Recognizing and Avoiding Mortgage Relief Scams
If you’re behind on your mortgage, you may not know what to do—and scammers can take advantage of this confusion. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website offers valuable information on avoiding mortgage relief scams.
Red flags that indicate a scam include:
- You’re asked to pay up front for help.
- The company guarantees it will get the terms of your mortgage changed.
- The company guarantees you won’t lose your home.
- You’re instructed to send your payment to someone other than your mortgage company or servicer.
- You’re told to stop paying your mortgage.
- The company says it’s affiliated with the government or uses a logo that looks like a government seal but is slightly different.
If you see one of these warning signs, take your business elsewhere. Free foreclosure help is available from HUD-approved housing counselors. They can explain what your legitimate options are for your mortgage.
The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) also offers information on how you can avoid foreclosure, as well as tips for working with your mortgage servicer, here.
If you experience financial hardship due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the CARES Act may allow you to temporarily pause or reduce your monthly mortgage payments through a forbearance, or prevent foreclosure. Learn more at consumerfinance.gov/housing.
Avoid Spoofing Scams
Hackers often try to take advantage of unsuspecting people by posing as their financial institution, which is referred to as spoofing. They often use common communication methods such as a phone call, email or text message.
The phone call, email or text may look like it’s coming from a Travis Credit Union number or email address, but it is better to be cautious and contact Travis Credit Union directly to verify the legitimacy of the communication.
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.
If you receive a call, text or email from someone claiming to be a Travis Credit Union representative and that person begins to ask you questions about your personal information (i.e., your card number, PIN, password, account information), immediately cease the communication, do not respond or click any links, and contact Travis Credit Union directly at (707) 449-4000 or (800) 877-8328.
Best Practice Tip:
Check your report three times per year by requesting the report form one credit bureau every four months.
Monitor Your Credit
- Each year, check your credit report. You are entitled to a free report from the three major bureaus annually. Get started at AnnualCreditReport.com.
- Watch for “new” or “re-opened” accounts and other suspicious activity on your report.
Protect Yourself from Scams
- Be mindful of communications with companies that have had data breaches in the past.
- Don’t open attachments or click links in emails from unfamiliar sources.
- Don’t click on links or call numbers sent via text message from unknown parties.
- File annual tax returns promptly to lower your chances of becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Should you be notified that more than one return was filed in your name, owe additional tax, or that records indicate that your earnings were more than the amount of wage reported, complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit from 14039, and contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at (800) 908-4490.
- Ask your credit union if they offer account protections such as security challenge pass-phrase, account notes, and travel protections are available.
- If something seems too good to be true, it probably is and if they require fast action or instill a sense of fear are offers to be wary.
Best Practice Tip:
Configure the antivirus / anti-malware software to automatically check for updates at least weekly.
Protect Yourself Online
- Strong passwords are at least 11 characters in length and case-sensitive with alpha-numeric characters and symbols.
- Do not use the same passwords for multiple websites, especially those where you conduct online transactions.
- Be sure the computer you use is protected with a firewall and antivirus / anti-malware software.
- Install operating system patches when they are made available.
- Avoid using public Wi-Fi and public computers to conduct online transactions.
- When offered, use multifactor authentication for account logins and out-of-band authentication to confirm login attempts and/or transactions.
- Be wary of what you’re sharing on social media. Openly sharing can provide an identity thief with the necessary information to impersonate you, or answer certain challenge questions. Keep social media accounts private and be cautious who you friend. Never share financial information in an unprotected public forum.
Social Security Number
Your Social Security Number (SSN) should be closely guarded. It doesn’t change over your lifespan, which makes it a coveted piece of information for identity thieves. If your credit union uses your SSN number in whole or in part to identify you, ask if they can use an account password or recent transaction.
Keep in mind, you may have to share your SSN if you’re opening a new account, or applying for a loan or credit card. However, you should only share that information when you’re certain it will not be overheard or used without your consent.
Most minors under 18 may not have a credit report available for review. However, children are regular targets of identity theft. Parents should take care to protect their children’s financial future.
Look for Warning Signs
- Collection notices or calls for products or services in your child’s name.
- Notice declaring your child owes back income tax or their identifying information was used on multiple tax returns.
- Marketing offers arriving in your child’s name. This could mean an account was opened at a financial institution in your child’s name.
- Share your child’s private identifying information sparingly and carefully. If asked to share that information, including their SSN, ask and understand how it will be used.
Check Your Child’s Credit
- Request a credit report in their name from the credit reporting bureaus. Each has their own process. It will take a little time, but will be worth it.
- If there is a report in your child’s name, request a fraud alert and consider placing a credit freeze.
- Contact your local police department or Attorney General’s Office to file a report the identity theft and request a copy of any report generated.
- Contact any financial institution and business listed on your child’s report and explain the account was opened because of theft and request it be closed. You may need to produce documentation from the credit bureaus and law enforcement.
- Keep a detailed list of any phone calls made and/or documents received as you may need to produce them later.
How We Protect You Report Lost or Stolen Card