All You Need to Know About Cybersecurity

Cybercrimes are increasing massively each year. In fact, according to Cybercrime Magazine, cybercrime will cost the world $10.5 trillion annually by 2025.

The best way to protect yourself from falling prey to cybercrimes is by being aware of common tactics and keeping your systems and devices secure. In honor of Cybersecurity Month, let’s take a closer look at this essential toolset and how to best harness it for your protection. 

What is cybersecurity?

Cybersecurity is the protection of online devices, networks, data and electronic systems from attacks by hackers, scammers and cybercriminals. 

There are several major categories of cybersecurity:

  • Network security is the securing of a computer network from intruders who commit crimes by targeted attack or malware. 
  • Application security focuses on protecting software and devices from threats. 
  • Information security protects the integrity and privacy of data.
  • Operational security includes handling and protecting data assets. 
  • Cloud security refers to creating secure cloud applications for companies that use cloud service providers, like Google, AWS, etc. 
  • Identity management and data security protects processes that enable authorization and authentication of legitimate individuals to an organization’s systems. 
  • Mobile security protects data stored on mobile devices from threats.

Methods of cybercrimes

All forms of cybercrimes threaten cybersecurity in some way. Here are some of the methods used to wage attacks: 

  • Malware-includes ransomware, spyware and viruses. These can install harmful software, block access to systems or provide scammers with access to data.
  • Trojans-trick users into thinking they’re opening a harmless file, but they’re really installing a backdoor that provides access to cybercriminals. 
  • Botnets-conducted via remotely controlled malware-infected devices and usually employed as a large-scale attack. 
  • Adware-involves a potentially unwanted program installed without the user’s permission, which automatically generates unwanted online advertisements.
  • Phishing-employed by email, text, or social media message, it tricks the target into sharing sensitive information. 

How can I protect myself against cyberattacks?

Fortunately, there are many ways to protect yourself from cyberattacks: 

  1. Use banking activity alerts.
  2. Update your software and operating systems often.
  3. Use anti-virus software. 
  4. Use strong, unique passwords across all your online accounts.
  5. Never open email attachments or click on links from unknown senders. 
  6. Avoid using unsecured public WiFi.

Through awareness and use of cybersecurity tools, you can keep your devices and personal information secure. 

Stay up to date on current scams and learn how to report fraud by visiting

What is a Fraud Ring and How Can I Keep Myself Safe?

Q: I’m hearing a lot about fraud rings and their threat to businesses and consumers. What is a fraud ring and how can I keep myself safe?

A: A fraud ring is a group of fraudsters and merchants that can operate for years while stealing money and information, causing tremendous damage and loss along the way.

Let’s take a look at fraud rings, how they operate and how consumers and merchants can keep safe.

What is a fraud ring?

A fraud ring is an organized circle of criminals working to defraud and steal from people. They’ll use the same tactics as smaller scammer groups and individuals, but work on a massive scale. They also tend to have access to way more technology and resources than a typical scammer. Because of this, the harm they can do is on a much larger scale, too.

This form of fraud can consist of a group of criminals, as in any organized crime ring, or it can be made up of a family of crooks working together. The members of this crime ring collaborate to share info that can help them commit acts of fraud to net vast amounts of stolen funds and merchandise.

How does a fraud ring operate?

They can operate under several different pretexts. One common premise involves forgery, in which the fraudsters create fake claims, steal identities and even print counterfeit checks and/or currency. Some rings target individuals, committing identity theft and the like, but many focus on targeting ecommerce websites, businesses, charities or government agencies. 

A fraud ring can commit any of the following scams:

  • Forgery
  • False claims
  • Identity theft
  • Identity manipulation
  • Counterfeit checks and/or currency

How can I recognize this type of fraud? 

Look for these red flags, which can indicate signs of fraud:

  • Large purchases on your credit card or checking account that you didn’t make
  • Bills for loans you haven’t taken out
  • An unexplained, big drop in your credit score

If you own a business, you may be at higher risk of falling victim to a fraud ring. Be sure to look out for several sudden and large purchases from a customer who hasn’t made a purchase in a while, new accounts from customers that quickly become big spenders and claims demanding refunds for faulty products you believe were fine when shipped. 

Detecting instances of fraud at the first sign of suspicion can help mitigate the damage and keep your money and your information safe. Be sure to configure and add e-alerts on your bank accounts.

Stay up to date on prevalent scams and common types of fraud by visiting Olean Area FCU’s Security Corner.

5 Steps to Take After a Data Breach

Data breaches are becoming more and more frequent. According to Risk Based Security’s Mid-Year Data Breach Report, there were 1,767 publicly reported breaches in the first half of 2021, exposing 18.8 billion records. If your personal information has been compromised by a data breach, take these five steps to mitigate the damage.

Step 1: Read all notices from the compromised company

The business that’s been breached will generally reach out to all potential victims to notify them of the exposure. it may also advise them about next steps. If you believe your information may have been compromised in a breach, read every message you receive from the exposed company. 

Step 2: Alert your financial institution 

Next, let Olean Area Federal Credit Union know if your account may have been compromised.  We will review it for potential signs of fraud.  Watch your accounts closely, sign up for our E-Alerts that will text or email you regarding balance changes that you set up.  Stay vigilant as you may not see anything right away, many times these hackers wait 6 months to a year before trying anything.

Step 3: Change your passwords

A data breach generally means passwords of all kinds may have been compromised. It’s best to change as many as possible after a breach to keep information and money safe. Start by changing passwords you are sure were a part of the breach.

Take these precautions to protect your information from future data breaches:

  • Use strong, unique passwords for each account and opt for two-factor authentication when possible.
  • Never share sensitive information online and review your security and spam settings ensuring they are at their strongest levels.

Step 4: Consider a credit freeze

A credit freeze will alert lenders and credit companies to the fact that you may have been a victim of fraud. This added layer of protection will make it difficult, or impossible, for hackers to open a new credit line or loan in your name. 

Step 5: File an identity theft report

If you believe your identity has been stolen, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) as soon as possible. 

  • Monitor your credit for suspicious activity on a regular basis. 

Don’t Get Spooked by One of these Halloween Scams!

That cackling witch might send your heart fluttering, but Halloween scams are even spookier! Here’s what to know about them:

1. The Joker

Scammers target people with messages promising loads of money for little effort. Just send a bit of money to a digital address using a money transfer app, and your money will double, triple or more. Unfortunately, the joke’s on you.

Spot a money-flipping scam through the amateur writing and the promises of unreal rewards. Also, you know what they say about anything that sounds too good to be true … it probably is. 

2. Night of the Living Dead

In the deceased identity theft scamscammers steal the identity of someone who is no longer living. They may empty the decedent’s accounts, use their credit history as their own, and use their Social Security number.

Protect a late loved one’s identity by locking their social media accounts, credit report, and Social Security number. Keep an eye on their accounts until their assets have been lawfully divided. 

3. Trick or Treat

You found the perfect costume online – and for a bargain price! You complete your order and wait for the package to arrive. And wait … and then you realize you’ve been tricked. 

In a variation of the online order scamthe package arrives but looks nothing like it did online. You try to find a customer service representative, but they’ve apparently vanished!

Don’t get tricked! Only order from reputable sites that display complete contact information for the company. Ignore offers that scream “Hot Deal! Act Now!” Shop with caution so you’ll only walk away with treats. 

4. Hitman

There’s a hitman at your door – and no, this is no disguise! 

In the hitman scam, scammers pretend to be assassins hired to take out a target. They’ll send extortion emails and messages, promising to spare the target’s life for just a few thousand dollars. Yikes!

Don’t get scammed! If you receive an extortion message, contact local law enforcement. Never share money with an unverified contact. Keep your money and your life safe.

Have a happy and safe Halloween!

Beware Cryptocurrency Scams

Cryptocurrency is one of the hottest investments on the market. It’s also a popular ruse topic for scammers. Here’s what you need to know about cryptocurrency scams

How the scams play out 

There are several ways scammers are using cryptocurrency to con people out of their money. 

  • Blackmail. Emails are sent to targets, falsely claiming to have compromising photos, videos, or embarrassing info about them. The contact threatens to go public unless the victim pays up — in cryptocurrency. 
  • Social media. A target receives a social media message appearing to be from a friend, asking for cryptocurrency to help them out of a bind. 
  • Giveaways. These “giveaways” claim to be sponsored by celebrities or big-name cryptocurrency investors. They promise exponential returns for small investments in crypto, or for simply sharing personal info. 
  • Unrealistic Investment Opportunities. Some scammers make offers to invest in a nonexistent crypto mining operation. This is just a way for them to take your money!
  • Romance. Scammers convince victims they have met a legitimate love interest who soon starts talking about fabulous cryptocurrency opportunities with incredible returns. The victim acts upon this advice, and, sadly, loses their money. 

In each of these scams, the victim has no way of recovering the cryptocurrency they shared once an “investment” has been made. 

How to spot a cryptocurrency scam

Look out for these red flags to help avoid cryptocurrency scams: 

  • You’re promised big payouts with guaranteed returns on a small investment in cryptocurrency. 
  • A celebrity or famed cryptocurrency investor is sponsoring a cryptocurrency giveaway.
  • A friend contacts you on social media, claiming they’re caught up in a bind and need quick help by cryptocurrency. 
  • You’re promised free money in cryptocurrency in exchange for sharing some personal information.
  • A caller, new love interest, or organization insists on payment by cryptocurrency.

Never share personal information or money with an unverified contact. Also, if you’re looking to invest in cryptocurrency, look up secure investment sites like Robinhood and Coinbase on your own.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a cryptocurrency scam, report it to the FTC. If the scam was pulled off on social media, also let the platform know so they can take appropriate action. 

Proceed with caution to keep your money and your information safe. 

Beware of Gift Card Scams

Everyone loves gift cards. Unfortunately, scammers also love them, and for all the wrong reasons. Here’s what you need to know about gift card scams.

How the scams play out

There are several types of gift card scams:

  • The IRS gift card scam. A threatening message that’s allegedly from the IRS claims you’re at risk of arrest for tax evasion unless you pay up pronto! Payment must be made by a gift card. It’s often specifically requested to be an iTunes gift card, because, as you know, the IRS always collects taxes in the form of digital music.
  • The sweepstakes gift card scam. You’ve won a trip to the Cayman Islands! Just pay the processing fee by gift card. You’ll never see that majestic sunset, but your money’s ridden off.
  • The utility gift card scam. If you don’t pay up with a gift card, the lights just might go out. They won’t, but if you fall for the scam, you’ll be out the money you put on the gift card.
  • The balance-check gift card scam. You purchase a discounted gift card online and the seller sends the card but then asks you to read the numbers over the phone to confirm the balance. If you comply, the seller now has all the information they need to drain the card.

How to spot a gift card scam

This information can help you recognize a gift card scam:

  • The IRS will never initiate correspondence by phone call, text message, or email.
  • No authentic business or agency will insist on payment by gift card.
  • If you don’t recall entering a sweepstakes, you probably didn’t win it either.
  • A caller or message claiming a matter is urgent is almost always a scam.

In general, gift cards should not be used as payments and the numbers on your gift card should never be shared over the phone or online. Also, it’s best to purchase gift cards through reputable sellers only.

Steps to take if you’ve fallen victim

First, notify the company that issued the card about the scam. Next, block the scammer’s number from your phone and mark their emails as spam. Finally, alert the FTC about the scam.

Stay safe!

Beware Lottery Scams!

Lottery scams are frequent go-to’s for scammers, and they cash in on numerous victims. Let’s take a look at lottery scams and how to avoid falling victim.

How the scams play out

In a typical lottery scam, the victim is notified they’ve won a lottery. They may be contacted by mail, phone, text or by social media. The allegedly won prize can be a pile of cash to the tune of millions, a tropical vacation or even expensive electronic devices.

Here’s where things get tricky. To claim the prize, the victim is told they must pay a “processing fee,” but the money can only be wired to a bank account or furnished via prepaid debit card. If the victim pays the fee, the scammer will continue collecting these fees and stalling over the delivery of the prize.

In other variations of the scam, the target is asked to call a phone number or click on a link to claim the prize. They’ll then be instructed to provide personal information, such as their Social Security number or checking account info. Unfortunately, this information will make the victim vulnerable to identity theft.

Red flags

To avoid falling prey to a lottery scam, look out for these red flags:

  • You’ve been notified you’ve won a lottery you’ve never entered.
  • The lottery you’ve allegedly won was drawn overseas.
  • The email, text message or social media alert informing you of your win is riddled with grammar mistakes and typos.
  • You are warned to keep your “win” confidential.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to collect your winnings.
  • You’re asked to share confidential information over the phone or online to claim your prize.
  • You’re instructed to call a specific number or click on a link in order to verify your prize.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted and/or victimized by a lottery scam, take quick action to protect yourself from further harm. Contact the Federal Trade Commission at to let them know about it. If you’ve already shared information and/or money, contact your local law enforcement agencies for assistance and visit the FTC’s page on identity theft to start the recovery process.

Play it safe!

Your Complete Guide to Secure Mobile Banking

In response to a rise of mobile banking scams, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) has published new guidance on unauthorized electronic funds transfers, or EFTs. With more people using electronic banking as a holdover from pandemic times, it’s important for consumers to be aware of its vulnerabilities and how to protect themselves from scams. Here’s your guide to secure mobile banking and how to stay safe online.

What are the risks of mobile banking?

Unfortunately, like all transactions happening over the internet, mobile banking has some built-in risks. First, hackers can break into a phone and an account with the intent of stealing money and info. Also, phishing scams that target people over the phone can lead unsuspecting consumers to share login information with scammers so they can hack away. Finally, bogus emails and messages appearing to be from your credit union can lead you to install malware on your device.

How to bank safely online

  • Consider using a VPN. A VPN (virtual private network) gives you a private network, even when you’re using public Wi-Fi, thus increasing your internet usage security by encrypting traffic to the VPN service provider and allowing internet traffic through a chosen trusted source.
  • Never share your password. Don’t share your password with anyone, and follow suggested guidelines for choosing a strong password, including alternating between uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers, symbols, and increased length beyond minimum requirements. Also, choose a unique password you don’t use elsewhere. Change your password if your password is exposed or becomes known by someone other than yourself.
  • Brush up on your knowledge of scams. Never answer a text or email that asks for account details, even if it appears to be from your credit union. Also, always be wary of unsolicited phone calls and banking alerts. Follow Olean Area Federal Credit Union on our social media pages and blog page for information on current scams. Also visit for the latest Consumer Alerts and up-to-date security protocols.
  • Protect your phone. Consider installing an antivirus app on your phone as well as a location-tracking app so you can find your phone if it gets lost. Be sure to lock your phone after using it, log out of the mobile banking app when you’re done, and always keep your phone in a safe place.

Follow the tips outlined above for secure mobile banking and stay safe!

Remembering that technology is constantly changing and improvements to security are always occurring within mobile banking applications, stay on top of industry trends and current security availabilities.

Beware Back to School Scams

Whether you’re a college student prepping for the fall semester, a high school student getting ready for a new school year or the parent of a student of any age, beware of these trending back-to-school scams!

The student tax scam

In this scam, a crook posing as the IRS calls a college-bound student claiming they didn’t pay the student tax. If it is not paid up and pronto, the “agent” says, the student will not be allowed to attend school. They may even threaten imprisonment.

Don’t get scammed! First, know that the “student tax” doesn’t exist. Second, the IRS will never initiate contact with a taxpayer through a phone call. Finally, the IRS will never demand payment through a prepaid debit card or wire transfer, which is a common scammer ploy.

Scholarship scams

The scholarship scam cons students and parents into paying money for government student loans or financial aid, or by promising a scholarship in exchange for a fee. Follow these rules to stay safe:

  • Never pay to apply for a government student loan or financial aid.
  • There’s no way to guarantee a scholarship or grant. If a company promises to get you approved for either one, it’s a scam.
  • There is generally no fee necessary to receive a scholarship.

School supply giveaways and freebies

Back-to-school shopping can cost a bundle. Messages promising a free back-to-school shopping spree can be welcomed if they’re legit. Unfortunately, they rarely are.

Back-to-school giveaway scams ask the victim to visit a website to provide their email address for claiming their prize. The victim is then rewarded with an endless stream of emails, texts, robocalls and more from the company that now has their information, with no giveaway in sight. In some cases, the scammer may demand a “processing fee” before the victim can claim their prize.

Protecting yourself from a giveaway scam is easy by remembering that, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Also, legitimate contests will rarely select a winner out of thin air; you’ll have to enter it first by providing your email address. They are also not likely to make you give up lots of info before claiming your prize. Finally, there is generally no payment necessary for claiming an authentic prize.

Follow the tips outlined above for this back to school season and stay safe!

6 Ways to Avoid Getting Scammed This Summer

Don’t get scammed this summer! Follow these tips to stay safe.

1. Never pay for a “prize” vacation

If you’re asked to pay a small fee to claim a free vacation prize, you’re looking at a scam. A legitimate company will never ask winners to do that.

2. Use a credit card when traveling

A credit card offers you the most protection in case something goes wrong. You’ll be able to dispute unauthorized charges, and in most cases, reclaim your lost funds

3. Ignore celebrity messages

A direct text from a movie star, singer or athlete asking for money for a charity or claiming you’ve won a prize, but need to pay a processing fee, is a scam.

4. Check for skimmers at the pump

If you’ll be pumping gas in unfamiliar places, check the card reader for skimmers, which can relay your credit or debit card information to a scammer.

To check for a skimmer, try wiggling the card reader; this should dislodge a skimmer if there is one. Next, check to see if the keypad looks newer than the rest of the card reader. Finally, touch the surface of the keypad to see if it’s raised.

5. Research vacation rentals carefully

Before booking a vacation rental, read the reviews of previous guests. If there aren’t any, or they don’t sound authentic, you’re likely looking at a scam. You can also look up the address of the rental to see if it actually exists and if the location matches the description in the listing. Finally, as mentioned above, use a credit card to pay for the stay so you can dispute the charges if it ends up being a scam.

6. Vet potential contractors well

It’s best to only hire contractors you’ve personally reached out to instead of hiring one that comes knocking on your door. Also, before hiring, research a potential contractor carefully, asking for contact info of previous clients, checking out their online presence, and looking up the business on the BBB website. Finally, don’t agree to pay more than a third of the total cost of a job before the work starts.

Stay safe!

Beware Child Tax Credit Scams

Money’s on the way to millions of households, and that means scammers are not far behind! The Child Tax Credit (CTC) taking effect in July will provide monthly payments of up to $300 per child for approximately 40 million households. The payments will provide struggling families with desperately needed funds unless the scammers get to the money first.

Here’s what you need to know about CTC scams and how to avoid them.

How the scams play out

In one variation of the scam, victims receive phone calls, emails, or social media messages appearing to be from the IRS and asking them to authenticate their personal details or share sensitive information to get their CTC funds. Instead of pretending to be the IRS, the scammer may claim to be offering to “help” the victim get their funds. In either scenario, if the victim follows the instructions, they’ll be playing right into the hands of scammers.

In another variation of the scam, victims land on a spoofed government website and are invited to input their personal information. Unfortunately, this can open the door for scammers to pull off identity theft and more.

What you need to know about the Child Tax Credit and the IRS

  • The IRS does not make unsolicited calls or emails. All official communications from the IRS are sent via standard USPS mail.
  • You do not need to take any action or share any personal info to receive the Child Tax Credit.
  • Only the IRS will be issuing the Child Tax Credits. Anyone else claiming to “help” you receive the payments is a scammer.

If you’ve been targeted

If you believe you’ve been targeted by a CTC scam, follow the cardinal rule of personal safety: Never share sensitive data with an unverified source. Triple-check the URL on any IRS webpage you visit, as these are easily spoofed. Finally, report all suspicious activity to the IRS and the FTC.

For additional information on the upcoming Child Tax Credits, to check if you qualify, or to update your dependent or banking information, visit the IRS’s CTC webpage directly at

Stay safe!

College Degree Scams

For many young adults, a college degree is the key to a secure financial future. Unfortunately, though, scammers are offering fake diplomas and bogus degree programs to the unsuspecting college-bound crowd. Here’s what you need to know about college degree scams.

How the scams play out

College degree scams can take on several forms:

  • Diploma mills advertise to attract potential students, claiming they don’t need to do any studying, take exams or even interact with professors to earn their “degree.”
  • Accreditation mills will allegedly provide higher education accreditation to diploma mills. Unfortunately, though, they cannot grant authentic accreditation because they are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) or the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA.)
  • Life experience degrees offer a fully accredited “degree” for work experience alone.

In each of these variations, the victim will only discover that the degree is bogus when they try to use it. It won’t be recognized by reputable employers, can negatively impact a career path even if the victim is already employed and can get the victim into trouble with the law.

 10 signs a college or degree program is bogus

  • The school’s mailing address is a P.O. box.
  • Tuition is billed as a flat rate per degree.
  • The “school” claims you can get your degree in an impossibly short time.
  • You have little to no interaction with the “professors” of the school.
  • The name of the “college” is similar to a well-known legitimate university.
  • The web address doesn’t end in .edu.
  • The school is accredited by an organization that isn’t approved by the USDE or the CHEA.
  • The school does not ask for any form of I.D. upon enrollment.
  • A degree can be earned with minimal effort.
  • The school claims you can earn your degree solely through experience in the workfield.

How can I be sure my degree program is legit?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) suggests taking these steps before enrolling in any college program:

  • Is the school officially accredited? You can verify this by checking for the school or program on College Navigator, and/or looking it up on the USDE and the CHEA If your school or program isn’t listed on these sites, you’re looking at a scam.
  • Ask the registrar of any local community college or state university if they’d accept transfer credits from this institution. If the answer is no, it’s an obvious scam.
  • Contact the state attorney general’s office in the state where the school or program is located to ask if it’s operating legally.

If you’ve been targeted

  • Report scam attempts to the FTC at and to your state attorney general. Let your friends know about the scam, too.
  • Be alert and do your due diligence before signing up for a college or degree program, and stay safe!

Don’t Share Your Grad Photo Online

Congrats  — you did it! You’ve spent years studying for exams, keeping up with your coursework and writing papers. Finally, the finish line is within reach. You’re graduating!

It’s a super-exciting time, and all you want to talk about is your graduation. So when a bunch of your friends are sharing their senior photos and joining graduation contests on Facebook, Instagram or other social media platforms, you think it’s harmless to do it, too. Unfortunately, though, posting a senior portrait with your graduation year and the name of your school on a public platform can mean playing right into a scam.

Here’s what you need to know about grad photo scams and how to play it safe.

How the scams play out

The Better Business Bureau (BBB) is warning graduates not to post their senior pictures on any social media platforms. Scammers, they explain, are using these sites to gather new targets. When they see a grad photo with a graduation year and the name of a school, they can take this information. Since these items are commonly used for security questions, scammers can look up more details about the target or even hack into private accounts. Once they’ve completed this step, they can pull off identity theft and more.

Also, lots of trending post-your-list-of-favorites contests for graduates can be exploited by scammers. In these contests, graduates are asked to share their senior portrait along with a list of favorites, such as their favorite songs or cars they’ve owned. This information can also be unknowingly seen by scammers.

How to stay safe

The BBB shares the following tips to help graduates and others keep safe on social media:

  • Only share your graduate photos privately with friends.
  • Don’t join grad photo contests that compromise your privacy.
  • Review and adjust the security settings on your devices and social media accounts.
  • If you believe you’ve been targeted, consider changing your passwords and security questions.

If you find evidence of fraud, let your credit union know so it can place a fraud alert on your accounts. You’ll also want to report the fraud to the FTC at

Graduation is a super-exciting milestone and you don’t want scammers ruining this special time. Stay safe!

Micro-Deposit Scams

Scammers are always upping their game, and they’ve recently pulled out an old trick: the micro-deposit scam. Unfortunately, too many people have already fallen victim, and we don’t want anyone else getting caught in the trap. To that end, we’ve compiled this guide on micro-deposit scams, how they play out and what you can do if you’re targeted.

What is a micro-deposit?

Before we can explore the actual scam, it’s important to understand how a micro-deposit works.

Micro-deposits are small sums of money that are transferred online from one financial account to another. Their purpose is to verify if the account on the receiving end is actually the account the sender intended to reach. Micro-deposits are generally less than $1 and can be as small as $0.02. They are also typically deposited in pairs; within one to three business days of linking accounts, two micro-deposits should appear in your account.

As mentioned, micro-deposits are primarily used to verify account ownership. For example, if you’d like to link your checking account at Olean Area Federal Credit Union with an investment account, the investment brokerage firm will want to verify it’s sending your dividends to the correct account. Before sending any of your investment earnings, it’ll do a test run by sending a pair of micro-deposits to your checking account. You’ll be notified that the firm has sent these deposits, and asked to verify the amount of the deposit by logging into your newly linked account. Once you’ve completed this step, the brokerage account will withdraw the small amount of money sent through the micro-deposits and proceed with regular deposits of investment dividends, as planned.

How the scam plays out

In this scam, crooks will link brokerage accounts with strings of random numbers, hoping to hit a valid account. When a deposit is verified from an account, they will use additional information about the account holder to withdraw funds in addition to those deposited from the account that was verified. Then take the withdrawn funds as their own.

What to do if you’re targeted

Micro-deposits are small enough to fly under the radar and you may unknowingly verify one with an uninformed click. Here’s what to do if you’ve received a micro-deposit from an unknown source:

  • Don’t verify it. This way, the scammer won’t know they’ve hit an authentic account.
  • Do not click any links embedded in the verification request message or download any attachments.
  • Let us know you’ve been targeted.
  • Report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at so they can do their part in catching the scammers.
  • Let your friends and family know about the circulating scam so they can be on the alert as well.

Scammers are using micro-deposits to gain access to consumer accounts, but Olean Area Federal Credit Union is doing everything possible to stop them before they can do any real damage. Together, we can beat the scammers at their game. Stay safe!

Beware the USPS Smishing Text Scam

Your phone pings, alerting you to a new text. You swipe to find a message from the USPS. It tells you the scheduled delivery for your package has been changed and they want you to click on a link to confirm. Just one click, and it’ll be done.

Stop! Don’t click that link! If you receive a text like this, you are likely looking at a scam. Here’s what you need to know about the USPS smishing text scam.

How the scam plays out

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is warning of an uptick in smishing scams that use the USPS as a cover. If the victim clicks on a link in a message like the one described above, they’ll be downloading malware, giving the scammer access to their device and personal info.

Stay ahead of this scam by knowing this simple fact: The USPS never sends unsolicited text messages about deliveries. You’ll only get a message from them if you’ve signed up for alerts about a package’s delivery. If you haven’t, and you still receive a message about a scheduled delivery change, you’re looking at a scam.

What to do if you’re targeted

  • Confirm the identity of the sender by checking with the USPS if you actually have a delivery schedule change.
  • Don’t reply or click on links.
  • Save a screenshot of the text to share with law enforcement agencies and delete the message.
  • Block the number and update the security on your device.
  • As always, don’t share sensitive information, such as your Social Security number or account details, with an unverified contact.

Report the scam

Do your part to stop the scammers by reporting it to the proper authorities.

First, email a screenshot of the text to Make sure your screenshot shows the number of the sender as well as the date it was sent. You’ll also need to include your name in the email so the team can reach you if necessary, along with any other relevant details about the scam.

You can also report the scam to

Stay alert and stay safe!

Lawn-Care Scams Sprout up in Spring

Spring is here, and lawn-care scams are sprouting like mushrooms after rain. And unlike that brown spot in the grass, they’re not easy to see. Here’s what’s important to know about these scams and how to stay safe.

How the scam plays out

In a typical lawn-care scam, a company will target homeowners with ads, calls and other tactics. They’ll offer to inspect the lawn and provide a free quote for services the lawn requires. When the victim accepts this offer, a date and time will be set for the complimentary inspection.

On the day of the inspection, though, victims arrive home to see a sign posted on their lawn detailing all the work that has already been done on behalf of this company! The victim is billed for the work, and when they protest, the business claims the victim verbally agreed to the services.

This is probably just the beginning of a lawn-care nightmare. The company may continue to send workers to service the victim’s yard, regardless of how many times they say they don’t want or need these services. Failure to pay will prompt the scammer to threaten to call collection agencies. Usually, the victim pays out of fear of having the lawn-care company follow through on their threat.

Sometimes, the scam takes the form of a company doing shoddy work and overcharging for it, not delivering on services or tacking on extra charges and fees without warning.

Avoid getting scammed

Before hiring a lawn-care company, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) recommends taking the following steps:

  • Research the company.Look up the business’s profile on the BBB website or search for its name on the bureau’s list of accredited lawn maintenance companies. Look for any necessary licensing and insurance as well. To avoid signing a “verbal contract,” do not contact a company before doing your research.
  • Ask for a lawn inspection before getting a quote.
  • Get everything in writing.Make sure the contract clearly explains terms of the agreement and for how long it is valid. The contract should also list the quantity, size and types of plants and other materials that will be used by the lawn-care company. Keep a personal copy of anything you sign.
  • Ask for references and pictures of past jobs.  
  • Get specifics on pricing.
  • Ask for receipts for all paid invoices. 

If you’ve been scammed

If you’ve been duped by an unscrupulous lawn-care company, you may have difficulty getting out of contracts or agreements. Report the scam to the FTC  and the BBB. Also contact local law enforcement to ask about suggested next steps.

Don’t get scammed by a lawn-care company! Follow the tips outlined above when hiring a provider and keep your money safe.

Beware the Amazon Watch Raffle Scam

Everyone admires Amazon’s scale, and scammers are no exception. Recently, they’ve been piggybacking on Amazon’s reach and name to pull off a scam that’s already taken in thousands of innocent victims.

Here’s all you need to know about the Amazon watch raffle scam:

How the scam plays out

In the scam, the target receives a text message appearing to be from Amazon and telling them they’ve won an Apple Watch, or a similar prize, such as Airpods or a Garmin Fitness watch.

If the victim clicks on the embedded link, they’ll land on a page asking them to provide their personal information. Alternatively, clicking the link may download malware onto the victim’s device.

Red flags

First, it’s important to note that Amazon will never ask a consumer for their personal information or for remote access to a device.

Second, familiarize yourself with the red flags that can help you spot when you’ve been targeted by an Amazon watch raffle scam or a similar ruse:

  • The text message includes an unusual link.
  • The message promises an instant and/or large reward.
  • The text message urges you to act now.
  • The text appears to be sent from Amazon, but you never signed up to receive text messages from them.

Avoid the scam

Follow these precautions to avoid the Amazon watch raffle scam.

  • Never click on a link sent in a message from an unverified number.
  • If an offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is. If you’re still unsure, call the number to verify if it is legitimate.
  • Never respond to suspicious-looking text messages. Instead, block the number.
  • If you receive a text message that appears to be from Amazon, update the login credentials of your Amazon account. You may want to do a security sweep on your device for viruses and malware if you’ve already clicked on the link.

If you’re still unsure whether a text message has actually been sent by Amazon, you can check out Amazon’s scam information page here to help you verify the authenticity of the message.

Stop the scam

Do your part to stop those scammers by reporting all scam attempts to the FTC and the BBB. You can also warn your friends and family about the circulating scam.

Stay safe!

Watch Out for These Spring Cleaning Scams

As you spruce up your house for spring and summer, watch out for these spring-cleaning scams. Stay safe!

The bait-and-switch scam

How it plays out: You’ll see a commercial advertising super-low rates on a cleaning service, such as four carpeted rooms cleaned for just $29. Because of this great deal, you’ll quickly book a slot for the service. Unfortunately, when the cleaners arrive at your home, they’ll hit you with unexpected fees for vague factors like “high-traffic areas” to bring the price up by several hundred dollars.

Protect yourself: It’s best to avoid services offering prices that are too good to be true. It’s also a good idea to do some research on any new agency you hire to work in your home. Ask specific questions about possible extra charges, and speak to previous customers if you can. If possible, get the terms and pricing of the job in writing before the agency sends workers to your home.

The bogus house-cleaning agency

How it plays out: You hire a house cleaning agency to help spring-clean your home. Unfortunately, the agency is bogus, and the “house cleaners” end up robbing you blind.

Protect yourself: Never allow workers into your home without proper references and research. Check out any agency you want to use online, look up their business on the BBB website and ask for names and numbers of previous clients. It’s best not to leave the house cleaners alone in your home.

Scammy cleaning products

How it plays out: A salesperson knocks on your door offering a “miracle cleaning solution” at a great price. In truth, the solution is nothing more than a mixture of water and hand soap.

Protect yourself: Stick to the cleaning products you always use and be super wary of anyone hawking products you’ve never heard of before.

The pay-up-front scam

How it plays out: A vendor offering cleaning services of any kind demands full, upfront payment via cash or a prepaid debit card or money order. Once they’ve been paid, you’ll never see them or your money again.

Protect yourself: There’s never a good reason to prepay in full for a service or to be forced to pay via cash or with a prepaid debit card or money order.

Don’t Get Caught in an Auto Warranty Scam

Another phone call, another scam. It’s not just you, those robocalls just won’t stop! More than just an annoyance, scam calls cost 56 million Americans a financial loss in 2020. One of the most common scams over the phone is the auto warranty scam. Here’s all you need to know about it:

How the scam plays out

In this ruse, scammers posing as representatives of a car dealership or manufacturer call to tell you that your auto warranty is about to expire. The scammer then goes into a pitch for renewing your warranty. During the call, you may be prompted to press a number to stay on the line, and then you’re asked to provide personal information to continue the process of renewing your warranty. If you follow instructions, you’ll be playing right into a scam.

How to spot a scam

Look out for these red flags:

  • Hello, it’s Robot calling. When it’s a robocall on the line, you’re almost certainly talking to a scammer.
  • Feel the pressure? Scammers notoriously lead victims to act first and think later by claiming their offer is available for a limited time only.
  • Just a small fee … Is the caller demanding a small processing fee before supplying you with real details and information on the plan? If yes, you’re being scammed.

Protect yourself

Some things in life are not meant to be shared, especially your private information. Never share your Social Security number, credit card information or checking account details with an unverified caller.

Be skeptical of mail and phone calls warning that the warranty on your car is about to expire. If you buy a service contract, you may find that the company behind it won’t be in business long enough to fulfill the commitments.

It’s instinct to grab the phone when it rings, but hold off just a moment. First, check the Caller ID. Legitimate telemarketers are required to display their phone number and the name/or phone number of the company they represent. If this information is missing, you’re being phone-tagged by a scammer.

Don’t let an authentic-looking Caller ID fool you, though. Scammers often spoof numbers to make it appear as if they are calling from a legitimate company. If you suspect spoofing, ignore the call, and then call the number of the company that allegedly reached out to you, to ask about the call.

If those robocalls are not letting up, you can always block the number on your phone. That’ll show those scammers!

Stay safe!

How to Spot A Credit Repair Scam

Credit repair scammers tell you they can make credit repair quick and easy. Unfortunately, when they’re done, your score may still be low, you’ll have lost a nice chunk of change and may even be facing criminal charges.

Here are the warning signs of a credit repair scam:

1.       Upfront payment

Under the Credit Repair Organizations Act (CROA), credit repair companies are forbidden to request or receive payment until they’ve completed the services they’ve promised.

2.       Big promises

Scammers may claim they can remove negative information from your credit report, even information that is accurate and current. Don’t believe them; no one can do this. They might also promise to boost your score in just a few weeks. This, too, isn’t true. It takes at least 30 days for changes to be evident on your credit report.

3.       Offers a “new credit identity”

In these scams, companies promise to create a new credit identity for a fee. After you pay, the company will provide you with a nine-digit number. They may refer to this number as a CPN – a credit profile number or a credit privacy number. Alternatively, they may direct you to apply for an EIN – an Employer Identification Number.

The company instructs you to use this form of ID to apply for credit, telling you it is legal. However, it’s not — and you’ve just been scammed. These companies are selling you a stolen SSN. They walk away with your money and leave you in hot water because you’ve just committed multiple federal crimes.

Falling for a credit identity scam could mean facing fines or prison time.

4.       Tells you to dispute accurate information on your credit report

Disputing accurate information on your credit report is illegal.

5.       Evasive when questioned
The Credit Repair Organizations Act made it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about your rights and their services. These companies must explain:
  1. A written contract detailing your legal rights
  2. Your three-day right to cancel the contract without charge
  3. The anticipated time it will take until results are evident
  4. The total cost you will pay for their services
  5. Their guarantee

If you’ve hired a credit repair company that hasn’t lived up to its promise, you can choose to sue the company for your losses in federal court. Along with other victims, you can file a class action lawsuit against the company.

Finally, it’s best to report the scam to your local consumer affairs office or to your state attorney general. You can also file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). File your complaint online at

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