Important Member Alert: Tax Scams

We are in the midst of tax season, and you guessed it – the fraudsters are at it again! Please be on the lookout for the following tax scams, where the scammers have been posing as the IRS via phone or email. The most important thing to remember here is that the IRS will never contact you via phone or email.

Click here to watch a short video from NBC Nightly News, which explains some of the recent tax scams.

In the first tax scam scenario, fraudsters will have already obtained an individual’s non-public personal information (name, SSN, date of birth) and bank account information. They may have obtained this information in many different ways (dumpster diving, computer hacking, stolen wallet, pretext calling). They will then file a false tax return using the individual’s name and information. Once they receive confirmation that the tax return has been deposited into the individual’s bank account, they will contact the individual via telephone posing as an employee of the IRS. They will state the funds were deposited to their account in error and order them to pay the funds back or suffer penalties.

In the second tax scam scenario, a fraudster will contact an individual via phone or email, again posing as a representative from the IRS. They will state that they owe back taxes and demand payment from the individual. They will attempt to obtain the individual’s checking account/bank routing number or credit card information to directly debit their account, or they may instruct them to mail a check.

Once again, the IRS will never contact anyone via phone or email – they will only use regular US postal mail. If you receive a phone call or email from the “IRS” – it is not the IRS.

Have you received a tax refund you didn’t file for yet?

  • Contact your financial institution immediately.
  • Have your financial institution return anything direct deposited into your account to the IRS, and then call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040
  • For an actual check received in the mail, write VOID across the front of the check and mail it to the IRS location closest to you by entering your zip code at
  • If you cashed the check, you will need to reimburse the IRS with a personal check.
  • For further instructions, visit the tax fraud section of the IRS’ website here.

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

Article Sources: NBC Nightly News and

Caller ID Spoofing Can Also Include Equifax Data Breach Fraudsters

You recently saw our blog post about Caller ID Spoofing, a new scam where fraudsters fake a company phone number and pretend they are a representative from that organization. This scam can also include fraudsters posing to be Equifax representatives who are calling to confirm stolen information or gain your personal financial information in the wake of the scam.

Ring, ring. “This is Equifax calling to verify your account information.” Stop. Don’t tell them anything. They’re not from Equifax. It’s a scam. Equifax will not call you out of the blue.

That’s just one scam you might see after Equifax’s recent data breach. Other calls might try to trick you into giving your personal information. Here are some tips for recognizing and preventing phone scams and imposter scams:

  • Don’t give personal information. Don’t provide any personal or financial information unless you’ve initiated the call and it’s to a phone number you know is correct.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Scammers can spoof their numbers so it looks like they are calling from a particular company, even when they’re not.
  • If you get a robocall, hang up. Don’t press 1 to speak to a live operator or any other key to take your number off the list. If you respond by pressing any number, it will probably just lead to more robocalls.

If you’ve already received a call that you think is fake, report it to the FTC.

If you gave your personal information to an imposter, it’s time to change any compromised passwords, account numbers or security questions.

Still wondering what to do if you think your personal financial information may have been compromised in the Equifax Data Breach?

Review your credit report. Once a year, you can get a credit report for free by visiting This will include information from all three credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion.

Consider a Credit Freeze. If you aren’t applying for any new loans, consider freezing your credit. This prevents fraudsters from applying for new accounts in your name – while preserving access for lenders you already use. To place a freeze on your credit, you must submit to all three bureaus:

Create a fraud alert. If you opt against a credit freeze, consider putting a fraud alert on file. This will warn creditors that your information was compromised, and require them to verify your identity before establishing any new accounts. Instructions are available here.

Consider a Credit Monitoring Service. If you’re concerned about identity theft, enroll in Sherpa identity theft protection from First Financial. 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!

More information is available from the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau here.

Article Sources: and


Important Alert: New Jersey 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:

Article Source: Kara Seymour for

New Scam Alert: Caller ID Spoofing

Scammers are now 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:

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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!

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