How to Avoid Banking Scams and Stay Safe Online

Banking scams are more common than you think, especially lately. In 2020, the Federal Trade Commission received more than 2.1 million fraud reports. Criminals use these types of scams to trick people into giving up their bank account information.

Don’t panic just yet. There are many ways to protect yourself against banking scams and online fraud, and we’re here to help.

What are banking scams?

Banking scams are when fraudsters attempt to access your bank account to take your money or private information. The most common banking scams include:

  • Overpayment scams: When someone sends you a check, asks you to deposit it into your account, and wire part of the money back to them. The check is likely fake, so you’ll end up having to pay your bank the amount of the check, plus what you wired.
  • Unsolicited check fraud: When a scammer sends you an unexpected check, you cash it, and then you’re suddenly authorized for purchases or a loan you didn’t ask for.
  • Automatic withdrawals: When a fraudulent company sets up automatic withdrawals from your account to qualify for a free trial or prize.
  • Phishing: When you receive an email or text asking you to verify your bank account or card number.

How to protect yourself from banking scams

Now that we know what kinds of banking scams are out there, let’s talk about how to prevent them from happening to you. Here are our top tips to follow:

  • Be careful who you cash checks for. Never write a check for someone in exchange for cash, unless you know the person well.
  • Trust your instincts. If something feels off or is too good to be true, it likely is. Always read the fine print with any email or text you receive.
  • Don’t share your personal information. Scammers can easily hack into your account with the right information. Therefore, it’s important to avoid sharing account, Social Security, and credit card information with anyone – unless you know for certain it’s a legitimate request that you initiated with your financial institution.
  • Question unnecessary fees. If you’re sent a prize or job offer that requires an upfront fee, it’s a scam. The same goes for offers from unverified sources that require bank account information to redeem or claim them.
  • Be careful where you send money. This may seem obvious, but do not wire or send money to people or companies you don’t know.

What to do if you’re a victim of a bank scam

If you believe you’re a victim of a scam, contact your bank immediately to stop any unauthorized purchases or withdrawals from your account. You’ll need to report the scam to the proper authorities as well. Your financial institution should most likely offer a way you can file a complaint directly, or be able to provide you with the necessary steps to take. If you received any phishing emails, forward them to the Federal Trade Commission at spam@uce.gov.

At First Financial, we are here to help protect our members from scams and identity theft. If you have any concerns or questions about any of your First Financial accounts, please call member services at 732.312.1500 or visit one of our branches.

 

Preventing Cyber Fraud

Online and mobile fraud have certainly become more commonplace and extra concerning these days. Unfortunately, just a password is no longer enough to protect your important personal information against the threat of a cyber data breach. Keep reading to find out important ways to protect yourself and your personal and financial data online.

  • Set-up multi-factor authentication (MFA) on your various accounts. What is MFA? This is a secondary layer of security used to verify your identity. This means in addition to logging in as normal, you would also receive a confirmation email or text with a temporary code that is typically only valid for a few minutes. This second layer of protection allows the bank account you’re logging into, app, social media platform, or online shopping site (even Amazon has a two-factor authentication option for logging into your account) to verify that it’s really you and not a fraudster. Logging in with a fingerprint or Face ID is also considered an MFA option. Using MFA will allow you to be much less likely to get hacked. The more layers of security protection you have, the better!
  • Be sure your software and OS are up to date. Always make sure your online and mobile security software has been updated. This means any anti-virus programs you’re running, firewalls, your computer, smartphone and tablet operating systems (OS), as well as apps and software. Making sure your devices are up to date means that there are no security holes present or ways to gain access to your secure data. An easy way to be sure this is set-up is to enable automatic device updates, or allow your device to perform the update each time you see a notification. Don’t wait until it’s too late!
  • Beware of suspicious emails, calls, and texts. Even if the message or call appears to be from your financial institution. Also be weary of any links that may appear in emails or texts. Clicking on a fraudulent link can be a phishing or malware scam which enables an online criminal to gain access to your bank accounts and personal data. If you receive a message or call that you are unsure of, hang up and don’t click on any links. Instead, call or stop into your trusted financial institution and ask them if they were in fact trying to contact you. An important note to remember is that a legitimate financial institution, business, or organization will never typically contact you out of nowhere and ask you to reveal any personal or financial information (they already have it).
  • Be careful when using public Wi-Fi. If you are logging into your mobile banking app or any secure accounts (especially ones that have access to credit or debit cards), be sure you are not on public Wi-Fi. This makes it easy for a cyber thief to hack into your device through a shared network. Login to these types of sites at home using your secure password protected network, and if you absolutely must login while on the go – be sure to turn off your device’s Wi-Fi connection first. How to know a browser or network is secure? You’ll see a padlock icon within the corner of the browser. This means that you’re on a safe, encrypted network.
  • Use strong passwords and security questions. When you do need to create a password, make sure it’s a strong one that’s hard to crack. For instance – avoid using common names, words, and phrases. Also refrain from using numbers that are in order (ex: Hello123 is not a secure password), and try to also use special characters or substitute characters for letters/numbers (ex: F$rst!97). When setting up security questions, choose ones that only you would know personally and that would be extremely difficult to guess.
  • Monitor your accounts and set-up notifications. It’s always a good idea to monitor your frequently used and bank accounts on a daily basis. This will allow you to check for any fraudulent transactions or purchases you did not make. Another useful tip is to setup account alerts for your bank accounts – most financial institutions or credit cards will allow you to set-up email or text alerts for purchases, debits over a certain amount, low balance alerts, phone or online transactions, and more. Enabling these notifications will allow you to see instantly when a transaction was made that was not done by you.

As always, if you find any fraudulent transactions or receive any suspicious communications regarding your First Financial account – please contact us right away at 732.312.1500 or by emailing info@firstffcu.com.

Also remember that First Financial will never ask you for online or mobile banking login codes you receive, under any circumstances. We will also not ever ask you to download any remote desktop applications to your device.

You can rest assured that First Financial’s Online Banking and Mobile App are protected with various MFA capabilities. We also have the First Financial Wallet App, where you can keep track of all your First Financial card purchases and receive real time alerts right to your mobile phone.

THINK First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

‘Tis the Season (for Holiday Fraud)

The best time of the year is here, but it’s also a time of year when fraud increases too. If you are doing any sort of holiday shopping, be aware of the following scam tactics designed to steal your personal and financial information:

E-Skimming – This is what happens when a scammer gets control of an unsecure link within a website that you may be shopping on. Without even realizing it, you could be redirected to a malicious domain where a skimming code can capture your personal and financial information as you are making your purchase online. Such a skimming code would be sent to a remote server in real time where fraudsters would be collecting all your personal data. This data is often sold and then used to make fraudulent purchases in your name afterward. Before you click on any links in emails or on the web – make sure it’s a secure website (you’ll see an https at the top) and only open emails from trusted sources.

Social Media Scams – Sometimes social media platforms are used to set up a fake online store. The site will feature advertising messages and take payments, but unfortunately you will never receive what you ordered and your financial information may also be compromised in the process. When following a brand on social media, look to see if it’s a verified business (blue check mark in the profile) and look to see their website and contact details, number of followers, and the like. If something seems off or too good to be true, it probably is.

Porch Pirates – This is a big time of year when delivered packages often disappear from the doorstep of unsuspecting homes and businesses. Be sure to track anything ordered as it ships to you, look for a delivery confirmation from the retailer, and try to not leave packages out on your porch for hours on end. If you are going to be away from home when a package is delivered, ask a trusted neighbor or family member to pick it up and hold it for you.

Shipment Update Scam Emails – You may find that a fraudster sends you a fake email that tells you your item failed to deliver and then asks you for updated shipping and contact information. This is a scam! The email may look legit (though you will usually find a fake or unusually long email address with a slightly different domain name), but it often contains a link with malware that will steal your personal information if you click on it. The original retailer has all of this contact information and will not ask you for it again.

Donations to Fake Charities – Scammers know that people love to give back this time of year. A donation scam will often duplicate a charity website and get you to click on a link (which is malware) to donate money. Instead of going to the actual charity, your donation goes right into the pocket of a criminal. Do your research before you donate, ensure the site is legitimate and verified.

Additional steps you can take to help prevent fraud this holiday season:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts to receive emails and/or texts for all your credit and debit cards.
  • Pay careful attention to links in emails and on websites.
  • Try to avoid entering card information into website forms. Instead use PayPal or a digital wallet like Apple or Google Pay when you can.
  • Make sure your home computer and mobile devices have anti-virus protection and a firewall.
  • Only shop on well-known and verified websites when buying online.
  • Go directly to a retailer’s website yourself instead of through a social media ad.
  • Look for skimming devices at the ATM or a gas station pump.
  • Monitor your bank accounts on a daily basis and if you see a purchase that was not made by you, report it to your financial institution right away.

Follow the above tips for an enjoyable, safe, and risk free holiday season. Think First!

Article Source: CUNA Mutual Risk Alert 11/14/19

 

What To Do When Your Debit Card is Compromised

Have you ever gotten a letter in the mail from your bank saying that your account may have been compromised? If you’ve ever had this happen before, it elicits all sorts of questions. Was there fraudulent activity on my account? Who ‘may have’ compromised my card, and when? Am I liable financially?

First of all, getting a letter like this doesn’t necessarily mean there was a fraudulent transaction. Your bank is simply following a standard precaution. What it does mean is there was suspicious activity associated with your debit card. Your card number and name might have been obtained by an unauthorized source, usually at a retail location with a card processing system targeted by hackers.

Secondly, your bank may not even know where and when the card was potentially compromised. Mastercard, Visa and other card companies don’t usually release this information to the bank unless there’s a massive breach. Card companies simply notify the bank of suspicious activity, and your bank follows its standard policy – which is usually to cancel the card number and issue a new one.

Thirdly, even though you don’t know if, when, and where the compromise might have occurred, it’s important to do your own research. Besides credit card companies, banks also monitor account activity. This offers another level of assurance, but you can never be too cautious. We should always keep a close eye on our bank accounts, especially since small, ordinary transactions can be easily overlooked. Hackers often test a stolen card number this way before making major purchases or withdrawals (like dipping a toe in the water to test the temperature before plunging in). So if you do receive a letter like this in the mail, immediately check your account activity. If there are any unauthorized transactions, call the bank and report them.

Lastly, examine your habits for anything that is leaving your card number vulnerable. Have you been using your debit card more than usual? If you make frequent electronic purchases, use a credit card – which at least won’t risk your personal checking and savings accounts getting wiped out.

Along with this, consider the following precautions:

  • When making online purchases, always look for the secure “lock” icon.
  • Listen to your instincts if anything looks fishy about a website you’re entering personal information into.
  • Clear your web browser history frequently. Don’t let your computer save passwords, and delete cookies.
  • Don’t respond to emails requesting verification of personal information. Because of the risks, your bank will never ask you to do this.
  • Be skeptical of application downloads and updates, even if they look legitimate. Scammers are great at creating imitations that install spyware on your computer.
  • Use a quality anti-virus and anti-malware program and make sure it’s enabled to run routine scans.

If you have a First Financial Debit Card – Enroll it in Visa Purchase Alerts today! You’ll get an email each time your Debit Card is used over an amount you set, when your card is used outside the county, or when your card is used to make a purchase online or over the phone.

 Article Source: Jessica Sommerfield for MoneyNing.com

3 Ways to Ensure Cyber Safety During Tax Time

Income Tax File Meaning Paying Taxes 3d Rendering

The IRS is now officially open for business as tax season gets underway. Here are three ways you can protect yourself over the next few months as you manage important and sensitive, financial documents.

Stay on secured networks: As with other financial transactions, make sure to only e-file your taxes (or view private documents) on a protected Wi-Fi network. You may be tempted to work from a coffee shop or the library, but remember using a public server can make you an easy target for cyber thieves.

Beware of IRS emails: The Internal Revenue Service will never directly reach out to you; if you receive a fraudulent message report it immediately to phishing@irs.gov. Use caution when dealing with these and be sure not to click on web links or open suspicious email attachments.

Set strong passwords: Most of us may think that choosing a password such as “password” or “123456” is an obvious mistake but according to TIME, these are in fact the most popular password picks. Review their list of these commonly used passwords and make necessary adjustments to yours to ensure your information stays safe online.

First Financial members get discounts on TurboTax products – get started today!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com

8 Online Banking Fraud Prevention Tips

  1. Choose a bank account that offers some form of multi-factor authentication Keyboard with E-Banking Button.(MFA) for online banking, such as a key code or unique image. First Financial offers this with our Online Banking!
  2. Create a strong password, avoiding common words or phrases, and change it every few months. Also, for security questions, the answer does not have to be the real answer, just one you will remember.
  3. Keep your security software (anti-virus, firewalls, etc.), operating system, and other software up-to-date to ensure that there are no security holes present when using your computer for online banking.
  4. Beware of suspicious emails and phone calls that appear to be from your financial institution asking for account information. Access your online banking account directly by typing the address into your browser, going through your financial institution’s website, and only call your financial institution back via a number that you are familiar with and you know is legitimate.
  5. Access your accounts from a secure location, using computers and networks you know are safe and secure. Avoid using public networks and always look for the padlock icon in the corner of the browser, signaling that the website is encrypted.
  6. Always log out and clear your computer’s cache at the end of each session.
  7. Set up account notifications to immediately alert you if there is any suspicious activity on the account, such as large withdrawals or a low remaining balance.
  8. Monitor your accounts regularly, paying attention to all transactions over the past few months.

If you fall victim to ID Theft, don’t panic – First Financial is here to help! Report the incident regarding any of your First Financial accounts immediately, by calling us at 732.312.1500 or emailing info@firstffcu.com