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
Again this year, the IRS is making fraud and identity theft a top priority. They’ve ramped up their efforts with additional staff assigned to identity theft related issues and are significantly increasing their capacity for investigations. In 2012, their investigations were responsible for nearly 500 criminal indictments. Even with all of these efforts and improvements, however, tax identity theft continues to be on the rise and, ultimately, the burden falls on you to protect yourself.
Typically, we see tax scammers commit fraud in two ways. A tax scammer can steal your statements, W-2s and other personal financial information and beat you to filing your own return. They request that your refund is sent to them, often in the form of a pre-paid debit card, which can be used just like cash. Or, they can steal tax returns being sent by mail and use the extensive personal information included to commit identity theft and open credit in your name.
Here’s how to avoid becoming a victim:
Expect your tax forms. W-2s and tax forms must be sent by January 31st each year; however, they could arrive anytime in January. If you don’t receive your forms, reach out to your financial institution to find out when they were mailed. Many institutions offer an electronic tax form option, which may be safer than mail. If you suspect fraud, call the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490, ext. 245.
Expect your tax refund. Typically, the IRS will issue your refund in less than 21 calendar days of receiving your return. Knowing when to expect your refund is a good way to combat theft. The IRS offers a “Where’s My Refund?” online tool and mobile app so that you can track your return. Information is updated daily.
The IRS does NOT email or text. Don’t fall prey to fraudulent IRS emails or text scams. Attachments and website links contained within IRS emails could contain viruses or fraudulent methods to collect your personal information. If you receive an email from the IRS, forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org. They will pursue the source, if possible.
Choose direct deposit. Avoid the risk of lost or stolen checks by opting for direct deposit. Our Routing/ABA number is 121181743. Here is more information about setting up direct deposit with us. For more information or help with direct deposit, call a member service representative at (888) 858-6878.
Carefully choose your return method. Filing online is a safer option than by mail. If you choose to file by mail, do not put your tax return in an unsecured mailbox, a community mail drop or an outgoing mail bin at work. Instead, take the return to a post office. For extra protection, you may opt for certified mail.
Beware of suspicious pop-ups. If you are filing taxes online, be aware of out-of-the-ordinary pop-ups asking for personal or financial information. This could be an attempt to steal information for you.
For more information, www.IRS.gov Help and Resources is a great source.
by Michelle, AVP, Operations
As part of our commitment to protecting your privacy, we always caution members not to provide any information to strangers or those calling you claiming to be Pacific Service Credit Union. However, we are a very high touch, high service organization. Our goal is to make your experience easy and often the quickest and simplest path to resolution is simply to pick up the phone.
Here are some actual examples of why we would contact you and how you can verify that our contact is legitimate.
Suspicion of Card Fraud
We use state-of-the-art Visa fraud detection technology to identify potential fraud. If our detection service identifies potentially fraudulent transactions, we will call and ask you to verify only the last four digits of your social security number. Fraudulent callers typically don’t have the name of your financial institution nor do they have your card information. Fraud artists will begin by asking you if you have made a recent purchase that they know you have not, and then will try to obtain your personal information like a credit card number claiming they need it to block and re-issue your card.
Suspicion of Fraudulent Account Access
If we suspect that someone is trying to access your account fraudulently, we often will call you. Examples include the addition of a suspicious bill payee, transactions that are outside your typical spending pattern, or a suspicious phone call from someone pretending to be you.
Information to Better Serve You
To expedite service on your account, we may contact you for clarification regarding requests received via email, details involving wire transfers, or additional information needed to set up new accounts.
Although infrequent, we do sometimes reach out to members for product and service purposes. For example, if you have a Visa Platinum Card and a Relationship Checking account with us, it would be free to upgrade to a Visa Platinum Rewards Card and earn points to redeem for travel or merchandise. Our employees often call members these types of special offers to make their relationship with the credit union more valuable.
The most important thing to remember about legitimate contact efforts from Pacific Service Credit Union is that we already have your information. We never need to ask for your account number, your full Social Security number or personal information.
If you ever suspect that you may be speaking to someone fraudulently claiming to be from Pacific Service Credit Union, we encourage you to hang up and call us back at (888) 858-6878. Be sure to ask for the employee by name or extension.
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. 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 becomes necessary.
by Michelle, AVP, Operations