Online Shopping Safety Tips
According to the Better Business Bureau of Middle Tennessee (BBB), online shopping scams have accounted for 40% of scam cases since the beginning of the COVID pandemic. BBB offers these tips for safe online shopping:
1. Know the advertiser. Some of the best deals are only available online, but be careful. It’s easy for a fake site to mimic a famous retailer’s website, so make sure you are shopping with a legitimate site. If the site is missing contact information, that is a red flag. Check out retailers at BBB.org before you shop.
2. Check a site’s security settings. If the site is secure, its URL (web address) should start with “https://” and include a lock icon on the purchase or shopping cart page.
3. Be a savvy shopper. When shopping online, be sure to take your time, and read the fine print before submitting your order. Look for the return policy. Although many online orders can be returned for a full refund, others have restocking fees and some items cannot be returned. Know before you buy.
5. Think before your click. Be especially cautious about email solicitations and online ads on social media sites. Many sketchy retailers advertise great deals or trendy clothing that don’t measure up to the promotional hype.
6. Beware of too-good-to-be-true deals. Offers on websites and in unsolicited emails may offer free or very low prices on hard-to-find items. There may be hidden costs or your purchase may automatically register you for a monthly charge. Look for and read the fine print.
7. Beware of phishing. Phishing emails can look like a message from a well-known brand, but clicking on unfamiliar links can place you at risk for malware and/or identity theft. One popular scam claims to be from a package-delivery company with links to “tracking information” on an order you never made. Don’t click!
8. Shop with a credit card. In case of a fraudulent transaction, a credit card provides additional protections. It’s easier to dispute charges that you didn’t approve of. Debit cards, prepaid cards or gift cards don’t have the same protections as a credit card.
9. Keep documentation of your order. Save a copy of the confirmation page or email confirmation until you receive the item and are satisfied. Be sure to know and understand the return policy and keep this documented with your purchase records.
10. Keep a clean machine. Install a firewall, anti-virus, and anti-spyware software. Check for and install the latest updates and run virus scans regularly on your computer, tablet, and smartphone.
Proudly Sponsored by
The Secret Service and the U.S. Department of the Treasury have started a new campaign, “KNOW YOUR U.S. TREASURY CHECK”, in an effort to educate the public on ways to protect ourselves as we start to receive U.S. Treasury checks. Their statement includes information we can all use to identify counterfeit U.S Treasury checks.
Genuine Security Features:
- Treasury Seal: This is a new seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty. It should say “Bureau of the Fiscal Service”. The old seal, “Financial Management Service” will be seen in rotation until this check stock runs out.
- Bleeding Ink: When moisture is applied to the seal to the right of the Statue of Liberty, it will “run” and turn red.
- Watermark: All U.S. Treasury checks are printed on watermark paper. The watermark reads “U.S. TREASURY”, and is seen from both front and back when held up to a light source.
- Ultraviolet (UV) Overprinting: A protective UV pattern is invisible to the naked eye. One option may consist of lines of “FMS” framed by the FMS seal on the left and the U.S. Seal (eagle) on the right. In 2013, a new UV pattern was introduced into the check that says “FISCALSERVICE”. Either one of these UV patterns may be seen with a blacklight.
- Microprinting: Is located on the back of the check with the words “USAUSAUSA”.
- Economic Impact Payment: The Economic Impact Payment checks will have the following information located on the lower right side of the Statue of Liberty: “Economic Impact Payment President Donald J. Trump”.
You can also verify U.S. Treasury check information at the Bureau of the Fiscal Service Treasury Check Verification Application (TCVA) at https://tcva.fiscal.treasury.gov/
Proudly Sponsored by
With the nation’s focus on preventing and treating COVID-19 (coronavirus), we all need reliable information, especially older adults and those who have chronic health conditions.
COA, in partnership with FiftyForward and Jewish Family Service, has created an informative flier based on guidance provided on the CDC website. We hope you find this information helpful and will share it with others.
As the nation faces the current CORONAVIRUS concern, scammers are already finding ways to take advantage of us.
A common tactic for these criminals is using fear to elicit a reaction from us and they’re using this pandemic as an opportunity to steal our money. The most common scams surrounding coronavirus are:
- Fake cures: There is currently no cure or vaccine to treat coronavirus. Any claims that suggest otherwise are 100% false.
- Phony fundraisers: The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests researching charities before donating. You can verify nonprofits at GivingMatters.com.
- Impersonations: The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) does not go door-to-door gathering information about infectious diseases. If you encounter a person claiming to be from the CDC, contact your local police department.
- Phishing emails: Recently, the Secret Service issued a warning about emails that appear to be sent from the Centers for Disease Control (CDC). The email contains a link that does NOT connect to the CDC. It is best to check the sender’s email address and avoid opening emails from senders that you do not know.
- Counterfeit products/price gouging: Many consumers have reported false product descriptions and increased prices while shopping online. It is best to read reviews and look into the seller’s history before clicking “buy now”.
Tax Season Equals Tax Scams
As a new tax season begins, keep in mind scammers will be revving up their efforts to steal YOUR money. The scams come in different forms: phishing emails, harassing phone calls and tax return identity theft.
Here are some steps to help keep your identity and money safe:
- File taxes early to avoid scammers
- Be cautious about tax related emails. Go to the website and log directly into your account for relevant information
- Hang up on IRS impersonator phone calls
- Report suspicious emails or phone calls ASAP
- Shred bank and tax documents before throwing away
- Update your security software
The IRS offers an option called Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) that assigns a unique six-digit code to eligible taxpayers that helps limit fraudulent tax returns. There is more information available at https://www.irs.gov/identity-theft-fraud-scams/the-identity-protection-pin-ip-pin.
Here are some reminders about the IRS. They will NEVER:
- call about past due taxes without having mailed several notices first
- call to demand payment with threats to involve law enforcement and have you arrested
- call or email asking you to divulge personal and/or financial information
- require payment without allowing you to appeal or even question the amount due
- require you to use a specific payment method like a pre-paid debit card
- ask for your credit/debit card and/or bank information over the phone
Sources: Internal Revenue Service, marketwatch.com and Turbotax.intuit.com
Summer Vacation Tips
As summer quickly approaches, keep Benjamin Franklin’s words of wisdom in mind: “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” Here are some tips to keep you, your family and identity safe while enjoying your vacation.
- Notify your bank. Traveling out of state or overseas while using your bankcard could cause a fraud alert to appear and suspend your account. A quick phone call would prevent this hassle.
- Be cautious when searching for rental properties on websites like Craigslist. A legitimate rental will not ask for payment via wire transfer.
- Avoid stand-alone ATMS’s. Scammers like these because they are able to attach a credit card skimmer with less risk of detection.
- Stay on guard even in your hotel. If you receive a phone call from the “front desk” asking you to confirm your payment method, hang up. It is scam. If the hotel really has an issue, they will ask you to the front desk.
- Stay alert. Identity thieves’ techniques evolve. Especially in the technological age but some will always rely on good old-fashioned pickpocketing. Safeguard your wallet, purse and phones.
- Save the social media posts. Wait until you are home to share the photos of your family vacation. You don’t want to announce when your home will be empty.
- Make sure you place on hold on newspaper and mail deliveries. A full mailbox or several newspaper on your porch are sure signs no one is home.
- Only take what you will need. Leave the extra credit/bank cards at home. Do you really need your social security card with you? Birth certificate? If not leave it at home.
- Take photocopies or a picture of all the information in your wallet. That includes front and back photos of your credit/bank cards, I.D., passport, etc. Keep the copies in a safe place, not your wallet or purse. One option is to email the copies to yourself so it will always be available.
- Be wary of free Wi-Fi. Free means open airwaves and everything you do is transmitted over an unsecured connection and makes you vulnerable. Some Wi-Fi are fake and are set up by hackers just to steal your information. Always double check with the location to see if it is official.
- Don’t leave expensive or important belongings in the hotel room. Use the safe if one is provided in the room. If not, ask the front desk for another alternative.
- Many credit/bank cards are now equipped with RFID (radio frequency identification) chips, which makes stealing your information easier for high-tech scammers. Consider using a RFID blocking wallet, purse or case.
- Most importantly, if anything does happen, act fast. Contact the bank or credit card company as well as the credit reporting bureaus. If your ID is stolen, file a police report immediately. This is necessary for creating a paper trail as well as a timeframe for the theft. If traveling overseas and your passport is lost or stolen, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate, they can help you with a replacement. You should also call the local police and file a report.
Sources: Lifelock and the Better Business Bureau
Smishing Scam Awareness
Scammers are now targeting people through text messaging. It’s called “smishing”. Like in all scams, these criminals prey on your sense of urgency. However, with “smishing” scammers also hope to catch you with your guard down. Most people have a tendency to trust their text messages.
This particular scam can come across your phone in various ways. Here are some examples:
Financial Institutions: Dear Bank Customer, Due to a possible breach of some of our account holders, we need you to verify your PIN immediately.
Personal Accounts: Did you request a password reset at email@example.com? If not, please reply STOP. Or Dear Customer, Your Apple ID is set to expire, please follow this link to prevent loss of service.
Seasonal Opportunities: IRS Notice: Tax Return Overdue! Click here to prevent penalties.
Sweepstakes: Dear Walmart Shopper, you just won a $100 gift card. Click on www.fakewebsite.com to claim your prize. Type STOP to cancel.
Personal Message: Spring is finally here! Do you want to go? Jane gave me your number, check out my profile here at (fakelink).
These are all scams. If you receive a text message like these examples, do not text or call the number. By texting STOP, you are verifying that your phone number is valid. Just delete the text message. If you are concerned, call the company directly.
Sources: Brentwood Police Dept. (Facebook Page), fortune.com and USAToday.com
New Medicare Cards = New Scams
Beginning April 2018, Medicare will begin the year-long process of issuing new Medicare cards. The new card will have a unique Medicare number listed,not your social security number. You will NOT have to do anything to receive this new card.
This change will encourage scammers to try new tactics. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from Medicare asking you to confirm your social security number for the new card, it is a scam. If you receive a call telling you to pay for a new or temporary card, it is ascam. Here are a few reminders while Medicare changes to the new card:
- A legitimate agency is NOT going to call and ask for your Social Security number in order to issue you a new Medicare card.
- If you are not sure if the call is authentic, hang up and call the agency back on their customer service line. Call Medicare at 1-800-633-4227 and Social Security at 1-800-772-1213.
- There are NO fees associated with the new Medicare cards. You will NOT lose benefits while you wait for the new card.
Sources: Detroit Free Press, AARP & Federal Trade Commission
Utilities are Rising and so are Utility Scams
Many businesses and individuals across the Middle Tennessee have filed reports about scam phone calls from utility companies. Scammers appear to be ramping up their efforts due to higher than average electric bills this time of year.
The scammers are cloning electric company phone numbers, like NES and MTEMC and reporting that customer’s accounts are past due and payment is due immediately or their service will be disconnected. In some instances, the customers are even given a reference number and/or phone number to call where the line is answered promptly and professionally and the past due amount is confirmed. Middle Tennessee Electric Management Corporation and Nashville Electric Service officials both issued warnings to all clients about this scam as well as some tips:
- If someone calls threatening disconnection, hang up. Don’t pay
- Do not use the reference number or phone number provided by the caller. For NES call 615-736-6900 and for MTEMC call 1-877-777-9020
- Never give out personal and/or financial information
- If you have doubts about a call, email, text or visit, call your utilities provider first
Sources: Tennessean.com, NES.com and MTEMC.com