5 SCAMS TO AVOID THIS BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday Scam Alert

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch. 

Here are 5 scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving.  

1. Crazy deals that are actually bogus 

The noisy crowds and flashy ads on Black Friday can lead you to make rash decisions and spend more than you planned. But be careful not to leave your senses at home. 

An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of genuine Ugg boots for just $9? These deals sound insane because that’s exactly what they are. And yet, thousands of people happily send their money to online stores that are advertising these laughable prices on Black Friday. And of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they won’t hesitate to use it for their own shopping spree – all on your dime. 

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. It’s only bait used by scammers to lure you into their trap. Black Friday deals tend to fall within the 20-30% off range or an offer of free shipping. 

2. Black Friday gift cards for cheap 

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you might see an explosion of cheap gift cards being sold at online marketplaces. The gift cards are linked to big-name retailers and are offered for a fraction of their real value. 

These cards are usually stolen from their real owners. The victim of the theft will likely report the loss and the card will be disabled. And you’ll have forked over your hard-earned money for a card that’s not worth the plastic it’s made from. 

Be smarter: Don’t buy any gift cards that are retailing at a heavily marked-down price. 

3. Bait and switch 

Want to be the lucky winner of a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details and take this survey. You may just be the proud new owner of the super-expensive phone! 

If you know anything about online scams, you’ll already recognize this one. Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. And, with holiday expenses growing each year, it’s the perfect time to lure an innocent victim into thinking they’ve just saved a ton of money. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from this scam just because you’re doing all your Black Friday shopping at the mall. “Bait and switch” scams can happen offline, too. 

The brick-and-mortar version of this scam is somewhat less nefarious. Retailers will advertise deals so amazing you’ll find yourself travelling across town and battling impossible traffic to grab these bargains. Once you finally reach the store, though, you’ll be told that those items are all sold out, but you can check out the items they do have in stock. You’ll be shown similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are just a waste of your time and often your money, too. 

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with. 

4. Delivery problems 

With so much of your shopping happening online, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases. But if you get an email like this asking you to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date, you’re looking at a scam. You may also receive a message asking you to pay an extra fee for delivery after you’ve completed an order. Again, this email is bogus and you’re being scammed. Ignore these emails. And, if you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly. 

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. 

5. Online purchases that can only be paid for with a wire transfer 

If you’re planning on going on an all-out spending spree this Black Friday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected. 

A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and retailers you trust and frequent often. 

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back. 

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card. 

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and outsmart scammers! 

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a Black Friday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.finder.com/black-friday-scams

https://www.scam-detector.com/article/black-friday-scam

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-scams-watch-black-friday-cyber-monday/

Falcon – Watching Your Information Security Like A Hawk

One of the benefits you’ve always enjoyed as a Mutual Credit Union member is the presence of industry-leading fraud detection and prevention seamlessly running behind the scenes to keep your information and accounts secure. Suspicious transactions are identified and shut down before they start. Knowing this, you receive the peace of mind that comes from having that round-the-clock monitoring without even lifting a finger.

This system can be a bit complicated from the ground up, but it works effortlessly. Mutual Credit Union contracts with an agency called Fraud Center. It is constantly analyzing data from attempted fraudulent transactions across the world to identify trends so it can formulate a series of rules, or algorithms, to identify potential cases of fraud. Those rules are applied to your account and, if a transaction meeting those rules occurs, Fraud Center detects and declines it. And you’re saved from a potential financial nightmare.

With new technology comes new ways of making this protection smarter, stronger and faster. We’re incorporating the Falcon alert system into our existing fraud prevention strategy. Falcon notifies you of these declined transactions as soon as they happen in two ways:

First, if you have a cell number on file, Falcon sends you a text message. It’ll look something like this:

FreeMsg from Fraud Center: (Merchant Name) txn is restricted; if you did not attempt txn reply 881NO. Otherwise, call your financial institution for assistance.

If you don’t recognize the transaction, texting the number sent with “NO” added to it (for example, “881NO”) in response will prompt a call from a Fraud Center fraud analyst. This expert will walk you through the next steps to resolving the fraudulent transaction. If you don’t respond, Fraud Center will do nothing, and your transaction will clear normally.

Falcon will also notify you via email and present you with the same range of options. You can call to start an investigation, or you can take no action and let the transaction proceed. Either way, you’ll know your financial wellbeing is protected.

Even if you don’t respond immediately, your liability is still limited. The expansion of the existing fraud detection and prevention system doesn’t change Mutual Credit Union’s commitment to protecting the privacy and security of our members. It’s much easier to stop fraud before it starts, and catching fraudsters before they have a chance to rip off other people is easier if everyone acts quickly. Because of this, it’s important that you respond to these text messages and emails promptly, but if you don’t, you’re still covered.

Due to privacy regulations, Falcon can’t contact members who don’t have a cellphone or an email address on file. Fraud frequently happens in large batches, and Falcon would have to make dozens of calls in a short period of time. This would run afoul of the same laws that protect you from obnoxious automated calls. Despite the absence of a call, the fraud activity is still recorded. Fraud Center still keeps track of these incidents, and if a large number of them take place, a security specialist will still get in touch with you.

This system doesn’t change anything you have to do if your card is lost or stolen. You can still reach out to Mutual Credit Union, or call the after-hours help line, (888) 526-0404. You can also call if your card is declined for any reason or if you suspect you’ve been the victim of fraud.

Mutual Credit Union remains committed to the safety and security of our members. Falcon doesn’t change that. Adding the Falcon service is another way we’re bringing 21st century solutions to you. If you have any concerns or want to discuss more ways we’re keeping your account safe, call, click or stop by any of our branch locations. Our member service representatives are always happy to help!

Check Fraud & Swiss Cheese

Just about every article you read about fraud, security and identity theft is based on the idea that with increased technology comes increased security.  In fact, we do everything we can to bring as much cutting edge technology to your defense as possible.  Unfortunately, some of the greatest vulnerabilities in your security come from low-tech attacks. 

Think about it this way: A dedicated criminal wanting to get into your checking account has to spend thousands of dollars on an RFID skimmer, a device to crack your PIN, and other technological marvels out of a “Mission: Impossible” movie, but when they get access, our fraud protection kicks in after only a very small expenditure.  So, why would a criminal spend thousands of dollars when they could get the same benefits from spending $5 on a blunt object with which to threaten you physically?  Why steal RFID signals out of the air when you can pick pockets and shop online?  Why go high-tech and hassle with all our security experts when a criminal can go low-tech and wait for you to slip up?

It helps to think of your financial security as a metaphorical block of Swiss cheese.  Every layer of security may have a few holes, just like every step you take to protect yourself has holes.  The idea is that, if we put enough layers of cheese on top of each other, we can make sure that none of the holes go all the way through the cheese, leaving you vulnerable.  In that spirit, we’ve identified a low-tech hole in the cheese, and we’re putting down another layer. We’d like to make sure you put down some cheese, too.

Check fraud is still a major problem, and it could get worse as EMV chips and software security make ATM and point of sale transactions more secure.  Check fraud is an umbrella term for a variety of strategies scammers use, ranging from creating blank checks on computer software to stealing and using old checkbooks.  Your checkbook is a source of fraud vulnerability for many of these strategies, but the ways to protect yourself are fairly simple.
1.) Treat your checkbook like cash.  The easiest thing to do is to just not give thieves access to your checks.  You wouldn’t put an envelope of cash in your mailbox with the flag up, would you?  Then don’t do it with a utility check.  If you’re going to mail a check, drop it into a blue USPS box on your way to work.  You can also see what’s available to pay online.  Our online services are really impressive, and if you set up an automatic payment through us or use our online banking, you never have to mail a check again.
2.) Balance your checkbook every month.  It may seem like a chore, but balancing your checkbook is the easiest way to make sure you’re the only one spending your money.  We have special buttons built into our online account view to make this as easy as possible. If you want a little personal guidance, come talk to us and we’ll walk you through the process.  It’s easier than it looks. If it takes you forever every month, you might not be using all of our features!  Call us at 877-457-3654 and we’ll help you make the process much easier.

3.)  Destroy your old checkbooks and order new ones regularly. For whatever reason, you might have found yourself with old checks lying around.  Maybe you were running low on checks and ordered a new checkbook but decided not to finish the old one  because they came so quickly. Maybe you’ve moved and didn’t bother to finish the set with your old address.  If that’s the case, destroy them. It’s worth the cost of a checkbook or the effort of a few minutes at the office shredder to keep from leaving yourself vulnerable. Also, don’t put your driver’s license number on the checks when you order them.  It might take a few extra minutes at the register, but that inconvenience is a lot worse for a scammer holding your checkbook than it is for you.

It’s a different world for your checkbook than it was even a few years ago.  Nationally, we’re writing fewer checks in fewer places and many of us don’t carry a checkbook at all.  Across the country, speech teachers are showing “I Have a Dream” to their students and they have to pause the video to explain what a promissory note is and why Dr. King is talking about writing a check for freedom.  They may seem old-fashioned, but that’s exactly why they represent such an important vulnerability in your financial security:  They’re just paper and ink.  No chips to crack, no PIN, no online security protocols. Don’t let your Swiss cheese have holes that go all the way through. Protect yourself from check fraud.
If you haven’t already, you can sign up for online banking in a few easy steps at MutualCU.org
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