SAN ANTONIO – All Americans are facing increased financial risks or identify theft during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The pandemic provides criminal opportunities on a scale likely to dwarf anything seen before. The speed at which criminals are devising and executing their schemes is truly breathtaking,” according to officials with the U.S. Secret Service and FBI.
With financial fraud skyrocketing, Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union, a KSAT Community partner, has listed tips on how to protect your information and passwords online.
Tip No. 1: Don’t give out personal information when you didn’t initiate the contact.
Your financial intuition or other trusted sources won’t contact you to ask for information.
- Be aware that phone calls may appear to be from valid financial institution phone numbers (phone spoofing)
- The caller will sound very convincing and create urgency to panic or confuse you
- Do not provide: Passcodes, passwords, security information, account log in information, email passwords, or read information from text messages received
- When in doubt, hang up and contact a trusted number for your financial institution
“Scammers are taking advantage of the opportunity the pandemic has presented and the increased fear consumers have,” said Brian Munsterteiger, Vice President for Enterprise Fraud Management at RBFCU. “We’ve seen a dramatic increase in scams involving members contacted via social media, phishing emails, and vishing phone calls. These individuals use panic and confusion to their benefit in order to get consumers to provide personal information including passwords, one-time passcodes, and answers to security questions.”
Tip No. 2: Alter passwords.
Don’t use the same password for every website.
- Do not use public or shared information as passwords (pets names, kids’ names, date of birth, etc.
- Use complex phrases if possible
“Our fraud cases are up about 30% overall,” Munsterteiger said. “The biggest impact has been on money movement between financial institutions, including ACH and P2P payments. These are areas we saw only a small amount of fraud before the pandemic and now they are the leading trend. This points to the increase in involving consumers in the scams as stated above. The scams the fraudsters are using often involve the account holder facilitating the money movement from their account.”
Tip No. 3: Don’t overshare on social media.
Keep things like where you live and your birthday off of your profile, don’t broadcast sensitive information and keep account private.
- Do not respond to get rich quick schemes
- Be wary of advertised Government Relief Benefits or Grants
- Work from home scheme
- People who require you to deposit checks or receive electronic funds
- Research and validate websites, links, and fundraiser
According to Munsterteiger, elderly people and young adults have been targeted the most.
“Elderly individuals are attacked using fear and confusion to often give out information or conduct transactions,” Munsterteiger stated. “Young adults are targeted because they are potentially hurting financially due to the pandemic and may be more likely to participate in a scam to earn income that they are missing.”
RBFCU encourages its members to “financial distance” to stamp out the spread of fraud.
If you believe your account, username or password has been compromised, contact your financial institution followed by the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357), 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338), or visit online.
KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health System, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union.