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Eight Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraud

By Empower FCU
Fraud & Security

Staying vigilant is step one!  

We all know that fraudsters are on the prowl for our information, but what exactly can you do about it? In this blog we’ll walk through some tried and true ways to keep your information private and out of malicious hands.  

How do scammers get my information?  

The first step to avoiding fraud is knowing HOW it happens. Here are a couple avenues that fraudsters use to get your details.  

Social Media Accounts, Online Surveys, Contests on Social Media 


Scammers can scrape your accounts to put together all the clues that you share about yourself. From your job, family members, hobbies, to even your location! They then use this information to do things like answer your security questions, call using references you may recognize, or impersonate a family member.  

How to stop it: Avoid giving personal information out on the internet! Limit who can see your posts and check up on your account security settings. Also always avoid posting your real-time location!  

Fake Apps 


You’d be surprised how easy it is to make an app these days. Scammers use fake apps to get your personal information and access more information from your phone than you may realize.  

How to stop it: Only download apps from verified app stores (Apple or Google Play). Avoid any apps listed as “Ad” at the top of app store searches, and only install apps you ACTUALLY use. Remove any apps you no longer utilize. Bonus points: this keeps your phone clutter free and running smoother! 

Email Scams (Also known as “phishing”) 


Email scams are one of the classic ways to trick people into giving sensitive information. You may have heard of people receiving email from a faraway prince who needs money. This can happen, but most email scams these days are far more sophisticated than that. They may use an email address that looks almost identical to one you’ve seen before or include links and graphics that seem legit.  

How to stop it: There are a couple steps to take to ensure you don’t become a victim of phishing. Check the spelling, does it look crazy off? How about the grammar? Big companies like Amazon rarely have glaring spelling mistakes in their emails. What about the ask of the email? Is it taking you to a link or asking for information in response? Try signing into your account directly instead of through an email link. This will show you if the alert is present when going straight to the source.  

Text Messages (Smishing), Voice Calls/Voicemail (Vishing), Fraudulent Websites (Pharming) 


Just like email scams, if fraudsters can contact you to try to trick you, they probably will. Keep an eye out for text messages from numbers you don’t know, websites that have the incorrect URLs, and voice calls from people who sound like people you know but are asking for personal information. When in doubt, don’t answer the call, respond to the text, or click on the link, and NEVER share your personal information. If you worry that a loved one is in danger, try calling them directly on a number that you know and trust, regardless of what the person texting/calling/emailing you says. 

Spoofed Numbers 


Like voicemail scams, scammers can spoof Caller ID. Scammers can choose any number they like to spoof and make it appear as if a person you know is calling. This can be disconcerting! But remain calm, there are ways of telling if this call is legitimate.  

How to stop it: When in doubt, hang up! You can always call that person or company back at the number you have saved for them. DON’T hit redial. Also remember, never give out any personal information over the phone unless you are positive you are talking to a legitimate person or organization.  

Public Records, Data Aggregators, Old Mail, and Warranty Cards 


You’d be surprised how much of your information is in the public record. Things like census data, property details, criminal records, and tax information can be legally accessed by public companies and sold to whomever will pay. Similarly, data aggregators are legitimate services that collect your online information and sell it to others. Often marketing companies or law enforcement buy it, but scammers have access to these as well. This information can even be obtained by warranty cards- you fill out your info and the company sells it to a third party! 

How to stop it: There’s no real way to stop companies from selling your information, but you CAN know when someone is using your information to scam you. This is often the information fraudsters use in emails, texts, or calls, to convince you they are legit. Be on guard for companies asking for personal information by using personal information. “We know you committed a crime on this date, but we have a special service that can wipe that record for you. All we need is your personal banking information.” That’s a fraud alert right there.  



There is truly no low to what scammers will do to cheat you out of your money. They often use public obituaries to identify vulnerable individuals (widows, children, grandchildren, widowers).  In your time of grief, it may be harder to discern if this is a fraud attempt. That’s why it’s so important to avoid having this information shared in the first place.  

How to stop it: When honoring those who have passed, keep public obituaries free of personal identifying information on those nearest to the loss.  

Smash and Grabs 


This is what we typically think of when we think of people stealing our information. Smash and grabs are when people break into your car, home, or workplace, with the express purpose of grabbing your identifying information and using it for fraud later. This can also look like swiping your wallet from a public dining place or grabbing a purse off a chair or even stealing letters from your mailbox. 

How to stop it: Make sure you are always aware of your items, and never leave obvious targets in plain view. Parking outside a friend's house to drop something off? Put your wallet in the glove box, or better yet, keep it with you! The best way to prevent smash and grabs is avoiding presenting an obvious target. Keep your information on you, collect your mail promptly, and stay alert and aware of your surroundings. If someone DOES grab your identifying information, be sure to cancel all your accounts and alert your financial provider immediately.  

Want to learn more?

Remain vigilant against fraudulent activities and safeguard your security. Explore our Security and Fraud Center for additional insights and resources.