As we all come together to support each other during this difficult time, Members Choice is here to help you stay protected from scammers that attempt to take advantage of any current fears and concerns, or prey on a desire to help others. As part of our mission to provide financial solutions and resources, we are providing information to help you identify potential scams and tips to protect your identity and personal information.
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau reports that scammers are attacking consumers from different angles such as fraudulent calls, texts, and emails. Their intentions are to take advantage of the many people who are vulnerable right now as they experience financial concerns from job layoffs and reduced hours, or take advantage of stay-at-home isolation.
Here are some common Coronavirus scams to be aware of:
- Don’t respond to texts, emails or calls about checks from the government. Scammers can attempt to “phish” your information with a call or email claiming to be the IRS, Social Security Administration or another government agency (hint: “phishing” means that a scammer is pretending to be a reputable company in order to get you to disclose sensitive information). They may ask you to verify your Social Security number, bank account, or government benefits debit card account number for an economic payment.
- Be wary of calls claiming you received an overpayment of the stimulus money and demanding a “refund” of the difference. Scammers may contact you and threaten you with adverse consequences such as fines, forfeiture, or arrest if you refuse to refund the money they claim is owed. They can attempt to demand payments by stored value cards, by money transmission such as Western Union or MoneyGram. Don’t send money and keep in mind that these threats aren’t legitimate.
- Be on the lookout for new romance scams. With more and more people opting to meet a new love interest online due to Coronavirus concerns, scammers can often take advantage of the online relationship and ask you to wire them money, share your credit card number or account information with them, often promising to pay you back. They may also attempt to ask you to sign a document that would give them control of your finances, your house or ask you to open a new joint account or co-sign a loan with them.
- Be alert of mail fraud letters that look real but make fake claims. Some personalized mail you receive in the mail may claim that you have won money or a prize, promise a job that doesn’t exist or threaten you with jail time if you don’t pay a debt. Others can claim to provide you with offers that seem too good to be true. Be sure you don’t respond and don’t send money.
- There are increasing scams related to vaccine, cures, air filter systems, and testing scams. The FTC warned about an increasing number of scams related to COVID-19 health concerns. If you receive a call, email, text message, or letter with claims to sell you anything related to COVID-19 health – it’s a scam. If you are concerned about your health related to COVID-19 contact your doctor or reference the CDC guidelines on what to do if you feel ill.
- Be wary of phone calls from spoofed numbers, including our own. If you get a call that says “Members Choice,” comes from a blocked number, or is an automated phone call asking for personal information, do not communicate with them. Scammers may attempt to verify credit card transactions by asking for your PIN number. Some may even have the last four digits of your card number as a tool to attempt to convince you. Don’t rely on your caller ID since scammers can fake the name and number that shows up, making it look like a call is from a government agency or a local number.
- Be on the lookout for “phishing” emails that at first glance appear to come from a trusted source, yet after closer inspection, contain typos and use poor grammar. If you received these emails never click on unknown attachments, links or provide personal identifiable information via an unsecure website. Scammers can send emails that appear to come from a company or organization you trust such as the CDC or WHO to get you to click a link or attachment that installs ransomware or enables them to gain access to your personal information. Double check the name of the sender and the full email address for inconsistencies like misspellings. When searching for information about the COVID-19, only use reputable sources directly from the U.S. Center for Disease Control (CDC) or the World Health Organization (WHO) sites and don’t click on links from sources you don’t know.
- A “person in need” may try to scam you using the coronavirus circumstances. Scammers can contact you and pose as a grandchild, relative or friend who claims to be ill or in trouble in another state or foreign country and ask you to send them money or buy gift cards. These scammers take advantage of the momentary panic you may feel and ask you to act fast before you start to ask questions.
- Verify a charity’s authenticity before making donations. The Department of Justice is reporting scams of fraudsters calling and requesting donations posing as real or made-up charitable organizations. Be careful about any charity calling you asking for donations or following up on a donation pledge that you don’t remember making. Never donate to an organization in cash, by gift card, or by wiring money.
- Remember, never, under any circumstance, give out your online password or debit PIN. If someone asks you to confirm your login credentials for any of your accounts, account password or debit card PIN number, whether it's over the phone, in a branch or in any other type of communication, decline to provide any information.
What to do if you suspect fraud:
If something doesn’t feel right, don’t respond, click or take action. If you have a question about your Members Choice account call us directly at 281.398.9900. Our Member Service Representatives will always welcome a callback to our main line to help you with your account.
If you don't recognize a transaction on your Debit Card linked to your checking account, timely notification is important. You can submit a debit card dispute or fraud claim using this online form. Our new online process makes it easy to fill out the information and submit digital copies of your receipts without needing to visit a branch in person. If you need help in making the decision about whether this is a dispute with a merchant or a fraud claim, please review the card disputes and fraud claim page for more information on how to tell the difference.
Monitor your account periodically for unusual activity and report any suspicious transactions immediately. If you feel that you have received a suspicious communication about your Members Choice account, please contact us immediately at 281.398.9900. We’re here to help.