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Independent Financial is committed to providing you with resources and information to prevent or mitigate fraud. Please read this important information and feel free to contact your local Independent Financial manager if you have any further questions.

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Holiday Shopping Tips

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Many of us associate the end of the year as a time of thanks and giving. However, some believe it's also a time of taking, as Scammers and Criminals are getting into the holiday spirit too. Regardless of what holiday you may celebrate, stay alert this season when shopping online! 

Please keep these tips in mind when shopping online. 

Protecting Against Con Artists

Social Engineering

Social Engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. A type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, it differs from a traditional "con" in that it is often one of many steps in a more complex fraud scheme.

What Does Your Automobile Say About You?

Criminals will “case” the office. Just like a physical robbery, criminals watch and study employee patterns and habits, including observing your automobile. What stickers are on your auto? That Stick Family tells how many kids and maybe even how many pets you have. Do you have the sport decal (baseball, softball, soccer ball) with your child\grandchild’s name on it? Political or Sport Teams decals are just another piece of information to use.

What Does Your Workspace Say About You?

Take a quick look around your desk and office. What information about you can a criminal see to help them commit fraud? Family photos, Awards, Association Memberships, Hobbies and Sports. Think about when a good salesperson comes in your office, how often do they ask about something they see? They want to create a relationship and so do the criminals.

What Does Your Social Media Say About you?

If a criminal gets your business card, what can they learn about you on Social Media? LinkedIn is a quick way to learn about your business relationships. Is your Facebook profile secure, how easily can you be identified if a criminal has your name, information on your kids and other interest? Do you really know who you just “Friended” on Facebook? What other social media sources can the criminal link to in order to gather information?

Web Surfing - "Look Before you Leap"

Think before you click! Hackers will try to gain access to your computer and personal information any way they can. Email may be the most common route, but you can also get tripped-up during a perfectly legitimate web search. Remember before you click, the further you get down the rabbit hole (away from large, identifiable, more trusted websites) the chances increase dramatically that a web link, image file, download button or widget is hiding something very nasty. Don't fall for it!

Intentional Internet Browsing

  • Be cautious of websites you visit, all the time, every time. Any website can be compromised, but you are much safer sticking with established, well-known online stores, news sites, and entertainment portals.
     
  • If it seems too good to be true, it's most likely a scam. There is no free Caribbean cruise waiting for you on the other side. And puppy videos, forget about it.
  • Be sure to check the status bar at the bottom of your browser BEFORE clicking. Learn to "hover over" the link and look in the lower left corner. Read the link (letter by letter) to make sure you are being directed to the intended site and not a fake.
     
  • Most of all, use your best judgement. Independent Financial spends money on digital advertising, just like many other legitimate businesses and community organizations. However, the ads are pushed through trusted and recognizable websites - like weather.com or Yahoo finance. If you end up on a site that just doesn't look or feel "legit," like it might be originating from someone's basement, just don't click it!

Cyber Security

Cybercrimes, including ransomware, phishing and various other scams, are a continual threat to both businesses and individuals. If your organization has fallen behind in upgrading its online and email security, it could become an easy target for cyber criminals. Learn more about Cyber Security here. 

Business Email Compromise (BEC)

Business Email Compromise (BEC) is the loss of control of legitimate email accounts that results in fraud. A fraudster/hacker compromises legitimate email accounts and can then read, delete and send emails using that email account. A fraudster may also send phony emails by spoofing, or creating an email that looks like it originated from a known email account, including internal and company-managed email accounts. Learn More about BEC here.

Federal Tax Refund Fraud Scheme

The Internal Revenue Service is alerting financial institutions to the proper handling of erroneous federal tax refunds resulting from an emerging fraud scheme that could affect thousands of people across the country. 

Financial institutions using external leads process should include the reason the refund is being returned, i.e. refund is not the taxpayer’s.

The IRS identified a scam in which cybercriminals have stolen client data from tax professionals and filed fraudulent refunds using real taxpayer information, including bank account and routing information for Direct Deposit.

The fraudster then contacts the taxpayer posing as an employee of a debt collection agency working on behalf of the IRS. They ask the taxpayer to take certain steps to return the refund, but actually the refund goes to the criminals.

IRS guidance to taxpayers who are victims asks them to contact the Automated Clearing House (ACH) department of the bank/financial institution where the Direct Deposit was received and have them return the refund to the IRS. The IRS also asks the taxpayers to call the agency toll-free at (800) 829-1040 (individual) or (800) 829-4933 (business) to explain why the Direct Deposit is being returned.

Beneficial Ownership

To help the government fight financial crime, federal regulation requires certain financial institutions obtain, verify, and record information about the beneficial owners of legal entity customers. Requiring the disclosure of key individuals who own or control a legal entity (i.e., the beneficial owners) helps law enforcement investigate and prosecute these crimes. Learn more about Beneficial Ownership.

Tax Return Identity Theft

According to the Federal Trade Commission, tax return identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number (SSN) to file a phony tax return and collect your refund. You may not find out it has happened until you try to file your real tax return and the IRS rejects it as a duplicate filing.

IRS imposters are scammers who pretend they’re calling from the IRS. They claim you owe taxes and demand that you pay right now, usually with a gift card or prepaid debit card. They threaten you’ll be arrested or face other bad consequences if you don’t pay. But it’s all a lie. If you send the money, it’s gone.

If you wish to learn more about how you can prevent and respond to tax return identity theft please visit any one of these links:

Identity Theft

If you have been a victim of identity theft, you should take action immediately. Visit IdentityTheft.gov to learn how to submit a report. 

ATM User Precaution

For your own safety please exercise discretion when using an ATM or night deposit facility. Learn more about ATM/night deposit precautions.

Avoid Phishing Scams

Phishing is an email scam involving fraudsters who pretend to be a legitimate business. Hiding behind the anonymity of the internet, they send "official looking" emails or set up bogus websites to trick you into divulging your account numbers, passwords, social security numbers, and other sensitive data. Learn more phishing scams

Fraudulent Email Claiming to Be from the Federal Reserve

Independent Financial has been notified that individuals and/or companies are receiving fraudulent emails that have the appearance of being sent from the Federal Reserve. Specifically, the email claims to be from the Federal Reserve Wire Network and appears to be sent from "[email protected]" View sample email.

We May Be Calling You

To protect your account, we monitor your ATM and debit card transactions for potentially fraudulent activity. If we suspect fraudulent ATM or debit card use, we will call you in order to validate the legitimacy of your transactions. Learn more about why we might call you.

SMiShing — the New Form of Phishing

SMiShing is a type of social engineering that uses cell phone text messages to persuade victims to provide personal information such as card number, CVV2, and PINs. The text messages may contain either a website address or more commonly, a phone number that connects to an automated voice response system, which then asks for personal information. Learn more about SMiShing.

Conducting Your Transactions Online

New technology comes out every day. Unfortunately, fraudsters are quick to take advantage of that technology and YOU! Use emerging technologies...but protect yourself from theft, fraud, and scams. Learn more about conducting transactions online.

Corporate Account Takeover & Information Security Awareness

Corporate Account Takeover is a fast-growing electronic crime where thieves typically use some form of Malware (malicious software) to obtain login credentials to the Corporate Online Banking accounts and fraudulently transfer funds from the Accounts. Read more about CATO and information security awareness.

Resources for Seniors 

Today, consumers rely heavily on technology to manage their finances and take advantage of services available through online merchants. As we continue to accept and embrace new technology, our banking and shopping habits change. Naturally and unfortunately, so do the methods used by others to carry out their illegal activities.

Therefore, it is critical that we maintain awareness and the skills necessary to properly identify, understand and protect ourselves from fraud. We also believe it is important that our customers make informed, sensible decisions regarding their independence and lifestyle. 

As a courtesy, we are providing web links to various resources. While some sites may focus on our seniors, there is sound advice for people of all ages.

Consumer Financial Protection Bureau

Resources to help protect older adults from fraud and financial exploitation.

ElderCare Services

Support for older adults and their families.

Colorado Department of Human Services

Services for older Coloradans to help ensure their well-being, dignity and choice. 

Colorado Adult Protective Services

Services for the safety and protection of at-risk adults who live in our community.

Texas Health and Human Services           

Services for older Texans to help ensure their well-being, dignity and choice.

Texas Department of Family and Protective Services (APS)

Services for the safety and protection of at-risk adults who live in our community. 

U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission

Whether you are nearing — or already enjoy — retirement, it pays to stay on top of your finances.

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