The COVID-19 pandemic left many people financially vulnerable due to job loss, medical expenses and economic inflation. This vulnerability has created an environment for scammers. By offering promises of financial assistance or falsely alerting you of suspicious account activity, fraudsters can quickly gain access to your private information.
Here are some common scams to be aware of and tips to prevent you from falling victim to a scam.
Credit Card Fraud
The United States is one of the top countries for credit card fraud, and the pandemic has only exacerbated this due to the increase in online channel usage for purchases. Luckily, there are preventative steps you can take to protect yourself:
- Use Secure Websites
If a website is secure, you will see a locked padlock on the left side of the address bar and the website address will begin with HTTPS. Do not enter your personal information on websites that are not secure.
- Protect Your Card Number
Data breaches happen all the time. Don't risk fraud — don’t save your card information online, and cover your pin when you are entering it into a keypad.
- Review Your Credit Card Reports and Financial Accounts Regularly
Check your financial statements daily or weekly for unauthorized purchases and if you suspect any, report them immediately. Set up alerts on your accounts so that you can monitor transactions as they occur. You can also set up parameters to decline transactions based on location and spending amounts.
Review your annual credit card reports. Make sure no new accounts have been created in your name. If your card is lost or stolen, immediately set up a credit freeze. Once the credit freeze is in place, no one will be able to open new accounts in your name.
According to CNBC, Americans lost $28.9 billion to phone scams alone last year. On average, the reported loss is approximately $502 per person. Here are some valuable tips to keep you safe:
- Let Unknown Calls Go to Voicemail
Due to advanced technology, scammers can make any name or number appear on your caller ID. Let calls from unknown numbers go straight to voicemail.
- Block Spam Calls
Prevent spam calls by blocking them on your mobile device. Your phone service provider likely has a free app that allows you to block any unknown numbers.
- Protect Your Phone Number
You don't need to give your number to the cashier at checkout or on any online shopping website. Scammers can make calls from and to numbers worldwide, so limit how many times you give your number out and who you give it out to.
Scammers often impersonate trusted corporations via email and text messages to gain access to private information. This is usually done by embedding links or attachments in emails along with a narrative of suspicious activity, free incentives/assistance, or late payments. Keep these tips in mind to create a stress-free online experience:
- Don't Click on Unknown Links
Rather than clicking a link in an email, go directly to the company’s website. This will ensure you are using a secure website to handle any sensitive information.
- Use Antivirus Software
Both firewall protection and antivirus software play a significant factor in guarding against software attacks. Antivirus software prevents damage to your computer by scanning every file which comes through the internet to your computer. Firewall protection stops attacks by preventing access to corrupt files. Install both on your computer and update them regularly.
- Protect Your Personal Information
Don't send sensitive information through email. Phishing sites are almost always going to direct you to input personal and financial information. If you do click a link through email, avoid inputting confidential information.
Remember that a Travis Credit Union employee will never call, email or text you and ask for your personal information. If we call you, we may ask some questions to verify your identity, but they will not involve your account numbers, Personal Identification Number (PIN), Social Security Number, Online Banking password, or any other sensitive information.
Social Security Fraud
Scammers are always finding new ways to gain access to your information. One example are those robo-calls stating your Social Security number has been suspended due to criminal activity. Here is some advice for protecting yourself and your Social Security number:
- Offer Another Form of ID
When asked for a social security number, offer another form of ID first. A driver's license, passport or even a utility bill can likely be used as a sufficient alternative.
- Shred Important Documents
Do not throw essential documents into your trash; shred them. Thieves are known for combing through discarded mail. Also, empty your mailbox daily. Stolen mail is a common way for scammers to gain access to your information.
- Don't Travel with your Social Security Card
Remember your number and leave your Social Security Card at home. It is rare to need your Social Security Card, so, keep it in a safe place at home and never save this information to your phone/laptop.
Have more questions about avoiding scams? Travis Credit Union is here to help every step of the way.
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