Everyone loves a gift card for their favorite retailer or restaurant. It’s like getting money to spend in any way you please! Unfortunately, scammers also love gift cards, but for all the wrong reasons: They often use gift cards to pull off scams. Here’s what you need to know about gift card scams and how to avoid them. How the scams play out There are several ways scammers utilize gift cards to con victims out of their money: How to spot a gift card scam A little bit of knowledge goes a long way in recognizing gift card scams: In general, gift cards should be used for purchases or to send as gifts, and not as payments. Also, as with all sensitive information, the numbers on your gift card should never be shared over the phone or online. Finally, it’s best to only purchase gift cards through reputable sellers or those that have excellent customer reviews and/or offer a cash-back guarantee. If you’ve fallen victim to a gift card scam If you’ve paid a scammer with a gift card or shared your gift card information after being taken by any of the above ruses or similar schemes, take immediate steps to mitigate the damage. First, contact the company that issued the card as soon as possible. You can find the customer service number for most companies on the card itself or through a simple Google search. Tell the representative what happened. If you still have them, hold on to the receipt and the actual card for proof should it be required. Next, if the scammer continues to contact you by phone, text message or email, do not engage further. Block the scammer’s number from your mobile device and mark their emails as spam. Finally, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and alert your family and friends about the scam. Stay safe!
How the scams play out
There are several ways scammers utilize gift cards to con victims out of their money:
How to spot a gift card scam
A little bit of knowledge goes a long way in recognizing gift card scams:
In general, gift cards should be used for purchases or to send as gifts, and not as payments. Also, as with all sensitive information, the numbers on your gift card should never be shared over the phone or online. Finally, it’s best to only purchase gift cards through reputable sellers or those that have excellent customer reviews and/or offer a cash-back guarantee.
If you’ve fallen victim to a gift card scam
If you’ve paid a scammer with a gift card or shared your gift card information after being taken by any of the above ruses or similar schemes, take immediate steps to mitigate the damage.
First, contact the company that issued the card as soon as possible. You can find the customer service number for most companies on the card itself or through a simple Google search. Tell the representative what happened. If you still have them, hold on to the receipt and the actual card for proof should it be required.
Next, if the scammer continues to contact you by phone, text message or email, do not engage further. Block the scammer’s number from your mobile device and mark their emails as spam.
Finally, report the incident to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and alert your family and friends about the scam.
Our text alert service allows you to instantly keep tabs on suspicious
At SRI Federal Credit Union, we want to make sure that using your debit or credit card is always as safe and convenient as possible. That’s why we use text alerts as part of
our ongoing fraud monitoring program.
How It Works:
With text fraud alerts*, if our system detects suspicious activity on your card, you’ll receive a text message with details about the suspected transaction. All you have to do is respond to the text to confirm the transaction.
If you indicate the transaction is fraud, you’ll receive another message with a number to call for follow-up. If not, you’re all set. The system will mark the transaction as legitimate and you can get on with your day – simple as that.
If we have your mobile phone number on file, you don’t have to do anything. It’s really that easy. If there is suspicious activity, we’ll send a text alert right away.
To verify or update your mobile phone number give us a call at 800.986.3669.
* All texts will be sent from 37268.
The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) recently warned taxpayers and tax professionals about a new IRS impersonation scam email.
The email subject line may vary, but according to the IRS, recent examples use phrases like “Automatic Income Tax Reminder” or “Electronic Tax Return Reminder.” The emails include links that are meant to look like the IRS website with details about the taxpayer’s refund, electronic return or tax account. The emails contain a “temporary password” or “one-time password” that purports to grant access to the files. However, these are actually malicious files. Once the malware files are installed on your computer, scammers may be able to secretly download software that tracks every keystroke, giving the bad guys access to information like passwords to your financial accounts.
Don’t be fooled: The IRS does not send unsolicited emails and never emails taxpayers about the status of refunds.
KEEPING YOUR MONEY SAFE
Fraud and scams are realities in today’s world. Here are just a few of the most common schemes fraudsters may use:
“Is this too good to be true?” If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Read on for some typical fraud tactics.
- “Buy it now – this offer is only good today!”
- Pay first, before any of the details or contract are provided.
- Offers that discourage potential customers from taking the time to research the product or company thoroughly before purchasing.
- Offers in which a fee has to be paid to receive a large amount of money back.
Extremely alarming or threatening messages – threats of account closure and/or jail for yourself or a loved one. Fraudsters use fear in hopes that people will panic and be frightened into providing their personal information.
Promises of money for little or no effort. “Free” trips, life insurance, lottery winnings, etc. They ask you to pay a small processing charge in order to receive your money/gift.
Buy gift cards to pay for services/fees. A legitimate business will not ask for services to be paid with a gift card.
Email or text messages – claiming to need to verify or update your information. Never send your account numbers, card numbers, PIN(s), passwords, Social Security number(s), or any other personal identification information via text or email.
Love of your life (or a really good scam artist?). Be very cautious when a long-distance romance interest, a relative of a romantic love interest or anyone else that you know little about “needs money” or “has passed away and left you a large sum and you just have to send money to get it”.
How do I protect myself? Here are some ways to protect yourself.
PROTECT YOUR IDENTITY
Never share account or card information. This includes your internet banking login/password, account numbers, social security number, personal identification number(s)/PIN(s).
Do not provide personal information via email. Email is not a secure way to communicate.
Wait to “share”. Avoid posting on social media when you are on vacation and when you will be returning advertising that your home will be empty. Wait until you get back to post those fun photos!
Secure your mail. Place outgoing mail in a post office collection box and not in your own mailbox. If you are going to be away from home for more than a couple of days, have the US Post Office hold your mail. SRIFCU online banking and electronic statements are a great option!
Review your account regularly.
Safely dispose of personal information. Shred any documents that have personal or financial information.
Review your credit report annually. Request a free copy of your credit report at: www.annualcreditreport.com.
If you believe your identity and/or account information may have been compromised, contact the Federal Trade Commission immediately for guidance and to report identity theft.
How to protect your SRIFCU debit card from fraud and unauthorized transactions
HOW TO PROTECT YOUR SRIFCU DEBIT CARD FROM FRAUD AND UNAUTHORIZED TRANSACTIONS:
- Regularly review account transactions
- Do not provide your card number to via unsecure internet or to an unsecure website
- Log off any site after making a purchase with your card or close the browser completely
- Use a specific debit card tied to a specific account for online purchases only
- Track transactions carefully
- NEVER share your PIN with anyone
- Destroy old cards. Don’t throw them in the trash
- Protect your card as you would cash
- Use ATMs in well-lit and secure areas
- Shield the keypad when entering your PIN
What to do if you see transactions that you did not make?
- Contact the merchant immediately to discuss the charge and request reimbursement.
If the merchant will not provide a refund:
- Close your card: Call 800-986-3669 or stop by the branch to request that your card be closed immediately so no further transactions can be charged. A dispute form will also be provided for you to complete and submit.
Our members’ security is a top priority. We’ll never ask you to send us personal information such as an account number, card PIN or your Social Security/Tax ID over email. If you do receive a request like this through the phone, text or any other suspicious phishing email, please forward it to us at email@example.com.
What you need to do:
- Be sure to keep your contact information, especially your cell phone number and email address, current. This ensures our fraud protection group can reach you if there is suspicious activity on your account. To update your address please call 800-986-3669 or send a secured message through online banking.
- Fill out a Travel Notification Form online to let us know of your travel plans. This will prevent transactions from being declined due to where the charges are originating from. Review your accounts regularly to verify all transactions are valid.
- Make sure your passwords are strong. Strength in numbers – passwords should not be shorter than 6 – 8 characters. There should be a mix of numbers, letters (both capital and lower case) and special symbols. Most importantly don’t use the same password for everything.
- Request your free credit reports annually and review them for inaccuracies. You can get complete information about obtaining your free reports at AnnualCreditReport.com.
We are aware that a large data breach has been reported at Equifax with a reported 143 million records affected. Equifax is offering complimentary identity theft protection and credit file monitoring services to all US consumers.
Please note that although Equifax is reporting that some credit card numbers may have been comprised, SRI Federal Credit Union does NOT report credit card numbers to Equifax (or any other credit agency).
SRI Federal Credit Union recommends members to visit the Equifax website for more information regarding this incident.
We will continue to monitor this situation and provide updates on our website when necessary.
There have been a lot of changes behind the scenes at the credit union recently. We have a new chip card machine that instant-issues cards (debit and credit) in our office. Chip cards are also known as EMV (Europay/MasterCard/Visa) cards. They reduce fraud by creating a one-time passcode for every transaction and will also improve acceptance of cards in the United States and abroad.
Rick Valderrama (project lead) has been working very hard with a group of members to beta-test the new cards. The pilot program has a lot of moving parts, including new card designs, new encryption keys, a new server and crypto box, and changes to the method of reordering existing cards. The new cards have been successfully tested on a number of different transaction types. They work great and we will be rolling them out soon to all members. If you are eager to get one, please let us know! They are available now. If you see Rick around, say “thanks” for a great job on this!
Get extra cash in your pocket when you bring your auto loans to the credit union. In October, November and December, receive 1% cash back (up to $500) when you bring your auto loan home to the credit union. In addition, there are no payments required for the first 90 days!
Home loan rates are at an all-time low! If your home loan is not here at the credit union, this might be the chance to reduce your rate and your payments! Feel free to give our loan expert, Apryll Held, a call at 714.513.7251 or 800.200.4889 x7251.
Not only are 30-year fixed-rate loans very low, but the credit union’s 5/5 program is very attractive! The rate is fixed for five years and then changes only once every five years. Regardless of your needs, give us a chance to see if we can refinance your loan over to the credit union. (We have home equity loans, too!)
Shush – Don’t tell anyone! We have a super-secret project to revamp our home banking into a “mobile first” system next year. If you would like to be in on this early, let us know and we will add you to the pilot program team. Again, thanks to all our beta-testers! YOU make us better!