Holiday Scams

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Be Scam Smart This Holiday Season

As the Holiday season approaches, it's essential to be vigilant and well-prepared for a variety of scams and cyber threats that tend to surge during this time. By understanding and addressing these challenges, you can ensure the safety and security of your financial information and personal data.

Package Delivery Scams

The holiday season often witnesses a surge in package deliveries. Cybercriminals are aware of this and may attempt to exploit the situation through package delivery scams. These scams typically involve phishing emails or text messages that impersonate well-known delivery services, such as UPS, FedEx, or Amazon Prime. Unsuspecting people might receive a message claiming that their package delivery was unsuccessful and urging them to click on a link for more information. However, this link may lead to a fraudulent website designed to steal personal information or install malware on the recipient's device. Therefore, it's crucial to remain vigilant, verify the sender's information, and avoid clicking on suspicious links. When tracking deliveries, you should rely on official delivery service apps or websites to minimize the risk of falling victim to these scams.

Wi-Fi Hotspot Attacks

The excitement of holiday sales often drives people to physical stores to secure the best deals on their favorite products. In the rush to take advantage of these offers, many people may find themselves waiting in long lines, either outside the store or in crowded shopping areas. It's during these moments that opportunistic cybercriminals may attempt Wi-Fi attacks, preying on unsuspecting individuals who connect to public Wi-Fi networks without taking adequate precautions. Such networks, while convenient, can be inherently insecure, providing malicious actors with a golden opportunity to intercept sensitive data. To mitigate this risk, you should disable the auto-connect feature on your devices, which can automatically connect to open or insecure Wi-Fi networks.

Bluetooth Attacks (Bluesnarfing)

In the spirit of visiting friends and family during the holiday season, many people choose to stay in hotels. Some hotels have implemented modern conveniences, such as smartphone apps that allow guests to unlock their room doors using Bluetooth technology. While this can be a convenient feature, it's essential to be cautious about their Bluetooth settings. Leaving Bluetooth in discoverable mode can make it susceptible to unauthorized pairing and potential data theft. Cybercriminals with malicious intent may strategically place Bluetooth-enabled devices in hotel parking lots or nearby areas, attempting to pair with guests' phones. To protect against this threat, you should ensure that your Bluetooth settings are not in discoverable mode when not in use. When enabling Bluetooth for specific purposes, such as unlocking hotel room doors, confirm that you are securely paired with trusted connections to significantly reduce the risk of potential attacks.

Gift Card Scams

While not exclusive to the holiday season, it's vital to remember that gift cards are designed to be a means of gifting, not a legitimate form of payment. Scammers often request payment in the form of gift cards as it provides them with a relatively untraceable method of acquiring funds. Therefore, be cautious when approached by anyone requesting payment with gift cards. It is crucial to verify the legitimacy of such requests and promptly report any suspicious activity to the relevant authorities. By staying vigilant and understanding the primary purpose of gift cards, you can protect yourself from falling prey to scams involving this payment method.

It is important to always be vigilant and well-prepared for the variety of scams out there, but especially during the holiday season. By being cyber-aware, you can help ensure the safety and security of your financial information and personal data. If you ever have any questions, First Federal Bank is here to help guide you. Visit our Security page for additional information.

Synthetic Identity Theft

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What Is Synthetic Identity Theft?

According to a 2023 Thompson Reuters article, synthetic identity theft has become the world's fastest-growing form of fraud, surpassing even credit card fraud. Fraudulent identities are now being used in various criminal activities, including romance scams, money laundering, illegal arms sales, and terrorism. So, what exactly is synthetic identity theft?

This type of identity theft involves taking legitimate Personally Identifiable Information (PII), such as a Social Security Number (SSN), from people that may be homeless, deceased, or children and using that information to create a fake identity. Over time, the scam artist builds credit for this identity by making regular payments on a credit card. Eventually, they decide to go on a massive spending spree and then vanish, resulting in significant losses for entities that accepted the fraudulent credit card payments. This is in addition to the unfortunate and negative impact to the identity that was stolen.

Organized criminal groups highly covet PII and treat this data as a commodity. For example, Social Security Numbers compromised in data breaches are often sold for as little as a dollar and are typically packaged in groups of hundreds or thousands of SSNs. This allows criminals to create fraudulent identities in bulk with relative ease. Considering that each Social Security Number used to commit synthetic identity fraud could represent thousands, even tens of thousands of dollars, it is no wonder why a criminal would attempt this type of fraud.

The following may help you know if you are a victim of synthetic identity theft:

  1. You receive mail for new loans or deposit accounts that you did not apply for.
  2. When you review your credit report, you see several applications or even open accounts for loans you are unaware of.

Some steps that you can take to prevent or recover from being a victim of synthetic identity theft include:

  1. Review your social security number use with www.SSA.gov by requesting form SSA-7004.
  2. Review your credit report for any unfamiliar activity. A free report can be found by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
  3. Report any fraud you encounter at oig.ssa.gov or with your local law enforcement.
  4. File an identity theft affidavit with the FTC at www.identitytheft.gov.
  5. Dispute fraudulent transactions that are discovered with the impacted companies.

Romance Scams

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Finding the Scam in a Romance

Is your online fling a romance scammer?

Here are ten things to watch out for to be sure you do not fall victim to a romance scam.

  1. Unsolicited Declarations of Love: If you suddenly receive expressions of love or affection from individuals you've only recently met online.
  2. Requests for Money or Financial Information: The person you met online asks you to send money, especially if the request involves urgent or unusual circumstances. Similarly, requests for sensitive financial information, such as bank account details or credit card numbers, should raise suspicion.
  3. Inconsistencies in Stories or Profiles: Discrepancies between what the individual tells you and their online profile or previous conversations may indicate dishonesty or deception.
  4. Quick Professions of Devotion: Scammers often try to build trust and intimacy very quickly, professing love or deep affection after only a short period of interaction.
  5. Reluctance to Meet in Person or Video Chat: Scammers may avoid meeting in person or participating in video calls, often providing excuses such as travel restrictions or technical difficulties.
  6. Overseas or Remote Locations: Be cautious if the individual claims to be overseas or in a remote area, making verifying their identity or intentions difficult.
  7. Asking for Personal Information or Confidential Details: Be wary if the individual asks for personal information beyond what is typically shared in the early stages of a relationship, especially if it pertains to financial matters or sensitive personal details.

  8. Pressure to Keep the Relationship Secret: Scammers may urge you to keep their relationship secret from friends and family, making it harder for you to seek advice or assistance.
  9. Inconsistencies in Photos or Background: If the individual's photos appear inconsistent or suspicious, such as being overly edited or taken from stock image websites, it could be a red flag.
  10. Multiple Profiles or Identities: Individuals with multiple online profiles or identities on different platforms should be cautious, which could indicate fraudulent activity.

By being vigilant for these signs and remaining cautious and skeptical in your online interactions, you can help prevent yourself from falling victim to romance scams.

Check out this example of how bad a romance scam can be.

This woman still thinks the scammer will return the funds. She even believes he will be the "knight in shining armor" and return to her.