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5 Tips For Avoiding Scams During Summer And All Year Long


Summer should be a carefree time filled with sun, fun, family getaways, and barbecuing with friends. However, remember, scammers and fraudsters never take a vacation. They understand that while you’re focusing on having a good time, you may be less vigilant about protecting your account, debit, and credit card information. To help keep your guard up, here are five common scams to watch out for and actions you can take to help protect your personal information and funds throughout summer and all year long.

1. Smishing scams: Ever receive a text from a phone number you’re not familiar with? It could be a smishing scam. Smishing is a fake text alert claiming to come from the Credit Union or some other financial institution alerting you of a “suspicious” or “fraudulent” transaction on your account or a recent credit or debit card charge. The fraudster will ask you to take some urgent action, usually clicking on a link and providing some personal information. The fraudster may share some of your personal information, like your birthdate or the last four digits of your social security number, to gain your trust.

How to stay safe: Be wary of a text message requesting personal or financial information. Remember, we will never text you requesting this information. If you receive a text claiming to be from the Credit Union, delete it immediately. Do NOT click on any links. Do NOT call the phone number in the text even though it appears to be ours, it may be a spoof (fake) phone number that the fraudster is using to make you think the text is from us. We will never call or text you for personal information, username, passwords, or passcodes. If you receive a text or call from any number or person claiming to be an employee of the Credit Union, no matter how urgent or convincing they may be, hang up and call us directly at 800.877.2345.

2. Online shopping scams: Fraudsters have many tactics for scamming you when you’re shopping online, from not sending you products, like the summer sandals you’ve paid for, to creating fake websites and apps mimicking popular retailers’ sites. They use these fake websites to take your money and payment information. They also create counterfeit apps containing malware (malicious software) that can lock up your files, steal your passwords, or spy on your digital activity. 

How to stay safe: Read refund and return policies before making an online purchase. If your order doesn’t arrive or your refund request is denied, dispute the charges. Using a credit card for online purchases can make the dispute process much easier. Study the website’s address bar and URL. If there are any misspellings in the web address, it’s a red flag that the website is not legitimate. Also, monitor your credit and debit card transactions regularly to increase the chance of spotting unauthorized purchases or withdrawals in the early stage of this fraud.

3. Fake check scams: Despite many variations, phony check scams involve two main components: 1) Scammers send cashier’s checks or money orders to you, and 2) they ask you to send part of the cashed money back to them in gift cards, money orders, or cryptocurrency. If you deposit the checks and they are found to be fraudulent, you will likely be required to pay the deposited funds back to your credit union or bank.

How to stay safe: Cashier’s checks are not cash; it can take weeks to validate legitimacy. If the amount on the check is more than what it should be, void it and ask the sender to resend another check for the correct amount. Do not wire or send gift cards, money orders, or cryptocurrency. Your money is not protected in these transactions.

4. Imitation websites: Just because it looks like your favorite shopping website doesn’t mean it is your favorite shopping website. As we noted in tip 2, fraudsters will create a fake website that looks and functions like a brand’s website, and these imposter websites are getting harder to identify. Fraudsters use these counterfeit websites to capture your personal and credit card information.  

How to stay safe: Study the website’s address bar and URL. If there are any misspellings in the web address, it’s a red flag that the website is not legitimate. Look for the “s” at the start of “https” in the web address. The “s” stands for “secure.” A word of caution ­– this isn’t a 100 percent guarantee, but it’s a good start. No, “s,” do not use the site. If the website has multiple typos and poor grammar, it may be a fake site designed to make you think it’s the actual company’s website. Review the privacy policy. Most businesses provide basic legal information; in fact, multiple laws and regulations require this information on websites. If this information isn’t on the website you’re visiting, it may not be legitimate.

5. Public Wi-Fi: Let’s say you’re out shopping online for an upcoming vacation or exploring a new city on vacation and stop at a local coffee house offering free Wi-Fi. Don’t use the Wi-Fi for online shopping or any other financial transaction as you sip. Hackers love public Wi-Fi because it’s easy to hack in and steal your personal information, like your credit card numbers and banking information. Free Wi-Fi hotspots require no authentication to connect, giving hackers an open door to unsecured devices on the same network. In short, they can see everything you’re doing online.

How to stay safe: Avoid using public Wi-Fi when possible. If you must use it, consider using a secondary email address so if the provider is storing data, you will limit being marketed to through your primary email address. If you have to create a password, do not use the same password you use for any of your other accounts. When you’re done, set your device to forget previously used networks, so it doesn’t automatically connect whenever you’re near. Rather than going public, connect to the internet via mobile data on your mobile device. Make sure the connection is secure with a complex password so no one else in the area can join in.

Final thoughts.
Summer is an excellent time for traveling and kicking back with family and friends. Hopefully, these five tips will help ensure that as you relax, you’re personal and financial information stays secure.

For more information and ideas on defending yourself against scams during summer and all year, please visit our Security Center.

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