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.

Do I Still Need A Landline?

Q: My landline barely gets any use. Every family member has their own cellphone and itTwo teen girls sharing a landline phone feels like I’m throwing out money each month when I pay the bill. Should I get rid of my landline?

A: Phone lines that need to be plugged into the wall are quite outdated. And, if you’re feeling like your landline has gotta go, you’re not alone. In fact, the National Center for Health Statistics reports that more than half of American homes were exclusively using wireless phone service during the first half of 2017. However, lots of people insist on holding onto their landlines for good reason – several of them, actually.

Before you make a decision to cut the wire, read up on the main reasons people cling to their landlines, and why some of them may not matter after all.

Communication during emergencies

This is easily the most pressing reason keeping people tied to their landlines. If a natural disaster or a power outage hits your area, your cellphones will eventually run out of juice. Your landline, on the other hand, will keep you connected to the outside world even when the lights go out.

Why this may not matter: Here’s where a huge misconception comes into play: Many newer landlines actually won’t work in a power outage.

Older landlines, which are connected via copper wires to switch boxes and transmit calls between phones plugged into the wall, will almost always work in a natural disaster. They connect through wires and don’t depend on electricity. So, if your landline is older, your reasoning is sound.

If your phone line is newer, though, it’s not so simple. Most telecommunication companies are no longer using copper wires because copper is not great at transmitting signals for cable TV and internet. Since most telecom companies now offer bundled services, most use a Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) line instead of copper wires. These lines transmit phone service over the same cables and wires used for the home’s internet connection. To work, a VoIP line needs to be plugged directly into the household’s internet gateway device. If your landline and internet are connected with a shared VoIP line, when the power goes out, so will your phone.

Ironically, the primary reason people hold onto their landlines may not even be relevant at all.

Let 911 find you

Here’s where a landline really works for you during times of crisis: It helps emergency responders find you quickly. When you call from a landline, the operators will instantly have your location on their screens. Calls from cellphones, though, are harder to trace. And, when every minute counts, you don’t want 911 wasting precious time trying to determine where you are.

Call quality

They may be a relic of a disappearing era, but landlines rarely make your voice sound tinny, they won’t suddenly drop your calls in middle of an important conversation and they’re hardly ever guilty of filling your phone line with annoying static.

What about your cellphone? Thanks to its bandwidth allocation and its small receiver and microphone, you never know when your cellphone is going to get moody on you and decide to drop your call or make it unclear.

Why this may not matter: If you have excellent reception at home and your phone service is impeccable, you can have clear, perfect conversations, even with a cellphone.

Money saved

In another twist of irony, clinging to your landline might actually be saving you money each month. Here’s why: As mentioned, lots of telecommunication companies offer special deals on service bundles like cable, internet and a landline. If you cut the landline, but still want to keep the other two services, you might not be eligible for that great deal any longer and you can end up paying more for fewer services.

Why this may not matter: If you don’t bundle your telecom services and you keep your phone line separate from your internet connection, this won’t apply.

Cheaper international options

You may have a terrific cellphone plan, but it your bill can look scary if you ever make the mistake of using it for an out-of-country phone call. Landlines, on the other hand, often offer fantastic international plans that can make overseas calls affordable.

Why this might not matter: If all of your family and friends live in the U.S. and you rarely make calls overseas, this factor might not make a difference to you.

Share a family phone

It can be expensive to get each family member their own cellphone. It’s also annoying to have to constantly nag them about not going over their minutes or data coverage.

Why this might not matter: If each child already has their own cellphone and you share a family plan with enough minutes and data to go around, this won’t concern you.

So, can you hang up on your landline or not? The jury is still out on this one. But, if you carefully consider your own needs and particular circumstances, you can make the decision that’s right for you.

Your Turn: What’s your take on the landline debate? Have you cut the cord yet? Share your opinion with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.rd.com/advice/saving-money/landline-phones/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.mnn.com/family/protection-safety/stories/amp/do-need-landline-emergencies
https://www.aarp.org/home-family/personal-technology/info-2018/landline-phones-fd.html  
https://wealthpilgrim.com/is-there-any-reason-on-earth-to-keep-a-land-line-anymore/  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.centurylinkquote.com/resources/reasons-you-need-a-landline/amp/  

 

7 Halloween Hacks You Don’t Want To Miss

Halloween is coming – and so is the fun! Everyone wants to win the prize for creepiest costume and the most frightening yard décor in the neighborhood.House decorated for Halloween

But all that spookiness comes with a scary price tag. The average American will spend $169 on Halloween costs this year. And, if that’s not enough to terrify you, consider this: Most people spend close to $70 just on their Halloween getups. That’s a lot of money for a costume you likely won’t wear again.

Ready to save big? Read on for 7 awesome Halloween hacks that are just too good to miss. From DIY décor that will scare the living daylights out of your guests to effortless costumes that look great without costing a bundle, we’ve got you covered.

Is that real ketchup?

No Halloween costume or party is complete without some sickly-looking crime scene splatter. And there’s no need to blow big bucks on whatever concoction the party store’s got in stock. Make your own fake blood with this quickie recipe. All you need are 3 ingredients:

  • 4 cups corn syrup
  • Red food coloring
  • Blue food coloring

Pour the corn syrup into a large bowl and start adding the red food coloring a few drops at a time. Stir your mixture with a whisk until you reach your desired consistency. To darken the “blood,” add a few drops of blue food coloring while continuing to stir.

You’re all set – now go scare someone silly!

Whose hand is floating in the punch bowl?

For a super-scary addition to your Halloween party, fill a rubber glove with water and seal it shut. Stick it in the freezer and just a few hours later, you’ll have an iced severed hand to drop into the punch bowl and really freak your guests out.

Stick ’em up!

For a ridiculously easy costume that will make people laugh, go as a stick person!

Dress in black from head to toe. Use white masking tape to add stick lines to your legs, arms and torso. Put some lines in the back, too. For a full-body costume, take a paper plate and paint it black. Use your tape to draw a stick-face on the plate and glue a popsicle stick onto the bottom so you can hold it up.

Don’t forget to do the stiff stick-walk and you’ll really crack people up!

Is that a witch sticking out of your snake plant?

Got some spare pool noodles lying around? Dress them up to go as witch legs!

Take two pool noodles and stuff them into a pair of striped leggings. Top it off with black witchy-looking shoes and you have yourself a pair of witch legs! Stick them upside down into the plant on your front porch, or make them look like they’re coming out of your garbage can.

Now sit and watch your visitors’ reactions and you’ll have the last cackle!

Would you like some spiders with that?

Have fun with a cheap bag of plastic spiders! Here are some ways to use these creepy crawlies to add the fear factor to your Halloween party:

  • Stick them in your ice cube tray for floating critters that will terrify your guests.
  • Drop them inside your soap dispenser to frighten anyone looking to wash up.
  • Scatter them inside the popcorn bowl for a scary surprise.

Did you really just kill a box of cereal?

Looking for a funny-scary costume you can make yourself? Go as a serial killer! Err … a cereal killer, that is.

Take an old white T-shirt and decorate it to look like your favorite cereal box. Then take a dress-up dagger and carefully cut off its tip. Glue the blunted dagger to the middle of your cereal box so it looks like it’s piercing it right in the heart. Then use your fake blood to add splatters and drippings all over your shirt. Make your face look menacing with some dark costume makeup and add an ominous scar across your cheek, too.

You’re ready to hunt down those no-good cereals!

Anyone care for some fresh worms?

Serve up an entrée from the dark side that will have your guests completely grossed out!

Drip a bit of black food coloring into boiling pasta and it will instantly turn your dinner into a dark, horrendous-looking creation. Drain your pasta as usual and then bring it out to the table, asking if anyone would like some delicious hot worms for dinner.

Don’t let Halloween costs scare you. Follow our hacks for a frighteningly fun time that won’t kill your budget and will still terrify the entire neighborhood!

Your Turn: What’s your favorite Halloween hack that’s easy on the budget? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.the36thavenue.com/halloween-hacks-and-diy-ideas/

https://www.buzzfeed.com/peggy/last-minute-halloween-hacks?utm_term=.oo7EPKBAN#.xn4VMabN8
https://www.littlethings.com/diy-halloween/

Credit Card Fraud In Fives

No one wants to be the victim of credit fraud. Aside from the stolen money you mMan using a credit card on the computeray never recover, victims of fraud can be faced with an enormous hassle. That hassle involves the closing of accounts, putting a fraud alert on your credit and a huge ding on your credit history, which can be difficult to fix.

Whodunnit? When we’re talking about credit card fraud, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else.

Consumers tend to blame the credit card issuer, but the vulnerability usually lies with the point-of-sale terminal. Tampering with a credit card reader takes just a few minutes and can be done with an inexpensive device that’s available on Amazon. In addition, there are lots of other ways your information can be skimmed, none of which point to a security deficiency with your credit union or credit card company.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and recognize credit card fraud before it happens. Read on for all you need to know about credit card fraud in 5 lists of fives.

5 ways your card can be frauded

  1. It’s physically lifted from your wallet.

The old-fashioned pickpocket is still a very real threat. Invest in a secure wallet and/or purse and always keep your card inside.

  1. A restaurant or bar server skims it.

When you hand over your card to a dishonest server at the end of a meal, you give them a few minutes to skim your card while it’s in their possession.

  1. A terminal you use is compromised.

Payment terminals can be tampered with and rewired to transmit your information to scammers. This is especially common in pay-at-the-pump gas stations.

  1. An online breach puts your information on the black market.

After a company you use suffers a breach, your personal information may be up for sale on the dark web.

  1. Your computer’s been hacked.

Once a scammer gets inside your computer, they have full access to all of your sensitive data.

5 signs a terminal’s been compromised

  1. The security seal has been voided.

Many gas stations have joined the war against credit card crimes by placing a security label across the pump. When the pump is safe to use, the label has a red, blue or black background. When it’s been breached, the words “Void Open” will appear in white.

  1. The card reader is too big for the machine.

The card reader is created to fit perfectly on top of the machine. If it protrudes past it, it’s likely been tampered with.

  1. The pin pad looks newer than the rest of the machine.

The entire machine should be in a similar condition.

  1. The pin pad looks raised.

If the pin pad looks abnormally high compared to the rest of the machine, the card reader may have been fitted with a new pin pad that will record your keystrokes.

  1. The credit card reader is not secured in place.

If parts of the payment terminal are loose, it’s likely been compromised.

5 times you’re at high risk for credit card fraud

  1. You lost your card.

If you misplaced your card – even if it was eventually returned to you – there’s a chance your information has been skimmed.

  1. You’re visiting an unfamiliar area.

When patronizing a business in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you don’t know who you can trust.

  1. A company you use has been breached.

If a business you frequent has been compromised, carefully monitor your credit for suspicious activity.

  1. You shared your information online with an unverifiable contact.

If you’ve willingly or unwillingly shared sensitive information online and you’re not certain of the contact’s authenticity, you’ve likely been frauded.

  1. You downloaded something from an unrecognizable source.

Have you accidentally downloaded an attachment from an unknown source? Then your computer has likely been compromised and you’re at risk for credit card fraud.

5 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud

  1. Check all card readers for signs of tampering before paying.
  2. Never share your credit card information online unless you’re absolutely sure the website you’re using is authentic and the company behind it is trustworthy.
  3. Check your monthly credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports on a frequent basis.
  4. Use cash when patronizing a business that’s in an unfamiliar area.
  5. Don’t download any attachments from unknown sources.

5 steps to take if your credit card has been frauded

  1. Lock the compromised account.

Dispute any fraudulent charges on your compromised accounts and ask to have them locked or completely shut down.

  1. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

  2. Consider a credit freeze.

This will make it impossible for the scammer to open a line of credit in your name.

  1. Alert the FTC.

Visit identitytheft.gov to report the crime.

  1. Open new accounts.

Begin restoring your credit with new accounts and lines of credit.

At Destinations Credit Union, we’ve always got your back! Call, click, or stop by today to ask about steps you can take to protect your information from getting hacked.

Your Turn: Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? Share your story with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.thebalance.com/how-credit-card-skimming-works-960773

https://www.thebalance.com/more-at-risk-of-credit-card-fraud-960780
https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/credit-card-fraud-works-stay-safe/
http://gizmodo.com/home-depot-was-hit-by-the-same-hack-as-target-1631865043

What You Need To Know About Health Share Programs

If your health insurance premiums are making you sick, you might want to explore Man handing a healthcare professional a cardanother option that’s becoming increasingly popular: a health share program.

A health share program can be a way to get medical coverage that’s sufficient for your needs. With open enrollment starting soon, on Nov. 1, it’s worth your while to learn about this kind of health coverage before you renew your existing plan.

Here’s all you need to know about health share programs.

What is a health share program?

A health share program, also known as a health care sharing ministry, actually works a lot like a credit union. There’s no Big Cheese sitting on top of a wealthy corporation while trying to dream up new ways to squeeze money out of you. Instead, the program is run by a not-for-profit religious organization and is jointly owned by members who share expenses for their collective medical needs.

Most people opt to join a health share program because of the significant savings potential: A family of four can easily find a health share plan for just a few hundred dollars a month. Many others will choose this kind of health care because conventional health insurance covers medical procedures that are not in line with their religious beliefs.

Some popular health share programs include Liberty Healthshare, Medi-Share and Christian Healthcare Ministries.

How does a health share program work?

Health share programs are usually faith-based. As such, members must agree to uphold certain religious beliefs before joining the program. Once they’ve signed up, members are charged a monthly premium based upon their age and general health. They will then receive a membership card they can present to a medical practitioner in lieu of an insurance card. The practitioner will then bill the sharing program for the cost of the member’s visit.

How does a health share program differ from traditional health insurance?

While their goal is similar, there are several important differences between a health share program and traditional insurance. Most significantly, since sharing programs are not official health insurance providers, they are not subject to the same federal laws and regulations, as reflected in several of the differences listed below.

  1. Unshared amounts – Health share programs don’t have deductibles. Instead, every member has an annual unshared amount. Some programs will begin covering a member’s medical expenses after the member has shelled out as little as $1,000 toward these costs. Other programs, though, require members to pay $5,000 toward their medical expenses each year before the program kicks in.
  2. No network requirements – All health insurance providers have a list of doctors, medical professionals, clinics and hospitals that are covered under their insurance. But members of health share programs have the freedom to use any doctor in any health care facility they desire. If a doctor refuses to accept the membership card, the member can pay out of pocket and the health share program will reimburse them for the cost of the visit.
  3. Strict rules regarding pre-existing conditions – Unlike most plans offered by the ACA, many health share programs will not accept members who have pre-existing medical conditions. Some will accept members with pre-existing conditions, but will only begin covering the attached expenses after a year – and they will only partially cover them.
  4. Refusal to cover certain procedures – Health share programs reserve the right to deny coverage for procedures that are against their religious beliefs, like abortions. Many won’t cover the costs of birth control either.
  5. Lifetime caps on coverage – Sharing plans are usually accompanied by a lifetime cap on health coverage. These caps have a broad range and their exact amount depends on the member’s chosen plan. They can be as small as $250,000 or as large as $1,000,000.
  6. Incomplete coverage – Many health share programs don’t cover costs for an annual well visit. Lots of them will not pay for vision or dental needs either.
  7. No government protection – Since health share programs are not subject to government regulation, members lose out on the government’s protection if the program does not deliver as promised. This means every member is essentially taking a risk by signing up for the health share program.
  8. Lifestyle requirements – Lots of insurance providers will encourage and reward healthful lifestyles. But a health share plan will often require members who are even slightly overweight to consult with a nutritionist and start working out.

Health share programs can be a terrific way to free up some extra cash each month, but they are not for everyone. If you are in good health and you rarely see a doctor, a health share program might be right for you. Just be sure to read the fine print so you know exactly what you are signing up for before joining a program.

Your Turn: Are you a member of a health share program? Tell us what you love about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://blog.bcbsnc.com/2017/12/5-things-need-know-health-share-plans/

https://www.libertyhealthshare.org/faq
https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2014/10/24/cant-afford-obamacare-consider-a-health-care-sharing-ministry-instead
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.laurengreutman.com/save-money-with-health-care-sharing-ministries/amp/

6 Times A Bargain Is Not A Bargain

In the words of writer Franklin Jones, “A bargain is something you don’t need at a price Closing store signyou can’t resist.” And we couldn’t agree more.

With the biggest spending season of the year looming ahead, it’s time to brush up on your shopping smarts. Don’t get caught springing for something you can’t afford! This year, give yourself the gift of an intact budget and a credit card balance that doesn’t haunt you for months or years to come.

Here’s when that steal of a deal you can’t wait to show off to your friends is not such a bargain after all.

1When you don’t need it

The price might be right. But, if the heavily marked-down item is one you don’t need, you’re not getting a bargain at all. You’re just blowing money you could be using to put into savings or purchase stuff you actually do need.

Those flashy signs and hyped-up ads are enough to blind the most discerning shopper, so think carefully before plunking down your money on sale items. If an item is marked down 75%, ask yourself: Would I ever buy this item at full price? Would I buy it if the price was slashed just 30%?

When it’s a faulty product

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be cheap. If an item is retailing at a ridiculously low price, inspect it carefully. Hold it up to this checklist to determine its quality and durability:

  • Where was it manufactured? If the product bears a designer label, but also has a “Made in China” tag stuck on it, you’re likely looking at a cheap knockoff that isn’t such a bargain after all.
  • Are there any noticeable defects or missing parts?
  • Does the item appear to be worn out? You don’t want to be buying someone else’s heavily used returns.
  • Is the material cheaply made? Some clothing will start attracting lint and will sport unsightly “pimples” while still in the store. Unless they’re giving it away free, such poorly made clothing is hardly worth the price.

When it’s going to go bad before you can use it

Costco, we’re looking at you! Sure, that gigantic package of peanuts that looks like it can feed a herd of elephants is insanely cheap, but who are you kidding here? We both know there’s no way your family can eat it before they start going bad. And there’s no money saved when half of an item gets chucked into the trash.

Before buying in bulk to snag a great deal, be sure the food won’t go rancid or get stale before you can eat it.

When the “sale price” is the highest the item’s ever been sold for at this location

Retailers often use underhanded strategies to attract consumers. One of these tactics is featuring an item’s price as a “sale price” when, in reality, the store has never sold it for more than the tagged amount.

Sometimes, the store operators will be basing their sale price on an inflated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But if the MSRP was artificially inflated from the start, you’re not really getting a bargain, are you?

Other times, the item will come with a pre-marked-down MSRP. The manufacturer’s label might read: “Original price: $49.99. Our price: $39.99.” Of course, the item was never sold at $49.99 and the retailer is just playing games with you. If an item is really marked down, you’ll see a new price tag slapped on top of the manufacturer’s label with the newer, lower price.

When you need to mail in a rebate to get the discount

Rebates are a retailer’s best friend. Most of us are just too lazy or forgetful to mail them in. So, we instead end up paying the full price with the retailer getting the last laugh. For instance, in one TiVo subscription promotion that included a mail-in rebate deal, a whopping $5,000,000 was never claimed.

If you’re the super-responsible type who doesn’t know the meaning of procrastination, enjoy those rebate deals. But, for the rest of us mere mortals, it only pays to pick up a rebate item with an instant at-the-register rebate. Otherwise, consider the item as being marked at its regular price.

When it’s part of a liquidation sale

Avoid liquidation sales like crime-ridden neighborhoods. While shoppers sometimes snag great deals at these sales, liquidation events are ripe with rip-offs. Retailers post signs claiming “Everything Must Go!” – but that’s where the honesty ends. The “Rock Bottom Prices” they advertise are often as high as the original MSRP – or even higher. The store owners are depending on shoppers to assume that all items are bargain-priced just because they’re at a liquidation sale. Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes! Stay away from liquidation sales or proceed with extreme caution.

Sometimes a bargain is just that. But too often, what we think is an incredible deal is just another item we don’t need with a perfectly ordinary price.

Your Turn: Have you ever snagged a great deal only to realize later that it wasn’t quite the bargain you thought it was? Share your story with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.fnbn.com/3199-2/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/robertwood/2012/03/03/beware-sometimes-bargain-sales-are-no-bargain/amp/
https://www.consumerreports.org/shopping/why-a-sale-isnt-always-a-sale/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/5695886/how-to-figure-out-when-a-sale-isnt-really-a-sale/amp  

Beware The Blackmailing Scam!

In a fresh twist on this age-old crime, scammers have taken to the internet. Online Man looking at computer worriedblackmail is nothing new, but a fresh wave of these scams hit the web last month, and it’s already ensnared dozens. Learn how to spot these blackmailing scams and you’ll get to keep your privacy, and your money, too.

Here’s what you need to know about the most recent blackmailing scams.

How it works

The victim gets an email from an alleged hacker claiming to have cracked their passwords, broken into their computer and used their webcam to watch their online activity. They may threaten to reveal that the victim has been visiting disreputable sites or to use their personal information to empty their financial accounts. The scammer then shares a willingness to back off-for the right price, of course.

As proof that they are “legitimate” hackers, the scammers will share an actual password that the victim has used many years ago. They may even include the password in the subject line of the email to grab the victim’s attention and ensure they actually open the email. Often, they’ll also include other bits of stolen data in their message to appear authentic.

If you receive an email like this, don’t panic. There’s no professional hacker behind the scam, no one has watched your online activity, and there’s not much the scammer can do with the information they may have.

The inclusion of the password might give you a scare, but there’s a simple explanation for how the scammer got hold of it. Over the last decade or so, there have been lots of massive database breaches within major corporations, sites and retail stores like Yahoo, eBay, Target, Macy’s, Sony PlayStation and dozens more.

Thanks to these breaches, there are now huge amounts of personal data and passwords floating around the internet. This data can be easily nabbed by a partially skilled hacker or bought on the black market. Once a scammer gets their hands on a password, they’re free to exhort the victim to pay a steep price in exchange for their privacy or security.

How to spot the scam

Many potential victims recognize this scam for what it is as soon as the hacker claims to have dirt on them. For many others, though, the outdated password is their clue. However, for victims who have been using the same passwords for years, this old code might still be in use and the scam can seem legit.

Now that you are armed with the knowledge that this scam is making its way around the internet and may contain an actual password you once used, or that you may still use, you are already a step ahead. If you receive an email with your password in the subject line, stay calm. Simply ignore the message. Better yet, delete it from your inbox and give it no further thought.

How to protect yourself

There’s not much you can do about any bits of your sensitive data that may be loose on the internet. However, you can do your part to protect yourself from falling prey to this, or a similar scam.

Here’s how:

  1. Update your passwords frequently and use strong, unique codes for each site you visit. You can use a password generator like 1password or LastPass to make this simpler.
  2. Choose two-factor authentication when possible.
  3. Never open emails from suspicious or unknown sources.
  4. If you are targeted, alert the FTC at ftc.gov.

Don’t let those scammers fool you! Be alert, be aware, and learn how to spot these scams for what they are.

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a blackmailing scam? How did you spot the ruse? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.nytimes.com/2018/07/23/technology/personaltech/phishing-password-email.html

https://tech.co/online-scams-to-watch-out-for-2018-07
https://www.theguardian.com/money/scamsandfraud

Staying Safe Online

With the average American spending 24 hours a week online, internet safety is more Woman shopping online with her tabletimportant than ever. A hacked or compromised computer can put you at risk for money loss, phishing scams or even complete identity theft.

It gets worse: If your computer’s security has been breached, it can be turned into a “middle man” for online theft. Criminals may remotely control a computer with weak security and use it as a patsy for large-scale crimes against hundreds or thousands of other computer users. An unprotected computer can commit awful crimes without its owner even knowing about it!

Fortunately, keeping your privacy, money and sensitive information safe when browsing the internet is simple; all it takes is awareness, some proactive steps and lots of common sense.

Read on for steps you can take to keep yourself safe online.

Avoid fake sites

The easiest way to get scammed online is to visit a fraudulent site. If you’re browsing a site you don’t usually use, ask yourself these questions to make sure it’s safe:

  • Does your browser warn you against visiting the site? Whether you browse with Chrome, Firefox or Safari, your browser will warn you about certain sites based on actual data and user reports.
  • Is the web text riddled with grammar mistakes and typos? Reputablewebsite owners are careful to present a polished, professional look. If a site looks like it was written by a second-grader, leave it.
  • Is the site secure? Only visit sites with an “https” and not just an “http” in the address bar.
  • Does the digital footprint check out? Google the company’s name to see what the internet and Better Business Bureau are saying about them.
  • Is there a legitimate “Contact us” section? There should be an authentic physical address and phone number for the business.
  • Is there an excessive amount of ads? Ads are intrinsic to the online world, but if a website seems to be covered in intrusive ads, it’s likely a fake.
  • Check the shipping and return policies. If you can’t find this information, the site probably doesn’t really sell anything at all – though they are happy to take your money.
  • Is there a trust seal? Companies that deal with sensitive information make an investment to earn your trust. A trust seal, like the PayPal or Norton Secured seal, tells you the company has worked hard to deserve your trust.
  • Is the URL authentic? When redirected to another site, check the new URL to see if it matches the original company.

Practice password safety

It’s your key to almost every online board and gated site; do your best to keep it safe! Here’s how:

  • Use a password generator. The best way to ensure that your passwords don’t get hacked is to use a password generator like Sticky Password, LastPass or 1Password. These services generate a super-secure password for every site you visit – but you’ll only need to remember your one master password.
  • Change your password. If you don’t like the idea of using a password generator, experts recommend changing your passwords every 30-40 days.
  • Never double passwords. Using common passwords across multiple sites is easy on the memory but hard on your safety and security.
  • Use strong passwords. For optimal security, choose passwords that include a mixture of capitalization use, numbers, letters and symbols.

Update your browser

Perhaps the most neglected and simplest step of internet safety is keeping your browser updated. With just one click, you’ll increase your browser’s security and improve your computer at the same time.

Here’s why you’ll want to keep your browser running with its newest version:

  • Increased speed. Each new version of your browser is an improvement on the old one. Why lag behind when you could be using a faster browser?
  • Improved website compatibility. Lots of websites rely on updated browsers to share all of their graphics and features.
  • A better experience. A newer browser will offer you added features, customizable extensions and sleeker graphics.

Above all else, an updated browser will provide better security. Internet companies are constantly looking for ways to protect you and keep you safer; take full advantage of their efforts by always using the latest version.

An updated browser offers stronger protection against the most recent scams, phishing attacks, viruses, Trojans, malware and more. Newer browsers have also patched up security vulnerabilities that may be present in your older browser.

Updating your browser is super-easy and super-quick. Late model computers will update automatically as soon as new iterations are released to the public. If your computer is a little older, you can choose the “auto-update” feature available on some browsers for the same results. Otherwise, you can update your browser manually by following the instructions on your browser. These are typically easy to follow and take just a few clicks.

Follow these tips for safe online browsing. A few small steps now can save you heaps of aggravation and money lost down the line. Don’t let those hackers get to you!

Your Turn: How do you keep safe online? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.getsafeonline.org/protecting-your-computer/update-your-browser/

https://www.whatismybrowser.com/guides/how-to-be-safe-online/why-should-i-update-my-web-browser
https://security.stackexchange.com/questions/186780/how-often-should-i-change-my-passwords
https://usa.kaspersky.com/resource-center/preemptive-safety/top-10-internet-safety-rules-and-what-not-to-do-online

New Cars Vs. Used Cars

Q: I need a new set of wheels and I’m wondering if it’s better to spring for a new vehicle

Two women looking at car

or to go the cheaper route and buy a used vehicle. What do I need to know about each kind of purchase?

A: Any decision surrounding a purchase as large as a car needs to be made with careful research and consideration. There are pros and cons on both sides of the fence here. Your final decision, though, will depend on your budget, personal preferences and particular needs.

To make your job a little easier, we’ve outlined the pros and cons of each purchase type below.

Pros of new cars

  • Status symbol. The strongest allure of owning a new vehicle is obviously its attractiveness. You don’t hear many people bragging about their just-purchased used car or posting pictures of it all over their social media pages.
  • Fewer repairs. With a new vehicle, you can assume you won’t be dealing with major repairs or maintenance issues for a while.
  • Easier shopping. When everything is completely new, there’s no need to drag your prospective new car to the mechanic. It’s also easier to determine a fair price for the car.
  • More financing options. If you’re considering a new car, you’ll be offered attractive incentives like cash rebates from the carmaker and better interest rates from the lender.
  • Improved technology. Cars are getting more updates, and recent models have incredibly convenient technology, such as programmable settings, autonomous emergency braking, adaptive cruise control, blind spot monitoring, built-in Wi-Fi hotspots or lane-departure warnings.
  • Automaker’s guarantee. All new cars come with warranty coverage for their first three years or 36,000 miles, whichever comes first.

Cons of new cars

  • Price. Of course, a new car is going to be more expensive. But it’s not just the price that puts you at a disadvantage – it’s the fact that you can get a perfectly comparable vehicle for much less.
  • Depreciation. New cars go down in value as soon as they leave the lot. In fact, a new car can lose 20% of its value once it’s owned. At the end of the first year of ownership, your new car can drop another 10% thanks to the mileage you’ve clocked and the wear and tear. You’ll feel this loss if you try to sell your car a few years down the line.
  • Higher premiums. Insurance companies charge more for newer vehicles. You’re also more likely to want the maximum coverage and protection when every dent in your new car is enough to bring you to tears.

Pros of used cars

  • Price tag. Let’s be honest here: No one would think of buying a used car if it weren’t for the savings. And those savings can be enormous! Consider this: according to the National Automobile Dealers Association (NADA), the average American own 13 cars in their lifetime. A typical new car costs $30,000. If each car that a person owns throughout their life is just 3 years old and costs $20,000, the driver can save $130,000 on car costs throughout their life!
  • Less depreciation. The savings on a used car don’t end at the dealer’s lot. With the previous owner absorbing the initial depreciation on the car during its first few years of ownership, your vehicle will only experience a minimal drop in price. You can save yourself thousands of dollars in loss if you want to sell your car a few years down the line.
  • Lower insurance premiums. With your car weighing in at a lower value, your monthly insurance premiums will be more manageable. You can also opt out of full protection when your car isn’t a new model anyway.
  • Lower interest. If you choose to finance a used car instead of a new one, you’ll likely have a higher interest rate. However, since the loan amount is lower, you’ll save in total interest payments over the life of the loan.
  • Predictability. When purchasing a just-released car, you never know what issues might crop up in the future. But, when you’re buying a model that’s been around for a few years, you’ll have a wealth of research and ratings available on your car so you’ll know what to expect.

Cons of used cars

  • Complicated purchase. You won’t be able to walk into a lot and walk out with your new car an hour later. With a used vehicle, you’ll want to get a vehicle history report, ask to see the vehicle’s service records and bring it to a mechanic for a professional inspection.
  • Fewer choices. When buying pre-owned, you don’t get to be picky about things like colors, upgrades and features. If you find something in your price range that meets most of your specifications, you grab it!
  • Risk. Even if you do your homework well, you still run the risk of walking out with a lemon when you buy a used car.

It’s a multi-faceted decision, but by carefully weighing your options and personal preferences, you’ll drive off of the dealer’s lot with a real winner!

Whether you choose to go new or previously-owned, don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union to hear all about our auto loans. Not only do we offer one of the best car loan rates in the Baltimore area, between now and November 21, 2018 you can win prizes worth up to $200 in our CARnival of Savings event!

Your Turn: Did you buy your car new or pre-owned? Are you happy with your decision? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/compare-costs-buying-new-car-vs-used/

https://www.autotrader.com/car-shopping/4-questions-help-you-decide-new-or-used-car-167808
https://cars.usnews.com/cars-trucks/new-cars-vs-used-cars
https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/cost-vs-value-should-you-buy-a-new-or-used-car/