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Securing Your Accounts: Best Practices For Phone And Online Safety

More and more financial business is done remotely: Online & Mobile Banking, transferring funds to other people through apps like Venmo, even purchasing or selling items on sites like Craigslist. This convenience comes with the increased risk that you don’t necessarily know to whom you’re talking, not even on the phone with Caller ID. Two recent fraud patterns have emerged which you need to be able to recognize.

Phone/Caller ID Spoofing and Financial Institutions

Some banks and credit unions have reported that fraudsters can ‘spoof’ a financial institution’s name and phone number, so that they appear in your caller ID. When you answer what appears to be a legitimate call from your institution, the fraudster identifies himself as an employee and asks you to verify account information, then uses that information to take over your account(s).

As a reminder, SF Fire Credit Union will never call you to obtain your account/credit card number, nor other personal identification information such as your member number or SSN. If you don’t initiate the contact, don’t share such information over the phone. Call us immediately if you suspect you’ve been a victim of fraud, or if you suspect someone is impersonating SF Fire Credit Union.

The Online Selling Scam

When you’re selling online, you don’t truly know to whom you’re selling. Be cautious when choosing what payment methods to accept. Many online marketplaces such as Craigslist and Letgo provide tips and warnings on red flags.

The Online Selling Scam works like this: you list something for sale online. The fraudster approaches you to purchase the item with a check or Cashier’s Check, possibly written for more than your listed selling price. Once you’ve completed the transaction, the scammer contacts you to claim they “overpaid” or included “shipping costs” and requests that you refund them via Moneygram, Zelle, or similar options. These channels are like cash: the payments are untraceable, and once the funds are gone, they’re gone. Subsequently, the original check or Cashier’s Check will turn out to be bad.

Some tips on avoiding this scam:

  • Never take a check for more than your selling price.
  • Never send money back to someone who sent you a check.
  • Just because a check has cleared doesn’t mean it’s good. Banks and Credit Unions are required to make deposited funds available quickly, but it can sometimes take several days for the institution to learn that the check was actually bad. Consider waiting a few days before shipping the sold item.
  • Consider using a secure online payment service.

For more information on protecting your identity and to stay up to date on common fraud patterns, check out our Identity Theft and Fraud Awareness page.