If you think you are immune to fraud, think again. The Federal Trade Commission reports that about one in every seven Americans falls victim to fraud each year. Your credit union does its part to protect your money and identity; there are also plenty of steps you can take to protect yourself and your hard-earned money from fraud. Here are a few top consumer problems and what you need to know.
In 2010, identify theft topped the list of complaints filed with the FTC, and it wasn't the first year. In fact, identity crime topped the list for the eleventh year in a row. Be careful when using the internet; one safeguard is to select complicated passwords and to change them often. Always verify sources before you share information. If you did not initiate the call or contact, there is almost no reason for you to share banking information. Store personal and financial information in secure places in your home.
Donating to charities is commendable and many people open their hearts and wallets when natural disasters and other crises strike. Unfortunately, fraudsters take advantage of this trend and set up fly-by-night charities to collect money from unwitting good Samaritans. Sites such as Charity Navigator can help you sort legitimate charities from phony ones; you also can find plenty of information on the FTC's website.
Claims you have won foreign lotteries or have unclaimed property and accounts are bogus. If you really win a prize or inherit money from a distant relative, you'll receive word via certified mail, not an e-mail. You should never have to send money to claim a prize. The same goes for work-at-home ventures that tout big salaries for small investments. A legitimate employer will never ask you to send them money.
Imposter scams can be subtle and varied, from people who pose as friends or relatives requiring money to government agencies asking for information. Sadly, some people also lurk on dating sites, gaining trust online and then asking for money. For more information on how to protect your money, call GCS Federal Credit Union at (618) 219-8600.