Scammers Impersonating the Social Security Administration

Your Social Security number is an important key for an identity thief. Scammers want it, and they think of all sorts of ways to trick you into giving it away.

The Federal Trade Commission has been getting reports about calls from scammers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. They say there’s been a computer problem, and they need to confirm your Social Security number.

Others have come across spoof websites that look like the place where you would apply for a new Social Security card – but these websites are actually a setup to steal your personal information.

If you get a phone call or are directed to a website other than ssa.gov that is claiming to be associated with the Social Security Administration, don’t respond. It’s most likely a scam.

Here are some tips to deal with these government imposters:

  • Don’t give the caller your information. Never give out or confirm sensitive information – like your bank account, credit card, or Social Security Number – unless you know who you’re dealing with. If someone has contacted you, you can’t be sure who they are.
  • Don’t trust a name or number. Con artists use official-sounding names to make you trust them. To make their call seem legitimate, scammers use internet technology to spoof their area code – so although it may seem they are calling from Washington DC, they could be calling from anywhere in the world.
  • Check with the Social Security Administration. The SSA has a warning about these scams and suggests you contact them directly at 1-800-772-1213 to verify the reason for the contact and the person’s identity prior to providing any information to the caller.

If you come across one of these scams, please report it to the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline at 1-800-269-0271 and then tell the FTC about it.

Article Source: Ari Lazarus for the Federal Trade Commission

 

Don’t Give to a Charity Imposter this Holiday Season

When you give to a charity, you’re giving because you care and want to help — and you want to be sure your money actually gets to those you’re trying to help. But scammers who are pretending to be a charity, will try to get to your wallet.

Typically people feel as though the holiday season is one of the most important times of the year to donate to a charity – which is a great thing, just be sure you are doing your research and know where your money is going first!

Consider these tips before you give:

  • Rule out anyone who asks you to send cash, pay with a gift card, or wire money.
  • Confirm the exact name of the charity and do some research, especially when donating for the first time. Search for the name of the charity online — plus the word “complaint” or “scam.” That’s one way to learn about a charity’s reputation.
  • Give to charities you know and trust, with a proven track record. Before you give to any charity, check them out with the Better Business Bureau’s (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
  • Avoid charities that seem to pop up overnight in connection with a natural disaster or other tragedy.
  • Don’t assume that pleas for help on crowdfunding sites or social media are legitimate. Real victims’ pictures and stories can easily be misused to con you.
  • Before you text to donate, confirm the number on the charity’s website.
  • Be cautious of clicking on links or opening attachments in emails, even if they appear to be from a charity. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer or be taken to a look-alike website run by scammers.

For more information, visit ftc.gov/charity. If you think you’ve spotted a charity scam, report it at ftc.gov/complaint.

Article Source: Emma Fletcher, FTC.gov

 

6 Scams to Watch Out For this Holiday Season

The holiday season is a joyful time for family, friends, celebrations, and gifts. And unfortunately, it can be a time for scams. Now that the holiday season has officially arrived, authorities are warning local residents to beware of scams and deceptive advertising while shopping at stores or online this year.

Here are some tips on how to protect yourself:

The Bait and Switch: Take retailers’ advertisements to the store with you. Unscrupulous retailers may advertise goods at low prices, but when you get to the store the price may be higher than advertised or the product might not be there at all.

Skimming Devices: Skimming devices are often placed on gas pumps or ATMs to capture data from the magnetic stripe on the back of credit and debit cards. If something looks out of place or easily wiggles, use a different ATM, gas pump, or register.

“Cybersquatting” Sites: Crooks try to impersonate well-known websites by inverting characters or slightly altering the name of a well-known website. The copycat sites may look similar to the real website – and they can steal your credit information. Carefully read website addresses to ensure you are shopping on a legitimate website.

Copycat and Fraudulent Websites: Fake websites set up by scammers target online shoppers during the holiday season. Sometimes appearing as ad results in online searches, these sites may contain malware or steal credit card data. Avoid making purchases from untrustworthy sites.

Security Certificates: To ensure you are shopping on a secure website, make sure the website begins with “https” and has a small padlock icon next to the webpage address. Keep your computer, tablet or smartphone up-to-date and install security software.

Retailers Who Request Payment through Wire Transfer: Legitimate online businesses will not use wire transfer to collect payment for purchases, ever. This is a sure sign of a scam.

Some other important holiday shopping tips:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts on your credit and debit cards, or at least monitor your accounts closely online and report any suspicious activity immediately to your financial institution. Enroll in Visa Purchase Alerts for your First Financial debit card here. Sign up for Visa Credit Card alerts in Online Banking.
  • Think before you click! This doesn’t just pertain to emails, also be leary about clicking on online ads, applications and electronic greeting cards. Cybercriminals often mimic content, so be on the lookout for altered URLs.
  • Don’t trust a site or name you don’t know, and don’t fall for too good to be true prices.
  • Use payment methods that offer tokenization. This includes using a digital wallet to pay for purchases like Apple Pay, Samsung/Android Pay and the like.
  • Have unique, complex passwords for websites that store your information and change your passwords frequently.
  • Be cautious of charities you give to online, in person and over the phone. If you are going to donate, be sure to investigate the charity on the web first and make sure they are legitimate (or a well-known organization like the Salvation Army, St. Jude, etc.).
  • Ensure home computers are protected with antivirus software, anti-spyware, and a firewall.
  • Look for ATM and gas pump tampering, or skimming devices. Do not use the ATM or gas pump if you suspect anything suspicious. Watch our short video on how to spot a skimming device here.

Article Source: Kara Seymour for Patch.com and 11-28-17 CUNA Risk Alert

Important Alert: Jury Duty Scam

The FBI is warning residents in New Jersey of a phone scam that involves callers impersonating law enforcement officials who demand money, telling the intended victim they failed to appear for jury duty.

According to the FBI’s Philadelphia and Newark divisions, the scammers say they’re with one of several law enforcement agencies, including the U.S. Marshals Service or a county sheriff’s department.

They accuse the call recipient of failing to appear for federal or local jury duty and warn that an arrest warrant has been issued. They tell the intended victim they need to pay a fine through a prepaid debit card, then tell them to provide them with the card information, according to information from the FBI.

“Recent reports indicate these scammers have been targeting New Jersey residents; variations of the ‘jury duty’ scam have been documented in numerous other states, as well,” the FBI said.

The FBI offered the following tips to avoid being victimized by this scam:

  • Never give money or personal information to someone with whom you don’t have ties and did not initiate contact with first.
  • Trust your instincts: if an unknown caller pressures you, or says things that don’t sound right, hang up.
  • If concerns remain about the caller’s claims, verify the information with the appropriate law enforcement agency or court officials.

If you are a victim of a phone or online scam, you should file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center here.

If at anytime 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: Kara Seymour for Patch.com

Scam Alert: Caller ID Spoofing

Scammers are using fake caller ID information to trick you into thinking they’re someone who can be trusted. The practice is called caller ID spoofing, and scammers can basically fake anyone’s phone number and allow you to think they are a representative from a company.

There are even reports that scammers are spoofing the FTC’s Consumer Response Center phone number (877-382-4357). But don’t let that stop you from reporting scammers — it’s still safe to call the FTC Consumer Response Center, and it’s also safe to report scammers online.

If you’ve submitted a report or request to the FTC’s Consumer Response Center, the FTC might call you for additional information. But they won’t call you from 877-382-4357. And the FTC will never ask for money or for sensitive information such as your Social Security Number, date of birth, or bank account information.

Scammers are constantly picking new phone numbers to spoof. Here are a few tips for staying ahead of scammers and their unexpected calls:

  • If you get a strange call from a government phone number, hang up. If you want to check it out, visit the official (.gov) website for contact information.
  • Don’t give out or confirm your personal or financial information to someone who calls.
  • Don’t wire money or send money using a reloadable card. In fact, never pay someone who calls out of the blue, even if the name or number on the caller ID looks legit.
  • Feeling pressured to act immediately? Hang up. That’s a sure sign of a scam.

If you’ve gotten a call from a scammer, with or without fake caller ID information, report it to the FTC.

If at anytime 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. Remember that First Financial will never call and ask you for any sensitive information over the phone. All important phone numbers for members can be found on our website: https://www.firstffcu.com/contact-us.htm

Article Source: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2017/10/call-877-382-4357-hang?utm_source=govdelivery

 

Online Dating Scams are Actually a Thing, and They’re Breaking Hearts & Bank Accounts

It’s happening all over, and closer to home than you may think. Scammers are continuing to fake online dating profiles using photos of other people to lure their victims. Once connected, the scammers often say they are from the U.S., but are temporarily traveling or working overseas. The scammers quickly profess their love and tug at the victim’s emotions with fake stories and their need for money. The victims often send the scammers money or provide online banking login credentials.

How exactly does the scam work?

  • The scammers start by stealing a photo from an internet site. The photos are usually of beautiful people and the quality of the photo is high. The photos are usually stolen from modeling sites with reports that 90% of them are being taken from a site called Focus Hawaii. If you think you are being scammed, go to this site and browse the photos to see if the person you are communicating with has a photo on this site. They also use photos taken from profiles of other people on dating sites.
  • They then post ads with fake profiles on online dating sites. They also lurk in chat rooms and social networking sites, as well as Christian and other religious-based dating sites. They spend months chatting up and luring their targets with online intimacy.
  • The scammers often pretend to be foreign specialists temporarily working in Nigeria or other overseas countries. A slight twist is when the scammer pretends to live in the same country as the victim, and once a relationship has developed, then advise them they are required to go to another country on an assignment. Some of the sophisticated scammers send flowers or candy (from stolen credit cards) to capture hearts.
  • The fraudsters then choose one of two approaches: 1) They either state that their employer pays them with money orders and they can’t cash them in Nigeria or are having trouble cashing them. Then they convince their “soul mate” to bank this deposit into their bank account and wire them the money via Western Union. They are often told to keep some of the money for their trouble (which helps to build trust and also helps make them an accessory to the crime!). After a few weeks the bank will tell the victim that the money orders are fraudulent and then the victim is often responsible for paying the money back to the bank, and in some cases face charges of passing a counterfeit instrument. 2) The alternative is to say their wallet has been stolen, the hotel owner is holding their passport, customs officials need to be bribed, new plane tickets are needed, they have been victimized and put in jail and need money to get out, or they need money for some sort of medical reason, etc. The reasons for needing the money will sound plausible. Regardless of the story, the end result is the same – the cyber “soul mate” is asked to send money!

Other romance scam variations include:

  • Victims are duped into providing online banking login credentials to the scammers under the guise that the scammers do not have access to financial services in the foreign country in which they are traveling or working. The scammer logs into the account and uses the account-to-account external transfer feature to initiate debits against accounts at other institutions pulling funds into the victim’s account for deposit. The victim is instructed to send the funds to the scammer by Western Union or MoneyGram. The debits are subsequently returned to the financial institution as unauthorized up to 60 days later.
  • The scammer logs into the victim’s account and accesses the mobile remote deposit capture service, or requests access if it isn’t already set-up. The scammer transmits images of fraudulent checks via mobile deposit to the victim’s account. Again, the victim is instructed to send the funds to the scammer by Western Union or MoneyGram. The checks are subsequently returned unpaid.

How to spot an online dating scam:

  • The person is new to the website or hasn’t logged in many times.
  • The photo looks like a model or looks “too good to be true.”
  • The profile is not well written.
  • You are asked to go straight from on-site messaging to off-site messaging such as regular email or instant messaging (to prevent the dating site administrators seeing the evidence of the scam and kicking them off the site).
  • The scammer will find ways to get out of live video chat because the profile photo is fake. The excuse they will give is their lack of technology overseas. They will usually hire someone with an appropriate accent for the phone calls.

Follow these specific safeguards for online dating:

  • Research the person’s photo and profile using online searches to see if the material has been used elsewhere.
  • Go slow and ask lots of questions.
  • Beware if the individual seems too perfect or quickly asks you to leave a dating site or Facebook to go “offline.”
  • Beware if the individual attempts to isolate you from friends and family, or requests inappropriate photos or financial information that could later be used to extort you.
  • Beware if the individual promises to meet in person, but then always comes up with an excuse why he or she can’t. If you haven’t met the person after a few months, for whatever reason, you have good reason to be suspicious.
  • Never send money to anyone you don’t know personally!

What to do if you suspect someone you are communicating with is an online scammer:

  • Once the scammer has asked for money, stop all communication with them.
  • Report them to the dating site.
  • No matter how trustworthy they may seem, DO NOT SEND THEM MONEY!
  • If you have already sent them money – your chances of getting it back are probably zero, but you should report the incident to your local police and the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3).

T.H.I.N.K First because There’s Harm INot Knowing!

Article Sources:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/romance-scams

http://www.watchforscams.com/nigerian-dating-scams.html