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Beat the Fraudster’s Playbook: How to Protect Yourself Against Fraud

Fraud is on the rise. With 16.7 million consumers falling victim to identity theft or fraud in 2017, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, anyone can be exploited by fraudsters, who can and will resort to a substantial book of tricks to steal information. But what are those tricks, and how can you be prepared? Learning more about those tricks will help you spot a scam, protect yourself, and take action should you become the target.

Stay Informed

Arming yourself with information is a key way to help protect your identity and assets. First, understand the techniques of fraudsters or hackers, who are looking to obtain sensitive information for personal or financial gain.

A fraudster is likely to do the following:


They will try to isolate you and move your situation to a place they feel more comfortable with to exploit you, like correspondence via phone calls or emails instead of official apps or programs. Once they have you there, they’ll look to gain sensitive information through smart questioning.


Fraudsters will try to speed you up in hopes that you’ll make a hasty decision. They’ll use language such as “right away” or “today only” to convince you that by providing personal information immediately, you can avoid a troublesome situation. They don’t want you to have time to think so that you make a wrong decision in response to hearing a “compromised debit card” or another scam.

Pretend to Help

Scam artists will use phrases like, “help” and “get this fixed” while telling you how valuable of a customer you are. They’ll want to act like a trusted friend, encouraging you to share sensitive information

Target Elderly

Scammers will take the easy approach whenever it’s available to them, often targeting the elderly. According to a report from the National Adult Protective Services Association, one in 20 older adults indicated some form of perceived financial mistreatment occurring in the recent past. The elderly population often relies on others for support. That provides an opportunity for bad actors—including their family members—to exploit them and their financials. However, it’s that same support that could lead to help. If you suspect an elder is being mistreated financially, you should contact Adult Protective Services.

Target Young

Fraud is not just a problem for adults. More than 1 million children—or 1.48 percent of minors—were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017, according to a new report from Javelin Strategy & Research. Children pose a unique opportunity for fraudsters because children’s financial history is a blank slate. There are no credit lines, and possibly no accounts opened at all. Fraudsters will try to capitalize by stealing children’s personal information and using it to open accounts, doing their damage before someone notices. Be careful not to overshare your child’s personal, financial, or medical information. Some places requesting certain information may not actually need the information they are requesting. Plus, you should regularly monitor your child’s credit score. In some cases, the presence of a credit score could indicate fraudulent activity.


Finally, fraudsters are good at solving puzzles. They’ll take pieces of information about your life, connect them together so they can impersonate you to create new accounts, access to your financial information, or execute other forms of fraud.

Protect Yourself

How can you protect yourself? First, understand that you’re never alone. Most official organizations, such as ESL Federal Credit Union or the IRS, will never ask for sensitive information via the phone or over email. If someone approaches you in that matter, do not share that information and don’t be afraid to call our fraud department to discuss.

If someone does reach out to you asking for sensitive information hang up. Do NOT provide any personal information. If the caller is posing as someone from your financial institution, then contact your financial institution using a legitimate and trusted telephone number or email and ask them to verify the request for your information or report the fraud. You also can visit the Federal Trade Commission if you believe fraud has occurred. And in the case of elder fraud, many state governments have adult protective services that can help if you believe someone is taking advantage of an elderly person.

Remember, no matter how good a friend someone is, they don’t need your social security number. They don’t need your driver’s license number. They probably don’t even need your birthday. (And if they’re a true friend, they should already know that, right?)

Stay Diligent

In addition, there are active ways you can protect yourself from fraudsters and hackers

  • Keep passwords or pass phrases at least 12 characters, with a mix of numbers, special characters, and upper/lowercase letters.
  • Change your passwords frequently.
  • Don’t use common things (your birthday, home address, your spouse’s name) as part of any password.
  • Don’t leave your ID in a vulnerable place, such as an unlocked car or near the entrance of your home.
  • Don’t do any sensitive transactions over public WiFi.

Additional Resources for Fraud Prevention: