Education Is the Key to Protecting Your Members

Fraudsters cost businesses and consumers billions every year, but you can protect your members from becoming victims by educating them on ways they can protect themselves.

The following are common consumer-facing threats that could potentially affect your members:


Ransomware is a type of malware that invades a computer system and prevents users from accessing their data, information or IT systems. It then demands a ransom be paid to allow access. Like other forms of malware, members can be exposed to it from attachments in unsolicited emails or by accessing a compromised website.

Members should review the FBI’s Public Service Announcement on Ransomware that discusses the need for consumers to report ransomware to the FBI through the Internet Crime Complaint Center. The FBI also recommends several defenses, including securing back-up data, avoiding attachments in unsolicited emails and only downloading software from trusted sites.

Phishing, SMishing and Vishing

These terms describe a fraudster’s attempt to trick someone into providing personal or financial information through email, text or over the phone. Fraudsters may also utilize social media sites to solicit personal information. Members should not respond to requests for personal or financial information through email, text or over the phone. Instead, members should contact their credit unions directly, using the contact information provided in official credit union material—not what may have been provided by the fraudster—and verify if the email, text or phone call is legitimate or not.

ATM Skimming

ATM skimming is the term used to describe the fraudulent collection of credit or debit card information and PINs that have been used at an ATM. Primarily, this involves a device placed over the card reader that collects the data stored on the card and a video camera that simultaneously records a customer’s PIN. Members should remain vigilant for any physical changes or suspicious attachments to an ATM. Also, the simple action of covering the keypad while typing a PIN may prevent a fraudster’s video camera from recording it.

Fraudulent Checks and Transfers

Despite the overall decline in check usage, fraudulent checks are still an active arena for fraudsters. These could be associated with purported lottery winnings, work-from-home offers or other targeted scams. In some situations, the fraudster asks the consumer to return a portion of the funds through a wire transfer or other electronic means. Members should be suspicious of any unexpected winnings or cash windfalls. Accepting a check or responding to a money transfer request from an unknown source can lead to financial losses for members.

Compromised Mobile Devices

Fraudsters are increasingly targeting mobile devices to steal consumer information. Members should consider installing anti-malware on their mobile devices and should only download apps from trusted sources to avoid counterfeit or compromised apps. In addition, members should keep their mobile device’s operating system current and update their apps to resolve known vulnerabilities. Further, members should understand the risks of using unsecured or public wireless networks.


The threat landscape is ever changing, and criminals are targeting consumers in a variety of ways. As stated in NCUA’s Letter to Credit Unions, 06-CU-13, “ unions need a program to educate members on fraud prevention. Member education is critical to reduce fraud and identify theft.”

For more information, visit NCUA’s Fraud Prevention Center, which contains additional resources on frauds, identity theft and online security at

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