How to Protect Yourself Against Financial Fraud
Fraudsters and scammers have become increasingly common. No longer limited to bigger cities, these people are targeting individuals right here in our community. As a financial institution, it is our job to educate our members about fraud and provide tips on how to prevent it.
Stay up to date on the latest scams from sources like the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) and the Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC).
Keep your personal information confidential. Do not give out information over the phone, through email or online unless you know the source asking is legitimate. Personal information includes:
- Social Security number
- Account numbers
Regularly change your passwords and PIN numbers and keep your mobile device passwords protected.
Create strong, hard to guess passwords.
Monitor your credit reports, as this is one place where you can quickly spot unauthorized activity. You can check your credit report from the three major credit bureaus free of charge once a year at annualcreditreport.com.
Monitor your bank accounts – checking, savings and credit cards. If you notice any suspicious charges that you did not authorize, contact us immediately.
Shred unnecessary documents including:
- Old tax returns – Saving tax returns for a possible audit is a good practice; however, after three years you no longer need the tax information.
- Old photo IDs – School IDs, security badges and even old state IDs may include personal information that can be used against you in the long run.
- Bank statements – Any statement that includes bank account numbers and personal information puts you at risk of identity theft.
- Credit card offers – Generic bank offers and credit card offers received through the mail should be disposed of to prevent identity thieves from taking out a credit card in your name.
- Pay stubs – Like many of the aforementioned documents, pay stubs contain bank account and personal information that can be used against you.
Do not trust caller I.D. as phone numbers can be spoofed making you think the call is from a legitimate company when it is actually from a scammer.
Hang up on robocalls. Do not press “1” to be removed from the call list as your number is then sold to other robo callers.
If you are not expecting a call, confirm the call and source are valid. Do not assume the caller is telling the truth. Scammers are portraying themselves as law enforcement, a credit union employee, the IRS, a credit card company or other companies in which you do business and try to use your accounts to wire money illegally or access your money.
Report fraud to local law enforcement and the FFIEC in efforts to catch the fraudsters. This may help you recuperate your losses and prevent them from selling your information.
Most Common Fraud Types
When someone uses your personal information (name, address, Social Security number, bank account numbers or medical insurance account numbers) without your permission they are committing identity theft. This serious crime is happening more and more every day. Learn how to protect your personal information by familiarizing yourself with the types of threats.
- Malicious email – This type of email appears as if it is coming from your financial institution or other reputable sources and asks you to act quickly because your account is compromised. You can easily contact Centris to see if it is legitimate.
- Spam – Anyone with an email account knows what spam is. It is junk mail in the digital form that shows up in your email account inbox. Oftentimes, these emails include links that if clicked on provide hackers with access to your personal information. When in doubt, it is best to not click on links or delete the email entirely.
- Phishing – Phishing is an attempt to obtain information such as your username, password, financial account numbers, etc. by using emails or malicious websites and then infecting your computer with viruses. This type of activity can also occur on social media sites or through phone calls.
How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft
- Trust but verify – If an email or phone call seems suspicious, take the time to call the vendor/business to confirm its authenticity or lack thereof.
- Stay up to date on patches – A patch is a piece of software designed to update a computer program or its supporting data to fix or improve it. Make sure the programs on your computer such as Adobe Flash, Microsoft, etc. are current as well as your other electronic devices such as smartphones and tablets. It is also important to make sure your internet devices at your home have patches/firmware updates installed on a regular basis. Do this by visiting the hardware manufacturer’s website or if you are not comfortable, consider a third party to review this equipment once a year.
- Be careful when using public Wi-Fi – It is very convenient to use public Wi-Fi; however, those airwaves are easy targets for hackers. Oftentimes, these airwaves are insecure so it’s best to not use this Wi-Fi for anything sensitive.
If your identity is stolen, either report it to the Federal Trade Commission by calling (877) 438-4338 or go online to identitytheft.gov. By reporting online, you will also receive an identity theft report and recovery plan. If you create an account, you can access the report and plan, track your progress and receive prefilled form letters you can send to your creditors.
Scammers are becoming savvier by the day and create checks that are so realistic looking that even bank and credit union tellers are fooled. Depending on your banking relationship and the amount of the check you want to cash, your own checking cashing habits and behaviors and how much you have in loans and deposits with your financial institution, the check you are cashing may never be questioned by the teller.
If you answer “yes” to any of the following questions, you may be susceptible to fraud.
- Is the check from an item that was sold on the internet?
- Is the amount for more than the selling price?
- Was the check sent via overnight delivery (i.e. FedEx)?
- Was the check drawn on a business or individual account different from the person buying the item? Was the check drawn on an out of state business?
- Were you instructed to wire or send money (or a gift card) as soon as possible to another city or country?
- Has the communication with the person only been through email?
- Did the email communication start in response to a job offer?
Phone and Online Fraud
Other ways fraudsters will attempt to get money or personal information from you is over the phone, via email or online. Never give out your information through these channels unless you know the source is legitimate. Even when you believe you know whom you’re dealing with, look for clues that may indicate otherwise. Such clues include:
- A typo or grammatically incorrect text in the subject line, body of the email or URL
- Extra letters or numbers in the URL or transposed letters/numbers
- Font changes and bold text on key words or dollar amounts
- Request for a percentage of the money back through wires or money orders or untraceable payment methods such as gift cards and bitcoin
- Threats against you or your loved ones if you don’t comply with their request
- Pressure to complete a transaction
- Calls from varying locations and numbers
- Calls impersonating Centris, another financial institution or the transaction review department asking for account access information
A general rule of thumb to follow; if the offer seems too good to be true, it probably is. Anyone can be a victim of fraud and knowing the warning signs can keep your personal information and money safe. Pay attention, be aware and protect yourself.
The National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) developed the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. campaign, which promotes a culture of online safety and security. The NCSA offers a wealth of information to keep you safe. Education and awareness are key to protecting your digital identity. If you know what suspicious online activity looks like, you are better equipped to prevent yourself from falling victim. For more information about cybersecurity, go to Stay Safe Online or the Federal Trade Commission.