Don’t Let Scammers Scrooge Your Holiday

Tuesday, October 10 at 01:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance
Shoppers looking for a good deal this holiday season should also be aware of increasingly aggressive and creative scams designed by criminals to steal money and personal information. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) 2016 Internet Crime Report, the IC3 received a total of 298,728 complaints with reported losses in excess of $1.3 billion in 2016.  This past year, the top three crime types reported by victims were non-payment and non-delivery, personal data breaches, and payment scams. The FBI wants shoppers to be extra vigilant of the following schemes and red flags.
 
Online Shopping Scams: If a deal looks too good to be true, it probably is. Steer clear of unfamiliar sites offering unrealistic discounts on brand name merchandise or gift cards as an incentive to purchase a product, as you may end up paying for an item, giving away personal information, and receive nothing in return except a compromised identity. In addition, do not open any unsolicited e-mails or click on the links provided. Before shopping online, secure all bank and credit accounts with strong and different passwords. The same should be done for airline and rewards accounts, because the emergence of these offerings has led to an increase in the demand for and resale value of stolen information.
 
Social Media Scams: Beware of posts on social media sites that appear to offer vouchers or gift cards, even if it appears the offer was shared by an online friend. Some may pose as holiday promotions or contests that lead to participation in an online survey designed to steal personal information. In addition, do not post photos of event tickets on social media sites as fraudsters can use the barcode to recreate tickets for resale.
 
Craigslist Scams: Websites like Craigslist or eBay are especially popular during the holiday season, as people look for bargains or sell unneeded items for cash. Take steps to protect yourself by recognizing scams. Most scams attempts involve one or more of the following (source: https://www.craigslist.org/about/scams*):
  • Email or text from someone that is not local to your area.
  • Vague initial inquiry, e.g. asking about "the item." Poor grammar/spelling.
  • Western Union, Money Gram, cashier check, money order, Paypal, shipping, escrow service, or a "guarantee."
  • Inability or refusal to meet face-to-face to complete the transaction.
  • Requests for personal financial info (bank account, social security, Paypal account, etc.).
Smartphone App Scams: Some apps, often disguised as games and offered for free, may be designed to steal personal information from your device. Before downloading an app from an unknown source, look for third-party reviews and be mindful that alternative app marketplaces can potentially include stolen content and compromised versions of otherwise trustworthy applications.

Work-From-Home Scams: Beware of postings offering work that can be done from the comfort of home, as these opportunities may have unscrupulous motivations behind them. Take caution when money is required up front for instructions or products, or when a job post claims “no experience necessary.” Carefully research individuals or companies before providing them with personal information and never provide personal information when first interacting with a potential employer.
 
Additional steps to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
  • Check bank and credit card statements routinely, including immediately after making an online purchase and weeks following the holiday season.
  • Only purchase merchandise from a reputable source.
  • Don’t trust a website to be secure just because it claims to be.
  • Do not respond to spam e-mails or click on links contained within them.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in e-mails that ask for personal information.
  • Be cautious of all e-mail attachments and scan them for viruses before opening.
  • Verify requests for personal information from businesses or financial institutions by contacting them using the main contact information on their official website.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
How to report fraud: Consumers who suspect they’ve been victimized should immediately contact their financial institution and then law enforcement. Arvest customers with concerns about their accounts can report fraud by emailing reportfraud@arvest.com.
 
They are also encouraged to file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (www.ic3.gov*) regardless of dollar amount lost, and provide all relevant information regarding the complaint.
 
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.
 
 

 

Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education, Privacy and Security, Technology
 

Equifax Breach: What you need to know

Friday, September 08 at 01:00 PM
Category: Arvest News
On September 7, 2017, Equifax, a U.S.-based consumer credit reporting agency, announced a cybersecurity incident they say affected approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. This event did not involve Arvest banking systems, and Arvest does not currently have access to the list of our customers potentially impacted. At Arvest Bank, our teams continually monitor customer accounts for fraudulent activity. If unusual activity is observed and action is required, we will contact our customers.
 
Equifax is offering a website—www.equifaxsecurity2017.com*—where you can check whether you are one of the people whose data may have been compromised. In addition to this site, Equifax says they will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or documents with personal identifying information were impacted. Additionally, Equifax has established a dedicated call center to assist consumers. The call center is open seven days a week, from 6 a.m.-midnight Central. The call center number is (866) 447-7559. In the event any Arvest cards are determined to have been exposed by Equifax, we will contact those customers with next steps.
 
The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has a blog on its website – www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog* -- in which it explains what consumers should do to help protect their information from being misused.
 
The FTC blog also shares the following steps consumers can take to help protect themselves after a data breach: 
  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – for free – by visiting annualcreditreport.com*. Accounts or activity that you don’t recognize could indicate identity theft. Visit IdentityTheft.gov* to find out what to do.
  • Consider placing a credit freeze on your files. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name. Keep in mind that a credit freeze won’t prevent a thief from making charges to your existing accounts.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts closely for charges you don’t recognize.
  •  If you decide against a credit freeze, consider placing a fraud alert on your files. A fraud alert warns creditors that you may be an identity theft victim and that they should verify that anyone seeking credit in your name really is you.
  • File your taxes early – as soon as you have the tax information you need – before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job. Respond right away to letters from the IRS. 
Visit IdentityTheft.gov/databreach* to learn more about protecting yourself after a data breach. 
 
Arvest takes your privacy and security seriously. To report Identity theft or financial fraud, please contact Customer Service immediately at (866) 952-9523. To report suspicious email messages, phone calls or text messages, please forward the message, or send a description of the call, to reportfraud@arvest.com. To report a lost or stolen card, please contact Customer Service or use our Contact Us page: https://www.arvest.com/contact/banking. To learn more, please visit https://www.arvest.com/about/privacy-and-security
 
As a reminder, Arvest offers IDProtect® as a value added feature of the following checking accounts; myBlue, Arvest Club and Preferred Club. 
 
If you are currently a customer in one of these accounts, you have the option to register for Credit File Monitoring and Total Identity Monitoring. Credit File Monitoring provides daily monitoring of your credit file and provides automated alerts of key changes to your Experian, Equifax and TransUnion credit reports. Total Identity Monitoring provides monitoring for over 1,000 databases including credit, Social Security, public records, real property records, telephone and many others. Registration and activation is required to obtain Credit File Monitoring and Total Identity Monitoring. You can register and activate Credit File Monitoring and Total Identity Monitoring by going to www.IDProtectMe247.com*.
 
Click here to learn more about the features and benefits of IDProtect®.
 
 
Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

 

Tags: Consumer Protection
 

What is Financial Malware and How to Protect Yourself

Tuesday, July 18 at 11:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

What is Financial Malware?

Everywhere you turn today you seem to be bombarded with news coverage concerning the urgency of combating cybercrime, bad actors and hackers. There are many variations of malicious software, or “malware,” but financial malware, as its name implies is written specifically to commit financial fraud.

Cybercriminals use a variety of methods to infect their victims with malware including sending them email messages containing infected attachments or links to infected websites.

Once the victim is infected, the malware monitors the victim’s activity and may steal online banking credentials and other personal information using keystroke logging or screen shots images. 

In some cases, hackers may use the victim’s own web browser to collect sensitive information (e.g., the victim's PIN) by adding extra fields to legitimate online forms or by changing website wording and messaging, or by triggering legitimate-looking pop-up forms in real-time.

Financial malware may redirect the victim to a fake website designed to mimic a legitimate bank website. As the victim enters their credentials, the malware then redirects them into the legitimate site, potentially triggering a SMS or other second-factor authentication code that the Trojan can then capture via the fake website.

How to Protect Yourself
 
Most threats still need user interaction to infect a potential victim’s system. For this reason, becoming aware of these threats and diligently taking extra precautions can significantly reduce the risk of becoming a victim of cybercrime.  
 
  • Keep your operating system, web browser and other software up to date.
     
  • Make sure your computer has both an anti-spyware protection program that detects and removes spyware and an anti-virus program. Keep both programs updated. Scan your computer for viruses and spyware on a regular basis.
     
  • Be very protective of your personal account information. There are criminals who try to trick you by creating sites that look similar to real sites. The best way to know who you are dealing with is to type the address in your browser address bar; don’t click on a link that’s provided to you via email.
     
  • Do not open attachments in email messages if you do not know the sender or weren’t expecting the message. Attachments can contain viruses and spyware.
     
  • Avoid logging into password protected websites, such as online banking or email services from public computers. Instead, use trusted or secured networks.
     
  • Avoid downloading apps to your mobile phone from unofficial stores and pay attention to the permissions requested by apps before their installation.
     
  • Always sign off from sessions and close your browser after using password protected websites. 
     
  • Avoid using unencrypted email to conduct financial transactions or send sensitive information.
     
  • If you suspect your computer may be infected or that your online banking credentials may have been compromised, contact your bank and change your password from a different trusted computer. Contact a computer security professional for assistance in removing malicious software.
     
  • Regularly review your bank account activity and immediately notify your bank if you notice suspicious transactions in your account.
Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education, Privacy and Security, Technology
 

Disaster Preparedness Includes Safeguarding Financial Information

Monday, May 01 at 08:30 AM
Category: Personal Finance
April showers may bring May flowers, but unfortunately, spring also can bring severe weather that results in disasters like floods, fires and tornadoes.

And while no one wants to think they will be the victim of such a disaster, it’s best to be prepared. Having access to financial and other documents should be part of that preparation.
 
Below is a list that can serve as a good starting place when it comes to the documents you may need if you’re the victim of a natural disaster.
 
Note: It is imperative to store this information somewhere secure. That could be at home in a fireproof and waterproof box, at a bank in a safe deposit box, or maybe electronically in a secure cloud-based service. If you choose to store these documents at home, be sure to hide it somewhere out of sight of would-be intruders.

Basic identification – These are documents that can help you identify yourself and your family, your relationships and/or your status.
  • Driver’s license, passport, Social Security card, green card
  • Vital records such as birth and marriage certificates, adoption papers, etc.
Financial and legal documents – These can help you request assistance from your insurance provider and/or disaster assistance programs.
  • Mortgage documentation, rental or lease agreement, property deed
  • Checking and/or savings account statements, retirement and investment account statements, tax returns, insurance policies, will or trust, power of attorney
  • Vehicle title and registration, loan documents
Medical information
  • Health and dental insurance cards
  • List of prescriptions and any allergies, pharmacy information, contact information for doctors
  • Living will, medical power of attorney
Emergency contact information
  • Employers/supervisors
  • Schools
  • Home repair services such as utilities, plumber, electrician, roofer, etc.
Again, once you have compiled this information, it is critical to store it securely. Whether that’s at home in a fireproof and waterproof box, at a bank in a safe deposit box, or electronically in a secure cloud-based service, it needs to be in a place that’s accessible only to you and hidden from would-be thieves.
 
Regardless of the means you choose, no one wants to envision a scenario in which they need to access this kind of information due to a natural disaster. Being prepared, however, can provide some measure of comfort. 

Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education
 

Q&A with Amber Mascuilli with River Valley Food 4 Kids for 1 Million Meals

Wednesday, April 26 at 06:05 AM
Category: Arvest Community News

For three years River Valley Food 4 Kids* has been helping children in Pope County in Arkansas. It’s a pleasure to partner with them for our seventh annual 1 Million Meals initiative to raise one million meals for the children, elderly and others in need across the 120+ communities we serve. 

To learn more about River Valley Food 4 Kids, we did a Q&A with Russellville High School teacher, Amber Mascuilli. 

What’s your involvement with River Valley Food 4 Kids, and how did you get started?
The Russellville High School has been maintaining a food pantry for our high-need students since the fall of 2012. Originally we were almost completely stocked with Rice Depot food and donations from teachers and students, but once Rice Depot became financially stressed, our program nearly went under. River Valley Food 4 Kids’ involvement in the school food pantry became a pivotal partner in our success. When they discovered the Russellville Schools, and several surrounding schools, were in dire need, River Valley Food 4 Kids jumped in and immediately made us a priority. 

We have seen the number of kids served at the high school grow each year, and this year we are regularly serving 40-44 students each week, not to mention providing snacks in classrooms where many students spend their day. It is a huge undertaking to make sure these kids choose to stay in school to get their diploma which will serve them in their future, rather than dropping out to have enough to eat. River Valley Food 4 Kids positively impacts these kids’ lives far beyond full bellies – they are facilitating their learning.

What’s a compelling experience you’ve had during your time with River Valley Food 4 Kids? 
I had assigned a summary of an article for my students to work on, and they had time over the long Labor Day weekend to complete it. One of my students did poorly on it, and she came up to me after class apologizing for her poor grade. She had apparently had no food in the house over the weekend, and found a bag of sugar in the cabinet. She drank sugar water all weekend. Long weekend, with no food, and the equivalent of nectar to sustain her. Her father had not paid the child support, and her mother was trying desperately to save the house. Through River Valley Food 4 Kids, I was able to load her up with food over the next few days, and keep her in food throughout the year. This organization changes lives. It gives hope. It supports those who want more for themselves than the hand they were dealt.

How can people get involved with River Valley Food 4 Kids? 
Of course donations are greatly appreciated and super simple through River Valley Food 4 Kids’ website*, but because they are very local, you can actually be involved in sorting, packing and delivering food to the schools. During the summer, you can help pack boxes for families who come to pick up food for their kids in our community. This organization thrives on community support, and those who are involved are rewarded with knowing kids aren’t going to bed hungry.

We’d love to have you involved in our 1 Million Meals initiative to help River Valley Food 4 Kids* and our other food partners.  

Four Easy Ways to Donate:
  • Donate via Phone – Customers can make a $1 (or more) donation by calling (866) 952-9523. Funds will be drawn directly from your Arvest account.
  • Donate via Mail – Mail a check to Arvest Bank Operations, ATTN: 1MM, P.O. Box 799, Lowell, AR 72745. Include 1 Million Meals in the memo line of the check.
  • Donate in a Branch – Stop by your local Arvest Bank branch. Cash and check contributions accepted.
  • Donate Arvest Flex Rewards™ – Customers can redeem points for a 1 Million Meals donation. Log in at arvestflexrewards.com, and click on the banner for 1 Million Meals to get started!
We’ll Donate $1 Each Time You:
  • Follow us on Instagram.
  • Like or share our 1 Million Meals Facebook posts.
  • Retweet our 1 Million Meals tweets on Twitter on April 21 and May 10.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.     

Tags: 1 Million Meals, Arkansas, Charitable Giving, Consumer Protection, Fort Smith

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