Preventive Steps To Combat the Growing Threat of Phone and Cyber Scams

Preventive Steps To Combat the Growing Threat of Phone and Cyber Scams

By: Bryan A. Watkinson, CFE, AVP of Risk Operations and BSA Officer

Date: September 1, 2022

As Affinity Federal Credit Union continues to grow and evolve as a credit union and financial services provider to its members in this pandemic era, so do acts of fraud and the bad actors behind them. As assistant vice president of risk operations for Affinity, I oversee fraud risk, investigations and anti-money-laundering efforts.

woman sitting with dog looking at mobile phone

I lead a team that has the delicate responsibility of protecting and educating our members, while analyzing and monitoring the ongoing threats across our digital financial services systems. It’s important for our current and prospective business partners, members and friends to do their utmost to help prevent and stop any fraudulent activity before someone’s personal information is compromised and, potentially, their hard-earned money and identity are stolen.

My team has recently noticed an increase in fraud attempts targeting our members. This comes as no surprise since victims of fraud lost nearly $600 million1 in the U.S. just between April and June of this year. In 2021, the Federal Trade Commission received 2.8 million reports of consumer fraud.2 That represents an average of more than 7,600 instances each day.

What To Watch Out For

Earlier this year, our partner LexisNexis released its “10 Trends That Will Shape the Fraud and Identity Landscape in 2022”.3 The list includes:

  • Accelerated digital transformation has propelled technology utilization forward by several years.
  • Increased automation.
  • Adoption of new digital payments and methods.
  • Increasing risk of payment fraud.
  • Growing prevalence of scams.
  • Ongoing challenge of balancing fraud and friction.
  • Rise of synthetic identities.
  • Escalating cost of fraud.
  • Growing need for multi-layered fraud assessment.
  • Heightened need for real-time risk assessment.

It’s part of my professional responsibility to be familiar with all these ten trends, but it’s also important for you as members to understand some of the more complex scams that have become increasingly prevalent:

  • Payment fraud: When someone with bad intentions steals another person’s private information, or tricks them into sharing it, and uses that data to make purchases.
  • Synthetic identities: Bad actors can use an actual Social Security number while inputting false information not linked to a real person, in an attempt to access an account and steal the actual person’s identity.

So what does all of this mean to you as a member of Affinity? Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind when taking phone calls from someone you don’t know or while navigating the digital landscape:

  • Be careful of the unsolicited: Utilize your smartphone’s security features that flag any possible spam calls. If the phone number is not captured by the spam filter but looks unfamiliar and you answer, pay extra attention to the person on the line. It is OK to question the validity of the caller, get their extension and promptly end the conversation. Call Affinity’s member services line at 800-325-0808 to explain the situation to one of our agents, who can then help you assess the next steps.
  • Take your time: No one will ever call you just to ask for personal information or account information. Be sure the person on the line explains who they are. If you have any inclination that you’re the target of a bad actor, hang up immediately and don’t pass along any personal information.
  • Enable additional verification methods: Normally this is called two-step verification. It is intended to ensure the person trying to access an account is the actual account holder and serves as strong roadblocks against those looking to infiltrate an account.
  • Use lengthy and unique passwords: Do not use the same password and username for all of your online activity. Utilize as many different combinations as you can think of. Make your passwords a mix of numbers, letters and punctuation. Where can you save all of this information? There are a number of apps, such as LastPass, designed to provide safe password storage. Additionally, set up two-step verification when possible.
  • Do not send or accept payments on behalf of someone you don’t know: This happens too often through applications like Zelle or Cash App, through wire transfers or when sending money from one bank account to another. Think before you send!
  • Never provide remote access or login information to anyone: The usernames and passwords you create are for your knowledge and use alone.
  • Do not click on unknown links: Be vigilant when reviewing emails seeking information, and when clicking links in your inbox or on the internet. Be sure the sender is legitimate by clicking the dropdown menu of an email to view additional information. Providing information or making payments through website links sent to you by unknown sources can put you, your family and, if applicable, your business at serious risk.

If you ever feel that you, a family member, friend or business colleague were a victim of fraud, call our member services line immediately at 800-325-0808. For more information on how to protect yourself and prevent any instance of fraud, visit the Security Center on the Affinity website at: https://www.affinityfcu.com/tips-and-tools/security-center/index.aspx.4

This information is for informational purposes only and is intended to provide general guidance and does not constitute legal, tax, or financial advice. Each person’s circumstances are different and may not apply to the specific information provided. You should seek the advice of a financial professional, tax consultant, and/or legal counsel to discuss your specific needs before making any financial or other commitments.

  1. Retrieved from: https://public.tableau.com/app/profile/federal.trade.commission/viz/FraudReports/TrendsOverTime
  2. Retrieved from: https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/news/press-releases/2022/02/new-data-shows-ftc-received-28-million-fraud-reports-consumers-2021-0
  3. Retrieved from: https://risk.lexisnexis.com/insights-resources/infographic/fraud-and-identity-trends
  4. Retrieved from: https://www.affinityfcu.com/tips-and-tools/security-center/index.aspx