joint account owners are not able to access Zelle® at this time.
At IDB Global Federal Credit Union, our goal is to ensure our members’ banking experience is convenient and fraud-free. If you receive a suspicious request for your IDB Global Federal Credit Union account information, immediately contact the Credit Union at email@example.com or 202-623-3363.
How to Avoid IRS Tax Scams
Tax season is stressful enough without having to worry about criminal schemes that take advantage of you by attempting to steal your identity—and possibly your tax refund. We want to help you protect your sensitive financial data from fraudsters and tax scammers by following these six recommendations:
1. An alleged IRS phone call scam: One form of tax fraud involves an impersonator who pretends to be an IRS representative or law enforcement official that calls you to demand that you provide personal financial information or demand payment over the phone. The phone scammer may even specify a payment method, such as a prepaid debit card, gift card, or wire transfer.
How to protect yourself: Note that the IRS never contacts you to demand personal information or payment over a phone call, text, email, or social media. If you receive a call like this, then hang up and delete the fraudulent contact immediately. Generally, the IRS will first mail a bill to any taxpayer who owes taxes. The IRS instructs taxpayers to make payments to the “United States Treasury,” and they provide specific guidelines on how you can make a tax payment at irs.gov/payments. You also should file a report at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Your report makes a positive difference. Reports like yours help the government investigate, prosecute law enforcement cases, and alert the public, so they may protect themselves, their friends, and family against fraud.
2. Keeping confidential information private: Another form of tax fraud involves stealing your filed tax forms and/or tax payment out of a street mailbox. In this scam, thieves steal IRS related forms from blue USPS mailboxes, then they alter the amounts and cash the checks, or they use the forms to steal your confidential data, like Social Security numbers, birthdates, etc. This is known as identity theft. And with your tax forms, thieves may breach your online tax filing.
How to protect yourself: The safest and most convenient way to file your return is to submit your taxes online from the privacy of your own password protected home computer or a secure and verified Wi-Fi hotspot. Avoid using Wi-Fi at coffee shops and other public areas. A safe, convenient way to avoid mailbox theft is to use IDB Global Federal Credit Union’s free Bill Pay solution, which is available in our Online and Mobile Banking solution. It is fast and easy to set up, plus more convenient and secure than writing checks. If you still prefer or must use paper checks, then take these precautions: Hand your mail to a mail carrier or use the counter or mail slot inside your local post office. And never send cash in the mail.
3. Your return has already been filed: When you try to file your federal income tax return, you find out that it has already been filed by someone else using your Personal Identifiable Information. In this case, the ‘someone else’ is actually a thief who is likely trying to steal your tax refund. This type of fraud is discovered when you file your legitimate return, and the IRS sends you a notice letter indicating that your refund check has already been issued.
How to protect yourself: File early! If you can file your return early, then do so. The IRS processes returns mostly on a “first come, first served” basis, so filing early takes the advantage of time delays away from criminals.
4. Problems with your Social Security Number (SSN): Be very suspicious if (1) you receive a letter from the IRS about a tax return you did not file; (2) you are not permitted to e-file your tax return because of a duplicate SSN; (3) you receive a notification that an online IRS account has been created in your name without your approval; or (4) you get a notice from the IRS claiming that you received wages from an unknown employer. These fraud scenarios are also examples of identity theft.
How to protect yourself: Check your credit report regularly with our FREE credit monitoring tool.* Now, when you log into Online Banking or the IDB Global FCU Mobile App, you have instant access to your current credit score, along with personalized tips on how to improve or maintain your credit score.
*Credit score and other details will not be displayed for users who do not have a Social Security Number on file. Shared accounts will display the credit score and other details referent to the primary owner of the account. Joint owners must log in with their unique credentials for access. Savvy Money Terms of Service.
5. The shady tax preparer: The IRS says the biggest risk of fraud could come from your personal tax preparer.
How to protect yourself: Only use a tax preparer who is open year-round and who has a Tax Preparer Identification Number. Do not use a “ghost preparer,” who is not willing to sign your return. By signing the return, the preparer is accepting responsibility for any mistakes they may have made. If you anticipate receiving a tax refund, then make sure that the funds are sent directly to your checking or savings account. The IRS says that a refund should not go to the preparer’s account. Avoid using a tax preparer who promises an unusually large refund. Your refund – if eligible – is always based on the tax return calculation, and if the preparer is guaranteeing you an unusually large refund, then it may be a sign that they are going to be doing something illegal on your tax return.
6. Email, phishing, and malware schemes: Scammers design emails to trick taxpayers into thinking they are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, such as tax software companies. Phishing schemes (as in “fishing for information”) are scams where fraudsters send email messages to trick unsuspecting victims into revealing personal and financial information that can be used to steal the victims’ identity. That may include seeking information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts, and verifying PIN information.
How to protect yourself: Be alert to potentially bogus emails that may appear to come from your tax professional. If you are uncertain about the legitimacy of an email, then independently contact the sender for verification before clicking on a link or providing any non-public information. Beware of these scams.
How to Have a Fraud-Free Holiday Season
With supply chain pain creating buyer anxiety and the growing popularity of online shopping, this holiday season is shaping up to be a gift to fraudsters and scammers. We are here to help with 12 simple and powerful ideas to protect your personal and financial information, as well as your holiday cheer!
A Dozen Ways to Avoid Holiday Fraud
1. Social Media Scams: Social media connects friends with friends… and sometimes fraudsters. Beware of social media posts that offer vouchers, gift certificates, holiday promotions, or contests. Some of these posts may appear to come from friends' social media accounts. While some may be legitimate, it is also likely that some are scams, which are designed to steal personal information through surveys, queries, or link clicks. So, if you were not expecting the offer and you do not trust the source, then avoid the temptation to click.
2. Beware of Porch Pirates: Porch Pirates are thieves that steal packages left on your doorstep by USPS, FedEx, or other delivery services. And they are more prevalent than you might think: a 2019 C&R Research study estimated that 36% of Americans have had a package stolen from their doorstep. You can avoid being a victim of porch piracy by requesting or requiring a signature for your deliveries. You may also request store pickup or provide special instructions to the delivery person to leave the package out of sight.
3. Protect Your Debit Card with Cards Control: With suspected e-commerce fraud increasing every year since 2017, it is critically important to protect your debit cards. Thankfully, IDB Global Federal Credit Union offers Debit Card Controls, which allow you to determine how, when, and where you use your debit card. The Debit Card Controls are conveniently located in online banking and mobile banking apps. With Debit Card Controls, you may monitor your debit cards activities, set alert preferences*, block certain transactions**, turn your cards on and off, limit merchant and transaction types, establish spending limits, set international geographic usage parameters, and more. To get started, visit our Debit Cards Control webpage, or log into Mobile or Online Banking.
4. Use the Power of Online Banking: IDB Global Federal Credit Union’s Online Banking features help you protect yourself against fraud. Through our Online Banking, which is free to all members with a savings account, you may set up SMS text and email notifications about low balance alerts, withdrawals, and more. Learn more about these alerts here.
5. Avoid Unusual Payment Methods: A seller that requests uncommon payment methods, such as a wire transfer, a prepaid debit card, a gift card, or a cashier’s check may be a red flag. Money sent in these ways is almost impossible to recover, and you have little recourse. A credit card is generally the safest way to pay for an online purchase, and credit cards are accepted by most legitimate sellers. Using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay is another way to add a layer of protection to your credit card and debit card payments. These no-touch methods allow you to pay faster and more securely by merely holding your phone near the payment terminal. You may learn more about securely linking your IDB Global Federal Credit Union credit card and debit card here.
6. Don’t Believe Too-Good-To-Be-True Deals: The axiom “If it seems too good to be true, it probably is” has always important to follow especially during the holiday season. In this scam, thieves may advertise brand-name products at crazy low prices, sometimes with a deadline to create a sense of urgency for an impulse purchase. But, in the scam, the products being sold are not genuine. And, to make matters worse, the fraud is often a double-edged scam: they sell you a fake product, and they collect your personal or financial information. So, remember, if the deal is too good to be true, then avoid the offer.
7. Research Any Charity You Give To: The holidays are a great time to donate to good causes or persons in need. Unfortunately, scammers prey on this empathy and goodwill. Fraudsters may set up fake charities, and they may give their fake charity a name that is similar to a legitimate organization. Fortunately, it only takes a few minutes to research and verify that the organization is legitimate and that your money will reach its intended recipient. For reference, a 2019 AARP survey found that 54% of those who researched charities for donations subsequently decided not to donate. So, while it’s good to give, make sure your gift is received by the correct recipient.
8. Stick with Large and/or Well-Known e-Retailers: Since it is easy to create an impressive-looking e-commerce website, it is a good idea to shop online for brands and retailers that you know are trustworthy. Some warning signs of a fraudulent website may include misspelled words or the lack of a customer service number or physical address. Also, use websites with URLs that begin with “https” and a lock symbol. Do not use e-commerce websites with “http”. The “s” indicates that the online retailer uses encryption to protect your financial information.
9. Don’t Allow Sites to Save Your Financial Information: Many online retailers will offer to store your credit card or other financial information to make future purchases more convenient. And while being able to buy with just a click might be convenient, it may be riskier. Bottom line: the more places your financial information is stored, the more chances thieves have to steal it.
10. Monitor Your Statements: The holidays are busy and chaotic, so it may be easy to forget to monitor your accounts, debit card transactions, and credit card statements. Thieves hope that you are not paying attention to your finances. If you see a fraudulent charge, then report it to us promptly. Doing so may mean the difference between a happy new year or not. Signing up for E-Statements through online banking makes monitoring your statements easy. E-Statements replace your paperless statements and have many advantages: they lower the risk of mail fraud, they give you 24/7 access to your statements, and they are available earlier than paper statements. You may sign up now for both Credit Card E-Statements, as well as Account E-Statements.
11. Buy Gift Cards Safely: Gift cards are popular to give and receive. In recent years, gift cards have been targets of elaborate fraud schemes. Scammers can copy and track the barcode numbers on gift cards before they are purchased, then the scammer is alerted when the card is activated, and next, they quickly drain the card’s value. The gift cards that scammers usually target are those hanging in displays at retail stores. To avoid this scam, simply buy gift cards that are behind the check-out register or directly from trusted retailers’ online websites.
12. Refuse Direct Requests for Financial or Personal Information: Reputable retailers provide safe websites with secure online forms for you to complete. They never ask for your credit card or debit card information via email or text. Conversely, scammers will often contact you by email, phone, or text to request sensitive information. Only provide your financial or personal information to retailers that you trust and that you initiated the contact yourself.
If you do fall victim to credit card or debit card fraud, take these steps immediately:
- Report the crime to the retailer and your card issuer ASAP.
- Have your credit card or debit card canceled and replaced with a new card with a new number.
- Provide your new credit card or debit card numbers securely to any entities with which you use auto-pay.
- Report the crime to the police, if necessary. If you have questions, contact us
At IDB Global Federal Credit Union, we want to help ensure that you have a happy, fraud-free holiday season! If you receive a suspicious request related to your IDB Global Federal Credit Union account or financial information, immediately contact us at [email protected] or 202-623-3363. For the latest information on various types of fraud, please visit the Fraud Protection page on our website.
How to Avoid Mail Fraud
In this era of digital everything, some crooks like to commit their frauds the old-fashioned way: through the mail. These scams can look and sound legitimate and often target specific groups.
Fortunately, like most financial scams, if you are armed with a little knowledge, you can avoid mail fraud. Here is what to look out for:
6 Common Mail Scams and How to Avoid Them
1. Stolen and Altered Checks: One form of mail fraud involves straight out theft from street mailboxes. In this scam, thieves steal checks from a blue USPS mail drop box, then alter the amounts and cash the check(s). In one case, a check to pay a gas bill was altered and cashed for $5,000!
How To Protect Yourself: A safe, convenient way to avoid this fraud is to use IDB Global Federal Credit Union’s free Bill Pay solution, which is available in Online and Mobile Banking. It is fast and easy to set up, more convenient than writing checks, and secure. Also, Zelle® is a fast, safe and easy way to send and receive money with friends, family and others you trust - no matter where they bank1. It is also available in Online and Mobile Banking. If you still prefer or must use paper checks, then take these precautions:
- Hand your mail to a mail carrier or use the counter or mail slot inside your local post office.
- Pick up mail promptly after it is delivered.
- If you are out of town, then ask the post office to hold your mail or ask a friend to retrieve it daily.
- Never send cash in the mail.
2. Elder Mail Fraud: Older men and women are common targets of mail fraud because they are seen as more polite and more trusting, according to the FBI. They also often have retirement savings and other assets they have spent decades earning and accumulating. And while there are many types of elder fraud, from in-person to online to mail, they all have certain elements in common. The scammer gains your confidence, then asks for your personal information, bank details, or money.
How To Protect Yourself: If you get a letter asking for personal or financial information, or for payment information related to retirement benefits, back taxes, or anything else that is inconsistent with your records, then call the business directly and inquire about the matter. Do not use phone numbers or addresses on the letter itself, as they could be fraudulent.
3. Phony Job Offer Mail Fraud: Being out of work and looking for a job is tough. The stress of unemployment can also hinder good judgment. Scammers count on that stress. By giving job seekers false hope about an employment opportunity, scammers angle to get personal information, bank information, or up-front money. Common ploys are pyramid or money-making schemes, check cashing schemes, and phony job offers.
How To Protect Yourself: If you are asked for any personal, financial, or bank information, or if you are asked to give a monetary deposit in return for a job offer or an “amazing money-making opportunity,” then be very wary. Legitimate job offers or business opportunities do not lead with requests like that. Remember you are the asset in any job opportunity: they are paying for your services, not the other way round.
4. Prizes and Lotteries Mail Fraud: Who loves winning prizes? Everyone, that’s who. That’s why this scam is so common. The scammers send you a letter telling you that you won a prize or lottery. There is just one small catch: To collect your money, you need to send in a processing fee or pay the taxes up front. But, when you do, the prize or winnings never arrive.
How To Protect Yourself: It is simple. Apply logic, such as how likely is it that you won a cash prize randomly from a contest you never entered of heard of? Never trust offers that are too good to be true. They are not true.
5. Mail Fraud Targeting Veterans: According to the US Postal Inspection Service, 78% of retired military men and women have been the target of scams. Why? One reason is that veterans are inclined to trust fellow members of the military or institutions. A second is that they often deal with post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD). Scammers use both elements to their advantage by making fraudulent claims that offer veteran benefits, employment, or special veteran discounts. Usually, there is a request for a small fee or personal information in the letter.
How to Protect Yourself: If you are a veteran and receive a letter asking for personal information or money up front for a product or service, then be immediately suspicious. Phone a trusted veteran organization and inquire about the offer. Do not blindly trust any phone or email address in the letter itself.
6. Fraudulent Document Mail Fraud: This type of mail fraud is particularly direct: it literally asks you to fill out a form, including your sensitive personal, financial, or banking information. For example, you might get a very real looking credit card application, which asks you for sensitive information. Or it might be a phony sweepstakes or loan offer. Sometimes, the document asks for a small fee in addition to your information.
How To Protect Yourself: If you did not request a form or were not informed of one coming from an entity you trust, then do not release any sensitive personal or financial information. As with other forms of mail fraud, verify the entity’s phone number independently and inquire about the request.
Important Information from IDB Global Federal Credit Union and Zelle®:
Zelle® and the Zelle-related marks are wholly owned by Early Warning Services, LLC and are used herein under license.
1 U.S. checking or savings account required to use Zelle®. Transactions between enrolled consumers typically occur in minutes.
Please note that Zelle® through IDB Global Federal Credit Union, is only available for primary account owners only; joint account owners are not able to access Zelle® at this time.
How to Avoid Mobile Banking Scams
When you think of banking scams targeting your checking, savings and other financial accounts, you usually don’t think smartphone or mobile banking app usage. The fact is, with the increased convenience of mobile banking through smartphones comes increased interest from scammers and fraudsters. And with banking scams increasing nationwide in the first quarter of 2021 by a whopping 159% over the last quarter of 2020, according to a report by data science and cybersecurity company Feedzai, it’s never been more important to know how to avoid scams, theft, and fraud.
At IDB Global Federal Credit Union, our focus is you, and that includes your financial security.
Here are 11 ways on how to protect yourself.
1. Multi-Factor Authentication: This is a powerful tool for protecting your financial information from fraudsters and you should use it when signing into any financial sites from your smartphone. At IDB Global Federal Credit Union, you have three options: Google Authenticator, Microsoft Authenticator or VIP Access. Any of these three free security tools make logging into online and mobile banking safer and only take a few seconds to use. Visit our Login Authentication Guide page for easy steps to get started today!
2. Check Your Statements Regularly: One of the best ways to protect yourself against financial fraud is by regularly checking your account statements. E-statements, available within online banking and the IDB Global FCU app, promise faster delivery, instant access, and enhanced security for your financial information. Go Green and Go Paperless with E-statements.
Sign up following these easy steps.
- Log in to Online Banking
- Click on “Additional Services”
- Click on “Online Statements”
- Click on "Continue"
- Check the box next to “Go Paperless"
3. How to Use Zelle® to Safely Send Money: Zelle® is a fast, safe and easy way to send and receive money with friends, family and others you trust - no matter where they bank.
It's important that you know and trust those you send money to.
Because once you authorize a payment to be sent, you can't cancel it if the recipient is already enrolled in Zelle®. Why? Because money moves quickly - directly into the recipient's bank account typically within minutes.
Tips for Sending Money Safely
- Confirm your recipient’s contact information. Make sure you have the correct U.S. mobile phone number or email address for the person you want to send money to. When in doubt, contact your friend to double check.
- Beware of payment scams. If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. For example, is a stranger selling online concert tickets at a steep discount and insisting you pay with Zelle®? Think twice. Make sure you only send money to people you personally know and trust.
- Understand your payment options. If you don’t know a person or aren’t sure you’ll get what you paid for, using your credit card may be a better payment option. Many credit card companies offer built-in buyer protections for cardholders. Check the terms and conditions of your credit card to see what’s offered. Unlike a credit card, neither IDB Global Federal Credit Union nor Zelle® offers a protection program for any authorized payments made with Zelle® – for example, if you do not receive the item or the item is not as described or as you expected.
4. Never Use the Same Password Twice: We know it’s so much easier to use your mother’s birthday or favorite vacation spot for all of your logins. But that’s exactly what scammers are hoping for. Instead, you should use different passwords for each financial site. Also, make passwords a combination of cases and characters and impossible to guess or figure out through easily accessible information.
5. Use Fingerprint or Facial Recognition: Many modern smartphones offer fingerprint or facial recognition. You should always set up and use these, if possible, for your device. Further, IDB Global Federal Credit Union allows you to use facial recognition, if your device supports it, when logging into Mobile Banking. This is a fast, convenient way to protect your accounts and information.
6. Avoid Public WiFi: Yes, it’s convenient to buy things online or pay your phone bill while sipping a cappuccino at your favorite cafe. But remember, everyone within a few buildings radius is on the same network, and it remains too easy for fraudsters to hack into poorly protected devices and read emails, steal passwords, and worse.
7. Don’t Trust Unfamiliar Text Messages: Scammers often use text messages, along with emails, to get you to click on links or attachments that surreptitiously load malicious programs onto your smartphone. These programs wait until you log into a financial account and then steal sensitive information like login IDs, passwords, and account data. To avoid this, do not click on any un-requested links or attachments. Instead, call your financial institution and ask if the text, or email, was sent by them.
8. Use Cards Control: Controlling how and where your IDB Global Federal Credit Union Debit Cards are used, as well as staying up-to-date on Debit Card transactions is a powerful way to stop fraud. Cards Control, available through online and mobile banking, is that tool. With Cards Control, you can set balance and spending alerts and limits, turn your cards on and off instantly, limit where your cards can be used, and much more. We encourage all members to use Cards Control to help keep their accounts safe.
9. Sign Up for IDB Global Federal Credit Union Text Messages and Push Notifications: While you should be wary of any texts you don’t completely trust, signing up for text message alerts and push notifications about your accounts are great defenses against fraud and other financial mishaps. With Text Message Banking and push notifications, you get important information about your accounts from your financial partner anytime, anywhere. For example you can set alerts for low balances or large withdrawals, and even get weekly balance updates. Sign up for Text Message Banking through Online Banking. For push notifications, log in to our app and navigate to Settings to set-up Push Notifications today!
10. Install Virus Protection: Remember, you should think of your smartphone as a small computer, because that’s exactly what it is. So, installing malware, spyware and other virus protection is important. Here are some options for consideration.
11. Install the Latest Software Updates: App and operating system updates often include security updates, so this is an important way to make sure your smartphone and banking apps are as safe as they can be. It’s important to only download updates from the app and software makers or the Apple App or Google Play stores.
Don't Trust Social Engineering Scams
Social Engineering might sound like some mad scientist’s attempt to alter human interaction, but it’s actually… much worse. Social engineering describes a host of fraudulent schemes using psychological manipulation, lies and tricks to steal unsuspecting people’s money and sensitive information. In social engineering scams, thieves and scammers gain the confidence of their victims by posing as a trustworthy source or contact.
Fortunately, because the key to success is gaining a target’s trust, with a little knowledge and caution, you can protect yourself.
Here are the most common types of social engineering scams and how to avoid them.
1. Pretexting: In this scam, a crook impersonates a person of authority or a peer, such as a police officer, bank or tax official, co-worker, or other peer to gain your trust. Often, they will have done some preliminary research so they can convince you they have “clearance” to see your sensitive information. They might know your full name, address, age, or some other fact that is attainable through public means. However, this is merely to dupe you into giving them more sensitive, private information, such as account passwords, social security numbers and more.
2. Social Spear Phishing: Social media, especially in the time of COVID, has never been so popular as a way to stay in touch, even while remaining distant. Scammers have taken advantage of this. Through spear phishing, crooks create fake social media accounts based on research about you, posing as friends of friends or colleagues. With time, they gain your trust and begin asking for money or sensitive information. This is one scam that nobody believes they would ever fall for -- until they do.
3. Bad Check Scam: Whether it’s a buyer who responds to your Craigslist ad, a purported “friend of a friend,” or other pretext, this scam is common. It goes like this: The scammer sends you a check, but -- Oops -- it’s for the wrong amount. They mistakenly wrote it for too much. They then ask you to wire them the difference. Being the kind, honest person you are, you do it. Then, a few days later, your bank notifies you that the check has been returned for lack of funds. You’re not only out the money you wired, you could incur further penalties for lack of funds yourself. Bottom line, ask them to write another check for the lower amount. If they are genuine, they will. If not, good job; you just avoided a scam.
4. Social Phishing: This is the more general “wide net” approach in which fraudsters create email, text message and social media campaigns that do everything from promoting amazing investment opportunities to sending fear-based urgent requests for information or money. Yet another scam tricks you into opening a link, which will then install malware on your computer and steal information.
How to Protect Yourself
IDB Global Federal Credit Union uses proven sophisticated security to ensure every member’s sensitive personal and financial information is protected. But air-tight institutional security is exactly why crooks resort to social engineering scams -- they rely on the weak link: people’s good nature and trust. Here’s how you can stop them cold.
Use Two-Factor Authentication: IDB Global Federal Credit Union recently adopted Google Authenticator, an app that generates a unique code you can use to verify your identity when logging in to remote banking. Using Google Authenticator is a safe way for members to confirm their identity during log-in for online banking and our mobile application. It’s fast, easy, and secure. This is great protection for all your accounts. Google Authenticator is available for Android and IOS devices, and available for download on any device that can access the App Store or Google Play Store. Learn more at our Google Authenticator page!
Never Give Out Full Social Security Numbers, Usernames or Passcodes: There are very few, if any, legitimate reasons that anyone will ask for your full SSI number, username or passcode. Official institutions ask for the last four digits of your SSI number and most username and password “fixes” involve sending you a temporary one upon your explicit request. This temporary, one-time passcode should not be shared with anyone either. As a general rule, only crooks will ask you for these; for instance, authentic IDB Global Federal Credit Union representatives will never ask members for their online banking credentials.
Always Initiate the Call: One of the easiest and most effective protective measures you can take as a consumer is to ensure the validity of the person to whom you are speaking. So, if you receive an unsolicited call, text or email from someone claiming to be from your financial institution, a government agency or some other entity, do not engage. Instead, research and call the official number for that entity yourself. Only then will you know it is legitimate. For example, IDB Global Federal Credit Union’s official website lists our valid contact numbers.
Do Not Trust Caller ID: Tech-savvy fraudsters can easily modify Caller ID to mimic a trusted source, such as financial institutions, friends or government agencies. So, you should never trust it fully, especially if the caller asks for sensitive information. Again, hang up, research the official number, and initiate the call yourself.
Never Open Emails or Links From Suspicious Sources: Sending emails and links that, when opened, install malicious software on your electronic device is one of the most common and most successful ways to steal sensitive personal and financial information. But it’s easy to avoid. If you have even the slimmest of doubts about the source of an email or link, do not open it. If you believe you might need the information, research and navigate to the legitimate source on your own.
Do Not Share Too Much Personal Information on Social Media: Remember, one of the ways fraudsters gain your trust is by researching you and convincing you that they do or should have access to your personal and financial information. So be careful about including information they could use on social media -- birthdays, relatives’ names, former addresses, etc.
At IDB Global Federal Credit Union, our focus is your convenience and security. We hope this information helps you have a safe, fraud-free summer season. As always, if you have any questions about this or other topics, don’t hesitate to contact us. We are proud to be your financial partners anytime, anywhere.
How to Avoid Fake Check Scams
Each year, fake check scams cheat tens of thousands of people out of millions of dollars collectively. In fact, in 2019 alone, the Federal Trade Commission reports that 27,000 fake check scams resulted in $28 million in losses. And since, for now, checks are one of the most common ways to conduct a financial transaction, it’s wise to know what to look out for.
Four Common Check Scams and How to Avoid Them
1.The Fake Stimulus Check Scam: That’s right, crooks have found a way to make the pandemic even worse: by taking advantage of the financial help from Uncle Sam. A common stimulus check scam involves a text or email informing you that your stimulus check is ready: all you have to do is click on a link and provide your financial or other sensitive information for verification. They might also call you on the phone asking for this personal information. The information usually includes bank account numbers, social security numbers, your date of birth, or similar data. Scammers use these to steal your money or your identification.
How to Protect Yourself: The IRS will never send unsolicited texts, emails, or phone calls, so this is a dead giveaway that it’s a scam. Also, the IRS uses the term “Economic Impact Payment,” not Stimulus Check. If you have any doubts about a communication, call the IRS directly or visit their secure website.
2. The IRS Tax Refund Check Scam: In this fraud, after stealing your personal information, a scammer then files a tax return in your name and has a refund check sent to you or deposited in your bank account. Then, he or she tries to reclaim the money from you through deceptions, like demanding it was a mistake and that you must repay the money into a certain account. The demands can seem very intimidating and real: calls from supposed IRS agents, threats of arrest warrants or criminal charges, or “blacklisting” your Social Security Number. And to make matters worse, when you file your real tax return, the IRS rejects it because they believe one was already filed and a refund given, causing more financial loss.
How to Protect Yourself: The IRS will only contact you through the mail and will never threaten you or threaten legal action over the phone. It is important that you guard your personal and financial information carefully.
3. The “Overpayment” Scam: This fraudulent buyer scam works the same whether you are leasing out your house or apartment or selling a car or couch. After agreeing on a price (often full price, without haggling), the “buyer” sends you a check or money order that looks real. Then, shortly after, he or she informs you that they made a mistake and made the check out for too much. For instance, you agreed on $3,000, and they made it out for $3,500. Worse, they claim, it’s put them in a financially bad position, so could you please wire them the difference (the $500 in the above case). Your wire “reimbursing” them goes through immediately, but their check bounces, and you’re their latest victim.
How to Protect Yourself: The main giveaway to this scam is that most of the time, the perpetrator makes up an excuse about why they can’t meet in person. “Your car is exactly what I’ve been looking for, but I’m out of town, so I’ll send you a check now, and my brother will pick the car up later,” they’ll say. Don’t fall for it.
4. Fake Check Scam: Whether it’s someone giving you a bogus check for an item you’re selling or someone sending you a phony check and asking you to give them cash in return, fake checks are a common scam. And because of the delay in a check clearing your bank account, the counterfeiter could be long gone with your money or goods before you discover the scam. Fortunately, there are ways to spot a counterfeit check.
How to Protect Yourself: First, make sure it’s a legitimate bank’s name on the check; you’d be surprised how many times it’s not, or it’s misspelled. If you’re unsure, search the name on the FDIC’s BankFind site. Next, if the check was mailed to you, see if the postmark on the envelope matches the city on the check. Be especially wary if it was mailed from a different country. Finally, look for security features such as watermarks, security threads, or color-changing ink. Counterfeiters can copy these, but often their quality is poor and obvious.
At IDB Global Federal Credit Union, we take pride in keeping all members up to date when it comes to fraud and how to avoid becoming a victim. For additional tips on how to protect yourself from check-cashing fraud, visit our Fraud Alerts page. Additionally, members can sign up for check cleared alerts within online banking. Alerts and notifications are customizable and should be part of your financial management.
If you believe that you might have been a victim of any of these or other financial scams, please contact us immediately by phone at +1 202-623-3363, email [email protected], or via our new digital support solution. We are closer and even more available to you in new ways, like video call and chat, that you can easily access from your computer or phone. Currently available within our website, Online Banking, application platforms, and Mortgage Center during business hours (9 a.m. - 5 p.m. EST).
From all of us at IDB Global Federal Credit Union, we thank you for your continued trust in us as your financial partners anytime, anywhere.
Have a Happy, Fraud-Free Holiday
This holiday season, shopping will go online like never before. In fact, depending on which experts you speak to, online retail sales this holiday season will increase by anywhere from 18% to 35% from November through January. And while that’s good news for consumers staying COVID-free this winter, it’s also great news for scammers and hackers who want to steal your money.
Fortunately, there are simple, effective actions you can take to protect yourself.
8 Ways to Avoid Holiday Online Shopping Scams
1. Protect Your Debit Cards with Cards Control
Debit Cards Control is an innovative product that allows you to control how, when, and where your debit card is used, all from the convenience of your laptop or smartphone. With Debit Cards Control, you can monitor your debit cards from one location, set alert delivery preferences,* block international transactions,** turn your cards on and off, limit merchant and transaction types, establish spending limits, and more. That’s a lot of fraud-stopping power. To get started, visit our Debit Cards Control page, or log into Mobile or Online Banking.
2. Use the Power of Online Banking
IDB Global Federal Credit Union’s Online Banking features can help you protect yourself against debit and credit card fraud. Through our Online Banking, which is free to all members with an account, you can set up mobile and email alerts to get notifications about balance limits, withdrawals and more. Learn more about all you can do here.
3. Stick with Large, Well-Known Brands
Large online retailers invest heavily in online security and have a reputation of legitimacy to retain. So sticking with these brands when shopping online is a good hedge against online shopping fraud. Also, be very wary of sites that don’t end in .com or that have odd titles you’ve never heard of.
Legitimate, quality online shopping retailers care about your security, and pay a lot to ensure it. One clue that an online retailer has invested in protecting you from fraud is in its URL, or address bar. It should begin with “https,” not “http.” The “s” connotes that it is a secure site. There should also be a padlock icon () next to it. These are signs that your financial information will be protected through encryption.
4. Always Get a Tracking Number
Wherever you shop, get a mail tracking number and carrier information for your order. This not only provides some assurance that a package has been sent, but also allows you to follow that package and know when to follow up on any delays.
5. Use Credit Cards
Any seller that requests unusual payment methods, such as direct wire transfers, prepaid or gift cards, or cashiers checks should send the fraud-detecting hairs on the back of your neck to code red. Money sent in these ways is almost impossible to recover, and you have little recourse. A credit card is generally the safest way to pay for an online purchase and most legitimate sellers accept these.
And if you do venture out, make your transactions safer and more convenient using Apple Pay, Samsung Pay or Google Pay. Any of these no-touch methods allow you to pay faster and more securely by merely holding your phone near the payment terminal. You can learn more about securely linking your IDB Global Federal Credit Union credit and debit cards here.
6. Don't Allow Sites to Save Your Financial Information
It might be more convenient, but unless you are very sure of the site, allowing online retailers to save your credit card or other financial information could cost you more than it’s worth. Remember, the more places your financial information is stored, the more chances bad actors have at stealing it.
7. Study Your Statements
It’s easy to forget to check your debit and credit card statements during the chaos of the holidays. That’s exactly what thieves count on. So check your statements vigilantly and report any suspicious charges immediately. To make that even easier, we suggest signing up for E-Statements through online banking. E-Statements replace your paperless statements and have many advantages: they lower the risk of mail fraud, give you 24/7 access to up to 18 months of statements, are available earlier than paper statements, and are environmentally friendly. You can learn more at our E-Statements page.
8. Refuse Direct Requests for Financial or Personal Information
Legitimate online retailers create safe websites, with secure online forms for you to fill out. They never ask for your credit or debit card information via email, text or phone. Conversely, scammers will often contact you by email, phone or text. This should be a very large, very bright red flag. Bottom line: Never give your financial or personal information to a retailer you do not contact yourself.
If you do become a victim of credit or debit card fraud, there are important steps you should take:
- Report the crime to the retailer and your card issuer as soon as you become aware of it.
- Have your credit or debit cards canceled and replaced with cards featuring new numbers.
- Give your new credit or debit card numbers to any entities with which you use auto-pay.
- Report the crime to the police, if necessary.
At IDB Global Federal Credit Union, our focus is you, especially at this time of year. If you receive a suspicious request for your IDB Global Federal Credit Union account information, immediately contact the credit union at [email protected] or 202-623-3363. For the latest information on frauds and scams, visit the Fraud Protection page on our website.
And as always, if you have any questions about this or other topics, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here for you.
*SMS text messages are available for United States members only.
**This feature is only available for members residing in the United States.
What's worse than debt collectors? fake debt collectors
How to avoid phony debt collectors and fraudulent robocalls.
Home mortgage, car loans, credit cards. If you’re like most people, your life requires you to carry some kind of debt. And whether you’ve never missed a payment, or are a little behind, you could be targeted by fake debt collectors.
These criminals threaten to ruin your credit, place you in bankruptcy, or worse. They use tactics like threats, lies, inflated amounts owed, and more to get you to pay fake debts or give up sensitive personal and financial information. Falling victim to these scammers can cost you big time.
Fortunately, real debt collectors must follow rules, enforced by the Fair Trade Commission (FTC). So, with a little caution, it’s easy to spot fraudsters and stay safe.
7 Telltale Signs of a Fake Debt Collector
Use of profane language or threats of violence. If a debt collector swears at you or threatens you with violence of any kind, it’s a sure sign that they’re a fraud -- or at the very least an unscrupulous debt collecting agency. Either way, you have rights. The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) prohibits the use of obscene language or violent threats.
Repeated calls or calls at unreasonable hours. We’ve all had those calls late at night or early in the morning, or the number that pops up four times a day. It’s frustrating, and possibly illegal. The FDCPA prohibits repeated calls and calls before 8 a.m. or after 9 p.m. If this happens to you, it could be a scammer.
Threats of jail time. In years past, debtors prison was indeed real. Thankfully, it’s not now. Sure, debts to the criminal justice system could result in incarceration, but not from private businesses, banks, credit card companies, etc. So, don’t be intimidated, be wary. When a debt collector threatens jail time, odds are he is the one at risk for it.
Pressure to pay with a money transfer or prepaid card. Again, this is not a sure sign of a scammer, but it is a reason to be very wary. Scammers like these payment methods because it’s very difficult for you to get your money back when you discover you’ve been duped.
Withholding information from you. Legitimate debt collectors must tell you basic information such as the name of the creditor, the amount you owe, and that they must obtain verification of the debt if you dispute it. If they don’t provide this information the first time they speak to you, they must send you a written notice within five days. It’s the law.
Threatening to tell family, friends or work about your debt. There are strict federal laws about what debt collectors can discuss with third parties. For instance, debt collectors can contact family and friends, but only to get your phone number, address or where you work. They cannot tell them about your debt. So, if the debt collector on the phone threatens this, they are a fake, or threatening to break the law.
Requests for sensitive financial or personal information. It’s a very good rule of thumb to never give information such as your bank account number or social security number to a caller until you are absolutely certain they are legitimate. If you have any doubt, hang up and call the creditor of the debt you owe. That way, you know exactly who you are speaking with.
How to Deal With a Suspicious Debt Collection Call
Ask the caller for his name, company information and a “validation notice.” Through the FDCPA a creditor must send you a validation notice that tells you the name of the creditor you owe, the amount you owe, and your legal rights. Tell any debt collector that you refuse to discuss any debt until you receive this notice.
Stop speaking with the caller. If you suspect you are dealing with a scammer, or an unscrupulous debt collector, and you have an address, send a letter demanding that the caller stop contacting you and save a copy of the letter. By law, real debt collectors must stop calling you if you ask them to in writing.
Contact the creditor directly. If you believe the debt is legitimate, but the debt collector is not, hang up and contact the creditor directly. You can either work with them or they can give you the name of the legitimate debt collection agency they referred your case to. Either way, you know it’s not a scam and you can move forward with confidence.
Robocalls: The 21st Century Scam
Robocalls. We’ve all gotten them. They’re very annoying, very persistent, and a little weird. Robocalls are recorded messages, usually telling you that your car warranty needs updating, about “great” investment opportunities, or about a debt you supposedly owe. Often, they have one thing in common: They’re a scam to get your money or personal information.
They are also becoming more prevalent every year. This is because internet-powered phone systems have made robocalls cheap and easy for scammers to make. They can easily hide their location and display fake caller ID information.
But instead of hanging up, you can be part of the solution by filing a complaint.
Unwanted and illegal robocalls are the number one complaint to the FTC, with millions of complaints already filed. This information helps create call-blocking “blacklists.” In addition, the FTC has filed more than 100 lawsuits, encouraging efforts against caller ID spoofing, and have even launched contests that challenge tech gurus to come up with blocking tools.
Until they are successful, however, remember to stay on guard and follow the same caution that you would with any potential scam.
Remember, fake debt collectors, whether live or using robocalls, rely on fear and confusion to cheat you out of your money. But you have rights. So stay calm and the and time to verify the legitimacy of any claim.
For the latest information on frauds and scams, visit the IDB Global Federal Credit Union Online Fraud Center at our website. If you receive a suspicious request for your IDB Global Federal Credit Union account information, immediately contact the credit union at [email protected] or 202-623-3363.
And as always, if you have any questions about this or other topics, don’t hesitate to contact us. We’re here for you.
Staying Safe online during tax season!
Now that W-2s are arriving, it’s time to consider how to stay safe from tax season scams. Every year while filling their returns, taxpayers are shocked to find that someone else has filed a fraudulent one in their name! Sadly, tax fraud has only become more widespread and digital communication has opened new ways for it to happen. In order to protect you from tax fraud, today we’ll be discussing how to identify tax scams, and techniques you can use to stay safe during tax season.
How is Tax Fraud Perpetrated
According to cisesecurity.org, a great deal of your personal information can be gathered from multiple locations online with almost no verification. Criminals know this, so they use this trick to get your personal information from a variety of websites and use the information to file a fraudulent tax refund request. If a criminal files a tax return in your name before you do, they will file it with false information to get a large refund, forcing you to go through the arduous process of proving that you did not file the return and subsequently correcting the return. While the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) reports on multiple tax-payer related scams, three scam variants are worth highlighting:
- Phishing and Malware Schemes
The goal of phishing and malware is to trick you into entering your login credentials, verifying sensitive personal information, or downloading malware. The criminals may send a phishing message indicating that a new copy of your tax form(s) is available. These convincing emails often impersonate state, local, tribal, and/or IT departments, and then direct you to websites that appear to be IRS, state government, tax software, or financial institutions. They might include a link to a phishing website that uses your organization’s logo with a convincing signature line in the email. If you fill out or attempt to login into the phishing website, the criminals will be able to see your login name and password, which they can then use to try to compromise your other accounts.
- Identity Theft and Falsely Filed Tax Returns
A popular scam from last year’s tax season involved impersonating an executive and using a compromised or spoofed email account to obtain W-2 information from an HR professional within the same organization. Individual taxpayers are targeted in these tax scams, but criminals have also evolved their tactics to focus on mass data thefts. The more information they gather about you, the easier it is for them to use the information to file a fake tax return in your name. Once criminals have your information, they can also continue to commit identity theft well beyond tax season.
- Impersonations Scams
Finally, criminals can perpetrate scams by impersonating the IRS or a tax official, such as a tax advocacy panel or tax preparer. They may say you owe money to the IRS or your state tax department or may represent themselves as a trusted tax authority and request information. This contact can occur through websites, emails, or threatening calls or text messages that seem official.
These tax fraudsters impersonating IRS officials may also threaten you with penalties if you do not make an immediate payment. Sometimes, criminals request their victims pay the “penalties” via strange methods such as gift cards or prepaid credit cards. If you are not expecting a call from the IRS, the person on the other side of the phone claiming to be an IRS officer is most likely a fraud. If you get such a call, it is important not to engage at all and resist the pressure to act quickly. Instead, go ahead and report the contact to TIGTA at http://www.treasury.gov/tigta by clicking on the red button, “IRS Impersonation Scam Reporting.” It is important to remember:
• The IRS will not initiate contact about payment with taxpayers by phone, email, text messages, or social media without sending an official letter in the mail first.
• The IRS will not call to demand immediate payment over the phone using a specific payment method such as a debit/credit card, a prepaid card, a gift card, or a wire transfer.
• The IRS will not threaten to immediately notify local police or other law-enforcement agencies to have you arrested for not paying.
• The IRS will not demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount you owe.
What Can You Do?
Here are some basic tips from cisecurity to help you minimize the chances of becoming a victim of a tax scam:
• File your tax return as soon as you get your W-2's and other tax information. Criminals cannot successfully file a fraudulent return if you have already filed with the IRS! If you are a member and you would like some assistance filing your taxes, you can access the award-winning platform Turbo Tax by login into your Online Banking account.
• Be aware of phone calls, emails, and websites that try to get your information, or pressure you to make a payment.
• Ignore emails and texts asking for personal or tax information.
• Be cautious as to whom you provide your information, including your Social Security Number and date of birth.
• Don’t click on unknown links or links from unsolicited messages.
• Don’t open attachments from unsolicited messages, as they may contain malware.
• Only conduct financial business over trusted ( ) websites. Don’t use public, guest, free, or insecure Wi-Fi networks while conducting transactions either.
• Keep your information secure and shred all unneeded or old documents containing confidential and financial information.
• Check your credit report regularly for unauthorized activity.
• Be cautious if you receive notification that you have somehow miraculously qualified for an immediate IRS tax relief. If it seems too good to be true, it probably isn’t true.
• If someone claiming to be from the IRS is on the phone demanding personal information such as your Social Security Number, just hang up. If you are concerned about an issue related to the IRS, you can contact them directly on a contact number listed on https://www.irs.gov/ or get in touch with a tax advisor.
• Avoid sharing your full SSN over the phone with anyone unless necessary and always keep all documents that have it, such as W2.
Another great way to remain financially secure during tax season is by downloading the MobiMoney mobile app for your debit cards. As the old saying goes: prevention is better than the cure; and these MobiMoney features will help you remain vigilant of any dubious financial activity.
Seeking Help and Reporting Scams
If you receive a tax-related phishing or suspicious email at work, report it according to your company’s policy. The IRS encourages taxpayers to send suspicious emails related to tax fraud to its [email protected] email account or to call the IRS at 800-908-4490.
If you suspect you have become a victim of tax fraud or identity theft, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Identity Theft website will provide a step-by-step recovery plan.
We at IDB Global Federal Credit Union wish you and your family a wonderful -- fraud free -- tax season. It's our goal to make your financial life healthy and stress-free.
For the latest information on frauds and scams, visit the IDB Global Federal Credit Union online fraud center at our website. And as always, if you have any questions about this or other topics, don't hesitate to contact us. We're here for you.
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 Global Federal Credit Union 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.idbglobalfcu.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.