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Fraud Education: Fight Back!

Hundreds of people are affected by social engineering scams every day. In the last half of 2008 alone, more than 150,000 phishing messages were detected by the Anti-Phishing Working Group (APWG) with that number expected to increase annually. According to the Consumer Sentinel Network, in 2008 it received more than 640,000 fraud complaints from consumers, totaling more than $1.8 billion!

Industry wide, cyber criminals and fraudsters are stealing people’s banking account information and identity. This goes beyond simply taking money. Cyber crime, like most types of crime, has a long-term effect on those who have been victimized. Feelings of paranoia, distrust, insecurity, and the loss of control stay with victims for a long time after the crime has taken place. It is time to take a stand.

Social Engineering

Social engineering is a term coined to describe the techniques used by cyber criminals that trick people into revealing passwords or other information, compromising the security of your personal information. Common scams include:

  • Phishing – the type of scam used by fraudsters to gain account or identity information through e-mail.
  • Vishing – also called VoIP phishing. This uses the same tactics as phishing; however it is typically done through the telephone.
  • SMiShing – uses text messages on cellular phones to bait receivers into providing secured information.

While our list is far from the complete list, since there are hundreds of different types of cyber scams and they are constantly evolving, we cover the major scams with tips and guides on how to recognize these scams, what you can do to protect yourself, and who to contact to report it.

The Key is Prevention

Protecting your information is the greatest weapon you have in preventing fraudsters from stealing your account information or identity. Simple things like shredding your old information or not clicking links in unsolicited e-mails will keep your information secure and drastically lower the chance of having your identity or account information compromised.

  • According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), by following the tips below you can safeguard your information and help prevent social engineering scams from impacting you.
  • Do not give out personal information on the telephone, through e-mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited e-mails.
  • Keep your anti-virus and anti-spyware software up-to-date.
  • Do not use an obvious password, such as birth dates, mother’s maiden name, a pet’s name, the last four digits of your Social Security number (SSN), etc.
  • Shred all financial documents and paperwork before discarding them.
  • Protect your SSN. Only give it out if it is necessary or ask to use another identifier.
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home.
  • Monitor your financial statements regularly and notify your financial institution immediately when you discover a potentially fraudulent transaction.

Above all, monitor your credit report regularly for unauthorized purchases or debts. The three nationwide consumer reporting companies provide a free copy of your credit report each year when you ask for it. Below are the contact numbers for each reporting institution.

  • Equifax®: (800) 525-6285 Web site: www.equifax.com
  • Experian®: (888) EXPERIAN (397-3742) Web site: www.experian.com
  • TransUnion®: (800) 680-7289 Web site: www.transunion.com

Many companies claim to offer free credit reports but require you enroll in a monitoring program to receive these free reports. Be sure to read carefully when you are requesting your credit report to ensure you are not subscribing to any service you do not really want.

TransFund also provides direct contact information to report lost or stolen ATM or debit cards.

  • Lost or stolen Citizens Bank Debit cards: (800) 791-2525.

It is time to take a stand against fraud scams. With your help and diligence, we can stop financial cyber crime and protect your identity.