By Jonathan L. Pollock, VP Compliance | Attorney at Law, Directions Credit Union
A top priority for us at Directions Credit Union is the financial safety of our members. Unfortunately, we have recently seen an increase in fraud activity. Criminals are using the current Coronavirus Pandemic to make their fraud attempts more relevant in addition to preying on people’s concern and fear during these uncertain times.
To help concerned citizens avoid scams and unsavory fraud attempts, members of the integrated Directions team – including specialists in fraud, card services, and member service – have developed the following fraud protection tips.
Recognizing Standard Phone, Text & Email Fraud
If you receive phone calls from anyone claiming to be your financial institution and they are asking for information, do not give it. Your bank or credit union will not call and ask you for personal pieces of information – they already have it.
Look out for scammers who claim to be from your “card provider” or your financial institutions “fraud department” as well. Here’s how this scam goes: Criminals will contact you to verify that some current “transactions” are yours, and when you say no (because unknown to you, the transactions are fake), they’ll ask you for all your card information to “send you a new card.” The scammer can now use your card information immediately and run up fraud. The best course of action is always to hang up and call your financial institution directly.
Stimulus Payment Scams Are Coming!
Direct Deposit Scams
We know scam artists are going to exploit confusion around the government’s stimulus payment program to defraud people into giving up banking and personal information. Current stimulus payment scams include emails or texts saying, “click a link to get your early stimulus check.” Please be advised that you will not have to click any links to get your stimulus check.
If you do not have a direct deposit set up with the IRS, do not provide your banking credentials to anyone. The IRS has stated they will set up a secure portal this month for persons to input direct deposit information. Visit the IRS website, irs.gov, for more information. Do not allow anyone else to input your information on your behalf into the portal.
If you are getting calls, emails, or texts from a government agency regarding these stimulus checks, it is a scam. Keep in mind the federal government will never try to solicit information from you by call, text, or email.
IRS Paper Check Scams
With the stimulus checks, you will either receive a direct deposit or paper check based on your prior year’s tax return information. If you do not have direct deposit, you will get a paper check.
If you receive a ‘stimulus check’ for an odd amount (especially one with cents), or a check that requires you to verify the check online or by calling a number, it’s a fraud!
Watch Out For COVID-19 Email & Website Scams
Computer scams are especially nasty because just one click can install malware to get sensitive data from your computer. With fears about the Coronavirus running rampant and misinformation all over the internet, it’s a great time to be a scammer. Be suspicious of any Coronavirus or COVID-19 emails you receive as well as the websites you visit. Here are things you might see … do not take the bait.
- Phishing emails from the “World Health Organization” and “Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.” Scammers are sending out emails that appear to be from the WHO and CDC but are attempting to get you to share personal information. For more information on phishing emails, visit the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website.
- Fake funding scams. Criminals invent a “research team” supposedly on the verge of discovering a cure for COVID-19 – they just need your donation. Of course, all funds donated to this alleged team will go directly into the scammers’ pockets. Only donate to verified causes.
- Fake charities. Everyone wants to help those stricken by the virus but be sure to check out the authenticity of a charity before making your donation. If you’d like more information on charity scams, check out the FTC’s article “How to Donate Wisely and Avoid Charity Scams.”
- Malicious websites. Scammers have set up websites full of information on COVID-19 to gain access to your device. Don’t download any links or open attachments from non-reputable sources. For the latest news, updates, and information, visit coronavirus.gov.
- The fake cure scam. Scammers are peddling bogus cures and vaccines. If you’re offered a drug or vaccine to fight Coronavirus – especially by a company you’ve never heard of – you’re looking at a scam. The FTC website currently states, “The FDA says there are no approved vaccines, drugs, or investigational products currently available to treat or prevent the virus.” To read more about what the FTC is doing to respond to the Coronavirus scams, visit the website.
To summarize, follow these four rules to avoid being scammed online:
- Avoid clicking on links in unsolicited emails and be wary of email attachments.
- Do not reveal personal or financial information in emails, and do not respond to email solicitations for this information.
- Use trusted sources – such as legitimate, government websites for up-to-date, fact-based information about the Coronavirus.
- Verify the charity authenticity by checking with the Federal Trade Commission before making donations.
Helping people and supporting their financial safety is very important to us at Directions. For more up-to-the-minute information about fraud, scams and other pressing financial issues, please visit Directions Credit Union.