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Protecting Yourself from Fraud and Scams

07 April 2022

In the digital world that we live in scams and fraud are happening now more than ever. Scammers are quickly coming up with new ways to steal personal information and, ultimately, your money. Knowing the basics of how to spot fraud can help keep you, your family members, and your money safe.

Debt Collection and Settlement Scams

Dealing with debt can be stressful enough without the added phone calls from debt collectors. Not knowing if a caller is trying to scam you presents an added challenge. The caller may be the original lender attempting to collect the money owed, or the original lender may hire a debt collector to attempt to collect their funds. If the caller is withholding information, this is a red flag. Some key information to help determine if the call is legitimate include:

  • Disclosing the name of the original lender and the debt collection agency
  • The amount owed

Legitimate collectors should never pressure you to pay with a money transfer or prepaid card: these payment methods are often chosen because they are untraceable. Collectors will never ask for personal information such as a birthdate or social security number. If you are unsure if the caller is legitimate, ask for written information. Asking for a call back number is another potential way to check for legitimacy.

Scams Targeting Older Adults

A scam that is becoming more common is grandparents receiving a phone call from their “grandchildren” stating that they are in trouble (car accident, arrest etc.), and need money wired or gift cards to be purchased. Scammers often reveal personal information about the family they have collected to help solidify their story. Some warning signs are:

  • Asking for money immediately
  • Late night phone calls
  • Begging to keep the emergency a secret

To ensure the legitimacy of the call, hang up and call the person (they are claiming to be) back on a number you know is theirs. Also, try to verify the story with other family members.

“You’ve Won” Scams

One tricky way scammers get money is by informing a person via phone that they have won a prize. In order to claim that prize they ask for a payment upfront (disguising it as a fee or tax). You never have to pay for a prize. They may also ask for a bank account number to “deposit” the funds into. There is never a reason to give your bank account or credit card information to claim a prize. If this information is asked for, do not give it out. It is a scam. Another tactic scammers use is saying they are with the government or they use names of organizations with which people are familiar with.

Home Title Fraud

A more rare type of fraud that is less known, is home title (or home deed) fraud. This fraud is also known as “property title theft” or identity theft house stealing. The home title indicates who has legal ownership of the home including the following rights: possession, control, exclusion, enjoyment and disposition. This is not the physical document, instead a “concept” of the owners’ rights.

A house deed is the physical document needed to buy or sell a home.  The deed contains the property description and is signed by both the seller and buyer. Fraud can occur when someone changes the ownership of your home to someone else’s name by forging the home owner’s signature on the deed. They may then take out a loan using the house as collateral. Scammers typically go after homes without mortgages or ones that have high equity.

Some fraud warning signs include:

  • Bills that don’t show up - sometimes bills are rerouted to a new address to try to hide the fraud longer. A new name may also be added to the bill.
  • Receiving foreclosure notices when you do not have a mortgage.

How can you help protect yourself?

  • Check the status of your deed.
  • Check your credit reports.
  • If a family member passes away, consider quickly dealing with the estate.
  • If you own multiple homes, or vacation homes, be sure to pay attention to the bills and notices.
  • Ensure you are receiving yearly property tax notices.

Each county has a Recorder of Deeds and they continuously monitor for fraudulent activity.

At SRU Federal Credit Union we are always working to keep your money safe. These are just a few examples of scams. If you would like more information about this topic be sure to stop into the office. We have printed resources, and we would be happy to answer any questions that you have.

Detecting early fraud is the best way to protect yourself and your assets. If you are the victim of a scam, contact your local police and submit a claim to: