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Thursday
Feb092017

Safeguard Your Cash and Personal Info

 

How to Safeguard Your Cash and Personal Info at ATMs

 

An ATM can be a lifesaver when you're on the go and need some fast cash. But as helpful as these machines can be, they're also magnets for fraudsters who are out to make a quick buck. In fact, criminals stole data from magnetic-strip debit cards at ATMs at the highest rate in over 20 years during the first several months of 2015, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Here's a closer look at what you can do to stop these criminals and ensure that your money stays where it belongs: in your wallet.

Keep an eye out for skimming devices

Performed by hackers around the world, card skimming is the tried-and-true method of copying the information from magnetic-strip credit and debit cards by inserting a device on top of a card reader slot. This gadget scans and stores card information, which fraudsters use to produce duplicate plastic to make unauthorized purchases or withdraw money from your account.

To make sure your ATM hasn't been tampered with, take a quick but careful look at its card reader. Consider using only those machines that are in densely populated places and that are monitored by security cameras. Criminals might be less willing to place skimming devices into these types of machines. That also makes it a good idea to stay away from ATMs located at gas stations and other remote places where cameras aren't used.

The new microchip-embedded EMV cards are designed to foil this type of counterfeiting. They encrypt your account information and also generate an authentication code that's required before in-person purchases are approved. Even if a scammer were able to steal your data and make a counterfeit card, the fake plastic wouldn't work without the required microchip. We strongly encourage you to use your EMV compliant cards and to shop at merchants who are EMV compliant. 

Avoid loitering

After confirming that the ATM isn't rigged, try to withdraw your cash as quickly as possible. That way, you'll reduce your chances of attracting unwanted attention. It will also help to initiate the transaction knowing exactly how much money you want to withdraw.

Have your plastic's personal identification number, or PIN, memorized and use your hand to shield the keypad as you enter it. If it's late and you're alone, consider waiting until you're inside a locked car or other safe place to count your money. Keep a copy of your receipt in case you received less cash than you requested.

Monitor your checking account

Although good judgment and common sense will go a long way in ensuring safe ATM withdrawals, you can make sure fraudsters aren't using your card info by regularly monitoring your online checking account. Star Choice Credit Union provides online banking as well as a Mobile App to allow you to monitor your accounts 24/7.

If you happen to notice an ATM transaction that you don't remember making, call Star Choice Credit Union immediately.

MobiMoney

We have an application available to stop fraud at the source. MobiMoney is an application that put you in control of your card. It allows you to turn your card on/off, receive instant alerts for card activity, and restrict/enable card usage based on location, type of merchant, type of transaction, and threshold amount.

Learn more about MobiMoney here: http://bit.ly/2l0BrBS

 

The Takeaway

The continued use of card skimmers means consumers must be vigilant when using magnetic-strip cards at ATMs. In a rush to get cash, it can be easy to forget the basics, such as covering the keypad and making sure that there aren't any suspicious individuals lurking nearby.

By making the aforementioned moves, you'll be doing everything in your power to protect yourself and your money. And don't fret if you spot a strange transaction in one of your statements. Stay cool and contact SCCU immediately.

 

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Thursday
Feb092017

Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Fraud

 

Tips for Avoiding Credit Card Fraud

With nearly 38,000 complaints logged in 2015, credit card fraud ranks as the second most common form of identity theft, behind only tax- or wage-related fraud, according to the Federal Trade Commission.

It can take many forms, including:

  • Scammers who try to sucker you into giving up credit card info over the phone.
  • E-mail phishing.
  • Skimmers – devices hidden in the mouths of card slots at gas pumps, ATMs and even restaurants to copy card information.

Nothing but healthy skepticism can save you from falling for a slick hustler. But advances in technology are designed to better protect consumers against credit card fraud when making purchases in person.

EMV cards

Though they've been used widely for years overseas, EMV cards are relatively new in the U.S. They still have the thick black band on the back, so they can continue to act like the “magstripe” cards that people have been carrying in their wallets and purses for decades. The brainy component is the chip embedded in the card, indicated by a gold- or silver-colored foil square on the front.

When inserted into an EMV reader, the chip generates a unique, encrypted transaction code, or token. When the token reaches your bank, it is decrypted to verify your account and authorize the payment. Since the token changes with every transaction, a stolen token can't be reused.

By comparison, the information on a magstripe is unchanging, meaning it's easily cloned. In the U.K., where EMV has been in use more than a decade, the switch cut in-person credit card fraud by more than two-thirds.

Bear in mind that EMV chips are no safer than magstripes when you're buying online or giving credit card info to someone over the phone. And for now, most gas pump card readers aren't EMV-ready. Star Choice Credit Union encourages you to use your EMV ready credit card and shop at merchants who are EMV compliant.

Mobile payment services

“Mobile wallets” or “e-wallets” use the same kind of token technology as EMV cards. The difference is that instead of pulling out your card, you tap or scan your smartphone at retail checkout terminals.

Depending on the smartphone pay system, you may need to enter a PIN or scan your fingerprint to complete a transaction. With Apple Pay, Android Pay and Samsung Pay, you're assigned a substitute card number that's unique to the phone and tethered to your credit card number.

Using your smartphone or tablet adds another layer of security, because a hacker would need to have both the device and its password.

Monitor your credit card statements

It's a good idea to check your accounts regularly. If you see charges you know you didn't make or otherwise don't recognize, contact the card issuer to clarify and, if necessary, dispute them. You may also want to set up a fraud alert or request a credit freeze. 

Online transactions

If you're buying online, make sure you're on a secure site before you enter sensitive information. Look for the https:// or a padlock at the start of the web address.

It's also wise to avoid accessing bank or personal finance sites using public Wi-Fi, which can are wide open to hackers.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Thursday
Feb092017

Debit Card Fraud

 

How Debit Card Fraud Happens — and How to Avoid It

For many people, debit cards are the perfect plastic. They offer most of the conveniences of credit cards with no risk of accumulating debt.

But like credit cards, debit cards are vulnerable to rip-off artists. And debit card fraud is particularly scary because thieves can withdraw money directly from your checking account.

Here's how debit fraud happens and how to protect yourself.

How identity thieves operate

Debit card fraud can be sophisticated or old-school. Thieves use techniques including:

  • Hacking. When you bank or shop on public Wi-Fi networks, hackers can use keylogging software to capture everything you type, including your name, debit card account number and PIN.
  • Phishing. Be wary of messages soliciting your account information. Emails can look like they're from legitimate sources but actually be from scammers. If you click on an embedded link and enter your personal information, that data can go straight to criminals.
  • Skimming. Identity thieves can retrieve account data from your card's magnetic strip using a device called a skimmer, which they can stash in ATMs and store card readers. They can then use that data to produce counterfeit cards. EMV chip cards, which are replacing magnetic strip cards, can reduce this risk. Star Choice Credit Union provides you with EMV chip cards and encourages you to shop at merchants that are EMV compliant.
  • Spying. Plain old spying is still going strong. Criminals can plant cameras near ATMs or simply look over your shoulder as you take out your card and enter your PIN. They can also pretend to be good Samaritans, offering to help you remove a stuck card from an ATM slot.

Smart ways to protect yourself

Adopt these simple habits to greatly reduce your odds of falling victim to debit card fraud:

  • Be careful online. Shop and bank on secure websites with private Wi-Fi. If you must shop or bank in public, download a virtual private network to protect your privacy.
  • Monitor your accounts. Review your statements and sign up for text or email alerts so you can catch debit card fraud attempts early.
  • Don't ignore data breach notifications. The majority of identity theft victims received warnings that their accounts might have been breached but did nothing. If you get one of these messages, change your PIN and ask your provider to change your debit card number. You can also ask one of the major credit card bureaus to place a fraud alert on your file.
  • Inspect card readers and ATMs. Don't use card slots that look dirty or show evidence of tampering, such as scratches, glue or debris. And steer clear of machines with strange instructions, such as “Enter PIN twice.”
  • Cover your card. When using your debit card or typing your PIN at an ATM, block the view with your other hand. Go to a different location entirely if suspicious people are hanging around the ATM, and if your card gets stuck, notify the financial institution directly rather than accepting “help” from strangers.

Even if you've taken precautions, debit card fraud can still happen. If your card gets hacked, don't panic. Tell your bank or credit union right away so you won't be held responsible for unauthorized charges, and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Thursday
Feb092017

Preventing Tax Return Fraud

Preventing Tax Return Fraud

Identity theft continues to be a booming business: In 2014, 17.6 million Americans fell victim, and cybercriminals made off with $15.4 billion. And tax refund theft remains a lucrative piece of that business, despite the IRS' efforts to stamp it out.

How do hackers do it? In one scam, they filed bogus returns with information harvested from the IRS' own files or by using Social Security numbers.

Then they waited for the direct-deposit refunds to flow in. Victims usually didn't know anything was wrong until the IRS refused to accept their tax returns.

 

Here are some of the defenses that the IRS, state tax agencies and the e-filing industry are building to combat scammers:

Quicker responses to warnings. Thanks to technological enhancements, the IRS now receives warnings if a large number of returns come from a single computer address within a short period of time.

Delaying refunds. This allows the IRS time to recognize that more than one return has been filed for the same Social Security number. Previously, the IRS issued e-file refunds seven to 10 days after it received a return. The new target is 21 days.

Earlier filings of W2 forms. Businesses had been required to issue wage and payment statements to workers by Feb. 1, but didn't need to file them with the IRS until June. Now both will be due by Jan. 31.

Sharing information: Intuit, which makes TurboTax, and H&R Block have agreed to share more information more promptly with the IRS about filings they consider suspicious.

 

Safety begins at home, of course. The IRS also has advice for taxpayers on identifying — and more importantly, avoiding — tax refund fraud:

Always use security software with firewall and anti-virus protections, as well as strong passwords.

Learn to recognize phishing emails, calls and texts from thieves posing as legitimate organizations, such as your bank, credit card company and even the IRS. The IRS will never try to contact you via phone or email.

Don't click on links or download attachments from emails if you don't recognize the sender.

Protect your personal data. Don't routinely carry your Social Security card, and make sure your tax records are secure.

 

If you think someone used your information to file a return, contact the IRS immediately. Specialists will help you file your tax return, receive any refund you're due, and protect your account from identity thieves in the future.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Thursday
Dec082016

How to Avoid the Busy Holiday Scamming Season

You're not the only one joyfully anticipating the holiday season. Cyber criminals are all aflutter, too, as they look forward to the killing they'll make ripping off innocent shoppers like you. Here are some of the most common ways these thieves operate, because awareness can help you avoid becoming yet another victim.

Antisocial media

Beware those enticing ads that turn up on Facebook and other social media sites offering vouchers, gift cards and deep discounts, as well as the online surveys these ads often link to. These offers are often only empty promises designed to steal your personal information.

Additionally, if you receive concert, theater or sporting event tickets as a gift, never post pictures of them online. Cyber thieves spend lots of time monitoring social media, just waiting for the opportunity to create phony tickets they can resell from your barcode image. If your ticket is resold, you might just find yourself out of a seat on the night of your event. It's also unwise to post live from an event that gives criminals a heads-up that your home is empty and ripe for picking. Better to wait until the next day to post about the wonderful time you had.

Pandora's inbox

It may be a mystery to you how cyber thieves got your private email address, but it's chillingly clear they're up to no good. Your inbox may fill up with all kinds of legitimate-looking product offers and delivery notices this holiday season, but clicking on links of bogus ones or entering personal information on the linked sites can provide criminals with the opportunity to steal your identity.

Apps are far from immune

With mobile apps available for just about everything, it's a sad sign of the times that certain free mobile apps (often disguised as games) have been specifically designed to steal personal information from your phone. This is a particularly scary development since many people use their phones to secure their cars and homes. For this reason, only install apps from familiar companies and, at the very least, find a third-party review from a trusted site if you're interested in an app from an unfamiliar source.

USB Trojan horses

Lots of people use portable USB drives, which makes it all the more important to avoid those being distributed as giveaways this holiday season unless they're from a trusted source. These innocent-looking devices are often used as a method of introducing malware to computers.

Gifts that keep on giving ... to criminals

A spirit of generosity is traditional at holiday time, but if you're not careful, your donations may never make it to the needy. Fake charities that skillfully tug at your heartstrings abound at this time of year, just waiting for you to willingly give your hard-earned cash to scammers. Before donating, be sure to check out charities thoroughly, to make sure that they're not only legitimate, but also that they allocate the bulk of funds toward their causes rather than “administrative costs.”

Tips to avoid holiday scams

These strategies will also help keep you a step ahead of scammers:

  • Only shop online with reputable businesses you trust, using secure websites with an address that begins with https.
  • Don't shop or bank over public Wi-Fi.
  • Protect your credit card privacy by covering your account number with your hand when shopping in public.
  • Don't respond to suspicious unsolicited calls or emails. Only open email attachments from senders you trust, and contact businesses only through their official websites, phone numbers or email addresses.
  • Monitor your credit to catch fraud at its earliest stages.

Scammers may be smart, but you can still outsmart them. A little foreknowledge and caution go a long way toward ensuring you'll enjoy a safe and memorable holiday season.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved