Be fraud aware
The best way to avoid fraud is to know how to recognize it. There are many kinds of fraud schemes, but most share certain telltale characteristics.
1. There’s no time to wait
Many fraud schemes depend on speed. Scammers can’t wait around for you to wise up to their tricks. This is especially true for scams that involve checks, money wires and pre-paid cards. If you receive a check from a stranger with instructions to deposit the check into your account and wire a portion to someone else, don’t do it. When you deposit a check, federal law requires that at least some portion of the funds be made available to you in one to five days, which may lull you into thinking the check is good. But the actual processing takes longer. It can take weeks before you know if the check is bad. Scammers will try to get you to act before the check bounces.
Other scams will try to frighten you into handing over money or personal information. They may claim you’re delinquent on paying your taxes, or you may receive a text alert claiming there is an issue with your account. (Just click this link and confirm your account details.) Whatever the ruse, take your time, and don’t act just because the pressure is on.
If you receive an email, text message or phone call from a stranger who pressures you to hand over money or information quickly, suspect fraud. Step back, take a breath and investigate their claims.
2. It feels personal
In addition to money, scammers want your personal information so they can steal your identity and sell it on the black market or use it to take out loans and credit cards. Be on the lookout for bad actors who may impersonate a legitimate business or familiar person to try to trick you into revealing your personal information or financial credentials. They may pretend to be your financial institution, online retailer, package delivery service, a friend or even a potential love interest.
Don’t be fooled. Lotteries don’t need your account numbers to direct deposit your “winnings.” That love interest you met online (but who can’t seem to meet up in person) doesn’t need to know your mother’s maiden name. The financial institution that issued your credit card already knows your CVV number. And no one EVER needs to know your credit union account login and password.
Your credit union will never initiate a phone call, email or text to you and then ask for your account login and password. If you receive communication asking for this information, don’t respond.
3. Trust your gut
Which brings us to point number 3: If it seems wrong, check it out.
Does the message contain misspelled words or grammar errors? Does it seem odd—not like the usual text your friend or co-worker would normally send? Is the request unusual?
Scammers are very good at putting you at ease, but it’s hard to silence that voice deep in your gut that says, “This is odd.” If you have any doubt about a phone call, email or text, do a final verification before you click on any links, open any attachments or respond with information. If it’s from a friend, call them for confirmation. If it’s from a company, call them to confirm the request. If the message is legitimate, there’s no harm in verifying it before you act.
4. Suspect the unexpected
Be suspicious of any unexpected requests, links or attachments you may receive in person or by phone, email or text. Whether it’s good news or bad, don’t act on unexpected information until you have had time to validate the details.
If you receive an unexpected request to verify an account or personal information, an announcement that you’ve won a prize (just click here), or even an attached photo of your friend’s new puppy, be suspicious. If you can, verify with the sender that the request, link or attachment is legitimate. If you can’t verify, don’t respond.
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