Fraud and Scam Updates for May

Fraud-Blog

Review our most recent fraud alerts and updates to help keep your personal information secure. Want to be automatically updated about recent scams and fraud? Sign up for our Alerts emails here: http://bit.ly/1G1dF0n

Internal Revenue Service Scam

Some of our customers have fallen for a recent scam involving fraudsters posing as employees from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The fraudster will call you – stating to be an Internal Revenue Service employee – and claim you owe back taxes, which can be paid via wire transfer.

The truth is that the IRS does not use phone calls to make personal contacts. If the IRS wants to contact you, they will send a letter first. If you receive a phone call from an individual claiming to be from the IRS, it is a scam. For more information on how and when the IRS might contact you, see these two articles from the Federal Trade Commission:

Check Fraud

Merchants has recently seen an increase in fraudulent checks. Customers have fallen for some “too good to be true” scenarios including being asked to be a secret shopper for a fake business or receiving a winnings check in the mail from a drawing they did not enter. When you receive a check, make sure to consider where it came from.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I recently enter any contests or drawings where I could win money?
  • Can I verify the information on the check through a third-party? For example, can you confirm a person’s contact information through the phone book? Or confirm a business’s information through an online directory like the Yellow Pages?
  • Does it sound too good to be true?

Be a skeptic. If the situation doesn’t sound right, it’s time to do some more investigating before depositing that check. For more information, read this article on check fraud from the Federal Trade Commission.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Fraud

If you think your bank account information has been compromised or you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.

Tax Scammers Target Might Target You: Here’s What to Do

Tax Scam Awareness

It’s that time of year — tax time. It’s also a great time to get up to speed on tax-related scams. Here are two ways tax scammers might target you and what you can do about it:

Tax Identity Theft
This kind of identity theft happens when someone files a fake tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund. Tax identity theft also happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a job. You find out about it when you get a letter from the IRS saying:

  • More than one tax return was filed in your name, or
  • IRS records show wages from an employer you don’t know

If you get a letter like this, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. You can find more about tax identity theft at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and irs.gov/identitytheft.

IRS Imposter Scams
This time scammers aren’t pretending to be you — they’re posing as the IRS. They call you up saying you owe taxes, and threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay right away. They might know all or part of your Social Security number, and they can rig caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from Washington, DC – when it could be coming from anywhere. Leaving you no time to think, they tell you to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number right away.

The real IRS won’t ask you to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they usually do it by mail. You can report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484, and to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

Visit IdentityTheft.gov
IdentityTheft.gov is the federal government’s one-stop resource to help you report and recover from identity theft. You can report identity theft, get step-by-step advice, sample letters, and your FTC Identity Theft Affidavit. These resources will help you fix problems caused by the identity theft.

Digital Security: Be Deliberate, Be Judicious

eNews-DigitalSecurityBlog

Almost daily we hear of new and troubling attacks, hacks, and loss of key data and information, all taken from the online world by digital thieves. The technical ins and outs of these events are often confusing and complex and it’s easy to feel powerless to do anything about them. Yet, we can reduce risk by being deliberate and judicious in our use of digital resources. Here are two steps we can all take today:

Step 1 – Know who we are doing business with
Review privacy policies, learn about security practices, and apply common sense. Stop visiting or engaging with companies or sites that leave us uncomfortable. According to the Business Insider, there are now more than 644 million active websites on the Internet – so chances are the company you are doing business with is not the only provider. As part of Security Awareness Week (June 1-6), Merchants Bank has provided some quick steps to help you identify if a website is legitimate.

Step 2 – Enjoy the social network but…
The FBI cyber center reports the use of social media by cyber criminals has grown 400% since 2009. Sharing too much online allows thieves to build a near complete picture of who we are and then use that information to outright steal (or con others into revealing) otherwise protected data. Instead of posting everything about our lives, pick up the phone, send a note, or get together with friends. After all, it is those close to us who are most interested in what we have to share.

Some of the best approaches to security do not involve technology. By being more deliberate in how we share information, and more judicious in what we share, we can reduce the risks that, if our online information is compromised, it will have little value to thieves and cannot be used against us.

For more security information, sign up for Merchants Bank security tips and alerts via email.

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Watch Out for These Red Flags to Stay Safe While Shopping Online

IMN-OnlineShopping

It is hard to overstate the popularity of online shopping. There is almost no category of product that can’t be purchased online. From wedding dresses, to pets and potato chips, consumers are heading online to purchase things that only a few years ago would have been considered strange to buy online. With so many online stores to choose from, it can be hard to tell which are legitimate and which could leave you vulnerable to scam or identity theft.

One of the easiest ways to tell if a website is secure is by looking for a Trust Seal.

“Typically, these seals are associated with secure sockets layer, or SSL for short,” states John Rampton, a Forbes contributor. “This simply means that your site has been verified and that there is a secure transmission for customers to safely enter their credit card information.”

When you are shopping online, you may have run into one of the seals and not even realized it. If you searched for a store through Google, for example, you probably have seen the small logo with a checkmark that states “Google Trusted Stores,” which is the search engine’s own Trust Seal. There are also several other companies that examine stores and give out trust seals.

“While trust seals are an important feature for [an] e-commerce website, which seals are the most reliable?” asks Rampton.  “In a survey conducted by the research group the Baymard Institute, the most trusted badge was Norton, with 36 percent of the votes. This was followed by McAfee (23 percent), TRUSTe (13.2 percent) and BBB Accredited (13.2 percent).”

The other ways that you can determine an online store’s trustworthiness are much less clear-cut than Trust Seals. Online reviews, for example, are one of the most important ways that consumers make decisions about a business’s reputation. If an online store has many positive reviews, you will likely feel safer giving it your credit card information. It is entirely possible for a good online store to not have many reviews, however, and positive reviews can be faked, so it is not a foolproof method.

It is also important to not ignore your gut feeling when shopping online. If you find a product for significantly less than every other store selling it, then that is a definite red flag. Another tactic to keep an eye out for is if a store claims to have the product you are looking for during an initial search, but then tries to redirect you to other similar products because they do not actually have what you need.

Furthermore, if a website doesn’t seem professionally designed, is extremely outdated, or very difficult to navigate, you may want to find another.

“Would you seriously give your credit card information to [a] website that looks like it belongs in 1995?” asks Rampton. “Common sense would say absolutely not.”

You should also look for contact information that would allow you to speak with an employee if you have questions or problems with your order. If there is no way to contact customer service, that is a big red flag.

Once you decide to make a purchase, there are further things to keep in mind.

“Don’t send your credit card details via email, post them on social media (even in a private message), or enter them on an unsecured website,” states Lexy Savvides from Cnet.com. “Don’t give away more information than you need. Retailers generally don’t need to know details like your date of birth or social security number, so why disclose it if you don’t have to?”

If you keep this information in mind and always choose the path of caution, you should be able to shop online without incident.

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