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These Scams Are On The Rise | How to Protect Yourself



Scams are on the rise. They are continually evolving and are an ongoing threat. All scams have the same goal- to steal your identity and take your money. Overall, there are many different ways criminals attempt to attack you either through a phone call, email, text message, mail, or pop-up message. Certainly, the best way to protect yourself from further scams is to educate yourself. Additionally, you should take precautions to help protect against it.


Oftentimes, the fraudster may spoof a trusted organization that you are familiar with. Spoofing is the act of disguising a communication from an unknown source as being from a known, trusted source. For example, it may look like the Internal Revenue Service’s (IRS) website, phone number, or email and it may even show as the IRS on your caller ID. Unfortunately, on the other end is a criminal hoping to take your money or your personally identifiable information.


Fraudsters who send phishing emails and text messages trick people into clicking on a link or opening an attachment. For example, phishing attempts may:

  • Say they’ve noticed suspicious activity or log-in attempts on your account.
  • Say they need the texted number sent to your phone or email to verify your account.
  • Request your credit card information.
  • Claim there’s a problem with your account or payment information.
  • Say you need to confirm or update personal information, asking for information like answers to your security questions.
  • Email you a fake invoice.
  • Ask you to click on a link to make a payment in order to capture your credit card details.
  • Send you a link to ensure you can log in so they can capture your account login information.
  • Claim you’re eligible to sign up for a government refund.
  • Offer a coupon for free goods or services.
  • For further details concerning phishing, visit PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM ONLINE CRIME | PHISHING, SMISHING, & VISHING





  • Fraudsters may pose as financial institutions, debt collectors, or investors with offers designed to steal your financial information.
  • Some scams state that they are a certified financial advisor and that they can help you.
  • Other scams involve the financial advisor making frequent trades, which not only costs the customer in commissions but usually results in sub-optimal investment returns.
  • The Ponzi scheme- The victim invests and their returns are from money deposited by new investors. Meanwhile, the advisor siphons off some of the money.
  • Some fraudsters will misrepresent qualifications. For example, claiming experience or certifications they don’t have, promising unrealistic returns, or stating an investment will generate huge numbers.
  • Door-to-Door Scam- Reputable financial advisors, financial institutions, and brokers do not go to your door to sell you services. According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Fraudsters may misappropriate the name, address, registration number, logo, photo, or website likeness of a currently or previously registered firm, investment professional, or financial institution. They try to trick investors into believing that they are credible by using a number of tactics.
  • With Financial Advisors, always check the background of the investment professional that you are working on FINRA BrokerCheck before investing money.


  • Scammers pose as health authorities like the World Health Organization (WHO) and U.S. Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to offer cures, tests, studies, or other information.
  • These organizations would never ask for money for recruitment, charge registration fees for conferences or meetings, conduct lotteries, or offer prizes or awards through e-mail.


  • Often, websites are created and promoted on social media with the intention of stealing your information. Buy products from known businesses only.
  • Thousands of fake websites offer “great deals” on well-known brands. These websites typically have URLs similar to the brands they try to mimic.
  • Formjacking is another retail scam. This happens when a legitimate retail website is hacked and shoppers get redirected to a fraudulent payment page. Once redirected, the scammer steals your personal and credit card information.
  • You list something on an auction-based website and the winning bidder offers to pay you more than the offered purchase price via cashier’s, corporate, or personal check. Upon receiving the scammer’s counterfeit check, you are conned into sending the difference back through bank wire. Then you have to pay the bank back in full once the fake check bounces.
  • E-mails or texts claiming that you are eligible to receive a large sum of funds (inheritance, lottery winnings, wire transfer, etc.).
  • The criminal will inform you that someone you know is in trouble and needs help right away.
  • The scammer may develop a romantic relationship with you. Over time, they will state that they are a victim and need money. They will wait for you to volunteer to send funds, or they may directly ask you for money.
  • Receiving a text about an unexpected delivery, to check a credit card or banking transaction that you did not enroll for, or a survey request.


  • Some scammers claim to issue updates and payments on behalf of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) or local tax authority. They may claim that you may be under audit.
  • Also, other scams include a trusted authority like a police department or federal agency, stating that you are in trouble in some way or form and may be arrested.
  • You may receive confirmation from a legitimate government agency to confirm your benefits request, change of address, or to verify your information. In all likelihood, a criminal is attempting to steal your identity and draw benefits with your name. For example, benefits may include Unemployment, Welfare, Covid-19 Relief, Taxes, Veterans Affairs, and Social Security. Government agencies recognize that individuals’ identities are being stolen and may send you a letter for verification. If you receive a letter, you should verify the authenticity through the agency itself either by calling them directly or checking their website.
  • Additionally, you can learn about known benefit scams through the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, or Federal Trade Commission.


  • Many people like to donate to charitable causes. This provides an excellent opportunity for scammers to set up fake nonprofits, hospitals, and other organizations to collect funds. Always donate directly through a reputable nonprofit or trusted source.
  • When you donate through an online fundraising platform, your money may not go directly to the charity you chose. Another company may get your money first, take some of it as a fee, and then pass on the rest to the charity. It may take time for the charity to get the money if at all.
  • Only give to established, legitimate organizations. Visit GuideStar or Charity Navigator to verify the validity of any charitable organization you are considering supporting before you donate.
  • Sometimes legitimate companies are spoofed. When in doubt, say that you will call them back and call or email the organization directly.
  • When disaster strikes, whether it’s a pandemic or weather-related, so do fraudsters. Hiding behind the guise of an actual organization, scammers will use a tragedy to con you out of your money. By thinking you’re donating to an emergency relief fund, you provide credit card or other e-payment information.


  • Congratulations! You’ve won some unusually large amount of money or something unrealistic! Unfortunately, you haven’t. The fraudster mentions that you have won something and that you just need to send over a processing fee or to get in touch with someone who can process your winnings.
  • A fraudster will state that you won a contest and will ask for your account information in order to make a deposit.
  • Guaranteeing sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a donation is not only a scam, it’s illegal. Never give money in any form to someone or a company that states that you won something.


With this scam, you receive a message warning indicating your computer is infected and the scam can occur in many ways…

  • You receive an email, push notification, pop-up, or text message. Once you click on a link, the scam then prompts you to download an application that “fixes your computer.” Instead, it may add a virus to your computer or device. This virus may capture your personal information and login credentials, make your computer do things for them, or cause other damage to your system.
  • You may get a phone call, stating there is something wrong with your computer. The fraudster will request for them to control your computer remotely and download a virus or make you believe that something is wrong.
  • “Tech Support” will tell you that they would be happy to fix the problem for a fee. In order to get started, they will need your credit card, gift cards, a wire transfer, or your personal bank information.
  • Another way scammers reach you is through search results. Tech support scammers work hard to get their websites to show up in online search results or they run their own ads.
  • You may receive a message for fake antivirus software (aka ‘Scareware’). Fake antivirus software ads and pop-ups try to make you believe your computer is infected with a virus.


  • You may be contacted for travel insurance policies that claim to cover losses for any reason, at no extra charge.
  • A scammer may post enticing photos or videos on social media sites. Upon clicking the image or link, you are directed to a landing page or a click-through site that promises a free trip, plane tickets, car rental, or hotel stay.
  • Car rental, airfare, room, and activity scams usually involve a spoofed website where they take your money and no arrangement is made.
  • Before signing up with a timeshare of a vacation club, understand exactly what you’re getting and what it costs. There may be hidden fees.
  • If you own a timeshare and you’re trying to sell, beware of third-party services that offer to take your money upfront in exchange for finding a buyer. In this common scam, the criminals take your money, but the buyer never materializes.


  • With grandparent scams, a fraudster poses as a panicked grandchild who needs cash right away for some emergency. They may state that they need to get out of jail, leave a foreign country or state, or pay a hospital bill.


  • Also known as the Nigerian letter scam, 419 fraud is one of the most common scams. The advance fee scheme takes its name after the section of the Nigerian criminal code that outlaws fraud.
  • The scammer usually claims to be a member of a wealthy family, reaching out to you personally after the death of a loved one. They seek to relocate a large fortune out of the country for safekeeping purposes and into your bank account. In order for this to occur, you must submit small payments for fees in return for a larger sum of cash.
  • You should never respond to these requests, volunteer your bank details, or wire anyone demanding money.


  • You receive a letter or an email declaring that you have been pre-approved for either a credit card, loan, or mortgage. Although some of these offers are legitimate, those who are not real will ask you to pay a large upfront fee when you sign up (although an application fee for a mortgage is standard practice).
  • No financial institution will ever request a service fee for being pre-approved, pre-qualified, or pre-selected.
  • In general, be wary of any offer that requires any upfront fees or that requires payments by wire or gift cards.
  • Some of these loans require you to pay the interest before the principal. A good loan will let you make principal plus interest payments during the term of the loan. Also, there will not be a pre-payment penalty.
  • Additionally, be careful of any offer that is not made from an NCUA or FDIC-regulated financial institution.


  • This scam makes the false promise to negotiate with creditors to either consolidate or settle debts or to remove negative information from your credit report.
  • This type of fraud often charges cash-strapped consumers a large upfront fee and then fails to help them settle or lower their debt.
  • Stay clear of any debt-relief companies that ask for fees in advance.
  • Likewise, avoid any company that guarantees it can eliminate or reduce your debt or increase your credit score by a specific date.
  • Research any debt-relief or credit-repair service you are considering. It’s a good idea to check with your state’s attorney general or the Better Business Bureau to learn about the company’s reputation.


  • According to the Federal Trade Commission, these scams state that the company will assist you, but with an upfront fee.
  • Scam companies that promise to lower your car payment often say they have relationships with lenders when they don’t, feature fake testimonials from “satisfied” customers on their websites, or falsely claim to have a money-back guarantee if they can’t make a deal with your lender.
  • Additionally, they may make specific, but false, claims about how much they will reduce your monthly payment.
  • After promising you that their service will lower your payments, the company will make you pay several hundred dollars upfront, in what they sometimes refer to as an “enrollment fee” or “application fee.” The company might tell you to stop making car payments while it negotiates a deal with your lender. In some cases, the company will request more money to continue to help you.
  • The company might even tell you to make your payments directly to the company so they can pay your lender on your behalf.


  • Essentially, a romance scam occurs when a fraudster creates a fake identity to gain a victim’s affection and trust.
  • The scammer then uses the illusion of a romantic or close relationship to manipulate and steal from the victim. Romance scammers are experts at what they do and will appear genuine, empathetic, and believable.
  • Scammers may create stories so they can relate to you, utilizing social engineering to find more about you, and use your vulnerabilities against you.
  • Online romance scammers can connect with people through social media, dating apps, video chat, instant messaging, chat rooms, subreddits, websites, blogs, text messages, or email.
  • Romance scammers attempt to establish a relationship quickly and gain a victim’s trust.
  • They develop a relationship by building false personas that seem just real enough to be true. They may use their own photos or steal other people’s photos from social media websites.
  • With social engineering, romance scammers will obtain information online so they can fake similar interests, hobbies, and values in order to develop a connection with you. Eventually and after they develop a rapport with you, your new friend asks for money in a variety of ways.
  • More information can be found at BEWARE OF ROMANCE SCAMS


  • They send you phishing text messages stating your account may be compromised. Accordingly, they request that you text-reply the authorization code you are about to receive to confirm your identity.
  • You receive a call from someone stating that they are from the “Fraud Department” and they mention that fraud has been detected on your account. As a result, they want to confirm that they are speaking to the right person. The person then states that they will send you an authentication code. Next, they request that you provide that code to them. The perpetrator then uses that code to log into your account.  From there, they transfer your funds out of your account.
  • You receive a letter or email, stating that your account has been compromised and that you need to visit a site to confirm your login information. You click on the link and enter your username, password, and your phone number associated with the account. They now have your login details. The fraudster will go to the real site and enter your information, which sends an authorization code to you. Soon, you receive a call, text, or email stating that it’s the financial institution or organization. They will mention that they have noticed that you are having issues logging in and need you to verify your information. The fraudster will then ask for the authorization code that you just received.


  • The fraudster may state that they are from a legitimate company, utility, a government agency, or pretend to be someone you know.
  • They often use spoofed (fake) phone numbers that can appear legitimate, showing up on caller ID as a familiar number or a government agency name.
  • The criminal will creates a sense of urgency. For example, they offer a great price, say you won a contest, mention a hardship, or state that it’s an emergency. They may even say that your bank account may be frozen or to avoid an arrest. Often, the criminal will say something to invoke fear.
  • The fraudster will ask the victim for payment using gift cards and instructs them to purchase gift cards online or at a nearby store.
  • They tell the victim to provide the claim code on the gift cards.
  • Never give out your gift card information and treat it like cash.
  • No government agency, utility company, or business would ask for gift card information as a form of payment.
  • For more information, visit GIFT CARD SCAMS & FRAUD PREVENTION


  • The victim receives an unexpected request for money in return for the delivery of a package, often with a sense of urgency.
  • You receive a call from a “representative” of a retail company (like Amazon, Etsy, or Target), gift-giving or flower delivery service, or a company that delivers packages (UPS, FedEx, or the United States Post-Office), stating that you have a large delivery. In order for them to make the delivery, they need to verify information like your credit card details.
  • Fake emails are being sent out with “tracking numbers” asking consumers to click on a link. Once you click the link, a virus is downloaded onto your computer or device. Another similar scam will attempt to request or phish for information like your credit card details.



  • It’s safe to assume that if anyone is asking for your bank or personal information, you’re being scammed.
  • If you believe you’ve been scammed, change all of your passwords and delete any malicious software you may have downloaded.
  • Also, call your card company to report the fraud
  • If you gave a scammer remote access to your computer, immediately update your security software, run a thorough scan, and delete anything it identifies as a problem.
  • If you shared your username or password, change those right away.


The sooner you act and report scams, the better the chance you’ll have of intercepting any stolen funds. If you think you are being scammed or have sent money to a scammer:



  • DO NOT provide any personal financial information to the caller or in an email.
  • You SHOULD verify the legitimacy of potential service providers before supplying personal financial information or entering a business transaction.
  • If you suspect that your personal information has been compromised, contact Pearl Hawaii and local law enforcement officials.
  • To file a complaint about a suspected fraudulent email, contact the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at


Importantly, Pearl Hawaii will never send emails, text, or call you and ask you to provide, update, or verify account passwords, Social Security numbers, PINs, credit or debit card numbers, or other confidential information.

If you have received an email message, text message, or voice message claiming to be from Pearl Hawaii Federal Credit Union and asking for you to give out personal or confidential information, it is fraudulent. Pearl Hawaii already has this information on record and would have no need to ask.

If you have received one of these fraudulent messages and did give out your personal information, please contact Pearl Hawaii immediately at (808) 737.4328 (73-PHFCU), email us at, or contact us through secure messaging.


  • To learn more about identity theft fraud safety visit ID Theft Center.
  • If you think you’ve been a victim of identity theft, contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at 877-IDTHEFT (438-4338) or visit the Federal Trade Commission’s site to learn more.
  • If you believe your Social Security Number is being used fraudulently contact the Social Security Administration at (800) 772-1213.
  • It’s a good idea to get a copy of your credit report each year from each credit-reporting agency. You can get a free credit report yearly from the Annual Credit Report website at or by calling 1-877-322-8228 where you will go through a simple verification process over the phone. It is important that you obtain and review a copy of your credit report once a year to make sure your information is accurate.
  • For financial literacy, check out  Upgrade| our blog or our financial education page.



Upgrade you.

From home or car loans to Hawaii’s most innovative banking services, Pearl Hawaii is committed to you. Bank at any of our Oahu locations in Waipahu, Ewa Beach, Waianae, Honolulu, Pearl Harbor, or near the Airport. Additionally, you can bank using PHFCUOnline just like one of our branches. To contact us, call us at 808.737.4328, toll-free at 800.987.5583, or email us at