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 Personal Security Tips & Ideas

NOTICE: Riverfront Federal Credit Union will never contact you via text message, phone or email asking you to verify your personal information. Legitimate businesses will never ask you for this information. Please notify us immediately if you receive a solicitation via the above methods asking for your personal information.

This section is a collection of tips and information designed to make you more aware of potential fraudulent activity that could occur if you are not prepared. Riverfront Federal Credit Union hopes that you are never the target of theft or fraud, but we know that one of the best ways to prevent such a situation is to be well-informed. Many of these tips are common sense, unfortunately, there are new scams created every day. Therefore, this section is certainly not all inclusive but merely a helpful guide in preparing yourself against criminal actions.


Prepare Before You Go There:

1. Have your card ready. Avoid having to go through your wallet or purse to find your card. Make sure that nobody can see you entering your PIN or transaction amount.

2. Familiarize yourself with the machine before you use it so you can complete your transaction quickly.

3. Memorize your PIN. Do not write it down or keep it in your wallet or purse. Do not tell anyone else your PIN – ANYONE! (including bank employees, the police, etc.)

4. Maintain a small supply of deposit envelopes at home, in your car or office. Prepare all transaction paperwork prior to your arrival at the ATM site. This will minimize the amount of time spent at the ATM.

5. Do not wear expensive jewelry or take other valuables to the ATM. This is an added incentive to an assailant.

6. Solicit prior criminal activity statistics from law enforcement for the ATM site and surrounding neighborhood.

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Choosing an ATM:

7. Do not select an ATM at the corner of a building. Corners create a blind area in close proximity to the customer’s transaction. Select an ATM located near the center of a building. An ATM further from the corner reduces the element of surprise by an assailant and increases effective reaction time by the user.

8. Be careful when using freestanding ATM machines, especially at night. Observe your surroundings. If the machine is poorly lit, or is in a hidden area, use another ATM.

9. Identify an ATM with maximum natural surveillance and visibility from the surrounding area. This will create a perceived notion of detection by a criminal and increases the potential for witnesses.

10. Select an ATM with a wide-angle transaction camera and/or a continuous transaction surveillance camera. Consult the bank or location management for this information.

11. Select an ATM at a location void of barriers blocking the line of sight of the ATM. This includes shrubbery, landscaping, signs and decorative partitions or dividers. Barriers provide hiding areas for would be assailants.

12. Whenever possible, select an ATM that is monitored or patrolled by a security officer.

13. Never approach an ATM if you see suspicious people near the machine or if you have any doubts, fears, or concerns for your safety. Be aware of anyone sitting in a parked car in close proximity to or at a short distance from the ATM location.

14. Avoid ATM locations with large perimeter parking lots and numerous ingress and egress points.

15. During evening hours consider taking a companion along, park close to the ATM in a well lighted area and lock your car.

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Using an ATM:

16. When you use a drive-through ATM, lock the car doors and roll up the other windows.

17. If you are using an indoor ATM that requires your card to open the door, avoid letting anyone that you do not know come in with you.

18. Criminals are becoming more sophisticated. Make sure that the ATM machine you are using hasn’t been compromised. A team of organized criminals are installing equipment on legitimate bank ATMs. The team sits nearby in a car receiving the information transmitted wirelessly from equipment they install on the front of the ATM (a “skimmer”). If you see an attachment over the front of the ATM where your debit card would be inserted (generally mounted to the front of the normal ATM card slot that reads the ATM card number), do not use the ATM and report it immediately to the financial institution using the 800 number on the front of the ATM. Be aware that cameras can also be hidden around the ATM by the criminals above. The cameras photograph you as you enter your PIN number. The camera can be hidden in an area as small as a plastic brochure case on the ATM. Remember to cover your entry with your other hand.

19. Maintain an awareness of your surroundings throughout the entire transaction. Do not become so involved with your transaction that you are not aware of changing conditions in the area.

20. If you see anything suspicious, immediately cancel your transaction and leave. Confirm with your financial institution as soon as possible that the transaction was indeed cancelled.

21. When using an ATM, do not leave your keys or unlocked valuables behind in the car, and never leave your car engine running.

22. Never accept offers of assistance with the ATM from strangers; ask the financial institution for help.

23. Shield the ATM keypad from anyone who may be standing or parked nearby or anyone crowding you in an attempt to view your PIN and/or transaction. Use your body as a shield if necessary while you enter your access code.

24. If you are involved in a confrontation and the attacker is armed with a weapon and demands your money or valuables, GIVE IT TO THE SUSPECT. Do not resist, property may be recovered later or replaced.

25. Don’t count your cash while standing at the ATM – immediately put away your cash, card, and receipt.

26. Always get your receipt and take it with you. Do not throw the receipt away at the ATM site. Keep your ATM receipts to compare to your monthly statement. It’s the best way to guard against fraud and makes your record keeping easier.

27. When leaving an ATM location make sure you are not being followed. If you are being followed, drive immediately to a police, sheriff or fire station, crowded area, well-lighted location or open business. Flash your lights and sound your horn to bring attention to your situation.

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Other Tips for ATMs:

28. If you lose your ATM card, immediately contact the financial institution that issued your card.

29. Never lend your ATM card to anyone; treat it as if it were cash or a credit card.

30. The National Consumers league has opened a toll-free number to provide information on ATM frauds and scams. The National Fraud Information Center at 1-800-876-7060 employs counselors who will refer consumers to the proper agency for reporting a fraud or scam.

31. Be careful of “con artists”. If anyone asks you to withdraw money from an ATM for any reason, leave the area at once and report the incident to the police.

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Credit Cards

1. Report lost or stolen credit cards to the issuer immediately.

2. Sign your new credit cards – before someone else does.

3. Memorize your Social Security number and passwords; don’t carry them with you. Don’t use your date of birth as your password.

4. Don’t ever leave receipts behind at ATMs, on counters at financial institutions, or at gasoline pumps.

5. Check expiration dates on credit cards and contact the issuer if you don’t get a replacement before they expire. Be sure to contact the issuer if you don't get your monthly financial statement and/or bills.

6. Protect your cards as if they were cash – never let them out of your sight.

7. Don’t leave your credit cards in your car’s glove compartment. An alarmingly high proportion of all credit card thefts are from car glove compartments.

8. Never write down your PIN – memorize it.

9. Ensure that you get your card back after every purchase.

10. Always check sales vouchers for the correct purchase amount before you sign them, and keep copies of your vouchers and ATM receipts.

11. Always check your billing statement and verify the amounts of your purchases.

12. Make a comprehensive list of all your cards and their numbers and store it in a safe place.

13. Don’t lend your card to anybody. You are responsible for its use. Some credit card misuse can be traced directly to family and friends.

14. Never disclose your PIN to anyone. No one from a financial institution, the police, or a merchant should ask for your PIN. You are the only person who needs to know it. When selecting a PIN, always avoid the obvious – your name, telephone number, date of birth, or any simple combination thereof.

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Credit Reports

What is AnnualCreditReport.com?

AnnualCreditReport.com is the ONLY authorized source to get your free annual credit report under federal law. The Fair Credit Reporting Act guarantees you access to a free credit report from each of the three nationwide reporting agencies — Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion — every twelve months. The Federal Trade Commission has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report, but instead paid hidden fees or agreed to unwanted services. Don’t be fooled by TV ads, email offers, or online search results. Go to the authorized source when you request your free report.

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How do I request my free credit report?

You can request your free report online, by phone or by mail. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com, call 1-877-322-8228, or fill out the Annual Credit Report Request form and mail it to Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281. No matter how you request your report, you have the option to request all three reports at once or to order one report at a time. By requesting the reports separately, you can monitor your credit more frequently throughout the year.

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Why should I request my credit report?

Because the information in your credit report is used to evaluate your applications for credit, insurance, employment, and renting a home, you should be sure the information is accurate and up-to-date. In addition, monitoring your credit is one of the best ways to spot identity theft. Check your credit report at least once a year to correct errors and detect unauthorized activity.

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What should I look for when I review my credit report?

If you see accounts you don’t recognize or information that is inaccurate, contact the credit reporting agency and the information provider. For more information, read the FTC’s tips on how to dispute credit errors.

If you suspect identity theft, you may need to place a fraud alert on your credit report, close compromised accounts, file a complaint with the FTC, or file a police report. Start by visiting the FTC’s identity theft website.

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General Tips

1. Photocopy the contents of your wallet. Keep the photocopies in a safe place. If your wallet is ever lost or stolen, you will be able to remember the contents of your wallet by referring to the photocopies you took earlier.

2. Buy a shredder. Get into the habit of shredding everything before tossing it into the trash. You will have less of a chance of identity theft or someone charging items to your accounts.

3. If you MUST hide valuables in your home, the following are ideas that thieves would generally not give a second glance:

  • Baseboards – choose a short section, pry it away from wall, hollow out a hole, replace the baseboard
  • Houseplants – secret compartments can be constructed in the base of your plant pots. Seal your valuables well in plastic if they can be water damaged.
  • Dry Good Containers – place small valuables in plastic before stashing them
  • Tennis Balls – with a small slit in them they will return to their original shape
  • Tops of Poster Beds - unscrew and drill hollow space in the posts themselves

4. Body language is 55% of communications. The way you walk, stand; make eye contact, voice tone and pitch, and even your facial expressions determine whether or not a predator deems you a target.

5. Be suspicious of a call from the hotel desk shortly after check in. Unknowing hotel guests have been asked to verify their credit card number because the imprint was unreadable. Thieves will watch you enter the hotel room and call from the guest phone in the lobby. If this occurs, tell the person on the other end of the line that you need to hang up and then call the front desk directly.

6. Protect your calling card number. When punching in the number, be aware of anyone that may be standing in the area. Shield the key pad when you enter the number.

7. Videotape the contents of your home. Keep the video and the list of all valuables in a safe place away from your home, such as a safe deposit box.

8. Be aware that almost every time you call an 800, 888, or 900 number, your name and address are captured by the company you dialed. This information becomes part of your electronic profile.

9. Ask your financial institution to notify you in writing if anyone requests your records. Reveal checking account information only to businesses you know to be reputable. Properly store or dispose of cancelled checks, and guard new checks. Report lost or stolen checks immediately.

10. There is no reason a shopping site needs your Social Security number. So don’t give it out – EVER.

11. If you receive applications for “pre-approved” credit cards in the mail, be sure to tear them up or shred them. Criminals may retrieve this information and try to activate the cards for their use without your knowledge.

12. Be stingy about giving out your personal information to others. Adopt a “Need to Know” approach to your personal data.

13. Check your financial information regularly. Look for things that should be there and things that shouldn’t.

14. Obtain a copy of your credit report periodically.

15. Maintain careful records of your banking and financial accounts.

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Identity Theft and Fraud

This link is a brochure provided by the NCUA specifically for credit union members, which includes tips on how to combat electronic identify theft.

The following are suggestions to help avoid becoming a victim of Identity Theft:

1. Start by implementing a “need to know” attitude about your personal data. Only give out the information that person has a need to know. The more information you have printed on your personal bank checks (such as home phone number and hopefully not social security number) – the more personal data you hand out routinely to people who may not need to know that information.

2. If someone you don’t know calls you asking for personal data such as your social security number, credit card number and expiration date, or mother’s maiden name, ask them to send you a written application form.

3. Guard your social security number. Do not give out your PIN number or credit card number over the phone unless you initiated the transaction.

4. Don’t carry your SSN card; leave it in a secure place.

5. Be careful with receipts. Be sure you have them when you leave the store and don’t leave them in the bag with your merchandise. Do not throw away ATM receipts in public trash cans. Keep the ATM receipt to verify with your financial institution’s statement and then shred with the rest of your trash.

6. When traveling, have your mail held at the local post office or ask someone you trust to collect and hold your mail while you are away.

7. Remove mail promptly from your mailbox and never use your mailbox for outgoing mail. Identity thieves raid mailboxes for credit card offer, statements, or payments.

8. Destroy pre-approved credit card offers before you throw them out.

9. Account for all new checkbooks when you receive them in the mail.

10. Do not pass on personal financial information where passerby’s can listen in on what you are saying. Wait until you are at a less public location to make the call.

11. Check your financial information regularly. You should receive monthly statements if you have a checking or credit card account. If you do not receive your monthly statement, call the financial institution or Credit Card Company immediately and ask about it.

12. Ask periodically for a copy of your credit report. The major credit bureaus are:

Equifax 800-685-1111 www.equifax.com
Experian 888-397-3742 www.experian.com
Trans Union 800-888-4213 www.tuc.com

13. Maintain good records of your financial accounts.

14. Avoid sending personal financial information through unsecured e-mail.

15. Update your personal computer regularly with virus protection and physical access controls.

16. Secure personal information in your home especially if you employ outside help or have service work done in your home.

17. Place passwords on your credit card, financial institution and phone accounts. Avoid using information that would be easily available like your birth date or phone number.

18. Keep your purse or wallet at a safe place at work as well as any copies you may keep of administrative forms that contain personal information.

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If you learn that you have become a victim of Identity Fraud you should do the following:

1. Contact all financial institutions you have accounts with and notify them that an identity thief has taken over your account information without your knowledge. You may need to cancel those accounts, place stop-payment orders on any outstanding checks that may not have cleared, and change your ATM card, account passwords, and PIN numbers.

2. File a police report. Get a copy of the report to submit to your creditors and others that may require proof of the crime.

3. Call the fraud units of the three principal credit reporting companies.

Equifax 1-800-525-6285
Experian 1-888-397-3742
Trans Union 1-800-680-7289

4. Contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to report the situation. Toll free number is 1-877-ID THEFT (1-877-438-4338) or online at www.ftc.gov.

5. Contact the major check verification companies if you had checks stolen or checking accounts set up by an identity thief. If you know that a particular merchant has received a check stolen from you, contact the verification company that the merchant uses:

CheckRite 1-800-766-2748
ChexSystems 1-800-428-9623
CrossCheck 1-800-552-1900
Equifax 1-800-437-5120
SCAN 1-800-262-7771
TeleCheck 1-800-710-9898

6. You may also need to notify the following agencies depending on the extent of the fraud:

Postal Inspection Service local Post Office Number
Social Security Administration 1-800-269-0271
Internal Revenue Service 1-800-829-0433

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Internet Tips

1. Do not install pirated software or software from an unknown source. Always update your anti-virus software.

2. Keep your Internet browser updated with the latest security patches from the vendor.

3. Do not open e-mail attachments from unknown sources.

4. Do not use internet e-mail to send personal information. E-mail is not a secure means of communicating personal information. Sending internet e-mail is like sending picture postcards. Whoever picks it up can read it.

5. If you receive an e-mail message that warns you that your account will be shut down unless you reconfirm your credit card information, do not use the link given in the e-mail. Look up a phone number for the company and call them to confirm.

6. Do not allow anyone who is unauthorized to use your PC access to your PC.

7. Create PC logon passwords and automatic password-protected screen saver functions.

8. Do not enter personal information on an unsecured site. A secure (or “encrypted”) transaction will have these two features:
a. An icon of a lock appears in the bottom strip of the Web browser page
b. The URL address for the Web page changes from “http” to “https” for the page at which you input the personal data

9. Do not store personal information on a public computer.

10. Check the URLs of sites referred to in e-mail for misspellings and other hints that it may be fraudulent.

11. Notify your financial institution of suspicious e-mail or telephone inquiries asking you for account information or passwords.

12. Be very cautious of e-mail where the return address does not match the e-mail content.

13. Beware of e-mail “phishing” scams. Phishing is when your account information is requested through a confirmation scam. They look official but your account information should never be requested from your financial institution or from Credit Card Companies via e-mail. If you are unsure, initiate a phone call to the requesting party.

14. When unsure about a business’s legitimacy visit it’s website, call a phone number obtained from a trusted source, and/or check with a reliable resource such as the Better Business Bureau’s BBB Online Reliability Program.

15. Keep a record of your online purchases, just the same as you would save your store receipts. Back up your transaction by printing the order confirmation.

16. Be sure family members or others using your computer know what to do if it becomes infected.

17. Notify your financial institution immediately of any changes in your account information.

18. Learn about your financial institution’s capabilities for secure online financial services. All online contact with the financial institution should be through its secured Web pages.

19. Get rid of your History. Browsers keep a log of where you have been online called a History. Hackers can track where you go, what you buy, and how many times you visit a site. For Internet Explorer 5 and 6, select Tools>Internet Options. In the General Tab, click Clear History. For Netscape 4+, elect Edit>Preferences. Choose Navigator in the Category Window and click Clear History.

20. Enabling file and printer sharing on your PC gives hackers a wide open door to do some damage to your home and office network. If you don’t need it, shut it off.

21. Clean your Browser’s Cache frequently! Browsers retain information about certain websites to speed up browsing the next time you visit that website. Anyone with access to your PC can check where you have been and what you have read and looked at.

22. If you have a broadband internet connection, you are connected to the net whenever your computer is turned on. This means that your PC is at risk all the time it is on and a prime target for hackers.

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1. Do not leave mail in your mailbox overnight or on weekends.

2. Deposit mail in US Postal Service collection boxes.

3. Tear up or shred unwanted documents that contain personal information.

4. If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of a business, contact the US Postal Inspection Service.

5. Notify the Post Office immediately if you change your address.

6. Make sure your mailbox is secure.

7. If you are not receiving mail, call the Post Office immediately. Crooks are able to forge your signature and have your mail forwarded elsewhere for the purpose of obtaining information that will allow them to apply for credit in your name.

8. If you are told of a forwarding order placed on your mail without your knowledge, go to the Post Office to check the signature and cancel the order. Ask the Post Office to track down the forwarded mail. Mail can remain in the postal system for up to 14 days so it may not have made it to the criminal’s hands yet.

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1. Be wary of high pressure sales tactics, especially if the sale must be made now and sounds too good to be true.

2. Record the name, address, and phone number of the soliciting organization. Obtain names of other customers who can supply references.

3. Ask questions. The fewer the questions the telemarketer can answer, the less likely that it is a legitimate business.

4. Do not give your account number over the phone unless you initiated the call.

5. If you are in doubt about the legitimacy of a business, contact the Better Business Bureau.

6. Change your phone’s security code regularly.

7. Do not use your birth date or your ID# as your security code and keep your security code in a place that you alone know.

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Scams to Avoid

1. Illegal telemarketing or mail scams generally target those with poor credit. The scam will claim that for a fee you can obtain a major credit card. The caller will claim that your card is pre-approved and can be obtained without a credit check. Generally there is a fee charged. Some cards actually arrive in the mail but they are not a major credit card, they can only to be used for a specific store or catalog.

2. Beware of those who want to entice you to call a 900 number without giving you anything in return for your money. A good example are those with bad credit hoping to receive a credit card by calling a 900 number. They are given a list of banks to which they can apply for a card. In addition they also receive a huge phone bill – sometimes over $30 for one call.

3. Be suspicious of prize notifications that have you call a 900 number. There is always a charge for a 900 number call. Before calling, know what the charges are. Often 900 numbers come with a long recorded sales pitch. The longer the call, the higher the phone charges and often you are directed to call another 900 number at the end of the sales pitch.

4. Remember the old adage – if it sounds too good to be true – it usually is.

5. The Pigeon Drop – in this scam the victim is approached by persons claiming to have found a large sum of money. The victim is told by the person who is in on the scam that they would like to share the money with the victim but first the victim has to put up some of their own money as a gesture of good faith. Packages are switched. The victim ends up with nothing and the scam artist is nowhere to be found.

6. Rocks in the Box – The victim is approached by someone offering to sell them a new TV, VCR, or similar item at a very low price. Once the victim parts with their money, they find the box contains rocks (or other heavy junk used to add weight to the package so it appears as if the contents of the box are legitimate).

7. Financial Institution Examiner – the victim is contacted by telephone from a person claiming to be an officer of the financial Institution at which the victim has an account. The caller claims that there has been a computer malfunction and needs to verify specific data information. The caller tries to obtain the victim’s account number, account balances, recent account activity, social security number, and/or any other information they can use to obtain access to the victim’s accounts.

8. Home Improvement Scheme – The victim is approached at their home by an individual in a contractor type vehicle and uniform. They tell the victim they just finished a large contracting job nearby and have some materials left over. They tell the victim they will use the left over materials at a huge discount for the victim’s home. When the victim agrees, the contractor will do a lousy job with cheap materials. These contractors usually travel from town to town.

9. Advance Fee Scams – the intended victim is telephoned and told by the person trying to commit the fraud that he or she has a large amount of money coming but there is a small fee required first. The bottom line is that people generally do not get something for nothing and any advance fee request should be considered a red flag.

10. Fraudulent Solicitation Scams – Generally someone calls asking the victim to support a worthwhile cause. By saying someone is at the door and asking for the caller’s phone number, the victim can usually determine whether the caller is legitimate. Fraudulent callers will never leave their telephone number. If it is a legitimate local public service handling the fundraiser, the caller will not hesitate to leave a number. Even if a number is provided, it is still a good idea to call the appropriate public service and ask if the caller was legitimate. These frauds are easily identified by a demand for an immediate commitment. Claiming to have no credit card will usually work to get rid of a fraudulent caller.

11. Fake Phone Repair Scam – here a telephone repair technician calls the home and claims there are problems on the line and needs assistance in tracking down the source of the problem. He or she then asks the resident dial 90# and hang up. If this is done, the caller is able to utilize the phone line of this person to make long distance calls from a remote location. These calls will be charged to the victim.

12. Hotel Guest Scam – in this scam the supposed front desk clerk will call your room and request confirmation on your credit card number and expiration date. There can be any one of numerous reasons why the confirmation is needed. If the victim provides the information their next credit card statement arrives full of charges they never made. Never give out any credit card information on an incoming call. Asking for a number to call back is not enough. Clever thieves will come up with one. Independently acquire the number and call it. If you find out the call is a scam, report it immediately.


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