Watch Out for Fraudulent E-mails

The emails and texts you receive may look official, but they could be fake. Never click on a link or attachment or respond to an email or text with personal information — credit card numbers, social security numbers, or other banking details. Instead, contact the company directly or visit online by typing the company Web address into your Internet browser. Partners 1st will never ask you to share your user ID or online banking password via email or text.

If you suspect that you’ve received a fraudulent email that appears to be from Partners 1st, forward the message to Partners 1st at partners1st@partners1stcu.org. If you responded to a fraudulent text or email or disclosed personal information, immediately go to another (ideally) computer/device and change your password. Then contact Partners 1st Contact Center at 1-800-728-8943.

Choose Passwords Carefully

Create passwords that are easy to remember, but difficult for others to guess, and change them every few months. The best passwords are a minimum of eight characters, contain a mix of letters, numbers, and symbols, and use words that are not common. Never use the same password for banking as you do for other non-financial sites, such as social media or email. Be cautious about choosing security questions with answers that you know can be found easily on public websites or guessed.

Be Careful What You Share Online

Personal information shared on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn can be used by criminals to commit fraud. Never post key information, such as where you bank, how you invest your money, physical addresses, emails, cell phone numbers, account numbers, or passwords.

Guard Your Mobile Device

Your mobile phone contains valuable personal information. Secure it with a password and be sure to wipe it clean before trading it in. Only install apps from well-known stores like Google Play, Apple App Store, Windows Store, and Amazon. Be careful of scanning QR codes, as they may direct you to a fraudulent site. Set up and use remote find, lock, and erase functions like “Find my iPhone” or “Android Device Manager.”

Avoid Banking from Public Wi-Fi Hotspots

The Wi-Fi available at many public locations may not be secure. Be cautious about the sites you visit and the information you release.

Secure Your Computer

PCs, laptops, smart phones, tablets, and other web- enabled devices need the most current security software, Web browser, and operating system. Also, Microsoft, Apple, and other tech support companies will never call you to “fix” your computer. If you receive a call like this, report it to the Federal Trade Commission, www.ftc.gov or 1-888-382-1222. Consider using a dedicated computer for banking versus other day-to-day functions to lessen the chance of a computer infection leading to theft. When traveling, keep your computer/ devices under your control at all times. Do not leave equipment in the trunk of your car or unattended in public areas.

Extra Tips: How to Spot a Scam

Scams can come via email, text or phone. Visit http://www.ic3.gov/ or http://www.ftc.gov/ to report scams and be alert to these clues:

Does the offer seem too good to be true? Be suspicious of large cash prize winnings or offers of a large inheritance that involves money transfers. Brand new luxury vehicles cannot be purchased for $15,000 under invoice cost.

Do you know the requester? Email and texts that appear to come from someone you know, such as your grandchild or boss, can be forged. Talk to your friends, family, and co-workers to confirm before sending money in response. Also, do business only via websites you know and trust.

Does the requester ask for personal information in exchange for money? No legitimate social media promotion or job opportunity requires people to hand over their bank cards, PIN numbers, or online banking credentials. If you provide this information for the promise of free money, you may be responsible for anything that happens, which can be much larger than the balance in your account. If someone calls you and you suspect a scam, don’t give out any information. Ask for a call-back number. If the caller won’t leave one, tell them you are busy and will need to call them back.

Does the the requester create a sense of urgency? Many scams try to scare you into doing something quickly by threatening negative consequences, such as missed business deals or lost job opportunities.

Does the offer appeal to your emotions? Fraudsters often blend in themes, such as tragic media events, online dating, endangered loved ones, and charities or pose as a pastor. They know that when your emotional state rises, often your attention to security goes down.

 

Fraudulent Charities

Some charities focus on temporary shelter and some concentrate on providing food and water; others specialize in simply raising money for other charities. The Oklahoma Attorney General's Office is now warning of renewed charity scams following the tornado so before giving money to help with the recent tornado disaster relief, it would be wise to verify the type of help the charity is providing to ensure the charity is legitimate.

The same increase in fraudulent charities happened within days of the Boston marathon bombings. More than 100 new websites were registered as charities and many were scams. After the grade school shootings in Newton, Connecticut, someone even set up a fake "Funeral Fund" page on Facebook.

To locate a trusted charity, an individual could use an independent charity evaluator such as "Charity Navigator" as a starting point to learn how a particular charity's donations are spent. Charity Navigator shows how much of a donation is applied to the charity program as well as the amount applied to administration and marketing. The Charity Navigator website currently lists more than a dozen trusted charities taking donations for Oklahoma tornado relief, including the American Red Cross.

Keep in mind that donations to certain national charities such as the Red Cross are directed to overall disaster relief wherever assistance is most needed unless a particular disaster is specified. The Red Cross states if donations received have exceeded the amount needed for a specific disaster, the additional donations received and designated for that disaster may be used for other relief efforts. One method of donating to the Red Cross to ensure the donation stays local is to donate to a specific Red Cross Chapter; local donations such as these will be applied in that locale.

Be Alert This Summer

“Ah, summertime! Warm days, rest and recreation and…tax scams. Thieves don’t stop victimizing unsuspecting taxpayers with their scams after April 15. Identity theft, phone and phishing scams happen year-round. Those three top the IRS’s ‘Dirty Dozen’ list of tax scams this year. Here’s some important information you should know about these common tax scams: 

1. Identity Theft

Identity thieves steal personal and financial information to commit fraud or other crimes. This can include your Social Security number or bank information. An identity thief may file a phony tax return to claim a fraudulent refund. 
The IRS has a special identity protection page on IRS.gov. It has many resources you can use to reduce your risk of becoming a victim. The page can also tell you what steps to take if you are a victim of identity theft and need help. This includes how and when you should contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit. 

2. Phone Scams

In these scams, thieves pose as the IRS and call would-be victims with one goal in mind: to steal their money. Callers will tell you that you owe taxes and demand immediate payment. They will tell you that you must pay the bogus tax bill with a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. The callers are often abusive and threaten arrest or deportation. They may know the last four digits of your Social Security number. They also rig caller ID to falsely show that the call is from the IRS. 

Keep in mind that if a person owes taxes, the IRS will first contact them by mail, not by phone. The IRS doesn’t ask for payment with a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer. If you owe, or think you might owe federal taxes and you get one of these calls, hang up. Call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS will work with you to pay what you owe. If you don’t owe taxes, call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484. 

3. Phishing Scams

Criminals use the IRS as bait in a phishing scam. Scammers typically send emails that purport to come from the IRS. They often lure their targets with a false promise of a refund or the threat of an audit. They may also set up a phony website that looks like the real IRS.gov. These phony sites often have the IRS seal and other graphics to make them appear official. Their goal is to get their victim to reveal personal and financial information. They use the information they get to steal identities and commit fraud. 

The IRS doesn’t contact people by email about their tax account. Nor does the agency use email, social media, texting or fax to initiate contact or ask for personal or financial information. If you get an email like this, do not click on a link or open any attachments. You should instead forward it to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. For more on this topic visit IRS.gov and select the ‘Reporting Phishing’ link at the bottom of the page.

Don’t let tax scams take the fun out of your summer. Be alert to phone and phishing email scams that use the IRS as a lure. Visit the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov, for more on what you can do to avoid becoming a victim and how to report tax fraud.”

Helpful Links

Check out these resources for how to protect yourself from fraud:

National Do Not Call Registry

Spam Controls FAQs | Verizon Wireless

Block spam text messages on your wireless phone - AT&T Wireless Support

Attorney General, MI - Cell Phone Spam Stop Receiving Unwanted Text Messages!

How Do I Block Unwanted Text Messages on My Cellphone?