More COVID-19 Scams Including Check Fraud and Medicare Theft

The Federal Trade Commission is taking extra measures to warn people of scammers that will use tactics to try and take your personal information, especially in light of the recent Coronavirus outbreak in this country. It’s important to remain aware of these current scams and schemes in order to protect yourself from fraudsters who are looking to take advantage of your vulnerability, and your money.

In the most current COVID-19 scam – fraudsters are trying to capitalize on the checks the U.S. government might be sending to American taxpayers. These scammers are looking to trap people into giving their information in order to take their money and capture sensitive information such as social security numbers and account information.

To help combat this, we’ve put together a few tips to help you identify fraud in relation to this check scam:

  1. Any money from the government will be in the form of a check and will not be immediate. Anyone who claims this money will be made immediately available is a scammer.
  2. If you have to pay anything upfront before you receive your payment, it is also not legitimate. There are no fees and no hidden charges. Anyone who says otherwise is a scammer.
  3. The government won’t call and ask for your social security number, bank account or credit card information. Anyone who asks for this information is a scammer.

If you receive any communication from someone with the above claims, The Federal Trade Commission urges you to report it through the FTC complaint center. The FTC is also an invaluable resource to stay informed and knowledgeable of current scams and schemes.

Additional scams surrounding Coronavirus to be on the lookout for:

  • Scammers going door to door claiming to be from health agencies such as the CDC or WHO, and offering at home COVID-19 testing. The victim may then be charged for the fictitious test or may become the victim of a robbery. Do not answer the door, pay for the “test,” or let this type of fraudster into your home.
  • Online sellers who contact you and claim they have in-demand products like cleaning, household, and health and medical supplies. You then place an order, but you never get your shipment. Anyone can set up shop online under almost any name — including scammers. Be careful and check for legitimacy.
  • Scammers are targeting the elderly by posing as Medicare workers and in some cases, they might tell you they’ll send you a Coronavirus test, masks, or other items in exchange for your Medicare number, social security number or other personal information. Be wary of unsolicited requests for your Medicare number or other personal information. Only give your Medicare number to participating Medicare pharmacists, primary and specialty care doctors, or people you trust to work with Medicare on your behalf.

Your privacy and protection are important to us. Feel free to reach out to us if you suspect any of your First Financial accounts have been compromised due to one of the above scams.

THINK First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

Article Sources:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/coronavirus-scams-what-ftc-doing

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/03/checks-government

March 2020 CUNA Risk Alert

Should You Take Your Money Out of the Bank During COVID-19?

Along with the recent mad dash to buy all the toilet paper and disinfectant spray stores can stock, you may be wondering about your accounts and assessing whether it’s necessary to withdraw cash from your financial institution.

Fact: the need for withdrawing cash during the COVID-19 crisis has no basis. Unlike overextended banks that caused the Great Recession, the current financial situation in relation to this crisis was caused by a reaction to the Coronavirus outbreak in our country, not a systemic banking problem.

There are rumors circulating around social media that there could be an issue with credit or debit cards in the future, but rest assured – there is no validity to that concern. Right now it’s more practical to take your money out as you need it, but there is certainly no cause for alarm in terms of not having access to your funds.

During this time, please keep these things in mind when it comes to your money:

  1. First Financial (as well as other credit unions) is federally insured by the National Credit Union Administration. All member deposits are insured up to $250,000. This means that you will not lose a dime of money that is federally insured.
  2. The Federal government has declared banks and credit unions as essential businesses. While we’ve had to adjust our standard operations and temporarily close our branch lobbies to walk in’s, our credit union is ready and able to assist you with whatever needs you may have. And if you’d like to make an appointment at your local branch to open an account or close on a loan, give us a call. It’s our priority to ensure you receive the level of service you’ve come to expect from us, even in an ever-evolving capacity.
  3. You may incur more risk if you withdraw your money from your financial institution. Cash is much harder to recover in the event of a loss, theft, or any other unfortunate circumstance. Withdrawing your money as needed is much safer than keeping it at home or in your wallet.
  4. Paying your bills through online banking and bill pay is often the fastest and safest way to make your monthly payments. With everything being done virtually – it will arrive faster, you won’t need to pay for postage, and you can do it all from the comfort of your own home.
  5. Lastly, you have access to your account 24/7 through First Financial online banking and our mobile app. Our mobile app provides a convenient, easy and secure way to monitor your account, pay bills, make transfers and deposit checks. Download our app from the Apple App Store or from the Google Play Store.

During this time of uncertainty, it’s natural to feel pressure to make quick decisions. We’re here to help you maintain a sense of peace regarding your money. It’s tough to know what is coming, but you can rest assured that we have your best interest in mind and will do anything we can to help you and your family during this time. If you have questions or concerns, please contact us. We wish good health and financial wellness to you and your loved ones as we navigate through these times together!

Protecting Your Finances from COVID-19 Scams

No question – the past few weeks have been unprecedented as a result of Coronavirus (COVID-19) in our country. We’re seeing things unfold that most of us haven’t experienced before. Entire cities have shut down, people are being quarantined, and financial institutions are trying to find different ways to serve their members.

While we’ve seen the best in humanity from Dollar General and many local grocery stores setting aside the first hour they’re open to serve the elderly to restaurants providing meals for kids who are out of school, we’ve also seen some scammers who are exploiting the public’s Coronavirus fears.

Android Malware and Ransomware

Android devices in particular have been left vulnerable to malware attacks allowing scammers to spy on you through your smartphone’s camera, listen to you through the microphone, and go through text messages. The scammers will send out text messages with a link promising an app that will allow you to track the Coronavirus. Once you click on the text message, the malware installs itself on your phone.

DomainTools, a Seattle-based security research team, has discovered that Android users are also the target of ransomware that threatens to erase their phone. Much like malware, users are promised an app with a real-time COVID-19 tracker. The app is actually poisoned with ransomware called CovidLock that denies users access to their phone by changing the lock screen password. It requests $100 in bitcoin within 48 hours or the phone’s contacts, pictures and videos will be erased. It also threatens to publicly leak social media accounts.

Scammers Impersonating Organizations

The FBI, Centers for Disease Control (CDC), and World Health Organization (WHO) are investigating multiple claims of scammers who are sending out emails impersonating these organizations and spreading incorrect information about COVID-19. The WHO is among the most-impersonated organization in the scam campaigns so far. Fraudsters will pretend to offer important information about the virus in an attempt to get potential victims to click on malicious links. Typically, such links can install malware, steal personal information, or attempt to capture login and password credentials.

Exploiting Charitable Giving

Another common type of scam going around is an attempt to tug on heart strings and attempts to get the recipient to help fund the vaccine for children in China. Currently, there is no vaccine for COVID-19. Officials at the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have served cease-and-desist letters to retailers who are trying to profit from the COVID-19 pandemic by selling fake or misbranded products claiming to combat the disease directly.

How to Protect Yourself

Even though there are many ways to get taken advantage of, there are also several ways to protect yourself.

  • Don’t click on links from any sources you don’t know. Doing so could download viruses on your computer or device.
  • Be aware of emails claiming to be from government organizations. If you receive an email from the WHO or CDC, don’t click on links in the email. Instead, go to their websites to verify the information.
  • Ignore online offers for vaccinations. There currently are no vaccines, pills, potions, lotions, lozenges or other prescription or over-the-counter products available to treat or cure COVID-19 — online or in stores.
  • Do your homework when it comes to donations, whether through charities or crowdfunding sites. Don’t let anyone rush you into making a donation. If someone wants donations in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money – do not do it.
  • Be wary of giving out your personal information. Legitimate organizations will not ask for any of the following:
    • Full social security number
    • Account or card numbers
    • A one-time password
    • PIN information
    • Usernames or passwords
    • Payment through Bitcoin, prepaid cards, or gift cards

While it seems that this unfortunate epidemic has come upon us most unexpectedly, there are fraudsters out there quickly taking action and prepared to hustle unsuspecting, innocent people. If you aren’t sure of the legitimacy on a certain request, take the extra steps to verify and ensure you’re doing everything you can to protect yourself, your sensitive information, and your money.

Your privacy and protection are important to us. Please reach out to us if you have any questions or concerns regarding your financial privacy or if you think your First Financial accounts may have been compromised due to one of the above mentioned scams. Thank you for your membership with us and we wish you physical and financial wellness through this trying time.

 

Important Update on First Financial’s Response to COVID-19 in Our Area

March 19, 2020

Effective beginning Monday, March 23, 2020 all First Financial branches in Freehold/Howell, Neptune, and Toms River will be operating using Drive Thru and ATM services only during our regular business hours. All branch lobbies will be closed to walk-in visitors until further notice.

Please know this decision did not come lightly. Our senior management team has weighed each and every scenario, and ultimately made the decision that practicing our New Jersey governor’s recommendation of social distancing and limiting face-to-face contact is in the best interest of our staff, membership, and the local community.

We will still do everything we can to meet your banking needs during this difficult time. Our Member Relationship Phone Center will be available to take your calls during regular business hours of Monday-Friday 8am to 6pm, and Saturday 9am to 12:30pm.

We will continue to schedule in-branch visits for loan closings, account openings, and the Investment & Retirement Center by appointment only during regular business hours. Please call us at 732.312.1500 to schedule an appointment at your nearest branch.

As always, you can access your First Financial accounts through the electronic banking services we have available:

Despite this inconvenience, we continue to remain committed to serving you and your family with as little service disruption to your banking experience as possible.

Should you have any questions or concerns during this unprecedented time, please contact our Member Relationship Phone Center at 732.312.1500.

Thank you for your understanding and be well,

 

 

 

 

Issa Stephan
President/CEO
First Financial Federal Credit Union
732.312.1500 – Local Callers
866.750.0100 – Out of Area
www.firstffcu.com

First Financial’s Response to COVID-19

March 15, 2020

Over the past few weeks, it is clear that the world and our nation are facing an unprecedented challenge as we learn how to navigate the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak in New Jersey.

Like you, we are deeply concerned and want to do all we can to help keep our members, employees, and the local community safe. We are continuing to monitor the situation as it evolves, and we will notify our members should anything change regarding any of our locations.

Rest assured that all First Financial locations are actively following U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention guidelines to maintain a healthy and safe environment.

At this time we would like to remind you to please follow the CDC’s preparation advice, and that First Financial has a number of electronic banking services available to our members that you may wish to utilize at this time:

Remote Deposit Capture (Deposit checks on your mobile phone)
Mobile Banking App
Online Banking and Bill Pay
Electronic loan closings
• Online loan applications available 24/7 on the left side of our homepage under Apply for a Loan
• Drive thru service/ATMs at all branch locations
Co-Op surcharge free ATM network with access to over 30,000 ATMs nationwide

The spread of COVID-19 has all of our attention, and First Financial is doing everything possible to keep our employees and you – our valued members, safe while continuing to deliver the best member experience we can.

Despite the inconvenience posed by COVID-19, we remain committed to serving you and your family with as little service disruption to your banking as possible. Our membership is part of our family, and we will get through this together.

Should you have any questions or concerns about banking during this time, please contact our Member Relationship Phone Center at 732.312.1500 Monday-Friday 8am to 6pm, and Saturday 9am-12:30pm.

Thank you for your understanding during this time and be well,

Issa Stephan
President/CEO
First Financial Federal Credit Union
732.312.1500 – Local Callers
866.750.0100 – Out of Area
www.firstffcu.com

Shopping Online? Best Practices to Keep Your Identity Safe

Shopping online is easy and convenient. But don’t forget the possibility of fraud often lurks in Internet nooks and crannies. However, here are a few safety precautions you can implement to be as safe as possible and protect your identity and financial information while shopping online.

Only shop on trustworthy websites.

Shopping online can be addictive.  Who wouldn’t want to shop from home cozy in their pajamas while also saving money?  There are many trustworthy retailer websites out there that are safe to shop on.  However, be weary of clicking on email links or website sidebar ads.  Before checking out your online shopping cart and entering your card information, be sure you are visiting the actual website of the business to ensure it is safe.  If something seems too good to be true, it is probably not a legitimate website.

Don’t shop on public WiFi networks.

Hotels, restaurants, and coffee shops often offer free WiFi.  Trouble can arise though, when sensitive personal or financial information is shared over these public networks.  The open nature of public networks can compromise your financial security.  Public WiFi should always be used with caution – never access your bank accounts, personal data, or shop through a public network.

Protect your computer with anti-virus software and secure your internet access with a password.

Often we assume our home WiFi network is safe.  However, vulnerabilities within our home network can also do a lot of damage.  Safe home networks have a personalized SSID, strong passwords, encryption enabled, and updated anti-virus software.  Computers should also be protected with spyware software.

Shop online only with a credit card or use digital wallet.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that consumers shop online using a credit card over a debit card, to be protected by the Fair Credit Billing Act.  This law allows consumers to dispute charges and withhold payment while under investigation. To read more about which card is safer to use, click here to access our educational guidebook.

For added security, take these preventative measures:

  • Monitor all your accounts through online banking, mobile apps, or monthly statements.
  • Make sure your address, email, and cell phone numbers are updated with your financial institution.
  • Enroll in your smartphone’s digital wallet like Apple Pay or Google Pay, which can be used to pay online. Merchants store a token number and not the actual card to authenticate transactions using you fingerprint, phone’s passcode, or face recognition during checkout.
  • If PayPal is a payment option when checking out online, this is another protective solution that doesn’t have your card entered into a retailer’s website. Plus you also have protective disputing power here too.

Ensure the card entry webpage is secure. 

Entering card information online is definitely something you want to be cautious about.  If the retailer’s website is compromised and you paid with a debit card, you may eventually find $0 in your checking account.  When paying online, try to check to make sure you are on a secure website that will protect your personal information.  There are two ways to check to enure you are on a secure site. First, verify the site’s URL begins with https:// and that there is a small lock in the URL bar.  The “s” in the URL indicates you are on a secure website.  You can also hover over the small lock to the right of the web address to read further details about the site’s security.  An unsecured website will often display a small letter “i” that will also offer information about the site’s security when you hover over it.  Never enter card information on an unsecured site.

Print or save receipts as PDFs. 

As an added security measure, it’s good practice to print or save any online purchase receipts as PDF documents.  Compare the saved receipt with your credit card billing statement to confirm accuracy.

Always be careful when shopping online.  If you follow the above security measures, you’ll have a great chance at keeping your sensitive financial information safe.

Article Source: MaryAnne Colucci for LSC.net