Education is one of the most powerful ways to protect yourself against malicious attacks. Scroll down to learn about different fraud categories or click on the links below.
Skimming is when criminals obtain debit or credit card data from the magnetic strip when it’s swiped through a fraudulent device. They can also get your PIN if a capturing mechanism is with the skimmer. Scammers will also sometimes use a pinhole camera or false PIN pad. Once information is stolen, they create counterfeit cards.
Tips to guard against skimming:
This occurs when checks are used to acquire funds without the authorization of the account owner. Crimes can include stolen checks, altered checks, forged checks, counterfeit checks, electronic checks, cashier’s checks, money orders, and bill pay checks.
Here are some ways to prevent it:
Depending on what information is obtained, phone scammers can make purchases, access accounts via online banking, commit identity theft, etc. America First will never call and ask for your PIN. If America First contacts you, we will never ask for important personal information over the phone, such as your Social Security or account numbers. If you contact us first, we will need to verify your identity prior to assisting.
Government entities, officials, or police agencies will never contact you via email or phone and demand that you take immediate action. If you encounter such a situation, contact local law enforcement immediately. Impersonating a government official is against the law.
Scammers will try to get as much information as they can, as quickly as possible. They'll use urgent language or high-pressure tactics to seek answers to their questions immediately. Don't be afraid to analyze what's going on and ask clarifying questions. Trust your gut. If something doesn't feel right, hang up.
Criminals can also use false numbers, so caller ID isn't a sure sign that a call is legitimate. If you’re questioning the call’s authenticity, find the company’s contact information and verify they tried making contact. For example, if you receive a suspicious call from someone claiming to be from America First, hang up and call our member service team via 1-800-999-3961 and ask if the call was from us.
Technical support scams
Fraudsters will occasionally call unsuspecting individuals and claim they’re offering technical support services. If you receive a suspicious communication of this nature:
Scammers target seniors by claiming to be a family member caught up in a legal or financial crisis. They will prey on emotions and create a sense of urgency. They’ll also often request that the individual not tell other family members about the situation.
If you get such a call, don't be afraid to verify the information before taking any action. Reach out to other family members and inquire about the whereabouts of the alleged caller.
Scammers can find victims in chat rooms, on dating sites, and using other social media networks. A scammer will quickly proclaim love for an individual and initiate what appears to be a new relationship. Shortly after communication begins, the financial requests begin—for medical costs, travel, business ventures, investments or gifts.
Lottery and sweepstakes scams
Participating in foreign lotteries is against the law, but scammers are using email, phone calls, direct mail & other media to make U.S. consumers believe they've won large cash sums. Details about the promotion’s name, country of origin, sponsoring organization, and prize amounts vary, but criminals will always try adding legitimacy by mentioning real financial institutions, government agencies, or well-known companies.
With this fraud, you’ll be notified you’re a lottery or sweepstakes winner when you didn’t even enter the contest. You’ll be asked to provide personal information, financial details, and copies of your driver's license and/or passport to get rewarded. If you comply with these requests, scammers will have enough information to steal your identity. They may also claim that you must first pay a small percentage for taxes or fees through wire transfer, check, cash, gift card, etc.
Never offer confidential personal or account information in this scenario. Do not respond to emails, texts, phone calls, or letters claiming you have won money from a contest you don’t remember entering.
If you’re selling something online, someone may offer a cashier's, personal, or corporate check in payment. At the last minute, the so-called buyer—or someone acting as his or her agent—will ask to write the check for more than the purchase price, and they’ll ask you to return the difference, via wire transfer, check, cash, gift card, etc. after you make a deposit. The fraudulent check will inevitably be returned, unpaid, leaving you liable for the entire amount.
Overpayment fraud is primarily perpetuated on classified or auction sites, but it can also be conducted over the phone. These checks often are printed on check stock and look legitimate with watermarks and other security features.
In any transaction, independently confirm the buyer's information. Don't accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how tempting. If the buyer insists you send back funds, end contact and the transaction immediately.
Online job scams
Another common internet hoax involves advertising jobs that allow you to work as independent agents or from your homes. Scammers use reputable online job boards to offer at-home positions with impressive compensation. The fake employer will ask new employees to receive money into their accounts, then transfer the funds to another account, often overseas. The fake employer may request that you open a new account to facilitate payment for your new employment. They may offer to fund the account for you via credit card advance or mobile deposit. As payment, the employment seeker is instructed to keep a small percentage of the transfer or deposit.
Most of these are check-cashing or shipping scams. Be cautious of any job offer without an interview. Do not engage in requests to transfer funds or receive packages for shipments. Never give out your Social Security number, account login credentials, or any other sensitive information unless you can verify the employer is legitimate.
Malware isn't limited to desktop & laptops. It can breach your mobile device through Wi-Fi and Bluetooth. Because most smartphones are easily connected to wireless networks, malware is simple to download. Only use secure, trusted & accepted Wi-Fi and Bluetooth connections from people you know. In general, keep Bluetooth off when you aren't using it.
Fake mobile banking apps
Criminals may develop and publish fake mobile banking applications that look official, but are fabrications designed to steal your credentials. Only download America First mobile banking from trusted sources, such as the App Store or Google Play. To help protect your accounts and information, don't use any app if you detect these or other warning signs:
SMS phishing, or SMShing, is fraud via text message. Scammers may attempt to trick you into replying to a text with financial or personal information, or by asking you to click on links that will sneak viruses on to your mobile device. Never respond to an SMS message requesting sensitive data. America First won’t ask for your information this way.
Malware is any type of software that is designed to infiltrate or damage a computer system or steal information. This includes viruses, spyware, Trojan horses, ransomware and other malicious applications. This malicious software will often give criminals access to infected machines.
It's important to know that malware can download itself onto your computer without your permission. It can make your machine do things you don't want it to do—such as opening a pop-up ad, tracking your online movements, stealing your passwords, and compromising your accounts.
Here’s how to minimize risk:
Everyone gets unsolicited offers through email, better known as spam. Criminals may send attachments and links that will lead you to spoof sites or cause you to inadvertently download harmful software. Many fraudsters use spam to gather personal information in order to steal your identity and your money.
Never email your personal information to an unknown source. You may be enticed by unsolicited limited-time offers or extreme savings, but if you don't know the source of an email, delete it. Always be cautious of opening attachments in emails. Even if a co-worker, family member, or trusted friend sends it to you, it may be infected. And remember to keep your computer firewall and anti-virus software up to date.
Phishing and spoofing
Certain emails may look legitimate, but be careful—they might send you to a fake site where you’ll be asked to enter account information. Messages may also list a phone number to call and include just enough specifics to make them seem valid. Be on the lookout for:
A Scammer can prey on members of identifiable groups that share affiliation and established trust. Be wary of any promise regarding outlandish returns and be thorough in your research before investing.
Internet auction fraud is the misrepresentation or non-delivery of advertised products. Only shop on trustworthy auction sites and see what security measures they provide, such as guarantees for services not delivered.
Don’t provide your Social Security or driver's license number during an electronic purchase, and you shouldn’t enter any account information until you have reviewed the company's security policy & terms of service. Don’t enter payment data until you are finally ready to make the purchase.
Be cautious of sellers who give appear to be in the United States but reveal they’re out of the country.
Wiring funds directly to someone gives you no options if you are victimized by internet auction fraud. Even wires through well-known banks or escrow services will not protect you.