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Privacy | Identity Theft | Fraud Alerts

Fraud Alerts

The information on this page is provided to assist Columbus Metro members in protecting themselves from identity theft and other types of fraud. Some of the scenarios below were reported by our members, while others are warnings sent out by consumer watchdog groups or government agencies. Since identity thieves are dreaming up new schemes all the time, we recommend you visit this page frequently so that you are familiar with the latest scams.

Employment Scam Posted 08/21/12
A number of credit unions have reported that their members have been recruited as money mules and are unknowingly assisting fraudsters in laundering stolen funds. Money mules are most often recruited through bogus job offers, although there are variations of the scheme that find victims through online dating or other Web sites. Upon accepting the job offer, the money mule is told he/she will receive deposits to their account via ACH and/or wire transfer. (In some cases, the mule is instructed to open an account with a particular institution.) Once the funds are deposited, the mule is told to wire the funds or send them to another individual via Western Union. The money mule is told to keep a portion of the funds as wages. Typically, the funds involved in these schemes have been stolen from accounts at other financial institutions or brokerage firms.

Phishing Scam Posted 06/25/12
In March 2012, Atlanta-based credit card processor Global Payments revealed that up to 10 million Visa and MasterCard account numbers may have been compromised. Now, fraudsters are using the Global Payments name to perpetrate even more fraud. Individuals posing as "fraud investigators" are contacting consumers via e-mail, text message and phone in an attempt to gain credit card numbers or other personal information. If you receive such a message, do not respond. If your card information was exposed in the breach, you will be contacted by the issuing financial institution, not by Global Payments. If you have any concerns about your credit or debit card, you should contact your credit union or bank at the number on the back of the card.

Phishing Scam Posted 06/25/12
In March 2012, Atlanta-based credit card processor Global Payments revealed that up to 10 million Visa and MasterCard account numbers may have been compromised. Now, fraudsters are using the Global Payments name to perpetrate even more fraud. Individuals posing as "fraud investigators" are contacting consumers via e-mail, text message and phone in an attempt to gain credit card numbers or other personal information. If you receive such a message, do not respond. If your card information was exposed in the breach, you will be contacted by the issuing financial institution, not by Global Payments. If you have any concerns about your credit or debit card, you should contact your credit union or bank at the number on the back of the card.

Internet Scam Posted 03/26/12
A new scam is targeting Kelly Blue Book, the leading provider of new- and used-car information. A fake Web site fools users into thinking they are at KBB's actual site, and the crooks try to trick buyers into buying cars that don't exist.Here's how it works:

  • A crook goes to a reputable Web site and lists a car for sale that he/she doesn't own, along with a story about a quick divorce or military deployment that requires the vehicle to be sold quickly.
  • The "seller" moves the transaction to a fraudulent site to complete the transaction. The alternate site may use KBB's logo and similar fonts and colors, as well as guarantees backed by reputable companies and promises to return funds should a vehicle not be delivered. (Often such sites are poorly written and contain typos.)
  • The seller instructs potential buyers to wire partial or full payment to a third party and fax proof of payment. By the time the buyer realizes what happened, the seller — and the money — are gone.

KBB reminds consumers that they are not in the business of selling cars. If you encounter an offer like the one described above, contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov.

Vishing Scam Posted 02/15/12
Credit unions across the country are reporting a new round of vishing calls. Members and non-members alike have received automated calls which play recorded messages claiming to be from a credit union (or bank) requesting verification of financial information. Calls are being received on both landlines and cell phones. Some messages indicate that the individual's account has been locked or closed, while others indicate that a credit or debit card number has been compromised. Remember, you should never respond to any telephone call requesting personal or financial information, no matter how urgent the message may seem. If you unwittingly provide personal financial information to a fraudster, please contact us immediately.

Holiday Shopping Alert Posted 11/23/11
As the holiday season approaches, it is important to be aware of potential scams. Con artists are working hard to get their hands on your money as well as personal and financial information. To help reduce the risk, we offer a list of potential scams along with tips for a safer and smarter holiday shopping season.

  • Watch for mobile malware — especially with deals for "Black Friday" or "Cyber Monday".
  • Be cautious when looking for free mobile apps — they may be an attempt to steal information.
  • Watch for malicious screensavers, ring tones and e-cards.
  • Watch for offers to purchase fake anti-virus software.
  • Secure your computer — at minimum, you should have anti-virus and anti-spyware software as well as a firewall.
  • Remember to turn off your computer when you're done shopping.
  • Watch for social media scams, like phony Facebook and Twitter sites or other online promotions and contests.
  • Beware of scammers advertising popular holiday items.
  • Research before you buy — check out the seller of items you're buying online.
  • Don't fall for the mystery shopping scam asking you to shop for $100 (or any other amount).
  • Disregard e-mails asking for personal or financial information in exchange for online coupons.
  • Don't fall for phishing scams — e-mails, text messages or phone calls asking for personal or financial information.
  • Monitor credit and debit cards used for holiday shopping for unauthorized usage.
  • Don't let would-be burglars know you're away — don't post vacation pictures online until you return home.
  • When you go to the mall, survey the parking lot. Park in a well-lit area and have your car keys in your hands when you enter the lot.
  • If an offer or item sounds to good to be true, it's probably a scam.
  • Report scams to the Federal Trade Commission at www.ftc.gov or call toll-free 1.877.FTC.HELP (1.877.382.4357)

E-mail Scam Posted 08/03/11
The Ohio Department of Commerce is warning Ohioans about an unclaimed funds scam. Residents are receiving an official-looking e-mail that claims to be from the National Association of Unclaimed Property Administrators (a real organization) and says that the recipient has unclaimed funds overseas. The notice says the recipient doesn't have to pay anything to claim the funds, but they do need to contact an attorney overseas and provide bank-account information. If you receive an e-mail like the one described here, simply delete it — do not provide your account information to anyone in response to this message. You can search for unclaimed funds in your name at www.com.ohio.gov/unfd/TreasureHunt.aspx.

Smishing Scam Posted 07/21/11
Credit unions around the country have reported that members are receiving bogus text messages (smishing) alerts. The text message indicates it is from Credit Union Services and advises the member to call the number provided in the text message to have their card reactivated. This is a scam! No credit union — including Columbus Metro — would ever use text messaging to ask a member for this type of information. Such messages should be ignored and deleted.

E-mail Scam Posted 05/04/11
The FBI is warning computer users to exercise caution when they receive e-mails that purport to show photos or videos of Usama bin Laden's recent death. Such e-mails could contain a virus or "malware," malicious software that can embed itself in computers and spread to users' contact lists. The Internet Crime Complaint Center urges computer users not to open unsolicited e-mails or click links contained within such e-mails.

Data Breach Posted 04/05/11
A number of major retailers have alerted consumers that their names and e-mail addresses have been accessed by hackers. Companies include Kroger, Best Buy, Walgreen's and New York & Co. as well as Citigroup, Capital One, JPMorgan Chase and U.S. Bancorp. While no financial information has been stolen, the concern is that names and e-mail addresses could be used for phishing scams. You can easily protect yourself from these scams — don't respond to e-mails from senders you don't know, especially those seeking personal information.

ATM Skimming Posted 03/23/11
CUNA Mutual Group is warning credit unions and their members about the increasing use of skimming devices on ATMs and gas station pumps. Skimmers are card-reading devices designed to capture the information on the magnetic strip of your ATM, debit or credit card and are often accompanied by wireless cameras equipped to capture PINs entered by ATM users. Members should be alert to foreign devices attached to ATMs. Be on the lookout for loose pieces on the front of the machine, wires, or signs directing you to insert your card somewhere other than the usual slot. If you have any doubts about the ATM, don't use it — find another machine.

Fraudulent E-mails Posted 02/25/11
NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association has received reports that individuals and/or companies have received a fraudulent e-mail that appears to be from NACHA. The e-mail claims to be from the "Electronic Payments Association" and appears to come from the e-mail address "payments@nacha.org." The subject of the e-mail is "ACH transaction rejected" and says, "The ACH transaction recently sent from your checking account (by you or another person) was cancelled by the Electronic Payments Association. Please click here to view report."

While NACHA is a legitimate organization, it does not process or touch ACH transactions that flow to and from financial institutions. Furthermore, NACHA does not send communications to individuals or organizations about ACH transactions that they send or receive. Recipients are advised not to reply to or click on the link in the e-mail. Phishing e-mails frequently have attachments infected with viruses or malware and/or links to infected Web pages.

Top Scams of 2010 Posted 01/10/11
The Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio recently released its annual list of the top scams of the past year, based on the frequency of calls and complaints to the BBB. The organization produces the report each year to help consumers avoid falling prey to similar scams this year.

The top 10 for 2010 are:

  1. Advance-fee loan scams, where consumers are told that they qualify for a loan but must pay an upfront fee in order to receive it. The victim wires money to the scammers but never receives the loan.
  2. Home repairers or roofers go door-to-door promising repairs but fail to deliver.
  3. Lottery or sweepstakes scams, many of them fraudulently using familiar names such as Reader's Digest or Publisher's Clearing House. Consumers are sent a check that supposedly represent part of their winnings and are instructed to deposit the check and wire some of the money back to pay supposed taxes or fees. The deposited check bounces, leaving the victim owing bank fees and whatever amount they wired.
  4. Companies offering debt-relief and debt-settlement services. Hefty upfront fees often leave consumers worse off than when they started.
  5. Duct-cleaning companies that run ads offering services at for a low price, typically $69.95. Once they enter the home and dissassemble the consumer's furnace, the fees increase considerably. Victims are left to either pay the higher bill or not have their furnace put back in working order.
  6. Identity-theft scams, including phishing schemes and information stolen from credit card offers.
  7. Work-from-home scams, often advertised online or in newspapers. Consumers are asked to send a fee to get more information and usually end up with nothing.
  8. Mystery-shopper scams where consumers are asked to evaluate services and retailers using a check the consumer receives in the mail. The consumer deposits the check and wires the funds as part of the supposed evaluation, but the check is fake.
  9. Vehicle service contracts. Some companies significantly restrict the repairs they cover.
  10. Overpayment scams, where scammers overpay for services or products they buy and ask the seller to wire the extra funds back to them. The check sent to pay for the merchandise is fake.

Phishing Scam Posted 10/08/10
The National Credit Union Administration reports that some credit union members have received fraudulent e-mails purported to be from the NCUA. The e-mails state that the NCUA will add $50 to the member's account for taking part in a survey; the link in the e-mail directs members to a counterfeit version of NCUA's Web site with an illicit survey that solicits account numbers and confidential personal information.

Any e-mail that alleges to be from the NCUA and asks for account information is fraudulent. NCUA will never ask credit union members or the general public for account or other personally identifiable information as part of a survey. Members who receive such e-mails should not click any links within the message. Members affected by this or a related scam should be forwarded to phishing@ncua.gov.

Telemarketing Scam Posted 09/17/10
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray's office reports that his office has received numerous complaints about telemarketers who promise to lower consumers' credit card rates in exchange for fees of $600 or more. The scheme has been around for years, but there seems to be an increase in the number of such calls recently. Ohio residents complain that they are receiving calls in violation of the "Do Not Call" registry and that they are being pressured to sign up for alleged rate reduction services offered by companies with vague names like "Card Member Services" or "Credit Card Services." In some cases, the telemarketers even hint that they work for the consumer's credit card company. If you are contacted by a telemarketer offering such services, hang up. Do not provide them with credit card or account information that could be used to collect a fee.

Phishing Scam Posted 08/24/10
NACHA - The Electronic Payments Association reports that it is the victim of a phishing attack, the second in less than a month. The body of the e-mail claims that NACHA has rejected an ACH transaction on the customer's account and requests account information. In reality, NACHA does not process or come into contact with ACH transactions that flow to and from financial institutions and other organizations, and they do not send communications to individuals or organizations about individual ACH transactions. If you receive such an e-mail, do not click the link or provide the requested information.

Phone Scam Posted 08/13/10
Several members have reported that they received an automated phone call informing them that they need to update their Columbus Metro credit or debit card information and asking them to input their card number, expiration date and CVV code from the back of the card. Members should not provide the information requested. Remember, we will never call you and ask you to provide your account information to us; we have that information on file. If you have disclosed your account information in response to one of these calls, please call us immediately so that we can block your credit or debit card before it is used fraudulently.

E-mail Scam Posted 05/27/10
The National Credit Union Administration is warning credit unions and their members about fraudulent e-mails that appear to come from the NCUA. The e-mails solicit credit union members' participation in a survey and promise $40 for responding. The NCUA does not solicit such information from members, and warns that the latest e-mails may be an attempt to obtain members' confidential account information. Anyone receiving these e-mails should not respond to them. Questions may be sent to the NCUA at pacamail@ncua.gov.

Mortgage Scam Posted 05/11/10
The Federal Trade Commission is warning consumers about a new scam aimed at homeowners struggling to keep their homes. In the scam, so-called "forensic loan auditors," "mortgage loan auditors" or "foreclosure prevention auditors" offer to review your mortgage loan documents to determine whether your lender complied with state and federal mortgage lending laws. The "auditors" require an upfront fee of a few hundred dollars in exchange for a report that they say can be used to avoid foreclosure, accelerate the loan modification process, reduce your loan principal, or even cancel your loan.

Nothing could be further from the truth. According to the FTC and its law enforcement partners:

  • There is no evidence that forensic loan audits will help you get any sort of foreclosure relief.
  • Some federal laws allow you to sue your lender based on errors in your loan documents, but even if you sue and win, your lender is not required to modify your loan to make your payments more affordable.
  • If you cancel your loan, you will lose your home and you will have to return the money that you borrowed to your lender.

If you're behind on your mortgage payments, the most important thing you can do is communicate with your lender. You can also call 1.888.995.HOPE for free personalized advice from housing counselors certified by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. To learn more about home mortgages and other credit-related issues, visit the FTC Web site at www.ftc.gov/MoneyMatters.

Check Scam Posted 05/08/10
The Ohio Department of Insurance is warning against a new version of an old scheme, this time involving the use of the names of large insurance companies including Nationwide and Progressive. Consumers report receiving counterfeit checks that appear to be from an insurance company. The checks are for $3,500 to $4,900 and are accompanied by a letter stating that the consumer has won between $150,000 and $250,000 in a drawing from the publisher of Reader's Digest or a similar company.

The letter instructs the recipient to cash the check, then wire between $2,000 and $4,000 to a specific address to cover taxes on the prize. Later, consumers find out they have been defrauded when their bank informs them that the check did not clear, leaving them on the hook for the amount of the check and associated fees.

ODI urges consumers to be skeptical of mailings from companies that they don't do business with or that offer a large amount of money in exchange for a fee or for the disclosure of personal information. More information on these types of scams can be found at www.fakechecks.org.

Work-At-Home Scam Posted 02/18/10
Several companies, including Cincinnati-based Job Line, Inc., are accused of scamming job-seekers and now face legal action as part of a state and federal crackdown. The targeted companies promise work in the federal government, as movie extras or mystery shoppers or at home stuffing envelopes or assembling ornaments. The companies are accused of failure to deliver on promises and making misleading statements in violation of the Ohio Consumer Sales Practices Act.

According to the Ohio Attorney General's office, job-hunters can avoid falling prey to such scams by following these tips:

  • Don't pay for help finding work. Be suspicious of companies that want you to pay for exclusive information, mandatory training sessions, starter kits or other materials, especially if they ask you to wire money to a foreign country.
  • Don't trust unrealistic salaries or vague job descriptions. Demand a detailed description of the work involved before you commit to a job.
  • Beware of lengthy contracts, and don't sign anything without reading it. Scam artists might slip in certain clauses, hoping you won't read them. Written contracts generally are binding, so take the contract to a lawyer or trusted friend to review and don't sign the agreement unless you understand what you're agreeing to.
  • Don't give in to high-pressure tactics. If a company doesn't give you time to review a contract or make a decision, don't do business with it.

Phishing Scam Posted 12/03/09
Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray warns that a scam playing on fears about the swine-flu virus is spreading a computer virus that could lead to identity theft. There are bogus e-mails circulating that appear to come from the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announcing a state vaccination program for H1N1 flu. The message encourages recipients to click on a link and download instructions for creating a personal vaccination profile. The download actually infects the recipient's PC with a virus capable of sending their personal information back to the scammers. If you receive such an e-mail, do not click on the link and delete it immediately. The CDC does not send e-mails directly to consumers.

Phishing Scam Posted 10/29/09
Consumers are being warned about e-mails that appear to be from the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation but are in fact a scam. The subject line of the e-mail says, "Check Your Bank Deposit Coverage". The body of the e-mail says that the recipient has an account with a bank that has failed and been taken over by the FDIC. The recipient is asked to click the link that is included in the e-mail to "check your Deposit Insurance Coverage." Both the e-mail and the associated Web sites are fraudulent. The e-mail is an attempt to collect information that may be used to gain unauthorized access to a bank account or commit identity theft.

Phone Scam Posted 09/03/09
A Columbus woman received a phone call from a Jamaican man who told her that she had won $200 million because she paid her bills on time. The caller said that all she had to do was send $200 by Western Union to cover delivery. The woman refused and hung up. Still, she has received three more calls from Jamaica. Statewide, Ohio Attorney General Richard Cordray's office has received 51 complaints from consumers who received phone calls promising sweepstakes or prize winnings. Twelve complaints involved phone calls from Jamaica. Nationally, Jamaican phone scams are believed to have collected more than $30 million last year. Wyatt Wilson, a Columbus police detective in the fraud and forgery unit, says the top four sources of such scams are Jamaica, Nigeria, the United Kingdom and Canada.

Phishing Scam Posted 08/24/09
The Federal Reserve Board warns consumers about fraudulent solicitations that appear to be made with the approval or involvement of the Federal Reserve or other U.S. government officials. The solicitations promise bogus financial services or large sums of money in exchange for either payment or personal information that can be used to access a consumer's bank account.

The Federal Reserve is advising consumers that it has no involvement in these solicitations, and consumers are strongly urged to verify the legitimacy of potential service providers before entering into a business transaction. More information is available at www.federalreserve.gov/consumerinfo.

Check Scam Posted 07/16/09
A member received a letter from Unitrust Investment Corporation of Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada, in regards to a "loan trial package". The letter included a check drawn on International Bank of Commerce for nearly $8,900. The letter advised the member to call a certain person at an 800-number to "validate" the check. The member deposited the check to his account, but it was returned due to forgery. An Internet search turned up a Better Business Bureau rating of F for Unitrust.

Work-At-Home Scam Posted 07/14/09
The Better Business Bureau of Central Ohio warns Twitter users to beware of work-at-home and get-rich-quick schemes. "So many Ohioans are out of work and are looking for a way to bring home a paycheck," says BBB spokeswoman Joan Coughlin. "Work-at-home schemes have often preyed on unsuspecting job hunters, and now Twitter is being used as one of the newest ways to convince cash-strapped individuals that they can make quick and easy money."

One scam the BBB has identified involve companies that promise to pay Twitter users up to $873 to tweet after they sign up for a CD-ROM training kit. Users sign up for the "free" kit, unaware that they are actually committing to a membership. If they don't cancel the membership within seven days, they'll be charged large monthly fees, according to the BBB's Coughlin. What's more, Web links in some tweets may lead to sites that install software that steal personal information.

Two companies identified by the BBB as engaging in these practices are EasyTweetProfits.com, based in Surrey, England, and TwitterProfitHouse.com, based in Burbank, California.

Check Scams Posted 06/02/09
The Consumer Federation of America warns that phony-check scams are getting more sophisticated, and more consumers are falling for them. In a recent survey, the CFA found that nearly one-third of U.S. consumers have faced this scam, in which con artists provide consumers with a fake check to cash and then ask them to return some of the money to them. About 1.3 million consumers nationwide have fallen for the scam, and victims lost an average of $3,000 to $4,000 per occurance because they wired the money to con artists only to find out that the checks they were given were no good.

Consumers can avoid losing money to fake-check scams by heeding these tips:

  • Never agree to wire money to anyone you haven't met in person or haven't known a long time.
  • Never agree to cash checks and send money somewhere as part of a home-based job.
  • Never agree to pay for grants from the government or foundations.
  • Never agree to pay to claim a prize.
  • Check with the Better Business bureau, your state attorney general's office, the Federal Trade Commission or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service if an offer seems suspicious.
  • Remember that there is no legitimate reason for anyone to give you a check or money order and then ask you to send money anywhere else in return.

Source: Consumer Federation of America

For more information, visit www.fakechecks.org.

Phishing Scam Posted 05/28/09
A member reported that she had received multiple calls from 1.866.902.8199 indicating that they had the last four digits of her Columbus Metro credit card number. A Google search of the phone number turned up numerous complaints about repeated phone calls from the same number, which supposedly belongs to a company called Platinum Marketing. The reports on the purpose of the calls vary somewhat — some call recipients say they were offered a free gas card if they signed up for an automobile membership program, while others said they were offered a "free" gift card if they paid for shipping and handling. At any rate, Columbus Metro is not associated with this organization in any way, and we do not provide any of our members' card information to third parties for marketing purposes. We have reported our member's experience to the FTC; consumers can contact the FTC directly at www.ftc.gov or 1.877.FTC.HELP.

E-mail Scam Posted 04/30/09
The U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an alert warning of a number of e-mail scams related to the swine flu. The attacks arrive via an unsolicited e-mail message typically containing a subject line related to the swine flu. The e-mails may contain a link or an attachment. If users click on the link or open the attachment, they could be directed to a phishing web site or exposed to malicious code.

Experts are also warning consumers to be highly skeptical of unknown web sites with the words "swine flu" in the domain name. Dozens of new swine flu domain names have been registered in the last few days. To stay informed about the swine flu — and protect your computer — rely on trusted sources of information, such as the U.S. Centers for Disease Control.

Sweepstakes Scam Posted 04/01/09
The Better Business Bureau is warning about letters that appear to come from Publishers Clearing House telling the recipients they've won a $1 million prize. The letters come with fraudulent checks for as much as $5,900, and the goal is to con victims into cashing the checks and wiring most of the funds back to the sender. That money cannot be recovered.

Joan Coughlin of the Central Ohio Better Business Bureau says the scammers are trying to capitalize on a New Jersey woman's recent win in the real Publisher's Clearing House sweepstakes. People have reported receiving the letters since early March in 19 states, including Ohio.

Smishing Scam Posted 03/20/09
"Smishing" is similar to deceptive e-mail and phone scams. The term is derived from the SMS technology used for text messages.

A Columbus Metro member reported that she received a text message on her cell phone indicating that her account was frozen. When she called the phone number included in the message, she was asked for her debit card number, which she refused to provide. Remember, we will never call, e-mail or send you a text message about your account status and then ask you to provide us with your account information.If you receive a message that is supposedly from Columbus Metro, do not call the number in the message. Instead, call us directly at 614.239.0210 or 800.986.3876 or e-mail us at cmfcu@columbusmetro.org.

Money Order Scam Posted 03/16/09
The Columbus Dispatch reported that a local woman wanted to sell a Leapster Learning Game her daughter had outgrown. She listed it on Craigslist.com, a free online classified listing, with an asking price of $100 and received a quick response from someone who wanted to buy it. A few days later, she received two money orders from the buyer for $932 each. Then she received an e-mail from the buyer saying that there had been a mistake. He asked her to keep $200 (twice her asking price for the toy) for her trouble and wire the remaining money back to him. She deposited the money orders and wired the funds, only to find out after the fact that the money orders were fraudulent. She now owes her bank the $1,729 that was wired plus wire transfer fees.

Columbus Metro warns members to be extremely suspious of any checks or money orders that are sent to you — especially if the sender asks you to wire a portion of the funds back to them. If you bring these items to the credit union for deposit, they will not be available for immediate withdrawal, which protects both you and the credit union from loss if the items turn out to be fraudulent.

Phishing Scam Posted 02/12/09
A new e-mail scam promises information on "economic stimulus grants." The scammers use fake testimonials such as, "I found the grant I needed and filled out the forms and sent them in, and in about two weeks I received a check in my hand for $100,000." A link in the e-mail leads to a site where you enter personal information such as your salary range, e-mail address, mailing address and date of birth in order to get a free CD-ROM that will show you how to get a grant. To order the CD, you must enter credit card information to cover postage and handling costs. Unfortunately, victims never get a CD—only a stolen identity.

Phishing Scam Posted 01/23/09
The Columbus Dispatch reports that the latest scam circulating throughout Ohio is an e-mail that appears to be from the Internal Revenue Service. It looks like it's on U.S. Department of Treasury letterhead and informs consumers that, "After the last annual calculations of your fiscal activity we have determined that you are eligible to receive a Stimulus Payment." The e-mail instructs the recipient to submit an online form in order to get their payment and contains a link for consumers to download and forward.

In fact, the IRS does not send unsolicited e-mail to taxpayers and does not ask for personal information such as passwords, PINs, or financial account information by e-mail. Consumers should not open any attachments and should forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov for further investigation.

Phone Scam Posted 12/01/08
The Ohio Department of Insurance is warning about a telephone scam targeting auto insurance customers. Victims are receiving calls saying that their insurance payment can't be processed and they'll need to provide their bank account number as well as other personal information to resolve the problem. The department warns consumers to be very careful when anyone other than your insurance agent contacts you about your policy. If you're suspicious about a caller, insist on getting a name and telephone number and don't give the person your financial or other personal information.

Phishing Scam Posted 11/26/08
A new twist on phishing aims to obtain the three-digit security code printed on the back of Visa and MasterCard credit and debit cards. The phishers are trying to get enough information to perform fraudulent card-not-present transactions (Internet, telephone and mail-order purchases).

Under the scam, a legitimate cardholder gets a phone call. The caller claims to be a representative of Visa® or MasterCard® informing the cardholder of suspicious card activity. The caller provides details of an unusual transaction and asks if the cardholder made the purchase, which, of course, the cardholder did not. The cardholder is then asked to verify that they have possession of the card by providing the three-digit security code on the back of the card. The fraudster then provides a control number in the event that the cardholder needs to call back with questions, which makes the call seem legitimate.

The caller does not ask for the credit or debit card number, and that is why some consumers have been fooled into believing the call is legitimate. But the fraudster already has the card number; what they don't have is the three-digit code from the back of the card. Remember, you should never respond to any e-mail, telephone call, voice message, text message or letter that requests personal or financial information, including the three-digit security number on the back of your plastic cards.

Phone Scam Posted 11/10/08
A Columbus Metro member reports that she received six phone messages over the weekend from someone who said she'd won a prize in connection with a recent visit to Wal-Mart (she had not shopped there). The member returned the call and was told that her Columbus Metro Visa® card number and expiration date was needed to process the prize. The alert member recognized this as an attempt to get her credit card information for fraudulent use and hung up. The calls came from area code 231, which is in northern Michigan.

Loan Scam Posted 11/05/08
The Federal Reserve Board is warning the public about a scam that encourages consumers to place large deposits in a bank account in order to obtain large secured loans through a Fed program that does not exist.

"Under this fraudulent scheme, targeted individuals are told that they can work through a broker to access a Federal Reserve program that extends sizable secured loans to consumers. Consumers are encouraged to deposit large sums of money into a bank account, under the guise of a security deposit, in order to receive the purported loan," the Fed said in a warning issued on Tuesday. The Fed notes that it does not directly sponsor consumer lending programs.

The Fed recommends that consumers who have questions about this or any other potentially fraudulent schemes call the Fed's Consumer Help Center at 888.851.1920 or visit its Consumer Help page at www.federalreserveconsumerhelp.gov.

Credit Card Solicitation Posted 10/31/08
A member brought in a letter that looked like a credit card solicitation. The letter from Union Workers Credit Services seemed to offer a pre-approved Platinum Visa® or MasterCard® with a credit limit of up to $10,000. To receive the card, the recipient had to send $37.

However, a closer look reveals that the offer isn't for a credit card at all. Instead, your $37 gets you a "PLATINUM Card Membership" and the $10,000 credit line only applies to the purchase of merchandise from the UWCS catalog. An Internet search turned up evidence of similar letters dating back several years. Recipients reported that they sent in the $37 and never received anything in return, while others said that the merchandise in the catalog was overpriced. The lesson: Beware of any credit card offer that requires you to pay a fee before you get more details. And be sure that the credit card solicitation is from a bank that actually issues Visa and/or MasterCard credit cards.

Phone Scam Posted 10/28/08
A Columbus Metro member reports that she received a phone call from an individual who said that her bank had submitted her name to a consumer credit agency in order to lower her credit card rates. All that they needed was the account number(s) for her credit cards, the expiration dates and the last four digits of her Social Security number. When pressed, the caller could not provide the name of the bank that had supposedly submitted the member's name. The alert member didn't provide any information to the caller and hung up.

Phishing Scam Posted 10/23/08
Better Business Bureau is alerting consumers and businesses about a phishing scheme that uses both e-mail messages and blog posts directing recipients and viewers to register software with BBB.

"The messages and posts are most likely part of a large-scale phishing scam leveraging the trusted nature of the BBB name to entice recipients and bloggers to open messages and access attachments or links," said Joan Coughlin, BBB spokesperson. "Anyone who receiving an e-mail or viewing a blog requiring the registration of software with BBB should not click on any links or in any way respond to the message, because doing so may allow harmful viruses or spyware to enter the recipient's computer or network."

Phishing Scam Posted 10/14/08
The Federal Trade Commission is warning that phishers are taking advantage of the recent upheavals in the financial services industry to launch attacks on consumers by posing as the financial institution that recently acquired their institution or mortgage company. E-mails may ask consumers to update, validate or confirm their account or other personal information following the acquisition of their financial institution. The FTC advises consumers to avoid replying to e-mail or pop-up messages asking for personal or financial information. Additionally, the agency cautions that some scammers are sending pre-recorded telephone messages asking consumers for a return call to update personal information. In these cases, the agency suggests consumers call the number on their financial account statements.

Check Scam Posted 10/03/08
A member received a letter in the mail, supposedly from Publisher's Clearing House, that said she had won their $1 million third prize. The letter included a check for $5,340 to "cover any outstanding fees" necessary to claim the prize. The recipient was directed to call a toll-free number for further instructions. When the member called, she was instructed to send a MoneyGram for $3,500 to a certain address. The check enclosed with the letter is assumed to be fraudulent; the maker of the check was a company in California, but it was drawn on a bank in Kentucky and the envelope had a Canadian postmark. This is a common scam — fraudsters send someone a check, usually some sort of "prize" for a contest the recipient never entered, and then ask them to wire a certain amount of money back to an accomplice.

For more information on recognizing and avoiding fake check scams, visit www.fraud.org.

Phone Scam Posted 09/24/08
Recently, an elderly female in Columbus received a letter, allegedly from Publisher's Clearing House. The letter indicated that she had won $500,000 but needed to pay state taxes in order to claim it. In a follow-up phone call, she was asked to wire $2,300 to Israel. She believed that the offer was a scam, so she did not send the money. A week later, an individual who claimed to be with the FBI called the woman and asked her to assist them in investigating a scam being run out of Canada. The woman agreed to help and wired $2,500 to Canada. A week later, she was contacted again and told that an arrest had been made but that her assistance was still needed, so she wired another $2,500. She then received a call from someone who claimed to be with the attorney general's office and claimed that they needed her assistance as well. She initially refused, but was told that she had no choice because of the ongoing federal investigation. The woman returned to her bank to withdraw funds again, at which point bank personnel stepped in and called the police.

Phishing Alert Posted 09/11/08
Recently, we were made aware of a phishing attempt in which fraudsters are reviewing obituaries to gain personal information about a member related to the deceased. They are then contacting the member, posing as a relative, to request that money be transferred into the fraudster's accounts. The member is also asked to contact the financial institution to authorize that the funds be disbursed to the fraudster. The twist is that the member is authorizing the transaction to have the funds sent to the fraudster.

E-mail Scam Posted 09/05/08
A member received an e-mail, supposedly from AOD Federal Credit Union, stating that his account had been temporarily suspended (the member does not have a relationship with AOD FCU). The e-mail directs the recipient to click a link in the e-mail to "update" his identity. The link undoubtedly goes to a site set up by identity thieves attempting to get debit or credit card numbers or other account information. Remember, you should never provide personal financial information in response to an e-mail like this.

E-mail Scam Posted 09/02/08
The Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov) continues to receive reports concerning the "hit man" e-mail scheme. This scam has been around since 2006, but two new versions surfaced in July 2008. The messages vary slightly but are similar in nature: the e-mail claims that the recipient (or a loved one) will be kidnapped or killed unless a ransom is paid within 48 hours. In some instances, the use of names, titles, addresses and telephone numbers of government officials and business executives, and/or the victims' information, are used in an attempt to make the fraud appear more authentic.

The IC3 has published two previous public service announcements on the hit man scheme:

Phishing Alert Posted 08/19/08

A number of members received text messages stating that their accounts had been suspended due to suspicious activity. The exact wording of the message varies, but they all direct recipients to call a certain phone number, where a recording asks for a credit card number and other account information. Members should not respond to or provide any information in response to this text. If you have already done so, please contact our Card Services department IMMEDIATELY at 614.239.0210 or 800.986.3876.

Phishing Alert Posted 08/19/08
A member reported that she had received an e-mail that said that her membership was about to expire. The message asked her to click on a link to renew her membership. We assume that the link would have asked for her account number and other personal information; fortunately, the site had been shut down by the time she clicked on it. Columbus Metro will never send you an e-mail prompting you to follow a link and provide personal information. If you have provided personal information in response to such an e-mail or phone call, please contact us IMMEDIATELY for assistance.

Wondering how phishing works or how you can prevent it? Click here for more information.

Know of a new scam not listed above? Click here to let us know about it.

 
 
 
   
 
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