How to Avoid a Scam

Scams happen on the internet every day. In fact, with instant communications and nearly universal computer access, scams are more present than ever, and the Federal Trade Commission registered more than 2.2 million fraud reports in 2020. A third of all victims reported losing money to the schemes.

What can you do to protect yourself from fraud on the internet? At DECU we have prepared this short document that you can bookmark and come back to whenever you suspect fraudulent internet activity. Study these tips and arm yourself with information to fight back.

man talking on phone at computer

How to Spot a Scam: the Five P’s

The FTC has a web page listing the most common signs that internet activity is fraudulent. You can see the link here to learn much more detail, but in the interest of brevity, let’s fill in the blanks ourselves:

  • PRETEND – Scammers pretend to be an organization you know, and can use technology to spoof, hide or change their incoming telephone number. Often scammers claim to be from the Social Security Administration, Medicare, the IRS, or any number of familiar businesses, like a utility company or even a charity. 
  • PROBLEM/PRIZE – Scammers use the promise of a financial reward or the anxiety of an unsolvable obstacle to take your money. You won a lottery or sweepstakes but first must pay a fee to release the winnings. Your accounts are hacked, and you need to verify your personal data. 
  • PRESSURE – Scammers count on your fear of loss to create the need for an immediate response. On the phone they may say ‘act now, or else’ and threaten you with various punishments, from jail to deportation to the loss of various licenses. 
  • PAY – Scammers will often require you to jump through a few hoops in order to pay off your fictional fines and fees. They may send instructions for account payments through specific international money transfer companies or ask you to purchase gift cards and send the unique serial numbers to them as compensation.

How to Spot More Scams

There are so many scams on the internet that it’s not fair to the letter ‘P’ if we stop at just five ways to spot fraud. In fact, the FTC has published a number of easy-to-understand descriptions of various scams currently under scrutiny.

  • CORONAVIRUS SCAMS – There are currently COVID-19 testing scams, vaccine scams and treatment scams. Scammers are also targeting Medicare recipients by offering COVID-19 testing in an attempt to steal personal information.
  • TELEPHONE SCAMS – Report suspected scams, robocalls and unwanted telemarketers by calling the Federal Trade Commission hotline 1-877-382-4357. The FTC is the primary government agency that collects scam complaints. 
  • BANKING SCAMS – Scammers target victims using overpayment scams with counterfeit checks or send unsolicited checks that if you cash will trigger a purchase or loan. They will ask to set up automatic debits or use phishing techniques in order for you to collect a prize or qualify for a free trial, or ask you to verify your bank account or debit card number.
  • CENSUS SCAMS – Scammers come at you under the disguise of a U.S. Census Bureau staff member,and try to uncover sensitive personal information like account numbers, mother’s maiden name and more. 

For even MORE SCAMS, see the website of the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency, an independent bureau within the United States Department of the Treasury, and read in-depth descriptions for dozens of current financial fraud schemes.

woman looking at phone

DECU Scam Alerts

Scams and fraud hurt our members in the pocketbook, but DECU has tools in place to help you spot and stop the scammers,and keep a tight check on your sensitive personal information.

When an official representative of the Deere Employees Credit Union calls you on the phone, you will NEVER BE ASKED for:

  • Your social security number
  • Your credit or debit card number
  • Your pin number
  • To share your account information via text
  • To send/wire money for verification purposes

DECU has technology in place to help you stay informed and in control with real-time, automated Purchase Alerts, Fraud Alerts and Online Banking Alerts. Manage your preferences online, anywhere and feel safe that your accounts are protected.

  • All DECU members are enrolled in Fraud Alerts and will be notified in case of unusual account activity.
  • Choose to receive Purchase and Activity Alerts on your DECU credit and debit cards to send an email or text for all signature-based purchases.
  • Use Online Banking Alerts and get notified on all share transactions, debit card PIN based transactions, balances, withdrawals, and more.

See this link for instructions on how you can set up your DECU Alert Messaging, and stay well ahead of frauds and scams. 

Finally, the FBI has a one-page tip sheet on credit card fraud, right here, to offer some real-life pointers on how to deal with suspected scammers and what you can do to fight back.