Avoiding Fraud And Scams Around The Holidays
We could all use some extra money during the holidays to pay a credit card bill, buy more gifts for family or friends, or to treat yourself to a nice dinner out after an exhausting day shopping. That’s just what fraudsters prey on with their many schemes and scams during this time of year. As technology becomes more advanced, it’s even easier for criminals to perpetrate their schemes using the internet, email, and text messages right to your smart phone.
At PenFed, we help our members do better not just with great rates, but also by educating them to be on the lookout for these scams to help them protect their hard earned money. Below are a few scams to watch out for…
If it sounds too good to be true (aka ‘easy money’) it usually is. Internet loans, work-from-home employment, and school grants - They go by many names, but ultimately the scammer, somebody you probably don’t know, offers you an internet ‘loan,’ an easy work from home job or ‘secret shopper’ job, or money for college. The scammer might simply just offer to pay you for your account information so they can use it temporarily. Whatever the scheme is called, the fraudsters ask you to provide your account information (account number, online password, username, maybe even debit card with PIN) and money will be deposited into your account via mobile check deposit, ATM check deposit or even ACH deposit. However, as soon as these unverified funds are deposited, the fraudsters will demand that you immediately withdraw the money and send some/all of it back via cash, Western Union, or in some cases iTunes gift cards. After you’ve made the withdrawal, the deposits are returned as fraud and you are responsible for the loss.
Protect your account information. NEVER give access to your accounts to any strangers or anyone you do not completely trust. If you do, and that individual makes a fraudulent deposit into your account - you’ll most likely end up assuming the financial loss.
Credit Fix, Bill Consolidation and Loan Schemes - These schemers, often posing as loan ‘brokers,’ offer to raise/repair your credit score, consolidate your bills with a low interest rate loan, or offer loans for people who can’t qualify through a real financial institution. All you need to do is provide the loan ‘broker’ with your name, social security number and date of birth. The ‘broker’ will then ask for your bank or credit union account username and password so they can apply for loans in your name using false employment/income information. Or, the ‘brokers’ themselves will use your personal information to open accounts, loans, and credit cards in your name. Eventually, you might get some money out of the deal, but the ‘broker’ will keep a large portion or most of the money. You’re stuck with a loan/credit card that was approved under false pretenses and you didn’t even get any/all of the money. When you can’t repay the loan/credit card, your credit will be suffer. Also, the ‘broker’ (aka fraudster) has all of your personal information and is probably applying for credit that you don’t even know about.
Never give your personal information to a loan “broker” who promises to fix your credit, help you consolidate your bills, or offers to find you a low-interest loan. If you’re having a hard time paying your bills or securing a low-interest loan, a better alternative is to seek the help of a nonprofit credit counselor. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling (NFCC) is a safe place to start.
ATM Skimming - Fraudsters are stealing your credit/debit card information from ATMs more than ever. Watch this helpful segment from the NBC Today Show about the scheme and how to protect yourself.
Whenever and wherever you use your debit/credit card, if the ATM machine, gas pump, or point of sale terminal looks suspicious, avoid it and use a different machine. Also, to protect your PIN, cover/shield your hand with your other hand while entering your PIN so thieves can’t record you entering it on the key pad.
Learn more. Find additional information and helpful resources at these trusted websites:
- NCUA Fraud Prevention Center
- FTC Scam Alerts | Consumer Information
- FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) | Home
- AARP Fraud Watch Network Helps Avoid Scams and Fraud
- BBB Scam Alerts