Consumer Alert: Free Credit Freezes Available

Free credit freezes and year-long fraud alerts are here, due to a new federal law. Here’s what you should know:

Free Credit Freezes

Security freezes, also known as credit freezes, restrict access to your credit file, making it harder for identity thieves to open new accounts in your name. You can now freeze and unfreeze your credit file for free. You also can get a free freeze for your children who are under 16. And if you are someone’s guardian, conservator, or have a valid power of attorney, you can get a free freeze for that person too.

How will the credit freezes work? Contact all three of the nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion. If you request a freeze online or by phone, the agency must place the freeze within one business day. If you request a lift of the freeze, the agency must lift it within one hour. If you make your request by mail, the agency must place or lift the freeze within three business days after it gets your request. You also can lift the freeze temporarily without a fee.

*Important Note: Don’t confuse freezes with credit locks. They work in a similar way, but locks may have monthly fees. If you want a free freeze guaranteed by federal law, then opt for a freeze instead of a lock.

Year-Long Fraud Alerts

A fraud alert tells businesses that review your credit, that they should check with you before opening a new account. Now when you place a fraud alert, it will last one year, instead of the previous 90 days. Fraud alerts will still be free and identity theft victims can also get an extended fraud alert for seven years.

Credit Freezes and the Military

If you’re in the military, you’ll still have access to active duty alerts, which let you place a fraud alert for one year, renewable for the time you’re deployed. The active duty alert also gives you an added benefit: the credit reporting agencies will take your name off their marketing lists for prescreened credit card offers for two years (unless you ask them to add you back on).

You can place a fraud alert or active duty alert by visiting any one of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian or TransUnion. The agency that you contact must notify the other two.

Issues with a Credit Freeze

If you think a credit reporting agency is not placing a credit freeze or fraud alert properly, you can submit a complaint online or by calling 855-411-2372. If you think someone stole your identity, visit the FTC’s website, IdentityTheft.gov, to get a personalized recovery plan that walks you through the steps to take.

For more information, check out Place a Fraud Alert, Extended Fraud Alerts and Credit Freezes, and Credit Freeze FAQs. And if you’re considering a child credit freeze, you also may want to read Child Identity Theft.

Credit Bureau Contacts:

Contact the national credit bureaus to request fraud alerts, credit freezes, and opt outs from pre‑screened credit offers.

Equifax
Equifax.com/personal/credit-report-services
800-685-1111

Experian
Experian.com/help
888-EXPERIAN (888-397-3742)

Transunion
TransUnion.com/credit-help
888-909-8872

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Andrew Smith and Gail Hillebrand for FTC.gov

Watch Out for Card Skimming at Gas Pumps

The FTC is warning drivers about skimming scams at the pump. Typically, we New Jersey drivers don’t pump our own gas – but if you plan to take any Fall road trips to enjoy the foliage in another state, you might want to be on the lookout for the following gas pump scam.

Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals. These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals then sell the stolen data or use it to buy items online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you fuel up out of state:

Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is open, the label will read “void.”

Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached, the reader on the right does not.

Try to wiggle the card reader before you put your card in. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump.

  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering your PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account if there is a card skimmer attached. Better yet, if you have a credit card on you – use that instead.
  • If you’re really concerned about skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.
  • Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a scam, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm. Learn more about card skimming by reading our user guide.

Article source: Colleen Tressler for the Federal Trade Commission

Important Alert: Scammers Create Fake Emergencies to Get Your Money

Scammers are now trying to trick you into thinking a loved one is in trouble. They call, text, email, or send messages on social media about a supposed emergency with a family member or friend. To make their story seem real, they may claim to be an authority figure, like a layer or police officer, and they may have or guess facts about your loved one. These imposters may insist that you keep quiet about their demand for money to keep you from checking out their story and identifying them as imposters. But no matter how real or urgent it seems – it’s a scam.

If you get a call or message like this, what should you do?

  • Check it out before you act. Look up that friend or family member’s phone number yourself. Call them or another family member to see what’s happening (even if the person who contacted you told you not to).
  • Don’t pay. Don’t wire money, send a check, overnight a money order, or pay with a gift card or prepaid reloadable card. Anyone who demands payment in these ways is always, always, always a scammer. These payment methods are like giving cash – and are nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.
  • If you sent money to a family emergency scammer, contact the company you used to send the money and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible.
  • Report the message to the FTC

Check out this short video on how the family emergency scam works and prevent it from happening to you.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a scam, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm.

Article Source: Carol Kando-Pineda for the Federal Trade Commission

Important Member Alert: Mail Fishing Scams

There has been a fraud concern growing in New Jersey called Mail Fishing. Tools covered with sticky substances are being utilized to pluck bank documents and checks out of large blue postal collection boxes. The post office claims they are implementing innovative methods to protect mail, such as replacing collection boxes with new models. Here’s how to keep your mail safe, and additional precautions to take if you’re using a collection box.

5 ways to protect your mail

  • Don’t use a collection box. Instead, use the letter slots inside a post office to drop off mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.
  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight, especially if you’re expecting checks or credit cards. The U.S. Postal Service discourages sending cash through the mail.
  • Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.
  • If you can’t be there to pick up your mail, make arrangements for someone you trust to pick it up, or contact your post office to hold your mail while you are out of town.
  • Didn’t get that check you were waiting for? Report suspected mail theft immediately to police, then call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 3).

3 ways to use collection boxes safely

Police are discouraging the public from using collection boxes altogether due to these recent security concerns. However, if you must use a collection box, here are the best practices according to police and the U.S. Postal Service.

  • Pay attention to collection times. Last collection for the day is typically at 5pm. If mail is deposited afterward, it will sit vulnerable until the next business day.
  • Avoid dropping mail in collection boxes over holiday weekends, or on nights before holidays. Fishing incidents are most common on Sunday night, according to police.
  • Speak with your local post office or mail carrier to determine which collection boxes in your area are up-to-date with security regulations. Certain collection boxes in New York have been retrofitted with security measures after a rash of mail fishing in the area in 2017.

If you think you were a victim of fraud, identity theft or another mail-related crime, report it at postalinspectors.usps.gov, or call 877-876-2455.

We encourage our members to utilize online banking resources to monitor statements electronically, and pay bills right online, so as to not fall victim to this type of fraud.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a scam, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm.

Article Source: Jessica Presinzano for northjersey.com

 

Important Member Alert: Publishers Clearing House Scam

Who wouldn’t love to be that winner you see on TV holding a great big sweepstakes check? That’s what con artists are counting on when they claim to be Publishers Clearing House. This trick is an oldie but goodie for scammers.

The scam starts with a call or letter saying you’ve won the Publishers Clearing House sweepstakes. But to collect your prize, they say, you need to send money to pay for fees and taxes. Typically you’ll be asked to send money by Western Union or MoneyGram, or by getting a reloadable card or gift card. Scammers ask you to pay these ways because it’s nearly impossible to trace the money — and you’ll almost never get it back.

But that’s not the only way scammers get your money with this scam. Some will send you a realistic-looking fake check in the mail. You’re told that, to claim your prize, you need to deposit the check and send some of the money back for made-up expenses. But when the check you deposit bounces — even after it seemed to clear, you may be on the hook for the money you sent.

If you think you’ve won a prize, here are a few things to know:

  • Never send money to collect a prize, sweepstakes check, or lottery winnings. If you have to pay, it’s a scam.
  • Never deposit a check and send back money, even if the funds appear in your account. That’s a sure sign of a scam.
  • If anyone calls asking you to pay for a prize, hang up and report it to the FTC.

Still think this sweepstakes is real? The real Publishers Clearing House says it will never ask you to pay a fee to collect a prize.

If at any time you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised in a similar scam, contact our Member Relationship Center right away at 732.312.1500. If your First Financial credit or debit cards were compromised in a scam, call the 24/7 toll-free number on the back of your card to report the incident and replace your card. All important phone numbers for members can be found on our website: https://www.firstffcu.com/contact-us.htm

Article Source: Emma Fletcher for FTC.gov

Important Member Alert: Mobile Phone Port-Out Scams

Fraudsters are impersonating mobile phone users to have phones transferred to a different carrier – effectively stealing the user’s mobile phone number. This is being coined as a port-out scam. Once transferred to a different carrier, the fraudster receives all calls and texts that were intended for the user – including those that can be used to takeover a member’s account via online banking. Fraudsters have successfully intercepted one-time passcodes used to authenticate members logging into their account or to initiate transactions within online banking.

How can you prevent this scam from happening to you?  You can place a “port validation password” on your mobile phone account to help prevent having your phone fraudulently transferred to a different carrier.

Call your wireless carrier and ask for PIN authentication for your accounts. Sprint requires customers to create a PIN when they open a new account. Here’s what to do with the other major carriers.

  • AT&T: Log into your ATT.com account, go to your profile by clicking your name, and under the wireless passcode drop down menu, click on “manage extra security.”
  • T-Mobile: Call 611 from your cellphone or (800) 937-8997 to speak with customer service.
  • Verizon: Visit vzw.com/PIN or call (800) 922-0204.

Scam Levels and Details

Mobile phone users switch carriers for a variety of reasons, and can carry their phone number with them to the new carrier. Meanwhile, fraudsters are exploiting this capability by impersonating mobile phone users to have the mobile phones ported to a different carrier. The fraudsters harvest the user’s personally identifiable information and use this information to impersonate users in having the mobile phones transferred to a different carrier.

The port-out scam can take place at a wireless store or online, but in both cases, the imposters have enough information to convince the phone company that they are who they claim to be and have that person’s phone service transferred to their mobile device.

“And with a smartphone, if you’re on Wi-Fi, everything’s going to work except the actual calling and texting, so you may not even notice right away that something’s wrong with your phone — which can give the scammers a few hours of lead time,” said Katherine Hutt, director of communications for the Council of Better Business Bureaus. “If that ever happens, if you can’t make calls or receive calls, immediately contact the phone company and see if your number has been ported.”

Online Banking Fraud: A fraudster often ports a user’s mobile phone to a different carrier after the fraudster has stolen the user’s account login credentials. This could increase the risk of account takeovers through online banking, which involves sending a one-time-passcode via text message for login attempts as well as to validate transactions initiated within online banking. Members must enter the one-time-passcode to complete the login or transaction. By transferring a member’s mobile phone to a different carrier, the fraudster would receive the one-time-passcode intended for the member.

Card Fraud: This scam could also result in fraudulent transactions using credit and debit cards. A fraudster, who has ported a cardholder’s mobile phone to a new carrier, could use a counterfeit or stolen credit or debit card belonging to the cardholder to conduct fraudulent transactions. If a card processor’s fraud management system detects a suspicious transaction, a fraud analyst could attempt to contact the cardholder to confirm the legitimacy of the transaction by calling the cardholder’s mobile phone. However, the call is made to the fraudster who confirms the transaction as legitimate.

Card fraud could be worsened when, after confirming a suspicious transaction as legitimate, the card is suppressed for a period of time – usually seven days. It is common practice for card processors to suppress a card when the fraud management system identifies a suspicious transaction that a cardholder confirms is legitimate. When a card is suppressed, transactions on the card are not monitored by the fraud management system.

Email Fraud: Many public email service providers also offer out-of-band authentication using one-time passcodes that are sent via text message to user’s mobile phones. This could easily lead to a compromise of a member’s personal email account after a fraudster ports the member’s mobile phone to a different carrier.

Read more about mobile port-out scams from NBC News.

If at any time you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised in a similar scam, contact our Member Relationship Center right away at 732.312.1500. If your First Financial credit or debit cards were compromised in a scam, call the 24/7 toll-free number on the back of your card to report the incident and replace your card. All important phone numbers for members can be found on our website: https://www.firstffcu.com/contact-us.htm

Article Source: CUNA Mutual Risk Alert, and Herb Weisbaum for NBCNews.com