8 Ways To Spot A Job Scam

Young woman looks at a job sheet while verifying information on her smartphone.If you’re in the market for a new job, or you’re looking for extra part-time work, be careful. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a surge in employment scams of every kind. Victims might have their accounts emptied, their identities stolen, or they may even find themselves facing jail time for money laundering charges.

Protect yourself from employment scams by holding up any job you’re considering against this list of red flags:

1.) The job pays very well for easy work
If a job description offers a high hourly rate for non-skilled work with no experience necessary, you can assume it’s a scam. Legitimate companies will not overpay for work that anyone can do. Carefully read the wording of the job pitch. If the deal sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

2.) The job description is poorly written
Scrutinize every word of the job description. If it’s riddled with typos and spelling mistakes, you’re looking at a scam.

3.) They need to hire you NOW!
If a “business” claims the position needs to be immediately filled and they’re ready for you to start working today, assume it’s a scam. Most legitimate businesses will need time to process your application, properly interview you and determine if you are indeed a good fit.

4.) The business has no traceable street address or real online presence
If you’ve spotted a position on an online job board, your first step should be researching the company. Google the company name to see what the internet has to say about them. If you suspect a scam, search the name with words like “scam” and “fraud” in the search string. Look for a brick-and-mortar address, a phone number and a real online presence. If all you find are help-wanted ads and a P.O. Box, move on to better job leads.

5.) You need to share sensitive information just to apply
Does the “job application” you’re looking at seek sensitive details, like your Social Security number and/or a checking account number? Such information should not be necessary just to submit an application. You might even be innocently asked to share details you think are minor, like your date of birth, name of your hometown, first pet’s name or your mother’s maiden name. Of course, these are all keys to open up access to your passwords and/or PINs.

There’s no surer sign you’re dealing with crooks than being asked to share information that practically guarantees you’ll be scammed.

6.) You need to pay a steep fee to apply
Some legitimate companies charge a nominal application fee for hopeful employees. However, if the fee is absurdly high, or the company asks you to cash a check for them and then refund it, you’re being scammed.

7.) There’s no business email
Some job scammers will impersonate well-known companies to look authentic. For example, you might think you’re applying to an off-site job at Microsoft. You’ll be told to email your resume to JohnSmithMicrosoftHR@gmail.com. Your red flag here is the email address: The domain is generic. If the “recruiter” genuinely represented Microsoft, the email address would be something like JohnSmith@HR.Microsoft.com.

8.) The “recruiter” found your resume on a job board you never use
If the “recruiter” claims they’ve picked up your resume on a job board you don’t remember visiting, it’s not your memory failing you. Job-scammers often scrape victims’ personal details off the internet and then pretend to have received a resume. They’ll know you’re looking for a job, and they’ll know enough about you to convince you they’ve got your resume, but it’s all a scam. If someone contacts you about a position you’ve never applied for, or claims to have found your resume on a job board you’ve never visited, run the other way!

As always, practice caution when online. Keep your browser updated and strengthen the privacy settings on your social media accounts. When engaged in a public forum, don’t share information that can make you vulnerable, like your exact birthdate or employment history. Never wire money to people you don’t know well or agree to cash a stranger’s check in exchange for a commission. Above all, keep your guard up when online and use common sense: When in doubt, opt out!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a job scam? Tell us about it in the comments, below!

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/scam-alerts

https://www.job-hunt.org/onlinejobsearchguide/job-search-scams.shtml

https://www.whatismybrowser.com/guides/how-to-be-safe-online/why-should-i-update-my-web-browser

Simple tips for protecting your parents from financial fraud

daughter helping elderly father check his account onlineAccording to the Federal Trade Commission, older adults are disproportionately affected by fraud.

Whether it’s a phony phone call, phishing scam, or mail fraud, seniors often become targets for scammers who perceive them as easy marks.

While you alone can’t put an end to this shady illegal activity, you can empower you parents with the knowledge to keep themselves—and their finances—safe.

Remind them about “stranger danger”
Your parents probably taught you the concept of “stranger danger” at an early age—and for good reason. Don’t interact with suspicious people. It’s an important lesson that’s relevant to adults as well as children.

If someone you don’t know asks for personal information, it’s probably a scam. Remind your parents to never give out credit card or account information, passwords, or social security numbers unless they can verify the identity of the person or business making the request.

Add their number to the Do Not Call List
When you add your phone number to the The National Do Not Call Registry, the government informs telemarketers not to call you.

Unfortunately, unscrupulous organizations and scammers ignore the registry and may continue to harass your parents, but they should see a reduction in unsolicited calls and text messages from those who abide by the law.

Give them a crash course in online literacy
If your senior parents use technology but aren’t completely familiar with how scams work online, they might not understand what to click and what to avoid.

Spend some time going over how to navigate the internet safely. Most importantly, explain email phishing. Emphasize that they should never click links in unsolicited emails from people or companies they don’t know.

If they use social networks like Facebook, warn them not to share anything too personal as scammers might use this information to impersonate friends or family members online.

Used with permission. © 2019 BALANCE. All rights reserved.

Credit Card Fraud In Fives

Businessman enters credit card number on a laptopNo one wants to be the victim of credit fraud. Aside from the stolen money you may never recover, victims of fraud can be faced with an enormous hassle. That hassle involves the closing of accounts, putting a fraud alert on your credit and a huge ding on your credit history, which can be difficult to fix.

Whodunnit? When we’re talking about credit card fraud, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else.

Consumers tend to blame the credit card issuer, but the vulnerability usually lies with the point-of-sale terminal. Tampering with a credit card reader takes just a few minutes and can be done with an inexpensive device that’s available on Amazon. In addition, there are lots of other ways your information can be skimmed, none of which point to a security deficiency with your credit union or credit card company.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and recognize credit card fraud before it happens. Read on for all you need to know about credit card fraud in 5 lists of fives.

5 ways your card can be frauded

  1. It’s physically lifted from your wallet.
    The old-fashioned pickpocket is still a very real threat. Invest in a secure wallet and/or purse and always keep your card inside.
  2. A restaurant or bar server skims it.
    When you hand over your card to a dishonest server at the end of a meal, you give them a few minutes to skim your card while it’s in their possession.
  3. A terminal you use is compromised.
    Payment terminals can be tampered with and rewired to transmit your information to scammers. This is especially common in pay-at-the-pump gas stations.
  4. An online breach puts your information on the black market.
    After a company you use suffers a breach, your personal information may be up for sale on the dark web.
  5. Your computer’s been hacked.

Once a scammer gets inside your computer, they have full access to all of your sensitive data.

5 signs a terminal’s been compromised

  1. The security seal has been voided.
    Many gas stations have joined the war against credit card crimes by placing a security label across the pump. When the pump is safe to use, the label has a red, blue or black background. When it’s been breached, the words “Void Open” will appear in white.
  2. The card reader is too big for the machine.
    The card reader is created to fit perfectly on top of the machine. If it protrudes past it, it’s likely been tampered with.
  3. The pin pad looks newer than the rest of the machine.
    The entire machine should be in a similar condition.
  4. The pin pad looks raised.
    If the pin pad looks abnormally high compared to the rest of the machine, the card reader may have been fitted with a new pin pad that will record your keystrokes.
  5. The credit card reader is not secured in place.
    If parts of the payment terminal are loose, it’s likely been compromised.

5 times you’re at high risk for credit card fraud

  1. You lost your card.
    If you misplaced your card – even if it was eventually returned to you – there’s a chance your information has been skimmed.
  2. You’re visiting an unfamiliar area.
    When patronizing a business in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you don’t know who you can trust.
  3. A company you use has been breached.
    If a business you frequent has been compromised, carefully monitor your credit for suspicious activity.
  4. You shared your information online with an unverifiable contact.
    If you’ve willingly or unwillingly shared sensitive information online and you’re not certain of the contact’s authenticity, you’ve likely been frauded.
  5. You downloaded something from an unrecognizable source.
    Have you accidentally downloaded an attachment from an unknown source? Then your computer has likely been compromised and you’re at risk for credit card fraud.

5 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud

  1. Check all card readers for signs of tampering before paying.
  2. Never share your credit card information online unless you’re absolutely sure the website you’re using is authentic and the company behind it is trustworthy.
  3. Check your monthly credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports on a frequent basis.
  4. Use cash when patronizing a business that’s in an unfamiliar area.
  5. Don’t download any attachments from unknown sources.

5 steps to take if your credit card has been frauded

  1. Lock the compromised account.
    Dispute any fraudulent charges on your compromised accounts and ask to have them locked or completely shut down.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

  3. Consider a credit freeze.
    This will make it impossible for the scammer to open a line of credit in your name.
  4. Alert the FTC.
    Visit identitytheft.gov to report the crime.
  5. Open new accounts.
    Begin restoring your credit with new accounts and lines of credit.

At [credit union], we’ve always got your back! Call, click, or stop by today to ask about steps you can take to protect your information from getting hacked.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? Share your story with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/how-credit-card-skimming-works-960773

https://www.thebalance.com/more-at-risk-of-credit-card-fraud-960780

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/credit-card-fraud-works-stay-safe/

http://gizmodo.com/home-depot-was-hit-by-the-same-hack-as-target-1631865043

How To Protect Yourself From Identity Theft

Computer hacker staring through computer screenChances are, you or someone you know has had their identity stolen at one point or another. It can be expensive, stressful and extremely complicated to recover from. Here are seven ways to help protect yourself and your most important data from identity thieves.

1. Secure Your Hardcopies
Most of us think of identity theft as a digital crime, but many thieves are just as eager to get their hands on your paper documents. While online accounts are password-protected, important paper documents are often left in a drawer or simply tossed in the trash, where dumpster-diving thieves can find them.

What’s the solution? Buy a safe and a shredder. What’s not shredded goes in the safe. Of course, the same level of care should go into protecting your physical credit cards. Don’t put your wallet in your back pocket. Make it a habit to check to see you have all your cards and IDs when you get home at the end of the day. This will help you be aware of missing items earlier so you can cancel lost or stolen cards before too much damage is done.

2. Examine Your Financial Statements
Reviewing your financial statements is a good practice. Not only will this help you track financial habits, it will also alert you to any fraudulent charges. Credit unions and banks do a lot to protect consumers from fraud and identity theft, but only you know what you purchased and what you didn’t, so look closely at those statements!

3. Choose Good Passwords
Many people have one simple password they use for all devices and platforms. This is convenient, but dangerous. Yes, there is reason to worry that having multiple hard-to-remember passwords may make it more difficult for you to access your own accounts, but potential identity thieves will have a more difficult time too.

If you’re worried about remembering your own passwords, check out these easy and safe ways to store your passwords from Gizmodo.

4. Protect Your Computer
Malware is just one way identity thieves steal your data. Invest in a good and reputable antispyware program to make sure your hardware is safe from invaders.

Another way to protect your computer is to encrypt your hard drive. Apple computers and PCs alike will offer the option to encrypt all data in your hard drive. Go to your security settings and choose to activate the encryption option.

5. Be Aware of Suspicious Emails and Websites
If an email looks suspicious, it probably is. Make your email inbox a tightly curated collection. If you have too many promotional emails, start clicking the unsubscribe button. This will help you spot suspicious, unsolicited mails.

The same goes for websites. Your browser or antivirus software may try and warn you about suspicious websites before you enter them. Don’t disregard those warnings.

6. Use Two-Factor Identification
The most convenient option is not always the most secure, but given the choice between convenience and security, your best bet is the more secure one. Two-factor identification for email accounts and other important online accounts will add an extra step to the security process for log-ins, most often making use of your phone number as well.

7. Secure Your Wi-Fi and Avoid Public Wi-Fi
Public Wi-Fi is often insecure and can be a great way for thieves to get to your data. Steer clear if you can. If you have no choice, be sure to avoid all online banking or password logins while using public Wi-Fi. Additionally, be sure to secure your own home Wi-Fi with a unique and hard-to-guess password.

SOURCES:
http://www.identitytheftkiller.com/10-ways-to-avoid-id-theft.php
https://www.wikihow.com/Prevent-Identity-Theft

Look Before You Pump! Be Careful When You Use Your Card At The Gas Station

Two young ladies filling up car at gas stationHow many times a month do you fill ‘er up? It’s a mindless chore, but did you know it can also be the beginning of a financial nightmare? Gas pump skimming is an old crime that’s made a comeback – and your debit card may be at risk.

Every day, 29 million Americans pay for fuel using a credit or debit card. However, compromised pumps with skimming devices installed by scammers have recently been found in several states.

Since these skimmer devices are almost invisible, they can be really difficult to spot, enabling them to easily capture the information of up to 100 cards a day! And, thanks to Bluetooth technology, the criminal doesn’t even need to return to the scene of the crime to collect the data their skimmer has obtained; it can all be done remotely from as far as 100 yards away.

Yes, EMV-enabled technology has become more commonplace, but gas stations were given until 2020 to update their payment systems. This makes them even more vulnerable to such hacks.

Protect yourself against this heinous hack by arming yourself with all you need to know about card skimmers.

How it works
Hackers choose their gas pumps wisely. They usually opt to outfit the one that is farthest from the on-site convenience shop. This way, their activity is out of the range of any security cameras at the shop’s entrance. The hacker will then place a skimming device on top of the pump’s card reader. It will usually be identical to the existing reader, with only a few and hard-to-spot differences.

Sometimes, hackers may place a skimmer inside the pump itself. This task can be done in less than a minute. The hacker can then leave the area and access all the data being collected by the skimmer, with no one being the wiser.

Choose your payment method wisely
You may consider giving yourself extra protection by using a credit card or cash to pay at the pump. A credit card may be compromised just like a debit card, but you can easily dispute fraudulent charges made on your card. Depending upon your financial institution, your debit card may offer minimal purchase protection.

If you want the safest payment method, cash is a good bet. However, remember that cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

How to spot a skimmer
If you don’t like the idea of carrying around wads of cash, you can still protect yourself against skimmers. Use caution while at the pump, and learn how to spot a skimmer. If something looks suspicious, move on to the next pump and report your findings to the local police as well as the gas attendant on duty.

4 ways to spot a skimmer:

  • Use your eyes. Check out the card reader very carefully. Do the numbers on the PIN pad look raised? Do they look newer or bigger than the rest of the machine? Does anything look like it doesn’t belong? Is the fuel pump’s seal broken?
  • Check the tape. Many gas stations place serial-numbered security tape across the dispenser to protect their pumps from skimmers. If the tape has been broken, or there’s no tape on the dispenser at all, it may have been compromised.
  • Use your fingers. Feel the card reader before sliding your card into the slot. Do the keys feel raised? Is it difficult to insert your card? These are both red flags that the card reader may have been fitted with a skimming device.
  • Use your phone. There are several free anti-skimming apps you can install on your phone, such as Skimmer Scanner. Using these apps, you can scan a card reader for a skimming device and get an alert if one is detected. You can also check your phone’s Bluetooth to see if any strange letters or numbers appear under “other devices.”

General card safety
It’s always a good idea to practice general safety when using a card to pay at the pump.

Choose the pump that is closest to the store and always cover the number pad with your hand when inputting your PIN. If you haven’t yet updated to a chip card, now’s the time to do so. It’ll offer you an extra layer of protection. It’s also a good idea to periodically check your account statements for suspicious charges.

Your Turn:
How do you pay at the pump? Why do you choose this method? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://budgeting.thenest.com/problems-using-debit-cards-gas-pumps-23710.html

https://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/gas-pump-atm-skimmers.php

http://news4sanantonio.com/news/local/skimming-devices-found-on-pumps-at-northwest-side-gas-station

All You Need To Know About The Ticketmaster Breach

Ticketmaster logoHackers are at it again! This time, they’re skimming information on third-party sites in what may be the largest credit breach ever.

To that end, in late June, Ticketmaster announced that several of its sites had been compromised. Recent research, though, has revealed that this breach was only a small part of a massive credit card-skimming hack that may have affected more than 800 e-commerce sites.

Here’s what you need to know about the Ticketmaster breach:

What happened?
Ticketmaster revealed that customer information on several of its sites was compromised. The ticket-selling giant claimed no U.S. sites — or customers — had been hacked.

However, cybersecurity firm RiskIQ has said that more than 800 international e-commerce sites have been compromised in this hack.

Sites like Ticketmaster often rely on a third-party code that’s hosted on other sites to support their own payment systems. Third-party codes present a single point of failure. That means, if this code is breached on its host site, every site that uses the code will then be compromised.

That’s exactly what happened with Ticketmaster. Several of the ticket giant’s websites ran code from Inbenta, a customer support software company. When Inbenta was hacked, the sensitive information of these customers was compromised.

Though Inbenta claimed only these Ticketmaster customers had been affected by the hack, RiskIQ has found that some of Ticketmaster’s global sites – including its U.S. site – was running code from SocialPlus, another third-party that had been compromised by the same group that hacked Inbenta.

The breach gets even worse: All websites that relied on code hosted on Inbenta or SocialPlus were also compromised. The number of hacked sites has been estimated to reach 800.

The hack was executed quietly and efficiently. Scammers changed the code on the host sites to skim the credit card information being entered at checkout on the e-commerce sites. Since each code can be used on numerous sites, compromising this point can give hackers instant access to the information of 10,000 victims.

Who is behind the attack?
RiskIQ has identified Magecart as the hacking group behind the attacks. This group has been active since December 2016, and RiskIQ has been tracking them for nearly as long.

The hacking group targets software companies that provide codes for e-commerce websites. By altering these codes, the hackers can skim information from millions of customers every day.

According to Yonathan Klijnsma, a threat researcher at RiskIQ, the Ticketmaster breach has a larger impact than any other credit card breach to date.

While the cybersecurity firm did not name specific compromised sites beyond Ticketmaster, it did disclose that close to 100 top-tier sites have been breached, including large brands and popular online retailers.

What should I do if my information has been compromised?
Unfortunately, with the point of failure in this hack taking place at a third-party site, there’s not much you can do to protect your information from being compromised. However, by taking immediate action if you’ve been hacked, you can mitigate the damage to your credit and help law enforcement agents apprehend the hackers as quickly as possible.

If your information has been compromised, take the following steps:

  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit accounts. This will warn creditors that you may have been victimized by identity theft and make it harder for a scammer to use your credit identity.
  2. Consider a credit freeze. This will make it impossible for a hacker to open new credit in your name.
  3. Alert the Federal Trade Commission. Let the FTC know you’ve been hacked at ftc.gov.
  4. Tell your bank or credit union. Don’t forget to tell us that your information has been compromised. We’ll help you determine your next step and guide you until your credit has been cleared.
  5. Dispute fraudulent charges. If you find any suspicious charges on your credit account, dispute them immediately. To do this, contact the associated financial institution and file a police report as well.

Scammers never take a break. Make sure you know what to do if your information has been hacked!

Your Turn:
Have you ever been the victim of a credit breach? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.nafcu.org/newsroom/more-800-e-commerce-sites-targeted-cyber-attack?utm_source=NAFCU+Today&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=daily+news

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/38649397/ticketmaster-data-breach-part-of-larger-credit-card-scheme-report-finds

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/ticketmaster-breach-was-part-of-a-larger-credit-card-skimming-effort-analysis-shows/

https://www.riskiq.com/blog/labs/magecart-ticketmaster-breach/

Protecting Yourself Against Card Cracking Scams

Person in front of screen selecting fraud  prevention iconIn a recent scam targeting cash-strapped millennials, fraudsters are once again cashing in on people’s naivety and goodwill. Only this time they’re using social media to make it happen.

What makes the scam especially cruel is that fraudsters specifically look for victims who are short on funds, such as students with large loans hanging over their heads, struggling single parents or young professionals searching for a job. People who are desperate for cash also prove to be desperate enough to believe almost anything that will help them earn them a quick buck. Unfortunately, this vulnerability, coupled with the broad reach and easy plundering that scammers are granted by using social media, has made card cracking more successful in luring victims than many other scams.

Card cracking scams start with an innocent-looking social media post that appears like the dozens you scroll through every day. The post may show up on the victim’s Twitter feed, Facebook page or on Instagram, and it will always showcase some form of quick cash. It might be an easy-to-win contest with a huge reward for the winner. It can be a dream job that will instantly be yours – as soon as you follow the instructions. It may even be a complete giveaway, such as a cash bonus or a gift card that you’ll be granted just for sharing some information. If you click on the embedded link, you’ll be asked for your checking account information, your PIN or your online banking credentials.

Once the scammers have this information, they can do any number of things with their prize, from withdrawing large sums of cash from your account to using your debit card number for a massive shopping spree. They may even help themselves to funds you have in your account, such as a paycheck or student loan.

In another iteration of card cracking, scammers will tug on victims’ heartstrings, claiming their personal accounts are frozen and they have no access to money. They’ll ask the victim to allow them to access the victim’s account for simple transactions such as depositing checks. Once the checks are in, the scammer will cash in on the amount, and a few days later, when the check bounces, the scammer will be long gone. This variation is sometimes played out in person, on college campuses.

In yet a third scheme, card crackers promise victims a cut of fraudulent funds if the victim allows them to use their account. Victims often rationalize this crime by assuring themselves that they’re not actually playing a part in the fraud. Of course, they will still be held accountable when the scammers are busted.

Sadly, falling victim to a scam can be especially harmful for a millennial who is just beginning to build their credit history.

Don’t be the next victim. Here’s how to protect yourself from card cracking:

1.) Never share personal information with a stranger
You’ve heard it a thousand times, but this rule cannot be overstated. Never share sensitive information with a correspondent whose identity you can not verify with absolute certainty. You wouldn’t think of giving your checking account number to a solicitor you met on the street; why would you share it with a stranger online?

Of course, victims of card cracking and similar schemes believe the scammers are legitimate. That’s why it’s important to authenticate a web address, company or offer by asking for a street address or phone number. Additionally, by educating yourself about these scams, you’ll be able to spot one immediately.

2.) When it’s too good to be true, it usually is
Remembering this rule of thumb will go a long way toward helping you recognize scammers. Free or easy money exists only in fairy tales. Don’t believe the Facebook post that promises you’ll land that dream job you’ve been searching for if you only hand over your account passwords. Ignore the offer for a free gift card and don’t believe the sob story about frozen accounts leaving people penniless.

3.) Never cash a check for someone else
You are not a credit union or a check-cashing business. If someone approaches you in person or online and asks you to cash a check for them, politely refuse. Unless you would trust this person with your life, there is no reason to believe their tale is legitimate or that their check will be honored.

4.) Report suspicious activity
If you notice any suspicious activity on your account, report it immediately. You may have fallen prey to a card cracking scam and you don’t even know it!

Scammers may be smart, but you can be smarter. When you’re educated, alert and aware, you’ll be able to spot most scams before it’s too late.

Your Turn:
Have you recently spotted any card cracking scams on your social media platforms? Share what tipped you off in the comments!

SOURCES:

http://info.rippleshot.com/blog/what-you-need-to-know-about-card-cracking
https://www.google.com/search?q=card+cracking+scam&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=card+cracking&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l3.10532j0j7&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8
https://www.nextadvisor.com/blog/2016/07/18/know-about-card-cracking-scams/

Avoid These Online Scams

Keep your bank account safe online
Once you begin experiencingjanuaryfeatured_onlinescams the time savings and convenience of banking online, it may become hard to remember how you ever lived without it. The online tools provided by your financial institution can make many of your financial tasks a breeze, while built-in security measures keep your information and your money safe.

Occasionally, however, scammers attempt to trick people by masquerading as a legitimate business or financial institution. Below is some information you can use to help keep you safe from scams.

One of the best ways to avoid being scammed is to use a safe method of payment, such as the credit card from your financial institution.

“Credit cards have significant fraud protection built in, but some payment methods don’t,” the Federal Trade Commission states.

When you use your credit card, your transactions are supported by a suite of security services that attempt to identify, prevent and alert you to suspicious activity. That added layer of security can protect you from fraud and give you peace of mind when you shop and bank online.

“Wiring money through services like Western Union or MoneyGram is risky because it’s nearly impossible to get your money back,” states the FTC. “That’s also true for re-loadable cards like MoneyPak, Reloadit or Vanilla.”

In other words, skip the re-loadable cards unless they come directly from your financial institution and be sure to use your credit card to benefit from the fraud protection services when making purchases. This is an especially good idea when shopping online, as illegitimate websites can masquerade as well-known stores to encourage you to enter your payment information, and scammers can attempt to intercept your payment information on unsecured networks.

“Resist the temptation to use free public Wi-Fi,” cautions USA Today contributor Elizabeth Weise. “It is a trivial matter for hackers to eavesdrop on your connection and steal your information.”

Another important way to protect yourself is to keep track of current scams and remain watchful for new ones, which you can do by signing up to receive scam alerts directly from the FTC at https://www.ftc.gov/scams.

On Oct. 27, 2016, the FTC announced that in the nine previous months, more than 111,000 people had reported receiving fraudulent calls from IRS imposters. The scam these callers were attempting to pull off typically involved stating that money was owed to the IRS and needed to be paid immediately to avoid dire consequences, but there were several variations on the theme. In order to help people identify these imposters, the FTC prepared an educational video, which you can find at https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/ftc-fights-international-scams.

Another common scam that the FTC warns about involves fake checks and money orders, which are often printed using the highest-quality materials and state-of-the-art printers that are capable of reproducing authentic-looking watermarks. They may even be printed with the name of a real financial institution and include legitimate account and routing numbers.

These fake checks can be used in a variety of scams, one of the most popular of which is known as “check overpayment.” This is when someone tries to sell an item online, such as through Craigslist, and receives a check for more than the sale price. The buyer then asks for the excess money to be wired, after which the check bounces and the seller loses the wired funds. To avoid this scam, never accept payment for more than an item’s sale price and never wire money to a stranger.

“If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank or a bank with a local branch,” the FTC states. “That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid.”

Lastly, never respond to an email with your personal identifying information or financial information, and always check with your financial institution if you suspect you have received illegitimate communication via email or phone.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Fighting Against Data Breaches

What you can do to keep your financial data safe

Shopping online is convenient,DataOnline_Featured fun and growing in popularity, but many online shoppers worry about the impact of data breaches.

One tip for shopping online with an added layer of protection is to open a credit or debit card specifically for online shopping. If you use a debit card or a prepaid credit card, you can control exactly how much money is at risk. Keeping a separate credit card for online shopping with a low credit limit provides the same type of control and also limits the number of charges on each statement, so you can easily go through the statement and identify anything that seems amiss.

“Also, look into virtual credit cards if your card issuer offers this service,” advises about.com Security Expert Andy O’Donnell. “Some card issuers will give you a one-time-use virtual card number that you can use for a single transaction if you are concerned about the security of a particular merchant.”

Even if you don’t use a separate card for online shopping, examining your monthly credit and debit card statements is very important if you want to keep your data safe. It isn’t enough to simply check your balance and scan your statement for big purchases.

“Scrutinize your statement for charges you don’t recognize,” according to science and technology writer Davey Alba, writing in a 2013 Popular Mechanics article. “These don’t have to be massive charges, either. Hackers will often test the waters with micropayments first, amounting to a few dollars or even a few cents. Then, when it seems like the coast is clear, they’ll go for a big-ticket purchase.”

You can also gain peace of mind by talking to your financial institution or credit card provider to learn what data breach policies are in place. Credit card companies typically offer fraud-monitoring services for free and won’t hold you liable for fraudulent charges.

“Some ID-theft-monitoring services are paid, which you can consider, but … your own provider will typically offer one for free, and [that] can be just as dependable,” states Alba.

Depending on your provider, you may even be able to customize the specific fraud alerts that are most useful to you and reflect your typical spending activities. Popular options include the ability to receive email, text or phone notifications if a single charge is greater than a certain dollar amount, if daily or weekly expenditures exceed a specified total, or if more than a certain number of transactions occur in a set time period, such as one day. You may also have the ability to receive alerts if spending is in excess of a certain amount you specify or is higher than your past average in a select category, such as merchandise or travel.

“When using the online checkout process of a seller, always make sure that the web address has ‘https’ instead of ‘http,’” states O’Donnell. “Https ensures that you are using an encrypted communications path to transmit your credit card information to the seller. This helps to ensure against eavesdropping on your transaction.”

Lastly, make sure to use strong passwords for any accounts you set up with online merchants or financial institutions, and change them frequently. Furthermore, don’t enter your payment information if you are not using your own internet service, and make sure that nobody can use your device without a password. If you do end up making a transaction on a shared computer, log out of the store website and clear the browser’s cache, cookies and web history.

If you keep these tips in mind when shopping online and talk to your financial institution about data breach policies and fraud alerts, you can gain peace of mind and stay safer on all your future online shopping sprees.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Remove These Eight Things from Your Wallet Immediately

Just because your purse or wallet is lost or stolen doesn’t mean your identity has to be.

Unfortunately, we live inLostWallet a world where identity theft is rampant. It is all too easy for thieves and hackers to take a small amount of vital information, and, after some phishing, turn it into a lot of hurt for the victim. However, there are ways for you to make it harder on those identity thieves who earn their living by swiping unsuspecting consumers’ wallets or handbags. By simply ensuring that you remove eight critical items from your wallet, you will be able to breathe just a little bit easier if it is lost or stolen.

Social Security card – That little nine-digit number is all a criminal needs to open up a world of hurt on your credit score. Therefore, remove that identification card as soon as possible, and then look for anything else in your wallet that has your SSN on it. This may include insurance or Medicare cards and driver’s licenses issued before December of 2005. In lieu of a retiree carrying around his or her Medicare card, photocopy both sides and black out the SSN. You can then supplement your Social Security card in the event it is needed, like for pre-scheduled appointments, for example.

For those with older photo IDs, you can request a new card prior to the expiration date for just a small fee. It might be inconvenient, but consider the alternative.

Passport – Carrying any government-issued photo ID is a risk for identity theft. With a passport, thieves could travel in your name, open bank accounts or even obtain a new copy of your Social Security card. Simply travel with your driver’s license or personal ID when traveling domestically. When visiting overseas, Emily Inverso of Kiplinger Personal Finance suggests photocopying your passport and leaving the original in a hotel safe or lockbox.

Checkbook – Inverso says, “Blank checks are an obvious risk — an easy way for thieves to quickly withdraw money from your checking account.” However, did you know that even lost checks that have already been filled out are a hazard? Anything with your routing and account numbers are ammunition for criminals. Furthermore, only carry paper checks with you when you know you will need them, and only bring the exact amount you anticipate needing at that time.

Receipts – Similarly, resourceful identity thieves can easily scrounge up credit, debit and account information from the few numbers still allowed to be printed on retail receipts by law. All it takes is the last four or five digits and some merchant information to phish for the remaining data, and most delinquents will not shy away from putting in the extra effort. To avoid this happening to you, do keep all your receipts in one spot, in case of lost or stolen packages, but clear out the stash each time you return home, and then shred the ones you do not need to keep.

PIN/password cheat sheets – Personal identification numbers are just as helpful to thieves or hackers who want to steal your identity. With just that information, these criminals can easily dig up complete account information.

Additionally, the average American uses at least seven different passwords, according to Inverso, which should each ideally be a unique combination of letters, numbers and symbols. With that in mind, it’s only human that we need a reference sheet for this information, right?

That may be true, but just be sure not to bring your password and PIN list with you in your wallet. Keep the cheat sheets in a lockbox at home, or invest in an encrypted mobile app such as SplashID or Password Safe Pro.

Multiple debit or credit cards – The logic behind this recommendation is quite simple. The fewer cards in your wallet, the fewer you will have to call and cancel if and when it gets lost or stolen. Inverso recommends carrying a single card regularly in case of emergency and maybe one more when you plan to do heavy spending — filling up on gas, buying groceries or checking items off your holiday gift list.

Also, maintain a list with the phone numbers to call for cancelation in the event of theft or loss and keep it in a safe place. The numbers are conveniently listed for you on the back of the credit/debit cards, but that doesn’t help you when your card is gone.

Birth certificate – This document in and of itself will not tell a thief too much, but when used in conjunction with other types of (potentially stolen) identification, they often have the same capabilities of a Social Security card or passport.

Spare keys – With access to your home address, which can likely be found on multiple items inside your bag, and a key, criminals can steal a lot more than just your identity. Don’t put your property and family at risk, and don’t spend hundreds of dollars to change your locks. Instead, keep spare house keys with a trusted friend or neighbor.

The same goes with spare car keys. First, an extra car key will do you no good if you are one of the many people who tend to forget their wallets inside their locked cars. Second, most key fobs these days have the alarm function built in so anyone who stumbles upon a random car key can identify the car to which it belongs, enter and drive away. Be wary of valet parking as well, as the information and property one can find in your car is a whole new story.

After reading this, and then promptly removing any of the above eight items from your wallet or purse, take a moment to photocopy both sides of everything left inside and put the copies in a safe place. As Inverso avowed, “The last thing you want to be wondering as you’re reporting a stolen wallet is, ‘What exactly did I have in there?’”

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.