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Fraud & Security


June 15, 2020
Credit Reports are now free, every week
by Cathlin Tully Attorney, FTC Division of Privacy and Identity Protection
 
If you’re feeling anxious about your financial health during these uncertain times, you’re not alone. That’s why the three national credit reporting agencies are giving people weekly access to monitor their credit report — for free.
 
This is some helpful news, because staying on top of your credit report is one important tool to help manage your financial data. Your credit report has information about your credit history and payment history — information that lenders, creditors, and other businesses use when giving you loans or credit. 
 
Now it’s easier than ever to check your credit more often. That’s because everyone is eligible to get free weekly credit reports from the three national credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian, and Transunion. To get your free reports, go to AnnualCreditReport.com. The credit reporting agencies are making these reports free for the next year.
 
If you’re one of the many Americans struggling to pay your bills right now because of the Coronavirus crisis, here’s what you can do:
 
  • Contact the companies you owe money to. Ask if they can postpone your payment, put you on a payment plan, or give you a temporary forbearance.
  • Check your credit report regularly to make sure it’s correct — especially any new payment arrangements or temporary forbearance. The recently passed CARES Act generally requires your creditors to report these accounts as current.
  • Fix any errors or mistakes that you spot on your credit report. Notify the credit reporting agencies directly. You can find out more by reading Disputing Errors on Credit Reports.
 
Find more advice and tips on handling the financial impact of the Coronavirus, and subscribe to the FTC’s Consumer Alerts.
 
May  26, 2020
Finding a furry friend in the era of COVID-19
Submitted by Namukolo Kasumpa, International Fellow, FTC Division of Consumer & Business Education

If you’ve been thinking about adding a pet to your family, now may be a good time. In addition to pets offering unconditional love, companionship, and amusement, studies have shown that the bond between people and their pets has health benefits. Regular walking or playing with pets can decrease blood pressure, cholesterol levels and triglyceride levels.
Finding a pet may be a little different during the pandemic. While many shelters, rescue leagues and breeders are closed for in-person visits, many are still posting photos and videos of available animals, and hosting online meet-and-greets. But like any major decision, it pays to do your homework — especially because scammers are trying to take advantage of the situation.
If you’re looking for a new pet, here are a few tips to keep in mind: 
  • Work with a reputable animal shelter or rescue league that is local. Most legitimate shelters and rescue leagues post their adoption fees online and they won’t ask you to pay additional unexpected fees. If you stick with a local organization, you may not have to pay until you pick up your new pet. The Humane Society of the United Statescan refer you to local shelters.
  • Do your homework when buying a pet. Research prices for the breed you’re interested in buying. If someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, that’s likely to be a scam. Get detailed information about the seller, including the person or company’s full name, phone number and postal address. Then research the seller online. See what other people are saying about their experiences. Are there complaints? Does the word “scam” pop up? The Humane Society also has tips for finding a reputable breeder.
  • Search online for the animal’s image. Scammers often use the same photos again and again. If the image of your cute pup or adorable kitten shows up on multiple sites, it’s a pretty good bet you’ve stumbled onto a scam.
  • Don’t pay with a gift card or wire money. A sure sign of a scam is someone who insists you pay by gift cardor wire transfer. Gift cards and money transfers are similar to sending cash – once you send it, it is almost impossible to get it back. Instead, pay by credit card. That way, if there’s a problem, your card issuer may be able to help.
If you’ve spotted a pet adoption or sales scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and your State Attorney General.
 
May 7, 2020 
Did an ID theif steal your stimulus payment?  Report it to the FTC and IRS
Submitted by Seena Gressin, Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC

Do you think your economic impact payment has landed in the hands of an identity thief? You can report it to the FTC and the IRS at the same time. Here’s what to do.

Visit IdentityTheft.gov, the government’s one-stop resource for people to report identity theft and get a personal recovery plan. Click “Get started.” The next page asks, “Which statement best describes our situation?” Click the line that says, “Someone filed a Federal tax return – or claimed an economic stimulus payment – using my information.” You’re on your way.

IdentityTheft.gov will ask you some questions so that it can complete an IRS Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) for you, and submit it electronically to the IRS. You can include a personal statement too, to tell the IRS details about how your identity was misused to claim your economic impact payment. You also can download a copy of your completed Affidavit for your files. And, IdentityTheft.gov also will give you a recovery plan with steps you can take to help protect yourself from further identity theft.

Use IdentityTheft.gov to report suspected identity theft only. If you have other concerns about your economic impact payment, visit the IRS’s Economic Impact Payment Information Center and Get My Payment Frequently Asked Questions pages for detailed, and frequently-updated, answers to questions. You also can find information here about payments that the IRS may have deposited to an account you don’t recognize.

Whether you’re waiting for your payment, or even if it’s already arrived, keep alert for scammers trying to steal your personal information, your money, or both. Remember, the IRS will not call, text you, email you, or contact you on social media asking for personal or bank account information – even related to the stimulus payments. Also, watch out for emails and texts with attachments or links claiming to have special information about the payments. They’re fake, and they may be phishing for your personal information or might download malware to your computer, tablet, or phone.

April 24, 2020
Fraud squashed by NHFCU teller!  Kudos to Karen Murphy, NHFCU Teller

Fraud is on the rise, and unfortunately, some people are taking advantage of targeting innocent people, even during the pandemic. NHFCU tellers are on the front lines in so many different ways, and recognizing possible fraud is just one of them. This week, Karen Murphy knew something didn't add up.

A long-time member was in the process of selling an antique banjo on Craigslist for $1,500.00. The buyer sent the member a check for just over $2,500.00. And, because he is as honest as they come, the member went to the Drive-Up to deposit the check, and to also withdraw $1,000.00 cash. He explained to Karen that the cash was to send the buyer a MoneyGram for the overpayment.

Something didn’t feel right. Karen explained to the member that, more than likely, the check he deposited was bad and he was being scammed. Ultimately, NHFCU received the check back -- it was no good. Had this member sent the cash when asked, he would be out the $1,000.00 and his banjo. Right now, he's got it all!

A note from NHFCU: If you think you might be in a situation that doesn't feel right, contact us at (603) 224-7731. If you feel you may be a victim of fraud, click here to report it to the FTC.

Other helpful links:
Consumer Protection Financial Bureau
CFPB blog
 
April 20, 2020
Behind on car payments because of the Coronavirus?
Submitted by Amy Hebert, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
 
Are you worried that you won’t be able to make your next car payment because you’ve lost your job or income because of the Coronavirus? Or are you already behind on your payments? You’re not alone. Here’s what you can do:

  • Contact your lender now. Some banks, credit unions, and auto financing companies are letting people delay payments or renegotiate their payment schedules. If your lender agrees to any changes, make sure you have them in writing for later.
  • Find out what rights you have in your state. Check with yourstate attorney general or local consumer projection agency. States have their own rules about how cars can be repossessed and what happens after. If lenders break the rules, they might lose other rights against you or have to pay you damages.
  • See if you can refinance your loan. This makes sense if a lower interest rate or longer loan could make your car payment doable. Just make sure you refinance with a credible lender or company.Depending on how much your car is worth and how much you owe on it, you also could look into selling your car or trading it in to get something cheaper before you miss a payment.
  • Don’t do nothing. Even if you have to miss a payment, don’t be afraid to talk to your lender to learn about your options. If you miss payments, you could be charged a lot more in fees and hurt your credit. While many lenders have begun to voluntarily forego repossessions during the pandemic, if you get behind on your payments, your lender still could repossess your car — sometimes without warning.    
If your car gets repossessed, check your state’s laws to see what options you might have to buy it back or get any personal property left in the car.

You also might still owe money after your car is repossessed. You could be on the hook for any “deficiency” — the difference between what your car sells for and how much you still owe on it, plus any fees related to the repossession. In most states, your lender is allowed to sue you for it. An attorney can tell you whether you have grounds to contest a deficiency judgment.
The important thing to remember — you could have more options than you think, so don’t wait to talk to your lender. The sooner you do, the better the chance you can work something out.
For more, read the FTC’s article on vehicle repossession and this blog from the CFPB to learn more.
 
April 8, 2020
Coronavirus Scams - Ways to protect yourself
 
As we continue to help you stay on track with your financial wellness, one of the things to always keep in mind is fraud. With more people at home spending more time on line, fraud is on the rise specific to the coronavirus. We're constantly alerting you to the most up-to-date scams out there. Please go to our website for recent updates on current scams. You can also click on the graphic above for tips on coronavirus scams from the FTC.
 
April 5, 2020
Grandparent scams in the age of Coronavirus
by Lisa Weintraub Schifferle, Attorney, FTC, Division of Consumer & Business Education
 
“Grandma: I’m in the hospital, sick, please wire money right away.”
“Grandpa: I’m stuck overseas, please send money.”
 
Grandparent scams can take a new twist – and a new sense of urgency – in these days of Coronavirus. Here’s what to keep in mind:
 
In grandparent scams, scammers pose as panicked grandchildren in trouble, calling or sending messages urging you to wire money immediately. They’ll say they need cash to help with an emergency – like paying a hospital bill or needing to leave a foreign country. They pull at your heartstrings so they can trick you into sending money before you realize it’s a scam. In these days of Coronavirus concerns, their lies can be particularly compelling. But we all need to save our money for the real family emergencies.
 
So, how can we avoid grandparent scams or family emergency scams? If someone calls or sends a message claiming to be a grandchild, other family member or friend desperate for money:
 
  • Resist the urge to act immediately – no matter how dramatic the story is.
  • Verify the caller’s identity. Ask questions that a stranger couldn’t possibly answer. Call a phone number for your family member or friend that you know to be genuine. Check the story out with someone else in your family or circle of friends, even if you’ve been told to keep it a secret.
  • Don’t send cash, gift cards, or money transfers – once the scammer gets the money, it’s gone!
For more information, read Family Emergency Scams. And if you get a scam call, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint
 
April 3, 2020
Want to get your Coronavirus relief check? Scammers do too!
By Ari Lazarus, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
 
You’ve probably heard the news by now – the government is sending out relief checks as part of the federal response to the Coronavirus. Scammers heard the same thing, and they’re hoping to cash in on yours.
 
The details of how this will all work are still coming together, but we do know a few things about how this will – and will not – work. For now, here are some things to know.
  1. You don’t need to do anything. As long as you filed taxes for 2018 and/or 2019, the federal government likely has the information it needs to send you your money. Social Security recipients and railroad retirees who are otherwise not required to file a tax return also do not need to do anything to receive their money. If you otherwise have not filed taxes recently, you may need to submit a simple tax return to get your check. (More on who’s eligible here.)
  2. Do not give anyone your personal information to “sign-up” for your relief check. There is nothing to sign up for. Anyone calling to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security number, PayPal account, or bank information is a scammer, plain and simple. Also be on the lookout for email phishing scams, where scammers pretend to be from the government and ask for your information as part of the “sign-up” process for the checks.
  3. To set up direct deposit of your check, communicate only with the IRS at irs.gov/coronavirus. And you only need to do this if you didn’t give the IRS your bank information on your 2018 or 2019 return. In the coming weeks, the IRS will be setting up an online form available through irs.gov/coronavirus. But nowhere else, and never in response to an email, text, or call.
  4. No one has early access to this money. Anyone that claims to is a scammer. The timeline for this process is not exact, but it looks like funds will start going out in the next few weeks. Scammers are using the lack of detail to try to trick people into giving their personal information and money.
To get official updates and more information, visit the IRS’s page on economic impact payments. And if you come across a scammer trying to take your check, we want to hear about it. Report it at ftc.gov/complaint
 
April 1, 2020
Passing the Time Online
By Mike Moreau Manager, Credit Union Services, Wipfli LLP
 
Many people are bored at home these days. As they shelter at home and social distancing orders are being expanded, folks are more and more turning to the electronic world for news and information and to relieve the boredom of being cooped up. I am used to working in my home office. I spend many working days servicing credit unions. But being at home today, every day, and with no clear end in sight, many of my online contacts on social media are getting bored. I can tell. And they’re letting their guards down.
 
Credit unions spend immense amounts of time, energy and resources to provide security to the membership. And some members are blowing it in the name of relief from the monotony of being home.
 
How? Online questionnaires. I see them all over Facebook, and I’m told they’re on Instagram too. Probably other social networks as well. What’s the first car you drove? What’s your mother’s maiden name? Where did you and your spouse meet? Today, I learned a lot about two of my online friends. I learned some obscure things about one: her maiden name (this one’s not so obscure); her mother’s maiden name; her father’s last name; his mother’s maiden name. But it didn’t end there. Just a few minutes later, I learned the same information about one of her friends who answered the call to play the game. Another of my friends took a similar but slightly different quiz. I just learned her college roommate’s full name. Sound familiar? Sure do — they sound like challenge questions.
 
The second friend I mentioned loves these quizzes. I also learned she’s been in her profession for 22 years. I know about a professional license she has. I know her field of study in both her bachelor’s program and her master’s program. I know her son’s birthday because she posted about it. I know she loves the smell of fresh-brewed coffee and doesn’t want to be disturbed while she drinks it. I know her high school, her high school class year and the three colleges she attended. I also know her birthday (at least her Facebook, possibly fake, birthday). The list goes on and on. And it’s not limited to these two friends.
 
This person has almost 900 Facebook friends. Are they all good, honest people? Probably. But maybe not. It only takes one bad apple to spoil the bushel. Who are your friends, and who will use this against you through social engineering or some sort of scam?
 
A message from NHFCU to our members: Letting your guard down when you are indoors and on line more than usual may seem like harmless fun. Before you hit that key or play that game, know it could impact you in the future. As we navigate through these unprecedented times, know we are here to provide you with information to help you avoid scams and to help you protect your financial and personal information.
 
March 26, 2020
FTC issues warning about COVID-19 money scams
 
As the world continues to grapple with the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, the federal government has discussed several proposals involving sending money by check or direct deposit to American consumers.
 
While the details are still being worked out, the Federal Trade Commission posted a blog entry on important things consumers should know, no matter what the final decision turns out to be.
Jennifer Leach, associate director of FTC’s Division of Consumer and Business Education, says:
 
  • The government will not ask you to pay anything up front to get this money. No fees. No charges. No nothing.
 
  • The government will not call to ask for your Social Security number, bank account, or credit card number. Anyone who does is a scammer.
 
  • These reports of checks aren’t yet a reality. Anyone who tells you they can get you the money now is a scammer.
She also urged consumers who spot one of these scams to submit a claim to the FTC. The agency also maintains a page with up-to-date information on the latest COVID-19 related scams.
Credit unions are also on high alert for COVID-19 fraud, and CUNA News highlighted efforts credit unions have already taken to stop scams. 
 
March 24, 2020
U.S. Attorney Urges the Public to Report Suspected Fraud Related to the Covid-19 Outbreak
 
U.S. Attorney Scott W. Murray of the District of New Hampshire today urged the public to report suspected fraud schemes related to COVID-19 (the Coronavirus) by calling the National Center for Disaster Fraud (NCDF) hotline (1-866-720-5721) or to the NCDF e-mail address disaster@leo.gov.  The public also can report fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.IC3.gov.
            In coordination with the Department of Justice, Attorney General William Barr has directed U.S. Attorneys to prioritize the investigation and prosecution of Coronavirus fraud schemes.
            “During this national emergency, a small number of cruel and self-serving individuals are seeking to profit from the public’s fear of COVID-19,” said U.S. Attorney Murray. “There are reports of fraudsters selling counterfeit products and fake cures or setting up malicious websites in order to take advantage of people who are attempting to protect themselves from the virus. Such criminal exploitation will not be tolerated and will receive the full attention of federal law enforcement. I urge anyone who becomes aware of this type of fraud to report it. We will work closely with all of our law enforcement partners to end these despicable schemes and bring the criminals to justice.”
            In addition to the NCDF hotline, citizens also can report fraud to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) by visiting www.IC3.gov.
            “With the outbreak of COVID-19, scammers have found a platform that preys on people’s fears and could make them more likely to be victimized,” said Joseph R. Bonavolonta, Special Agent in Charge of the FBI Boston Division.  “We want you to help us stop these fraudsters by reporting suspicious activity, fraud, and attempted fraud at ic3.gov.  We also want you to avoid falling prey to these scams. So don't click on links within emails from senders you don't recognize, always independently verify the information originates from a legitimate source, never supply your login credentials or financial data in response to an email, and visit websites by inputting their domains manually. By working together, we can help stop this type of activity."
            Some examples of the fraudulent schemes related to COVID-19 include:
  • Individuals and businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online and engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Phishing emails from entities posing as the World Health Organization or the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share Coronavirus-related information to gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.
  • Medical providers obtaining patient information for COVID-19 testing and then using that information to fraudulently bill for other tests and procedures.      
            In a memorandum to U.S. Attorneys issued March 19, Deputy Attorney General Jeffrey Rosen also directed each U.S. Attorney to appoint a Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator to serve as the legal counsel for the federal judicial district on matters relating to the Coronavirus, direct the prosecution of Coronavirus-related crimes, and to conduct outreach and awareness activities.   The District of New Hampshire Coronavirus Fraud Coordinator is Assistant U.S. Attorney Matthew Hunter.  AUSA Hunter can be reached through the main number at the U.S. Attorney’s Office – (603) 225-1552.
            The NCDF can receive and enter complaints into a centralized system that can be accessed by all U.S. Attorneys, as well as Justice Department litigating and law enforcement components to identify, investigate and prosecute fraud schemes.  The NCDF coordinates complaints with 16 additional federal law enforcement agencies, as well as state Attorneys General and local authorities.
            To find more about Department of Justice resources and information, please visit www.justice.gov/coronavirus           
 
March 23, 2020
Deposits are Safe in Federally Insured Credit Unions
 
The National Credit Union Administration is reminding credit union members of the safety of their deposits in federally insured credit unions. The NCUA also reminds individuals to remain vigilant against COVID-19-related scams. 
 
Federally insured credit unions offer a safe place for credit union members to save money. All deposits at federally insured credit unions are protected by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, with deposits insured up to at least $250,000 per individual depositor. Credit union members have never lost a penny of insured savings at a federally insured credit union. Additional information on NCUA share insurance coverage for consumers is available at Mycreditunion.gov
 
Credit union members can calculate the amount of insured funds at a federally insured credit union using NCUA’s Share Insurance Estimator.The Estimator can be used for personal, business, or government accounts. Personal accounts include individual ownership, joint ownership, payable-on-death (accounts with named beneficiaries), living trusts, and IRAs. The Estimator also includes an Glossary of terms and Frequently asked questions.
 
For questions about the NCUA’s share insurance coverage, call 1.800.755.1030,
option 1, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern, or send an email to DCAmail.ncua.gov.
 
The NCUA is also reminding individuals to remain vigilant scams to the coronavirus. Cyber actors may send emails with malicious attachments or links to fraudulent websites to trick victims into revealing sensitive information or donating to fraudulent charities or causes. Exercise caution in handling any email with a COVID-19-related subject line, attachment, or hyperlink, and be wary of social media pleas, texts, or calls related to COVID-19. Visit NCUA’s Fraud prevention center information about frauds and scams, including how to report a scam.
 
NCUA is the independent federal agency created by the U.S. Congress to regulate, charter and supervise federal credit unions. With the backing of the full faith and credit of the United States, NCUA operates and manages the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund, insuring the deposits of account holders in all federal credit unions and the overwhelming majority of state-chartered credit unions. At Mycreditunion.gov, NCUA also educates the public on consumer protection and financial literacy issues.
 
"Protecting credit unions and the consumers who own them through effective regulation"
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