A skimming device is a tool illegally affixed to a legitimate ATM or other automated point-of-sale machine to assist criminals in committing fraud. The device picks up ATM or debit card information when your card is swiped. A miniature camera sometimes used with the device to record the PIN of users. By copying the data onto blank cards and using an acquired PIN, fraudsters can access your money.
ATM skimming is a sophisticated crime. The devices used to commit fraud are complex and difficult to detect. At the same time, ATMs are well equipped with security measures to detect unauthorized activity. Additionally, our branch staff has procedures in place to prevent our ATMs from being compromised and processes to ensure any tampering is immediately detected. We have had some members fall victim to these devices at gas stations, restaurants or other self-service point-of-sale machines. As always, we feel that awareness is the best way to prevent any type of fraud.
Here’s how to protect yourself from fraud associated with skimming devices:
The simplest and most effective way to protect your card and PIN is to cover the keypad from view when you enter your PIN. Developing this simple habit can prevent thieves from accessing your money, regardless of whether they’ve skimmed your card.
Take caution if you notice inconsistencies in your ATM experience. Some fraud artists are now using cell phone cameras to film videos of PINs being entered while standing behind users at ATMs.
If you’ve used an ATM in the past and you remember it being a motorized ATM (one that takes and holds your card during your transaction) and now it’s a “dip” ATM (one that you simply dip in and pull your card out), take caution. A skimming device may be attached.
Similarly, if the card swipe doesn’t match the color or style of the ATM machine, it might be a skimmer. Compare the card device to others at nearby ATMs or gas pumps. Gas stations that ask for your zip code instead of your PIN may be a safer option.
Above all, trust your instincts. If you suspect foul play, or if you’re in doubt about the authenticity of a machine, use a different machine or payment method.
Transaction alerts keep you informed of account activity. When a transaction occurs on your account, you’ll receive a courtesy email. If the transaction wasn’t yours, contact us immediately. An immediate response to suspected fraud is the best way to protect your money. We can shut down your card to protect your funds and send you a new card or issue you a new card at a branch. These simple alerts can be set and managed under the “Manage Profile” tab in BranchLine online banking.
If you suspect that you could have been a victim of ATM skimming or any fraudulent activity, call us at (888) 858-6878 as soon as possible. We can offer additional layers of protection on your account.
by Michelle, AVP, Operations
As part of our ongoing commitment to informing and protecting members, we post details about current scams and provide tips on how to protect your personal information and accounts.
Lottery and sweepstakes scams continue to affect consumers worldwide. In fact, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) listed this type of fraud as the fourth largest complaint category in 2012, with nearly 100,000 filed complaints.
Last month, the FTC and a federal court stopped a massive sweepstakes scam that amounts to an estimated $11 million in fraud.
Here’s how the scams work:
Intended victims receive letters in the mail telling them they’ve won large amounts of money. All they have to do to receive the money is mail in a small fee, typically $20-$50, right away. The letters appear very official, including stamps, seals, bar codes and financial routing numbers. Targeted victims are often older individuals who are very trusting.
To protect yourself from these types of scams, remember that legitimate sweepstakes do not require you to pay any money to receive a prize. You should never disclose your personal information, including checking account numbers, debit card numbers or credit card numbers to unknown people over the phone, online or by mail.
If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud, or that your account has been compromised, immediately call a member service representative at (888) 858-6878. The sooner we know about fraud attempts, the sooner we can act to protect you. We can cancel compromised cards, change your account number, or add a password to your account for future transactions.
As part of our commitment to protecting members and their finances, we post current scams and provide tips on how to protect your personal information and accounts. Three new scams are making headlines and have even affected some Pacific Service CU members.
Online Photo Sharing Scam
The FBI has put out an alert about cyber criminals using online photo sharing programs to gain access and harm victims’ computers. The scammer advertises a product online. To see photos of the for sale item, the buyer must provide an email address. The scammer sends either an attachment or a link to a gallery of photos, both of which infect the recipient’s computer with malicious software.
There are several ways you can protect yourself from a scam of this nature. First, keep your computer software, anti-virus software, firewalls and operating system up to date and set your anti-virus software to scan files before downloading them.
Additionally, when shopping online, stick to reputable retailers. If an item price seems much lower than it should be, the retailer may be fraudulent. Use extra caution when contacted directly by the seller after losing an online auction claiming that the original buyer fell through.
Online dating continues to rise in popularity. Although this can be a great way to meet someone, unfortunately, it can also attract fraudsters. Here’s how the scam usually works. The fraudster reaches out to the victim online. Over the course of weeks or even months, the communication continues and the two form a connection. Victims may even receive flowers or gifts. Ultimately, however, the fraudster will ask for money or ask the victim to perform a favor by cashing a check for them. The money borrowing continues until the victim realizes they have been scammed.
The FBI reports several common threads in scams of this nature. The scammer professes instant feelings of love, sends photos that look too professional, claims to be traveling or working abroad, or asks to leave the dating website to communicate using personal email. Stories often include a personal tragedy, financial hardship or the inability to cash checks where they’re working or traveling.
To protect yourself, stick to nationally-known, reputable dating sites. Do not cash checks for someone else, wire money, provide your account number, or setup automatic transfers to strangers. Above all, trust your instincts. If a situation seems suspicious, it probably is.
This type of crime is often underreported because the victims are embarrassed. If you think you’ve been a victim of a dating scam, the FBI recommends that you file a complaint with the Internet Crime Complaint Center.
Online employment scams are a common type of fraud. Here’s how the scam usually works. A job seeker applies online and after an email exchange, is hired. The employer may ask the prospective employee to provide personal information to set up employee benefits. Or, in order to receive paychecks via online, to set up an automatic transfer to their account, the employer then asks to verify automatic transfers, which often give the fraudster access to the employee’s account.
Employment scams, although often intricate and authentic in their appearance, are simply an attempt to gain personal information and commit identity theft. To protect yourself, keep your personal information private. Never provide account numbers, account access, Social Security numbers or any personal information to strangers.
If you suspect you have been a victim of fraud, or that your account has been compromised, immediately call a member service representative at (888) 858-6878. The sooner we know about fraud attempts, the sooner we can act to protect you. We can cancel compromised cards, change your account number, or add a password to your account for future transactions if it should become necessary.
You may also be interested in:
Government Lawsuit Scam Alert
Fraud Alert: Tax Scams
Utility Bill Scam Alert
by Michelle, AVP, Operations
These days, your smartphone probably carries more confidential information than your wallet. Phones often have password vaults or stored passwords, banking information, your contact information and more. Now that your phone is more important than your wallet, phone theft is the new purse snatching. So, how can you keep your personal information safe?
The first step is to lock your phone with a password. It’s basic and not foolproof; however, it’s the easiest deterrent for thieves that want quick access to your personal information. If they can’t access your information quickly after stealing your device, you will have time to report the loss and the thieves may move on.
Don’t store critical personal data in accessible applications, like notes, calendars or email. If you want to use your device as a password vault, consider a password and data vault app, like Secure Wallet, eWallet or Google Wallet, to safely house your secure data.
Use remote access like wi-fi and Bluetooth only when you need it and only from trusted sources, especially if conducting financial business. Don’t opt to have your phone automatically connect to nearby wi-fi networks and be sure to turn your Bluetooth availability off when not in use.
Instead of using your mobile browser, download an application, or “app,” instead. As long as you download from your device’s official store or marketplace, applications are safer than simply shopping or accessing websites online because they can help protect you from fraudulent phishing sites. You should also consider installing antivirus protection on tablets and notebooks. Be sure to download from your official app store or marketplace.
When accessing personal or financial information online, don’t skip the important step of logging out. Logging out closes your session and shuts down access to someone trying to access the site or app after you.
Additionally, don’t let your browser or device save your passwords. Enter your password for access every time.
When you get rid of your phone, be sure to wipe it clean of all data. Typically, phones have an option to erase the content or return it to the original factory settings.
As always, we encourage you to stay informed about current scams. We regularly post scam alerts and risks associated with banking on our blog.
If you suspect that you have been a victim of fraud or your account has been compromised, immediately call a member service representative at (888) 858-6878. We can cancel compromised Pacific Service CU cards, change your account number or add a password to your account for future transactions.
You may also be interested in:
The Keys to Passwords
Mobile Fraud – The Rumors Dispelled
Using online channels to prevent fraud
by Nannette, Vice President, Technology Solutions Group
Current law allows consumers one free credit report each year. We encourage members, like you, to review your credit report annually. When accessing your report, however, you may find it complicated and not easily understandable. Here’s what you should look for and what it means to your credit.
Your credit report can help you gauge your financial picture from a lender’s perspective. However, more importantly, you should review the entire report for general accuracy. If you see any accounts that you didn’t open or any errors with existing accounts, you should contact the credit bureau to initiate the process to correct them.
Your credit report will show who has been accessing your credit report. These inquiries are categorized as “soft” or “hard.” Soft inquiries are when someone reviews your credit, but hasn’t asked for credit. For example, it’s considered a soft inquiry when you review your credit report annually or a lender receives a change in your credit status in relation to a credit card account. Soft inquiries do not affect your credit score.
Hard inquiries occur when a business has accessed your credit report with the intent to offer credit. For example, you’ll receive a hard inquiry on your report when you apply for a credit card or auto loan. Infrequent hard inquiries don’t normally affect your credit score that much. However, frequent hard inquiries indicate an increasing desire for credit and can adversely affect your credit score. If you see any hard inquiries that you don’t recognize, it may be an indicator that someone is trying to use your credit score or is committing identity theft. In that event, report the inquiry to the credit bureau.
Delinquent payments heavily influence your credit score. If you see that your bills have been paid 30, 60, 90 or 120 days late, that can be very damaging to your score and your future ability to get a loan. The greater the payment delinquency, the more it damages your credit score.
Timing also can be a decisive factor with late payments. For example, how long ago was the late payment? Was the late payment an exception? Have late payments been a regular occurrence? Over time, late payments will become less damaging, providing your recent payment history is consistently satisfactory.
Credit Utilization Ratios and Open Credit Card Accounts
Credit scoring programs also consider your debt-to-credit limit ratio, or utilization of available credit. This ratio compares your existing balances with your available credit limit. The ratio demonstrates to lenders whether or not you are living within your means. Generally a lower ratio has a more beneficial impact on your score. In addition, an excessive number of credit cards and available credit can lower your score. Lenders and credit bureaus want to see responsible spending to show that you can have the available credit, but not necessarily use it.
Accounts that have gone to collection departments or have been written off as a bad debt can stay on your credit report for up to seven years. Lenders will be more reluctant to give a loan to someone who has caused a loss.
Typically, members are aware of adverse credit experiences on their credit report and many are making efforts to pay the obligation through workout agreements or legal proceedings. It is not uncommon, though, for consumers to be unaware of low level or inactive collection activity, for example, a forgotten insurance deductible with an old medical bill. You can start to remedy this type of situation by contacting the creditor.
It’s also increasingly common to see a collection entry on a debt that is not yours. Should you encounter that situation, you must contact the credit bureau and have the entry removed from your report. Unfortunately, identity theft is a growing problem for consumers and makes the need for reviewing your credit report even more important.
Judgments, Liens, Bankruptcies
You’ll find these listings in the public records section of your credit report. These types of events are extremely damaging to your score and can stay on your credit report for up to 10 years. For further information, read more in “What is Bankruptcy?”
You can access your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to get started.
If you’re having difficulties repaying a debt or obligation, we recommend speaking to your creditor(s) as soon as possible.
by Chris, Vice President, Lending