Traveling with Your Credit Card: Safety Precautions to Consider

It’s summer, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and heading for the hills (or the beach, or the museums). The last thing you want to worry about is your credit card.

Unfortunately, all too many of us face hassles with credit card security while traveling — especially during trips abroad. These problems can range from the annoying to the devastating, but most of them are very preventable. Here’s how to have a worry-free vacation.

Pre-departure Preparations

You wouldn’t leave home without booking your flight or packing your bag, and credit card security is just as important. Make sure to add a few credit card specific tasks to your pre-departure list.

  • Call your card issuer to notify them of your travel plans.

Many credit card issuers have built-in fraud protection that could shut down your card if it’s used outside of your normal purchase pattern. The last thing you want is to have your card denied at that fabulous Italian bistro, so give your card issuer a heads up.

  • Do some research regarding foreign transaction fees.

If you carry multiple credit cards, you should know that there might be a wide variation between your cards when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Call your card issuers or do some digging online to compare fees.

  • Learn how to contact your credit card issuer while abroad.

Toll-free numbers don’t typically work abroad, so you’ll need a different way to contact your credit card issuer if you encounter problems during your travels. Some cards have international numbers printed right on the back. If yours doesn’t, call them up before you leave and ask them what number to use. Write down this number and keep it with your travel documents.

  • Make copies of the front and back of your credit cards.

This is one step that’s frequently overlooked, but if your cards are stolen, having photocopies can be very helpful. Many travelers also do this for passports.

  • Make sure your card will be accepted abroad.

Not all cards are taken around the world. Consider getting an EMV chip card (if yours doesn’t already have this feature), which is more widely accepted abroad – especially in Europe.

EMV Chip Cards

EMV security chip cards are fairly new to the U.S. market, but they have become the go-to standard in other countries. These cards feature embedded microchips that can hold a large volume of dynamic data. They also require entry of a pin in order to complete a transaction, and that means that a thief who simply has your card number can’t use your card.

If you bring an American swipe card abroad, expect it to be rejected at several common locations, including:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking meters
  • Many merchants and retailers
  • Destinations in Europe other than major cities

Handling Your Credit Card While Abroad

So you’ve taken all the precautions before boarding the plane: what about when you’ve reached your destination? There are several steps you can take to avoid fraud, theft, and unnecessary trouble abroad.

  • Avoid use of your credit card in less-than-secure situations.

The street vendor may have a lovely smile and even better food for sale, but this probably isn’t the best place to pull out your credit card.

  • Have your travel companion carry a different card as a back-up.

Even if you plan on relying primarily on one card, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up along — and to have it carried by someone else. That way, if your wallet or money carrier is lost or stolen, you aren’t completely out of luck.

  • Keep your credit card in sight.

Try to hand your credit card directly to the person who will be processing the transaction. You’ll want to avoid situations where someone takes your card out of sight to process a transaction, because that scenario makes it easy for them to steal your information.

  • Be cautious with ATMs.

ATM fees can be extremely steep for international transactions. In addition, many foreign ATMs (especially outside of western Europe) are not as secure as we may expect from our U.S. counterparts. If you are traveling abroad and you must use an ATM, choose one that is attached to a legitimate business (preferably a bank).

  • Carry cash or travelers checks as back-up.

Try to carry enough local currency or traveler’s checks to get by each day (but not so much that you’re a ripe target for muggers). Credit cards are convenient, but if yours is declined or stolen and you don’t have an alternative method of payment available, you won’t think it’s very convenient. Look into getting a discreet carrying pouch specifically designed for passports and money, which is much more secure than a wallet or purse.

  • Document everything.

Keep receipts of all purchases in case mysterious charges are added to your account later. Keeping receipts also helps with expense tracking, so you can stay on budget.

The Bottom Line

This list may have left you a little uneasy. Don’t worry — you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself. Credit cards are usually part of the solution — not the problem, when you’re traveling abroad. All you have to do is take proper precautions and exercise a bit of due diligence. Just think about how much more relaxing that well-deserved vacation will be, knowing that you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about your credit cards.

Bon Voyage!

Article Source: Ellen Gans for thesimpledollar.com

Important Member Alert: Mail Fishing Scams

In recent months, 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

 

6 Tips for Protecting Yourself Against Robocall Scams

With the rise of automated telemarketing — otherwise known as robocalling, it looks like the annoying calls have evolved. If these automated calls could simply be chalked up as the digital version of cold calling, it would be the least of our worries. But many of them are deliberate scams designed to trick people into sharing their account details, social security numbers, and other personal information. Based on consumer reporting, the Federal Trade Commission estimates there are 2.6 billion of these calls each month!

Maybe you know better than to give personal information over the phone, but some scammers can use any response you give, even a simple “yes.” For example, one of the robocall scams circulating last year started with the line “Can you hear me?” If someone answered “yes,” the response was recorded and used to authorize fraudulent charges on the victim’s accounts over the phone.

Some robocall scams will impersonate familiar entities like the IRS or charity organizations. In one recent scourge of fraudulent robocalls, recordings posed as Google account specialists. Another tactic these scams use is known as spoofing — calling from a phone number that will look familiar to you, perhaps sharing the same area code or prefix.

Authorities are cracking down on this type of fraud, but they are still far from eradicating the problem — if that’s even possible. Meanwhile, there are many ways you can protect yourself from becoming a victim of a robocall scam.

1. Don’t answer the phone for an unfamiliar number. If you answer, immediately hang up. Do NOT speak or key any responses.

One of the first lines of defense is not to interact with these machines at all. Answering and immediately hanging up is the next best thing, but you’re likely to keep getting more calls. It’s better not to give any indication that you’re a “live” target.

2. If you responded to a call in the past and suspect it was a scam, check your accounts.

Don’t feel too bad if you’ve fallen for one of these scams — they’re designed to fool the best of us. Simply check your accounts for suspicious activity and change important passwords. Contact your bank or credit card company immediately if your account has been compromised. In fact, checking your account regularly is a good practice. Add it into your routine – it really doesn’t even take that long, and soon will become second nature.

3. If you suspect you may have received fraudulent calls, report them.

These kinds of calls, even if they aren’t exactly scams, are illegal in many cases. Never hesitate to report suspicious calls to the Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker or the Federal Communication Commission’s (FCC) Help Center. Even if the scammers didn’t get to you, reporting them will make sure they don’t get to anyone else.

4. Ask your carrier if they have a robocall blocking service.

In November 2017, the FCC approved rules that give carriers more license to block suspicious calls. If there’s a service in place, make sure you opt into it.

5. Fight back: install a robocall-blocking app on your mobile device.

Just as telemarketers have shifted their efforts to cell phones, robocall scams are increasingly targeting mobile phones. Apps such as “Robokiller,” “Nomorobo,” “Should I Answer?” and “Hiya” use robot-detecting technology to create another line of defense between you and the latest scam.

6. Keep your number to yourself.

Just about every online form asks for a phone number, but you don’t have to give this information away. The more your number gets out there, the greater the chance robocall scammers will get their hands on it. Treat your phone number like it’s a part of your personal identity and guard it carefully.

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 Sommerfield for Moneyning.com

Phishing Scam Alert: Fake Invoices

Scammers have been relentless lately – here they are, back at it with a new twist on an old phishing scam.

Recently, scammers have been posing as well known tech companies and emailing phony invoices which show that you purchased music or apps from them. Check out our recent blog on these types of scams here. The scam emails tell you to click on a link if you did not authorize the purchase. If you get one of these emails, do NOT click on the link! This is a phishing attempt scheme.

What is phishing? When a scammer uses fraudulent emails, copycat websites, or texts to get you to share valuable information. The fraudsters then use this information to commit identity theft or other fraud in your name.

Scammers are also using phishing emails to get access to your computer or network – then they install programs like ransomware that can lock you out of important files on your computer.

Here are some tips to help keep your information secure:

  • Be suspicious if a business, government agency, or organization asks you to click on a link that then asks for your username or password or other personal data. Instead, type in the web address for the organization or call them. The link in the email may look right, but if you click on it you may go to a copycat website run by a scammer.
  • Be cautious about opening attachments. A scammer could even pretend to be a friend or family member, sending messages with malware from a spoofed account.
  • Set your security software to update automatically, and back up your files to an external hard drive or cloud storage. Back up your files regularly and use security software you trust to protect your data.

Lastly, report phishing emails and texts by forwarding them to spam@uce.gov and file a report with the FTC.

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: Ari Lazarus for FTC.gov