Fraud & Security
November 27, 2020
Holiday shopping season 2020
by Shameka Walker, Attorney, Division of Consumer & Business Education, FTC
The holiday season is upon us and retailers are already preparing for what they hope will be a successful shopping season. Because of COVID-19, it’s likely that we’ll be going online to look for those perfect gifts. With so many deals around and what seem like eternal “Black Friday" sales, it’s important to keep some online shopping tips in mind.
So, if you plan to shop from the comfort of your home this year instead of heading out in person for those doorbuster deals, first, make sure your home computer has the latest antivirus software updated. This will help protect you from hackers and identity thieves. Read more computer safety tips here.
Once you’re ready to shop, make sure you:
- Take time to compare products. To get the best deal, compare products. Do research online, check product comparison sites, and read online reviews.
- Check out the seller. Confirm that the seller is legit. Look for reviews about their reputation and customer service, and be sure you can contact the seller if you have a dispute.
- Look for coupon codes. Search the store’s name with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.”
- Pay by credit card. Paying by credit card gives you added protections. Never mail cash or wire money to online sellers. If the seller asks you to pay this way, it could be a scam.
- Use secure checkout. Before you enter your credit card information online, check that the website address starts with “https.” The “s” stands for secure. If you don’t see the “s,” don’t enter your information.
- Keep records of online transactions until you get the goods, confirm you got what you ordered, and that you’re satisfied you won’t have to return the item.
August 13, 2020
From the FTC - Scams in between stimulus packages
by Jennifer Leach, Associate Director, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
Here is some information from the FTC about a second stimulus package which has not yet been finalized by Congress. While there’s a lot they don’t know, they DO know a few things about what scammers do when this kind of uncertainty is in the headlines.
If there’s another stimulus payment, you won’t have to pay to get it. Just like last time. Nobody will call to ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number. Expect any stimulus program to look a lot like the first one: people who qualify would get money direct deposited, or you’d get a debit card or check mailed to the address you use for your taxes. The details will follow, if a bill gets signed into law. In the meantime, don’t pay to get any economic impact payment, and keep your info to yourself.
Don’t pay for job “opportunities.” Scammers know that lots of people need to find a job, and they’ll be happy to charge you for what winds up being nothing. Scammers also pay for online ads, promising you ways to earn money online. But do your research before you sign up — and certainly before you pay.
Never pay up front for mortgage help. In fact, it’s illegal for companies to charge you before they help you with your mortgage — but that doesn’t stop scammers from trying. If you find yourself behind on your mortgage, talk with your mortgage servicer right away to see what options you have. And whether you own or rent, it’s worth talking with a legal services organization if you feel like things are taking a hard turn south toward foreclosure or eviction.
If you spot one of these scams — or any scam at all, please tell the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
July 10, 2020
Consumer Alert from the FTC - Activate your EIP Visa Debit Card now Submitted by Cristina Miranda, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
Did you get an Economic Impact Payment VISA debit card in the mail from the U.S. Department of the Treasury? If you did, you might get a letter from Treasury this week, reminding you to activate your card. Treasury’s letter gives you instructions on how to activate the card. Once you do that, you can get cash or use it anywhere that accepts VISA debit cards. Or, you can also transfer the money from your EIP debit card to your bank account. This is especially helpful if you can’t or don’t want to visit an ATM. Did you throw away the card by mistake, or don’t recall getting one? No worries. Your letter from Treasury will tell you how to request a replacement card, which will include calling a 24-hour customer service line at 1.800.240.8100. It’s free to replace your card. For the full article, please click here.
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.
How to transfer money from your EIP debit card to your account
Submitted by Cristina Miranda, Division of Consumer and Business Education, FTC
Recently, we wrote about the Economic Impact Payment debit cards some of you are getting. We’ve heard that some people have had trouble getting money off the card and into your bank account, without visiting an ATM. Treasury heard you, too, so here are some clarified steps for how to do that.
- Activate your card by calling 1.800.240.8100 (TTY: 1.800.241.9100). Remember, you’ll have to give your Social Security, or Individual Taxpayer Identification Number.
- Then, go to EIPCard.com to register for online access. (Or you can download the Money Network Mobile App and register for mobile app access.) From either place, click on “Register” and then follow the steps to create your User ID and Password. You’ll need your routing and bank account number on hand to link your card to your bank account. The easiest way to find those numbers is by calling your bank, or visiting your bank’s website. If you happen to have an actual checkbook, find the first nine numbers at the bottom of one of your checks. This is your routing number. The ten to 12 numbers after that are your bank account number. NHFCU’s routing and transit number is 211489083.
- Once your card and bank are linked, choose “Move Money Out” and follow the steps to set up an ACH transfer. Transfers should post to your bank account in 1-2 business days.
The limit per transfer is now $2,500. This means that most people can transfer all their money off the card in one transaction. And if your card is lost or stolen, the EIP card provider will give you one free replacement card.
Because it’s always worth repeating: remember, no one will text, email, or ask you to click on a link to activate this card or to get your money. And unless you’ve asked for help, no one will ever call you about the EIP card. If anyone calls, texts or emails you about the EIP card, don’t give them any personal or financial information. It’s a scam. Report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.
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.
If you’ve spotted a pet adoption or sales scam, report it to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint and your State Attorney General.
- 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.
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. 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!
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.
- 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.)
- 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.
- 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.
- 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 offi