Online Holiday Scams to Avoid

It’s the holiday season, and it’s a time when the scammers like to come out of the woodwork.  In recent years, holiday scams have become notorious for targeting online shoppers and people who frequent social media.  Here are some of the major scams that you need to be aware of this time of the year.

Fake Notifications

Every year, more and more people do their holiday shopping online.  This makes them a prime target for online phishing scams. Some of these can come in the form of fake shipping notifications.  In this scenario, someone disguises their email to read and look like a legit company and wants you to give them information to get updates about your purchased item.  These can be tricky because at first look they look real. To keep out of trouble, always know what you have purchased and what company is responsible for shipping the item.  If it is a company you have never heard of, delete the email immediately. Remember, real shipping companies don’t need your personal details to track your package.

Dual Websites

Another phishing scam that can be popular during this time of year when online shopping is at a high is one where someone makes a phony website that looks just like a legitimate website of another company.  If they can get you onto the fake website instead of the real one, they can get all of your information you enter including your address and credit card information. To be sure that this scam does not happen to you, the first thing you need to do is check to see if the web address starts with http or https.  If it has the “s” you will know the site is secure and your info is likely safe. Another thing you can do is to hover over any links on the page to see exactly where they go–if the linked page looks like it takes you off the main site, you might be on a fake page.

How Will You Pay?

Another scam to look for when holiday shopping is the type of payment you are asked to make.  If anyone asks you to make a wire transfer, use a third party or any other form of payment that can’t be traced or reversed, then it’s time to get out of there.  If they are asking for an unusual method of payment, you can be sure that something is not right with the transaction.

Real or Unreal?

Many people like to ramp up their charitable giving during the holiday season, and with that comes a lot of people trying to scam their way into your wallet by setting up fake charities.  If someone calls you and asks you to make a donation over the phone–don’t do it. Always do your research and know the charities you wish to give to. Look up their websites and make sure they are legit before you give them a dime. Once you know which organizations are legit or not, make a list to keep track of those you would like to give to so you will be less likely to be scammed next year.

The basic way to ensure you don’t get scammed online or in the real world is to be aware of your surroundings.  If something looks fishy, it probably is. If you don’t feel comfortable entering your information on certain websites or over the phone–don’t.  Trust your instincts when you see red flags and protect your information. Only then will you be more likely to have a worry-free holiday season.

4 Ways Your Credit Card Information Gets Stolen

In today’s society, credit cards are a way of life for many people.  Consumers don’t hesitate to whip out their card at stores, restaurants, or even online to purchase items.  It’s an easy and convenient way to buy goods and services.  However, carrying and using a credit card isn’t without its risks.  Credit card fraud has affected 47% of Americans in the past 5 years.  That’s alarming, especially if you are one to use credit cards frequently.  To stay aware of the risks, let’s take a look at four common ways that your credit card information can be stolen.

Scheming Skimmers

A common way people get your card information is through devices called skimmers.  A skimmer is a device that people can place on ATMs or gas pump card readers that will take your card information when you scan it to make your purchase.  Your purchase still goes through, but now someone has your information as well.  Some people carry skimmers around with them.  This is especially useful to people with service jobs like a waiter or waitress.  When you give them your card to pay for your meal, they can take it to the back and use their skimmer to get  your information, then process your payment through the restaurant, and you have no idea what has just transpired.  

It’s important to be aware of the devices you are scanning your card into.  If you see something off or different about the card reader you are about to use, alert the owner of the business you are at, because it’s likely a skimmer has been put into play.

Phishing For Info

We’ve talked about phishing before, but it is another very common way people can get their hands on your information.  Phishing is when someone sends you an email or calls you saying they are from a reputable company (one that they know you use regularly), and they need you to give them your credit card or your social security number for a certain reason.  Sometimes their claims can sound legit, and they usually make their emails look official–like they really are from the company they claim.  However, it’s all a ruse to get your info.  If you don’t know about phishing, you might give them all your personal information, and then they have it to do whatever they please.  

The bottom line here is be very aware of who is sending you emails.  Never, ever give your personal information over email or the phone.  If you suspect the email isn’t a real message from the company, call the actual company and question them about your situation.  It’s much better to double check and find out they were real than to give out your information to a thief.

Sneaky Spyware

Another common way for thieves to deceive you into getting your information is through spyware.  If they can get spyware installed on your computer, they can pretty much see everything you do online.  They can record your keystrokes, track your online activities, slow down your device, and some can even take over your computer.  If they monitor your online activity and keystrokes, it’s only a matter of time before they get all of your personal information, including your credit card information.  It’s very important to keep a really good antivirus software on your computer to ward off anyone trying to install spyware.  That’s really the only thing you can do to avoid this scam.

Dumpster Diving

With all the high-tech capabilities for stealing someone’s information we’ve talked about so far, there are some old-fashioned people who will literally dumpster dive for your information.  They will go through trash cans, dumpsters outside of businesses, and anywhere else they think they can find credit card information that has been discarded.  This is why it is always a good idea to shred credit card receipts, statements, offers, and anything else that has to do with your identity or your financial records.  Desperate times call for desperate measures, and some people are desperate for your information.  

It’s always a good idea to keep a close eye on your credit card statements each month.  If you see that you have activity on there that you did not initiate, it’s time to go into recovery mode.  If you keep a close check on all your accounts, you can likely head off a problem before it becomes a disaster.  As you can see, some people will stop at nothing to get what they want, and you don’t want to be caught in the crossfire.  

What To Do If You Become A Victim Of Identity Theft

Identity theft is becoming more and more prevalent every year.  When a person finds out that they are a victim of this heinous crime, it can be a very stressful and scary time in their lives.  Identity thieves can wreck a person’s credit history, cause financial ruin, make a mess of medical records, and sometimes make a person seem liable for a serious crime.  It’s not a problem to take lightly.  

When a person’s identity is stolen, it’s important to take action immediately to ward off any further problems they may cause.  So, what can you do?  Here are a few steps to take when you think your identity has been stolen:

  1. Notify your creditors and your bank.  It’s important to stop the fraudulent activity as soon as possible.  Call all your credit card companies and your bank and put a stop to any further transactions until you get your problem resolved.

  2. Issue a fraud alert for your credit report.  If you contact just one of the three major credit reporting agencies, a fraud alert will be placed on all three reports.  These alerts usually last 90 days.

  3. Check your credit reports thoroughly.  If you place a fraud alert with the credit reporting agencies, they will send you a free copy of your credit report.  When you get that report, comb over every detail with a fine-toothed comb.  Make sure that every account opened, every line of credit, and every credit card are ones that you personally opened.  If you have any fraudulent activity on any account, contact that company immediately.  Also make note of the unique account number on the report so you will have it to help with future communications about your identity theft.  It’s important to check your credit report throughout the coming year as well to make sure any extra fraudulent activity doesn’t occur.

  4. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and your local police department.  Fill out the FTC’s ID Theft Complaint Form from their website and print a copy to keep for yourself.  Also contact your local police department as well as the police department where the ID theft happened, and fill out a police report on the crime.  Give as much information as possible on these reports to help the investigators.

  5. Send your FTC ID Theft Report to your creditors and the credit reporting agencies.  This will help them as they conduct their investigation and will help them ward off any further fraudulent activities.

  6. Change passwords.  Change every account password you have online.  Make it something difficult to guess, but easy for you to remember.  Also, don’t use the same new password for every account.

  7. Contact the Social Security Office.  You may need to solve some issues with your Social Security Number since you have been a victim of identity theft.  Notify the Social Security Office and let them know about your situation, and they should be able to tell you the next step concerning your Social Security Number.

As you can see, identity theft is a serious situation, and recovering from it can seem like a daunting task.  The minute you realize you have been a victim, it’s important to start these steps to recovery.  They should get you on the right path to gain your life back.

Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

It’s a new year, and there is no better time to make sure you are protecting yourself from identity theft.  We’ve talked about cyber security before, but there are some practices you can put into play offline as well.  Here are a few ways you can prevent and protect yourself from identity theft in 2018.

Mail Matters

Pay attention to your mail.  Collect your mail promptly each day so it won’t hang out in your mailbox baiting someone to steal your personal information.  If you are going to be out of town, place a hold on your mail with the post office.  They will gladly stop delivering your mail until you get back and can pick it up.  

Also, when you collect your mail, pay attention to when you receive your bills.  By looking at your billing and financial statement cycles, you will know if one is missing or late.  If one does come up late or missing, contact the sender as soon as possible to ward off any stolen information.

A good way to keep your banking statements out of your mailbox is to sign up for online banking.  Lucky for you, WCU offers online banking as well as a ton of other amenities with your accounts.  Just give us a call to set it all up!

Housekeeping Rules

Store all of your private personal and financial information at home in a very secure location.  A fireproof safe is always a great idea, but if you don’t want a safe, just make sure wherever you put the information, it isn’t easily accessible to others.  In the same vein, make sure your Social Security Number is secure.  Don’t carry your SSN card in your wallet or write your number on any checks.  Only give your number out when it is absolutely necessary.   

Also, shred any documents, receipts, credit card offers, expired credit cards, and account statements you don’t need anymore instead of just throwing them away.  Some desperate thieves won’t think twice about diving into a dumpster and looking for any information they can find to steal identities, information, and money.  

Monthly Reviews

It’s always a smart idea to review all of your credit card and bank account statements every month for suspicious activity.  Most of the time, if you catch it early you can resolve the issue quickly.  If you don’t notice it for several months, it becomes a much bigger issue.  

It’s also a great idea to review you credit report once a year to make sure you don’t see any open accounts or lines of credit that you don’t know about.  You can usually get your credit report free once a year through several institutions.

Being proactive by implementing these few tips can be the difference it takes to ward off any identity theft attempts that could occur.  Just keep a watch over your private information and report any suspicious activity, and you will be ahead of the game.

If you see any suspicious activity with your WCU account, please contact us at 256-355-5010 or 256-974-2013 as soon as possible.