Tips and Useful Information to Help Keep Your Information Secure

Published March 27,  2019   ‚Äč

4 Ways to Identify an IRS Scam

Tax filing season is a big time of year for scammers. Fraud schemes range from debt collectors claiming you haven’t paid your taxes, to someone posing as an IRS official or law enforcement agency threatening arrest, suspension of your driver’s license or some other penalty if you don’t immediately wire funds to pay your taxes. The scams have become increasingly sophisticated and hard to detect.

HERE IS WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

The first contact from the IRS will be through regular mail delivered by the United States Postal Service. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text message or social media. Only after mailing an official notification of an audit can an auditor/tax examiner follow up by phone. Forward any suspicious emails to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov. Alleged IRS or tax-debt collection calls should be reported to (800) 366-4484.

Payments to the IRS are only payable to the United State Treasury. They do not accept payment in the form of prepaid debit cards, gift cards or wire transfers. IRS agents will NEVER demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or dispute the amount they say you owe. They have to advise you of your rights as a taxpayer. They cannot threaten to bring in local police, immigration officers or law enforcement to have you arrested for not paying your taxes. The IRS also has zero authority to revoke your driver’s license, business license or immigration status.

If an IRS representative calls or comes to your home or business unannounced to collect a tax debt or as part of an investigation, they will always provide two forms of official credentials: a pocket commission and an HSPD-12 card. You have a right to see the credentials and can call the IRS to verify the identity/information on the representative’s HSPD-12 card.

Use a reputable tax preparer. Make sure you verify credentials and references before you hire a preparer. Red flags include charging fees based on the value of your refund, requiring refunds to be deposited into their bank account (or open a temporary account), or writing you a check in advance and stating your tax filing is complete. Beware of claims that you can get a larger refund than normal as this may involve falsifying your return.

To report tax-related illegal activities, contact the Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration
at 800-366-4484. Unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, or from a related component
such as EFTPS, should be reported to the IRS at phishing@irs.gov.

Published March 11,  2019

What You Need to Know to Protect Yourself from Job Scams

It can often feel like fraudsters are lurking around every corner, just waiting for their next target. One way they try to take advantage of unsuspecting victims is through job scams that provide fraudsters with sensitive data that allows them to gain access to your existing accounts or create new ones in your name. Common scams include:
 

  • Unsolicited job offer scams
  • Make easy money, no experience required scams
  • Secret shopper scams
 
Unfortunately, if you fall for one, you could experience financial losses you may not be able to recover. To help protect yourself from becoming a victim, here are a few things you should know.
 
How do they work?
Fraudsters send emails listing job openings to individuals, or they post ads to online job boards (e.g. Craigslist) and social media sites. In general, if you respond to one of these ads, all communication will be conducted via email, although you may be asked to complete a phone interview or video chat.
 
When the scam artist offers you a “job,” they’ll ask for a variety of personal and financial information, so they can “onboard” you as an “employee” and set up direct deposit for your “paycheck.” Information they may request includes: 
  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Social security number
  • Credit union name
  • Account numbers
  • Routing numbers
  • Debit card and PIN
  • User name and password to online/mobile banking
  • Driver’s license
  • Social security card
  • Passport

What happens after you’re “hired”?
What happens next depends on the type of job scam the fraudster is using. Here’s what you can expect for a couple of common scenarios.
 
Unsolicited job offer or make easy money, no experience required scam
The fraudster will often send you a check to deposit into your bank account. You’ll be asked to email a picture of your deposit slip or ATM receipt to the scammer to authorize payment of the check.
 
Then, they’ll contact you to let you know you were overpaid and need to return the excess amount via money transfer. Because the check is fraudulent, when you transfer the “excess funds,” you’ll give them your hard-earned money.
 
If you provided the log-in information to your online/mobile banking during the “onboarding” process, instead of receiving a check in the mail, the fraudster may tell you he’s using remote deposit to deposit the funds into your account. He then deposits the check and makes person-to-person transfers to himself with money from your account.
 
If you provided your debit card and PIN, he’ll tell you he’s depositing your paycheck into your account. Then use your debit card to make purchases with your money.
 
Secret shopper scam
You’ll receive a check to deposit into your bank account, and you’ll be asked to email a picture of your deposit slip or ATM receipt to the fraudster to authorize payment of the check. You’ll also get your secret shopping assignment, where you’ll be asked to make purchases at various stores. And “shop” the money transfer services by sending the remaining money from the check you deposited to a specific person.
 
Can you recover your money?
Unfortunately, in many cases you’re stuck with any financial losses you experience. If you deposit a fraudulent check into your account and use or transfer some or all the funds from it, you’re liable for the money that was used. 
 
Furthermore, when you share your online/mobile banking credentials or give out your debit card and PIN numbers, you’re authorizing access to your accounts and any transactions that may take place.
 
To make matters worse, the fraudster may have enough information to withdraw additional funds from your account not related to your “job” or open new deposit accounts, lines of credit or loans in your name.
 
And if the login credentials you provided are similar to your other online accounts, they may be able to figure out how to access those as well.
 
What should you do if you’ve been the victim of a job scam?
If you’ve been the victim of a job scam, consider closing your existing accounts to prevent additional fraudulent activity. Be sure to consult your financial institution before taking this action.
 
It’s also a good idea to update your user names and passwords for all your online accounts to prevent unauthorized access. And freezing your credit by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies or ChexSystems may help prevent new credit accounts from being created in your name. You can also monitor your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com to see if any new accounts have been opened.

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Published  February 28, 2019

Five Ways to Keep Your Email Account Secure

Having your email account hacked and receiving hundreds of spam messages is a nuisance. But the consequences could be much more serious if fraudsters use information they gain from your email to impersonate you.
 
While there’s no foolproof way to keep your account from being hacked, here are five tips to help keep your account secure. 

  1. Choose your password carefully. You’ve probably heard it before, but it bears repeating. It’s important to use complex passwords that are difficult to guess. And be sure to use a different password for every account you have.
  2. Limit apps. The more apps you download, the more entry points hackers have to gain access to your system. Keep only those you use regularly and make sure you download them from a source you trust. Delete apps you don’t use.
  3. Select security questions wisely. Many email programs require you to complete security questions in case you forget your password, so it can be reset. If you use questions such as “what’s your mother’s maiden name” or “where did you graduate from college,” hackers can easily find that information and use it to access your email.
  4. Install anti-malware programs on your devices. Viruses, keystroke programs and other types of malware make it easy for hackers to access your computer and all the information on it. Anti-malware software may help prevent your computer and other electronic devices from becoming infected.
  5. Enable 2-step verification. Some email programs offer two-step authentication, which provides an added layer of security by requiring you to input a verification code in addition to your password before you can access your account.

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Published January 24, 2019

New Year's Resolutions to Help You Stay Safe in a Digital World

As more of our daily activities take place online, it’s important to take steps that help ensure our personal information doesn’t fall into the wrong hands. Here are a few tips to help protect you and your family in today’s digital world.
 
Enable multi-factor authentication. Multi-factor authentication requires you to enter multiple pieces of information about yourself before you can access your online accounts. If it’s available, consider taking a few minutes to enable it.

  1. Avoid public WiFi. Using the free WiFi in your doctor’s office, airport or favorite coffee shop to pay bills or take care of some online shopping may seem like an efficient use of your time. But it’s not worth the risk. Public WiFi isn’t secured, making it easier for cybercriminals to hack your accounts and steal your personal information.

  2. Safeguard devices in your home. Computers aren’t the only devices that are vulnerable to being attacked. Any device with an Internet connection, including smartphones, smartwatches and tablets are susceptible. While there’s no foolproof way to protect all your devices, taking these steps can help keep them more secure.

    • Run the current versions of all software, apps and operating systems. Updates often resolve security vulnerabilities.

    • Use complex passwords. Consumers often use passwords such as family members’ names and birthdays because they’re easy to remember. But that also makes them easy for criminals to guess. Instead, opt for long, complicated passwords that incorporate upper- and lower-case letters, numbers and symbols, and are tough to figure out.

    • Password protect all devices, so it’s more difficult for someone to access your information if a device is lost or stolen.

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Published January 24, 2019

Avoiding Debit and Credit Card Fraud

Credit or debit card fraud can strike anyone. But you can help prevent your account information and personal data from being compromised.
 
Here are a few ways you can reduce your risk of fraud:

  • Use credit and debit cards with EMV chips. EMV chips make it more difficult to hack your information. You can still swipe your card if a merchant doesn’t have chip-enabled technology, but you won’t get the security benefits of the EMV technology.

  • Watch out for phishing scams. Don’t click on emails or texts that look suspicious. Fraudsters use phishing emails to trick you into entering your personal information including account numbers, logins, passwords and more.

  • Fill out your credit card receipts completely. Don’t leave the spaces on your receipts for “tip” and “total” blank because someone could write in a dollar amount. Instead, put a line through the spaces or write $0.

  • Shred documents with sensitive information. Criminals have been known to go through trash to obtain enough information to commit fraud.

  • Review your credit card and bank statements monthly. If you notice any transactions you don’t recognize, immediately report the unauthorized activity.

  • Even if you take all these precautions, it’s impossible to completely prevent fraud. Fortunately, your Premier America debit and credit cards have zero liability protection, which means if your card is used without your permission, you’re not responsible for fraudulent purchases.

Published January 24, 2019

Five Steps to Help Prevent Identity Theft

Every year, victims of identity theft spend countless hours working with creditors, and credit reporting agencies to repair the damage caused by identity thieves. Here are five tips to help keep you from becoming a victim.

  1. 1. SHRED IT. Shred all documents with sensitive information such as account and social security numbers before you throw them away.

  2. 2. BE CAREFUL ONLINE. One of the ways identity thieves access personal information is by hacking online accounts. Free Wi-Fi at your local coffee shop is great, but it can put your personal information at risk. Only use a secure, private Internet connection any time you log into your accounts or submit personal information online. Don’t click on links you receive from anyone you don’t know. And if you’re shopping, only use sites you trust.

  3. 3. ENABLE MULTI-FACTOR AUTHENTICATION. Multi-factor authentication requires you to input more than one piece of information to verify you’re you. If you have service providers that offer this added security, you should enable it.

  4. 4. CONSIDER USING A PASSWORD MANAGER. Password managers generate and store complex passwords for your online accounts that are difficult for hackers to guess. Password managers make it easy to create unique passwords for all your online accounts instead of re-using the same one.

  5. 5. UPDATE YOUR DEVICES. It’s easy to click “remind me later” when you see the system update notice on your phone, tablet or computer. Keeping your operating systems, software and apps up to date may resolve known security issues and can help keep your personal information secure.

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