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How to avoid fraud - FAQs

Seems like every time we turn on the news or get a news alert on our phone, it’s something about fraud, identity theft, or a data breach. You can avoid being a victim of fraud by being aware of common fraud tactics.

From spotting signs of fraud to understanding the different types of fraud, Numerica is here to help you prevent fraud and identity theft while understanding the steps and process to take if fraud has occurred on your account.

What are typical signs of fraud on a financial account?

When most people think of fraud, they envision withdrawals from their account. But fraud often occurs when funds are received. Receiving unexpected deposits or being overpaid with a check only to be asked to give or send back money back, is a fraud red flag.

This type of fraud takes advantage of the lifecycle of a check. Once you deposit your check, the cash value may appear in your account. However, it may have a hold on a certain portion or all of the check. This hold is a good faith gesture that the money is there. Typically, it lasts from two to six days. Just because the hold on a check may be released, does not mean the funds have cleared.

lifecycle of a check, check to branch to Fed, to financial institution

The check then goes to the Federal Reserve. They send it to the other person’s financial institution to see if the money is available. The other institution will then pull the money out of that account. If the check is fraudulent, they say, “Nope! No good,” and return the check back to the Federal Reserve.

The Federal Reserve returns the “bounced” check to Numerica. This means that those funds you thought you had will no longer be there, and you may be liable for a returned check fee. This process typically takes anywhere from two days to two weeks.

Receiving an ACH (direct deposit or payment) doesn’t mean you are in the clear either. You might been “wired” a payment for $500. But, it is not a wire at all, it’s an ACH. 15-20 days later that ACH could be returned as fraudulent. You may be left owing the money if it has been spent.

These, of course, are worst case scenarios. Many checks and ACH deposits that are legitimate occur daily. It’s always best to know the source of the money you receive.

Anytime someone asks you to put money into your account and then give a portion of that money back, first ask yourself, “Why am I the middle man?” A legitimate business wouldn’t ask you to do that. So if it doesn’t make sense or feel right, don’t take that “money.”

One of the easiest ways to protect yourself is to use one of the many other payment options like online bill pay. It’s a great time to start thinking about writing fewer checks and looking into your other options.

What are common examples of fraud?

Your personal information is constantly being targeted. Identity theft, phishing attempts, spoofed emails, breaches, or scams – this multi-billion dollar industry is always growing and evolving.

Scam attempts are constant. Lottery scams, secret shopper scams, sweetheart scams. There are hundreds. Typically, fraudsters look to gain access to your accounts or use fraudulent checks. By taking advantage of the complexity of how a check works, many people are duped by fraudsters.

What steps does Numerica take if it believes fraud may have occurred on an account? What is the process?

Numerica is constantly monitoring accounts for fraudulent activity. You can take advantage of this by enrolling in the Alerts & Notifications service through Online Banking as well as receiving SMS/Text fraud alerts. Any questions on this can be answered by one of Numerica’s Member Service Representatives.

If our fraud monitoring detects a suspicious transaction on your account, we will alert you of the transaction and ask you to confirm if the transaction was authorized. The account may also be frozen. If you suspect fraudulent activity, please call us immediately at 800.433.1837.

What should I do if I think fraudulent activity has taken place on my checking, savings account or credit card?

Call Numerica immediately at 800.433.1837 or stop by your closest branch. If you have had your identity stolen, follow what to do if you’re the victim of stolen identity.

What are the best ways to protect my checking and savings accounts from fraud?

Social media

Protect your identity when using social media. Now more than ever, most social networks are giving you the power to protect yourself. For example, Facebook has recently rolled out a new facial recognition feature. Along with that rollout, Facebook is encouraging you to review your privacy settings and turn on or off this new feature.

If you’re big on keeping your accounts as secure as possible, look into two-factor authentication. Rather than just logging on with a username and password, you have added protection of security questions or a randomly generated code. That code can be sent to an email, cell phone or generated via an app like Google Authenticator or Authy.

When it comes to security questions, who says they all have to be true? There are certain times to use real answers and others when making up an answer is your best bet. Think about it this way, if you are signing up for a financial account or verifying Apple Pay®, you may be prompted to enter personal information. If you have any hesitation about the request, stop and reach out to the financial institution or even Apple (in this example).

When is it best to use bogus answers? Think about the process of signing up for online banking with Numerica. You were prompted to include two or more security questions. Something like the color of your first car, for example. Rather than admit to it being red, how about using an answer like “caramel macchiato” or “pink glitter and unicorns.”

As long as YOU know the answers, you can toss in some curve balls with false answers. What was your first car – 1967 Cougar? You know it was a matchbox car, but a fraudster would never be able to guess.

Passwords

3 out of 4 consumers use duplicate passwords, many of which have not been changed in five years or more. Yikes! That means if someone can guess your password, they will more than likely have access to more than one of your accounts. Remembering passwords is a pain, but having to deal with fraud is no walk in the park and can take years to recover.

There are some great, secure password apps out there that not only save you from having to remember every single password but include random password generators. Passwords are secured in a “vault” that you can access with a master password and, for the more security conscious among us, a dual authentication code.

The benefits to using these vaults are the ability to use random characters and strings for passwords, and the ability to change your passwords frequently without fear you will forget them.

Credit report

With all of the recent news regarding the Equifax breach, we are encouraging you to keep an eye on your credit report. This is not a set it and forget it process. Watch your report closely.

Follow the steps in this Equifax article for reviewing your credit report and keeping your information safe.

Your account

Keep an eye on your account. A quick glance every Monday, for example, can help keep you safe. If you notice something weird on your account, give us a call or visit your favorite branch. If it’s after hours, call the number on the back of your card.

Digital wariness

Just because a website pops up in your social feed or in your Google search, doesn’t mean it is a legitimate business. Verify websites before shopping. Make sure virus software on all of your computers and devices is up-to-date.

If your phone has an update, do it. Not installing updates means you miss out on security patches, putting your phone and therefore your data at risk.

Skimmers

Skimmers are external devices that fit over legitimate transaction sites like ATMs or gas station pumps. When you swipe your card, it is actually the skimming device that captures your card information. If you select the debit option, the device may also be capturing your PIN. You can avoid this by using your card as a credit card or mobile pay option (like Apply Pay or Google Pay) to add another layer of security.

Before you swipe, be wary of anything out of the ordinary like a mismatched keyboard or wires that seem out of place. If something isn’t looking right, let someone know.

There are many ways you can protect yourself from fraud. Simply being aware, paying attention to your account, changing passwords and some other easy steps can go a long way to keeping you out of fraud’s way. Take care of your accounts and your money.

You work hard for your money. Keep it out of the wrong hands.

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