Secret Accounts and the Federal Reserve Banks
Federal Reserve Bank of New York reports that scammers are telling people they can pay their bills using so-called “secret accounts” or “social security trust accounts” and routing numbers at Federal Reserve Banks. In exchange for personal information, like social security numbers, people get what they think is a bank account number.
But this really is just a way to get your personal information, which scammers can then sell or use to commit fraud, like identity theft.
It’s good to keep in mind that people do not have personal or business accounts at Federal Reserve Banks. Only banks can bank at the Federal Reserve. But what happens if you try to use this “secret” account? The Federal Reserve Bank will deny the payment, since you don’t really have an account there. You also may owe fees to your bank for returned or rejected payments.
If you see ads that describes how you can pay bills using a Federal Reserve Bank routing number or account, report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Never give your credit card, bank account, or social security number to anyone.
For more helpful information about this topic, take advantage of the free resources found from the FTC.
Social Security Scam
The SSA estimates that scammers call thousands of Americans every day, looking to gain personal information, steal benefits, or both. It’s a common form of government impostor scam, in which fraudsters pose as government officials to get you to send money or give up personal and financial data for use in identity theft.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reported a surge in late 2018 in scams involving fake SSA employees calling people with warnings that their Social Security numbers had been linked to criminal activity and suspended. It is starting to surge again. The caller asks you to confirm your number so he or she can reactivate it or issue you a new one, for a fee. This is no emergency but a ploy to get money and personal data as the SSA does not block or suspend numbers.
This con is sometimes executed via robocall — the recording provides a number for you to call to remedy the problem. In another version, the caller says your bank account is at risk due to the illicit activity and offers to help you keep it safe.
On the other hand, you might get a call from a supposed SSA representative bearing good news — say, a cost-of-living increase in your benefits. To get the extra money, you just have to verify your name, date of birth and Social Security number. Armed with that information, scammers can effectively hijack your account, asking SSA to change the address, phone number and direct deposit information on your record and divert your benefits to their account.
Consumer Reports warns of another trick with an ironic twist: Fraudsters send out emails that appear to be from SSA and instruct you to click a link to register for a free service that protects you from Social Security fraud. It’s actually a standard ‘pharming’ scam, designed to redirect you to a fake government website that will steal your information.
With a little vigilance, Social Security scams are not difficult to identify and avoid.
- You get an unsolicited call from someone claiming to work for SSA. Except in rare circumstances, you will not get a call from Social Security unless you have already been in contact with the agency.
- The caller asks for your Social Security number — again, something an actual SSA employee wouldn’t do.
- A call or email threatens consequences, such as arrest, loss of benefits or suspension of your Social Security number, if you do not provide a payment or personal information.
- Do hang up if someone calls you out of the blue and claims to be from SSA.
- Do be skeptical if a caller claims to be an “officer with the Inspector General of Social Security.” Scammers appropriate official-sounding and often actual government titles to make a ruse seem authentic.
- Do set up a My Social Security account online and check it on a monthly basis for signs of anything unusual, even if you have not yet started collecting benefits.
- Do install a robocall-blocking app on your smartphone, or sign up for a robocall-blocking service from your mobile network provider.
- Don’t call a phone number left on your voice mail by a robocaller. If you want to contact SSA, call the customer-service line at 800-772-1213.
Don’t assume a call is legitimate because it appears to come from 800-772-1213. Scammers use “spoofing” technology to trick caller ID.
Don’t give your Social Security number or other personal information to someone who contacts you by email. SSA never requests information that way.
Don’t click links in purported SSA emails without checking them. Mouse over the link to reveal the actual destination address. The main part of the address should end with “.gov/” — including the forward slash. If there’s anything between .gov and the slash, it’s fake.
Phishing - Electronic Scams
- Protect yourself by staying alert and acting cautiously to any requests for your personal information.
- Don’t respond to unknown solicitations and don’t give your personal information to unknown people or companies. If you’re suspicious about an email you’ve received, you should visit the company’s website directly by inputting the URL or using a bookmark. Do not click on the response link in an email. Better yet, call them if you’re concerned. Be sure to use a phone number not contained in the email.
- Avoid downloading files, emails or attachments from unknown sources because they could contain malware, viruses or links to counterfeit or “spoofed” websites.
- Protect yourself and your computer while using the Internet, by keeping your computer’s firewall turned on and keep your operating system, anti-spyware and anti-virus software up to date.
- And finally, report suspicious activity and suspected phishing attempts to the company being impersonated.
Vishing - Telephone Scams
Remember that Pacific Service CU will never contact you by phone, email or text message asking you to provide passwords, login names, social security numbers, or other personal information. If you receive a message asking you to call back with personal information like this, do not call the number provided in the message. Personal information should only be disclosed by phone if you initiated the contact directly with the company you are doing business with.
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 cards, change your account number or add a password to your account for future transactions.
Fraudulent Electronic Check Deposits
Using social media channels such as Facebook, scammers endeavor to connect to individuals in order to gain trust and ultimately personal information. Many pose as recruiters for work at home jobs that offer attractive earnings, while others attempt to gain your account credentials so they can access your account(s) and funds directly.
Another version requires credentials such as account number, social security number and password to be provided as part of the work at home application process. The fraud artist then uses the deposit capture capability on their mobile phone to take a picture of a bogus check, and deposit it to your account. They subsequently make a withdrawal from your account through an ATM or other source. The counterfeit check is then returned and the deposit reversed.
There are numerous fraud scams involving social media. You can protect yourself by following these simple tips:
- Never share your personal or account information with anyone and never store sensitive information in a location where it could easily be accessed.
- Know who you are doing business with and verify any requests or solicitations before responding.
- Only click on links or download files (video and advertisements) that you are absolutely certain are from trusted sources. Scammers can download viruses, Trojans, and other programs designed to steal your information or track your activity.
- Trust your instincts. If you suspect something may not be right, do not proceed.
Charity Scam Following Disasters
Verify that the charity is legitimate.
The IRS and FEMA both offer online tools to search for qualified tax-deductible organizations.
Never share your social security number, credit card numbers, your credit union account number or your passwords with anyone. Often these donation attempts are a way to access much more than your intended donation amount.
Cash isn’t a traceable way to record donations for tax purposes, and it’s also not very secure. Use a check or other payment method to properly document your transaction.
Unauthorized Card Access
Visa Card Fraud Alerts
Visa’s Zero Liability Policy
How We Protect You
Transport Layer Security (TLS) Encryption
Never access your secure information through an unsecure Wi-Fi service, like those available in airports or coffee shops. Like any computer, your web-enabled mobile device is susceptible to viruses, malicious sites and applications. Please be sure to use caution when opening emails, clicking on links and surfing the web via your mobile device as you do with your computer.
In order for your mobile device to be infected, fraudulent applications must be downloaded to your mobile device. Often these downloadable apps claim to offer additional security for your mobile device or offer a protected login to other accounts. We recommend that you opt for a more secure mobile banking channel like a native application that you download to your mobile device, like the one we offer. Search for your financial institution’s app at an official application store such as the App StoreSM or the Google PlayTM store.
Online Channels to Help Prevent Fraud
- Online Banking - Using online banking, you can securely access your accounts and view your real-time balances. That means you can easily monitor your account activity and identify suspicious or fraudulent activity.
- eStatements - Receiving your statements electronically is a great way to protect your account information. Since there’s no paper, you can avoid mail tampering and the exposure of your paper records in your home or garbage.
- Bill Pay - Paying bills electronically protects your personal information in several ways. First, you don’t have to give other vendors your bank account number to debit your account. Additionally, most bills are paid electronically, meaning a paper check is not issued and sent through the mail – minimizing the risk of theft or loss.
- Keep your computer’s firewall turned on. A personal firewall is an application which controls network traffic to and from a computer based on a security policy. Encryption should also be enabled for your router firewall and your wireless network, if you have those set up.
- Keep your operating system, anti-spyware and anti-virus software up-to-date. When vulnerabilities are discovered, computer vendors develop software patches to address them. However, it is up to you to obtain and install the most up-to-date fixes.
- Passwords are important. Create custom user IDs and passwords, even for your personal computer, router or wireless network.
- Be cautious. Avoid downloading files or attachments from websites or senders that you don’t know or trust.
To download the mobile banking app, search for us in the App StoreSM or Google PlayTM. For more information, call a member service representative at
- Use a “complex” password with a series of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. Increasing a password’s complexity increases your security. Here’s a trick: Using a phrase, you can create a strong password that’s easy to remember. For example, A41&14a is an easy-to-remember acronym for “All for one and one for all.”
- Don’t use the same password to access all of your online accounts.
- Passwords should be updated every few months. It may be helpful to change your password-protected websites on a rotating cycle to be sure that you are always using an up-to-date, secure password.
- Consider using a secure wallet to store your passwords. You would only have to remember one password. The secure wallet stores passwords securely and is encrypted.
Review Your Credit Report
Another important way to combat fraudulent activity on your accounts is to get a credit report. The law allows one free credit report per consumer per year. Credit reports will show any new account activity recorded in your name. If an identity thief has opened credit accounts in your name, they will show up on this report.
We encourage members to review their credit report annually. Here’s what you should look for and what it means to your credit:
- Accuracy - 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.
- Inquiries - Your credit report will show who has been accessing your credit report. Soft inquiries include inquiries made by creditors with whom you already have a credit account, inquiries where you’re monitoring your own credit, or when your credit is checked by a lender to make you a pre-approved credit offer. Since lenders are not making a lending decision or guaranteeing approval, these inquiries are typically considered promotional and won’t affect your credit score. Hard inquiries occur when a business has accessed your credit report in connection with an application for credit. 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.
- Credit monitoring – Consider using a credit monitoring service. Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion all offer fee-based monitoring services. Other resources include LifeLock and Identity Guard.
- Do not write your PIN number down anywhere, not even on your card.
- Treat your card like cash and checks.
- Do not leave your card out in the open so someone may be tempted to use it.
- If you suspect that someone knows your PIN, change it immediately.
Here are a few tips to help you choose a PIN Number:
- Your PIN should not be a sequence of repeating numbers or something obvious such as 1234.
- Choose a number that’s easy to remember, but add a fixed amount to each digit or pair of digits. So 1457 plus 2 would become 3679.
- Possibly choose a date that means something to you, and only you.
- Create a PIN from a series of letters or words. Use the initial letters of a short phrase or uncommon words. Most keypads on ATMs have letters as well as numbers.
Elder Financial Fraud
- If you are unsure about how a financial product works, don’t buy it. If the financial professional cannot or will not explain the product clearly, find another company.
- Just because the advice comes from an expert, it may not mean it’s a good recommendation for you. Take into consideration your specific situation and circumstances.
- Don’t confuse acquaintance with trust. Just because a professional lives in your neighborhood or belongs to your networking group, it does not mean they are the best choice for what you need.
If you suspect you are being targeted for fraud, contact us immediately at (888) 858-6878 so that we can assist you in safeguarding your information at Pacific Service Credit Union.
What Does Pacific Service Credit Union Do With Your Personal Information?
|Why?||Financial companies choose how they share your personal information. Federal law gives consumers the right to limit some but not all sharing. Federal law also requires us to tell you how we collect, share, and protect your personal information. Please read this notice carefully to understand what we do.|
|What?||The types of personal information we collect and share depend on the product or service you have with us. This information can include:
|How?||All financial companies need to share customers’ personal information to run their everyday business. In the section below, we list the reasons financial companies can share their customers’ personal information, the reasons Pacific Service Credit Union chooses to share, and whether you can limit this sharing.|
|Reasons We Can Share Your Personal Information||Does Pacific Service Credit Union Share?||Can You Limit This Sharing?|
| For our everyday business purposes –
such as to process your transactions, maintain your account(s), respond to court orders and legal investigations, or report to credit bureaus
| For our marketing purposes –
to offer our products and services to you
|For joint marketing with other financial companies||No||We don't share|
| For our affiliates’ everyday business purposes –
information about your transactions and experiences
|No||We don't share|
| For our affiliates’ everyday business purposes –
information about your creditworthiness
|No||We don't share|
|For our affiliates to market to you||No||We don't share|
|Questions?||Call (888) 858-6878 or go to www.pacificservice.org|
|Who We Are|
|Who is Providing this Notice?||Pacific Service Credit Union|
|What We Do|
|How does Pacific Service Credit Union protect my information?||To protect your personal information from unauthorized access and use, we use security measures that comply with federal law. These measures include computer safeguards and secured files and buildings.|
|How does Pacific Service Credit Union collect my information?||We collect your personal information, for example, when you
|Why can’t I limit all sharing?||Federal law gives you the right to limit only
Companies related by common ownership or control. They can be financial and non-financial companies.
Companies not related by common ownership or control. They can be financial and non-financial companies.
A formal agreement between non-affiliated financial companies that together market financial products or services to you.
To request disclosures or access to your personal information, please submit your request by either completing the forms below, sending us an email or by calling a member service representative at (888) 858-8678.