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Every day in the United States, hundreds of people turn over the last of their hard-earned money to scam artists. According to the FBI, scams related to cash advances and loan offers add up to millions each year.
How can so many be defrauded so easily? Careful criminal planning.
American and overseas operations start by creating websites that resemble those of a government agency or a familiar banking institution like Citibank, Money Mutual or First Financial. They advertise loan offers at very low rates on these websites, but they never make a single loan. They simply collect your personal data including bank account numbers, social security numbers and more. They deny every applicant, BUT the information they’ve collected is a gold mine.
They sell it to a second operation. Using a familiar bank name and the target’s personal information, this second company has little problem convincing unsuspecting consumers that it’s legitimate. Often, it explains that it has “more flexible” loan requirements because it is larger or more efficient or specializes in a certain area. The borrower need only prove they can make the first payment to win the loan. Here’s where alarm bells should go off. The “loan agent” then asks the borrower to put the first payment on a Walmart Green Dot or other cash card or wire the money electronically.
When the loan amount doesn’t arrive in the borrower’s bank account, the “loan agent” explains that another sum is needed for insurance. This technicality can be taken care of, again, by putting the amount on a cash card and providing the cash card numbers to the “loan agent” . . . as soon as possible, of course. To learn more signs of certain fraud, read the Beware Common Cash Advance and Loan Scams: Clear Signals of Fraud page in our consumer notices section.
Most of us can’t comprehend taking someone else’s money let alone spending months constructing elaborate schemes, telephone scripts and letters to defraud people in sometimes desperate situations. Our own rejection of such malicious acts sets us up to believe the friendly “loan agent” at the other end of the line really does have our best interests at heart. When a loan proves to be fraud, many prefer to keep the incident to themselves. If you’re in this situation, please don’t let embarrassment paralyze you. These criminals worked hard to concoct the perfect fraud. You didn’t stand a chance. BUT by reporting everything you know to the proper authorities, you can help keep more people from becoming victims. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the FBI both work hard to find and shut these scams down. If you or a loved one has become a victim of fraud, report the crime to the FBI at https://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx. If an illegitimate “loan agent” uses the name First Financial, please call us right away at 800-315-7791 so we can report it to the state attorney general’s office.
First Financial proudly adheres to strict ethical standards set by the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC). If you need funds for medical bills, car or computer repair or anything, fill out one of our easy loan applications. With automated services and low overhead (no physical buildings to staff and power), we can charge lower rates and fees than neighborhood banks. Stay connected to First Financial’s offers through our Facebook.
One of the best ways you can learn how to avoid car buying scams will be to go to the website of the Michigan organization H.E.A.T. (Help Eliminate Auto Thefts). They have many great tips that will provide you with ideas of how to make sure if you were to say buy a car from someone off of craigslist to make sure that the deal goes down successfully with nothing fishy going on.
Some of their tips will include:
Its 2020! Now this is a subject that we take extra serious ourselves since we have been working in this business for many years. There are many sites unlike ours though that really will do you no good and just steal your information and since it is very serious personal information then you can be damaged severely. This will be easy to avoid though and there are two quick things that you will be able to do that will make sure that you know you are working with someone legitimate. One thing that you will be able to do is take the business name and check it against the Better Business Bureau. This is a great way to see that it is a legitimate company and will validate that you are working with someone that is safe. If you do not want to do that kind of research then you will also be able to just check the application to make sure that it is secured. That will be one of the best ways to make sure that you keep safe when applying for an auto loan online. Before you know it you will be able to receive a great deal and hopefully you have learned something and will be safe!
Mobile Payments Security
Where does mobile credit card processing security come in to play? The main concern is that consumers’ information cannot be breached during any mobile transaction. Processors are concerned that processing transmissions might be targeted for intercepted, making private financial information available to thieves and hackers. Some consumer are concerned that virtual wallets might leave consumers open to fraud if their phones are lost or stolen.
For now, it’s likely that criminals are more concerned with obtaining batches of credit card numbers rather than single numbers. The technologies are moving so fast that it may be some time before hackers can quickly break into mobile card transactions. There is sure to be a long learning curve for both merchants using mobile card readers and consumers using virtual wallets when they become available worldwide.
Safety concerns go hand in hand with all technological development we see today. Recently Square released a new version of its mobile card reader that uses encryption to safeguard transactions details. The Intuit Go Payment card reader uses secure socket layer (SSL) encryption. This type of encryption is practically impenetrable, some experts say. There’s security for merchants because card information is not stored in their phones and security for consumers because they can see the swipe happen in front of them..
Virtual wallet security, processors will allow you to load credit, debit and loyalty cards onto your phone and then encrypt that information. A PIN will be required for payment, and the mobile phone will need to be held by the user and waved near a reader. This combination of encryption, a PIN number and the phone never leaving the consumer’s hands should add up to a full security system.
Everyone knows that the auto loan business has risks, but there may be more out there than you initially think. The risks that you think of are probably just when you are dealing with such processes as seeking car loans for low credit scores and how you can easily get stuck with a high interest rate. Things of that nature are what you typically watch out for, but another one is much more serious and can hurt people of all types of credit situations. It will target the same audience though for the most part.
There are two times as many credit card fraud cases involve phone or online transactions than retail sales, according to new data from FICO. Researchers found that sophisticated counterfeit rings have raised the stakes for merchants over the most recent 20 month period.
There have been reported an increase in “skimming,” a technique where criminals tamper with ATMs and payment devices to capture both card details and (PIN) personal identification numbers. Criminals can use magnetic stripe blanks or other stolen cards as “clones,” passing details of a stolen account to a payment device without the victim’s knowing. ATMs, grocery stores, and gas stations topped the list of places where criminals use stolen or cloned debit cards.
Fraud rings usually test the stolen cards with smaller online transactions. The online tests as a “relatively safe” way for thieves to learn whether victims notice extra purchases on their monthly statements.
Researchers at J.D. Power and Associates, where the results of an annual customer satisfaction survey show that nearly a quarter of credit card problems involve fraudulent transactions.
FICO’s numbers show American consumers rely on debit cards more than ever, driving a fifteen percent increase in authorization compared to the previous period studied. Federal rules leave consumers responsible for only $50 of fraudulent debit card transactions if reported within 2 days, though Visa and MasterCard now require member banks to follow tougher “zero liability” rules. Debit card fraud can leave consumers on the hook for bounced check charges or failed bill payment fees while investigators to restore the funds.
The FICO monitored millions of credit card transactions between January 2010 and September 2011. Researchers use the data to develop complex algorithms that protect client issuers and their cardholders from identity theft and fraud. Analysts found fraudulent transactions in only 1 percent of their sample.
“Phishing” is a high-tech internet scam where individuals receive emails from sources falsely claiming to be legitimate companies in an attempt to obtain personal and financial information. The scams usually begin with an email telling you that you urgently need to address/update a matter in one of your financial accounts. In a recent report by the Anti-Phishing Working Group, a trade association that includes law enforcement officials, showed huge growth in phishing scams. From November 2003 to April 2004, email attacks reported to the group jumped from 28 to 1,125 per month. It has been reported that 57 million Americans were exposed to phishing attacks last year.
Here are some tips to help avoid being a phishing victim:
- Watch carefully for high-pressure emails urging you to disclose personal financial information or to start making financial transactions at a new web site page
- Make sure you only conduct web transactions on a secure page, with “https” in the address line. The “s” means secure
- Watch for suspicious web site addresses that are not the same ones you’ve been using. If you have any doubt, close your browser, reopen it and go to the address you’ve used before
- Review statements from financial institutions carefully for any unauthorized activity
- Keep your browser and operating system software up-to-date
- Report any suspicious activity immediately
Other Phishing Fraud
PayPal and eBay phishing emails – these emails ask for account information to “verify” recent account activity, some may include legitimate looking warnings of possible fraudulent purchases
The FTC provides information on “phishing” and how it works.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) warns computer users about pop-up windows, phony web sites and fraudulent emails that attempt to trick you into revealing confidential personal and/or financial information. These scams usually involve a pop-up window or email link directing you to a fraudulent web site that looks legitimate. Once you’re redirected, you’re asked for personal and private financial information that is then in turn used to commit fraud.
What is a Pop-Up Window? This is generally an ad that appears in small browser windows that “pop-up” over or under the window you are viewing. Most pop-ups are simply advertisements, some may also contain “Trojan horse”* programs similar to a computer virus.
Phony Web Sites A phony, or fraudulent, web site usually resembles a legitimate financial institution or other trusted organization. These sites use an organization’s web site graphics and logos; however, they designed and set up in an attempt to steal your personal information. A common technique to tempt you to a fraudulent web site is through “spam”** email.
Here are some tips to help protect your First Financial accounts and personal information from fraudulent pop-up ads and phony web sites:
- Purchase and install pop-up blocking software on your personal computer
- Use an internet search engine, such as Google or Yahoo!, to search for the terms “adware” or “spyware”
- Avoid downloading files from unknown sources
- Research any software completely before downloading it to your personal computer
- Use the latest security software on your personal computer
- Avoid clicking on links provided in a suspicious email
- Save or “bookmark” frequently visited web sites to your list of favorites and then access these sites through your saved links
*“Trojan horse” – A destructive program that masquerades as a benign application. Unlike viruses, Trojan horses do not replicate themselves but they can be just as destructive. One of the most dangerous types of a Trojan horse is a program that claims to rid your computer of viruses but instead introduces viruses onto your computer.
**“Spam” – Unsolicited “junk” email sent to large numbers of people to promote products or services.
What is Identity Theft?
It’s likely that you have heard about it a lot lately. Recent government statistics show that more than 7 million adults were victims of identity theft last year. That equals 19,178 people a day, 700 per hour, or 13.3 a minute, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) in San Diego, California. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) reports that identity theft is the number one source of consumer complaints and costs the average victim more than $1,000 to recover their identity.
Identity theft is a crime in which someone takes your personal information (such as your name or social security number) in an effort to steal from your existing accounts, open fraudulent accounts in your name, or obtain a loan using your credit history.
How to Prevent Identity Theft!
Unfortunately, identity theft can happen to anyone, even you. The easiest way to control identity theft is to prevent it from happening. Here are some tips to reduce the likeliness of becoming a victim:
The FTC provides an overview of identity fraud and suggestions on ways to protect your personal information.
What To Do if You Suspect You’re A Victim of Identity Theft
If you become a victim of identity theft, there are three steps you should take immediately!
How to Protect Your ATM/Debit Card from ATM Skimming
In today’s fast-paced world, almost everyone is in a hurry to complete daily and weekly tasks, including getting “fast cash” from an ATM to quickly filling up their tanks at the gas station. Using an ATM/Debit Card makes these errands quick and easy.
While an ATM/Debit Card is designed to make our lives more convenient, ATMs have increasingly become a target for criminals. ATM skimming is one of the ways criminals commit fraud with your ATM/Debit Card and steal your information.
According to Bankrate.com, theft from ATM skimming is approaching $1 billion annually. Below is more information about ATM Skimming and tips to help you avoid becoming a victim of ATM skimming.
What Is ATM Skimming?
Criminals attach devices onto ATM machines in order to copy an ATM/Debit Card number, the information encoded on the magnetic strip and even the Personal Identification Number (PIN).
Risk Reduction and Protection
Inspect the ATM Before Use
Before you use an ATM, take a moment to examine the machine. Does anything look out of place or not original? Is there anything taped to the machine? Do some parts look loose or in a different color (for example, the ATM is silver and the card slot is black)? Is there a brochure rack or other promotional materials on the ATM or near the machine that seem out of place? Are there mirrors on the ATM? If you find anything that looks suspicious, don’t use the ATM.
Recognize a Skimming Device
Many skimming devices are stuck onto the machine or near the ATM with two-sided tape or even Velcro. Some skimming devices are inserted into the ATM (in the card slots). Once it is loaded, wireless cameras are often attached to the ATM key pad. This is how criminals capture not only the ATM/Debit Card number, but the PIN as well. Once this information is obtained, criminals can reproduce a fraudulent ATM card and begin withdrawing funds from the account.
Protect your PIN, Your Card and Your Account
Don’t share your PIN with anyone. Be sure to cover the screen and the key pad when you’re using your PIN.If your card is not returned after you completed your transaction or after pressing cancel, immediately contact the financial institution that issued the card and report the incident.Always check your monthly statements to ensure there are no unusual withdrawals
First Financial® Corporate Headquarters: 2850 Womble Road Suite 100-604 San Diego, CA 92106
Client Service Center: Main: 1-800-315-7791 Fax: 1-800-215-0217 (Monday–Friday 5:00am–6:00pm Pacific or 8:00am–9:00pm Eastern)
Merchant Services: Main: 1-800-950-0212 Fax: 1-800-215-0217
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