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First Hope Bank is vigilant in its efforts against fraud and scams. Click the links below to navigate through detailed information on how to detect and avoid such fraud, as well as how to recover.



New Scam Alert: Automated Phone Call Regarding Your Debit Card

Be suspicious if you receive an automated call with a recording claiming to represent a local bank, indicating your debit card has been frozen and personal information is needed before the card can be used again. This appears to be a variation on a scam known as "phishing," in which swindlers send e-mails claiming to be from a reputable company, hoping consumers will respond with personal financial information. In the latest twist on this scam, fraudsters have been perpetuating these automated calls late at night, perhaps believing that a tired consumer is less vigilant.

The American Bankers Association Education Foundation recommends never giving out your personal financial information in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax, or email, no matter how official it may seem. Your best response is simply no response. If you should receive one of these calls or any other variation of this scam from an individual or entity claiming to represent First Hope Bank, or if you believe you have already become a victim, please call or e-mail us. First Hope Bank is committed to helping you protect your personal financial information.



A New Tool for Consumers in Fraud Protection

There's good news for anyone who worries that their financial information has fallen into the wrong hands. Consumers now have a new tool at their disposal; they can place a "Fraud Alert" on their credit file.

Fraud Alerts help prevent anyone from opening new accounts in your name. They act as a red flag on your credit report, visible only when businesses access your file to possibly extend you credit. To place an alert on your account, call one of the three credit reporting agencies and ask them to flag your credit file for fraud. Within 24 hours, an alert will be attached to your credit file and your name will be removed from pre-approved credit and insurance applications for two years.

An "Initial Alert" will be active on your credit report for 90 days. Use this if someone has gained access to personal information that could be used to open accounts in your name, such as your Social Security number, or your date of birth. Once an initial alert is in place, potential creditors will need to verify your identification prior to extending credit, so you should provide them with a phone number where you can be easily reached. The alert will help to ensure that you are the only one opening accounts in your name.

An "Extended Alert" is recommended if your identity has been stolen. With an extended alert, your credit file will remain guarded for seven years. In addition, your name will be removed from lists marketing prescreened credit offers for five years. In order to qualify for an extended fraud alert, you will need to provide proof of identity theft, such as a police report.

Active duty members of the military are eligible for a "Military Fraud Alert." This alert allows members of the military on active duty to prevent anyone from opening accounts in their name while they are overseas.

Some helpful tips:

  • EquifaxExperian, and TransUnion (the nation's three major credit bureaus) share data, so after calling one company, the other two will be notified.
  • If you need to apply for a loan during the period that your credit file is on alert, notify your lender.
  • To remove a fraud alert, you will need to send requests in writing to one of the three credit reporting agencies.
  • For more information, visit the ABA's website and click on "Consumer Connection."



Phishing: One of the Most Common Email Scams

Warning: Internet Pirates Are Trying to Steal Your Personal Financial Information
Here's the Good News : You Have the Power to Stop Them

There's a new type of Internet piracy called "phishing." It's pronounced "fishing," and that's exactly what these thieves are doing: "fishing" for your personal financial information. What they want are account numbers, passwords, Social Security numbers, and other confidential information that they can use to loot your checking account or run up bills on your credit cards. In the worst case, you could find yourself a victim of identity theft. With the sensitive information obtained from a successful phishing scam, these thieves can take out loans or obtain credit cards and even driver's licenses in your name. They can do damage to your financial history and personal reputation that can take years to unravel. But if you understand how phishing works and how to protect yourself, you can help stop this crime.

Here's How Phishing Works

In a typical case, you'll receive an e-mail that appears to come from a reputable company that you recognize and do business with, such as your financial institution. In some cases, the e-mail may appear to come from a government agency, including one of the federal financial institution regulatory agencies. The e-mail will probably warn you of a serious problem that requires your immediate attention. It may use phrases, such as "Immediate attention required", or "Please contact us immediately about your account". The e-mail will then encourage you to click on a button to go to the institution's Web site. In a phishing scam, you could be redirected to a phony Web site that may look exactly like the real thing. Sometimes, in fact, it may be the company's actual Web site. In those cases, a pop-up window will quickly appear for the purpose of harvesting your financial information. In either case, you may be asked to update your account information or to provide information for verification purposes: your Social Security number, your account number, your password, or the information you use to verify your identity when speaking to a real financial institution, such as your mother's maiden name or your place of birth. If you provide the requested information, you may find yourself the victim of identity theft. 



Banking Scams to Watch Out For

Several banking scams are on the rise. We are providing the following information to help customers recognize these scams before becoming victims.

Credit Card Phone Scam

Be wary if you receive a telephone call from someone claiming to be calling from the Security and Fraud department at Visa or MasterCard, regardless of how official they may sound. The caller claims that your card has been flagged for an unusual purchase pattern, and that they are calling to verify if you made this purchase. When you say that you did not initiate the purchase, the caller will continue, reading off your address for you to verify so that they may send you a "credit" for the unauthorized purchase amount and giving you a control number to which to refer should you have any questions. The caller will then ask you to verify the three-digit security code from the back of your card. Although the caller never asks for (or tells you) the actual credit card number, the minimal amount of information you provide them is enough for the criminals to use your card to charge unauthorized purchases. Real Visa and MasterCard employees will never ask you to verify the card's security digits, or any other information on the card.

Overpayment Scam

Seller, beware! This crime occurs when someone is selling something, usually over the Internet, and is approached by a "buyer" who convinces the seller to accept a check or money order for a larger amount than the item purchase price. In this scenario, the seller agrees to give the buyer the "change" between the item purchase price and the payment amount. Unfortunately, the check or money order is counterfeit and the "buyer" is usually long gone with the seller's cash before the check is returned. Law enforcement officials also caution consumers to be wary of sequentially numbered money orders, as they are usually counterfeit.

Nigerian Advance Fee Scam

This fraud occurs when you receive an unsolicited fax, e-mail or letter asking for your help with a business proposal in Nigeria or another African country. The proposal may deal with a "bequest" left to you or may sometimes involve "over-invoiced contract funds". At some point, you are persuaded to pay an advance fee, extend credit, or provide "change" for a counterfeit money order produced by the perpetrators.

Foreign Lottery Scam

Although it's illegal to participate in a foreign lottery, many consumers fall prey to scam operators enticing them to buy lottery tickets to "strike it rich," when in actuality the tickets are never bought. Or, a victim may be notified that he or she has won a prize. The "winner" is asked to divulge his or her bank account number so that the winnings can be deposited. Unfortunately, the thieves clean out the victim's account. Or, the victim may receive "winnings" via a counterfeit check or money order.

We've only touched upon a few of many scams being perpetrated each day upon unsuspecting consumers. Because we care about your financial safety, we may ask questions about your deposit items. Please be patient with us and know that we're simply concerned for your well-being.

To learn more about these and other white-collar crimes, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Website. If you wish to verify a postal money order's authenticity, call the US Postal Service toll-free at (800) 868-2443. And, if you believe you have been victimized by a financial scam, please contact any First Hope associate.



Fraud Alert: These Scams Can Cost You Money

Common Sense Can Keep You Safe

Over the last ten years, a frightening number of scams have developed using increasingly sophisticated technologies, all designed to take your money by stealing your personal financial information. It seems as soon as one devious technique is created, fraudsters devise another, each more sophisticated than the last, and each conceived to steal consumers' identities or hijack their finances.

Understanding today's most prevalent frauds is the first step in preventing them!

Phishing

Phishing is an attempt by criminals to obtain sensitive information such as online user names, passwords, and credit card details by masquerading as a reliable company—often a financial institution—via e-mail. The phishing e-mail typically directs users to a fake website designed to look like the legitimate website for the company named in the e-mail, where the consumer is asked to enter personal financial details. Even when using server authentication, it may require a great deal of knowledge and skill to determine the website is fake.

PROTECT YOURSELF by knowing your financial institution will never send an e-mail asking for personal information, or send you to any special site to update your personal information. If you receive such an e-mail, delete it and contact the purported sender yourself to verify and/or report the scam.

Spear Phishing

Spear phishing is an offshoot of phishing. In a phishing attempt, fraudsters may send a single, mass e-mail to thousands of people, hoping a few will respond. Spear phishing attacks, though, are sent to a single person at a time and customized to fit that individual. The spear phishing e-mail usually contains personal information, such as your name or some detail about your employment.

A spear phishing e-mail, like a phishing e-mail, also generally includes a link leading to a fake website requesting personal information, or may contain a downloadable file. This type of e-mail often appears to come from an employer or another seemingly trustworthy source. However, the website or file may contain malware, which, once downloaded to your computer, collects your personal information and transmits it to the criminal without your knowledge or consent.

PROTECT YOURSELF by understanding that these attacks are usually limited to corporate targets. As of now, nearly all investigated spear phishing complaints have come from corporate employees. If you receive a possible spear phishing e-mail, go directly to your employer's Human Resources representative or IT department to learn whether the e-mail is legitimate.

Vishing

Vishing is similar to phishing, but involves the telephone instead of e-mail. This method of fraud is generally used to steal credit card numbers, bank account information, and passwords. A criminal perpetrating a vishing scheme might call you on the phone, advising you that your credit card has been used illegally, and give you a telephone number to call and ostensibly "verify" your account number.

PROTECT YOURSELF by being suspicious of any caller asking for bank information or credit card numbers for any reason. Do not provide this information to the caller. Instead, contact your bank or credit card company directly, using a known, published telephone number for the company, to determine the authenticity of the message.

Smishing

Smishing is another variation of phishing, the name a combination of SMS (Short Message Service, the technology used for text messaging) and phishing. In a smishing attack, the criminal uses text messages through your cellular phone to coerce you to visit a fraudulent website or call a telephone number that connects you to an automated voice response system. In either case, the goal is clear: to steal your personal information.

The smishing text message often "requires" your immediate attention. For example, it might say it is confirming an order for a large purchase you did not authorize, and you need to follow the scammer's directions in order not to be charged for the item. Once you follow the link to the fraudulent website or call the telephone number provided, you are asked to provide credit card or bank account numbers, PIN numbers or passwords, or other pieces of sensitive data.

PROTECT YOURSELF by presuming that no legitimate company would contact you via text message with such a request. If the message seems believable, contact the company using a published telephone number and speak to a customer service representative about the message you received.

Debit & Credit Card Skimming

This type of skimming is an attempt to steal your personal information and your identity by tampering with ATM machines. Fraudsters create a device that captures the debit card magnetic stripe and keypad information from the ATM, then, once collected, sell this data to criminals who use it to create new cards with your account numbers.

PROTECT YOURSELF by reducing your ATM risk—use machines from institutions you know and trust. These machines often receive more traffic and are protected by surveillance cameras, both of which can make attaching or retrieving a skimming device tricky for a thief. Keep an eye out for changes at ATMs you frequent, such as difference in the color of the card reader or a gap where something appears to be glued onto the slot where you insert your card—these are warning signs to find another machine and report your observations to the institution.

Fake Check Scams

Fake check scams use technology to create realistic cashier's checks, which are used by criminals to pay for online purchases or, in a common variation on the theme, to send you the proceeds of some form of foreign lottery you are told you won. In these scams, the consumer accepts the faked cashier's check, which is made out for more than the purchase price or lottery payout, and is asked to send the difference in a separate check to the scammer. The consumer keeps the worthless fake check, and the scammer keeps the real check (and the consumer's real money).

PROTECT YOURSELF with basic common sense. If you are selling something, insist the buyer pay by trusted means. If you didn't enter a lottery, you couldn't win it. And of course, never accept a check for more than the amount due!




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For additional resources, visit the Federal Trade Commission's Identity Theft Website or OnGuard Website.

*For more ways to protect yourself from becoming a victim of fraud, click here.


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