There are several steps you can take to help minimize fraudulent offers in both your mailbox and inbox and to protect your accounts from deceptive schemes:
- Ask for any offer in writing. There are a variety of scams circulating at any given time, from overpayment scams to prize scams that attempt to trick or manipulate a consumer into sending money through a wire transfer or a payment exchange service like PayPal. If you receive communication that you are owed money, ask for all the details in writing and ensure the letter is from an official source. If the company is unable to comply, ignore them, and do not send them any money.
- Shred all receipts with your credit card number. Most credit card receipts include the last four digits of your card as well as your penned signature. Take a few minutes at the end of each week to shred any receipts you’ve accumulated. If you don’t have access to a shredder, consider using one at a store like FedEx Office, which may charge a nominal fee. After you’ve shredded your receipts, be sure to clean out your email inbox, too, to delete digital receipts that may also include sensitive financial information.
- Use direct deposit. Having your check sent directly to your account helps combat fraud and identity theft, plus you’ll have immediate access to your paycheck. (Another perk: you can immediately inform your supervisor if there’s an issue with your compensation.)
- Never give out personal information over the phone. New technologies, unfortunately, can sometimes mean new tricks. A caller may try to contact you from a blocked phone number and request personal banking information, so stay alert. Your credit union will never call and ask you to provide your account details. They will instead ask you to verify your account information. If someone calls demanding your financial information, hang up, and consider blocking the number.
- Be skeptical of all unsolicited offers. Free trials and limited-time offers are designed to create a sense of urgency, so always research any offer you receive.
- Do online searches. If you aren’t familiar with a company name or feel like you are being harassed by calls or letters from the company, try running a search on the brand in question. Run a query that includes the company name plus words like “scam” or “complaint” in a trusted search engine to see what other consumers have reported about the business.
Following these practices may help you spot phony offers and protect you from fraud or scams that could impact your credit score or drain your account. If your address or phone number seems especially susceptible to this type of activity, you can sign up for free scam alerts with the Federal Trade Commission. They will potentially remove your contact information from scam lists and will provide further guidance to help you avoid being defrauded or scammed.
Of course, your credit union will never attempt to hoodwink its customers, so stay vigilant, report suspicious activity, and be wary of any monetary-related communication you receive (even and especially if it doesn’t seem shady). Remember, if an offer looks too good to be true, it probably is!