As we all know, financial scams are alive and well. Con artists use clever schemes to defraud millions of people every year. They often combine sophisticated technology with age-old tricks to get people to send money, give out personal information, or make important decisions on the spot.
This reality requires us to be on constant alert. But even the most careful among us can fall victim.
Today, it’s more important than ever to protect your personal identifiable information—your driver’s license, Social Security, passport, credit card, and account numbers as well as your date of birth—because this information is often a key ingredient in a scam. While some larger breeches that have taken place are out of our control, it’s still imperative to maintain as much vigilance as we can.
Member Benefits staff take over 30,000 calls a year from members who want to discuss or transact business in their accounts. We want you to know that our staff is trained to follow strict security procedures to ensure the person on the phone is the owner of the account. Here’s a recent example of the importance of those protocols.
Our security protocol
Recently Diane Erickson, Member Service Representative, took a call from someone claiming to be a member. “The first thing that caught my attention was the call came from Juniper, Florida. The second was that the caller was difficult to understand and did not speak English well,” said Diane. Because the member did not have phone authorization set up, no information could be given out over the phone, explained Diane.
The caller then asked how she could get “phone authorization.” At this point, Diane’s suspicions were high. As part of the security protocol, Diane went through the normal security check. “I asked for her phone number and it took three tries before she was able to give one that was on file,” said Diane. “When I questioned her about whether or not she had recently changed her phone number, she got flustered. I asked for her e-mail so I could send the authorization form, but it was different from what we had on file. Even so, I sent it anyway because I wanted to compare the signature to the one we had on file from the member.” Not surprisingly, it did not match.
Diane called the actual member at the number on file to alert her. “The funny thing was the imposter called back—from an Illinois phone number this time—while I was talking to our member. My colleague happened to get the call and transferred it to a manager who was aware of the situation. The imposter hung up after being questioned further.” Diane gave the real member the e-mail and the two false phone numbers the person had called from and put a fraud alert on her record in our system.
Going above and beyond
In another example, a member who was recently widowed was considering an RV purchase so that she could travel with her three dogs. She found one for $16,000 and called us about insurance. While running the insurance quote, Stefanie Walsh, Personal Insurance Consultant, discovered that the RV as described was valued at $75,000. “It was a far cry from the asking price and made me wonder about the legitimacy of the listing,” said Stefanie. “When I shared my concerns with the member, she also thought it seemed too good to be true. I was relieved to hear back from her and learn that she checked into it and suspected it was a scam after all.”
To help the member further, Stefanie looked up dog-friendly rental options and shared them with the member, who was thrilled with the special attention she was given.
These kinds of situations do not happen regularly, but we are vigilant in our role as stewards of our members’ accounts and personal information. It’s also why we remind members about the importance of protecting themselves against financial loss from scams or lost identity.
Add a verbal password for an extra layer of security
We encourage you to add a verbal password on your account. You will need to know this password if you call us to discuss specifics about your account.
The password must be alpha and numeric only and up to 10 characters long. It cannot contain any special characters like %, &, #, for example.
Simply complete and send in the Telephone Access authorization form to select security options, or call us to request one.
Popular classified ad sites like Craigslist can be a great resource for all kinds of things. While most transactions go smoothly, it’s also a scammers paradise. If you use one of these sites:
- Trust your instincts.
- Deal only with local buyers/sellers.
- NEVER wire funds to a distant buyer.
- Be wary if the other party wants to use an escrow service such as BidPay, Squaretrade, or even PayPal.
- NEVER give out any personal financial information.
- And always remember the most important rule—BUYER BEWARE.