Fraud linked to the COVID-19 pandemic has cost Americans $382 million, according to the Federal Trade Commission.
Seniors reported the largest losses related to coronavirus scams. The median loss for those in their 80s was $900.
Criminals have stolen money via a number of scams: those related to stimulus checks, unemployment benefits, COVID vaccines, fake virus cures and charities, for example.
“No matter what happens with the pandemic, we know fraud is not going away,” said Brian Munsterteiger, Vice President-Enterprise Fraud at RBFCU. “Just as people were encouraged in the past year to do things to protect their health, we encourage everyone to be careful as they conduct their financial transactions.”
With financial fraud on the rise, Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union has listed tips on how to protect your information and passwords online.
“Fraud stemming from members giving up their OTP (one-time passcodes) to fraudsters is on the rise,” Munsterteiger said. “Fraudsters are increasingly using social media to get bits of information needed in a social engineering scam.”
Some things RBFCU stresses to include:
- Use strong passwords (and different passwords for each account)
- Use two-factor authentication when possible
- Don’t trust privacy controls to fully protect you from sensitive posts
- Don’t overshare on social media with information that could potentially be used by a fraudster
“If you receive a phone call and feel pressured to donate to a charity or other nonprofit assistance, hang up,” said Munsterteiger. “Make older members of your family aware of this. Elder financial abuse is a serious threat – scammers often target the elderly. You are your own best protection, so always be aware that there is a threat. Your financial accounts will be secure if you act to keep them that way.”
Phishing: How to recognize it and protect yourself
Phishing is a form of internet-enabled fraud that targets its victims through seemingly legitimate emails, phone calls and texts. One form of protection is using security software on your electronic devices.
The Federal Trade Commission provided four steps to protect yourself from phishing:
- Protect your computer by using security software, making sure to set the software to update automatically so it can protect against any new security threats.
- Protect your mobile phone by setting software to update automatically.
- Protect your accounts by using multi-factor authentication (this could include a scan of your fingerprint, retina or face).
- Protect your data by backing it up through an external hard drive or cloud storage.
RBFCU never distributes emails or other messages, nor will the representative place phone calls to members, asking for sign-in information, including passwords and one-time passcodes.
“Don’t give sensitive account information over the phone to an unsolicited caller, even if they identify themselves as being with your financial institution or other sources you trust or are familiar with, like the IRS,” said Munsterteiger. “Financial institutions won’t call and ask for your account information, including passwords, and one-time passcodes.”
Elder financial exploitation: How to identify the signs
Here are tips provided by the American Association of Retired Persons (AARP) on how to spot the signs of possible elder financial exploitation:
- An elder shows a lack of knowledge about major financial issues
- Physical frailty becomes an issue
- Isolation and loneliness
- Questionable behavior of relatives or caregivers
Older people who show a sudden lack of knowledge of their finances, physical frailty and isolation are potential targets for scammers. Reports show that 90% of financial abuse comes from their family members or other trusted sources.
RBFCU offers a Fraud/Elder Care team that can assist if there is a chance that cases of financial exploitation have extended into the older family member’s accounts. Inquiries for the RBFCU Fraud/Elder Care Team can be made by calling 210-945-3300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Protect your passwords
Updating your passwords for your online accounts is a simple and effective way to protect you and your family’s personal information from potential threats. This article provides tips on how you can safeguard your passwords.
According to Consumer Reports and businessinsider.com, here’s what you should consider:
- Don’t recycle your passwords
- Use a password manager
- Use two-factor authentication
- Make passwords long and complicated
To learn more from RBFCU, click or tap here.
KSAT Community operates in partnership with University Health, Energy Transfer and Randolph-Brooks Federal Credit Union.