Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union is committed to helping you protect your personal information. The more you know, the better you’ll be able to guard against identity theft, internet fraud and more. Fortunately, there are many preventative measures you can take to considerably reduce the chance of fraud.
Protect yourself from identity theft and learn what to do if your identity is stolen.
Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge to commit fraud or other crimes. In many cases, the victim is unaware of the activity until months after the incident. The effect of identity theft can be costly to you in terms of time and money.
Identity Theft can happen in various ways:
- After someone steals your wallet, purse or mail.
- By stealing personnel records from employers.
- By pretending to be financial institutions or businesses and sending spam email (called phishing) or pop-up messages in an attempt to get you to reveal your personal information.
- Identity thieves will also rummage through the trash at your home or workplace looking for bills or other documents with your personal information on it.
To protect your identity, you should:
- Review your credit reports. You can do this for free annually! Visit AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228, which were established to handle consumer requests by the consumer reporting companies Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
- Place a fraud alert on your credit bureau files if you feel information has been exposed.
- Adopt daily practices like shredding your personal & financial documents, staying aware of the latest scams, protecting your home computer with anti-spyware, virus detection software and firewalls. Keep these programs up to date.
- Secure your mail by utilizing a Postal Service Mail Box or by placing your outgoing mail into locked mailbox.
- Sign up for estatement services – not only does it protect your monthly statement, it also cuts down on paper and postage expense!
- Safeguard your Social Security Number – don’t leave your Social Security Card in your wallet and ask why when a person requests your SSN for business purposes.
- Don't leave a paper trail. Never leave ATM, credit card or gas station receipts behind.
- Know with whom you are speaking with before providing any confidential information. If you are not sure about the legitimacy of the caller, hang up and call back by utilizing a telephone number familiar to you.
- Never click on links sent to you by an unsolicited email.
- Be alert for warning signs of possible Identity Theft, such as:
- Regular bills that do not arrive as expected.
- Denials of credit for no apparent reason.
- Account Statements or credit cards in the mail that you were not expecting.
- Calls or letters concerning purchases you did not make.
If you think your identity has been compromised:
- If your bank accounts have been compromised, immediately notify those Financial Institution(s). Make a note for your file of what Institution was contacted, who you talked to and the date/time your call was made.
- Place a verbal password on your accounts to prevent thieves from calling in and finding out more about your financial transactions.
- Close or transfer those accounts that have been compromised or tampered with to a new account number.
- Request that any account that was fraudulently opened in your name be closed immediately.
- Place a Fraud Alert on your Credit Report. You can do this by contacting the Credit Bureaus:
- Request a copy of your Credit Reports and review them carefully. Question any unknown activity and report disputes in writing.
- File a police report and maintain a copy in your file for future reference.
- File a report with the Federal Trade Commission. You can do this online via ftc.gov
Keep an eye out for future attempts. Identity Thieves often will lay low for months and then strike again, hoping to catch you off guard.
Learn how to defend against internet fraud, fraudulent e-mails, viruses and spyware.
Online scams and viruses are constantly evolving and they threaten the security of computers worldwide. As criminals evolve their tactics, you need to keep your PC's security software (virus detection, security patches, etc.) up-to-date. The more you know about how to protect your computer and yourself, the less likely you are to be negatively impacted.
- Be suspicious of any email with urgent requests for personal financial information.
- If you don’t know the sender, do not use the links in the email.
- Avoid completing forms in email messages that ask for personal financial information.
- Be sure to use a secure web site when submitting credit card or other sensitive information via the web browser.
- If you are not sure of the website's legitimacy, or if the offer sounds too good to be true, don't provide your personal or financial information. Verify the website by checking with a consumer information site such as the Better Business Bureau or Ripoff Report.
- Regularly check bank, credit and debit card statements to ensure all transactions are legitimate.
- Use security software (virus detection, firewalls, etc.) that update automatically.
- Keep your passwords for online activity in a secure place; do not leave them in plain sight or share them.
- Make sure your browser is up-to-date and security patches have been installed.
- If your home PC is utilized by multiple family members, consider purchasing a second PC or a laptop that will only be utilized for your online banking and storing of your financial information (ex: Quicken or TurboTax). A PC or a laptop utilized by multiple users presents the opportunity for malware being unknowingly downloaded on to it.
- If you think that your PC has been compromised, stop using it immediately, disconnect the internet access and have it checked for malware. If you believe that your online banking has been compromised due to malware, notify your financial institutions immediately.
Phishing (pronounced "fishing") is a scam to steal valuable information such as credit card and Social Security numbers, user IDs, and passwords. In phishing, also known as "brand spoofing," an official-looking email is sent to potential victims pretending to be from their ISP, credit union, bank, or retail establishment. Emails can be sent to people on selected lists or on any list, and the scammers expect some percentage of recipients will actually have an account with the real organization.
Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union will never send an email to verify your account information. If you receive an email claiming to be from the Credit Union that requests that you provide personal information in an unsecure email or via a link to a website, please contact the Credit Union immediately.
The Better Business Bureau and Ripoff Report are not affiliated with the PSFCU.
Guidelines to avoid check scams and how to protect your accounts.
Don’t get scammed out of your hard earned money! There are many variations of the counterfeit check scam. Modern computer technology allows crooks to easily create realistic looking personal checks, business checks, Cashier's Checks or Money Orders. It could start with someone giving you an “advance” on a sweepstakes you’ve supposedly won, a great work from home offer or asking you to help a family in a foreign country by transferring funds to your account for safekeeping. Whatever the pitch, don’t get caught with your guard down.
Here are some tips that will help you avoid becoming the victim of a counterfeit check scam:
- Shred any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. Legitimate sweepstakes offer consumers a chance to win a prize or money with no purchase or entry fee required.
- Know who you’re dealing with, and never wire money or send a check to strangers. If you must send a check, consider utilizing a Cashier's Check or Money Order instead of your own personal check to keep your personal information safe.
- Watch out for any lottery, secret shopper or business offer that involves you receiving a check and requires you to forward money by MoneyGram or Western Union.
- If you’re selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting the offer or how convincing the story. Ask the buyer to write the check for the exact amount. If the buyer refuses to send the exact amount, don’t send the merchandise or a refund.
- Resist pressure to act immediately. Any legitimate offer should still be good after the check clears.
- If you're concerned about the validity of a check, either contact the Financial Institution by telephone (via the number you looked up) or take the check to the local branch office of that Institution.
- Watch out for any job opportunity that asks you to be a money transfer agent. Legitimate businesses should not ask you to deposit their checks into your personal account, then instruct you to forward the funds by wire or send by MoneyGram/Western Union to other individuals or to accounts in other countries.
- It’s best not to rely on money from any type of check unless you know and trust the person you’re dealing with or, better yet until your financial institution confirms that the check has cleared. Forgeries can take weeks to be returned through the banking system, and until you have confirmation that the funds from a check have cleared your account, you are responsible for any funds you withdraw against that check, whether or not the financial institution places a hold on them.
- Resist the urge to enter foreign lotteries. It is illegal to play foreign lotteries in the United States. If you are notified that you are a winner of a lottery that you didn’t enter, chances are you’re being scammed.
- Monitor your checking account activity carefully. A counterfeiter only needs to obtain the MICR line (those funny looking numbers on the bottom of your check) to create fake checks that are presented against your account.
Immediately report if you think you’re a victim of a check fraud scheme or if you notice something suspicious. Contact your Financial Institution as well as the local police department, or your local FBI Field Office.
Tips to recognize a phone scam.
Many people trust phone calls, especially if the person on the other side of the line knows even a small piece of information. Like email, phishing attempts can yield surprising results. Other fraud takes the form of involuntary commitment and contract approval.
Here are a few tips to recognize a phone scam:
- Never give out your credit card number on the phone unless you initiated the call to a reliable company that you know.
- Always ask for written information before you agree to anything.
- If you suspect that “something’s not right”, get off the phone right away.
- Don’t provide information that the company calling should already know.
- Avoid high-pressure sells.
Land Line Telephone Vishing, Mobile Phone Vishing & VoIP (Internet Phones) Vishing
Vishing, (Voice Phishing) also called "VoIP phishing for Internet phones," is the voice counterpart to phishing. Instead of being directed by e-mail to a Web site, an e-mail message asks the user to make a telephone call. The call triggers a voice response system that asks for the user's card number or other personal or financial information. The initial bait can also be a telephone call with a recording that instructs the user to phone an 800 number or another area code within or outside of the United States.
In either case, because people are used to entering card numbers over the phone, this technique can be effective. Voice over IP (VoIP) is used for vishing because caller IDs can be spoofed and the entire operation can be brought up and taken down in a short time, compared to a land line telephone.
Text Message Smishing
Smishing (SMS Phishing) is the mobile phone counterpart to phishing. Instead of being directed by e-mail to a Web site, a text message is sent to the user's cell phone or other mobile device with some ploy to click on a link. The link causes a Trojan to be installed in the cell phone or other mobile device.
Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union will never call you to verify your account information. Be sure to use only the phone numbers that you know to be true for the Credit Union when responding to phone messages. If you have responded to a phone scam and provided any confidential account information, please notify Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union via Contact Us link immediately.
Steps to protect yourself from loan fraud scams and predatory lending practices.
Loan fraud comes in various disguises - advance fee loans, easy debt elimination scams, instant credit repair schemes and mortgage refinance fraud - to name a few. In most cases, the person only wants to steal your money - which will cause you further financial stress. Sometimes, the scammer will use the personal and financial information that you freely provided to them to commit Identity Theft by applying for loans in your name.
Following these guidelines will help you stay out of the hands of loan scams:
- Never provide your personal or financial information for any loan application unless you know that the company is legitimate. Check the company's reputation first with consumer sites, the state licensing and regulatory agency that the business is based in and/or with the Better Business Bureau.
- Be wary of unsolicited calls, emails or letters offering you a loan. If the credit offer sounds too good to be true, it's probably a scam.
- Never provide an advance payment to obtain a loan. Legitimate companies never require any upfront payments for processing loans. Often, the scammer will take off with your money and your loan never materializes.
- Be wary of debt elimination scams. These scams often involve too good to be true claims of fixing any credit problem, erasing bankruptcy filings or raising your credit score overnight. Often these tactics are not legal and are practiced by entities that are not a legitimate, registered business. Watch out for any forms that you are required to sign that grant a special power of attorney that authorizes the person to engage in transactions regarding the title of your home on your behalf. In addition, the potential risk of you becoming an Identity Theft victim is high because you may have provided all of your personal information to a fake business.
- Be careful when asked to send money through a payment processor or asked to send money in the name of an individual (instead of the business).
- Be careful when dealing with a third party loan broker. These entities offer to do all of the loan application work for you based on a commission. Make sure that you know that the information about you being supplied to prospective creditors is honest and accurate, and that you are made fully aware of the terms and conditions of the loan being offered before you sign.
- Do not take a loan from a company that provides a guarantee that an application will be approved. Real companies will never guarantee the success of an application before they have performed a credit check.
- Never be pressured to wire funds. You can easily wire the funds once you have verified the company.
If you have been victimized by a loan scam, it is essential that you report it. If you decline to report the fraud due to embarrassment, you only leave the door open for the fraudsters to strike another victim. File a complaint with your local FBI Field Office and/or the Federal Trade Commission.
Information on how to prevent your card from being compromised.
Credit and debit card fraud costs cardholders and issuers millions of dollars each year. While theft is the most obvious form of fraud, it can occur in other ways. For example, someone may use your card number without your knowledge.
Here are some tips to help protect yourself from credit and debit card fraud:
- Sign your cards as soon as they arrive.
- Keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates, and the phone number and address of each company in a secure place.
- Keep an eye on your card during the transaction, and get it back as quickly as possible.
- Void incorrect receipts.
- Save receipts to compare with billing statements.
- Open bills promptly and reconcile accounts monthly, just as you would your checking account.
- Report any questionable charges promptly and in writing.
- Notify card companies in advance of a change in address.
- Lend your card(s) to anyone.
- Leave cards or receipts lying around.
- Sign a blank receipt. When you sign a receipt, draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
- Write your account number on a postcard or the outside of an envelope.
Give out your account number over the phone unless you're making the call to a company you know is reputable. If you have questions about a company, check it out with your local consumer protection office or the Better Business Bureau.
Examples of financial exploitation and how to avoid becoming a victim.
Financial Exploitation is any action which involves the misuse of an individual’s funds or property. Many people fall victim to financial exploitation by people that they know – paid caregivers, neighbors and even relatives. Sadly, the majority of victims are exploited by people they know than by con artists who are strangers. The results can be emotionally and financially devastating. Victims are usually older adults and are often too ashamed or embarrassed to report what was happened to them. The signs of Financial Exploitation may be subtle or blatantly obvious.
Examples of Financial Exploitation include:
- Coercing or threatening someone into giving away money.
- Charging excessive fees for caregiver services or rent.
- Forging signatures on checks, withdrawals slips or other financial documents.
- Tricking someone with a memory impairment, such as Alzheimer’s disease, into giving away money.
- The addition of a new joint owner to a well-established account, followed by frequent cash withdrawals.
- Credit Card and/or bank statements being sent to someone other the older adult who is the actual account holder.
- The committing of person to person, mail, or telephone fraud scams.
- An older adult fails to understand, or reasonable explain, recently completed financial transactions
Ways you can avoid problems:
- Utilize direct deposit for your checks.
- Review your financial statements carefully and promptly. Look for unauthorized withdrawals.
- Document financial arrangements – put all financial matters in writing and be specific. This protects you and reduces the chances of future misunderstandings. Keep complete records of your financial transactions.
- Don’t leave money, valuables, checkbooks or Debit/Credit Cards in plain view of others.
- Have an attorney, financial consultant or employee of a Financial Institution review account activity to detect changes in financial activity that may signal a problem.
- Don’t sign anything that you do not understand.
- Be cautious of opening joint accounts – understand that both parties are equal owners of the account and both will have equal access to the money on deposit.
- Don’t provide account information to strangers.
- Understand any Power of Attorney agreement before signing. Make sure that you know the person to whom you are giving this authority.
- Don’t allow others to use your ATM Card, Debit/ Credit Card. If you don’t use it, have the card canceled.
- Ask for help when you are unsure. Some financial matters can be confusing to you. Ask for help from a Financial Institution representative, a trusted family member, social worker or other professional.
What to do if you think someone is being financially exploited:
- Notify your Financial Institution. Speak to a representative privately (i.e. not in the presence of the person that you suspect is exploiting someone) about the problem.
Contact Your State’s Adult Protective Services or Department of Human Resources and file a complaint about the suspected activity.
Tips for protecting your financial data when using online banking.
Online banking is a convenient way to access or transact against your account. It is your responsibility to take the appropriate precautions to protect your own data, including information that can be used to access or transact against your account. We’ve listed some tips below:
Note: If you have enrolled in Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union Online Banking, please also refer to the Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union Online Banking Agreement for more specific information about your responsibilities for using the service and the protections provided under Regulation E.
- For any computer you use for online banking, shopping or similar activities:
- Maintain active, up-to-date antivirus, anti-spyware and firewall protection.
- Install operating system and software updates (i.e. “patches”, “service packs”) as soon as possible.
- Avoid these types of transactions at wireless hotspots or internet cafés.
- Use strong passwords that contain:
- alpha/number characters and symbols
- upper and lower case characters
- minimum of 8 characters but longer is recommended
- no real words, names or telephone numbers
- Change your passwords regularly.
- Never share your password or login information with anyone.
- Never bank or shop online using computers at kiosks, cafes, unsecured computers or unsecured wireless networks.
- When exiting an online banking session, always use the Log Out function and close the browser window.
Avoiding Phishing, Spyware, Malware
- Never open email from unknown sources.
- Never respond to a suspicious email or click on any attachments or hyperlinks.
- Be cautious of emails from financial institutions asking for personal or account information. Polish & Slavic Federal Credit Union does not send emails asking for personal or account information.
- Install a firewall, especially if you have a broadband Internet connection such as DSL or cable modem.
- For business members using online banking services – make sure the computers your employees use for work have the most up-to-date anti-virus/anti-spyware protection.
- For business members using online banking services – it is recommended you educate employees about current scams and loss-prevention steps, and perform a periodic evaluation of computer usage and controls.
For more information about Online Banking Security, refer to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) website:
- Computers & the Internet: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/online-security
OnGuard Online (Provides practical tips from the federal government and the technology industry to help you be on guard against Internet fraud, secure your computer, and protect your personal information): http://onguardonline.gov/