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Protecting Yourself from Fraud and Identity Theft

April 22, 2020

Protecting Yourself from Fraud and Identity Theft

Fraud detection and prevention are a top priority for Central Bank, as fraudsters never stop looking for new and creative ways to scam consumers. As the COVID-19 situation develops daily, more of us are using our mobile phones and computers than ever before. Consider the following tips from the American Bankers Association to help protect yourself when using your mobile device or computer. We have also included the ABA’s five most common scams to watch for related to the economic impact payments being received by eligible Americans.

Remember, if you think you have been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact us immediately.

Protect Your Mobile Device

  • Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.
  • Log out completely when you finish a mobile banking session.
  • Use caution when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions” and delete unused or rarely used apps.
  • Download the updates for your phone and mobile apps.
  • Avoid storing sensitive information like passwords or a social security number on your mobile device.
  • Tell your financial institution immediately if you change your phone number or lose your mobile device.
  • Be aware of shoulder surfers. The most basic form of information theft is observation. Be aware of your surroundings especially when you’re punching in sensitive information.
  • Wipe your mobile device before you donate, sell or trade it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.
  • Beware of mobile phishingAvoid opening links and attachments in emails and texts, especially from senders you don’t know. And be wary of ads (not from your security provider) claiming that your device is infected.
  • Watch out for public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren’t very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)

Protect Yourself Online

  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date.  Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Establish passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Watch out for phishing. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.
    • Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov— and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email.
  • Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download malware onto devices and/or/ route users to bogus websites. Hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL that you are being routed to. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL. For example: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc.  Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)
  • Shop safely.Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies.Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

Economic Impact Payment Scams

As eligible Americans prepare to receive their economic impact payment from the government, fraudsters are ramping up their efforts to scam people out of their payment. To help consumers protect themselves, the American Bankers Association has provided the five most common scams to watch out for:

  • Offer early access to payment. There is no exact timeline for when eligible consumers will receive economic impact payments. Anyone who promises early or fast payment in exchange for personal information is most likely a scammer.
  • Use suspicious phrases. The IRS has stated that the official term for payments is “economic impact payment.” If you receive any correspondence using the phrases “stimulus check” or “stimulus payment,” it may be a clue that a fraudster trying to take your cash.
  • Send “phishy” emails or texts. Government agencies will never correspond through email or text message. If you receive a message with a link asking you to register online in order to receive your economic impact payment, you are most likely being scammed. Do not click on the link.
  • Make bogus phone calls and texts asking for personal information. Consumers do not need to take any action to receive their economic impact payment. If you receive a phone call or text from someone claiming to be from your bank or a government agency asking to verify your personal information, hang up immediately and call your bank or report it to the IRS.
  • Mail a phony check. Some scammers will send out fake checks—with either the correct or incorrect economic impact payment amount—and require the recipient to verify personal information in order to cash it. The only mail correspondence you should receive will come from the IRS in the form of a letter with information on how the economic impact payment was made and how to report any failure to receive the payment.

For more information about the economic impact payments, see the American Bankers Assocation’s FAQ.

Remember, if you think you have been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact our Financial Intelligence & Security Unit at fisu@centralbank.com* or call us at 800-637-6884.

*Note that this email address is not monitored 24 hours a day.