Don’t Be A Victim Of A Social Security Scam

Any of the hundreds of scams around today can make you feel like we live in a worldmature woman holding a piece of paper gone mad. How cruel can someone be to con a poor victim out of thousands of dollars?

But one of the most heartless scams making the rounds is the one targeting the elderly who depend on Social Security benefits for basic living needs. When these victims are tricked out of their benefits or their accounts are emptied, they may be left with no resources at all.

Worse yet, scammers are fully aware that the elderly make for easy victims. Many older Americans are from a bygone era in which anyone on the phone could be trusted. They haven’t grown up in a society that knows to constantly look over their shoulders and to cover their keypads when punching in a PIN. The elderly can be naïve and trusting, and it is this endearing naivety that can make them fall prey to scams.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of a recent surge in Social Security scams which, unfortunately, are often successful.

Here’s how these scams work:

The victim receives a phone call from an alleged Social Security employee telling them their benefits have been suspended and must be reactivated. The caller claims the suspension is due to suspicious account activity or that it happened because of a computer glitch. To lift the suspension, the scammer says, the victim must share their personal information, including full legal name, phone number, Social Security number and financial account information.

Alternatively, the victim will receive an automated voice message instructing them to call a specific number to correct a problem with their Social Security benefits. Upon calling the given phone number, the victim is asked to provide their personal information.

In yet another version of this Social Security scam, the victim receives an email that looks like it came from the Social Security Administration (SSA). The email will include a link asking the victim to update their personal information, giving a similar backstory as above.

If you receive Social Security benefits, or you know someone else who does, protect yourself and your loved ones by reviewing and educating others about these tips:

The Social Security Administration will never call about suspended benefits

There’s no reason to believe a caller who claims your benefits have been suspended. First, Social Security benefits don’t get suspended because of computer glitches. Second, the SSA will not call you to request your personal information out the blue. Government agencies rarely make phone calls to private citizens. When they do, the citizen will always know to expect that call.

Never share personal information via unsecured means

Don’t trust just anyone. It’s best not to share personal information over the phone or the internet. If you must, verify that you are interacting with the party you believe you’ve reached. The best way to do so is by contacting the SSA yourself at 1-800-772-1213. Remember, con artists are experts at looking and sounding like genuine government officials. Don’t fall for their tricks.

Report all scam attempts

Help combat these scams by reporting any attempts made to con you out of your personal information.

If you receive a phone call or an email from an alleged SSA employee requesting information, don’t respond. Instead, call the SSA at 1-800-772-1213 (TTY 1-800-325-0778), or call your local Social Security office and ask if there is actually a problem with your benefits. If, as is likely, there is no problem and you’re being scammed, the SSA will be better equipped to stop the scammers from conning more victims.

You can also call the Office of Inspector General (OIG) at 1-866-501-2101 or complete a Public Fraud Reporting form at the OIG website at socialsecurity.gov.

Finally, report the scam attempt to the FTC at ftc.gov.

Tell your friends and family

Fight back by doing your own part to stop those scammers. Tell anyone you know who receives Social Security benefits about these scams and warn them not to share their information on the phone and online.

Let’s keep our money safe and send those scammers packing!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a Social Security scam? Share your story with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/09/your-social-security-number-isnt-suspended-ever

https://www.ssa.gov/phila/scams.htm
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fool.com/amp/retirement/2018/09/09/the-social-security-scam-that-just-wont-die.aspx

10 Reasons To Be Thankful For Your Credit Union

We often take life’s many gifts for granted by failing to appreciate them deeply enough.man shaking woman's hand over a desk Thanksgiving offers the perfect opportunity to reflect upon everything that is wonderful in our lives and to show our gratitude for each and every gift we’ve been given.

This Thanksgiving, give thanks for your credit union! Let’s review 10 reasons to be grateful you belong to Destinations Credit Union.

Personalized member service

At Destinations Credit Union, you’re always greeted with happy faces and representatives who are ready and willing to help you. There’s no cold, sterile atmosphere here! Instead, at Destinations Credit Union, every member is part of the family. We’re truly invested in your financial wellness and we’re here to help you achieve and maintain it, every step of the way.

You have access to better savings rates

We’re not paying dividends to stockholders, and that means we have more savings to pass back to you. At Destinations Credit Union, we’re proud to offer you share certificate, high yield and savings rates that are well above the national average.

We make it easier to qualify for credit

The absence of a national bank corporate office enables us to be more flexible about extending credit. We set our own underwriting standards! That makes it easier for you to borrow, even if your existing credit isn’t perfect.

We offer lower interest rates

Need a stash of cash? Stop by Destinations Credit Union and take your pick of loans: personal loans, home loans, auto loans and more, all with reasonable interest rates that are often lower than the regional or national average. We’ll help you get the funds you need with a payback plan you can actually afford!

Your money is safe here

Federally insured credit unions and banks both offer insurance on accounts of up $250,000. But credit unions are also subject to strict regulations on their investments and loans. This means you can keep your money here without worrying about its security.

Free Checking Accounts

Our checking accounts exist to provide you with a safe, convenient place to store your money-not to milk you for it. Checking accounts at Destinations Credit Union are free to set up and maintain.  You’ll have your choice of our free no-frills checking or our high-rate rewards checking account.

Conversely, according to a MoneyRates survey, the average monthly maintenance fee for a checking account at a bank is $12. That’s nearly $150 coming out of consumers’ pockets each year!

At Destinations Credit Union you’ll have a safe place to keep your money without it costing you a bundle.*

You own a piece of your credit union

Credit unions are member-owned and member-operated. You get to weigh in on our major decisions instead of being forced to follow along with whatever the higher-ups decide. Your money=your choices.

We support small businesses

Credit unions are invested in the success of local small businesses. Here at Destinations Credit Union,  we outsource to local businesses, shop at local businesses and obtain professional services from local businesses.  We offer credit union membership to many small and large local business employees and are a proud member of the Parkville Carney Business Association.

Fewer fees

Banks are notorious for slapping consumers with fees at any given opportunity. Here at Destinations Credit Union, we want to help you keep as much of your money as possible. Any fees we do have are nominal and generally lower than what banks demand.

We also want you to have access to your money without worrying about expensive ATM fees. To that end, we provide our members with a large network of ATMs with no cost for withdrawing money.

 You have access to a variety of financial services

At Destinations Credit Union, we’re a lot more than just a gigantic piggy bank. We provide members with an array of financial services to meet every money-related need at every life stage. These include: Credit Cards with no annual fees and low interest rates, Direct Deposit, Wire Deposits, Financial Education and Counseling Services,  Holiday/Vacation Clubs, Holiday/Vacation Loans, Vehicle Loans, Notary Services, Online Banking and more!

As a member of a credit union, your money is always in good hands. Aren’t you thankful you belong to Destinations Credit Union?

*Please note, checking accounts have fees for things like check printing, overdrafts or returned checks.

Your Turn: Why are you thankful for Destinations Credit Union? Share your favorite reasons with us in the comments!  Or, rate us on Google!

SOURCES:
https://www.motionfcu.org/articles/5-advantages-of-a-credit-union-vs-a-bank

http://www.experian.com/blogs/insights/2016/10/top-10-reasons-people-love-credit-unions/
https://www.lovemycreditunion.org/why-join-a-credit-union

Gift Giving on a Budget

This article is courtesy of Faye Griffiths-Smith of UConn Extension, a nonprofit coordinator of 

wooden boards with holiday decorations and the word Save

Connecticut Saves.

As the holiday season approaches, do you find yourself looking forward to the festivities, but concerned about the impact on your wallet? You are not alone. By doing some planning now, you can simplify your gift giving. Here are ten ways you can enjoy this special time of year and keep spending in check:

  1. Food. Consumable items are very popular during the holidays. The recipients may enjoy the product themselves or share it with others when entertaining. Consider special breads, beverages, fruit baskets, snack items, regional favorites, and gourmet coffees and teas.
  2. Go green. Find locally grown plants, flowers, and dried wreaths. Another option might be to purchase colorful washable napkins, placemats, dishcloths, reusable bags, and lunch bags with individual containers for sandwiches and snacks.
  3. Set limits. This could be done by establishing a dollar amount per gift, completing your shopping in only one or two trips, purchasing one gift per family, or committing to doing all your shopping locally.
  4. Made by you. Make your own food specialty. Knit a scarf. Hand craft an item. Create an annual holiday ornament. Give a framed photo.
  5. Hobby-related gift or gift certificates. Consider the recipient’s hobbies and interests. Are there gardeners, chefs, woodworkers, knitters, readers and gamers on your list? Gift accordingly by providing them with the tools or materials to do what they enjoy.
  6. Agree on a gift challenge. Discuss this idea well in advance of the holidays with those whom you regularly exchange gifts, but make it fun. You might suggest handmade items only, gifts under $10, one gift for a whole family, limit shopping to consignment or thrift store finds or pick a theme such as useful or consumable items only.
  7. Purchase the same type of gift for everyone. It could be umbrellas, scarfs, journals, board games, puzzles, nice pens, throws, books, or flashlights and batteries.
  8. Recipe Book. You could make up a recipe book with family favorites or provide a blank recipe book for the great cooks in your life.
  9. Coupons for your services. Offer your time and abilities. You can create coupons related to your skills. Perhaps it is cooking a favorite meal, snow shoveling, home repair or an oil change, mending, guitar lessons and so on.
  10. Create a special memory. Look in newspapers or online for special events this holiday that are free or low cost. Instead of purchasing gifts, make a date with your family and friends to enjoy an event together and get together for desserts and coffee.

Most importantly: enjoy your holidays!

 

Syncing Your Phone To Your Car Can Put You At Risk

In our uber-connected world, pressing a button on the steering wheel to make a phone Hand holding moble phone on dashboard of carcall is already second nature for many of us. With just a few taps, we can pull up our favorite playlist, read recent emails and even send a text message. Using our cars like a phone and storing information in data systems is incredibly convenient! And it helps us safely drive while using the phone hands-free, too.

Convenient though it may be, security experts are warning that syncing your phone to your car can put you at severe risk for a data breach. Connecting a rental car or a rideshare vehicle to your phone poses an even greater security risk.

Keep your information safe and avoid getting hacked by educating yourself about this oft-overlooked risk. Here’s what you need to know about the dangers of syncing your phone to your car.

The sensitive information stored in your phone-and your car

When you connect your phone to your car, you’re using your vehicle to store loads of information that’s frighteningly easy to access.

Would you ever leave your wallet on the passenger seat of your car in a crowded neighborhood and then leave the doors unlocked? By storing your personal information in your car, you’re essentially doing just that. A hacker can easily scrape data from your car, even if your phone is nowhere in sight. All they need to do is connect their own phone to your car’s Bluetooth system and they’re in!

This is especially alarming when you consider the excessive amount of sensitive data most people store in their phones without thinking much of it. Here is some of the information a hacker can access via a synced car:

  • Recent call log
  • Recent text messages
  • Garage door opener code
  • Personal calendar
  • List of contacts
  • Recent emails
  • GPS data that includes your home address

Use extra caution when renting a car

If syncing your own vehicle to your phone poses a security risk, that risk increases tenfold when using a rental car.

According to a report from Privacy International, most major rental-car companies have no policies to delete sensitive information that is collected during a rental once a user returns the car. You may have experienced this yourself if you’ve ever picked up a rental and find that the device information of the last 10 renters was still stored in the vehicle. That means, if you were to sync your own phone, the next renter would have your information at their fingertips.

It’s fun to have your own music blasting through your ride, and it’s convenient to sync your stored addresses to the car’s GPS system. But no fun or convenience is worth the risk this move can pose to your privacy and safety.

When you leave your personal information in a rental car, you run the risk of the next renter using your information to access your financial accounts, rob your home, or even steal your identity. And don’t make the mistake of thinking that your name and navigation history are not enough for a criminal to do much harm. Once they have this bit of information, they can hack into your social media profiles and crack open your passwords and usernames all over the internet. There are loads of creeps just waiting for the opportunity to act-don’t put yourself at risk!

You can delete your device’s information from the car you rent, but that can also be scraped by a low-level hacker. To be completely safe, it’s best not to sync your phone when renting a car at all.

If you frequently use rideshare programs, like Uber and Lyft, your driver might generously allow you to sync your phone to the car’s infotainment system so you can listen to your favorite song while waiting for the traffic to clear. This, too, can put your information at risk. If a driver ever makes this offer, pull out a pair of earbuds and tell the driver no thanks.

How to protect yourself

You don’t need to give up the convenience of a synced phone in order to protect your privacy. Simply follow these precautions and your information should be safe.

  • Never sync your phone with a rental vehicle or a ride-share car.
  • Don’t plug into USB ports in rental cars.
  • Delete any personal information already stored in your vehicle.
  • Adjust your phone’s settings to the strongest security levels..
  • Restrict the amount of information your vehicle can access and don’t allow it to store or access information without re-syncing to your phone.

Don’t let convenience put you at risk! Exercise caution and protect your privacy when syncing your phone to your car.

Your Turn: How do you keep the information stored in your phone safe from hackers? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/does-connecting-your-phone-to-your-car-open-up-new-security-risks/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.whio.com/news/local/connected-cars-how-syncing-your-phone-vehicles-could-put-your-data-risk/jnPmGicuvSVrdh5rs0gvgL/amp.html
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/amp/1080225001

Why Do I Spend So Much When Shopping Online?

Q: I’m really trying to stick to a budget this holiday season, and I’m doing most of mywoman holding laptop and opening boxes shopping online. It should be easy to stay on track, so why am I constantly going over budget?

A: Both online and in-store shopping can tempt you to overspend, but the internet is particularly designed to help you lose track of your dollars.

More and more people are choosing to hit the web instead of the mall for holiday shopping. The internet definitely wins for convenience. Since there are no crowded malls, no long lines and no crabby cashiers, it’s much more enjoyable. Plus, you get to shop in your PJs. Can it get better than that?

Shopping the old-fashioned way, though, is not without merit. When purchasing items that need to fit right or that you may need immediately, you might want to head to the mall or local small business. You might even save money that way.

If you choose to do most of your holiday shopping on the internet, though, it’s good to understand why we tend to overspend online.

Why we spend more online

Here are 10 ways online retailers push us to overspend:

  1. They push products strategically. The first few products you’ll see when you visit a retail website aren’t necessarily the hottest-selling items; they’re just the stuff the company needs to get rid of most urgently. Most people, though, will assume the products on the site’s homepage are the most popular and will quickly drop one or two of these items into their cart.
  2. They offer free shipping-with a minimum purchase. Don’t think the retailer is being super-generous when they offer to sponsor the shipping costs if you spend $50 or more. They’re only luring you to spend more. And it works: Most people choose to fill their carts with stuff they don’t need just to avoid paying the shipping fee.
  3. They make it super-easy to check out. Websites make their checkout process ridiculously easy just to keep you buying. If your info’s been saved on the site, you can order your whole cart within minutes. The quicker you make those purchases, the less time you have to rethink them and opt out.
  4. They offer spending-based discounts. Online retailers often offer discounts after you’ve reached a certain spending threshold. Just like the free-shipping minimum, these conditional discounts manipulate you into spending more just to qualify-even if you won’t save any money at the end of the day.
  5. They change their prices without rhyme or reason. Online retailers constantly adjust their prices according to consumer and market behavior. This tactic, known as “dynamic pricing,” is designed to draw you back to the site again and again just to check the going price. It also prompts you to buy before the price rises again.
  6. They use anchor pricing. Retailers want you to believe you’re getting a great deal. They frequently employ “anchor pricing,” or placing items with inflated price tags right next to one you’re looking at now to make your desired item look less costly.
  7. Their ads stalk you. Online retailers target you with ads based on your search history. They know what you’re into and they can even determine your style.
  8. They have lenient return policies. Online retailers purposely have looser return policies than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. They know you’ll consider these policies when making your purchase and that you’re more likely to buy something online if you can easily send it back to the store.
  9. They have a virtual checkout aisle. If you think you’ll save big by shopping online because you won’t be tempted to grab all those goodies that the brick-and-mortar stores have lining their checkout aisles, here’s a reality check: Retailers are smarter than that. They’ve discovered a way to create a virtual checkout aisle, full of last minute add-ons that go well with the stuff you’re buying. It’s all designed to make you drop another item or two into your cart before you realize your total is way above your planned budget.
  10. They stay in touch. That subtle email reminder that you still have items in your cart is really just a nice way of nudging you back into. buying mode. Fact is, it works. When retailers send you emails with headlines that scream about “Today Only!” and “Free Shipping on Every Order,” they get your attention. And your money, too.

Spending less online

Should you ditch the on-the-couch shopping and camp out at the mall until the holidays?

You don’t need to be extreme and do all your shopping IRL this year. By educating yourself about the most common manipulative tactics that online retailers use, you’re already better equipped at handling them. You can also follow these tips to keep your online spending to a minimum:

  • Shop with a list. Yes, just like the one you scribble before heading to the grocery. Don’t just have a look around your favorite sites. Decide what you want and need to purchase before browsing, and do your best to stick to your list.
  • Set a time limit. When there are no store closing hours to curtail your shopping trip, you can easily lose track of the time, which can trigger overspending. Plus, the internet is designed to keep you engaged, and one click leads to another. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to shop, and once time’s up, snap your laptop shut.
  • Never pay full price. Don’t check out without doing a quick search for coupons and discounts on sites like RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com.
  • Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel to qualify for free shipping.Don’t buy stuff you don’t need just to avoid a dreaded shipping fee.
  • Shop early. You’ll find it easier to stick to your budget, and to avoid the free shipping trap, when you shop early. Plus, many e-tailers offer free shipping with no strings attached as long as you don’t mind waiting a bit for your stuff to show up.

With awareness and careful planning, you can stick to your budget this holiday season-even when shopping online.

Your Turn: Do you spend more when shopping online or in-store? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/05/18/you-might-be-spending-twice-as-much-money-as-you-think-online-shopping.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.recode.net/platform/amp/2018/6/8/17441288/internet-time-spent-tv-zenith-data-media
https://apparelmag.com/holiday-trend-continues-consumers-will-do-more-shopping-online-vs-store-season
https://www.everydollar.com/blog/online-vs-in-store-shopping
https://www.google.com/amp/s/kdvr.com/2017/12/04/do-you-spend-more-when-shopping-online/amp/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/sneaky-ways-online-retailers-get-you-to-spend-more-2016-5

5 Scams To Avoid This Black Friday

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk.woman shopping black friday sale on tablet Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch.

Here are 5 scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving.

Crazy deals that are actually bogus

The noisy crowds and flashy ads on Black Friday can lead you to make rash decisions and spend more than you planned. But be careful not to leave your senses at home.

An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of genuine Ugg boots for just $9? These deals sound insane because that’s exactly what they are. And yet, thousands of people happily send their money to online stores that are advertising these laughable prices on Black Friday. And of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they won’t hesitate to use it for their own shopping spree – all on your dime.

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. It’s only bait used by scammers to lure you into their trap. Black Friday deals tend to fall within the 20-30% off range or an offer of free shipping.

Black Friday gift cards for cheap

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you might see an explosion of cheap gift cards being sold at online marketplaces. The gift cards are linked to big-name retailers and are offered for a fraction of their real value.

These cards are usually stolen from their real owners. The victim of the theft will likely report the loss and the card will be disabled. And you’ll have forked over your hard-earned money for a card that’s not worth the plastic it’s made from.

Be smarter: Don’t buy any gift cards that are retailing at a heavily marked-down price.

Bait and switch

Want to be the lucky winner of a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details and take this survey. You may just be the proud new owner of the super-expensive phone!

If you know anything about online scams, you’ll already recognize this one. Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. And, with holiday expenses growing each year, it’s the perfect time to lure an innocent victim into thinking they’ve just saved a ton of money.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from this scam just because you’re doing all your Black Friday shopping at the mall. “Bait and switch” scams can happen offline, too.

The brick-and-mortar version of this scam is somewhat less nefarious. Retailers will advertise deals so amazing you’ll find yourself traveling across town and battling impossible traffic to grab these bargains. Once you finally reach the store, though, you’ll be told that those items are all sold out, but you can check out the items they do have in stock. You’ll be shown similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are just a waste of your time and often your money, too.

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with.

Delivery problems

With so much of your shopping happening online, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases. But if you get an email like this asking you to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date, you’re looking at a scam. You may also receive a message asking you to pay an extra fee for delivery after you’ve completed an order. Again, this email is bogus and you’re being scammed. Ignore these emails. And, if you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly.

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source.

Online purchases that can only be paid for with a wire transfer

If you’re planning on going on an all-out spending spree this Black Friday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected.

A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and retailers you trust and frequent often (don’t forget that Small Business Saturday is in between Black Friday and Cyber Monday – support your local retailers!).

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back.

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card.

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and outsmart scammers!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a Black Friday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.finder.com/black-friday-scams

https://www.scam-detector.com/article/black-friday-scam
https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-scams-watch-black-friday-cyber-monday/

8 Reasons To Shop Local On Small Business Saturday

Mega e-tailers, like Amazon and Walmart, may monopolize online commerce, but it’s thwoman holding an open sign inside of storee small businesses across the country that keep the economy going. In fact, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA), the 28 million small businesses in America account for 54 percent of all sales in the country. Small businesses create jobs, build a demand for locally made products and keep communities thriving.

Your local small businesses are part of your community’s landscape. That’s where you rub shoulders with your neighbors, where you catch the latest town news and where you’re always greeted with a warm smile. At a local small business, you’ll be guaranteed superior service and the gratification that comes from knowing you’re supporting the economy in your own community.

Here at Destinations Credit Union we strongly believe in supporting the community and helping local businesses flourish. Join us in our important goal by shopping local on Small Business Saturday and throughout the holiday season.

Here are our top 8 reasons to shop local:

Help create jobs in your community

The money you spend at local retailers goes back into your community. When you support these small businesses, you enable them to grow and hire more workers, thus creating more jobs and helping the local economy thrive.

Keep your tax dollars in the community

Why pay to support public services in a town across the country? Let your tax dollars serve your own community by shopping local small businesses.

When you spend your money at local retailers, approximately $68 of every $100 spent will be reinvested in your community. That money will go toward better schools, libraries and parks-in your own neighborhood.

Support the American Dream

Keep the spirit of America alive by supporting the American Dream: Anyone can start a business and work to keep it thriving. When you shop local, you’re showing support for the entrepreneurs in your community, those folks who were brave enough to strike out on their own.

Small businesses give back to the community

According to Community Business Finance, 92% of small business owners personally donate to charities and nonprofit organizations. Whether it’s a contracting company that sponsors a Little League team or a café that hosts an open mike night to raise money for the local soup kitchen, small businesses play a large part in supporting community causes and charities.

When you shop local, you’re enabling small businesses to continue supporting community charities.

Celebrate your community

This Small Business Saturday, celebrate your community! Spend a delightful afternoon browsing the local shops and talking with customers and small business owners. Ask about their family members, chat about the weather and revisit all your favorite local hotspots. You’ll reconnect with your community, support its businesses and rediscover what makes it thrive.

Find unique gifts

Skip the overrated, mass-produced items at huge chain stores this holiday season, and find gifts for everyone on your list at local stores. You’ll be rewarded with an array of truly unique and durable items that will make the perfect gifts for your family and friends.

 Help keep your community interesting

Imagine your community with no small businesses, only franchise stores from major retailers and restaurants. How boring would that be? Sure, we need those mainstream retailers and everyone likes a fast food chain they know well, but it’s the small businesses that keep the community vibrant and colorful. They’re the ones running quirky marketing campaigns and hosting online contests that have the entire town buzzing.

And where else can you pick up a portion of local crab cakes or crab dip?

You wouldn’t want any of the charming little stores that dot your town’s landscape to be forced to close due to a lack of business. These stores rely on your patronage! Shop local to help keep those mom-and-pop shops thriving.

Explore new retailers and restaurants

What better way to try out the latest haunts in town than by spending the day shopping local small businesses? Give that new pizza place a try, sample the lattes at the small coffee joint that just opened its doors and browse through the merchandise at the quaint costume jewelry store you’ve been wanting to check out since its grand opening. It’s a fantastically fun way to kick off your holiday shopping!

On Small Business Saturday, and throughout the holiday season, give back to the community you love by shopping local. You’ll be glad you did!

Are you a small business owner? We want to help keep your company thriving! Give us a call or stop by the credit union today to ask about offering credit union membership as a free benefit to your employees!

Your Turn: What’s your favorite reason to shop local? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.eccalifornian.com/article/small-business-saturday-supporting-local-businesses

http://www.communitybusinessfinance.com/blog/10-reasons-support-small-business-saturday/
https://www.wthr.com/article/shoppers-support-local-businesses-on-small-business-saturday

How To Prepare Your Home For Winter

Q: Help! I know I need to prepare my home for the upcoming cold weather, but I don’t Image of house with stocking cap and money jarknow where to start. What do I need to do?

A: As soon as you see the seasonal aisles at your favorite superstores filling with Halloween paraphernalia, you know “Old Man Winter” will be creeping up on us before you can say “Boo!”

This year, be prepared. Keep your home warm and safe this winter by following our comprehensive to-do list before the real cold sets in.

Seal your home

Don’t let those brutal winds inside! Your home is your fortress against the cold, so make it as airtight as possible. Give your home a quick run-through, checking for visible and hidden drafts. You can do this by holding a lit candle near the following areas:

  • Windows
  • Doors
  • Vents and fans
  • Plumbing areas
  • Air conditioners
  • Mail chutes
  • Electrical and gas lines

If the candle flickers, you’ve got a draft.

Seal up all holes and reinforce existing points of entry with weather stripping. You can pick some up in your local hardware store. Follow the simple instructions and you’ll be keeping that cold air out and the warm air inside – right where it belongs.

You can also caulk windows and doors to make sure they’re truly sealed against the cold.

Clean your gutters

If your gutters are clogged with sodden leaves, they can freeze up and block the drainage, allowing melting ice and snow to slowly seep into your roof and cause excessive damage. You can do this chore on your own, or hire a professional roofer to get the job done for you for under $100.

Invest in a roof rake

And here you thought raking was strictly for autumn! If you live in an area that sees lots of snow each winter, your roof can be sitting under several feet of snow for a few weeks at a time. All of that snow can get heavy, causing your roof to collapse.

Invest in a roof rake that will help you clear the snow off your roof when it really starts piling up. You don’t want that roof falling in during the coldest time of the year.

Reverse your ceiling fans

Flick the reverse switch on your ceiling fans to make the blades spin in a clockwise direction instead of counterclockwise. This way, the fans will produce an updraft, which will push the rising hot air down so it can keep the entire room warm.

This is especially crucial in rooms that have high ceilings, or are even two stories high. You might find that putting your ceiling fans to work allows you to crank down the thermostat by a couple degrees to trim your energy bill this winter.

Prune your trees

Take a walk around your home’s exterior and inspect all trees and bushes near its façade. Look for low-hanging or loose branches that are close to your house. If you find any, prune them now so they don’t end up cracking from heavy snow or wind and causing damage to your home.

Take inventory of your emergency supplies

Don’t be stuck facing empty store shelves days before the first big storm hits; Prepare now! Stock up on water, canned food, batteries, flashlights and storm lanterns. You may also want to invest in an external charger for some juice when the lights go out.

Turn off external faucets

Unscrew your garden hose from the spigot and drain your sprinkler system to prevent any freezing. You may need to call in a professional to do this properly.

Protect your pipes from freezing

Did you know that a burst pipe can cost you more than $5,000 in water damage?

Prevent burst pipes with these simple steps:

  • Keep your heat on-even when you’re not home. You don’t need to turn the thermostat all the way up when you’re out, but keep it on a moderately warm temperature so your pipes don’t freeze and burst.
  • Allow your faucets to drip during severe cold snaps so that the water flows through your cold pipes. Allowing the water to stay stagnant puts it at greater risk of freezing.
  • Wrap any exposed piping to prevent freezing. You can find foam rubber or fiberglass sleeves for pipes and outdoor hose bibs at hardware stores.

Check your heating system

Crank up the heat before the cold blows in to check if everything is in working order. After turning on your heating system, walk through your home to check if every heating vent is blowing warm air. If anything needs repairs, tend to it now while it’s still warm out.

Your Turn: What’s on your checklist this fall as you prepare your home for winter? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.farmers.com/inner-circle/home-tool-kit/winter-weather-home-checklist/

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.kiplinger.com/slideshow/real-estate/T029-S001-12-ways-to-prepare-your-home-for-winter.html
https://www.nationwide.com/winter-weather.jsp

9 Ways To Break Up With Your Phone

Dearest phone,Man laying in bed looking at smartphone

It feels like we’ve known each other forever. You’ve been there for me through everything and I can’t imagine life without you. But this relationship has to end. I can’t do this anymore. It’s not you; it’s me. I’m not myself when I’m around you and you turn me into someone I don’t recognize or like.

I need to move on. But don’t worry; we can still be friends.

Are you ready to pen this breakup letter to the love of your life?

You may not think you’re addicted to your phone, but they were created to keep us completely absorbed and captivated. In fact, the average American adult checks their phone every 12 minutes, spending more than 4 hours on their phone daily. For teens and young adults, those numbers are even higher.

Smartphones are the ultimate oxymorons. They were created to help us multitask and save time, but we waste hours upon hours on them every day. They help us stay connected, but we’re more lonely and disconnected than ever.

So, are you brave enough to break out of the 21st century’s mobile prison? You’ll find yourself with lots of free time to do the things that really matter, you’ll improve your relationships with friends and family, you’ll finally break free of the superficial and gossipy world of social media, and more.

Get ready to regain control of your life!

Use apps to track the time you spend on your phone

Ironically, the best way to wean yourself off your phone is to use an app. Download Checky or Moment to see how much time you actually spend on your phone. You might be shocked by the number of hours you actually spend thumbing through your device. Moment will even let you track the time you spend on each particular app.

Once you have this information in hand, use it to set restrictions on how you spend time on your phone.

Socialize without it

The sight of a group of friends ostensibly socializing, but each bent over their own device, has become so familiar it’s almost cliché. But, if you take a minute to think about it, being busy with your phone when you’re out with friends is like frankly telling them you’d rather be somewhere else. Seriously – how rude can you get?

Keep your phone out of sight when you’re spending time with family or friends. You might discover that socializing IRL totally kicks what you can do on-screen.

Ban it from your bedroom

Co-sleeping with your phone can really kill the quality of your shut-eye and keep you up a lot later than you’d like. The bright screen messes with your melatonin production, making it hard for you to drift off or fall back to sleep if you’ve woken up mid-dream. The endless distraction your phone provides can also keep you up for hours, and you’ll pay the price the next day when you’re trying to focus through half-lidded eyes.

Don’t be dependent on your phone’s alarm to pull you out of bed in the morning either. Instead, invest in a good old-fashioned alarm clock. It will do the job just fine.

Kick your phone out of bed and leave it charging overnight in another room. You’ll perform better on every level when you can get a full night’s sleep.

Delete a social media app – or all of them!

If smartphones are the ultimate time-waster, it’s social media that takes the blame for making them so absorbing. Waiting for our friends’ approval and likes can be addictive and give a false impression that we’re actually connecting meaningfully.

You don’t have to give up social media entirely, though you can if you’d like. But, if you limit your time spent on social media to when you’re sitting in front of a computer, you’ll drastically cut down on the hours you waste on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and more. Also, you won’t be picking up your phone every few minutes to check for the latest updates.

Spend your meals apart

Yes, you can actually enjoy a good meal without sharing it with your crowd of fawning Instagram followers. Stop snapping and focus on your food. You’ll make smarter meal choices and enjoy it more when you’re eating alone.

Give it the cold shoulder

Sometimes, you need to ignore someone or they just won’t go away. Be brave and turn off all notifications on your phone except for phone and text messages. You don’t really need to know every time a retailer sends you a promotional email or an app alerts you about something senseless. Every notification compels you to pick up your phone again. So, turn them off and you’ll be less inclined to waste time on your phone.

Prepare for withdrawal symptoms

Breaking up with a significant other is never easy. Scientists have found that phone addiction is very real – and so are the withdrawal symptoms people experience when they try to disengage from their devices. Be prepared for feelings of anxiety and restlessness for the first few days after you break up with your phone. Don’t worry; you’ll get over it soon.

Take your email off your phone

Unless you absolutely need to be reached via email at any time, there’s no reason to have email access on your phone. Most of us only skim through incoming emails on our phones and don’t respond to them until we’re sitting in front of a computer. The emails only distract us from whatever we’re doing at a given time. Keep your virtual mail on your computer for more freedom from your phone.

Leave it at home

Finally, if you’ve detached enough from your phone that you no longer feel like you’re missing a limb if it’s not within your reach, start going out without your phone. You’ll experience the true freedom of being able to live and breathe in the moment with no distractions on hand.

Break up with your phone and you’ll discover the liberation of owning your time and connecting meaningfully once again.

Your Turn:

Have you broken up with your phone? Tell us about the impact this decision has had on your life in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/time/5139859/smartphone-addiction-solutions

https://uk.norton.com/norton-blog/2015/10/13_ways_to_breakup.html
https://bemorewithless.com

Fake Check Scams On The Rise

In early September, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a report warning about aWoman writing a check spike in fake check scams across the country. While these scams are not new, their occurrence rate has doubled over the last three years and is up 12% from 2017.

The BBB further announced that billions of dollars in fake checks circulate each year, and that the number of victims this scam snares annually is close to 500,000.

The amount of money lost from these scams is just as staggering: The FTC reported losses of approximately $40 million from fake check scams in just one year.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this scam is the fact that the largest pool of its victims falls between the ages of 20 and 29 – a segment of the population that is far more familiar with electronic payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo, than with the archaic paper check. This makes them easy victims for the scam.

Aside from ordinary paper checks, this scam can also be pulled off with cashier’s checks and money orders. Regardless of the medium, each of these scams involves a scammer “overpaying” a victim and requesting the check be cashed with the difference being deposited into a designated account belonging to the scammer.

Steve Baker, an investigator with the BBB, cautions: “What they all have in common is that the check is counterfeit, and just because the money is credited to your account does not mean the check is good.”

Here are the most common variations of the fake check scam:

  1. “Buyers” send sellers a check written out for more than the asking price of an object sold on an online marketplace, such as Craigslist.
  2. Lottery “winners” are rewarded with an inflated prize and given instructions to pay back a part of the check to cover taxes or fees.
  3. “Employees” are granted checks for supplies, with instructions to wire back a part of it to the “company.”

In each case, the fake check or money order seems to clear in the bank or credit union. It is only a few days later, when the victim’s payout to the scammer is deposited and the account does not have sufficient funds to cover it, that the scam becomes clear.

The BBB warns that this scam can be hard to spot, especially for millennials who may not be familiar with paper checks. To that end, learning what to look for to determine a check’s authenticity is the public’s best weapon against this scam.

Wondering if a check is a fake? Hold it up to this checklist:

  • Is the check’s paper stock weak and flimsy?
  • Check the company’s name and address. Are they spelled correctly?
  • Every check will have an identification number printed toward its top and again at the bottom. Verify that these numbers match up.
  • If you’re allegedly holding a lottery-winning check in your hands, the check should be written out from a state lottery commission. If it’s made out by a random company, it’s bogus.
  • Look for the special ink required for the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code that’s at the bottom of the check.
  • The check should have a routing number from its bank. You can Google the bank to find out if the routing number is genuine.

Aside from knowing how to recognize a fake check, it’s important to know which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams. If you come across any of the following, run the other way and don’t look back:

  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re not familiar with.
  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.
  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Now that you know how to spot a fake check and which kind of transactions to avoid at all cost, those scammers don’t stand a chance!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a fake check scam? Share your story with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.semissourian.com/story/2549480.html

https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2018/09/05/better-business-bureau-releases-report-fake-check-scams/1202964002/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/fake-check-scams-an-exploding-epidemic-new-report-says-better-business-bureau/

Brought to you by Destinations Credit Union.