Fraud Alerts

How to Protect Yourself from Frauds and Scams

At PAFCU, we’re all about protecting our Members personal and financial information. Please view the following list of some of the most common types of scams and how you can spot, avoid and report them.

1. Phishing & Vishing Fraud
Phishing scams occur when an email from an external source appears similar to emails that usually come from established and trusted businesses. The hackers use technology to make their emails appear as if they are coming from a financial institution or credit card company. The email messages and web links can try and deceive you by using the real logo of a company as well as its web pages to steal sensitive information, like passwords, account or credit card information. Stay vigilant and never give up personal or account information via email.

Vishing is the telephone equivalent of phishing. For instance, a caller will ask a member to verify authenticity or provide personal information. However, the vishing scammer will not hang up, but instead play a recorded dial tone to make the victim believe that he is still on a real call.

2. Spoofing Phone Numbers
A common vishing tactic is spoofing. Spoofing phone numbers is when a caller falsifies their name/phone number that displays on your caller ID to disguise their identity. Scammers do this to look like the phone number is coming from someone you know, a local number, a government organization, or a well-known company. They do this to steal personal and financial information from you for fraudulent activities. Be sure to never give out your account number, Social Security numbers, passwords, or other identifying information over an unexpected call. If you receive an incoming call that seems suspicious, do not hesitate to end the call immediately.

PAFCU will never solicit personal or account information through a phone call that a member did not first initiate. 

3. Contest and Lottery Scams
Another popular trick is the “Contest Winner” scam. Potential victims may get contacted and told they have won a special prize, contest, or lottery.  In order to claim their prize, they must send a certain amount of money or provide account information so that funds can be direct deposited into their accounts. Some scammers will go as far as asking for a cashier’s check or requesting a money order to be made to claim the prize. No legitimate prize venue would ask for personal information or money in order to collect a prize. 

4. Driver’s License Identity Theft
Driver’s license theft is a form of ID theft that occurs when a fraudster looks to impersonate someone. A driver’s license contains personal details that can make a thief appear credible when attempting to purchase goods with a fixed age limit or when interacting with a police officer. A stolen driver’s license can enable a thief to perform criminal acts causing a victim trouble without trackable evidence. It's important to consider adding an initial security alert to credit files when a driver license gets stolen.  

5. Mail Identity Theft
Mail fraud ranks among the oldest criminal schemes used to acquire personal information. In some cases, thieves steal mail with sensitive data and retrieve financial account information to make purchases, open new accounts, and they may go as far as changing the address on a victim’s statements or bills. In other instances, monetary value is acquired in exchange for an undelivered product, service, or investment opportunity.

The U.S. Postal Office advises anyone who believe that their mail has been stolen or believe to be a victim of mail identity theft to file a complaint with the Mail Fraud division. 

6. Debit Card or Credit Card Fraud
Debit card or credit card fraud happens when an unauthorized purchase is made after a card was stolen. The more devious and skilled criminals can steal a credit card number, PIN, and security code to make unauthorized transactions without needing to have the actual card in-hand. It may take a while to detect these unlawful transactions. In some cases, it may be too late to realize that an account has been completely drained. We advise our members to closely monitor their accounts with online banking to stay on top of unfamiliar transactions. Again, it’s also why we ask members to give us their most up to date contact information so we can alert you to any suspicious activity.

7. Online and Mobile Shopping Fraud
Online shopping fraud occurs when bank or credit card data are used to wrongfully process retail transactions without the account owner’s knowledge. Fraudsters may request money to be sent through funds transfer applications such as Venmo, Zelle, or the Cash-App, and completely disappear upon receipt of the funds. A common rule to abide by is to never make a transaction on an unfamiliar website, or to never complete a payment to an unfamiliar recipient through a funds transfer app. Also look for the “s” in the web address “https" and for a padlock next to it. These mean that the site is more likely to be a secure one. 

8. Social Security Number Identity Theft
Social Security number identity theft may happen as a result of data breaches or a Tax ID theft. Signs of identity or Tax ID theft include noticing mail that lists the wrong last four digits of a social security number, wrong names, and addresses. Request a free credit report upon detection of signs of a Social Security identity theft by going to to review your free annual credit report from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies.

9. Account Takeover Identity Theft
In this scenario, fraudsters gain access to a victim’s bank or credit card accounts to retrieve funds, or to obtain products and services. Account takeover identity theft is usually due to data breaches, phishing scams, and malware attacks.

10. IRS or Government Imposter Scam
An IRS agent contacts you and tells you that you owe back taxes and must pay immediately. If you don’t, they say they will have the police come and send you to jail. There are variations of this scam, such as local law enforcement contacting you with a warrant because you missed jury duty, but almost always you will be asked to pay immediately via wire transfer or even gift cards, and will be told to stay on the phone throughout the entire payment process (including driving to the store!). Or you may be asked for your personal information to confirm your innocence or to receive a tax refund. Do not fall for it! Most likely you are not communicating with a government agent.

If you think you really may owe on your taxes, go to the official IRS website to find a real IRS phone number to contact to confirm. You probably would have received letters from them first if you really owe money. Also, the IRS won’t immediately send you to jail – there would be a process you would be aware of prior to any criminal punishment.

11. Gift Cards
Gift card scams don’t just occur over the phone or online. Scammers can copy down gift card numbers from store displays, cover the back with a similar silver sticker, and then steal the card’s funds once it’s activated — you’ll only when your gift card payments are declined.

How to identify and avoid these gift card scams:

  • Run your finger over the back of a gift card before purchasing it. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) reports that scammers are adding new barcode stickers on top of real gift card barcodes that automatically deposit balances into scammers’ gift card accounts.
  • Avoid buying gift cards with damaged packaging. Scammers may have tampered with the barcodes or already used the cards and PIN numbers.
  • Register your gift card if possible. Associating the card with you and your account can help if you need to report a stolen balance later.

12. Overpayment scams
Don’t ever accept a check for more than the requested amount if you’re selling something. Fraudsters find an excuse to write a check for a higher amount and will ask you to send back the difference. The check later bounces, and the money that was sent in good faith is lost. Many have fallen victim while buying and selling on local selling sites such as Facebook, Craigslist as well as OfferUp and similar websites.

13. Student Loan Forgiveness Scams
The back-and-forth changes in student loan forgiveness creates a ripe opportunity for scammers. The scammers know people want to believe their student loans will be forgiven, and they'll use that hope for their personal gains.

For example, scammers may contact you via phone or create phony application sites aimed at stealing your Social Security number or your bank account information. They may put pressure on their victims with fake urgent messages that encourage you to apply for debt relief "before it's too late." Then they'll charge you a hefty application fee. In reality, it's a scam. It costs nothing to apply for student loan forgiveness, so someone asking you to pay a fee could be a scammer. In addition, the U.S. Department of Education won't contact you by phone. You can stay safe and avoid student loan forgiveness scams by going directly to the Department of Education website for information about applying for forgiveness.

How to Protect Yourself Online

Use Protective Software
To ensure you are protecting your information when online, we recommend Members use an antivirus software, antispyware, a firewall, or a call- or pop-up-blocking feature or app. You can use all or a combination of the forementioned to ensure your information is secure.

Using Public Wi-Fi
Only 37 percent of adults use a virtual private network when on public Wi-Fi. A VPN protects your personal information and privacy. If you don’t want to deal with a VPN, don’t access anything on your phone or computer on public Wi-Fi that’s password protected. Do not access your email, your financial information or shop online. You can read the news or check the sports scores, but otherwise use cell service, not Wi-Fi.

If you believe your information at the CU has been compromised in any way, please contact us immediately at or call us at 631-434-3500 Option 1.

If you or someone you know is a victim of fraud or a scam, contact the local police or sheriff’s department, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission, and report it to your state attorney general.