It’s becoming increasingly difficult to avoid money scams these days. Criminals are getting savvier, and they’ve got thousands of ways to get their hands on your money (47,567 ways, to be precise, according to the Better Business Bureau Scam Tracker).
Your credit or debit card information can be stolen by unscrupulous cashiers or through website data breaches. Card skimming devices placed on gas station pumps and ATMs are another common trick (read one of our previous articles for more information). At CPS IBEW Federal Credit Union, we work hard to help protect our members’ checking, debit, savings, and other accounts from these thefts. But then there’s another type of theft that—although 100% preventable—targets millions of Americans each year: money scams in which the victim willingly hands money to a scammer.
“You may believe you’re too smart to fall for these types of scams, but those who have will tell you it’s shockingly easy to do,” says CPS IBEW FCU President Adam Conine. “These scammers may contact you by mail, phone, text, email, social media, or well-placed ads. There are thousands circulating right now but, thankfully, there are also some common ways to detect them.”
Be on the lookout for these trending scams
Fake financial alerts
Emails and texts that look like they’re from a legitimate financial institution are common ways criminals are getting information from unsuspecting victims. Called “phishing” attacks, these messages almost always include a link or request for sensitive information like your bank account and routing numbers to verify your account or to receive funds. Never click links or enter information in reply to an unsolicited message. Instead, log in to your account separately or call the institution directly (using the number printed on your card or statement) to confirm the information. Here’s more information from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) about protecting yourself from phishing attacks.
If you get a call, email, text or even social media message from someone claiming to be from the IRS or a related financial institution and that you owe money (or that they owe you) don’t immediately give them what they want. It’s likely a scam, particularly if it’s the first time you’re being contacted, and they’re asking for instant payment. Take a look at this advice from the IRS first.
These offers in which you only pay shipping and handling or have a certain number of days free are often legitimate, but plenty aren’t. Take a look at the fine print and be wary before handing over payment information. According to the BBB, some of these deals are subscription traps in which it’s nearly impossible to contact the seller to stop recurring charges once the trial is over.
A phone call, email or text claiming a loved one has been kidnapped for ransom or that they’re in trouble and need money wired to them may seem far-fetched, but they have tricked thousands of people just like you. The newest scams involve online love interests who ask for money via social media and dating sites. Many of these schemes involve wiring money to the “loved one.” Take a look at this advice from the Texas Attorney General’s Office when a request to wire money is involved.
Unfortunately, there are many other scams aiming to take your money. From fake charities to mythical jury duty summons, there seems to be a scam for every type of person. Experian recently compiled this list of some of the most shocking ones sweeping the nation.
“The easiest way to protect yourself is to be skeptical of those who contact you for money or other sensitive information. It’s OK to question them or to require proof they are who they say they are. Then, check your accounts and credit score regularly to detect fraud you may have otherwise missed,” Conine advises.
Our Credit Union members can also check their financial activity daily online or through our mobile app. If you spot suspicious charges or feel you’ve been the victim of fraud, you can freeze your debit card instantly.
Find the “Freeze Card” button on the same screen as your transactions after you’ve logged into our site. While the card is frozen, call the 24-hour automated line at 1-866-842-5208 to report the issue so we can help you decide whether the card has been compromised. The card can be unfrozen by pressing “Unfreeze Card,” which will appear in the same spot. Members can also freeze and unfreeze debit cards using the CPS IBEW FCU mobile app. Simply log in to your account, select checking, then click the “Freeze Card” or “Unfreeze Card” option.