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Protect Yourself Against Scams

Privacy Protection and Fraud Prevention

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Protect Yourself Against Scams

As your Credit Union, it is our responsibility to protect your financial assets and maintain the confidentiality of your personal information. Through the news, you may have heard of unscrupulous individuals who are busy developing new scams for the unsuspecting public. Awareness and education are your best protection against fraud, scams, and schemes, so read on...

SCAM ALERT – Free Credit Report Scams

Examining your free credit report every year is important when trying to prevent identity theft and fraud. However, trying to obtain your credit report may be a scam in itself.

You have the right to receive a free credit report every 12 months from each of the three major credit bureaus. You may order your free reports online at the official website (www.annualcreditreport.com) or make your request by toll-free phone call to 877.322.8228. Unfortunately, fraud, scams, and identity theft can all occur if you use the wrong sources. The most common free credit report scams are through phishing emails where you are asked to click on a membership link and enter your personal information along with your credit card number. If the membership isn't cancelled within 30 days, your credit card is charged and you've given the scammers all the information they need to steal your identity.

To protect yourself, don't select an email link offering free credit reports, don’t use a search engine to find a free credit report company, and don’t purchase something online just to receive a free credit report.

Account Verification Over the Phone

Occasionally, a legitimate call may result in a business needing to verify your information. This means they have the information on file and are going to read it back to you to confirm the accuracy. Do not volunteer anything. Make the caller read off what he or she has and you can either confirm or deny the accuracy, but don't correct the erroneous information. If you are not comfortable with the call, don't confirm or deny anything. Simply terminate the call.

Identity thieves can sometimes get their hands on or figure out some information (your Social Security number for instance is based in part on the state and date it was issued, addresses and dates of birth are often public record) and might be able to provide just enough information that you feel comfortable supplying the rest without even realizing it.

One way to make sure the call is legitimate is to ask the caller for their name and extension and tell them you will call them back. Call the business back using the phone number you already have on hand for that business – not one supplied by the caller. Ask for the person by name and extension. If the same person answers, you should feel comfortable sharing the information.

Email and Internet Scams

  • Phishing/Phony Websites: A phony website is created to resemble the website of a legitimate business. Very often you will get an email expressing concern about the safety or integrity of your personal information with a link to the phony website. The website name and logo matches so closely that they do appear to be the valid institution's website. It is very easy to copy and paste a logo or artwork on the web. The phony site may ask for personal and confidential information to obtain information illegally in order to access consumers' accounts and personal identities. Financial institutions and large e-commerce businesses are often the target.

  • Credit Card Fraud: You receive an email that someone is using your credit card at a particular store. The link to respond does not go back to the store, but to a different address.

  • Account Verification: An email asks you to verify your account information including personal information. Companies will never ask you to verify your password or ask for credit card information through email.

  • Online Purchases: Make sure you download the most recent version of your browser to take advantage of the most advanced encryption capabilities to protect your personal information. Always make sure you are using a secure website before entering credit card information. To verify a secure connection, look for a locked padlock on the bottom of your status bar and "https:" beginning the url address (for example, https://www.example.com is secure but http://www.example.com is not secure). Never use credit cards for ID or age verification.

  • Double Check the Return Email Address: The displayed return address can be different than the email address you are actually replying to. To confirm the address, select reply, highlight the name shown under "To:," right click, select properties and you can view the actual email address.

  • Wireless Hacking: Many businesses are moving to wireless computing. Wireless may not be as secure as a hard wired network and hackers are exploiting the vulnerabilities. Make sure your provider offers the latest technology and security features.

Common Scams

  • Work-at-Home Schemes: These require money to buy supplies and usually never bring a return. Or, you are offered the chance to make a lot of money working at home or buying a franchise. Many of these are illegal pyramid schemes.

  • Get Rich Quick Schemes: Effortless income schemes do not work.

  • Free Goods: You're promised a free prize in exchange for purchasing or testing a product. The catch is you have to join or buy something. These are also pyramid schemes.

  • Investment Opportunities: You are offered an opportunity to invest at a discount or earn a very high rate of return. These opportunities benefit the promoters not the investors.

  • Cable Descrambler Kits: Most cable TV systems in the United States use technology that these devices can't crack. These kits are also illegal.

  • Guaranteed Loans/Guaranteed Credit: You will purchase a useless list of lender names. These lenders will still turn you down if you do not meet credit qualifications.

  • Credit Repair: If you follow their plan, you will be misrepresenting your Social Security number, or getting an Employer Identification Number, to the IRS under false pretences. You will be committing fraud.

  • Vacation Prizes: Millions of people are receiving this email or phone call every day. Even if there is a vacation, they will offer you an upgrade for a price.

  • Charitable Contributions: You are asked to contribute to a charity that doesn't exist or most of the money goes to the fund raiser instead of the charity.

  • Mail Fraud: Avoid "too good to be true" offers or sweepstakes you receive in the mail. They may require you to call an 800 or 900 number so you can be subjected to a high-pressure sales pitch.

  • Telemarketing Schemes: Be wary of offers you receive over the phone from companies trying to sell goods/services or offers urging you to call to make purchases in response to mailings or other forms of advertising.

Resources

It is always a good idea to take protective measures to take care of your personal information. Don't carry your Social Security card, passport, or birth certificate in your wallet. Don't give your credit card or Social Security numbers or other information over the phone unless you initiated the phone call. Open and read all financial statements and bills as soon as you get them and look at transaction activity. Get a copy of your credit report and check for fraudulent activity at least once a year.

For more information, visit the links below:


Protect Yourself Against Scams – Archives

Below are details on various scams we've explained on this page.

Postal Money Order Scams
U.S. Postal Money Orders are the latest target for online fraud artists.

Reshipping Fraud
Reshipping Fraud is a home business scam that can cost you a lot of money.

Business Lottery Scam
This latest lottery scam involves businesses that have had their identities stolen.

NCUA Email Scam
Fraudulent email looks like it is from NCUA and prompts you to enter your personal Online Banking details.

Telephone Phishing
Telephone Phishing is a fraudulent attempt to capture card numbers and is done with an automated telephone service. The system randomly calls phone numbers and states they are the credit union. It asks the member to enter their 16 digit debit or credit card number, expiration date and PIN.

SmiShing
SmiShing is a cell phone scam where SMS (Short Message Service) messages are sent to your cell phone from a fictitious dating service. It includes a fake website that if clicked on, will download a Trojan horse that could allow a web enabled phone to be controlled by hackers.

Pretexting
Pretexting is the practice of getting your personal information, such as your Social Security number (SSN), telephone records, bank or credit card numbers, or any other information, under false pretenses.

Pharming
Similar to phishing, pharming is a means for criminals to fraudulently gain access to your personal information.

Verified by Visa®
A phony Verified by Visa email is going around stating your credit card was violated.

Jury Duty Call
A person pretending to be a Jury Coordinator calls to tell you a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn't show up for jury duty.

Nationwide Verification Office
A phone call scam to get consumers account information.

CO-OP Network
Fraudulent email looks like it is from CO-OP Network.

Chimney Repair and Cleaning Scams
Chimney repair cleaning scams are on the rise.

Credit Union Websites Are Being Targeted for Phishing Scams
Credit union websites have been the subject of illegal phishing messages.

The Five Steps to Take if Your Credit Card/Wallet is Stolen
A list of things you should do now and what to do as soon as you discover the problem.

Unclaimed Money, Property, and Funds
There really is unclaimed money available. However, finding free or unclaimed money on the Net is one of the oldest scams in the book.

Beware of Privacy Policies for Free Services
Some organizations on the Internet offer free services such as Internet acceleration or email virus scanning. Some of those organizations have privacy policies that are so loosely defined to allow them to harvest and share information that is universally considered to be personal and highly sensitive by Internet users.

809 Area Code
The 809 area code is located outside of the United States. The 809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the US.

Credit Card Telephone Scam
Phony security from Visa or MasterCard will call and tell you your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern.

Phishing
High-tech thieves use phony emails and fake websites to hook you into giving them your financial and personal information

Lottery Scam
Elderly households are being contacted by telephone and notified that they won a large lottery jackpot

Pop Up Window – "PAINS"
A phishing scam that sends official-looking but phony emails to Internet users

Counterfeit Cashiers' Checks
A Twist on the Nigerian Money Scam




Postal Money Order Scams

How the scam works. You are contacted by email or online chat and are deceived into accepting fake money orders as payment for items you are selling, or cashing the orders in return for a fee. You are then asked to keep the cost of the purchase and send the balance back in cash along with the merchandise. When the money order bounces you will owe the total amount to your bank. This scam is typically found at online auction sites and through email solicitations.


How do you protect yourself? Never accept a postal order from a stranger unless you have some way of verifying it's authenticity, and watch out for offers asking you to pay more than something is worth.


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Reshipping Fraud


Advertisements for reshipping job opportunities appear in many places such as newspapers and online job placement websites. When you answer the ad you are asked to send the reshipping employer your personal information such as social security number and date of birth. After they have your information you will receive, repackage, and mail merchandise that was ordered online to a foreign address.

Here's the scam. The online merchandise was paid for with a stolen credit card number so now you are involved with the shipping and receiving of stolen items.

Your payment is then sent to you as a third party cashier's check which is for a larger amount than you initially agreed upon with your employer. You're asked to cash the check and send the extra amount electronically to their overseas bank account. But before the check clears, the bank will realize it is a fake and you'll be responsible for the entire amount of the check.


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Business Lottery Scam


How it works. Victims receive documents stating that they've won $500,000 in the Australian lottery and a check for about $5,000 is enclosed. Instructions are included stating that in order to claim the prize, you need to cash the check and send a money order to offices in Canada and await further instructions. The scam is that the check is written on a business account that's been the victim of identity theft, so by the time the money order has been sent, the check will bounce.


Warning signs it's a scam.

  • You've been told that you won the lottery that you have never entered.

  • It's a lottery in another country.

  • You are asked to pay an advance fee to claim the prize.

In order to protect yourself, never send a money order, cash, or check to claim a prize.


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NCUA Email Scam

Some people have been receiving an email claiming to be from NCUA advising them to follow a link to what appears to be a NCUA website, where they are prompted to enter their personal Online Banking details. NCUA is in no way involved in this email and the website is not their website.


Please note that financial institutions, especially DCU, will never send an email requesting personal account information.


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Telephone Phishing

Telephone and cell phone users are the latest target of hackers. Another credit union has recently reported a phishing scam they are experiencing. This new fraudulent attempt to capture card numbers is done with an automated telephone service. The system randomly calls phone numbers and states they are the credit union. It asks the member to enter their 16 digit debit or credit card number, expiration date and PIN.


There are so many ways for perpetrators to attempt to get personal information. It is important to never release personal information in order to protect yourself from fraud.


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SmiShing

Cell phone users are the latest target of hackers and have reported receiving SMS (Short Message Service) messages from a fictitious dating service. The messages say the recipient has signed up for the service and informs them they will be charged $2 a day until they cancel the order at their website. If you click on this fake website, it will download a Trojan horse that could allow a web enabled phone to be controlled by hackers.


Phishers must pay for each SMS text message sent out. So the money made from victims must be substantial enough to justify these fees. SmiShing is costly to people who have not yet learned to use their cell phones with the same level of caution they apply to their computers.


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Pretexting

Imagine getting a phone call from someone at a reputable sounding research firm asking you to participate in a survey. The questions they ask seem harmless, but in reality, you may have just been a victim of pretexting. Pretexting is the practice of getting your personal information, such as your Social Security number (SSN), telephone records, bank or credit card numbers, or any other information, under false pretenses. In other words, a pretexter pretends they are someone else to obtain your personal information. Once they obtain this information the pretexter may be able to access your financial records, sell it to scammer, or use your information to commit identity theft.


Recommendations to Protect Yourself from Pretexting

  1. Don't give out your personal information on the phone, email or snail mail unless you've initiated the contact or you're sure it's safe.

  2. Never use your pet's name (or children's name) as a password.

  3. Ask your financial companies about their policies for preventing pretexting.

  4. Be VERY careful if you answer surveys -- and certainly don't give out any personal information to anyone who calls on the phone or asks via email.

  5. Tell your family and friends about the dangers of pretexting.

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Pharming

Similar to phishing, pharming is a means for criminals to fraudulently gain access to your personal information. Pharmers simply redirect you from the legitimate website you intended to visit and lead you instead to their phony site. The pharming site, that you are redirected to without your knowledge, looks the same as a legitimate site. If you enter your login name and password, the information is captured by criminals. New security measures are being developed to stop hackers from hijacking legitimate websites but until then watch out for pharming scams.


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Verified by Visa®

A phony Verified by Visa email is going around stating your credit card was violated. It continues that someone from Bulgaria tried to access your personal account from two different ATMs but used the wrong PIN. The email tells you they were forced to freeze your credit card until you will confirm your identity online through the attached link in the email. When you click on the link it asks you to enter your account information to confirm that you are not currently away. Otherwise your account will be locked if you do not comply with this in three days. Don't fall for this very legitimate looking scam email.


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Jury Duty Call

Most of us take jury duty summons seriously, but a new scam has surfaced. A person pretending to be a Jury Coordinator calls to tell you a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn't show up for jury duty. If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security Number and date of birth to supposedly verify the information and cancel the warrant. Give out this information and your identity just got stolen. Don't fall for this intimidation over the phone.


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Nationwide Verification Office

A company calling itself the Nationwide Verification Office calls consumers and asks for account information so that it can be deleted from a so-called federal banking system. Consumers were asked to verify their bank account number as well as the bank routing numbers found at the bottom of their checks. Don't be scammed by this phone call.


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CO-OP Network

If you receive an email that looks like it is from CO-OP Network asking for your cardholder information, please note the email is fraudulent as CO-OP Network never contacts credit union members directly and never requests personal account information. The email should be considered a deceitful attempt to obtain cardholder information. CO-OP Network has notified the proper law enforcement authorities and are working with the internet service provider to shut down the fraudulent site.


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Chimney Repair and Cleaning Scams

Chimney repair cleaning scams are on the rise. Since most people know nothing about chimneys, this is a particularly easy way for scammers to cheat unsuspecting homeowners.

The scammer contacts you and offers a special on chimney cleaning for a low price, such as $39.95. If you've just moved into a new home, they may say the previous residents used their company.

Upon inspection they tell you there is structural damage, or that you need new chimney caps. These con artists usually focus on concerns about carbon monoxide poisoning. Realistically, carbon monoxide leakage in chimneys is quite rare. There are instruments that prove carbon monoxide leakage – if you hear this claim, make sure it can be proved.

How do you protect yourself? Here are some tips from the National Chimney Sweep Guild and the Chimney Safety Institute of America:

  • Don't fall for low prices. An inspection will probably cost about $75. A chimney cleaning should cost at least $150 and take at least an hour.

  • Always ask and check for references.

  • Shop around before you make your decision regarding which company to use.

  • Check to make sure the company is licensed and doesn't have a lot of complaints.

  • Make sure the company has up-to-date liability insurance.

  • In some localities, the fire department may inspect chimneys for free.

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Credit Union Websites Are Being Targeted for Phishing Scams

Numerous credit union websites have been subject to illegal phishing messages emailed to credit union members and non-members to collect their User Name and Password information. Do not click on the link to the fake website and do not click on the link telling you that the credit union's information is out-of-date or incomplete. Instead delete the message.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) has also been a recent target of phishing emails and this email is still in circulation. The NCUA has taken the appropriate steps to safeguard their site and shut down any phishing sites. If you receive this email, do not respond and delete this email.


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The Five Steps to Take if Your Credit Card/Wallet is Stolen

Step 1. This something you should do now: Make photocopies (front and back) of all your credit cards, ID cards, and licenses in your wallet. List your account numbers and the toll free phone numbers you'd need to call to report them missing. Keep this photocopy in a separate, safe place.

Step 2. Call the companies that issued your credit cards to report the theft. Do this as soon as you discover the problem. Use the toll free number; most companies are available 24 hours a day to deal with these emergencies. Write down the name of each person you speak with. It's a good idea to follow up each of your phone calls with a letter. Summarize your phone conversation, including your name, account number, when you noticed that your card was missing, the date you first reported the loss via phone, and the name of the person you spoke with.

Step 3. Call the three national credit-reporting agencies (Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion) to report the theft, and ask them to attach a fraud alert to all your credit cards.

Step 4. If your social security card is missing, call the Social Security Administration (fraud line) at 800.269.0271. Also, call the Motor Vehicles Bureau about your driver's license, as well as any other organizations from which you lost cards.

Step 5. Call the police in the jurisdiction where your credit cards were stolen to report the theft.


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Unclaimed Money, Property, and Funds

How it works. There really is unclaimed money available. However, finding free or unclaimed money on the Net is one of the oldest scams in the book. One email unclaimed money scam starts off: "There's over 400 billion dollars in unclaimed money - and some of it belongs to you!" They will help you locate your unclaimed money. All you need to do is call this particular 1-809 number. The company claims that they'll do a search for free. What they don't tell you is that they're going to make money on that 1-809 phone number for starters. They also don't tell you that they'll send you a refined search that includes your last name and first initial in an official looking database list, and that although they can't guarantee it's you, you'll need to pay a fee or buy a membership before they'll check any further. Others charge the fee even if they only locate $2.64 and still others are aimed at getting your personal information in order to commit identity theft.

The good news is that you can do this research for free through state-sanctioned unclaimed funds registries and see if there really is unclaimed money or property owed to you.


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Beware of Privacy Policies for Free Services

How it works. Some organizations on the Internet offer free services such as Internet acceleration or email virus scanning. Some of those organizations have privacy policies that are so loosely defined to allow them to harvest and share information that is universally considered to be personal and highly sensitive by Internet users. Such organizations ask unwitting end users to configure their browsers to cause all web traffic, including highly sensitive encrypted secure traffic to be decrypted, pass through that organization's servers to be harvested and then continue on to its intended destination. Hence, information that is thought by the end user to be inaccessible to everyone except the intended recipient is collected, and according to liberal privacy policies, may be shared by the intermediaries with unnamed third parties. This dangerous situation is made worse by the fact that end users' efforts to uninstall such software on their computers has been designed so that it will often fail, leaving what amounts to a back door by the organization to usurp what are supposed to be private communications in the future. It is important that Internet users know that those Internet companies that use technologies to intercept encrypted communications have full access to end users' personal information and have publicly stated that they can share users' information with third parties. One organization installs its own trusted root certificates, so that it can intercept secure (SSL) connections made by the end user machine.

Their privacy policy states:

... monitors all of your Internet behavior, including both the normal web browsing you perform, and also the activity you may have through secure sessions, such as when filling a shopping basket or filling out an application form that may contain personal financial and health information...

... monitor the Internet connections of our users so we can not only accurately and anonymously model the browsing habits of Internet users, but also their shopping, registration, and other interactions as well...

... In addition to the monitoring of your Internet behavior, we may also combine the information that you provide us with information such as credit or prescription information that we obtain from third parties such as consumer preference reporting companies, credit reporting agencies, and prescription benefits managers...

... There are some limited cases in which we share personally identifiable information with third parties. Specifically, we provide personally identifiable information to third parties for the purpose of conducting the secure and confidential matches discussed more fully above...


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809 Area Code

How the scam works. You will receive a message on your answering machine or your pager, which asks you to call a number beginning with area code 809. The reason you're asked to call varies. In each case, you are told to call the 809 number right away. They or a message will try to keep you on the phone as long as possible to increase the charges.

Why it works. The 809 area code is located outside of the United States. The 809 area code can be used as a "pay-per-call" number, similar to 900 numbers in the US. Since 809 is not in the US, it is not covered by U.S. regulations of 900 numbers. There is also no requirement that the company provide a time period during which you may terminate the call without being charged. Be cautious if you are asked to call an 809 area code number.


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Credit Card Telephone Scam

How the scam works. You will receive a telephone call saying they are from the Security and Fraud Department at either Visa or MasterCard. They will tell you your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern. In one instance they asked if a Anti-Telemarketing Device for $497.99 was purchased from a marketing company based in Arizona?" When you say "No," the caller continues with, "Then we will be issuing a credit to your account. This is a company we have been watching and the charges range from $297 to $497" (just under the $500 purchase pattern that flags most cards). The caller continues, "I will be starting a fraud investigation. If you have any questions, you should call the 800 number listed on the back of your card and ask for Security. You will need to refer to this Control #." The caller then gives you a 6 digit number.

Here's the IMPORTANT part on how the scam works. The caller then says he needs to verify you are in possession of your card. He'll ask you to turn your card over and look for some numbers. There are 7 numbers; the first 4 are your card number, the next 3 are the ‘Security Numbers’ that verify you are in possession of the card. After you tell the caller the 3 numbers, he'll say, "That is correct. I just needed to verify that the card has not been lost or stolen."


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Phishing

How the scam works. High-tech thieves use phony emails and fake websites to hook you into giving them your financial and personal information. Phishing is an e-mail scam involving thieves who pretend to be a legitimate business such as a financial institution, credit card company, etc. They send out official-looking e-mails and set up bogus websites to trick you into giving them your account numbers and other sensitive data. In most cases, they will use a "hook" such as an account problem alert or fraud warning to reel you in to convince you there is an immediate need to update your financial or personal information.


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Lottery Scam

How the scam works. Elderly households are being contacted by telephone and notified that they won a large lottery jackpot, usually between $250,000 and $500,000. Elderly residents are the target of this scam that takes thousands of dollars from their savings accounts while giving them false hopes of collecting a large lottery jackpot.

What went wrong. To collect their prize, the victims are asked to wire anywhere from $3,000 to upwards of $50,000 through Western Union or MoneyGram to cover administrative costs or taxes. The initial phone call is usually followed up with a second call a few days later, requesting more money because of a glitch in delivering the jackpot. The phone calls usually originate in Canada from untraceable, disposable mobile phones. The caller asks that the money be wired overseas, to countries such as Israel, Bosnia or Poland. This is the second suspected lottery scam to crop up. Police recently issued a warning about El Gordo Spanish Sweepstakes Lottery Co. S.A., which asks so-called winners for bank account numbers and other personal information so they may collect a fictitious $600,000 lottery prize.


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Pop Up Window – "PAINS"

How the scam works. You have just received an email from your financial institution advising you that an internal security breach has occurred. You are told that while everything has been stabilized it still may be a good idea for you to visit the company website to change your personal information. You immediately click on the hyperlink inside the email and instantly you are transferred to your financial institution's website. As you enter your login information a pop up window appears with fields for your debit card number, current PIN, and a new PIN. You provide the requested information, click enter and receive notification that your information has been changed.

What went wrong. Consumers complying with this request to protect their information are not aware that they have just fallen prey to the latest Internet scam that is becoming widespread. Affecting thousands of consumers, it may take days or weeks to realize that your account has been tampered with and that money is missing from your account. Phishing scams send large amounts of official-looking email to Internet users, hoping that many are actually the customers of some of the large corporations targeted by criminals. The emails alert the consumer to pending problems in order to get them to visit what is commonly referred to as a "Spoof" website.


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Counterfeit Cashiers' Checks – A Twist on the Nigerian Money Scam

How the scam works. You have a valuable item for sale at one of the online sales or auction sites. A potential customer contacts you from overseas. Let's say you've advertised a car for $2,000. They want to buy your car. To pay for it, they'd like to have a creditor in the U.S. who owes them $7,200 send you a cashier's check for that amount. You deposit that check in your account and when it's cleared, they'll trust you to wire that money to them.

What went wrong. You receive the cashier's check for $7,200. It appears to be drawn on a legitimate financial institution. You withdraw $5,200 and wire it by Western Union to the overseas address. In the next week to three weeks, the cashier's check is returned as counterfeit. The total $7,200 plus fees is taken from your account and you may be suspected of fraud.


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