How to Spot & Protect Yourself from Fraud
We all know that scams are prevalent in our society today and are only getting harder to avoid. Luckily, there are some steps you can take to protect yourself. Here are some common types of fraud, how to report it, and other anti-fraud resources.
The Most Common Types of Fraud
In 2020, the most popular scams were Imposter Scams, Online Shopping Scams, and Phone Call & Text Scams.
The scams we hear about most in our area include:
- Government Imposters
- Phony Websites
- Phishing Emails
- Package Delivery Messages
- Fake Online Dating Profiles
- Home Repair Scams
- Family Emergency Scams
- Auto Warranty Scams
Money Mule Scams
- Romance Scams
- Winning Sweepstakes Scams
- Employment Scams
- Vaccine Scams
- Treatment Scams
- Economic Relief Scams
If you believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer claiming to be associated with Olean Area Federal Credit Union, please contact us, and take the following steps:
- Provide us with a copy of the email, text message, check, or date and time of the phone call.
- Notify your local police department.
Scams that are unrelated to Olean Area Federal Credit Union can be reported to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. Here is a list of other helpful resources:
We have several blog and social media posts that provide in depth information about prevalent scams. You can visit our blog by clicking here. Follow us on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn to get the latest fraud alerts and financial news.
Beware Romance Scams
With COVID-19 forcing more singles to connect online, America’s most expensive scam is on the rise. According to the FTC, Americans lost $201 million to this scam in 2019, an almost 40% increase from 2018. Romance scams are all over the internet and can be difficult to spot. Here’s what you need to know about these scams.
How the scam plays out
In a romance ruse, a scammer creates a bogus online profile and attempts to connect to singles on dating apps and websites and through social media platforms. Often these user profiles are based on real people, or they are completely made up. After a connection is formed, the scammer will work to build up the relationship with the victim. Once the scammer has gained the victim’s trust, the scammer will spin a story asking the victim for money via wire transfer or prepaid debit card. After receiving the requested funds, the scammer will disappear. Alternatively, the scammer will ask their “date” to share personal financial information and then go on to empty the victim’s accounts.
How to spot a romance scam
If you’re looking for a new date online, watch out for these red flags:
- Profile is too good to be true.
- Single rushes into the relationship.
- Single asks for money.
- Single insists the relationship be confidential.
How to play it safe online
Avoid falling victim to romance scams and similar ruses by following basic online safety rules.
First, never share personal details online with anyone whose identity you cannot verify.
Second, only visit secure sites and keep all the settings on your social media pages private. Never engage in conversation with a stranger who sends you personal texts or emails without any prior communication. Finally, do not send money or gifts to a person you haven’t met in person.
If you suspect a romance scam
If you believe you’ve been targeted by a romance scam, take these steps to avoid further damage:
- Research the name on the profile to see if the details check out.
- Do a reverse-image search of the profile picture to see if it’s a stock photo or an image that was plucked off the internet.
- If your research confirms your suspicions, stop all communication with the scammer. Block the scammer’s number and spam their emails.
- If you’ve already paid a romance scammer with a prepaid gift card, call the company that issued it to ask them to refund your money.
- Report the scam to the FTC .
- Report the scam to the FBI Internet Crime Complaint Center.
- Report the scam to the online dating site.
Disclaimer: Efforts are made to maintain reliable data on all information presented. However, this information is provided without warranty.
Beware of Debt-Collection Scams
Don’t be the next victim of a debt-collection scam! Here’s all you need to know about these scams:
How the scams play out
In a debt-collection scam, a caller claiming to represent a debt-collection agency demands immediate payment for an alleged outstanding debt. The caller insists on specific means of payment and may threaten to tell the victim’s friends about the unpaid debt. The alleged debt may be completely fabricated, or the scammer has hacked the victim’s accounts to learn of its existence. In either scenario, the caller does not represent the creditor and will pocket any “collected” money.
These scams can also take the form of abusive debt collection, in which a caller collects money for a legitimate debt, but does so using abusive and illegal practices.
How to spot a debt-collection scam
You might be looking at a scam if an alleged debt collector does any of the following:
- Withholds information about the debt and the creditor
- Threatens the debtor with jail time
- Insists on specific means of payment
- Asks to be provided with personal financial information
Know your rights
When outstanding debts go unpaid, a lender can legally sell the debt to a collection agency. The agency can then attempt to collect the debt through letters and phone calls.
According to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act (FDCPA) , debt collectors cannot:
- Contact borrowers at unreasonable hours.
- Call borrowers at their workplace if the borrower said they cannot accept phone calls at work.
- Harass borrowers about a debt, including using threats of violence and calling the debtor multiple times each day.
- Engage in unfair collection practices.
- Lie about the money owed.
- Falsely represent themselves.
- Threaten the debtor with jail time.
- Falsify the name of the agency they represent.
If you’re unsure of whether you are being targeted by a debt-collection scam, ask the caller for a callback number and to confirm information about the debt. The collector should know the amount owed and be able to tell you the name of the company behind the debt.
If you still believe you are being scammed, contact the creditor and ask if the debt collection has been outsourced to another company.
If you’ve been targeted
If you’ve been targeted by an illegitimate debt collector, report the scam at ftc.gov/complaint. If a falsified debt appears on your credit report, you will need to dispute the charge as well.
If a collection agency is employing abusive tactics or if you’d like them to stop calling you, it’s best to send them a letter asking them to cease all contact. Once the agency has received the letter, they can only reach out to you to confirm there will be no further contact, or to inform you of a specific action they are taking.
8 Ways to Spot a Counterfeit Bill
Everyone loves a stash of cash — unless it’s fake. Unfortunately, there’s been a surge in the spread of counterfeit bills during the coronavirus pandemic. Bogus bills can be difficult to spot. Here are some signs to help you determined if it’s the real thing:
- When held up to light, the hologram on the bill should match the face on the front of the note.
- Holding a genuine bill up to light will reveal a thin vertical strip of text spelling out the bill’s denomination.
- If you tilt any of the new-series bills (except for fivers) back and forth, the numeral in the lower right hand corner will shift from green to black to green again.
- The watermark of the bill can be seen in an unprinted space to the right of the portrait when held up to light.
- When held up to light, a security strip near the portrait can be seen.
- When held up to an ultraviolet light, authentic bills will glow: $5 bills glow blue, $10 bills glow orange, $20 bills glow green, $50 bills glow yellow and the $100 bill glows red.
- Look for tiny microprinting on the bill’s security thread, which spells out its denomination.
- Look for very fine lines behind the portrait and on the other side of the bill as well.
What to do if you’ve been passed a counterfeit bill
If a note you’ve been passed does not hold up to the authenticity tests, and you believe it’s a counterfeit bill, the U.S. Treasury advises the following course of action:
- Do not put yourself in a position of danger.
- Do not return the bill to the passer.
- If possible, delay the passer with an excuse.
- Take note of the passer’s physical appearance and record their vehicle license plate if possible.
- Contact your local police department or call your local Secret Service office.
- Write your initials and date in the white border area of the suspected counterfeit note.
- Do not handle the counterfeit note. Place it inside a protective cover until you can pass it on to an identified Secret Service agent.