Fraud Safety and Prevention

Fraud Safety and Prevention

Protect your finances, identity and peace of mind

Technology has revolutionized the way we conduct financial transactions and share personal information, which means the risk of falling victim to fraudulent activities has never been higher. Whether you’re a seasoned online shopper, a small business owner, or simply someone who values their financial security, this page is designed to keep you informed on the latest fraud scams and cybersecurity alerts, and offer practical tips to stay one step ahead of fraudsters.

Common Types of Fraud

Learn about the different types of fraud and cybercrimes, along with steps you can take to avoid them.

Credit and Debit Card Fraud

Credit card fraud and debit card fraud are financial crimes that involve unauthorized or fraudulent use of credit or debit cards to make purchases, withdraw cash, or engage in other financial transactions. Both credit and debit card fraud can lead to financial losses and identity theft.

Here are steps you can take to reduce your risk of card fraud:

  • Protect Your Card Information. Keep your cards in a secure location and never share your card numbers, PINs, or CVVs with anyone. Try to memorize your PIN instead of writing it down.
  • Regularly Check Your Statements. Review your credit card and bank statements regularly, looking for any unauthorized or suspicious transactions. If you find a discrepancy, report them to your card issuer or financial institution immediately.
  • Be Cautious with Online Transactions. Only make online purchases from reputable and secure websites. Ensure the website’s URL starts with “https” and displays a padlock symbol, indicating a secure connection. Do not save card information on websites or apps unless it’s absolutely necessary.
  • Use Card Controls and Alerts. Card Controls allows you to quickly lock your debit or credit card inside the COPFCU mobile app anytime you suspect it to be lost or stolen. Locking your card will prevent any additional transactions from being made. Once the card is locked, contact our Lost/Stolen hotline to deactivate the card.
    Receive a text notification anytime your debit or credit card is used by signing up for Instant Transaction Alerts. Alerts can be customized by dollar amount and type, and ensure that your cards are not being used without your knowledge.

By following these steps, you can reduce the risk of credit card and debit card fraud and better protect your financial well-being.

Check Fraud

Check cashing fraud is a type of financial scam or criminal activity that involves manipulating or exploiting the check cashing process to obtain unauthorized funds. This typically occurs when an individual attempts to cash a fraudulent or altered check, deceive a financial institution, or engage in illegal activities related to check cashing.

Check cashing fraud can take various forms, including:

  • Counterfeit Checks: Criminals create fake checks that appear genuine, often using high-quality printing equipment to mimic legitimate financial instruments.
  • Altered Checks: Fraudsters modify legitimate checks by changing details such as the payee’s name, the check amount, or the date to gain more money than originally intended.
  • Identity Theft: Perpetrators may use stolen or forged identification to impersonate the payee, making it seem as though the check is being cashed by the rightful recipient.

Here are steps you can take to reduce your risk of check cashing fraud:

  • Secure Your Checks. Store your checks in a secure location to prevent theft. Use checks with security features like watermarks, holograms, or special ink.
  • Use Secure Mail Service. When sending checks in the mail, take them directly to the post office or use an in-branch drop box instead of sending them from your mailbox at home.
  • Shred Old Checks. Safely dispose of old or canceled checks by shredding them to prevent unauthorized individuals from retrieving your account information.
  • Report Suspected Fraud. If you suspect check cashing fraud, report it to your credit union or bank immediately.

Check cashing fraud can result in significant financial losses for individuals who unknowingly participate in the scheme. By taking these steps, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to check cashing fraud and minimize potential financial losses.

Internet Security / Phishing

Phishing is a type of cyberattack or online scam that involves fraudulent attempts to trick individuals into disclosing sensitive information, such as login credentials, credit card numbers, or personal information. These attacks are typically carried out by posing as a trustworthy entity, often using emails, websites, or messages that appear legitimate. The ultimate goal of phishing is to steal information or carry out other malicious activities, such as spreading malware.

Here are the key characteristics of phishing:

  • Impersonation: Phishers impersonate legitimate organizations, such as banks, government agencies, or well-known companies, to gain the trust of their targets.
  • Deceptive Communication: Phishers use emails, text messages, or other forms of communication to create a sense of urgency or concern, prompting the recipient to take immediate action.
  • Spoofed Websites: Phishing emails often contain links to fake websites that closely resemble legitimate sites, where victims are encouraged to enter their sensitive information.
  • Social Engineering: Phishers employ psychological manipulation to exploit human behavior. They may use scare tactics, urgency, or appeals to curiosity to entice victims to click on links or provide information.
  • Malware Distribution: Some phishing attempts may also deliver malware onto the victim’s device, allowing the attacker to gain access to the system or steal information.

Here are steps you can take to protect yourself against phishing attacks:

  • Stay Informed. Keep up-to-date with the latest phishing trends and tactics. Awareness is the first line of defense. Share information about phishing scams with friends and family to help protect them as well.
  • Check for Red Flags. Be cautious of emails or messages from unknown senders. Look for signs of phishing, such as generic greetings or spelling and grammar errors.
  • Avoid Clicking Suspicious Links. Hover over links in emails to see where they lead before clicking. Be cautious of shortened URLs. Don’t click on links in unsolicited emails or messages, especially if they request sensitive information.
  • Double-Check Website Authenticity. When directed to a website, ensure the URL is legitimate and secure. Look for “https://” and a padlock symbol in the address bar. You can also manually type the web address rather than clicking on links in emails or messages.
  • Beware of Urgency and Pressure. Be skeptical of emails or messages that create a sense of urgency, pressure you to act quickly, or threaten consequences for not complying.
  • Keep Software and Antivirus Up to Date. Regularly update your operating system, web browser, and antivirus software to patch security vulnerabilities.
  • Be Cautious with Personal Information. Think twice about what you share on social media and other online platforms. Phishers may use personal information that’s available online to craft convincing scams.

By following these steps and remaining vigilant, you can reduce your risk of falling victim to phishing attacks and protect your personal information and online security.

Phone Security / Vishing

Vishing is a type of cyberattack or scam that relies on voice communication to deceive individuals into revealing sensitive information or taking certain actions. The term “vishing” is a combination of “voice” and “phishing” (which stands for “voice phishing”). In vishing attacks, fraudsters often impersonate trusted entities, such as banks, government agencies, or companies, using phone calls or voicemail messages to manipulate victims.

Key characteristics of vishing attacks include:

  • Caller Impersonation: Vishing attackers pose as legitimate organizations, often using techniques like Caller ID spoofing to make it appear as though the call is coming from a reputable source.
  • Social Engineering: Attackers use persuasive and deceptive tactics to manipulate the victim into divulging personal information, such as account numbers, PINs, or other sensitive data. They may create a sense of urgency or fear to pressure the victim into compliance.
  • Pretexting: Vishing often involves a pretext, where the attacker creates a plausible scenario or backstory to make the call seem legitimate. For example, the caller may claim to be from a bank’s fraud department investigating suspicious activity.
  • Call-Back Numbers: Vishing attackers might provide a callback number for the victim, which, unbeknownst to the victim, connects to the scammer or an accomplice.

Here are steps you can take to guard yourself against vishing attacks:

  • Verify Caller Identity. Always verify the identity of the caller and their organization before sharing any personal or financial information. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from a legitimate organization, hang up and independently look up the official contact information for that organization to call them back. Do not use the number provided by the caller.
  • Do Not Share Sensitive Information. Refrain from sharing personal, financial, or sensitive information over the phone, especially if the call is unsolicited or unexpected. As a reminder, COPFCU will never call, text or email you asking for personal or account information.
  • Beware of Urgency and Pressure. Be skeptical of callers who create a sense of urgency, pressure you to make quick decisions, or threaten consequences if you don’t comply.
  • Be Cautious with Automated Calls. Automated voice messages can also be used for vishing. Be cautious with unsolicited automated calls and do not follow their instructions unless you are sure of their legitimacy.
  • Report Suspicious Calls. Report vishing attempts to your local law enforcement, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), or other relevant authorities. Providing details of the call can help in tracking and preventing future scams.
  • Stay Educated and Informed. Stay informed about current vishing tactics and scams to recognize new threats. Share information about vishing scams with family members, friends, and colleagues to raise awareness and help protect others.

Vishing attempts can be convincing, but by following these precautions and staying vigilant, you can reduce the risk of falling victim to these scams. Always prioritize your personal and financial security when receiving unexpected or unsolicited calls.

Common Fraud Scams

Fraud scams come in many different forms. Learn how you can spot them so you can better protect yourself against fraud.

Gift Card Scams

A gift card scam typically involves a scammer convincing a victim to purchase gift cards and then share the card information, including the PIN, with them. Once the scammer has this information, they quickly use the gift cards or sell them online, leaving the victim out of money.

How Do Gift Card Scams Work?
Here are some common scenarios:

  • Impersonation: Scammers pretend to be someone you trust, such as a family member, friend, or even a government official. They create a sense of urgency by claiming there’s an emergency, and the quickest way to resolve it is by purchasing gift cards.
  • Phishing Emails or Calls: You receive an email or a phone call that appears to be from a legitimate source, such as a well-known company or a government agency. The message might claim you owe money or need to pay a fee, directing you to buy gift cards as payment.
  • Online Scams: You might encounter a fake job offer, a lottery win, or an online purchase that requires payment via gift cards. The scammer requests gift card details as a part of the transaction.

Warning Signs of a Gift Card Scam

  • Unusual Payment Requests. Legitimate companies and government agencies will never ask you to pay with gift cards.
  • Urgency or Pressure. Scammers often pressure you to act quickly to avoid a supposed crisis.
  • Secretive Demands. They may ask you to keep the transaction secret or not tell anyone else about it.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Stay Skeptical. If someone asks for payment via gift cards, it’s a red flag. Verify the identity of anyone requesting money, especially if it’s unexpected.
  • Do Not Share Gift Card Information. Treat gift card details like cash. Once given away, the money is almost impossible to recover.
  • Verify the Source. If you receive a suspicious call, email, or text, contact the organization directly using a known, official phone number or website.
  • Report Suspicious Activity. If you think you’ve been targeted by a scam, contact the credit union immediately and report it to your local authorities.

Understanding these tactics can help you avoid falling victim to gift card scams. Always be cautious and think twice before sharing gift card information.

Money Mules

A money mule scam involves criminals using a person to transfer stolen or illegal money on their behalf. The individual, known as a “money mule,” is often unaware that their actions are aiding criminal enterprises. These scams can have serious legal and financial repercussions for the victims.

How Do Money Mule Scams Work?
Here are some common scenarios:

  • Job Offer Scam: You receive a job offer that involves receiving and transferring funds. The job might be advertised as a “payment processing” position, where you are asked to accept money into your bank account and then transfer it elsewhere.
  • Romance Scams: Scammers develop a romantic relationship with the victim online, eventually asking them to transfer money for various reasons, such as covering travel expenses or helping out with an emergency.
  • Online Marketplace Scams: You might be asked to receive payments from buyers and then forward the money to another account. The scammer convinces you that this process is necessary to complete a sale.

Warning Signs of a Money Mule Scam

  • Too Good to Be True. Offers that promise easy money for minimal work are often scams.
  • Unusual Requests. Requests to use your bank account for receiving and forwarding money, especially from someone you haven’t met in person.
  • Lack of Information. Vague job descriptions or reluctance to provide detailed information about the supposed company or transaction.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Verify Job Offers. Research any company offering a job that involves handling money. Look for reviews and warnings online.
  • Be Skeptical of Online Relationships. Be cautious if an online acquaintance or romantic partner asks for financial favors.
  • Avoid Quick Money Schemes. Legitimate businesses will not ask you to transfer money on their behalf.

Understanding these tactics can help you avoid becoming a money mule. Always be cautious and verify any requests involving your bank account.

Romance Scams

A romance scam involves a scammer creating a fake profile on dating sites or social media platforms to form a romantic relationship with an unsuspecting victim. The scammer’s goal is to gain the victim’s trust and eventually steal their money or personal information.

How Do Romance Scams Work?
Here’s how a romance scam typically unfolds:

  • Creation of a Fake Profile: Scammers create attractive and believable profiles, often using stolen photos and fictitious information to lure victims.
  • Intense Declarations of Love: Scammers quickly profess deep feelings and a desire for a serious relationship, creating a sense of emotional urgency.
  • Requests for Money: Once trust is established, the scammer concocts a story requiring financial assistance, such as a medical emergency, travel expenses, or investment opportunities.
  • Isolation Tactics: Scammers may try to isolate the victim from friends and family, discouraging them from seeking advice or sharing their new relationship.
  • Financial Exploitation: Once the victim sends money, the scammer may continue inventing excuses to request more funds. This cycle can continue until the victim realizes they are being scammed or runs out of money.

Warning Signs of a Romance Scam

  • Too Good to Be True. The relationship progresses unusually quickly with declarations of love and devotion.
  • Requests for Money. Any request for money, especially for emergencies or investments, is a red flag.
  • Inconsistent Stories. Details about their life or circumstances change or don’t add up.
  • Avoid In-Person Meetings. The scammer always has an excuse for not being able to meet in person or have a video call.

How to Protect Yourself

  • Verify Identities. Do a reverse image search of their profile pictures and verify any information they provide.
  • Be Cautious with Personal Information. Avoid sharing sensitive information, such as your home address or financial details, with someone you haven’t met in person.
  • Discuss with Family and Friends. Share your experiences with trusted friends or family members for an outside perspective.
  • Look for Red Flags. Be wary of anyone who asks for money, avoids meeting in person, or tries to isolate you.

Romance scams are not only financially damaging but can also have a profound emotional impact on victims. Understanding these tactics can help you avoid falling victim. Always be cautious and take your time in online relationships.

Important Legal Disclaimer