The number of Americans who experience identity theft increases each year. Financial institutions have stringent privacy policies to protect your personal and financial information. Password protection for online and ATM transactions help assure safety.
While nothing can guarantee that you won’t become a victim of identity theft you can minimize your risk, and minimize the damage if a problem develops, by making it more difficult for identity thieves to access your personal information.
Protect Your Financial Information: Give your Social Security number only when absolutely necessary. Only give check and credit card information to those you know and trust. Closely guard your ATM personal identification number and ATM receipts.
Treat Trash and Mail Carefully: Shred your charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, checks and all financial statements and solicitations before disposing of them. Deposit your outgoing mail in post office collection boxes or at your local post office.
Keep your Financial Institution Informed: Let your financial institution know about suspicious phone or email inquiries, such as those asking for account information to “verify a statement.” Always review your statements for suspicious charges or other activity.
Select Intricate Passwords: Place passwords on your credit card, financial institution, and phone accounts. Avoid using easily available information such as your phone number.
Verify a Source before Sharing Information: Don’t give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or on the Internet unless you have initiated the contact and are sure you know who you are dealing with.
Watch Your Bills: If regular bills fail to reach you, contact the company and ask why. If your bills include questionable items, investigate them immediately.
Review Your Credit Report: You are entitled under Federal law to a free copy of your credit report annually from each of the major credit reporting agencies. That means you can review your report free three times each year.
How To Obtain A Free Credit Report: www.annualcreditreport.com.
According to the Better Business Bureau, the following were some of the Top Scams of 2017. Many are new twists on existing scams, but scammers become more sophisticated every year in how they spoof trusted brands and how they fool consumers.
How do you know if a telemarketing call is a scam? That friendly voice on the phone may belong to an honest person who is just trying to make a sale or a crook who wants to trick you out of your money.
One tip-off is if the call violates your telemarketing rights. Legitimate companies usually follow the rules, scammers don’t. Is an unfamiliar company calling you even though your phone number is on the National Do Not Call Registry? Is it a recorded sales pitch when you never gave the company written permission to make that type of “robocall” to you? Is the company’s number blocked on your Caller ID?
Other danger signs of telemarketing fraud include:
Another clue that it’s a scam is how you’re asked to pay. Fraudsters usually want to get paid fast and in cash – they don’t want to wait for your check to clear or to have payments go through credit cards. If a telemarketer has money transfer as the only method of payment it accepts, it’s probably a scam!
Crooks are also taking advantage of prepaid cell phones, internet phone service, Caller ID “spoofing” and other technologies to mask who and where they are. That’s one more reason why its’s so important to recognize telemarketing fraud. Money sent to scammers is often gone for good. Learn more about how to protect yourself from telemarketing fraud and other scams at www.consumerfed.org/fraud.
Peter Killen discussing the Brooklyn Consumer Federation at the luncheon meeting of the Bay Ridge Colonial Club.
Lawsuit Underscores Importance of CFPB Forced Arbitration Rulemaking
October 16, 2017 | Press Release
Washington, D.C. – In the wake of the massive data breach at Equifax, which exposed sensitive personal information of the majority of American adults, small financial institutions have filed class action lawsuits against Equifax to recover financial harms related to the breach.
The first lawsuit, led by Summit Credit Union, details the significant financial costs that will be incurred by small financial institutions due to the Equifax breach. The second lawsuit, led by Bank of Louisiana, Aventa Credit Union, and First Choice Federal Credit Union, alleges that Equifax violated federal law.
“By teaming up with others, credit unions stand a better shot at taking on a big company that harmed them,” said Michael Best, Director of Advocacy Outreach at CFA. “Unfortunately, consumers are often thwarted from the same opportunity to be heard in front of a jury of their peers.”
Small financial institutions regularly group together to recoup losses from massive data breaches. For example, banks filed class action lawsuits against Target and Home Depot. However, when consumers seek to take on large financial companies like Equifax as a group, those companies exercise “forced arbitration” clauses that eliminate a consumer’s choice about how to resolve their claim.
“Credit unions understand firsthand that the ability of smaller entities to band together in court is crucial to address misconduct of more powerful bad actors like Equifax,” said Christine Hines, Legislative Director at the National Association of Consumer Advocates. “That’s why the CFPB issued its arbitration rule to restore this right for consumers.”
Under a new rule finalized by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, consumers can still be subject to forced arbitration, but they cannot be restricted from joining together with other consumers in group claims, including class action lawsuits.
When consumers have disputes with credit unions, credit unions typically offer them a choice on how to pursue their claim. According to data from the CFPB, 97% of credit unions do not force consumers into arbitration in their credit card agreements, while 60% of large banks did. According to the National Association of Federal Credit Unions, these forced arbitration arrangements are of “limited value.” The organization also wrote to Congress that making arbitration voluntary leads to the best results.
Large banks are currently pressuring Congress to overturn the CFPB’s new rule that restores choice to consumers. Just as small credit unions should have the right to group together to recover losses from Equifax, advocates for consumers and military families across the country believe that every American deserves these rights, as well.
Contact: Michael Best, CFA, 202-939-1009; Christine Hines, NACA, 202-452-1989, ext.109
The Consumer Federation of America is an association of more than 250 non-profit consumer groups that, since 1968, has sought to advance the consumer interest through research, education, and advocacy.
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