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Safeguarding Against Scams and Enhancing Online Security

June 28, 2023

In today's digital world, scams and security threats have become all too common. To protect yourselves, it's essential to stay vigilant and well-informed. In a recent televised interview with TVFCU’s very own Tammy Zumbrun, Marketing and Community Outreach Manager and Nick Townsend, A.V.P. of Information Technology, they discussed prevalent scams and practical steps to bolster our online security.

Scammers are crafty. They often target vulnerable individuals, particularly older adults, by using emotional manipulation. It's crucial to exercise caution when receiving unexpected requests for money or personal information. Our personal information is a valuable asset and these scammers exploit data from the internet and social media. Because of this, users must use their best discretion when sharing information online.

To safeguard against scams, it's crucial to avoid wire transfers, sharing sensitive account information or using gift cards for payments. Verifying the legitimacy of companies and seeking advice from trusted individuals before making financial decisions adds an extra layer of security.

Advancements in AI pose new risks, allowing scammers to modify audio, mimic voices and manipulate individuals into believing false information such as convincing people to send gift cards in the mail to pay off balances or acting as the IRS and threatening arrest for late payments. Being aware of these threats helps us detect and mitigate potential scams effectively.

In a constantly evolving landscape of scams and security threats, it's up to us to stay informed and proactive. By remaining vigilant, practicing safe online behavior and spreading awareness to others, we can reduce the risk of falling victim to scams. Resources and detection initiatives like those implemented by TVFCU serve as shining examples of best practices.

For more information on how to protect yourself and enhance your online security, visit our webpage dedicated to this topic:

To watch the full interview, visit this link here.


Interviewer: Okay, if your phone is like mine you probably get a lot of calls throughout the day and it pops up and it says “scam alert.” It seems like there’s always something going on that we need to be kind of mindful of and they certainly know that at the Tennessee Valley Federal Credit Union. Thank goodness Tammy Zumbrun loves to use her expertise to help other people so she’s here along with her right hand man when it comes to the scam protection and that’s Nick Townsend. Good to see you.

Nick: Good to be here.

I: The last time you were here you made my head hurt because I found out that the way I was doing my passwords was all wrong.

N: Well, you know, we have to be mindful of what we’re doing with these passwords whether we’re using them for the financial component of your life or we’re paying bills or we’re managing our medical information. We just have to be safe with that.

I: All of us kind of live in a specialty world now if you are…

Tammy: Oh, yeah.

I: Right? I mean whatever you do for a living, that’s what you see all day long so you know it like the back of your hand but the person coming into your business doesn’t necessarily so this idea of educating us is really crucial Tammy.

T: Yeah, that’s why we love you having us on and letting us talk about things like this cause there are a lot of scams right now going on.

I: Okay. Does either one of you want to pick up on some of the more popular ones?

T: Well, I know my mom, she’s gotten this one several times where it’ll be somebody, the last time it was somebody who called and said, “This is your grandson and I’m on an out of town trip and I need you to send me some money.” And my mom loves to yank their chain because she’s pretty wise and she said, “Well which grandson? I have several.” And the guy said, “Well, your favorite,” and she said, “Well they’re all my favorite depending on who I’m with that day.” But it’s funny because he eventually hung up on her but a lot of older people fall for that one because it yanks at your heartstrings and it’s an emotional scam.

I: Right. What a stupid scammer. If he was going to be that much of a scammer, you’d think he would’ve just researched a grandmother to know the names of her grandsons.

T: Well they’re probably robo-calling in the first place, you know, and hoping that they’re getting an older person, I don’t know. Do you anymore about that piece? How they’re getting you?

N: Well, they get the information from the internet. When we’re not safe and protective of our information, anything can be on the internet whether that’s our phone number, our birthday, or we accidentally disclose information on social media which we’ve talked about before. But we have to mindful of these scammers, these threat actors especially when it comes to things like online dating or we’re talking about people calling you and pretending to be the IRS or law enforcement. We hear about these things all the time. Or, “Have you got your auto insurance on your car” or “your car’s warranty.” We hear about these types of fraud all the time.

I: So, okay back to the point you just made about how you can research people. Just this morning, I’m not proud to admit this, but just this morning I wasn’t sure about someone’s age and I Googled their name to find their age.

N: That’s correct.

I: I did that! It is true, it’s out there.

N: Yes ma’am.

T: Yes! We have way too much information.

I: Is there anything we can do to not let that be known for us.

N: It’s hard to manage that when there’s so much abundant information in the world, you know. If you chose to, you can go down avenues to have your information removed, but that doesn’t mean another site’s not going to have it posted next week so just be mindful of who you share your information with. Don’t sign up for services you don’t need or divulge your information to people who could be using it for malicious activities.

I: Okay, so the moral of the story at this moment is don’t panic thinking you’ve got to go somehow clean house on the World Wide Web. That can’t be done.

N: Right, it’d be hard.

I: Just protect your own self. Have y’all heard anything about, and I don’t know if it’s a myth or if it’s really happening but with AI now and the concern of how they can capture your voice.

N: There are a lot of technological advancements revolving around AI whether that’s machine learning, neural networks or the ability to take those technologies and modify audio output or to come up with a script to convince you to do something. AI is a very powerful tool that we have to be cautious of. We use AI in the way that we craft spoofing emails to test our employees. We use AI…

T: They test us regularly!

N: We have to be secure in our own business.

T: Because we need to be secure, so yeah we get tested.

N: But from AI being able to modify your voice or to be able to write a graduate level paper in 30 seconds, it can happen.

I: There was a news story that hit a few weeks back and it was, the word going around was that they could capture when you said hello, basically, and they would be able to then take the tone of your voice and impersonate you for other purposes. So I had told my mom that, she’s 92, and so for a few days I would call her and she’d answer the phone like this: “Hello” [in a deep tone]. She had changed her voice!

T: But I’m glad to know you’re talking to her. That is key. We need to talk about these things, we need to make sure that older people do understand so that they don’t get caught in one of those emotional thing. There’s a lot of lonely people out there and scammers will attach themselves to them.

I: Right.

T: You’ve just got to be wise. One other thing: if they ask you to go buy a credit card, like they say you owe money and they want you to go buy a credit card and mail it in, gift cards are for gifts. They are not for making payments, so don’t fall for “go get a gift card and mail it in today.”

I: What is that one? People are calling people and asking them to go get a gift card?

T: Yeah! Well, they’re saying you owe us money so you can just go buy a gift card a mail it to us. Don’t do it.

N: Yeah, gift cards, cashier’s checks, cash, wire transfers, ACH’s, we want to avoid that especially if you’re not anticipating a call. If it’s unsolicited and they’re asking for that, that’s a red flag. You should be very cautious of that.

T: If they ask for wire transfer, I mean, I’ve never had anybody ask me for a wire transfer so.

N: Or your checking account information. If they ask for that over the phone, A. you know you’re not supposed to be giving that to them.

I: Is there any way to know, I have less than a minute left, are they targeting specific people or is it totally random?

N: It’s randomized for different campaigns. You know you have the robo-callers that come in constantly. Most cell phone carriers can identify that as spam and then you have the ones that are not robo. They’re intentional. They know that you’ve had a death in the family or they’ve seen your information on the list and they know that you may have some funds that they can access or exploit, so we have to be cautious and weary of these types of attempts to get you to change a beneficiary, give your checking account information, or let people log on your computer remotely.

T: Yes. Don’t ever let somebody log on.

N: That’s a very bad issue right now.

I: Okay, don’t let people log on to your computer remotely. If you don’t recognize the number just don’t answer it.

T: Right.

N: Yeah, they can leave a voicemail. There’s nothing wrong with calling somebody back if it’s legitimate.

I: That’s right. That’s right.

T: And you can Google to make sure that the company is legit and make sure that phone number matches one that’s in your email, you know. We’re taught to do that all the time.

N: Gives you the ability to verify that information with friends and family, the people that love you and care for you.

I: And be like Tammy’s mom and just love all your grandson’s equally and don’t fall for that.

T: There you go!

I: Alright, so you can contact them if you’re interested in any of the services they have to offer because there is so much they can do for you there at the credit union: Interesting to know that y’all test your employees to make sure that they are up to date and really looking at all those details. That’s very important.

N: We have to practice what we preach.

T: That’s right, we do.

I: Thank y’all. 

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