Tag Archives: Credit union

Email links: perhaps I’ve been too alarmist

I have mixed feeling about something I heard about at the credit union recently. It seems that some of our members have taken my advice about links in email messages deeply to heart, to the point that they’re afraid to click a link in any message (even an expected, monthly newsletter from us!).

On one hand, I’m thrilled that some people are listening and learning. The vast majority of the traffic for this site comes from search engines (an unintended result; the original idea was to specifically reach people in our geographic area), so it’s good to know that local folks are getting hip to the fraud prevention tip as well.

On the other hand, perhaps I’m fomenting paranoia and fear with all the dire warnings.

Here’s the deal: if you’re getting a regular email communiqué, such as a monthly electronic newsletter, from a trusted source, it’s okay to use the links contained therein. No scammer is going to go through the trouble of creating a monthly newsletter, with constantly-changing articles about the latest promotions and happenings at a financial institution, and place low-pressure, soft-sell links at the bottom of the page (which is exactly what REGIONAL sends out during the first week of each month).

What you want to be wary of is those unexpected messages that try to jolt you into acting without thinking; “YOUR ACCOUNT HAS BEEN SUSPENDED!” screams the message. “CLICK HERE TO VERIFY YOUR ACCOUNT!”

That’s the stuff you need to avoid—the unexpected, urgent-sounding message that addresses you as “Dear Customer” or “Dead Cardholder” or that contains poor spelling and/or grammar, and that instructs you to verify your personal information. If you’ve got an account at a bank, credit union or creditor, they already have your personal information. If they didn’t, you wouldn’t have an account.

Thank the scammers

Remember the good old days when a cashier’s check was beyond repute?

If somebody paid you with one of these documents, you could take it to your bank or credit union, present it to a teller, and walk away with cash in your pocket. It usually didn’t even matter how large the check was.

Not anymore. At an increasing number of financial institutions, holds are placed on cashier’s checks now, even the ones for moderate amounts. Do you find that annoying or inconvenient?

Thank a con artist. Because of rampant lottery scams, secret shopper scams and advance fee fraud (not to mention people just creating their own fake cashier’s checks and taking them to the bank), many financial institutions no longer treat these items as cash. You’ll have to wait for that check to be verified as legitimate—sometimes five or more days, and possibly even longer for large amounts.

How about ATM deposits?

ATMs were the banking of the future, remember? You could make all your deposits and withdrawals electronically. It didn’t matter if the lobby was open, it didn’t matter if it was the middle of the night; you could do your banking on your time, at your convenience. It was so convenient and futuristic that if you made your deposits at the ATM, you’d get instant availability!

Watch for that to start disappearing, too. We recently stopped taking ATM deposits altogether because of fraud losses. Look for more financial institutions to follow suit, or to at least drastically modify how ATM deposits are handled.

Sure, I’d argue that making ATM deposits available same day was folly on the part of the financial services industry from the get-go, but a lot of people (who weren’t depositing empty envelopes and fraudulent checks) liked this service. It will disappear soon enough. If you find that inconvenient, thank a scammer.

How about that neighborhood bank or credit union you’ve been going to for 20 years? They know you, and they know whom you work for. Your payroll check has come from the same company that whole time (it still looks exactly the same, for that matter). All of a sudden, they tell you there will be a hold on your check.

Why? Because of skyrocketing fraud losses, watch for financial institutions to start treating every customer/member as a stranger, and treating every check like it’s the first time they’ve seen one. Sure, you can get mad and close your account, but you’ll get the same treatment at the place down the street.

Thank a crook for all these inconveniences. They’re the ones who are making it all possible.

I’m sure the financial industry will find a way to restore some services (electronic checks and direct deposit will play a major role). Right now, though, we’re all playing catch-up with the scammers. I always tell you to “stay vigilant,” but that goes for us, too: we have to adapt to the changes, or risk going gentle into that not-so-good night.