Fraud is on the rise so it’s important to stay safe.

If you’re called or e-mailed by a stranger who makes you an offer that seems “too good to be true,” watch out! It’s probably a scammer trying to take advantage of you.

Scam artists are experts in emotional manipulation; they know exactly which buttons to push. Here are some examples:

  • Do you urgently need extra money? They’ll say they owe you a “refund” or will give you a payday loan or cash advance but insist that you provide your account number or online log-in information.
  • Scammers promise to lower your credit card interest rate or offer “credit card protection,” just to get access to your credit card information.
  • They say you’ve won a big prize or foreign lottery and insist that you forward them the taxes owed before you can collect your “winnings.”
  • Fraudsters may also pretend they represent legitimate charities helping urgent disaster needs.
  • You get a text message, supposedly from your credit union, asking you to act immediately. Don’t click on any links or call the phone number in the message; it may be fraud. Five Star FCU doesn’t send text messages, unless you’ve enrolled in text alerts for your accounts (like card purchase notifications) or two-factor authentication codes. These texts don’t have links.
  • They’ll pitch you a story and ask you to buy them gift cards or send funds.
  • Or they’ll offer a “free trial” and hit you up with shipping/handling and other charges for a subscription or service that’s nearly impossible to stop—or doesn’t even exist.
  • If you get a text message saying you owe money for unpaid tolls, that’s a scam. The FB says you should not respond or click on links in text messages that try to scare you! Instead, call the tolling agency directly (look on your statement for the phone number) to check your status. Don’t visit websites listed in a text message since these are probably scam sites; but if you have (or clicked on a link), contact your financial institution right away to report the scam. You’ll probably have to cancel that card and get a new one.
  • Criminals trick people using peer-to-peer money exchanges like CashApp and Venmo into giving their account credentials.
  • Sometimes crooks pretend to be law enforcement officers who can help you recover lost funds for a fee. That’s a definite red flag!
  • Or they claim they represent your credit union’s or bank’s fraud department and say they need your log-in information or the six-digit number you were sent for two-factor authentication. Don’t do it!
  • If a scammer claims they work for a financial institution and needs your debit/credit card number or Social Security Number, hang up. A genuine credit union or bank employee can look up that information.

E-mail and social media scams

  • Many hackers send e-mails with attachments or links that could download malware onto your computer. Even with up-to-date virus protection, never click on or download anything sent by unknown persons.
  • Or they send an “invoice” by e-mail for a service (like virus protection) that you either don’t have, it’s not the renewal period and/or it’s way overpriced. They want you to contest the charge by calling the fake number they provide and then promise to “refund” the extra money into your account if you provide your account information.
  • Crooks send a fake message from a family member or friend supposedly in trouble who needs immediate financial assistance. Instead of responding, call your friend or relative on their known phone number to check this out.
  • Sellers on Facebook and Instagram who aren’t legitimate lure buyers into providing their credit card or account information.
  • Or scammers send a new “friend” request or strange message from a family member’s or friend’s social media account. Chances are, that account has been hacked.

Even with different approaches, scam artists share many traits:

  • They contact you. If you do business with a company, you should initiate the call to a trusted phone number. If you get an e-mail that seems questionable, don’t respond; call or contact the company directly.
  • Legitimate telemarketers are required to tell you their company, that it’s a sales call and why they are calling. If unknown callers don’t provide these facts or something seems “fishy,” just hang up.
  • Fraudsters pressure their would-be victims into acting right away, not allowing them the time to think things through.
  • Their “free” gifts or services aren’t free; there are fees attached.
  • Scammers ask you to confirm your account or debit/credit card details (which they may have obtained illegally). Or they want you to tell them your online banking log-in information or ATM/debit card PIN. Don’t do it!
  • They spoof their phone number so it looks like a local call. The “Unknown Caller” display on your phone may not catch these.
  • They call you even when your phone number is added to the National Do Not Call Registry. Legitimate businesses are not allowed to make “cold sales calls” to the numbers on that list. Although political and non-profit organizations can call those numbers, feel free to say that you don’t make donations by phone and disconnect.

To learn more about preventing or reporting scams, visit consumer.ftc.gov. Another good source of information can be found on the AARP website.

If you have questions about your Five Star FCU accounts, please call 855-597-5766 (option 2), visit a branch or send an e-mail message to info@fivestarfcu.org.