Technology and Security

Scam Alert

What You Need To Know About EMV Chip Technology

Guard Your Card: 5 Tips To Evade Gas Pump Skimmers

Why You Might Want To Consider Going Digital…With Your Wallet

What You Should Know About Data Breaches

Why And Where Of Online Shopping

Online Banking Security Awareness & Helpful Tips

Online Security

Scam Alert

Houston decorative

Scammers are getting increasingly sophisticated in their attempts to get your money or personal details. As your financial institution, we are aware of the problem, and while we cannot eliminate the scams, we want to help you recognize them. Below you will find the most recent scam that has come to light, involving your credit union's name. We will keep updating this page as new information becomes available.

Hiring Survey Evaluators or Secret Shoppers Scam

We were recently alerted to a scam where fraudsters invite people to apply for a job as survey evaluators / secret shoppers with emails or job ads stating the following:

We're hiring survey evaluators to conduct surveys at local stores like Walmart, Apple, Target, BestBuy, Local grocery stores and restaurants around you. Wage is an average of $500 to $1,000 for Part time or Full Time weekly work. I have attached an application form in pdf, you can also click the link below to read more and fill out an application... [ACTUAL EMAIL]

After the survey completion, members are issued a fraudulent Cashier’s Check in the amount of $1,950 that appears to come from our credit union. The intention is that a member deposits the fraudulent check and issues an original check to the scammers covering the overpaid amount. 

Remember: If a job offer looks amateurish in terms of its content, grammar, spelling and the pay seems too good to be true, it usually is a scam! You will also not be asked to send money back for legitimate work purposes. Anytime someone tells you they have overpaid you and ask you to return some of the funds, please contact us. If you, however, already signed up and received a check, please contact the financial institution that the check appears to come from to confirm its validity before you deposit the money to your account.  It is also advisable to verify the authenticity of the company before you share private information such as your Social Security number, Date of Birth and other sensitive information. If in doubt, please contact us for help.

Recently Financed Loan Scam

If you have recently financed a loan or mortgage with us, you may receive a postcard (or an email) mentioning your recent business and urging you to call a 1-800 number. That number is an automated service trying to sell Carribean cruises.

These postcards are sent by a company called Mortgage Protection Services, and they are not affiliated or endorsed by HTFFFCU. They state it in the small print on the postcard itself.

Protect yourself
If you receive a postcard or an email urging you to call a non-credit union number, let us know! Not only will we be able to immediately verify the legitimacy of the message you have received, but we will be able to warn other members.

What You Need To Know About EMV Chip Technology

Credit Card

EMV chip technology has changed the security game for how credit and debit cards operate. It is no secret that electronic transactions make up the majority of how you make and receive payments in today’s world. We’ve recognized this technology boom and constantly strive to give our members the best. This is why we’ve dived head first into the innovative chip card technology. So what is the 411 on all things EMV? We’re glad you asked…

What does EMV stand for?
EMV stands for Europay, Mastercard and Visa. It is named after the companies who created the technology.

What makes EMV chip cards more secure?
EMV chip cards are more secure in a sense that every time your card is used the EMV technology created a one-time user code for your payment. This means that if someone is nearby with a card scanner they will not be able to obtain all of your card information.

What is the procedure when using an EMV chip card?
With your new EMV chip card there comes a new process of purchasing at the checkout counter. Instead of swiping your card as you use to do with a magnetic stripe, you will now insert your card (chipped side) for the card to be read. As stated in the answer above, this is the time that a transaction code is created for your card and read by the card reader.

What is the difference between an EMV chip card vs a magnetic stripe card?
There are two major differences between chip cards and magnetic stripe cards. The first major difference is the extra layer of security provided by the chip cards. Since the cards contain a computer chip that generates a one-time transaction code, it is considered less vulnerable to card scanners and cyber hacks. The second major difference is that while it takes the same amount of time to make a purchase as it does with a magnetic stripe card, instead of the traditional swipe we are used to, the chip card stays in the machine the whole time it is being processed.

For more information on our upcoming credit card conversion please click here.


Guard Your Card: 5 Tips To Evade Gas Pump Skimmers

Gas pump

Heading out on a vacation road trip? Watch out at the fuel pump for a threat to your debit or credit card: skimmers. Gas stations, among the last retailers to install fraud-reducing EMV-chip card readers, remain an attractive target this summer for card-skimming crews.

Skimmers can be hidden in and around gas pumps' card readers, secretly recording the data stored in your credit or debit card's magnetic stripe. Fraudsters use that data to make counterfeit cards, rack up pricey purchases at your expense, and potentially drain your bank account.

Tips for safer swiping

Here are five ways to feel more secure at the gas pump:

  1. Run your transaction (even with a debit card) as a credit card purchase. If thieves crack your debit card, they'll be able to access your bank account. And although you can minimize your losses if you call your bank quickly, your liability for losses on credit card purchases is much more limited.

  2. Choose a fuel dispenser that's close to the store — ideally, one with security cameras installed nearby. Criminals would be less likely to tamper with pumps that are visible to workers inside the store.

  3. Opt for well-maintained service stations. Proprietors who keep their premises shipshape are also more likely to be inspecting and taking care of their pumps, says Jeff Lenard, vice president for strategic industry initiatives at the National Association of Convenience Stores. These stores account for 80% of all U.S. gas sales. Some stations have adopted visible anti-tampering measures, such as placing tamper-resistant tape over the front panel edges. That's a reassuring sign of vigilance.

  4. Take a minute or two to examine the dispenser before inserting your card. Does it look like the front panel has been pried apart? Is the keypad raised, rather than flush against the console? Do its buttons look different from the ones at neighboring pumps? Does the card reader look different? Is the reader loose in its socket? If the answer to any of these questions is yes, the pump may have been tampered with; don't use it.

  5. Pay with cash. No card use means no risk of skimming.

For that matter, take similar precautions at the ATM during your summer road trip; skimming crews still target cash machines too. And if you fear your debit card or credit card has been compromised, stolen or lost, contact your bank or credit card issuer right away. Get in touch within two business days of the event, if you can; that will limit your liability for any unauthorized charges to $50.

Why fraud lurks at the pump

Installing EMV-chip card readers is a costly and complex upgrade for gas stations, industry experts say: Replacement of the entire fuel dispenser is required. An October 2017 EMV compliance deadline imposed by Mastercard and Visa on gas stations has been extended to October 2020.

But even EMV is no magic bullet.

“Without PIN use, EMV is less successful in reducing fraud,” Lenard says.

A PIN is an additional layer of security, and although your debit card requires it, you probably won't punch in a PIN at the pump when using an EMV credit card.

Visa noted late last year that fraud at EMV-enabled merchants had been reduced by 43% — huge strides, but the crime is far from eradicated.

Caren Weiner Campbell is a staff writer at NerdWallet, a personal finance website. Email: Twitter: @ccampbell_nw.

The article Guard Your Card: 5 Tips to Evade Gas Pump Skimmers originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Why You Might Want To Consider Going Digital…With Your Wallet

money in wallet

It’s 2018. We have keyless start vehicles, voice activated TVs and watches that we can use to talk to people. Needless to say, technology has made a major impact on our society. Every day brings forth new ways of doing things to make life easier. However, with all of the new technological advances, a new breed of criminals were born. These criminals prey on cyber security systems and attempt to steal information from merchants (i.e. Home Depot, Target). While most merchants are beefing up their cyber security to ensure that your information is safer than ever, it never hurts to add another layer of security. This is where using a digital wallet comes into play.

What exactly is a digital wallet?

The term “digital wallet” refers to a computerized non tangible payment storage system that can be accessed via your mobile phone. This secure digital payment system stores your information and passwords for multiple cards so you can pay smarter and faster. The magic of quicker and safer payment options comes into play because applications like Google Pay and Apple Pay both use NFC technology. NFC stands for “Near Field Communication.” This is how you can conduct a transaction with the simple tap of your mobile device. When you use NFC technology your information is extracted from your digital wallet via a magnetic field. Imagine going to the store and making a purchase, only to realize a few days later that the store you went to has had a data breach. If you used your digital wallet such as Google Pay or Apple Pay to purchase your items, then your information may have been safe.

How is your information safer?

When you use your digital wallet your card numbers are not directly shared with a merchant, but instead, a simulated account number is used to signify your card data. This means if a merchant is ever hacked, your information stays safe. It’s more secure than swiping your card and quicker than writing a check or paying with cash.

Where can you use your digital wallet?

There are two ways you can find out where your digital wallet is accepted.

1. You can click here for a list of vendors that accept Google Pay or here for vendors that accept Apple Pay.

2. Just look for the symbols below when you are ready to checkout.

How do you start and use your digital wallet?

Creating a digital wallet is very simple. All you really need to know to get started is what kind of mobile device you have. For more information on how you can set up and use Google or Apple Pay please click on the buttons below.

What You Should Know About Data Breaches

Data Breach

A major data breach has happened in a nationwide chain of supermarkets. Credit and debit card information has been stolen and your financial information is at risk. If you are a customer of the above chain, you are advised to monitor your transactions and contact your financial institutions should you notice any suspicious activity on your account.

It sounds familiar, doesn’t it? Sadly, security data breaches are becoming more and more frequent. Still, as they happen, they’re big news and customers whose information have been compromised are often looking to point a finger at someone. As a financial institution, we completely understand. If you have been wronged, there’s usually someone to blame but it may not be who you think it is.

What is a data breach?

A data security breach occurs when a criminal has accessed and has viewed or stolen sensitive or protected information. This could be done either physically (for example by accessing local files on a computer or accessing hard copy files) or remotely by bypassing network security systems. Nowadays, hacking into network security systems is the most common method.

How does a data breach occur?

The most common tactics used by criminals include:

  • Criminals steal access credentials

  • Criminals crack weak credentials

  • Criminals find vulnerabilities in a security network

  • Criminals install malware on a device within a security network

  • Criminals infect a device within a security network with a virus

Can you spot a pattern here?

Who is responsible?

Regardless of the chosen method, it is the CRIMINALS who illegally obtain your information via the merchant (for example Walmart, Burger King or Home Depot) you use. They are the ones who commit a crime and make a profit from it.

The merchants are not guilty. However, it IS the negligence or system weakness on their part that made the data breach possible. In that sense, they might be held responsible.

How can you protect yourself after a breach?

The reality is that once there is a security breach on a merchant’s network, you are at risk of being affected.  At this point, the best way to protect yourself is to closely monitor your accounts and report any fraudulent activity as soon as possible. To do this well, we advise you to utilize account alerts which you can easily set up via your HTFFFCU Online Banking dashboard.

Even though you are limited in what you can do AFTER a breach, there are some options to keep your information secure from the get go. The best practices include:

  • Using a credit card rather than a debit card. If the money has been stolen, there is no immediate financial hit while you attempt to sort things out.

  • Paying cash rather than swiping any card.

  • Using Apple Pay or Google Pay rather than swiping your card.

Do you have any other tips? Let us know!

Why And Where Of Online Shopping

Online Shopping

Are you a little concerned about your holiday spending habits? Do you dread trekking your way through the crowded stores and queuing up at the register? Well, there is a solution for that. I would love to show you why, where and what you can shop for online and how to avoid common pitfalls.

Why would you want to shop online when there are so many stores to visit?

Reason #1
For starters, online shopping means that all that extra money you’d be putting towards gas is now in your pocket.

Reason #2
But let’s say that there are plenty of stores on your way back from work or on any another route that you regularly take. You don’t need to detour and you are not going to spend any more on gas than you usually do. First of all - lucky you! But are you certain you are getting the best price in the stores on your way home? Or perhaps they are just conveniently located and possibly overpriced establishments? Shopping online removes that doubt. With only a few clicks you can find out which retailers has the exact item you want and how much they are charging for it.

Reason #3
The fact is, there are nearly an unlimited amount of choices of products and opportunities to learn about other customers’ experiences with the vast majority of them. Simply put, if you are looking to buy a crockpot, going to a store means you can only access the specific items this store sells. Shopping online means you can find a selection of crockpots meeting your various criteria and budget too.

Where to start?

If you are not very familiar with online shopping, it might seem overwhelming. There are so many places to shop and so many things to watch out for. Yes, I admit, it’s a little scary. But let’s bring it down to the basics. If you are not sure where to start, just type in your search engine what you would like to buy. It could be as vague or as specific as you want. Once you type what you are looking for (you can follow it up with the word “online”) you will see a list of retailers selling the specific product you are looking for. Now it’s time to dive in and compare the products, prices, availability and decide whether you want to make a purchase.

Remember that online shopping doesn’t have to mean online buying. After doing your research on the web, you can still decide to buy in person in a store near you if that’s the best deal you have found.

What to buy?

Well, what would you like to buy? In the midst of the internet you can find the newest technology products, vintage items, collectibles, accessories, food, plants, pets… you name it.

Although retailers seem to sell pretty much anything online these days, I do believe that online shopping has its limitations for everyone. For me personally, perishables, clothes and shoes are off limits. They either spoil way too fast, look way too tight or hurt my feet, all in this order. Everything else goes in that virtual cart of mine. Meaning most of my electronics, furniture, linens, books, board games, kitchenware, even cosmetics or chewing gums are bought (or at least researched) online. This saves me a lot of money and disappointment. For once I only look at the items I know I can afford and I only look at the ones previously reviewed so I know exactly what to expect of them, and that’s what I recommend to you.

Having said all the above, your list of items you would NOT buy online can be completely different than mine. You might include shoes but exclude art. You might shop online solely for electronics. It’s all about your preferences and willingness to search the web.

How to avoid common pitfalls?

With online shopping you can make as many mistakes as with your regular shopping. Try to adhere to the following practices and you should have a very pleasant experience.

1. Don’t take a chance on unknown retailers

Try to use well-known and established companies and if you are not familiar with a retailer, take some precautions. Check that the site lists its full address and phone numbers, whether it has a satisfying returns and refunds policy, and that the payments are protected by a secure connection (such as HTTPS etc.) Better yet, you can look for reviews of each of the retailers by typing their names and the words such as “reviews”, “scam” etc. Check for ratings on sites like

For more information about how to spot fake websites read this.

2. Check the shipping costs and taxes

Can’t stress that enough. The unbeatable price might double when you add shipping costs and taxes.

3. Don’t save your payment information

This one is so tempting because it means you only input your information on the site once instead of every single time when you want to purchase something. But beware that data breaches, although far less likely, can affect even reputable, established retailers. Should this happen, your financial information might become available to fraudsters.

4. Use your credit, not debit card

Although you can shop online using your debit card too, it’s always safer to use a credit card for online purchases because it doesn’t take the money directly from your account. Should anything happens (see 3) with a credit card, the money in your account is not affected.

What are your experiences with online shopping?  What are your recommendations and tips? Let us know!

Anita Tomczak works in the HTFFFCU marketing department and she is responsible for social media, market research and a lot of promotional blitz. She loves reading, eating and cycling (in this order) and constantly tries to broaden her horizons, both at work and in her personal life.

Online Banking Security Awareness & Helpful Tips

Using a computer

Regulation E protections related to accounts with internet access:

  • Please review the EFT Disclosures section of your deposit account contract (known as part 2).

HTFFFCU will never send e-mails requesting personal information, ask you to verify information, or ask you to click on a special site link.

  • Do not hesitate to call the credit union at 713-864-0959 to confirm any communication we may send you.

Steps members can take to reduce online risk on commercial accounts:

  • Perform employee background checks on all account representatives and signers

  • Segregate duties and require dual control

  • Establish minimum requirements for online account passwords

  • Establish monitoring procedures to detect suspicious account activity

  • Establish response procedures to specify actions to be taken by specific individuals when unauthorized access is suspected

Steps members can take to reduce online risk on personal accounts:

  • Regularly log into HTFFFCU Online to check your account balances and transactions

  • Notify the credit union immediately if you notice any unexpected account activity

  • Create strong passwords that use a combination of letters and numbers that are not easily guessed.

  • Make sure that the anti-virus software on your computer is current and that it scans your e-mail as it is received

  • When conducting business online, make sure your internet browser’s padlock or key icon is active.

  • Always click the “Logout” button on HTFFFCU Online immediately after you are finished.

  • Do not share your login ID or password with anyone.

  • Do not send or receive personal account information by unsecure or unencrypted e-mail

  • Never respond to an e-mail that requests information about you or your accounts.

  • Do not open e-mails or attachments from unknown sources.

Important contact information for victims of identity theft:

Call the FTC’s Identity Theft Hotline, toll-free: 1-877-ID-THEFT or visit their website

Contact one of the three consumer reporting companies and have a fraud alert placed on your credit report. This will help stop fraudsters from opening any additional accounts in your name. Contact only one of the following (the others are required to contact the other two):

Equifax: 1 (800) 525-6285;
Equifax Fraud Division, P.O. Box 740250, Atlanta, GA 30374

Experian: 1 (888)-397-37426;
Experian Fraud Division, P.O. Box 1017, Allen, TX 75013

Transunion: 1(800) 680-7289;
TransUnion Fraud Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA

Online Security


Security Precautions to your Online Banking

Stay safe by taking simple precautions:

  1. Never share credentials.

  2. Ensure that any computer system used to connect to a banking website is updated with all applicable security patches.

  3. Ensure that any computer system used to connect to a banking website has effective antivirus software installed and the virus definitions are updated and installed automatically on a regular basis.

  4. Initiate an antivirus scan of any computer previously used to connect to a banking website. This should help uncover any viruses that have already been installed on the system. To remove an already present virus, the user may need to take additional steps including but not limited to, contacting technical support for the computer manufacturer or antivirus company, or installing a fresh version of the operating system.

  5. Consider subscribing to a credit monitoring service as a precaution against further identity theft.

  6. Set up alerts to be notified of transactions or significant balance changes.

  7. Monitor statistics and account history.

  8. Monitor e-mail to ensure that a notification hasn't been received regarding a change of e-mail address.

  9. Verify e-mail addresses periodically.

  10. Change multi-factor authentication and PINs regularly.