Tips and Useful Information to Help Keep Your Information Secure

Published October 10, 2019

What You Need to Know to Protect Your Business From Inventory Fraud Schemes
Business email compromise schemes aren’t new. Historically, criminals have tried to steal money from their victims by tricking them into sending wire transfers or ACH payments to illegitimate accounts.
 
But recently, a new scam emerged. Instead of requesting money, fraudsters trick their victims into shipping electronics such as laptops, tablets, drones and more to unauthorized recipients. The perpetrators in this latest scheme are targeting electronics companies by using hacked business email accounts from small to mid-sized IT vendors.
 
The criminals use the hacked email accounts to contact electronics companies and order large shipments of inventory. The electronics company ships the items in the order while the invoice or third-party financing is being processed.
 
The company never receives payment, and the criminals fence the stolen inventory, which is never recovered by the victim. Some of the fraudulent shipments have been valued at as much as $600,000.  
 
Warning Signs of Inventory Fraud
Because of the significant impact this type of fraud can have on your bottom line, it’s important to be on the look out for signs that your business is being targeted. Here are a few:
 
  • Emails have been deleted or are missing from email inboxes without the user’s knowledge or permission
  • Inactive accounts become active again
  • Vendors or clients call asking for information about shipments or to change their payment information
 
Ways to Protect Your Business
While there’s no way to guarantee you won’t be a victim of inventory fraud, here are a few things you can do to help minimize your risk.
 
  • Disable old or unused business email accounts
  • Monitor email inbox settings for unauthorized installation of email rules to auto-forward or delete emails
  • Enable multi-factor authentication on email accounts to make it more difficult for thieves to gain unauthorized access
Call vendors directly to confirm requests for changes to orders or bank account information

Published September 18, 2019

Six Ways to Keep Your Mobile Devices Secure 

  1. Select apps carefully. You wouldn’t visit a questionable website you’re not familiar with. And it’s a good idea to avoid apps you’re not familiar with, too. Only download apps that come from sources you trust, to reduce the risk of having malware installed on your device.
  2. Say “yes” to updates. Maintaining the most current versions of your operating system and apps resolves known security vulnerabilities. Consider setting up your devices to install updates automatically to help keep your information safe and secure. 
  3. Install an anti-malware program. Anti-malware software on computers has been commonplace for decades. But it’s not as prevalent on smartphones or tablets, and the incidence of malware on mobile devices has skyrocketed in recent years. Consider installing anti-malware software to help protect your devices against viruses, ransomware and other types of online threats.
  4. Use a password. Require users to input a password to gain access to your phone or tablet. Set up your devices so they default to the password log-in screen after a short period of inactivity. If your device is lost or stolen, this will make it more difficult for unauthorized users to access your information. 
  5. Back up your data. Use either an external drive or cloud storage to back-up your data, so you can recover it if your device is lost or stolen. 
  6. Install an app that lets you delete data remotely. If your smartphone or tablet falls into the wrong hands, this will enable you to remove your personal information without having the device in your possession.
To learn more about keeping your devices safe online, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s online  security resources at consumer.ftc.gov/topics/computer-security. 

Published August 15, 2019

Protecting Yourself from Financial Fraud

Every year, millions of people in the U.S. fall victim to financial schemes. Here are some current scams to be aware of:

Overpayment Scam - Online classified ads and auction websites are rife with overpayment schemers. In
this scam, a potential buyer offers to send a seller a check or money order for an amount greater than the item sales price and instructs the seller to return the overpayment amount to them. After the seller  has sent the overpayment, it’s discovered that the buyer’s original payment is fake and they’ve lost the money remitted to the buyer.
      Avoiding this Scam - A legitimate buyer won’t offer to overpay you. Use a secure online payment
      system like PayPal that offers purchase protection for buyers and provides dispute resolution for
      sellers.

IRS Imposter Scam - Fraudulent IRS phone calls claiming a taxpayer owes back taxes have spiked in
recent years. These scammers often reference personal information they’ve obtained and threaten impending arrest and criminal prosecution, motivating victims to send funds to resolve the matter.
    Avoiding this Scam - The IRS will always contact you by mail before calling you regarding unpaid taxes
    and will never threaten arrest if you don’t make immediate payment. Never provide private information
    to an unrecognized caller and always contact the IRS directly to verify any alleged claim.

Lottery/Sweepstakes Scam - High-stakes lotteries and sweepstakes advertising easy money or fabulous
prizes in exchange for a small handling or processing fee are a common scam. No legitimate program will require you to pay to collect a prize you’ve allegedly won.
    Avoiding this Scam - Never provide your credit card number or other private information to participate
    in an unrecognized lottery or sweepstakes without verifying a program’s legitimacy with the Federal
    Trade Commission and your State Attorney General.

Published July 15, 2019

Travel Safety Tips

Keep your personal and financial information safe while traveling! Keep your personal and financial information safe while traveling!
 
  1. Let us know when you’re traveling. Maintain uninterrupted use of your Premier America debit and credit cards by submitting a travel notice before you leave. To submit a notice online, log into Online Banking and click on the “Services and Forms” tab. Or, call us at 800-772-4000, option 0 to submit a Travel Notice.
  2. Make copies of important documents. Copy the front and back of your passport, driver license and credit cards to leave copies at home and carry with you while traveling. That way if your passport or cards are lost or stolen, you’ll have copies of the information to replace them.
  3. Beware of free public WIFI. Avoid logging into financial accounts or entering passwords while using free public WIFI. Only enter passwords when using secure, password-protected WIFI.
  4. Separate your sources of money. Don’t keep all of your cash and cards in one spot.
  5. Beware of a helper at an ATM. Never let anyone near you while you’re making an ATM transaction, and ALWAYS cover the number pad with your hand while entering your pin code. If someone approaches too closely, take your card and find another ATM.
  6. Password protect your phone and add a tracking tool. Set up a password to unlock your device using a strong, unique password and change it regularly. Also, enable location tracking and install a wiping software so you can track down your phone or destroy data if it’s stolen.
  7. Avoid over-sharing online. Sharing travel plans on social media makes it easier for thieves to time a crime. Instead, wait to post about your trip after you get home.

How Not to Fall for Phishing Scams

A social media giant made headlines again this spring when more than 540 million user records were exposed to the public. As online data continues to be compromised, it becomes easier for hackers to trick people into handing over sensitive personal and financial information as well as their hard-earned money.
 
One of the challenges social media poses is that hackers aren’t just using information they find on a single site. They’re gathering information from multiple social media platforms and using it against you to create targeted messages that look legitimate.

 
Here are just a few of the ways hackers try to use your information to their advantage:
 
  • They hack social media accounts of people and organizations you trust, including customer support accounts from businesses you have a relationship with.
  • They send direct messages that look like they’re coming from someone you know, hoping you’ll click on the embedded links.
  • They try to get you to click on links they include in comments they post.
 If you have a social media presence, here are some tips to help keep you safe:
 
  • Limit what you share on social media and only post things you don’t mind everyone in the world seeing.
  • Be suspicious. If you’re not expecting a communication from an individual or organization you know, assume it’s a scam. If you’re not sure whether it’s legitimate, contact the sender at a phone number you trust.
  • Don’t click on links or attachments unless you’re certain they’re legitimate.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Be wary of requests for confidential information. Legitimate businesses and non-profit organizations won’t request confidential information through social media channels or email.

 Published May 24, 2019

Six Steps to Help Keep Your Social Media Accounts Secure

In today’s digital world, it can seem like hackers are lurking around every corner waiting to steal your information and use it to help themselves to everything from your credit card accounts to your identity. If you have social media accounts, it’s just as important to secure them as it is to secure your other online accounts. Here’s how:   
 
  1. Don’t sacrifice security for convenience. When you log into your accounts, you’ll often be asked whether you want to save your password or activate the auto login feature. Don’t. These options may be convenient and save you time when you want to log into your accounts, but it can also make it easier for hackers to access your user names and passwords.

  2. Adjust your private settings. When you set up a social media account, the default privacy settings are typically the least restrictive. Consider adjusting your settings to limit who can see your posts.

  3. Monitor your email for login notifications. Most accounts send you an email when someone logs in from a device it doesn’t recognize. These emails can alert you that someone is trying to access your account without your permission.

  4. Set up a separate email address to use only with your social media accounts. If your social media accounts get hacked and the fraudsters get into the email account that’s linked to them, the information they’ll have access to will be limited.

  5. Close old accounts. If you have accounts you no longer use, close them right away. If you’re not consistently monitoring them, you may not notice if someone is trying to gain unauthorized access to your account. 

  6. Choose what you post carefully. You don’t want to make it any easier for fraudsters to gather personal information about you that they can use against you.

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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