FRAUD PREVENTION - Tips You Can Trust
Updated as of 5/15/2023
Gift Card Scams
Gift cards are for gifts, not for payments. As soon as someone tells you to pay them with a gift card, that’s a scam. Gift cards are popular with scammers because they’re easy for people to find and buy. They also have fewer protections for buyers compared to some other payment options. They’re more like cash: once you use a gift card, the money on it is gone.
If someone calls and asks that you pay them with gift cards, that’s a scammer calling. And once they have the gift card number and the PIN, they have your money.
How the Scam Works:
Only scammers try to convince you to pay with gift cards. If you know how to spot their tactics, you’ll be able to avoid the scam, and help others spot and avoid it. Here’s a list of common gift card scams and schemes:
- The caller says they’re from the government — maybe the IRS or the Social Security Administration. They say you have to pay taxes or a fine. It’s a scam.
- Someone calls from tech support, maybe saying they’re from Apple or Microsoft. They say there’s something wrong with your computer and you have to pay them to get it fixed. But it’s a lie.
- You meet someone special on a dating website, but then they need money and ask you to help them. This romance scammer makes up any story to trick you into sending them gift cards. Stop. Never send money or gifts to anyone you haven’t met in person — even if they send you money first.
- The scammer pretends to be a friend or family member in an emergency and asks you to send money right away — but not tell anyone. This is a scam. If you’re worried, hang up and call the friend or relative to check that everything is all right.
- Someone says you’ve won a prize, but first, you have to pay fees or other charges with a gift card. Remember: no honest business or agency will ever make you pay with a gift card. But also — did you even enter that sweepstakes?
- The caller says they’re from your power company, or another utility company. They threaten to cut off your service if you don’t pay immediately. But utility companies don’t work that way. It’s a scam.
- You get a check from someone for way more than you expected. They tell you to deposit the check, then give them the difference on a gift card. Don’t do it. That check will be fake, and you’ll be out all that money.
What to Do:
If you paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away. Keep the card and any receipts you have.
Contact Information for Some Popular Gift Card Companies
- Call 1 (888) 280-4331 and follow the instructions provided.
- Keep the Amazon card itself and your receipt for the Amazon card.
- Learn about Amazon gift card scams and how to report them. Click on “Contact us.”
- Chat with eBay customer support, or have a representative call you back
- Keep the eBay gift card itself and your receipt for the eBay gift card.
- Learn about scams using eBay gift cards and how to report them.
- Report the gift card scam to Google. If you don’t have a Google account, fill out this form.
- Keep the Google Play card itself and your receipt for the Google Play card.
- Learn about Google Play gift card scams and how to report them.
- Call Apple Support right away at 1 (800) 275-2273. Say “gift card” to connect with a live representative.
- Ask if the money is still on the iTunes card. If so, Apple can put a freeze on it. You might be able to get your money back from them.
- Keep the iTunes card itself and your receipt for the iTunes card.
- Learn about iTunes gift card scams and how to report them.
- Report the gift card scam to Steam through Steam Support.
- Keep the Steam card itself and your receipt for the Steam card.
- Learn about Steam gift card scams.
- Call Target GiftCard Services at 1 (800) 544-2943 and follow the instructions provided.
- Submit a fraud claim to MoneyPak.
- Keep the MoneyPak card itself and your receipt for the MoneyPak card.
- Learn about MoneyPak gift card scams.
Don’t see your card on this list? Look for the company’s contact information on the card itself, or do some research online to find out how to reach the card issuer. If you can’t find the contact information or the card issuer doesn’t want to talk to you, report it to the FTC.
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More shopping online means there is no shortage of packages delivered year-round, but many during the holiday season.
How the Scam Works:
These scams typically start with a text message or email about delivering a package to your address. The message includes a tracking number or, in some cases, a phone number to call back regarding delivery.
What to Do:
- Never click on a link or call back the number from an unexpected delivery notice. These links could install malware on your phone or computer that can secretly steal your information. Fake "operators" could ask you to verify debit/credit card information or claim you need to pay special taxes before delivering the package.
- If you are expecting a package delivery, go directly to the company's or delivery service's website to track the delivery.
Family Emergency Scams
Scammers play with your emotions. They're counting on you to act quickly to help your family or friends. And they're counting on you to pay without stopping to check out whether there's an actual emergency.
How the Scam Works:
You may receive a text message or phone call from a friend or family claiming to be in trouble or some other urgent situation and needs money fast. They may know your name, where you live, or additional information found on social sites or by hacking a family member's email.
What to Do:
- Resist the pressure to send money immediately. Hang up.
- Call or message the family member or friend who (supposedly) contacted you. Call them at a phone number that you know is right, not the one someone just used to contact you. Check if they're really in trouble.
- Call someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if the caller said to keep it a secret. Do that, especially if you can't reach the friend or family member who's supposed to be in trouble. A trusted person can help you figure out whether the story is true.
Scammers want more than anything to get ahold of your financial information since it can be the easiest way to access your funds. They can spoof caller ID and use public information to make you believe they are calling from your credit union.
How the Scam Works:
You receive a call unexpectedly from someone saying they are from your credit union; they already know some information they use to "verify" your identity and ask you to provide your PIN or passwords.
What to Do:
- Don't ever share your PIN or other access information with someone who calls you out of the blue. For example, your credit union would never call you to ask for this information.
To browse other common scams or to report a scam: visit the FTC website at www.ftc.gov
Please contact us with any questions at 763.422.0290 or using AHCUface2face Video Chat.
ADDITIONAL FRAUD PREVENTION INFORMATION
Think you don’t need identity theft protection? Think again.
Identity theft is consistently the number one complaint to the Federal Trade Commission. Data breaches, affecting millions of records, can result in identity theft. It can happen to anyone—regardless of your age and income, where you live, or how careful you are.
Restoring your identity on your own can be time-consuming and stressful. Here are a few ways in which you can stay aware. If you suspect your identity has been compromised, please reach out to the contacts below or call us to help you.
Protecting Your Identity, Your Privacy, and Your Money
Identity theft can occur when an individual obtains personal information, such as your social security number, date of birth, address, and financial account numbers. Once this information is obtained, the thieves will assume or take on your identity, allowing them to illegally purchase items or obtain credit.
You Can Protect Yourself
There are simple precautions that will keep your identity safe. We've provided the following information as a courtesy to help protect you from identity fraud and other criminal activities. Review the information on these pages to learn how to protect your personal and financial information.
Identify Theft Resources
Credit Bureau Contact Details
Credit bureaus must provide free copies of credit reports to victims of identity theft.
- Free Annual Credit Report
800.525.6285 (Fraud Hotline)
888.397.3742 (Fraud Hotline)
800.680.7289 (Fraud Hotline)
Actions for Fraud Victims
If you suspect fraud, it is important to act quickly to minimize potential damage and your own liability. It is important to keep a detailed account of conversations you have with authorities and financial institutions.
Credit Bureaus. Immediately call the fraud units of the three credit reporting companies --Experian, Equifax and TransUnion. Ask that your account include a statement referencing the possibility of fraud.
Creditors. Contact all creditors immediately with whom your name, or other secure data, such as your social security number, has been used fraudulently -- by phone and in writing. Monitor your accounts closely for any further fraudulent activity.
Law Enforcement. Report the crime to police with jurisdiction in your case. Provide any documentation that you have collected. Get a copy of your police report. Keep the phone number of your fraud investigator handy and give it to creditors and others who require verification of your case.
Financial Institutions. If you have checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, contact the institution to report the crime. Put stop payments on appropriate outstanding checks. Close your checking and savings accounts and open new accounts. If your ATM card is stolen or compromised, get a new card and PIN. When choosing a PIN, don't use common numbers like the last four digits of your Social Security number, your date of birth, license number or street address.
U.S. Postal Service. Notify the local Postal Inspector if you suspect an identity thief has filed a change of your address with the post office or has used the mail to commit credit or bank fraud.
Social Security Administration. Call to report fraudulent use of your social security number.
Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV). Call to see if another license was issued in your name. Go to your local DMV to request a new number. Also, fill out the DMV's complaint form to begin the fraud investigation process. Send supporting documents with the completed form to the nearest DMV investigation office. Request a driver's license number different than your Social Security number if available in your state.
Civil Courts. If a civil judgment has been entered in your name for actions taken by your impostor, contact the court where the judgment was entered and report that you are a victim of identity theft. If you are wrongfully prosecuted for criminal charges, contact the state Department of Justice and the FBI.
ATM fraud can occur when individuals lose their card, give their card to someone else to use, or when their Personal Identification Number's confidentiality is compromised. By following these simple guidelines you can greatly reduce your exposure to ATM fraud.
Tips for protecting yourself against ATM fraud
- Never write your Personal Identification Number (PIN) on your card or in your wallet. Memorize your PIN as soon as possible. Do not reveal your PIN to anyone not authorized to use the account. Cover the ATM key pad with your free hand as you enter codes.
- Never use your date of birth, social security number, license number or street address as a PIN -- those are the first numbers a crook will try.
- Don't throw away your ATM receipts at the ATM location. Keep them to reconcile your account, then dispose of them properly when you get home.
- Always be aware of your surroundings when using the ATM. If it is late at night, try to use a machine that is well lit and avoid dark, remote locations.
- Always make sure to retrieve your ATM card from the machine when the transaction is complete.
- Be aware of the person behind you. Make sure no one can see you entering your PIN or how much money you withdraw.
- Review your statement promptly to ensure all transactions are accurate. Report any discrepancies immediately.
- Destroy old ATM cards immediately after receiving your replacement cards.
In addition to the types of ATM fraud that most of us are now aware of, there are two new types of fraud that can clean out your account quickly -- card withholding and skimming.
Card withholding occurs when your card gets stuck in the ATM, you can't get it out, and you leave the card in the ATM planning to contact the financial institution the next morning. When you call you find that the card was not stuck in the ATM. What happens is that thieves put a substance into the ATM card slot which will cause your card to stick inside the ATM. They leave the ATM and wait for someone to attempt to use it. They then get in line behind you and try to watch you enter your Personal Identification Number (PIN). This is very common at drive-up ATMs where the user may not be paying attention to other people or cars nearby.
The thieves even go so far as to put up a sign on the ATM stating: "If your card gets stuck, enter your PIN three separate times to retrieve it." This gives them three tries to watch you enter your PIN. After you leave frustrated, and you're planning to contact the ATM owner the next morning, they remove your card with a pair of pliers. They can then use your card at other ATMs and Point-of-Sale (POS) terminals.
Skimming is done at businesses that offer Point-of-Sale (POS) devices for you to pay with your ATM card, such as gas stations and at ATMs. When you swipe your card in the POS device to make a payment the information on the magnetic strip on your ATM card is copied and loaded onto a disk. Thieves may also install a hidden video camera that records you entering your PIN. They then match the magnetic information to the PIN and access your accounts.
- Before inserting your ATM card into an ATM inspect the card slot for any residue.
- If there is residue, don't use that ATM. If there is a notice on the ATM about entering your PIN several times, don't use that ATM.
- Always cover your hand when entering your PIN: if the thieves don't have your PIN, they can't access your account.
Fake Check Scams
If someone you don’t know sends you a check and asks for money back, that’s a scam.
How the Scam Works:
Fake checks drive many types of scams — like those involving phony job and income opportunities, online classified ad sales, and others.
In a fake check scam, a person you don’t know asks you to deposit a check – sometimes for several thousand dollars and usually for more than you are owed — and send some of the money back, often by wire transfers or gift cards, to them or another person.
The scammers always have a good story to explain the overpayment. They might say they’re stuck out of the country, they need you to cover taxes or fees, you’ll need to buy supplies, or something else.
What to Do:
- Never use money from a check to send gift cards, money orders, or wire money to strangers or someone you just met. Many scammers demand that you send money through money transfer services like Western Union or MoneyGram, or buy gift cards and send them the PIN numbers. Once you wire money, or give someone the gift card PINs, it is like giving someone cash. It’s almost impossible to get it back.
- Toss offers that ask you to pay for a prize. If it’s free, you shouldn’t have to pay to get it.
- Don’t accept a check for more than the selling price. You can bet it’s a scam.
What To Do If You Sent Money to a Scammer:
Gift cards are for gifts, not payments. Anyone who demands payment by gift card is always a scammer. If you paid a scammer with a gift card, tell the company that issued the card right away. When you contact the company, tell them the gift card was used in a scam. Ask them if they can refund your money. If you act quickly enough, the company might be able to get your money back. Also, tell the store where you bought the gift card as soon as possible.
Here is a list of gift cards that scammers often use — with information to help report a scam. If the card you used is not on this list, you might find the gift card company’s contact information on the card itself, or you might need to do some research online.
If you wired money to a scammer, call the money transfer company immediately to report the fraud and file a complaint. You can reach the complaint department of MoneyGram at 1-800-MONEYGRAM (1-800-666-3947) or Western Union at 1-800-325-6000. Ask for the money transfer to be reversed. It’s unlikely to happen, but it’s important to ask.
If you paid a scammer with a money order, contact the company that issued the money order right away to see if you can stop payment. Also, try to stop delivery of the money order: if you sent it by U.S. mail, contact the U.S. Postal Inspection Service at 877-876-2455. Otherwise, contact whatever delivery service you used as soon as possible.
Where To Report Fraud:
If you think you’ve been targeted by a fake check scam, report it to:
- Your Financial Institution
- The Federal Trade Commission
- The U.S. Postal Inspection Service
- Your state Attorney General
If you receive a check you suspect is a scam - bring it into AHCU.
We can help you determine its legitimacy.
Check Cashing Fraud
This guide provides tips for protecting yourself against check cashing fraud. Check cashing fraud occurs when individuals use information taken from your checks, or the checks themselves, to access your accounts and commit fraudulent acts. By following these simple guidelines you can greatly reduce your risk of becoming a victim.
Tips for protecting yourself against check cashing fraud
- Always safeguard your checks. Do not leave your checks out in an open area. Never leave your checks in your car or out on your desk at the office.
- Keep your blank checks and canceled checks in a safe place. Put them in a vault or other secure location. Destroy old blank checks if you are not going to use them.
- Limit the amount of personal information printed on the checks to your name and address. Do not have your driver's license, social security, or secret codes printed on your checks.
- Don't leave your bill payments sitting in an unlocked mailbox for pickup. Many credit thieves will steal bills from rural mailboxes at the end of driveways so they can get your account information, checking information, and even your checks. Go to the Post Office directly or use a curbside USPS mailbox (the blue metal ones) and drop your bills in the slot rather than using less secure street mailboxes.
- Be discreet when writing checks in public places. Write your checks carefully and leave no space in which figures or words can be inserted.
- When you make an error in writing a check, be sure to destroy the check or write "canceled" across it and store it with your other canceled checks.
- If your checks are lost or stolen, report it immediately to your financial institution.
- Reconcile your monthly statements as soon as you can to ensure all transactions are accurate. Contact us immediately if you do not receive it when expected. Be sure to contact your institution within that time frame to ensure that proper attention is given to reconciling the problem.
- When you reorder checks, mark your calendar. If you don't receive your checks within 15 working days, contact your financial institution immediately to inquire as to the status of the order.
- Consider alternatives to check writing. For instance, paying by phone, online, bill pay or setting up automatic payments. Fewer checks mean fewer theft opportunities.
Debit and Credit Card Fraud
Debit and credit card fraud generally occurs when cards or card numbers are compromised. By following these simple guidelines your potential for loss can be minimized.
Tips for protecting yourself against card fraud
- Keep a list of all your cards including the account number and phone number to the issuing company.
- Review your card statement as soon as possible. Match charges with your receipts to ensure all charges are yours and are for the correct amount.
- Always sign a new card immediately.
- When making a purchase with a card, make sure you get the card back and the receipt. Check the receipt for accuracy.
- When using a card at a restaurant or store, make sure that all blank lines are marked through so that no one can change the final amount.
- Never sign blank card receipts.
- Only travel with the cards you plan on using.
- Never give the account number of the card over the phone unless you initiate the call.
- Do not write the PIN for the account on the card.
Internet Security - Phishing Scams
Phishing is an internet scam in which email spam or pop-up messages are used to deceive you into divulging personal or financial information over the internet. Phishers will send you an email or a pop-up message that appears to be from a company that you deal with – your credit card company, credit union or a government agency. The message usually requests that you update or validate account information and it will direct you to a website that looks just like the legitimate organization's website, but it isn't. The purpose of the bogus website is to deceive you into entering your personal information so the scammer's can steal your identity and commit crimes in your name.
Protect yourself against "Phishing Scams"
- If you get an email or pop-up message that asks for personal or financial information, do not reply. And don't click on the link in the message, either. Legitimate companies don't ask for this information via email. If you are concerned about your account, contact the organization mentioned in the email using a telephone number you know to be genuine, or open a new Internet browser session and type in the company's correct Web address yourself. In any case, don't cut and paste the link from the message into your Internet browser — phishers can make links look like they go to one place, but that actually send you to a different sites.
- Never give your personal information via email. AHCU will never request personal information via email.
- If you want to update your information, go directly to our website by opening a new browser window, and typing www.ahcu.coop in the address bar. Never go to our web site by clicking a link in an email.
- When entering personal account information, verify that you are on a secure website. If the website is secure, you will find "https" in the address and a closed padlock in your browser's toolbar.
- Use anti-virus and anti-spyware software, as well as a firewall, and update them all regularly. Some phishing emails contain software that can harm your computer or track your activities on the Internet without your knowledge. Anti-virus software and a firewall can protect you from inadvertently accepting such unwanted files.
Phone Security - Vishing Scams
Vishing is a scam similar to Phishing, the scam involves sending a spam email or pop-up message telling you that your account has been compromised and will instruct you to call a phone number to verify your account information. An official sounding automated message will ask you to enter your personal financial information such as your 16-digit credit card number. Some of these scams involve a telephone call to the victim directly in which the caller already has your credit card number but asks you to verify the valuable three digit security code.
Protect yourself against "Vishing Scams"
- Never give your personal information over the phone. If you feel a call is suspicious, call the company directly to verify the authenticity of the call.
- Beware of organizations asking for charitable donations. If you want to donate money, contact the organization yourself to make sure that your money is going to the appropriate place.
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