Scammers are continuously devising new methods of defrauding the general public. Below are common fraud attempts and alerts to keep you in the know.
- Fraudulent Lottery Winnings
One of the ways "fraudsters" try to trick you out of your money is to make it appear as if you won a lottery. In this scam, you are sent a Letter stating you've won a lottery. The letter will go on to say that in order to claim your winnings, you need to send an administrative fee. They may even send you a check to cover this fee. How does the scam work?
The check you received is fraudulent. Unsuspecting people will deposit this check, and subsequently wire funds to the "lottery administration". The check will be returned by the payee bank as fraudulent. This generally happens after the unsuspecting person has wired the funds. At this time, the person that wired the funds is now responsible for the check that has been returned to their account and most likely there is no way to recover the amount of funds wired out to the "lottery administration".
How to protect yourself from these scams:
- Ask yourself if you entered into any lotteries? If not, it is most likely a scam.
- Be aware that it is illegal to participate in foreign lotteries. If the letter states you've won a lottery outside the U.S., it is most likely a scam.
- Bring your letter to us to help you determine if it is fraudulent. We see many of these, so we may be able to spot more areas to help determine if it's fraudulent.
Always remember....if it's too good to be true, it probably is fraudulent.
Online fraud occurs when someone poses as a legitimate company to obtain your sensitive personal data and illegally conducts transactions on your existing accounts.
Often called "phishing" or "spoofing," the most current methods of online fraud are fake emails, websites and pop-up windows, or any combination of these.
Always keep in mind that any unsolicited request for Home Federal account information you receive through emails, websites, or pop-up windows should be considered fraudulent and reported to us immediately.
Phishing emails will often:
- Ask you for personal information. Fake emails often contain an overly generic greeting and may claim that your information has been compromised, that your account has been frozen, or ask you to confirm the authenticity of your transactions.
- Appear to be from a legitimate source. While some emails are easy to identify as fraudulent, others may appear to be from a legitimate address and trusted online source. However, you should not rely on the name or address in the "From" field, as this is easily altered.
- Contain fraudulent job offers. Some fake emails appear to be from companies offering jobs. These are often work-at-home accounting positions which are actually schemes that victimize both the job applicant and other customers. Be sure to confirm that the job offer is from a known and trusted company.
- Contain prizes or gift certificate offers. Some fake emails promise a prize or gift certificate in exchange for completing a survey or answering questions. In order to collect the alleged prize or gift certificate you may be directed to provide your personal information. Just like with job offers, be sure to confirm that prize or gift certificate is being issued from a known and trusted company.
- Link to counterfeit Web sites. Fake emails may direct you to counterfeit Web sites carefully designed to look real, but which actually collect personal information for illegal use.
- Link to real Web sites. In addition to links to counterfeit Web sites, some fake emails also include links to legitimate Web sites. The fraudsters do this in an attempt to make a fake email appear real.
- Contain fraudulent phone numbers. Fake emails often contain telephone numbers that are tied to the fraudsters. Never call a number featured on an email you suspect is fraudulent, and be sure to double-check any numbers you do call.
- Contain real phone numbers. Some of the telephone numbers listed in fake emails may be legitimate, connecting to actual companies. Just like with links, fraudsters include the real phone numbers in an effort to make the email appear to be legitimate.
How is your email obtained? Email addresses can be obtained from publicly available sources or through randomly generated lists. So if you receive a fake email that appears to be from Home Federal, this does not mean that your email address, name, or any other information has been taken from Home Federal's systems.
Pop-up windows are the small windows or ads that appear suddenly over or under the window you are currently viewing. Fraudulent pop-up windows are a type of online fraud often used to obtain personal information. Online fraud occurs when someone poses as a legitimate company—like a popular shopping site, your bank, or your internet service provider—to obtain sensitive personal data and illegally conducts transactions on your existing accounts. Often called "phishing" or "spoofing," the most current types of online fraud include fake pop-up windows, emails and Web sites, or any combination of these.
These fake emails may also contain a virus known as a "Trojan horse" that can record your keystrokes. The virus may live in an attachment or be accessed via a link in the email.
Don't forget that we do not request personal information via email or send email attachments. Never respond to emails, open attachments, or click on links from suspicious or unknown senders.
If you're not sure if a Home Federal email is legitimate, report it to us without replying to the email.
Online thieves often direct you to fraudulent Web sites via email and pop-up windows and try to collect your personal information. In many cases there is no easy way to determine that you are on a phony Web site because the URL will contain the name of the institution it is spoofing. However, if you type, or cut and paste, the URL into a new Web browser window and it does not take you to a legitimate Web site, or you get an error message, it was probably just a cover for a fake Web site.
Another way to detect a phony Web site is to consider how you arrived there. Generally, you were directed by a link in a fake email requesting your account information. Again, Home Federal will not request personal information from customers via email and any unsolicited request should be considered fraudulent and reported immediately.
How to report fake "e-mails", websites and pop-up windows
If you receive a deceptive e-mail, such as a message phishing for your information forward it to the entity wrongfully being impersonated. For Home Federal "Bank-related" phishing email forward it to firstname.lastname@example.org
If you encounter a fake Web site, or pop-up window, or if you responded to one of these with personal information, call Home Federal immediately.
- ATM Skimming
ATM skimming is the theft of card information. It occurs during legitimate transactions from ATMs.
How ATM Skimming Works
To steal your information, thieves install electronic devices called skimmers over the normal card reading slot of ATM machines. These skimmers record the data from the magnetic strip on the back of your card.
A tiny camera is often hidden near a skimmer to record your PIN as it is entered.
The thieves then use all of the information they have gathered to manufacture counterfeit cards, make purchases and withdraw funds from your accounts.
Skimming devices come in many forms and can be hard to detect. The image below illustrates how a skimming device and hidden camera can be installed on an ATM. (Actual devices may vary from this example.)
Where to Look for Signs of ATM Skimming
- Use secure ATM machines under video surveillance or inside of a bank lobby. They're less likely to be tampered with.
- Pay careful attention to what the card reader and keypad normally look like on the ATMs you use most frequently.
- Don't use an ATM if the card reader appears to be added on, fits poorly, or is loose. Some thieves place a fake box over the card slot that reads and records account and PIN numbers.
Call the customer service number on the ATM immediately if a machine appears suspicious or if it does not function properly.
- Mystery Shopping/Job Scam
Fraudulent mystery shopping promoters are using newspaper ads and emails to create the impression that they're a gateway to lucrative mystery shopper jobs with reputable companies. These solicitations usually promote a website where consumers can "register" to become mystery shoppers — after they pay a fee for information about a certification program, a directory of mystery shopping companies, or a guarantee of a mystery shopping job.
The truth is that it is unnecessary to pay money to anyone to get into the mystery shopper business. The shopping certification offered in advertising or unsolicited email is almost always worthless. A list of companies that hire mystery shoppers is available for free; and legitimate mystery shopper jobs are on the Internet for free. Consumers who try to get a refund from promoters of mystery shopping jobs usually are out of luck. Either the business doesn't return the phone calls, or if it does, it's to try another pitch.
In another version of the scam, consumers are "hired" to be mystery shoppers and told that their first assignment is to evaluate a money transfer service, likeWestern Unionor MoneyGram. The shopper receives a check with instructions to deposit it in a personal bank account, withdraw the amount in cash, and wire it to a third party. By law, banks must make the funds from deposited checks available within days, but uncovering a fake check can take weeks. Individuals are responsible for the checks they deposit, so if a check turns out to be a fake, they are responsible for paying the bank back. It's a good idea never to deposit a check from someone you don't know, especially if the stranger asks you to wire money.
Consumers should be skeptical of mystery shopping promoters who:
- Advertise for mystery shoppers in a newspaper's 'help wanted' section or by email. While it may appear as if these companies are hiring mystery shoppers, it's much more likely that they're pitching unnecessary — and possibly bogus — mystery shopping "services."
- Require that you pay for "certification."
- Guarantee a job as a mystery shopper.
- Charge a fee for access to mystery shopping opportunities.
- Sell directories of companies that employ mystery shoppers.
- Ask you to deposit a check and wire some or all of the money to someone.
- Ebay/Craigs List Scam
Thinking of selling a car or another valuable item through an online auction? If so, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, wants you to know about check overpayment scams.
According to FTC officials, the scams work like this: Someone responds to your posting or ad, and offers to use a cashier's check, personal check or corporate check to pay for the item you're selling. At the last minute, the so-called buyer (or the buyer's "agent") comes up with a reason for writing the check for more than the purchase price, and asks you to wire back the difference after you deposit the check. You deposit the check and wire the funds back to the "buyers." Later, the check bounces, leaving you liable for the entire amount.
The checks are counterfeit, says the FTC, but good enough to fool the unsuspecting.
In a different version of the scam, the FTC says, consumers get a check that has their "winnings" from a lottery. They're asked to pay taxes or fees. Sometimes, the sender claims to be trapped in a foreign country without any way to cash the check. Either way, federal officials say, if you deposit the check, you'll lose.
Here's how to avoid a check overpayment scam:
- Know who you're dealing with. In any transaction, independently confirm the buyer's name, street address, and telephone number.
- Don't accept a check for more than your selling price, no matter how tempting. Ask the buyer to write the check for the correct amount. If the buyer refuses to send the correct amount, return the check. Don't send the merchandise.
- If you accept payment by check, ask for a check drawn on a local bank, or a bank with a local branch. That way, you can make a personal visit to make sure the check is valid. If that's not possible, call the bank where it was purchased and ask if the check is valid. Get the bank's phone number from directory assistance or an Internet site that you know and trust, not from the person who gave you the check.
- If the buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction immediately. Legitimate buyers don't pressure you to send money byWestern Union or a similar company. In addition, you have little recourse if there's a problem with a wire transaction.
- Resist any pressure to "act now." If the buyer's offer is good now, it should be good after the check clears the issuing bank.
- Throw away any offer that asks you to pay for a prize or a gift. If it's free or a gift, you shouldn't have to pay for it. Free is free.