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: Tech Support Scams

How the Scam Works

Scammers may call, place alarming pop-up messages on your computer, offer free “security” scans, or set up fake websites – all to convince you that your computer is infected. The scammers try to get you on the phone, and then work to convince you there’s a problem. Finally, they ask you to pay them to fix that non-existent problem.

To convince you that both the scammers and the problems are real, the scammers may:

  • Pretend to be from a well-known company – like Microsoft or Apple.
  • Use technical terms.
  • Ask you to get on your computer and open some files – and then tell you those files show a problem (when they don’t).

Then, once they’ve convinced you that your computer has a problem, the scammers might:

  • Ask you to give them remote access to your computer – which lets them change your computer settings so your computer is vulnerable to attack.
  • Trick you into installing malware that gives them access to your computer and sensitive data, like user names and passwords.
  • Try to sell you software that’s worthless, or that you could get elsewhere for free.
  • Try to enroll you in a worthless computer maintenance or warranty program.
  • Ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services, or services you could get elsewhere for free.
  • Direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information.

These scammers want to get your money, access to your computer, or both. But here’s what you can do to stop them.

If You Get a Call or Pop-Up

  • If you get an unexpected or urgent call from someone who claims to be tech support, hang up. It’s not a real call. And don’t rely on caller ID to prove who a caller is. Criminals can make caller ID seem like they’re calling from a legitimate company or a local number.
  • If you get a pop-up message that tells you to call tech support, ignore it. There are legitimate pop-ups from your security software to do things like update your operating system. But do not call a number that pops up on your screen in a warning about a computer problem.
  • If you’re concerned about your computer, call your security software company directly – but don’t use the phone number in the pop-up or on caller ID. Instead, look for the company’s contact information online, or on a software package or your receipt.
  • Never share passwords or give control of your computer to anyone who contacts you.

If You Were Scammed

  • Get rid of the malware. Update or download legitimate security software and scan your computer. Delete anything the software says is a problem.
  • Change any passwords that you shared with someone. Change the passwords on every account that uses passwords you shared.
  • If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, call your credit card company and ask to reverse the charges. Check your statements for any charges you didn’t make, and ask to reverse those, too. Report it to ftc.gov/complaint.

Refund Scams

If you paid for tech support services, and you later get a call about a refund, that call is probably also a scam. Don’t give out any personal or financial information.

The refund scam works like this: Several months after a purchase, someone calls to ask if you were happy with the service. If you say no, the scammer offers a refund. Or, the caller says the company is going out of business and giving refunds. The scammer eventually asks for your credit card number, or asks for access to your bank account to make a deposit. But instead of putting money in your account, the scammer takes money from your account.

If you get any calls like this, hang up, and report it immediately: ftc.gov/complaint.

If at anytime you feel any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised in this or 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: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0346-tech-support-scams

Important Alert: Card Cracking Scam Targets Students

scamCash-strapped college students have been recruited to participate in a scam
referred to as “card cracking.” Using ATM/debit cards and PINs willingly provided by the students, fraudsters deposit fraudulent checks to the students’ accounts. The funds are subsequently withdrawn by the fraudsters with the students receiving a portion of the funds for their participation.

Details
The “card cracking” scam was reported to originate in Chicago and generally targeted college students who were recruited through social media sites including Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Participants were even recruited in person at college campuses. The sales pitch is to allow the fraudster to deposit a check to a student’s account and withdraw the funds for which the student receives half of the proceeds for agreeing to participate. This scam was since reported nationwide.

Willing participants provide the fraudsters with their ATM/debit cards and PINs. The fraudsters deposit fraudulent checks (stolen or counterfeit checks) to the student accounts via ATMs and subsequently withdraw the funds. Their proposition is simple: If you provide me with access to your account so I can deposit a check and withdraw the money, I will provide you with half of the proceeds.

After initial contact is made, the scammer arranges to meet up with the student to retrieve the debit card and corresponding PIN. The deposit is made, the money is withdrawn and then the fraudulent checks were subsequently returned unpaid and charged back to the students’ accounts. Following the fraudsters’ instructions, the participants report their ATM/debit card as lost or stolen and that the transactions were fraudulent.

The participants may not be entitled to protection under Regulation E (Reg E) for
unauthorized use of their ATM/debit card since they willingly provided their card to the
fraudsters, which contains an exclusion to the definition of unauthorized
electronic fund transfer:

Unauthorized electronic fund transfer means an electronic fund transfer from a consumer’s account initiated by a person other than the consumer without actual authority to initiate the transfer, and from which the consumer receives no benefit. The term does not include an electronic fund transfer initiated by a person who was furnished access to the consumer’s account by the consumer, unless the consumer has notified their financial institution that transfers by that person are no longer authorized.

This is a huge risk – especially for students who may have large amounts going through their accounts from loans, scholarships and tuition reimbursements.

“Even though the students might be considered victims, authorities point out that providing their debit cards to someone else is a crime,” the Sun-Times of Chicago stated.

There’s an easy solution: Never share your account information, debit card or PIN with anyone! 

Here are some other safety tips you should keep in mind:

  • Always verify the identity of the person trying to obtain personal information.
  • Never give personal information to someone over the phone or via email. Personal information includes: Birth date, Social Security Number, maiden name, address, bank account number, debit/credit card number, PIN number, etc.
  • Maintain a record of the phone call or solicitation. Write down the phone number that the person is calling from, the time and date they called, the caller’s name, and reported affiliation. If it was online, save a copy of the email conversation or advertisement.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • If you believe you may be a victim of fraud, call your local police department so authorities can be alerted to the activity. You can also report email or internet scams to the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by going online to http://www.ic3.gov.

To learn more about First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!

Click the links to view more information from the original article sources: Yahoo Finance, Explorer News and CUNA Mutual Group.

Alert: Credit Union Members Recruited as Money Mules

alert-resized-600What is a Money Mule you may ask? A Money Mule is a person who transfers stolen money or merchandise from one country to another, either in person, through a courier service, or electronically. The term is commonly used to describe online scams that prey on victims who are unaware that the money or merchandise they are transferring is stolen. As a precaution, First Financial wanted to alert our members that there have been several reports of credit union members across the country being recruited as Money Mules, and unknowingly assisting fraudsters in laundering stolen funds. We want you to be aware of this scheme and to report any suspicious activity to your local authorities immediately.

Alert Details

Money Mules unknowingly assist fraudsters in laundering stolen funds. The source of the stolen funds received by the Money Mules is often from account takeovers at other financial institutions through online banking systems.

Money Mules are most often recruited through bogus job offers for payment processors, financial managers, or overseas representatives. Fraudsters typically find their potential Money Mules by searching websites where job seekers post their resumes. A key consideration in accepting the position is the ability to work from home.

Upon accepting the job, the Money Mules are notified they will receive deposits to their accounts via ACH and/or wire transfer. In some cases, the money mules are instructed to open an account at a financial institution in order to receive the funds. The Mules are instructed to not share details of their new job with anyone. Upon receipt of the funds, the Mules are instructed to either wire the funds to an account at another financial institution (foreign and domestic) or send the funds to individuals via Western Union. The Money Mules keep a portion of the funds deposited to their accounts as wages.

The deposits made to the Money Mule accounts via ACH and/or wire transfer are actually stolen from deposit accounts at other financial institutions and investment accounts held at brokerage firms. Using sophisticated banking Trojans, fraudsters steal the login credentials of online banking users and investors who access their investment accounts online. The fraudster logs into the account and transfers funds.

If you’ve fallen for the scam and become a Money Mule, here’s what has gone wrong:

  • You’re receiving stolen money. This may be through bogus sales from online auctions or the proceeds of phishing, where crooks have obtained victims’ bank details and are transferring their cash to your account (which is why they often want you to open an account at a particular bank — the same one as their victims).
  • It may even be cash from a crime that the crooks just want to get out of the country. Or someone just sends you a bogus check that you bank and then forward.
  • You’re taking a cut of the proceeds of crime and transferring the rest via an untraceable money wire to a crook.
  • You’ve given away your own personal information in that phony employment contract you signed, leaving yourself open to identity theft.

Although easy-money job offers sound so inviting, you do not want to become the real perpetrator of this crime. So here are some ways to make sure you DO NOT become a Money Mule:

  • First and foremost, money forwarding jobs like this don’t exist. Period. There is no law preventing global companies from directly transferring money from one country to another.
  • Never accept payments from anyone and then transfer part of the proceeds by money wire.
  • Don’t open a new bank account to receive money from people you don’t know.
  • Scrutinize the name of the company offering employment. Go to a site like DomainTools.com and check out when the website was registered. If it’s a scam, it’ll probably be within the prior 28 days.
  • Check the advertisement or email for poor language and grammar.

Please contact our Member Service Center at 732.312.1500 if you suspect any fraudulent activity on your First Financial accounts.

Contributing Article: http://www.scambusters.org/moneymule.html

 

Warning: Phony Sweepstakes Scam Using FTC’s Name

iWarning“Hi, I’m calling from the Federal Trade Commission to tell you that you have won $250,000…”

If you receive a phone call like this, you are most likely being targeted as a potential victim of a scam. Reports of someone claiming to be from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have surfaced, so be aware not to fall victim.  The scammers in this situation pretend to be from the Federal Trade Commission, possibly even using the name of an actual FTC employee, and ask you to pay “taxes” or “insurance” in order to claim your prize, either by wiring money or sending a check.

TelemarketedIf you receive any sort of calls like this, DO NOT send any money, and report the incident to the FTC at ftccomplaintassistant.gov.  The FTC is the nation’s consumer protection agency and they investigate fraud and provide free information.  The FTC will never ask you to send them money, and neither will a legitimate sweepstakes company.

Take the following precautions to prevent yourself from falling victim to any type of sweepstakes scam:

Don’t pay to collect winnings.  If a company makes you pay to collect your sweepstakes winnings, you aren’t dealing with a legitimate company and may end up never seeing that money again.  Legitimate sweepstakes companies will never ask you to pay “taxes,” “insurance,” or “shipping and handling” on your winnings.

Hold on to your money.  When scammers act, they will try to pressure you into wiring money through commercial money wiring companies such as Western Union.  Wiring money is essentially the same as sending cash, so if you do fall victim, there is very little chance of recovering your money.  Also don’t mail a check or money order, especially by way of any sort of high speed shipping.  This allows the scammers to receive the money before you realize the scam.

Beware of look-alikes.  It is illegal for anyone to lie about an affiliation with or endorsement by a government agency or other well known organization.  Sometimes scammers may use a similar name to trick you into trusting them, but remember, insurance companies will never insure delivery of sweepstakes winnings.

Phone numbers can be deceptive.  Internet technology exists that allows con artists to disguise their area code.  Although it may appear that your caller is contacting you from Washington DC, they could in fact be calling you from anywhere in the world.

Alert the FTC! If somebody tries to impersonate a government agency to try and take your money, be sure to file a complaint at ftc.gov or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.  When you do this make sure you provide as many details as possible. Your complaint is more helpful if it includes information such as the time of the call, the phone number, name of the person or organization who called, which FTC employee name(s) were used, requested amount and method of money to be sent, or any other details.

We urge you to constantly be on the lookout for scammers and to always protect your personal and account information. Do not hesitate to call our Member Service Center at 732.312.1500 or stop into one of our branches if you suspect any fraudulent activity on your First Financial accounts.

 

FTC Offers Warning, Advice on Tax-Related Identity Theft

Tips For Consumers

Did you know that your Social Security Number can help an identity thief get a job, or the tax refund that should be yours?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation’s consumer protection agency, cautions that thieves can use a stolen Social Security number to apply for a job or file for a tax refund under a false identity. The FTC advises that, if you think this has happened to you, or if you get an Internal Revenue Service notice indicating a problem, contact the IRS immediately for help with your tax return, any refund, and protecting your IRS account from identity theft in the future.

alert-resized-600The FTC also recommends three steps to minimize the potential damage from identity theft:

  • Put a fraud alert on your credit reports
  • Review your credit reports
  • Create an identity theft report by filing an identity theft complaint with the FTC and filing a police report.

For more information, visit the FTC’s identity theft website.

The Federal Trade Commission works for consumers to prevent fraudulent, deceptive, and unfair business practices and to provide information to help spot, stop, and avoid them. To file a complaint in English or Spanish, visit the FTC’s online Complaint Assistant or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357). The FTC enters complaints into Consumer Sentinel, a secure, online database available to more than 2,000 civil and criminal law enforcement agencies in the U.S. and abroad. The FTC’s website provides free information on a variety of consumer topics. Like the FTC on Facebook and follow them on Twitter. We urge you to constantly be on the lookout for identity thieves and to always protect your personal and account information. Do not hesitate to call our Member Service Center at 732.312.1500 or stop into one of our branches.