Being a victim of fraud can be devastating. It’s not just the loss of someone’s hard-earned money that makes it so upsetting; it’s also the breach of one’s privacy and personal information. Here are some common scam tactics and ways to protect yourself and your money.
Skimming devices. These typically appear on gas pumps or ATMs and capture information from the magnetic strip on credit and debit cards. One way to protect your information is to check for obvious signs of tampering like an open or broken box, different color material, or graphics that aren’t aligned correctly. Avoid anything that seems questionable. Another tactic is to go inside a building to pay or withdraw money. Criminals need privacy to install skimmers and are less likely to do so if they can be easily seen.
Fake checks. Criminals will attempt to cheat you out of thousands of dollars by writing you a check for more than is due or claiming you’ve won prize money. You’re then asked to deposit the check and return part of the money. The trick? This is a bad check, and you’re now liable for all the money withdrawn from your account. As a rule of thumb, don’t accept checks or money orders as forms of payment from people you don’t know. Stick to cash or payment services like PayPal or Venmo.
Romance scams. In this scam, criminals use a dating service, online ad, or social media to establish a relationship as quickly as possible. After the criminal gains the victim’s trust, they could propose marriage, make plans to meet in person (which rarely happens), and eventually ask for money. To avoid this scam, be wary of who you communicate with online, especially those you haven’t met in person. Never give out your account information to anyone online or over the phone, no matter how legitimate it may seem.
Synthetic identity theft. This type of fraud is accomplished by combining real and fake information to create a fictitious identity. Typically, the criminal will use a social security number (SSN) and pair it with a fake name then use this to obtain credit, open deposit accounts, and obtain driver’s licenses and passports. To protect your identity, don’t carry your social security card unless you really need it. Keep any paperwork that contains your SSN in a safe place and shred any unnecessary documents that contain the number.
Presented by Member One Federal Credit Union