Be aware of Fraud Scams

While it’s an unfortunate truth, fraud is a real threat in today’s world. We’ve run across quite the wide spectrum of fraud scams here at the credit union. Here’s an abbreviated list of the most common.

Point of Purchase Fraud

This type of fraud has been prevalent recently, impacting credit unions. Scammers gain access to the point of sale system of a large merchant. When credit and debit card numbers are swiped/entered into that system, the software skims and sends them to the scammer.

The credit and debit card numbers are then re-programmed on a new card, and very often used to buy consumer goods and gift cards at large box stores. This is often why Spirit of Alaska limits purchase amounts at large box stores such as Wal-mart and Target in fraud affected areas.

Point of Purchase fraud has also been happening recently and on a large scale with the parent companies of several hotel chains. Options to protect yourself from this type of fraud include using prepaid cards.

Social Engineering

Social Engineering involves the practice of exploiting common human behaviors to gain access to computers, accounts and personal information. We regularly educate Spirit of Alaska employees on the details of social engineering, how to spot it, and the risks involved.

Any of the following phone and online scams can be considered social engineering.

Phone Fraud (or voice phishing: vishing)

Fraud over the phone has become varied and creative, often targeting older members of the population and mostly affecting landlines. Keep your ears open for any caller who touches on any of the following phone scam schemes.

Card information scam

Scammers may ask for information about your credit cards, such as the three-digit code, posing as representatives of your financial institution or card issuer (such as VISA).

Jury duty scam

Scammers may pose as a jury duty coordinator, and ask for your social security number and date of birth to “verify your information and cancel the arrest warrant.”

Security breach or blocked card scam

Victims are warned of a security breach and told to call a number which asks them to provide the credit card number and their personal information. We’ve also dealt with automated calls claiming to be from Spirit of Alaska and asking for a debit card and PIN information to unblock a card or for other purposes.

Phone line test scam

Phone line test scams give you a number to dial under the pretense of testing the phone line, which gives the scammer unlimited access to your phone number.

Online & Email Fraud

Phishing Emails

Phishing emails are designed in such a way as to copy the look and feel of email from legitimate companies. One recent example was a Docusign email phishing attack on our employees. Phishing emails attempt to get you to click on an image or link that is fraudulent, and consequently download software that compromises your computer.

Phishing or Spoofing Websites

Copycat websites that try to collect data from you by appearing like a website of a legitimate company. Data can include personal information, pins, passwords, or credit card numbers.

Survey scam

Survey scams are common, offering to pay for completing a survey if you enter your account information.

Fake online dating scam

Scammers continue to use fake online dating profiles and photos. Scammers convince victims that they are from the U.S., but are temporarily traveling and need assistance. Victims report losses of 203 million to this scam in 2015!


Malicious software, also known as malware, infects computers by keystroke logging or keylogging. This allows the criminal to obtain the user’s ID and password. The perpetrator then sends unauthorized ACH transactions in the user’s name.

Text messaging fraud, or Smishing

Smishing asks consumers via text message to call a certain number to reactivate a payment card. Watch for these attempts to get you to reveal personal information over a text message.

Other Scams

Other scams include sweepstakes and lottery fraud, wire fraud and false loan modification letters. Also, always be on the lookout when using Craigslist or other free community listing sites for check cashing schemes.

Fraudsters are creative folks, and new scams come to light frequently, so follow some of these guidelines to protect your financial information and avoid identity theft.