Upset woman looking at laptop screen with fear

Vacation Rental Scams: How to avoid them.

Cassandra Garrison

Written by Cassandra Garrison, Real Estate Loan Specialist

Imagine you’ve just turned in for the evening. You might be reading a book, watching TV, or putting the kids to bed, when all of a sudden you hear a knock at the door. That’s strange – you weren’t expecting company this evening.

A moment later you’re at the door face-to-face with a couple who claims to have rented your home for the weekend! You have no idea who they are or how they got your address. Imagine your surprise when the couple presents you with their reservation confirmation and online listing that shows pictures of your home.

You now need to inform this couple that all of you have obviously been scammed because you have not rented your home to them or anyone, nor is that your online listing.

Displeased neighbors arguing in doorway

Sadly, this has happened to some who have reserved a vacation home or apartment online, and it can happen to anyone! Several stories have circulated from both guests and hosts regarding fraudulent activity and scams regarding vacation rentals by owners.

However, that does not mean you have to avoid reserving a vacation home. You just need to understand the precautionary steps to protect yourself.

Important steps to identify whether a vacation rental listing is legitimate.

1. Don’t book via email or pay the host directly

Be cautious with your communication to your hosts through email. You should avoid booking off site through email with the host for a vacation rental. Scammers will often try to get you to pay in advance through a third-party payment system and may even try to incentivize your advance payment by offering some kind of discount. If you have to communicate by email for directions or providing a copy of your identification, be cautious about any links that may be contained in an email.

Upset woman looking at laptop screen with fear

2. Verify the host

Check the host’s profile to see if they have been verified by the site as having uploaded identification, or if they have been given a “Super Host” badge for maintaining an overall high rating from previous guests.

3. Reverse image search the property’s photos

Do an image search of the property’s photos using Google. If images of the property start appearing from stock photo websites, there is a good chance the listing could be a scam. If images of the property appear on other listing sites, verify the host’s profile information is the same. Another good indication of a scam is the property address. A property address is never disclosed until after the listing has been booked. If the listing displays an address, there may be foul play involved, so do some more research before booking.

4. Pay attention to site URLs

If you click a link or an advertisement online that takes you to a vacation rental by owner site, be sure to pay attention to the URL. Check to make sure the URL links don’t misspell or misuse the site’s URL to try and resemble the legitimate site.

5. Book your reservation with a credit card or travel money card

Avoid booking your reservation online with a debit or check card. If your debit card becomes compromised than you run the risk of having your bank account compromised. If you think your account may have been compromised, contact your bank or card issuer right away to report fraudulent activity. It’s better to book your reservation with a credit card or travel money card. A credit card company may offer you additional protection in the event you are caught in the cross-hairs of a scam.

Woman purchasing with credit card holding phone

Remember, do your research before booking a vacation rental by owner. Verify the host and the listing. Never pay the host directly off site through a third-party, and never give out your personal information over email. And have a wonderful vacation!

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Convenient Services to make your life easier!

The Montana lifestyle is a busy one! To help make banking easy and convenient, we are proud to offer products and services that allow you to bank when, where and how you want. Here are some of our top convenient services:

Card Protect

Let’s say that you lose your wallet or even worse, that it is stolen! Did you know that you can get on your phone or tablet or computer and you can TURN OFF YOUR DEBIT CARD? Seriously, it is so easy to block your card so no one can use it until you turn it back on!!

Easy, safe, and gives you peace of mind about your money.  To learn more, click here.

Stockman Bank: Card Protect

E-statements

You don’t have to get paper statements through snail mail. Sign up to see your accounts when it is most convenient for you. We’ve made it easy to change from receiving a printed statement to an eStatement. To learn more, click here.

eStatements

A FREE, safe and secure method to receive your statements online!
-View, print and/or save for easy sharing with your accountant or for long-term storage
-Access up to 24 months of statement history from initial setup
-Avoid mail fraud and mail theft

Mobile Deposits

Can’t get to the bank or don’t want to waste a stamp? Then use our mobile deposit feature for depositing checks!  Mobile deposit is part of our mobile banking app that allows you to deposit checks to your savings or checking account remotely by capturing an image with your phone or tablet.

To use, launch the Stockman Bank app and log in. Endorse the back of the check “for mobile deposit only”, list the account number to be deposited into and sign the check. Choose the account where your funds will be deposited. Enter the amount of the check which must be more than $1.00.  Take a photo of the front and back of the check. Once both sides are captured correctly, click Confirm.

You can check the status of your deposit anytime!
(Limits are $2,500.00 per check with a daily remote deposit limit of $2,500.00.  Mobile deposits are not open to everyone.  You may need to meet certain criteria to participate.  Please check with your banker for more information.)

Stockman Bank: Mobile Endorsement

 

Fraud Protection/Alerts

Fear no more about the safety of your checking account!

We now offer a convenient way to keep you informed about your checking account and debit card through text messaging and/or phone calls. If our system detects suspicious activity on your debit card, you will receive a text message and/or a phone call about the suspected transaction. All you have to do is respond to the text to confirm the transaction. If you indicate that the transaction is fraudulent, you will receive another message with a number to call for follow-up. If not, then you are all set! The system will mark the transaction as legitimate and you can get on with your day.

Don’t have a mobile phone number? Then we will call you directly to verify activity on your account. And don’t forget – with our debit card feature CardProtect in our mobile banking app, you can turn your card on and off. If you lose your debit card, simply turn your card off. When you find it, turn it back on!

Stockman Bank: Lost Wallet

Look for new and exciting features coming in 2019!

Stockman Bank: Disclaimer

Conrad fraud prevention

Preventing Fraud and Protecting Your Identity

Tonya Breding

Tonya Breding

Post written by Tonya Breding
Customer Service Representative, Cash Management Specialist
Conrad, Montana

This week was International Fraud Awareness Week. Over the past few days, our Conrad branch employees have held special events to promote anti-fraud awareness and education. We do this every year.

I’ve learned from my customers that concern about fraud and identity theft is different for everyone. While some people believe fraud will never happen to them, others worry about it on a daily basis.

We’ve all seen stories in the news about innocent people losing money to fraud because they paid fees to claim a prize in a lottery or contest they had never entered.

If something sounds too good to be true, it usually is! Education, proactive precautions and a little common sense can help you prevent fraud and protect your identity.

Don’t share your personal information.

Don’t provide your Social Security number or account information to anyone who contacts you online or over the phone. Protect your PINs and passwords and do not share them with anyone.

Use a combination of letters and numbers for your passwords and change them periodically. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lower case letters, numbers and special characters.

Do not reveal sensitive or personal information on social networking sites.  Scam artists can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools.

Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc. Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.

Slow down and talk to someone you trust about the situation.

Scam artists often try to rush you into making decisions by pressuring or even threatening you at times. Take your time, check out the story and consult experts.

Conrad fraud preventionShred sensitive papers.

Shred receipts, bank statements and unused credit card offers before throwing them away.

Keep an eye out for missing mail.

Scam artists and fraudsters look for monthly bank or credit card statements or other mail containing your financial information. Consider enrolling in online banking and online statements to reduce the likelihood of paper statements being stolen.

Online banking allows you to monitor your financial accounts regularly for fraudulent transactions. You can also sign up for text or email alerts from your bank for certain types of transactions, such as transactions of more than $500.

Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date.

Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.

Use the passcode lock on your smartphone and other devices. This will make it more difficult for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen. Before you donate, sell or trade your mobile device, be sure to wipe it using specialized software or using the manufacturer’s recommended technique. Some software allows you to wipe your device remotely if it is lost or stolen.

Secure your internet connection.

Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)

Shop safely online.

Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.

Watch out for phishing and spoofing scams.

Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from unfamiliar sources.

With spoofing, a caller can display a phone number similar to yours on your caller ID, to increase the likelihood that you will answer the call. Again, the goal is to trick you into disclosing private information once you have answered the call.

Monitor your credit report.

Order a free copy of your credit report every twelve months from one of the three credit reporting agencies at www.annualcreditreport.com.

Finally, if you suspect any fraud:

  • Call your bank and credit card issuers immediately so they can close your accounts.
  • Contact the fraud unit of the three credit reporting agencies. Place a fraud alert on your credit report and consider placing a credit freeze so the criminal can’t open new accounts. The fraud unit numbers are:
    • Equifax: (866) 349-5191
    • Experian: (888) 397-3742
    • TransUnion: (800) 680-7289
  • Report the fraud to the Federal Trade Commission at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4338)
  • File a police report.
  • Make sure to maintain a log of all the contacts you make with authorities regarding the matter. Write down names, titles and phone numbers in case you need to re-contact them or refer to them in future correspondence.

To learn more about fraud and identity theft prevention, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer information site at www.consumer.ftc.gov/topics/identitytheft.

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Renee Halseth 600

New Medicare Cards Will Help Protect Your Identity, But Have Spawned Several New Scams

Renee Halseth

Renee Halseth

Post written by Renee Halseth, Fraud/Security Officer, Deposit Compliance Officer

New Medicare cards have officially started rolling out as of April 2018.

Although it will take a year to get all the cards rolled out to every state, many are in agreement that taking the Social Security number off the cards and providing members with new Medicare identity numbers will help safeguard individuals from identity theft.

The only issue with this critical step in protecting identities is that scammers are now figuring out ways to take advantage of this new card switch.

Con artists are taking to the phones and calling individuals who currently have Medicare and individuals that recently have qualified for Medicare this year. These phonies impersonate representatives from Medicare, Social Security and even supplemental insurance agencies.

The callers can be extremely aggressive, calling again and again, at all times of the day, in an effort to wear their victims down. Scammers will do anything to gain their targets trust and sound legitimate. Sometimes the caller will have some personal information about the individual, such as his or her name, address, or even part of their Social Security number in an attempt to sound genuine.

There are numerous methods that these fraudsters will try in order to con you into giving them money or personal information. Some callers claim there is a processing fee you need to pay before you can receive your new card in the mail.

Other imposters will falsely claim they need to “verify” a Social Security number or other personal information before the new card can be issued to you. In some cases, victims have been told they are due a refund on transactions with their old card and need to provide bank account information to process this alleged reimbursement.

Additionally, in another fraudulent ploy, a caller might try to push their victim into purchasing Medicare’s prescription drug coverage (known as Plan D). They will often claim this must be bought or the Medicare customer could lose coverage altogether. Do not fall for this intimidation tactic. Plan D is voluntary and has no impact on your health plan.

Knowledge is prevention with these scams. Learning as much as you can about the new card rollout can help save you or a loved ones finances and identity. Here is what you need to know about the new card rollout:

  • Medicare will mail the card, at NO cost, to the address on file with the Social Security Administration. (update your address by visiting your online Social Security account at SSA.gov/myaccount, or call 800-772-1213)
  • Medicare coverage and benefits will stay the same.
  • If a relative gets their new card before you, don’t worry. The cards are being dispersed at different times throughout the states from April 2018 to April 2019. So it’s very likely that your card could arrive at a different time from someone else’s. (Montana’s expected rollout is after June 2018).
  • When you get a new card be sure to shred or cut up your old card. Making sure that your Social Security number is indecipherable.
  • If you have a separate Medicare Advantage card, keep it because you will still need it.

As these new Medicare cards start being mailed out, be watchful of these possible Medicare scams. To keep your family members, and you safe here are a few tips to remember:

  • Do not pay for your new card. The new cards are completely free. If you receive a call saying you need to pay for your card, it is a scam.
  • Don’t give personal information to get your card. If anyone claiming to be from Medicare or any other agency is asking for your Social Security number, personal details, or banking information, that is a scam. Simply hang up. Medicare will never ask you to give personal information to get your new number and card.
  • Guard your card. When you do receive your card, safeguard it like any other important document. While removing the Social Security number will cut down on many types of identity theft, you will still want to protect your new card as thieves could still use it to get medical services.

In summary be on the alert for these new Medicare scams, and warn the people in your life that could be affected. Always be cautious and suspicious of phone calls asking or demanding money or your personal information. As the saying goes it’s better to be safe than sorry, especially when you could end up being conned out of your money or identity.

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