Scams to watch for in the new year

Fraud, audit, auditor.

While a new year brings a fresh start, unfortunately there are more scams to keep watch out for as we jump into 2021.

With the pandemic still raging on, many scams as a result of COVID-19 continue to pop up, including fraudulent unemployment claims. In these instances of fraud, scammers are using the IDs of individuals to apply for unemployment. To make their case, scammers claim that the employer is someone the victim of identity theft is currently working for or recently retired from.

According to Ryan Jones, OVB senior vice president, chief risk officer, these claims have impacted individuals and businesses nation-wide, including those locally.

“Fraud and scams continue to be on the rise during the pandemic. OVB, as well as other businesses, have seen examples where fraudulent unemployment claims are being attempted at both small and large businesses,” Jones said. “If one is a victim to a fraudulent unemployment claim, we suggest you contact Job and Family Services Fraud Department and your local police department to report the activity.”

Jones added that there are various methods scammers use to track down consumer personal information for the unemployment claim scam.

“Every consumer needs to be aware of the various methods used to obtain personal information through social media platforms, emails and phone calls. Do not provide any personal information to someone who contacted you ‘out of the blue.’ If you question the conversation, do a call back before you give any information out over the phone or email,” he said.

For more information on fraudulent unemployment claims, please read OVB’s fraud advisory here.

According to Frank Davison, OVB senior vice president, financial bank group, there are many other scams to be aware of as well. The many scams that saw an increase last year, will likely still be very prevalent this year.

“It’s safe to assume that (the top scams from 2020) will continue into 2021, and we will see some new variants pop up as well,” Davison said.

Davison outlined the following scams as the major ones to be mindful of this year: Read more of this post

Shop safely, securely this holiday season

Senior couple shopping online at Christmas

Now that December has arrived, it’s officially crunch time to get your holiday shopping done. Picking out the perfect present for loved ones can be both stressful and exciting.

Unfortunately, the holiday shopping season increases the risk of fraud. With online shopping more prevalent than usual this year, there is an even larger risk. However, if you are prepared and know what to watch for, you can keep your accounts and information protected from naughty Grinches.

According to OVB’s Frank Davison, Senior Vice President, Financial Bank Group, one of the common shopping risks to watch for is e-skimming. While credit card skimming has been an occurrence for years, the physical skimmer device has now entered the virtual environment. Sometimes referred to as web skimming, e-skimming targets online shoppers by injecting a code into the compromised site, which then collects and sends the shopper’s data to a cybercriminal resource. The goal is to gain access to shoppers’ account information. While this method of stealing information has been around since 2016, the recent increased reliance on technology has intensified cases.

Although nothing can 100 percent protect you from e-skimming, there are measures that can lower the risk. Davison recommends keeping your device software updated as well as creating both strong and unique passwords for all systems.

Additional tips to keep your financial information secure include the following: Read more of this post

Cybersecurity 101 with OVB’s Frank Davison

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When we think of October thoughts of pumpkins, ghosts and fall foliage come to mind. But did you know that October also is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?

Ohio Valley Bank is proud to be an official champion for Cybersecurity Awareness Month. With so many Americans relying on technology now more than ever, being aware of cyber risks is essential for both personal and business online usage. Understanding what cybersecurity is and how you can protect yourself is the first line of defense.

OVB’s Frank Davison, Senior Vice President, Financial Bank Group, continually strives to educate the bank’s team of community bankers on the importance of knowing what cybersecurity is as well as being aware of potential risks. Davison stressed that it is vital for anyone who uses the internet to understand cybersecurity.

“Anyone that is accessing online services should have a base understanding of how to guard against (cyber) attacks and what you are protecting,” Davison said. “Various companies record everything you do online. Not one company has everything – you should not expect privacy online.” Read more of this post

Protect your finances with travel tips

2020 Travel TipsSummer is officially here. As the days are longer and the weather warmer, many folks are preparing for their annual summer vacation. While travel is an exciting time, it can pose a risk to your finances.

When planning for out of state travel it is important to cover all your bases, including your bank accounts. It is true that paying with debit and credit cards offer more security on larger purchases compared to cash only. This is because both debit and credit cards offer protections, such as zero-liability for fraud charges. Having this protection in place can ease anxiety and offer peace of mind while traveling. Read more of this post

Protect yourself from COVID-19 scams

The world continues to rapidly change as we learn more about the repercussions of the COVID-19 virus. Health and safety of our communities continues to be our top priority. Unfortunately, COVID-19 has also caused more cases of scam and fraud.

From phishing scams to fraudulent phone calls and fake charities, there are many ways criminals are working to get your personal and financial information. OVB BSA Officer Barb Patrick urges folks to be aware of all potential scams and to report any suspected fraud immediately.

“Report all fraud to the Federal Trade Commission (www.ftc.gov/complaint) and your local bank,” she said.

If you believe you are a victim of fraud involving COVID-19, additional outlets to report to include the National Center for Disaster Fraud Hotline at 866-720-5721 or via email at disaster@leo.gov. Cyber scam complaints may also be submitted through http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.

According to Patrick, people should be particularly aware of COVID-19 related phishing scams, which can come via email and text. Phishing emails, for example, may ask you to verify your personal information in order to receive an economic stimulus check from the government. While talk of economic stimulus checks has been in the media, government agencies are not sending unsolicited emails that seek your private information in order to send money. The emails might be designed to look like they are from the United States Centers for Disease Control (CDC). Beware of emails that might even falsely claim a link to a list of COVID-19 cases in your area.

According to the FBI, phishing emails may claim to be related to charitable contributions; general financial relief; airline carrier refunds; fake cures and vaccines; and fake testing kits. Other emails might even come in the form of workplace policy. For example, some cyber criminals have targeted workplace email accounts, which could prompt you to click a link to a fake company policy thus prompting the download of malicious software. Therefore, it is important that companies and individuals have up-to-date virus protection software installed on their devices. Follow these recommendations to avoid falling victim to phishing emails:

  • Verify email address or link. Inspect links by hovering your computer mouse button over the URL to see where it leads. It might be obvious that the website is not legitimate. However, cyber criminals are more than capable of creating links that closely resemble legitimate sources. Delete the email immediately.
  • Be wary of online requests for personal information. For example, a COVID-19 email that prompts you to enter your Social Security Number or login information is a scam. Government agencies will not ask for this information. Do not respond to any emails with your personal data.
  • Avoid emails that insist on urgency. Many phishing emails are written to create a sense of urgency, which is a major red flag. These emails are designed to demand immediate action, with the goal being to get you to enter your personal information.
  • Check for grammar and spelling errors. If an email contains grammatical errors as well as misspelled words, chances are it is a phishing email.
  • Keep an eye out for generic greetings. Phishing emails are unlikely to use your name. Generic greetings, such as “Dear sir or madam” are likely not legitimate.

According to the United States Department of Justice, other COVID-19 scams to watch out for include the following:

  • Individuals and Businesses selling fake cures for COVID-19 online or engaging in other forms of fraud.
  • Malicious websites and apps that appear to share virus-related information that gain and lock access to your devices until payment is received.
  • Seeking donations fraudulently for illegitimate or non-existent charitable organizations.

To combat additional COVID-19 scams, the Federal Trade Commission encourages people to hang up on all robocalls. The FTC also says to ignore all online offers that advertise vaccinations and home test kits. Currently, there are no vaccines and/or pills available to treat COVID-19 in stores or online. In addition, there are no FDA-authorized home test kits available.

The importance of fact-checking information you encounter regarding COVID-19 is essential. Scammers and even your friends, who mean well, may share information about the virus that has not been verified. Visit www.cdc.gov and www.coronavirus.gov for valid COVID-19 information. Should you need additional guidance, contact your primary care physician.

By staying vigilant and aware of COVID-19 scams, we can work together to keep our communities and loved ones safe.

 

 

 

7 Tips For Banking Safely On Your Smartphone

I bet it would fit in MC Hammer's pocket as-is.

I bet it would fit in MC Hammer’s pocket as-is.

Our smartphones today make the computers of yesteryear look like children’s toys.

Their average processing power, storage capacity, functionality, and (of course) portability would astonish early computer developers. From Angry Birds to Instagram, to Gmail and Skype, our phones do it all these days.

The advent of online banking in the mid 1990’s took the logical leap to our mobile devices as well. Who wouldn’t want the convenience of checking their balance or paying a bill from the palm of their hand?

However, as with any new technology there arises the potential for abuse. Many of the same techniques used by hackers and cyber-criminals to steal information from your personal computer are being used to do the same to your smartphone. Thankfully, just as there are many ways to safeguard your home computer, your smartphone has a great deal of options for security too:

  1. Use Passwords/PINs. All of the major smartphone operating systems offer the option to lock your phone until you put in a PIN, a gesture combination, or some form of password. This option should be one of the first things that you do once your new phone has been activated. Make sure that the PIN you choose is not something easy to guess. 1234 for example is a pretty common choice. Also make sure that you do not choose a PIN or gesture combination just because it is easy to input. Many people will choose one that is easy to input in a flash. These gestures are easy to guess as well because of their ease-of-use.
  2. Set Your Phone to “Time-Out” Sooner. The number one battery drain on our smartphones these days are our ultra-sharp, pixel dense, high-definition screens. So by setting your phone’s screen to time-out after a minute or so of inactivity is a smart move for saving your battery life, but it also has added security benefits. Should you set your phone down and walk off without it (an all too common occurrence) anyone who happens upon it will have access to your phone’s contents. However, if you set your phone’s screen to time-out after a minute or so of inactivity, and have activated a password feature on your phone (see above) then anyone picking up your phone will need to have the password to access it. Some of you may think it is such as hassle to have to slide your screen open every time you get a text, but think of the hassle it will be to have to reclaim your credit score from fraudulent charges because someone stole your phone and was able to easily access your information. Which seems worse?
  3. Find My Phone. One great way to safeguard your smartphone’s data is to never let it out of your sight, but how realistic is that? As mentioned above, the frequency with which people will set down their phones and walk off without them is astounding. (Just ask any waiter or bartender.) Thankfully smartphones today come equipped with the latest and greatest bells and whistles, like GPS. Using the functionality already found on your smartphone you can easily locate your phone should it be misplaced or stolen. iPhones use the app Find My Phone; while Android phones have many options in the Google Play Store, the app Where’s My Droid seems to be the most popular; Windows Phone is perhaps the simplest of all since it requires no app to download and no setting to turn on, just go to this page on WindowsPhone.com and follow the instructions.
  4. Update. Update. Update. Keep your phone up-to-date by installing your operating system and app updates, as well as your phone manufacturer’s firmware updates. When a loophole or security breach is discovered in an app or your phone’s OS, the fix is sent out in the form of an update. Make checking your phone for updates part of your daily routine. It only takes a few moments, and that is a lot less than you could spend if your personal information gets hijacked.
  5. Consider Antivirus Apps. Well known antivirus makers like AVG, McAfee, Symantec, and more have made their antivirus software in app form for your mobile devices. There are free ones, paid ones, some might even come bundled with the antivirus software you purchased for your desktop. If you think of your smartphone as a tiny, handheld computer (which it is) then you realize that antivirus apps make a lot of sense.
  6. Be Wary of Open WiFi Networks. Free WiFi is like a godsend if you don’t have an unlimited data plan or if you’re in an area with poor cell reception. How else are you going to share your beautifully cropped, eloquently filtered piece of art that was the cappuccino and Panini you had for lunch? Seriously, I’d like to know because I’ve been there. Well, an unfamiliar WiFi network is a prime way for an unscrupulous individual to grab your data and information, or send some piece of malware your way. If you don’t know who is in control of the WiFi you are about to connect to then it’s probably best to just let it go until you get back to more familiar territory.
  7. Use Bluetooth with Caution. Like WiFi, open Bluetooth connections are a great way for hackers and identity thieves to grab control of your device and its data. This even has its own fun-sounding name: bluesnarfing. However there is nothing fun about what this entails. By connecting to your device’s Bluetooth connection, one is able to retrieve information from your phone or send harmful programs to it. Thankfully today’s Bluetooth protocols have made this more and more difficult for people to pull off but that doesn’t mean you should let your guard down. Simply turning off your Bluetooth connection when you’re not using your Bluetooth-enabled headset or other devices will help minimize this risk.

Our smartphones are amazing things. The handheld communicators of Star Trek are in our pockets and purses today, but they do so much more!

Captain James T. Kirk

“Spock…can you…hear me…now?”

With a plethora of apps it’s easy to carry your virtual life in your phone. To paraphrase Spider-Man’s Uncle Ben: “With great convenience comes great responsibility.” Using your smartphone to do your banking is a perfect way to save time and energy, just be certain that you take the proper precautions.

Now excuse me, today’s the day I finally get past level 147 on Candy Crush Saga.

 

Have you ever used your smartphone for banking or to make purchase? If you have any extra security tips to share please do so in the comments below!

Spring Cleaning Your Finances

Housewife holding bucket with cleaning equipment

Here in the Ohio River valley spring is in the air. It’s time to start thinking about cookouts, walks in the park, gardening, and…spring cleaning. It’s always struck me as a little odd how spring cleaning became a thing. If we spend the whole winter cooped up in our homes why don’t we just clean them then? I mean you’re stuck indoors so  But I digress. Spring is a time of renewal, and with it comes a renewed determination to clean up our homes and lives. Spring cleaning doesn’t (and shouldn’t) just apply to your home. It also applies to any other part of your life that might be a bit messy, including your finances. So let’s take a look at a few reasons why getting our financial houses in order this spring can be a big boost…

  1. Being Organized Saves You Time & Trouble. Do you have a drawer stuffed with receipts? Is your desk swamped with paperwork? Set aside some time to specifically file and organize your financial documents; whether this means putting them in a filing cabinet, using binder clips, color-coded tab folders, or whatever you like is up to you. Whatever works best. You will soon find that having your finances organized neatly and orderly will make going over them far less daunting.
  2. Your Financial Awareness Will Increase. During the process of organizing and filing you will get a good idea of where you stand financially. This is a great time for review and reflection on the services you pay for, and a great time to trim some of the fat from your expenses.
  3. Going Paperless Saves. While you’re getting organized you can take it one step further by taking your financial life digital. Having your statements delivered to your email and paying bills online not only saves paper waste, but it saves you time, effort, and money spent on postage. The convenience this provides you will make you wonder why you didn’t do it sooner.
  4. Being Organized Can Help Keep You Safe. Organizing all of your financial documents helps you know where they are, what information they contain, and what you can get rid of. Your financial documents likely contain sensitive, personal information that identity thieves would love to get their hands on. Use this as an opportunity to shred some of the old documents you don’t need anymore before tossing them out.
  5. Less Chaos & Clutter Can Relieve Stress. Studies have shown that being organized can help one feel more relaxed and increase peace of mind. The ancient Chinese art of Feng Shui is rooted in having an organized and clutter-free home.

These are just a few reasons for getting motivated and adding your finances to your annual spring cleaning. It’s a great time to look at your budget, savings, debts, and everything else that concerns your money. Take the time to sit down and figure out which direction you want to be headed, and whether or not you are, in fact, headed that way.

Do you “spring clean” your finances? Have any tips to share? Leave them in comments below…

5 Tips for ATM Safety

A row of colorful ATMs.

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ATMs (Automatic Teller Machines) are a common, everyday part of our modern lives. Ohio Valley Bank introduced Gallia County’s first ATM back in 1979 (though when the ATM was truly invented is still debated) and today you can usually find one nearby, no matter where you might be. They are in coffee shops, shopping malls, convenience stores, and you can even find them in courthouses. They are great for grabbing some quick cash, making a deposit, or checking your account balance, but with this proliferation of ATMs comes the opportunity for unscrupulous individuals to abuse them. ATM fraud is a valid concern we should all be aware of. Let’s take a quick look at some of the best practices one can remember when dealing with ATMs.

Read more of this post