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Protect Your Finances & Identity

To protect your finances and identity it is important to keep your financial records in order and to watch out for fraud and scams.

Steps To Take To Help Protect Yourself After A Data Breach

As your community bank, we understand that you may have questions when a data breach occurs. We are not in a position to provide advice, however the following information may assist you with determining the best course of action for your circumstance.

  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion for free at annualcreditreport.com Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files with each credit reporting company. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Consider placing a fraud alert on your files with each credit reporting company if you decide against a credit freeze. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early - as soon as you have the tax information you need, before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS.
  • Visit Identitytheft.gov/databreach to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach.

Information provided by the Federal Trade Commission, www.consumer.ftc.gov

What Is A Scam?

A scam is a trick a con artist plays on an unsuspecting victim to extort money. If the scam succeeds, the victim’s money is gone, and the scammer will move on to the next victim.

A scammer is the ultimate salesperson with a tempting offer or a skilled liar with a plausible story

  • Easily pinpoints a victim’s vulnerabilities and appeals to emotions: sympathy, fear, loneliness
  • Quickly gains trust 
  • Insist on secrecy
  • Shows no mercy, e.g., doesn’t take “no” for an answer

Know the Red Flags of a Scam

  • Immediate action required
  • Insistence on secrecy
  • Money needed up front
  • Hard-to-track payment methods

Build Your Scam Defenses

  • Do not be rushed into any financial decision
  • Assume that insistence on secrecy is a ploy to deceive you
  • Be suspicious of any situation that requires you to send money up front
  • Confirm all stories, offers or charities independently
  • Be very cautious about clicking on email links

Block Those Scammers

  • Register with National Do Not Call Registry at www.donotcall.gov to limit legitimate telemarketing phone calls, making phone scams easier to detect
  • Register with www.DMAchoice.org to limit legitimate advertising mail, making mail scams easier to detect
  • Limit personal information on social media and choose the strictest privacy settings on social media accounts
  • Use antivirus software on your computer

What to Do If You Are Scammed

  • Don’t be embarrassed or afraid
  • Tell someone you trust
  • Report the scam to your bank immediately to limit losses
  • Contact your local police and federal agencies, like the Federal Trade Commission

Information provided by the American Bankers Association, www.aba.com

5 Ways To Spot A Lottery Scam

According to the FBI, in 2014 consumers lost more than $8 million to solicitation scams. These scams, commonly referred to as “advance fee,” “lottery” or “sweepstakes” scam, often begin with fraudsters telling the victim they’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes raffle. The consumer is issued a check worth more than the amount owed and instructed to pay taxes and fees before receiving a lump sum payment. Unfortunately, the check––in addition to the raffle––is bogus.

  1. Don’t be fooled by the appearance of the check. Scam artists are using sophisticated technology to create legitimate looking counterfeit checks. Some are counterfeit money orders, some are phony cashier’s checks and others look like they are from legitimate business accounts. The company name may be real, but someone has forged the checks without their knowledge.
  2. Never “pay to play.” There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back or send you more than the exact amount—that’s a red flag that it’s a scam. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashier’s check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a local branch.
  3. Verify the requester before you wire or issue a check. It is important to know who you are sending money to before you send it. Just because someone contacted you doesn’t mean they are a trusted source.
  4. Ensure a check has “cleared” to be most safe. Under federal law, banks must make deposited funds available quickly, but just because you can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is good, even if it’s a cashier’s check or money order. Be sure to ask if the check has cleared, not merely if the funds are available before you decide to spend the money.
  5. Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. Bank staff are experts in spotting fraudulent checks. If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don’t deposit it— report it. Contact your local bank or the National Consumers League’s Fraud Center, fraud.org.

Information provided by the American Bankers Association, www.aba.com

Check Fraud – What To Know!

“While the exciting and glamorous fraud topics today involve wire fraud, account takeovers, ID theft, and skimming, the results of the Association for Financial Professionals’ annual corporate fraud survey remind us that the most fraud vulnerable instrument available today is the paper check.”
- Richard Oliver, Atlanta Federal Reserve Bank

2013 saw $645,000,000 in check fraud losses in the United States according to the ABA Deposit Account Fraud Survey.

How to protect yourself:

  • Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. If it’s free or a gift, you shouldn’t have to pay for it. Free is free.
  • Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It’s illegal to play a foreign lottery through the mail or the telephone, and most foreign lottery solicitations are phony.
  • Know who you’re dealing with, and never wire money to strangers.
  • If you’re selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. As a seller, you can suggest an alternative way for the buyer to pay.
  • If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers don’t pressure you to send money by wire transfer services. In addition, you have little recourse if there’s a problem with a wire transaction.
  • Resist any pressure to “act now.” If the buyer’s offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears.
  • A cashier’s check is less risky than other types of checks only if the item is genuine. If you can, ask for a cashier’s check drawn on a bank with a branch in your area.
  • If you want to find out whether a check is genuine, call or visit the bank on which the check is written. That bank will be in a better position to tell you whether the check is one they issued and is genuine.
  • Know the difference between funds being available for withdrawal from your account and a check having finally cleared. Your bank may be required by law to make funds available to you even if the check has not yet cleared. However, it could take several weeks to know if the check will clear or not.

Information provided by: consumer.ftc.gov and occ.gov

14 Red Flags For Elder Financial Abuse

The key to spotting financial abuse is a change in a person’s established financial patterns. Watch out for these red flags:

  1. Unusual activity in an older person’s bank accounts, including large, frequent or unexplained withdrawals
  2. Changing from a basic account to one that offers more complicated services the customer does not fully understand or need
  3. Withdrawals from bank accounts or transfers between accounts the customer cannot explain
  4. A new “best friend” accompanying an older person to the bank
  5. Sudden non-sufficient fund activity or unpaid bills
  6. Closing CDs or accounts without regard to penalties
  7. Uncharacteristic attempts to wire large sums of money
  8. Suspicious signatures on checks, or outright forgery
  9. Confusion, fear or lack of awareness on the part of an older customer
  10. Checks written as “loans” or “gifts”
  11. Bank statements that no longer go to the customer’s home
  12. New powers of attorney the older person does not understand
  13. A caretaker, relative or friend who suddenly begins conducting financial transactions on behalf of an older person without proper documentation
  14. Altered wills and trusts

Information provided by the American Bankers Association, www.aba.com

Don’t Fall Victim To The Grandparent Scam

According to the Federal Trade Commission, between 2012 and 2014, consumers reported more than $42 million in losses from scams involving the impersonation of family members and friends. This scam, commonly known as the “grandparent scam,” is a form of financial abuse that deliberately targets older Americans.

To commit this crime, fraudsters call claiming to be a family member in serious trouble and in need of money immediately. The scammer might say he’s stranded or has been mugged, and call in the middle of the night to add to the urgency and confusion. Once the money is wired, the victim later finds out that it wasn’t their grandchild they were helping, it was a criminal.

Confirm the caller. Fraudsters are using social networking sites to gain the personal information of friends and relatives to carry out their crimes. Verify the caller by calling them back on a known number or consult a trusted family member before acting on any request.

Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Fraudsters want to execute their crimes quickly. In this type of scam, they count on fear and your concern for your loved one to make you act before you think. The more questions you ask the more inclined they will be to ditch the scam if they suspect you’re on to them.

Never give personal information to anyone over the phone unless you initiated the call and the other party is trusted.

Never rush into a financial decision and trust your instincts. Don’t be fooled—if something doesn’t feel right, it may not be right. Feel free to say no and get more information before you send money to someone.

Information provided by the American Bankers Association, www.aba.com