If you receive a call or notice from a debt collector, be very cautious because it could be a scam. The Federal Trade Commission has received several reports of impostors who pretend to be lawyers or small business owners who threaten consumers with lawsuits if they don’t pay their debt. If you receive a call like this, it is important to understand your rights and to do some research before giving away your payment information.
Scammers continue to attempt to trick consumers into giving away their personal information including their Social Security number. The Federal Trade Commission has received several reports about phone calls from scammers claiming to be from the Social Security Administration. They have many different tactics to convince you to give them your personal information such as claiming there was a computer issue or even creating a fake website that mimics the Social Security Administration’s website. Be very selective when it comes to who you give your (and your children’s) Social Security number to.
Recently it was announced that the central processing unit (CPU) in almost every computer released since 1995 has security vulnerabilities. The vulnerabilities, called Meltdown and Spectre, may allow access by unauthorized users to private information processed on the computer. The glitch affects laptops, tablets, and phones as well.
The best way to guard your information against a hack is to upgrade your operating system (Windows, Linux, Android, macOS, iOS, Chromebooks, Etc.) Learn more detailed information on the vulnerability, and how to protect your specific machine.
Don’t let the discovery of a great online bargain cloud your judgment. Cybercriminals are renowned for duplicating the look and feel of popular websites. If you are visiting a site you found through an online search — or by a link from an unfamiliar source — be vigilant. Check the domain name to make sure it’s not a knockoff of a familiar site — Deal.Amazon.com for instance, rather than the familiar Amazon.com. Bad grammar and spelling errors are another tipoff. And finally, if the site is not encrypted — you should see HTTPS in front of the site’s web address — do not even consider making a purchase or providing personal information.
Did you know your child could be at risk for identity theft? Identity thieves can use your child’s Social Security Number to open a bank account, apply for a loan or government benefits, or even rent an apartment.
The Federal Trade Commission has compiled resources for parents – including how to spot the warning signs that your child’s identity may have been stolen, to limit the risk, and repair the damage.
It starts by protecting your child’s identity from the beginning – when possible, avoid giving your child’s Social Security Number. Ask why it’s necessary, and if you can use a different identifier such as a phone number.
What You Can Do: Plus the basics on how to protect your personal information and your money
While there are many forms of financial scams – Check out these 10 scams targeting bank customers – the red flags to look out for are often similar. And so are the things you can do to help protect yourself and your money. Here are some basic precautions to consider, especially when engaging in financial transactions with strangers through email, over the phone or on the internet.
- Avoid offers that seem “too good to be true.” As Eberley noted: “If someone promises ‘opportunities’ that are free or with surprisingly low costs or high returns, it is probably a scam. Be especially suspicious if someone pressures you into making a quick decision or to keep a transaction a secret.”
- No matter how legitimate an offer or request may look or sound, don’t give your personal information, such as bank account information, credit and debit card numbers, Social Security numbers and passwords, to anyone unless you initiate the contact and know the other party is reputable.
- Remember that financial institutions will not send you an email or call to ask you to put account numbers, passwords or other sensitive information in your response because they already have this information. To verify the authenticity of an email, independently contact the supposed source by using an email address or telephone number that you know is valid.
- Be cautious of unsolicited emails or text messages asking you to open an attachment or click on a link. This is a common way for cybercriminals to distribute malicious software, such as ransomware. Be especially cautious of emails that have typos or other obvious mistakes.
- Use reputable anti-virus software that periodically runs on your computer to search for and remove malicious software. Be careful if anyone (even a friend) gives you a thumb drive because it could have undetected malware, such as ransomware, on it. If you still want to use a thumb drive from someone else, use the anti-virus software on your computer to scan the files before opening them.
- Don’t cash or deposit any checks, cashier’s checks or money orders from strangers who ask you to wire any of that money back to them or an associate. If the check or money order proves to be a fake, the money you wired out of your account will be difficult to recover.
- Be wary of unsolicited offers “guaranteeing” to rescue your home from foreclosure. If you need assistance, contact your loan servicer (the company that collects the monthly payment for your mortgage) to find out if you may qualify for any programs to prevent foreclosure or to modify your loan without having to pay a fee. Also consider consulting with a trained professional at a reputable counseling agency that provides free or low-cost help. Go to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development website for a referral to a nearby housing counseling agency approved by HUD or call 1-800-569-4287.
- Monitor credit card bills and bank statements for unauthorized purchases, withdrawals or anything else suspicious, and report them to your bank right away.
- Periodically review your credit reports for signs of identity theft, such as someone obtaining a credit card or a loan in your name. By law, you are entitled to receive at least one free credit report every 12 months from each of the nation’s three main credit bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Start at AnnualCreditReport.com or call 1-877-322-8228. If you spot a potential problem, call the fraud department at the credit bureau that produced that credit report. If the account turns out to be fraudulent, ask for a “fraud alert” to be placed in your file at all three of the major credit bureaus. The alert tells lenders and other users of credit reports that you have been a victim of fraud and that they should verify any new accounts or changes to accounts in your name.
- Contact the FDIC’s Consumer Response Center (CRC) if you have questions about possible scams or you are the victim of a scam experiencing difficulty resolving the issue with a financial institution. The CRC answers inquiries about consumer protection laws and regulations and conducts thorough investigations of complaints about FDIC-supervised institutions. If the situation involves a financial institution for which the FDIC is not the primary federal regulator, CRC staff will refer the matter to the appropriate regulator. Visit our webpage on submitting complaints or call 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342) Monday – Friday, 8am to 8pm (EST).
To learn more about how to avoid financial scams, search by topic in back issues of FDIC Consumer News and the FDIC’s multimedia presentation Don’t Be an Online Victim. Also find tips from the interagency Financial Fraud Enforcement Task Force.