Sidestep these Financial Traps

You work hard for your money. Don’t fall prey to thieves laying traps hoping to snare it from you. While old-school scams like Ponzi schemes and telemarketing ploys are still around, fraudsters also are keeping up with the times, perpetrating scams such as phishing, SMishing and Vishing to steal personal information. Identity theft continues to be one of the fastest growing crimes, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center. Armed with key pieces of personal information such as Social Security numbers, driver's license numbers or account numbers, identity thieves can wreak havoc with your life.

Phishing is used by online thieves to impersonate a business. They want to trick you into giving out your personal information, such as user names, passwords, and credit card details. Remember, legitimate businesses will never ask you to send sensitive information through insecure Web sites. As a rule of thumb, don't click on links in emails asking for personal information and delete suspicious messages. A variation is an email from a friend asking for money because his wallet and phone have been stolen. In fact, your friend is fine, but his email address has been hijacked and a thief is preying on your sympathies.

SMishing uses cell phone text messages or SMS (Short Message Service) to try to get you to divulge your personal and financial information. (The term comes from SMS + phishing.) Do not respond and delete immediately any unsolicited text messages asking you for personal information.

Vishing — a combination of "voice" and "phishing" — is the use of a telephone call to steal personal or account information. With "voice over Internet protocol" (VoIP), thieves can fool a caller ID system, making them seem legitimate and providing anonymity. Verify any contact by calling the number on your credit card or financial institution statement, not the one provided by a caller.

The best way to protect yourself is to stay informed. Visit our Consumer Resources page by clicking here. The National Credit Union Administration's site www.mycreditunion.gov also provides valuable information to help you sidestep financial traps.

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