Customer Solutions Center

Security Tips - Archives

March 2017

Avoiding Scams: Sticking to the Basics Can Go a Long Way

From FDIC Consumer News

There is plenty of information available to consumers to help avoid being a fraud or theft victim. "But some people complain that there is too much to remember and that being vigilant can be a daunting task," said Millie Spencer, a financial crimes specialist with the FDIC. Here's a short list of simple ways to avoid many financial crimes.

Never provide passwords, credit or debit card information, Social Security numbers and similar personal information in response to an unsolicited text message, e-mail, call or letter. An identity thief can use this information to apply for credit cards or loans, access your bank accounts online or otherwise commit fraud using your name.

Crooks often send e-mails, text messages or phone messages that appear to be from a legitimate, trusted organization asking consumers to "verify" or "update" personal information. The scam is called phishing because the criminals throw out bait in hopes of luring a consumer into biting.

Criminals also create bogus web sites in hopes that consumers will enter valuable personal information. "We've seen everything from fake bank web sites to sites offering payday loans or credit repair services," added Michael Benardo, Manager of the FDIC's Cyber Fraud and Financial Crimes Section. "Some of these sites offer incredibly low prices or other enticing promotions."

And, as Spencer noted, "Always be suspicious of these types of requests because a legitimate organization would not solicit updates in an unsecured manner for information it already has."

Think twice before opening attachments or clicking on links in unsolicited e-mails and text messages. These messages may install "malware" (malicious software) on your computer or cellphone. "This software could allow crooks to spy on you and gain access to your online banking sites," explained Benardo.

To confirm a message's validity, contact the supposed sender. "But don't automatically assume the contact information listed in the e-mail is accurate," said Benardo. He recommended finding the telephone number, web site or e-mail address from an independent, reliable source.

Deal only with reputable merchants, service providers and charities. Friends and family may be able to provide recommendations. You can search for complaints against a business by contacting your state or local consumer affairs office and your local Better Business Bureau. There also are popular sites on the Internet for consumer ratings and reviews of businesses.

Fraud artists also claim to be from legitimate charitable organizations — especially after a major disaster — and ask for "donations." The Better Business Bureau's Wise Giving Alliance and other organizations can help you find legitimate charities with good reputations.

Be on guard against counterfeit checks, cashier's checks or money orders. These often are associated with scams that say you have won a lottery or other prize, are bogus work-from-home offers, or are attempts to steal something you are selling on the Internet.

They can also be associated with offers to purchase items you are selling online or through classified ads. Be especially leery if you get a check for more than the amount due and you're instructed to return the difference by depositing the check and wiring the excess amount to the other party's account or to an associate. If the check turns out to be counterfeit, you will be out the money regardless of whether you sent a check, wire or cash.

Be wary of unsolicited investment offers that sound too good to pass up or that require you to act fast. "Statements about low-risk investments with ‘guaranteed returns' that are unusually high are red flags," said Luke W. Reynolds, Acting Associate Director in the FDIC's Division of Depositor and Consumer Protection.

He also advised walking away from any offer that involves pressure to pay cash or provide personal information right away.

Protect your mail and other documents at home. Thieves know that credit card or bank statements and other documents contain valuable, confidential information. Try to use a secure mailbox for your incoming mail. Keep bank and credit card statements, tax returns, credit and debit cards and blank checks secure, even at home. Also shred sensitive documents before discarding them. Similarly, use an updated security program to protect your computer.

Look at your bank statements and credit card bills as soon as they arrive. Immediately report any discrepancy or anything suspicious, such as an unauthorized withdrawal or charge, to your financial institution.

Periodically review your credit reports and dispute any inaccurate information, which could indicate identity theft. You are entitled to a free copy from each of the nation's three major credit bureaus every 12 months.

To learn more about protecting yourself from common financial frauds, see back issues of FDIC Consumer News at www.fdic.gov/consumernews.


February 2017

The Taxman Cometh

The income tax filing season has begun and important tax documents should be arriving in your mailbox. Even though your return is not due until April, you can make tax time easier on yourself with an early start. 

Here are the Internal Revenue Service's top 10 tips to ensure a smooth tax-filing process.

  1. Gather your records. Round up any documents you'll need when filing your taxes: receipts, canceled checks and other documents that support income or deductions you're claiming on your return.
  2. Be on the lookout. W-2s and 1099s will be coming soon; you'll need these to file your tax return.
  3. Have a question? Use the Interactive Tax Assistant available on the IRS website to find answers to your tax questions about credits, deductions, general filing questions and more.
  4. Use Free File. Let Free File do the hard work for you with brand-name tax software or online fillable forms. It's available exclusively at www.irs.gov. Everyone can find an option to prepare their tax return and e-file it for free. If you made $57,000 or less, you qualify to use free tax software offered through a private-public partnership with manufacturers. If you made more or are comfortable preparing your own tax return, there's Free File Fillable Forms, the electronic versions of IRS paper forms. Visit www.irs.gov/freefile to review your options.
  5. Try IRS e-file. IRS e-file is the safe, easy and most common way to file a tax return. Last year, 79 percent of taxpayers — 106 million people — used IRS e-file. Many tax preparers are now required to use e-file. If you owe taxes, you have payment options to file immediately and pay by the tax deadline. Best of all, the IRS issues refunds to 98 percent of electronic filers by direct deposit within 14 days, if there are no problems, and some may be issued in as few as 10 days.
  6. Consider other filing options. There are many options for filing your tax return. You can prepare it yourself or go to a tax preparer. You may be eligible for free face-to-face help at a volunteer site. Give yourself time to weigh all the options and find the one that best suits your needs.
  7. Consider direct deposit. If you elect to have your refund directly deposited into your bank account, you'll receive it faster than a paper check in the mail.
  8. Visit the official IRS website often. The IRS website at www.irs.gov is a great place to find everything you need to file your tax return: forms, publications, tips, answers to frequently asked questions and updates on tax law changes.
  9. Remember this number: 17. Check out IRS Publication 17, Your Federal Income Tax, on the IRS website. It's a comprehensive resource for taxpayers, highlighting everything you'll need to know when filing your return.
  10. Review! Review! Review! Don't rush. We all make mistakes when we rush. Mistakes slow down the processing of your return. Be sure to double check all the Social Security numbers and math calculations on your return as these are the most common errors. Don't panic! If you run into a problem, remember the IRS is there to help.

January 2017

How Do You Deposit a Check with Your Smartphone or Tablet?
Start by taking photos ... and taking precautions

From FDIC Consumer News

Did you know you can use a smartphone or tablet to deposit a check into your account from anywhere you can access your account remotely?

Simply endorse the check (just like you would at the ATM or teller), use your mobile device to snap a photo of the front and back, and deposit the check using the Washington Trust Mobile Banking app. This service is becoming more common and more popular with consumers. Still, there are potential costs and security risks.

Review and understand any policies and fees. You can find more information about Washington Trust's Mobile Check Deposit here. “For example, find out if there is a limit on the total dollar amount or number of checks that you can deposit via remote deposit capture (RDC) in a certain time period,” said Deborah Shaw, an FDIC senior technology specialist.

Additionally, you should determine how long the bank requires you to keep the original check after you deposit it using RDC.

Confirm when the funds from your deposited check will be made available to you. Federal rules allow banking institutions to put a temporary “hold” on certain deposits, and require institutions to provide disclosures to customers stating when their funds will be available for withdrawal. “If you do not find this information on the bank’s app or website, talk to an employee,” said Luke W. Reynolds, Chief of the FDIC’s Outreach and Program Development Section. “Also confirm the cutoff time for deposits to be considered received that day; this may not be the same as the bank’s normal closing time.”

Take steps to avoid potential problems. RDC creates the risk that a check could be deposited more than once. That could happen accidentally if, for example, a wife deposits a check electronically using RDC and then her spouse, not realizing that the check is already deposited, sees the paper check and deposits it at the bank. Or, a fraudster could steal a check, alter it and attempt to deposit the funds.

Shaw advises writing “for mobile deposit only” or “deposited” on the back of the paper check and securely storing the check for as long as required according to your bank’s policies. After the bank’s recommended retention period ends, RDC users should shred the paper check.

Always monitor your accounts. As you would if you were depositing money any other way, make sure deposits and other transactions have been properly posted to your account. “You can check your account online or through the mobile app,” Shaw said. “Your bank also may provide email alerts about changes in account balances or unusual activity on your account.”

She added that your bank also may be able to notify you by email or text message when RDC deposits are posted to your account or if there is a problem with a deposit.

For more help or information regarding Mobile Check Deposit, contact our Customer Solutions Center at (800) 475-2265.