Have you ever received a call from a creditor or financial institution asking you to verify your recent transactions to make sure you actually were the one responsible for them? It's a common practice to ensure charges that are unusual or in an area not local to you are actually valid. This type of call, however, is something that in recent months scammers have been using to gain access to your information.
What should these calls normally ask?
When a financial institution calls you, to verify your recent transactions, they are doing this to ensure your protection. These calls are generated when activity on your card is flagged as unusual. This can be due to a large amount, the location of the transaction, an online transaction to a company you've never purchased from before, or a series of transactions to the same business. This would be considered unusual activity and you would be contacted to verify these transactions.
The call you receive should be from either an automated voice or a real person and they should be calling the number that is associated with that account. In both instances they will have the information about these transactions. They will know the name of the business and the amount of the transaction, because they are the financial institution. They will know the name of the business and the amount of the transaction, and not ask you for this information, but simply to verify it. In some instances they might ask you to verify your identity using information within their system - but they will never ask for any full account numbers.
What do the scam calls ask?
Scammers are looking to gain access to your information and by using the thought of fraudulent transactions they can use fear as a tactic to gain information before you have time to verify if these claims are true.
- Scammers can make up a charge in order to make you believe you have already been a victim of fraud.
- Scammers can claim your card has had suspicious activity without knowing anything about your actual transactional history. This, in fact, is part of the scam.
Regardless of which method they use to initiate this call, they will be looking to gain information. They may ask for identifying information to verify the account is yours. This could be a social security number, account number, debit or credit card number - any information that could be used fraudulently. They may also ask you to provide your most recent transactions. By having this list, scammers can estimate the amount of money your account has or the limits that are set-up within it. This information can also be used at financial institutions as a method of verification in order to gain access to your account.
With personal information scammers can open new lines of credit, create fake identification, and more - which is why it is always vital to be sure you know who is asking for this information.
What can I do if I believe a transaction verification call is not legitimate?
If you receive a call or text message asking you to verify your recent transactions that you believe is not from the actual financial institution you can end the call and initiate a call yourself. All credit and debit cards have a phone number on their reverse sides that you can call to make sure you are talking directly to that company. If you are receiving a call from someone claiming to be from First Northern Credit Union, or any other financial institution, you can call their number directly and ask to speak to someone in payment systems or simply tell them that you received a call asking you to verify transactions and you'd like to make sure it is a legitimate call.
How can I lower my risk for this type of scam happening to me?
As always, education about this type of scam is your biggest resource. By knowing what scammers will do, you can recognize their methods and end the call before giving them any information. If you receive a call like this, you can contact your financial institution or card issuer and ask them to freeze or lock this card until you can better assess if you are at risk for fraud. You are also welcome to request a new credit or debit card in instances where you believe your card number has been compromised.
Be aware of the methods of contact your financial institution or creditor will contact you. Do they offer verification via text message? Can you program the phone number they call from into your phone as a contact? Do they allow you to verify your transactions online? Do you have mobile access to your account via an app on your phone so you can quickly and easily check your recent activity? By making yourself aware of how the legitimate calls happen, you can easily pick out when fake ones are happening.
Another way to keep your information secure is to sign up for paperless statements. Having your monthly statement available for download, directly from your financial institution, ensures it cannot be taken from your mail, lost in the mail, or accidentally left out anywhere. While your statement might not have full account details within it, the information contained within it can still be useful to scammers.
What if I believe I have been a victim of a fake call?
Immediately reach out to the financial institution that claimed to call you and notify them of the fake call. At First Northern Credit Union, we are here to help support you through this and ensure you are not held responsible for any fraudulent charges. Your financial institution can freeze your account, issue a new card, and help guide you through any of the next steps that should be taken to further protect you and your information.
You can also report these calls directly to the FTC via their website for reporting consumer fraud. By providing this information to the FTC they can hand this off to one of the many law enforcement agencies working with them to help shut down these scammers. By reporting your experience you can help protect another consumer.
Being a victim of fraud can be a horrible experience, but by continuing to learn about the types of scams that are prevalent you can ensure you are more aware of when they are happening.
Here are some additional resources:
First Northern Credit Union Security and Fraud Center - https://www.fncu.org/FraudCenter
FNCU - Additional Fraud & Scam Articles - https://www.fncu.org/Blog/Fraud-Scams
Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Fraud Reporting - https://reportfraud.ftc.gov
Better Business Bureau - Lookup a Scam - https://www.bbb.org/scamtracker/lookupscam