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Blog Fraud/Identity Theft

13 tips to avoid getting spooked by scammers

Fraud/Identity Theft
13 tips to avoid getting spooked by scammers

The Halloween spirit is in the air, but scammers and fraudsters are always on the lookout for your personal information.

The scariest thing to scammers and fraudsters is knowledge about how their schemes work. Check out these 13 tips on how to spook scammers and keep your personal information and money safe.

Quick links:

1. Watch out for student loan forgiveness scams

About 8 million Americans will get $10,000 to $20,000 in federal student loan debt cancelled immediately with a new executive action. Even more Americans will be able to file a free application to have their student debt cancelled.

If you’re looking to get your student loan debt cancelled, it’s 100 percent free to do so. If anyone reaches out to you and offers “help” with the process for a fee, it’s a scam. The Federal Trade Commission offers more information about the process. Just remember that if anyone reaches out to help through phone, email, text or social media, you should ignore and report the fraudulent activity.

2. Keep your Medicare information safe

Medicare open enrollment started on Oct. 15, and runs through Dec. 7. This window of time is the perfect opportunity for scammers to get ahold of your Medicare number and defraud the federal government using your information. To keep your information safe, follow these tried and true tips:

  • Don’t respond to robocalls selling Medicare services or information.
  • Remember that no one will offer you a “free gift” in exchange for your information.
  • Never give out your Medicare number, Social Security number or other personal identifying information to anyone claiming to be able to help you with Medicare open enrollment.

For more information about Medicare open enrollment, the AARP has a helpful article with everything you need to know.

3. Think before you click

Recognize and report phishing scams. If a link in an email looks a little off, it most likely is. It’s probably an attempt to get sensitive information or install malware on your computer or mobile device.

Phishing emails are designed to look legitimate, but there are a number of ways you can tell if it’s a scam. We’ve put together a list of the “do’s and don’ts” you should follow when it comes to staying safe while using email.

4. Steer clear of skimming devices

Scammers will sometimes put skimming devices on ATMs, gas station pumps and other machines that take debit and credit cards. These skimmers capture your data to create fake debit and credit cards that steal funds from your accounts. Here are a few tips to stay safe from skimming devices:

  • Run your card as credit when refueling your vehicle to avoid entering a PIN. Running your card as credit also gives you more fraud protection.
  • Use well-trusted ATMs in secure, well-lit and visible locations. Tourist destinations are notorious for skimming devices.
  • If an ATM looks damaged or cracked, stay away from it.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation has a great article available with even more information that will help you stay safe from skimming devices.

5. Look out for overcharge scams via text message

An overcharge scam usually involves a text message from what looks like a legitimate company. A “representative” will claim that you’re owed money for an overcharge and that you’re owed a refund.

But to get this refund, you’ll have to give up some of your personal information. That’s the red flag to delete and report the text message to the Federal Trade Commission.

Any legitimate company, including Arsenal Credit Union, will never ask you for personal identifying information through phone, text, email or social media.

6. Don’t worry, you’re not under arrest

Have you ever received a weird call, voicemail or text from someone claiming to be from the FBI, IRS or the local police? They may say that you have a warrant out for your arrest or that you will go to jail unless you pay back taxes.

These scammers will often say that you will be able to avoid jailtime if you’re able to pay a fine, debt or other fee to them directly. They’ll ask for your debit or credit card information. Don’t do it! 

Federal authorities will only send you written correspondence if you’re having any type of legal issue. The local police definitely won’t call you (although they may show up to your house) if you have a warrant out for your arrest.

7. Update your software ASAP

We know that it’s really annoying when you’re prompted to update your phone’s operating system or install the latest version of Windows on your computer. But you should do this every time there’s an update available. The same goes with the apps you use on your phone, too.

Software companies make these frequent updates to keep their products safe from vulnerabilities exploited by hackers. If you don’t update your systems, your personal information may be at risk.

We suggest setting up automatic updates so you’re always running the latest, most secure version of your software.

8. Enable multi-factor authentication

Be honest. You probably use the same password for most of your logins. We’re not here to judge, but you should really have a unique password for every service that you use.

If a hacker is able to guess one password correctly, they can get into all of your accounts and wreak havoc on your personal and financial information. A good way to protect yourself from having a hacker break into multiple accounts is to turn on multi-factor authentication (MFA) wherever you can.

The Arsenal online and mobile banking platforms use multi-factor authentication if we don’t recognize the device that you’re logging in from. All you need to do after logging in is enter a phone number or email address associated with your account, then enter a one-time passcode so we know it’s you who’s logging in. Other reputable services will have MFA available for you to help secure your accounts.

You can learn more about how MFA protects your identity by visiting the Microsoft blog.

9. Travel inconspicuously

It’s so much fun to post pictures and to check into places when you travel. Your friends and family will for sure engage with you on social media when you post these updates.

Just remember that even with the best security settings on your social media profiles, you’re letting everyone know where you are. Even if you’re just stopping by your local bar for a happy hour, you still may be setting yourself up for a potential break-in or a breach on your personal privacy.

Follow these steps to make sure you’re not giving up your location through social media:

  • Turn off automatic geo-tagging features on social media apps.
  • Limit posting your personal and work address information.
  • Post pictures and videos of your vacations after you return home.

10. Never share usernames and/or passwords

We’re sorry. We keep repeating this in blogs, emails and on social media. But it’s the most important tip you can use to keep your identity safe.

Never share your online banking info

Representatives from Arsenal Credit Union will never reach out to you for this information. Other reputable companies and government organizations will never ask you for this information, either.

11. Change your passwords on the regular

Cybersecurity experts have a wide range of opinions on when to change your passwords. Some recommend every couple of months. Some recommend to change only when your account becomes compromised.

If your account has been hacked, if there was a data breach or if you were using an unsecured network, you should change your password immediately.

McAfee suggests that you should normally change your passwords every three months if they haven’t been breached. Some other tips for your passwords that they recommend include:

  • Making sure your password is only used on one account.
  • Keeping your password length at a minimum of 12 characters.
  • Using a combination of numbers, letters, symbols, uppercases and lowercases.
  • Making your password hard to guess and not something obvious to you.

12. Send money safely with Zelle

Whether you just enrolled with Zelle or have been an active user for a while, there are a few tips you should always keep in mind to ensure you are being safe when sending money.

Located conveniently in your Arsenal mobile banking app, Zelle lets you send money to and receive money from friends and family, no matter where they bank. Follow these easy tips to use Zelle safely:

  1. Only send to those you know and trust
  2. Beware of payment scams
  3. Treat Zelle like cash

Learn more about using Zelle safely by reading this blog post.

13. Only connect with people you know on social media

Social media is a great way to connect and share with friends and family. The only problem is that anyone can create an account and pretend to be someone else on just about any social media network.

The safest way to use social media is to only accept friend invites from people you already know and trust. It may be fun to collect more followers, but a lot of accounts are set up with malicious intent.

  • Never accept friend requests from strangers.
  • Never send or receive money or give out personal information through direct message.
  • If you’re the victim of cyberbullying on any network, report the account and unfriend or unfollow immediately.