Consumer Alerts

Pioneer Valley Credit Union wants to help you to safeguard your accounts. Our Consumer Alerts section of the website is designed to give you useful information about identity theft, recent scams and tips to help protect you from becoming a victim.

Identity theft occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform a financial transaction or other act without your knowledge or permission. According to TransUnion, identity theft is the fastest growing crime in America with 19 people falling victim to it every minute.

Often, the stolen information is used to take over accounts, open credit cards or obtain medical care long before the theft is ever discovered. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.

While many people first find out about identity theft from their financial institutions, there are some red flags that indicate your personal information may have been stolen and used for fraudulent purposes. The information provided here is meant to educate and help you to protect yourself against fraud and identity theft. Watch for warning signs to make sure you don't fall prey.

Equifax Data Breach

The Equifax credit reporting agency, has announced a data breach affecting their orgainzation which has potentially impacted 143 million consumers. Learn more about what you need to know and how you can protect yourself.

Popular Scams

  • Phishing: This is a message sent as an email, via fake websites made to appear as if they are from a legitimate company. This type of email will typically direct the user by a link to a website where they are asked to update personal information, give passwords, credit card, social security, or bank account numbers. Legitimate organizations already have this information.
  • Vishing/Smishing: The identity thief will contact you claiming to be a bank, credit card company, government agency or similar organization. In many cases, the identity thief’s caller ID may appear to be similar to that of a legitimate financial institution, and will ask the victim to confirm personal information over the phone. This can be either a live conversation or urgent sounding voicemail asking you to call back and leave information. Fraudsters also use phishing attacks against mobile devices and tablets (SMS phishing, or Smishing), leaving a convincing or urgent text message either with a link to a malicious payment servicer or with a call-back number. If you call the number back, you’re connected to an Automated Voice Response (AVR) system that asks for personal or financial information.
  • ATM (skimmers): Thieves gain access to information stored on the magnetic strip of an ATM/Debit card by placing a device, called a “skimmer,” on an ATM where you would insert your ATM/Debit card. A “skimmer” is small in size (size of a deck of cards) and can be made of metal or hard plastic. Some skimmers may have cameras on them and are placed near the keypad.
  • Lottery/Secret Shopper: Scammers notify you and state that you have won a lot of money or a fantastic prize in a competition, lottery or sweepstake that you don’t remember entering.  The notification may come by mail, telephone, email, text message or social media. In order to claim your prize, you will be asked to pay a fee. Scammers will often say these fees are for insurance costs, government taxes, bank fees or courier charges. You may also be asked to provide personal details to prove that you are the correct winner and to give your bank account details so the prize can be sent to you. Scammers then can gain access to your accounts and use your identity.

Possible Warning Signs of Identity Theft

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail
  • You receive a credit card that you did not apply for
  • Merchants refuse your checks
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for
  • An extreme-legal action is brought against you (warrant or subpoena) for something you haven’t done

Ways you Can Prevent Identity Theft

  • Do not give out personal information over the phone, unless you have initiated the call and you know who you are speaking with
  • Shred your receipts, credit card offers, financial statements, returned checks and any other sensitive information before discarding
  • Do not respond to suspicious, unwanted or unwarranted emails
  • Minimize what you carry in your wallet/purse
  • Freeze your credit line with major credit reporting agencies (a fee may apply)
  • Check your credit report annually (or on a regular basis). Obtain a free annual credit report by going to www.annualcreditreport.com
  • Protect your computer or mobile device with virus detection software 
  • Watch out for “shoulder surfers.” Shield the keypad when typing your passwords on computers and at ATMs.
  • Collect mail promptly. Ask the post office to put your mail on hold when you are away from home. Shred all mail, even “junk” mail before discarding.
  • Use unique passwords or codes which contain characters, letters and numbers
  • Enroll in an identity theft program (fees may apply) 
  • When possible, use trusted ATMs.

What you should do if you suspect Identity Theft?

  • Notify us at 413-733-2800 or 1-866-697-8328, or visit us at one of our locations so that we may assist you and protect your accounts
  • Contact our ATM/Debit Card service provider at 1-800-472-3272 to close your card
  • Place a fraud alert (which is good for 90 days) on your credit report by contacting the three major credit reporting agencies:
  • File a police report (retain copies as you may need these for future use)
  • Complete a Federal Trade Commission Identity Theft Affidavit by calling 1-877-438-4338 or by visiting www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov

Recovering from identity theft is a lengthy process. We are here to provide assistance to our members. Please contact us for more information at 413-733-2800.

Elder and Vulnerable Adult Abuse

Pioneer Valley Credit Union is here to help our members and the community in the awareness, detection and prevention of elder abuse. Older adults are targets of this activity due to their trusting nature, higher wealth in retirement accounts, home ownership and other assets.

In cooperation with the Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs, we would like to assist our members and bring awareness of this growing epidemic.

What Defines Elder Abuse?

The National Committee for the Prevention of Elder Abuse defines elder abuse as “any form of mistreatment that results in harm or loss to an older person.”

The majority of elder abuse comes from someone that the elder trusts. This could be a family member, caretaker, neighbor or friend. Elder abuse is divided into the following categories:

  • Physical abuse is physical force that results in bodily injury, pain, or impairment. It includes assault, battery, and inappropriate restraint.
  • Sexual abuse is non-consensual sexual contact of any kind with an older person.
  • Domestic violence is an escalating pattern of violence by an intimate partner where the violence is used to exercise power and control.
  • Psychological abuse is the willful infliction of mental or emotional anguish by threat, humiliation, or other verbal or nonverbal conduct.
  • Self-neglect is failure to provide for one's own essential needs.
  • Neglect is the failure of a caregiver to fulfill his or her caregiving responsibilities.
  • Financial Exploitation is the illegal or improper use of an older person's funds, property, or resources. This could be done by a stranger or a trusted person.

Signs of Financial Exploitation May Include

  • Lack of affordable amenities, such as food, electricity, medication
  • Identity theft
  • Scams (please see our Identity Theft page for more information)
  • Misuse of funds by an agent appointed under a Power of Attorney
  • Paying extremely high costs for caregiving or companionship
  • Caregiver is in control of the elder’s funds but does not provide for the elder’s needs
  • Elder has signed over property (home, car), made a change in their will, trust or power of attorney but is confused and doesn’t understand why they are doing so
  • Bills aren’t paid on time even though there are enough financial resources to pay bills
  • Bank account shows unusual activity
  • Elder is isolated from friends and/or family
  • Elder is afraid to speak in front of caregiver/companion/family member

Where to Get Help?

If you or someone you know is suffering from any form of elder abuse, please contact your local protective services agency for assistance. The agency that you contact will be determined as to where you reside.

Greater Springfield Senior Services Inc. (serving the Greater Springfield area)
Phone: 413-781-8800
Website: www.gsssi.org

Highland Valley Elder Services (serving Westfield and surrounding towns)
Phone: 413-568-2909
Website: www.highlandvalley.org

LifePath (serving Northampton and surrounding towns)
Phone: 413-773-5555
Website: www.lifepathma.org

Massachusetts Executive Office of Elder Affairs
Phone: 1-800-243-4636
Website: www.mass.gov/elders/

Massachusetts Elder Abuse Hotline (open 7 days a week/24 hours)
Phone: 1-800-922-2275

For Connecticut Residents: State Department on Aging
Phone: 1-860-424-5274
Website: http://www.ct.gov/agingservices/

Pioneer Valley Credit Union is Here to Help

As your financial institution and a strong supporter of combatting elder abuse, your safety and well-being is of great importance to us. If we suspect that you are being abused in any way, we will do our very best to protect you and your assets.  For more information contact us at 413-733-2800.

You have the right to make your own financial decisions; do not let anyone threaten or intimidate you. If you think someone close to you is taking control of your finances call adult protective service.

Be cautious of any company you select to engage in business

When you are contacted by a company or private party through the internet or telephone wanting to do business or sell something, conduct your own independent research. Verify the identity of that company and read over reviews or other information you can find. Make a sound decision on any purchases or dealings with a company who received negative reviews.

Be cautious when asked to wire money

Be extremely cautious if you are asked to wire money to any person or entity you do not know because its nearly impossible to reverse the transaction or trace the money. Again, do research and make sure of the identity of the person or company you are doing business.

Review your account statements frequently

Fraudsters may have stolen your identity without your knowledge so check your accounts frequently. Dishonest merchants may also take advantage by billing you for membership fees each month or other goods or services without your authorization. Contact your credit union or card processor immediately if you see charges you don't recognize or didn't authorize.

Consider giving only to established charities in the event of a disaster

Don't give to an unrecognized charity following a disaster as they could be collecting money for their own purpose or to finance illegal activity. For additional donating tips, check out ftc.gov/charityfraud.

Investments are never a sure thing

Always conduct your own research if someone contacts you with low-risk, high-return investment opportunities. When you are requested to act now to reap the benefits from these guaranteed big profits, be extremely cautious and report them at https://www.ftccomplaintassistant.gov/#&panel1-1.

Be cautious when buying products online

It's best to do business with online sites you know and trust. If you buy items through an online auction, consider using a payment option that provides protection, such as a credit card. Do not send money or wire funds to someone you dont know.

Don't agree to deposit a check and wire money back

Members are responsible for checks deposited into their account and if a check turns out to be bogus, the Member is responsible for paying it back. Anyone who overpays with a check and requests that a portion of the funds be returned is almost certainly engaging in fraud.

Don't respond to emails, voice or text messages to provide personal or financial information

Be extremely cautious when opening a link to an email or responding to any question from a telephone call where personal information is requested. Fraudsters are attempting to trick you into revealing sensitive information. If you received such a message and you are concerned about your account status, call your credit union or the number on the reverse side of your credit or debit card.