Rest assured that your credit union is dedicated to keeping your accounts safe and secure; we watch for suspicious activity 24/7 and provide you with all the resources you need to safeguard your important information.
Learn more about best practices when it comes to protecting your identity, and steps to take if your personal information has been hijacked.
Tips to protect yourself from financial scams during the pandemic.
In a time of uncertainty during the COVID-19 pandemic, the last thing you need to worry about is keeping yourself and your money safe from fraud. Scammers may try to use you to move stolen money. If you help them, you could be what law enforcement calls a money mule.
How Do People Become Money Mules?
Money mule scams happen several ways. The story often involves scams related to online dating, work-at-home jobs, or even prizes. Scammers send money to you, sometimes by check, then ask you to send (some of) it to someone else. They often want you to use gift cards or wire transfers. Of course, they don’t tell you the money is stolen and they’re lying about the reason to send it. And there never was a relationship, job, or prize. Only a scam.
What happens next? If you deposit the scammer’s check, it may clear but then later turn out to be a fake check. The bank will want you to repay it. If you give the scammer your account information, they may misuse it. You could even get into legal trouble for helping a scammer move stolen money.
How Can I Protect Myself from Money Mule Scams?
There’s several ways you can pro-actively protect yourself from these kinds of scams. Here’s just a few tips:
- Don’t engage in financial transactions with strangers
- Don’t take a job that promises easy money and involves mailing packages
- Don’t open bank accounts in your name for another business
- Never send money to collect a prize
- Be cautious of anyone claiming to be overseas
There are a lot of other types of scams out there exploiting the uncertainty of a pandemic. Here are a few additional tips to avoid scams from the Federal Trade Commission.
- Learn how to tell the difference between a real contact tracer and a scammer. Legitimate tracers need health information, not money or personal financial information.
- Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government. Here’s what you need to know.
- Ignore offers for vaccinations and miracle treatments or cures. Scammers are selling products to treat or prevent COVID-19 without proof that they work.
- Be wary of ads for test kits. Many test kits being advertised have not been approved by the FDA, and aren’t necessarily accurate. Almost all authorized home tests don’t provide rapid results and require you to send a test sample to a lab for analysis.
- Hang up on robocalls. Scammers are using illegal robocalls to pitch everything from low-priced health insurance to work-at-home schemes.
- Watch for emails claiming to be from the CDC or WHO. Use sites like coronavirus.gov and usa.gov/coronavirus to get the latest information. And don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
- Do your homework when it comes to donations. Never donate in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
Protect yourself and financial future from various types of fraud scams.
Common Scams – Federal Trade Commission
While cyber criminals continue to devise new methods of gaining access to personal data and funds, there are a few “staples” to always be on the lookout for. Stay up-to-date on the latest information on common scams from the Federal Trade Commission.
More Government Information
List of common fraud scams and situations compiled by the Federal Bureau of Investigations.
How to Combat “Mobile Phone Port-Out Scams”Fraudsters are impersonating mobile phone users to have phones transferred to a different carrier – effectively stealing the users’ mobile phone number. This is being coined as “a port-out scam”. Once transferred to a different carrier, the fraudster receives all calls and texts that were intended for the user – including those that can be used to take over a member’s account via online banking. Please note that Pathways DOES NOT USE this form of account access for logging into our Online Banking system – and so your Online Banking at Pathways is safe from this activity. This is just a general notice to keep you aware of the latest scam trend. Security experts recommend that you place a “port validation password” on your mobile phone account to help prevent having your phone fraudulently transferred to a different carrier.
Cyber criminals are known for taking advantage of tax season, and this season has proven to be no different. Here is what happens: you get a call from “the IRS” claiming that you owe taxes and will be arrested if you do not pay them immediately. The scammer will ask you to wire the funds you “owe”, or put it on a prepaid debit card. The caller may harass you with threats of deportation or a revoked driver’s license.
Warning – they may know your Social Security number or push the call through a fake caller ID (known as reverse engineering) so that the call shows up with the IRS phone number. These tactics are an attempt at seeming more legitimate so you will be more likely to send funds to settle your debt. Once you send the money, it’s gone for good.
If you legitimately owe money to the IRS, you will first be contacted by mail, not by phone. Also, they will not specify a way for you to send the funds (like wiring or mailing a prepaid debit card). If you receive a call like the one above, be sure to:
- Avoid giving the caller any personal information.
- Write down details such as the phone number and caller name.
- Hang up the call.
- Contact the IRS if you’re worried the call may be real at 1-800-829-1040 or visit www.irs.gov.
- Report the call. File a complaint with:
The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) – The Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA), 1-800-366-4484.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) – Complaint, 1-877-FTC-HELP.
Let your friends and family know so that they can protect themselves from scams.
Federal Trade Commission
To report identity theft: Identity Theft, 1-877-438-4338, 1-866-653-4261 (TTY)
For help with verifying your taxes IRS – Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft, 1-800-908-4490
Federal Communications Commission
For help with telephone service: Federal Communications Commission, 1-888-225-5322, 1-888-835-5322 (TTY)
Actions that can be taken to protect your online identification and financial future.
How to Protect Yourself from Credit Card Theft
Check your credit report and statements regularly.
By federal law you may request one free credit report annually from each of the consumer credit reporting agencies (Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion). Visit www.annualcreditreport.com to learn more information and access your report(s). It is a good idea to request this information each year to check your credit report and make sure no suspicious or unusual activity has occurred.
Be sure to regularly check online banking/monthly statements to monitor for suspicious activity. Consider enrolling in electronic statements, as they arrive directly to our secure online banking platform at the start of each month, requiring a username and password combination for access. Paper statements are less safe as they could be removed from a mailbox by someone on the hunt for important account information.
Be smart when using ATMs.
Always be aware of your surroundings and have your card ready to use when accessing an ATM. If you are using a drive-up ATM, make sure that your doors are locked, and all passenger windows are closed. Do not use the ATM if you see anyone suspicious loitering around the machine. Be on the lookout for unusual looking card readers, as new technology gives thieves the capability to capture your card data when you insert your card. Always make sure that no one can watch you enter your PIN on the machine. When you finish your transaction be sure to secure your card, receipt, and any cash in a wallet, purse, or pocket before leaving the ATM.
How to Protect Yourself from Skimmers
If you use your debit card at ATMs and at gas stations (and who does not) you can’t with 100% confidence completely eliminate the risk of having your card data compromised by a skimmer. But here are a few simple steps that can significantly reduce your exposure to the risk.
- Most current skimmers rely on a hidden camera to capture your PIN as you enter it into the key pad. One effective way to foil this device is to shield the PIN pad with one hand as you type in your PIN (see photo). This will not protect you against more sophisticated skimmers that use keypad overlays, but currently you are much more likely to encounter a skimmer that uses a camera to capture your PIN. This simple step by itself will foil most skimmers that you are likely to encounter.
- Set up “Debit Card Alerts” in Pathways online banking for transactions over $100. This will generate an instant email/text alert anytime your debit card is used in any transaction over $100. If you get the alert and you (or any of the authorized users on your card) have not used the card, you may have a fraud issue. If this happens, you can call our card processor at 1-800-449-7728 anytime 24/7 and report it immediately. You can also set up Card Alerts.
- While the technology skimmers use is simple, criminals are getting much more sophisticated in their ability to make the skimmers less detectable. However, it still pays to look over any card terminal you are using to see if there are any obvious signs that it has been tampered with or altered. If you find something that seems out of place (a card reader that is loose, a hidden camera, or a keypad overlay), take the cautious approach and do not use that terminal. Be sure to alert the business in charge of the terminal that there may be an issue as well.
How to protect yourself from Identity Theft
Keep important information out of your wallet.Keep only the bare minimum essential information in your wallet (driver’s license or government-issued photo identification, debit/credit cards, insurance cards, and cash). Things to avoid putting in your wallet include your Social Security Card, anything with your account number/credit union listed, and PIN numbers associated with the cards in your wallet.
Be smart about your passwords.When creating/updating passwords for online accounts, avoid easy-to-guess passwords (password, 1234, etc.) or passwords using personal information (birthday, last four digits of your Social Security number, etc.) The strongest passwords consist of combinations of letters, numbers, and special characters. Consider registering for free software programs that allow you to store your usernames and passwords in one place using one master username/password to access the list. Never leave passwords out near your computer where someone could easily compromise it. The next time you’re in a branch or talk to us over the phone, ask us about setting a code word on your account that we can use to identify you when you call in to make a transaction. Never give any code words, PINs, or passwords out to anyone.
Shred important documents.Identity thieves are not above digging through the garbage/recycling for personal information. Always shred anything that has personal information, including receipts, credit applications, statements, expired cards, and personal insurance documents.
Federal Trade Commission
To report identity theft: Identity Theft, 1-877-438-4338, 1-866-653-4261 (TTY)
U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission
To report fraud: U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission – Complaint, 1-800-732-0330
Social Security Administration
To report fraud: Social Security and type “Fraud” in the Search box, 1-800-269-0271, 1-866-501-2101 (TTY)
U.S. Postal Service
- To place a hold on mail: United States Postal Service – Hold Mail
- To locate a post office: United States Postal Service, 1-800-275-8777
Always remember – Unless you are working with a Member Service Representative on a loan or account-related issue, Pathways will never solicit personal information (including Social Security numbers, online banking passwords/usernames, personal identification numbers, or account numbers) over the phone, by email, or through text messaging. We ask you to please be aware of all types of solicitation inquiring about sensitive information. If you receive a phone call, email, text message, or any other form of solicitation requesting your personal information, please contact us immediately.