Covering All the Bases: Protecting Yourself from Financial Fraud in Massachusetts

financial-fraudOne of the most important things that a person can learn how to do in this modern age of web-based transactions, credit cards and social networking is to protect themselves from fraud. At St. Anne Credit Union in New Bedford we work hard to provide our members with the tools they need to protect themselves from identity theft and financial fraud in Massachusetts.

Frightening Facts About Fraud
Many of the people who become victims of identity theft and fraud are older individuals who live alone and are simply unaware of all the ways criminals can target citizens today. However, these crimes can happen to anyone of any age, background or familiarity with modern technology-based finance, so it is important to always be alert. Education is the best weapon against this type of fraud so the more you know, the more you can help educate others about all the ways they can protect themselves.

Some criminals are smooth talkers, actually taking the time to bond with their victims by taking an active interest in their lives or by spending hours on the phone talking with them as they steal their financial information. In some cases, victims refuse to believe that the “nice person” on the other end of the phone would ever scam them even when they are advised of the situation. Sweepstakes, lotteries and other games where prizes are offered in exchange for participation can also be a way for criminals to target new victims.

The Four Most Common Types of Fraud
Before you can become a victim of financial fraud in Massachusetts, the criminal must find a way to obtain your information. While each criminal has their own technique or method of achieving this, there are four primary types of fraud that are used most frequently. Understanding how they work and what you can do to prevent these issues before they even start is the best way to prevent identity theft and other financial crimes.

#1 – Telephone
We most often hear about Internet or mail fraud, but there are still a lot of criminals using the telephone to pull off their scams. Fortunately, there are now tools in place that can help you to stop them before they can even get started. It is important to note that criminals now have the ability to use Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology that is used for cable-company phone services and companies like Vonage to “spoof” your caller ID to make it appear as though the call is coming from anyone, anywhere in the world – even a government agency.

What You Can Do: To prevent unwanted calls from solicitors and criminals, put your telephone number on the “Do Not Call Registry.” This is a national list provided by the federal government to help consumers stop all contact by salesmen and scammers. Add your number by calling 1-888-382-1222 or visit the website at www.donotcall.gov. You can add landline and cellphone numbers to this list. You can also contact your phone company to block incoming international phone calls and restrict outgoing calls as well. Getting an unlisted telephone number can also be a great way to prevent unwanted contact.

#2 – Post Mail
A lot of scams also come via post mail. Letters telling you that you won a lottery or contest that you don’t remember entering should be scrutinized carefully. On the other hand, letters and bills that you receive via mail should be kept in a secure location or shredded before discarding rather than just throwing them out in the garbage. This prevents criminals from searching through your trash to get your personal information for identity theft or your New Bedford credit union and credit card information to commit financial fraud in Massachusetts.

What You Can Do: Make sure to save all of your receipts and bank statements that you want to keep for your records in a secure location, such as a locked safe, file cabinet or storage box that won’t be accidentally thrown out. Even packing slips that come from packages that you order should also be checked for accuracy. Any documents that contain your name, mailing address and any type of account information – even if it is just your utility bills – should be shredded rather than tossed into the trash. Don’t just rip them in half. Invest in a counter top type shredder and keep it next to your mail bin or on your desk.

#3 – Email
In addition to post mail, email can also be a great place for identity theft and other types of fraud to take seed. It is important to be aware of the email that you receive, refraining from just clicking on links unless it comes from a trusted source. In fact, many financial websites are teaching their customers to visit their website directly rather than to click on any email links as a means of preventing clicks to fraudulent websites from scam emails. Use a virus scan program that includes email scanning to prevent viruses and malware that can be used to obtain your personal information.

What You Can Do: Don’t even open emails from unknown senders, suspicious subject lines or that include additional recipients that are unknown to you. Emails that name you as a prize winner will often contain viruses that can compromise your privacy and leave you open to identity theft and other types of financial fraud in Massachusetts. If you don’t know the sender, don’t open the email.

#4 – Internet
And lastly we come to the Internet. While much has been done to improve security on financial websites, such as the one for your credit union in New Bedford, there are still lots of things that savvy Internet users need to know to keep themselves safe. Even legitimate websites, such as eBay and Craigslist, can have fraudulent users who prey on unsuspecting victims through these services. Always be skeptical of anything that seems to be “too good to be true” and don’t be afraid to report suspicious users when you see them.

What You Can Do: Avoid clicking on banners and ads that offer prizes or other “free” offers to consumers. It is important to remember that nothing is free and even things that are given away are done so in order to obtain personal or financial data from consumers. Set all of your social media sites, such as Facebook or Twitter, to “private” and use settings to prevent sharing of your friends list and other personal details.

What You Need to Know About St Anne Credit Union in New Bedford
Our customers need to know that we will never email you or call you on the phone to ask for your account number. We already have your information, so there’s no reason why we would call and ask for it even to verify your identity. If you do receive a call from someone claiming to be St. Anne Credit Union in New Bedford, call your local branch right away to report it.

Make sure to double-check your monthly statement from your New Bedford credit union to check for debits that you do not recognize. The earlier you can discover issues of identity theft or financial fraud in Massachusetts, the easier it will be to stop it before it gets out of hand. Speak with your representative for information on other things you can do to secure your credit union account even further.