Holidays are right around the corner, and sadly, so are the scammers. Upcoming Holidays were established as a way of celebrating. Special times for gathering together with friends and family, creating memories, and in many cases, SHOPPING! Which also means more opportunities for fraud.
FRAUD is a broad term that can be misused and misunderstood sometimes. At AODFCU, our goal is to make sure you are educated and prepared against people who are intentionally being dishonest. People who want to take advantage of you either monetarily or with extra services or treatment, i.e., Holiday Scammers, Imposters, Online Security, and Protecting You Kids.
Not meaning to be Debbie or David Downer, but fraud is rising. In 2021, Americans reported 2.8 million fraud cases to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), with the average victim losing $550. And that’s only the cases that were reported. The good news is that there are ways of protecting yourself and your family against these scammers.
Here are a few ways to recognize and prevent fraud – so you can ensure that fraud will not keep you from celebrating and making positive memories this holiday season.
Holiday Shopping Tips – Holiday shopping can be a little stressful at times, but don’t let the stress and hype of anticipated shortages or the “need” to have something cause you to panic-buy and fall victim to holiday scams or overspending this holiday season.
- Lookout For Scammers: We hear reports of supply shortages. Scammers listen to the same information — and just like with any other “opportunity,” scammers will set up shop, “sell” what everyone is trying to buy — but not deliver.” To avoid getting scammed, the FTC recommends researching sellers by doing an online search of the retailer’s name and product, along with keywords like “scam” or “complaint.”
- Beware Of The Hype Even Black Friday or Cyber Monday discounts may not be as good of a deal this year. Create a shopping plan based on your budget and stick to your plan. The Better Business Bureau recommends that you “Read the fine print.”
- Avoid Buying Hacked Gift Cards Be careful when purchasing gift cards at retail stores. Gift cards not behind a counter are easier targets for thieves who can write down the gift card code or use a device to scan the magnetic strip on the back of the card. Every few days, the thief will check the balance and redeem the card’s value online without you or your gift recipient’s knowledge.
- Use a Secure Wi-Fi Connection Using your laptop, tablet, or smartphone at Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, hotels, universities, and other public places is convenient – especially during this busy time – but often, they’re not secure. If you connect to a Wi-Fi network and send information through websites or mobile apps, it might be accessed by someone else. Always remember, the scammers are shopping for your information just like you are shopping for gifts.
- Credit Card Fraud and Debit Card Fraud Credit card fraud, unfortunately, is easier than ever for scammers to steal your credit card numbers. They can use “skimmers” at vulnerable ATMs or simply purchase your details on the Dark Web for as little as $14
Debit card fraud is slightly different. In this scam, the scammer needs to shoulder surf your debit card PIN and get access to your physical card (or skim the numbers and create a duplicate). Once they have both, they can go to an ATM and drain your account. Debit card purchases and withdrawals aren’t covered by the same federal laws as credit cards. So that means you’re most likely on the hook for any stolen funds.
WARNING SIGNS OF CREDIT AND DEBIT CARD FRAUD:
- Missing cards or a lost or stolen wallet.
- Charges you don’t recognize. (Tiny charges are a red flag of credit card fraud as scammers use them to verify your card numbers before making larger purchases).
- A sudden change in your credit rating.
Identity Theft – Identity theft is one of the most common and devastating types of fraud. These scammers often pretend to be someone else to access your bank accounts or steal sensitive information. This includes your bank account numbers, birth date, and Social Security number (SSN). BE WISE – DO NOT GIVE OUT THIS INFORMATION UNLESS YOU ARE COMPLETELY CONFIDENT IT IS SECURE.
WARNING SIGNS OF IDENTITY THEFT:
- Strange charges on your credit card or bank statements.
- Missing or unexpected mail (fraudsters use a change-of-address scam to reroute your mail to their address).
- Calls from creditors for loans or debts you didn’t take out.
- Suspicious login attempts to your online accounts.
Imposter Scams (Phishing, SMishing & Vishing) – Imposter scams can be sent over spam emails, texts, phone calls, or even in person. In most cases, someone pretends to be someone you know or trust. For example, a family member, a representative from a business you work with, or a government agency like the IRS. There are three types of Imposter Scams.
- Phishing – via email will impersonate a business to trick you into giving them your personal information, such as usernames, passwords, and credit card details. Legitimate companies don’t ask you to send sensitive information through insecure channels. AODFCU will never ask our members or the general public for personal accounts or personally identifiable information as part of a survey.
- Don’t select links in emails that ask for personal information.
- Never open unexpected attachments.
- Delete suspicious messages, even if you know the source.
- SMishing – Phishing via SMS(Short Message Service) uses cell phone text messages to trick you into providing personal and financial information. Smishers may use URLs or an automated voice response system to try and collect your information. To prevent further security issues, remove unsolicited text messages from your phone.
- Vishing – Phishing by voice. They use telephone services to gather your information. Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) allows caller ID spoofing, thus providing anonymity for the criminal caller. Rather than providing any information to the caller, you should verify the call by contacting the financial institution or credit card company directly, being sure to use the institution’s accurate contact information (i.e., do not use contact information the caller provides.
WARNING SIGNS OF IMPOSTER SCAMS:
- They’re asking for sensitive information like passwords, card numbers, or your SSN.
- They claim to be from a government agency and are threatening action against you.
- They ask you to send payments in gift cards, wire transfers, or cryptocurrency.
- Their messages contain spelling and grammar mistakes and sketchy visuals.
PROTECTING YOUR KIDS
Adding “Protecting Your Kids” to a fraud blog may seem a little out of character, but at AODFCU, we have a passion for protecting our adult clients and our kid clients. The need to protect the next generation can never be discussed enough.
Kids have lots of opportunities for socializing online, but they come with certain risks. Parents can help reduce these risks by talking to kids about making safe, responsible decisions. The Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) enables you to protect your children’s privacy. Enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), COPPA requires websites to get parental consent before collecting or sharing information from children under 13 years old.
Here are a few things to keep in mind regarding children’s online presence and activities and how you can be proactive in protecting children online.
- Remind Kids That Online Actions Have Consequences – Kids see things through a different lens. They need to have more of an understanding of things – without terrifying them.
- Tell Kids to Limit What They Share – we teach our children to share, but we also need to teach them to be guarded in certain situations.
- Limit Access to Your Kids’ Profiles – There are ways to limit who has access to your child’s profile. Protect your child from unwanted seekers.
- Talk to Kids About What They’re Doing Online – Take time to talk to your children about what they are checking out online.
Here is a link that lists the many topics and ways you can protect your children from online fraud. Protecting Kids Online | Consumer Advice (ftc.gov)
AODFCU is excited about the Holidays, and we want you to be excited as well. During this season, we must embrace the good, the bad, and the ugly. Remember that this is a time for celebration, to enjoy family and friends, and to protect yourself against fraud. Use these suggestions to prepare yourself and your family, and reach out to us with any questions. Our team is here to help.
*Certain restrictions may apply.
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