Scams: The Growing Online Pandemic

Today’s digital technologies offer almost instantaneous access to everything from online shopping, to entertainment, to services and information. Unfortunately, it also creates opportunities for scammers, hackers, and identity thieves.


Behind the scenes, your Pyramid FCU staff is busy keeping your financial accounts and your money safe from a continuing and growing number of scams and fraud. But you also need to do all you can to protect and safeguard your personal information and financial accounts.

While it seems obvious by now, many people are still not using basic online safety practices like:

  • Password protecting your devices (phones, computers, tablets)
  • Using strong AND unique passwords for each account
  • Using Multi-Factor authentication
  • Avoiding public Wi-Fi
  • Only purchasing from secured and known websites or apps

Specifically when it comes to your financial account information:

  • NEVER give your personal information, such as Social Security number, account or credit card numbers, or usernames and passwords TO ANYONE via phone, text, or email.
  • MONITOR your online banking accounts regularly. Report any fraudulent charges immediately to your bank or credit union.
  • REPORT lost or stolen debit or credit cards immediately! If you have card controls in your online banking or credit card apps, be sure to lock/block your card to avoid additional fraudulent charges.
  • CHECK your credit report at least annually.

Despite regular warnings, many people fall victim to scams. According to the Federal Trade Commission website, here are four signs that it’s a scam:

1. Scammers PRETEND to be from an organization you know.

Scammers often pretend to be contacting you on behalf of the government or a company which may be familiar to you. They might use a real name, like the Social Security Administration, the IRS, or Medicare, or make up a name that sounds official. Some pretend to be from a business you know, like your credit union, a utility company, or even a charity asking for donations.

Don’t be fooled by the information on your Caller ID. Scammers use technology to change, or “spoof,” the phone number that you see on your phone to appear like a legitimate name or number.

2. Scammers say there’s a PROBLEM or a PRIZE.

They might say you’re in trouble with the government. Or you owe money. Or someone in your family had an emergency. Or that there’s a virus on your computer. Some scammers say there’s a problem with one of your accounts and that you need to verify some information.

Others will lie and say you won money in a lottery or sweepstakes but have to pay a fee to get it.

3. Scammers PRESSURE you to act immediately.

Scammers want you to act before you have time to think. If you’re on the phone, they might tell you not to hang up so you can’t check out their story.

They might threaten that you’ll be arrested, sued, or even deported. They might say your computer is about to be corrupted.

4. Scammers tell you to PAY in a specific way.

They often insist that send money through a money transfer company or by putting money on a gift card and then giving them the number on the back.

Some will send you a check (that will later turn out to be fake), tell you to deposit it, and then send them money.

One sure sign of a scam is anyone who says you have to pay using cryptocurrency. In fact, anyone who tells you to pay by wire transfer, gift card, or cryptocurrency is a scammer. Of course, if you pay, there's almost no way to get that money back. Which is what the scammers are counting on.

What You Can Do to Avoid a Scam?

Before you act, type the company or product name into your favorite search engine with terms like “review,” “complaint,” or “scam,” and see what you find.

Block unwanted calls and text messages. Take steps to block unwanted calls and to filter unwanted text messages.

Don’t give your personal or financial information in response to a request that you didn’t expect. Legitimate organizations won’t call, email, or text to ask for your personal information, like your Social Security, bank account, or credit card numbers.

If you get an email or text message from a company you do business with and you think it’s real, it’s still best not to click on any links. Instead, contact them using a website you know is trustworthy. Or look up their phone number. Don’t call a number they gave you or the number from your caller ID.

Resist the pressure to act immediately. Legitimate businesses will give you time to make a decision. Anyone who pressures you to pay or give them your personal information is a scammer.

Know how scammers tell you to pay. Never pay someone who insists you pay with a gift card or by using a money transfer service. And never deposit a check and send money back to someone.

Stop and talk to someone you trust. Before you do anything else, tell someone — a friend, a family member, a neighbor — what happened. Talking about it could help you realize it’s a scam.

The FTC website offers great tips and resources for consumers on a range of topics including online security, scams, and identity theft. You can even sign up for email updates here.