Q & A: Anthem’s Data Breach And What You Need To Know

Q: I keep hearing about Anthem being a hacking target. What happened and am I at risk?

A: Anthem Inc., the second-largest health insurer in America, was targeted in a major security breach over the last month. New reports suggest hackers have been trying to compromise the company’s systems for months and may have been inside their system since December. According to the company, 80 million Anthem customers may have had their names, Social Security numbers and addresses compromised.

This is a unique event in the recent history of cybersecurity. Previous hacks, like those affecting Home Depot or Target, were attacking hardware. Hackers were exploiting vulnerabilities in computer hardware and software to gain access to confidential data. Here, the company is reporting that hackers had a different target: company employees.

Anthem reports that, beginning in December, hackers acquired login credentials of five employees. The employees could have been victimized by malware or social engineering scams. The hackers trying to beat Anthem didn’t need to find a flaw in the computer infrastructure. Instead, they just had to find a weakness in the people operating those systems.

Once they had these credentials, hackers used their access to do two things. First, they breached the company databases. Once inside, they exposed addresses, dates of birth, employment history, employment information, income data, medical ID’s, names and Social Security numbers. Particularly noteworthy is the fact that payment information was not compromised. That means there’s no need to cancel credit cards that were used to pay Anthem bills yet. Second, hackers created a number of phony email accounts with Anthem domains.

There are two ways victims might be affected by this scam. First, they might have their personal information stolen. This group exclusively consists of current and former Anthem customers. Given the timing of the hack, this will likely result in a fraudulent tax returns and possibly other instances of identity theft.
The second wave of victims is only just now emerging. The fake email accounts have been used to send wave after wave of “phishing” attacks to Anthem customers. These attacks take the form of an email apology with an offer for a year of free credit monitoring. Recipients of the email are redirected to another website to enter their Social Security number and other personally identifying information. This information is then used to commit any of a smorgasboard of identity theft crimes.

Anthem is currently being sued in several states. One lawsuit alleges current and former Anthem subscribers were misled about the security of their personal information and is seeking unspecified damages from the provider in overpaid premiums. Another pending lawsuit is seeking damages resulting from the frauds themselves. Until these lawsuits are settled, Anthem will likely not make any public statement of responsibility or apology, as this could be viewed by the courts as an admission of guilt. At this time, Anthem is offering no free credit monitoring service nor has it made any statement to members outside the press.

If you’re an Anthem subscriber, there are a few steps you should take as soon as possible. To find out if you’re an Anthem subscriber, check your insurance card. If you’re part of a group plan at work, you may need to ask your HR representative if your plan is administered through Anthem. In the meantime, take these three steps.

1.) File your taxes.

This will be one way to check if your Social Security number has been compromised. The state of Connecticut is encouraging their citizens to file early if they’re Anthem customers so hackers using stolen Social Security numbers will be easier to detect.

2.) Put a fraud alert on your credit report.

Contact any one of the three major reporting bureaus (Experian, Equifax, or Transunion) and explain your worries. A fraud report on one account will create a fraud report on all three, so there’s no need to duplicate your efforts. This report will notify you if anyone attempts to open an account in your name during the next 90 days. If you’re absolutely sure your number has been compromised, it might be worth putting a freeze on your credit history. This will prevent anyone from checking your credit or from opening up any account in your name, including you. While drastic, this measure is a sure-fire way to keep yourself safe.

3.) Get proactive with government services.

Notify the Social Security Administration and the Internal Revenue Service of the possible fraud to ensure that no one attempts to file a change of address form in your name. The US Postal Service also maintains a similar service. These steps will ensure that you’ll at least get a paper trail if someone makes an attempt to steal your identity.

Anthem is maintaining a toll-free question line.  Customers with concerns or fears should call 877-263-7995.  They have also created a website – www.AthemFacts.com – with up-to-date information about he scope and severity of the breach.  They have made it clear that future contact with customers affected by the breach will be made by mail. 

Finance In The Classroom: Tools For Talking To Kids About Money

Getting kids interested and involved in finance can be a real challenge. There’s a gap between what they may want to know and what they have the experience to understand. Finding age-appropriate reading materials, activities, and discussion topics to keep them engaged is a complex problem. Whether you’re a teacher, a church leader, a baby-sitter, aunt, uncle or a parent, being able to engage kids in these conversations is an important skill.
Fortunately, the Utah Department of Education has created a set of resources for all of these groups. The website, Finance in the Classroom, can be found at financeintheclassroom.org. It’s a solid collection of resources for kids of all ages.
For younger children, the site features a wide range of fun flash games that help them get used to counting money, saving and budgeting. Most of them will respond well to mobile devices and touch screens, meaning that kids can learn valuable lessons on their devices instead of playing mindless games that teach very little in the process. Some games are slightly more advanced and tackle topics like credit card management, investing and even macro-economic policy making! The interactivity is a great way to keep kids entertained and serves as a starting point for financial conversations.
Older children may be interested in the various calculators on the site. These include applets that help kids see how much college might cost, how much they should save, and how inflation might affect them in the future. There are also a list of book recommendations for further reading and education.
The site also features some tools for adults, like mortgage calculators and credit checklists. There are also quizzes and other tools designed to test adult financial literacy. More than that, though, the site offers discussion-starters and in-home activities designed for parents and children to undertake together. The activities are broken down by grade level and organized around themes like “scarcity” and “supply and demand.” Most of the activities don’t need much in the way of supplies or planning and can help solve the rainy Saturday afternoon problem of what to do.
This site is not without its flaws, though. The amount of information can be overwhelming and it doesn’t appear to get regular updates. Some of the information is specific to Utah laws, like specific college savings programs. Still, as a collection of free tools and games, Finance in the Classroom is a great place to start.  

For teens and young adults, Destinations Credit Union offers “On Your Way” – a social network for those interested in learning how to manage their money.  There are interesting blog posts, contests and videos to help this group better cope with new financial responsibilities.

America Saves Week – Saving For The Future Can Save The Day

The week of February 23-28 is America Saves Week. The event, put together by the American Savings Education Council, began in 2007 as a way for organizations and individuals to talk about one of the most serious problems facing American consumers: the lack of savings. While American consumers are in a better position than they were at the height of the economic crisis in 2007, we still have a long way to go.

Only 64% of households have sufficient emergency funds to cover temporary crises like car repairs, medical bills, job loss or some other serious life change. That number is down 7% from 2010. 68% say they are saving more than they are spending, down from 73% in 2010. It seems as though the lessons of the great recession have been forgotten.

This lack of savings puts individuals at risk of financial ruin, but it also places the economy itself in jeopardy. Declines affecting one industry are bad news for the economy, but they don’t trigger a credit crunch without a number of other problems. Low rates of consumer savings and high lifestyle maintenance debt can make job loss a vicious cycle. Consumers with high debt loads find themselves unable to spend, which slows growth in the rest of the economy. This leads to job loss in other sectors, snowballing throughout the economy.

Savings and low debt represent a way to fight back against this cycle. Reducing debt and increasing savings provides a way for consumers to maintain their lifestyles through career setbacks, which prevents the worst parts of economic crises. That’s right: You can save the day with your savings.

If you’re interested in participating in America Saves week, here are three great ways to do so.

1.) Make a pledge and set a goal

By making a commitment to spend less, save more and get out of debt, you can motivate yourself to do just that. The America Saves week website, www.americasavesweek.org, has a pre-written pledge you can sign. It’s a great first step toward building personal wealth and making yourself a backstop against recession.

The site also lets you set a monthly savings goal. If you’re just starting out in trying to get your finances under control, you might set a small goal – such as save $40 a month for 3 months. The website has a calculator that lets you see how much small savings add up over time. If you’re a veteran saver looking for a way to keep yourself on track toward a goal, the tool will let you work backward from a vacation budget or loan balance to see how much you need to save each month.

Let Destinations Credit Union help with your pledge. Sign up for automatic transfers from checking to savings (or create your own within online banking) to keep yourself honest to your pledge. With a Kasasa Rewards Checking, you can attach a savings account and your rewards are automatically swept into the savings.  With these tools, you’ll be at your goal in no time!

2.) Show the world what you’re saving for

It’s easy to get discouraged when your goal is something abstract. “Savings” is hard to compare in your head to a new cellphone game or a dinner out. That’s why it’s so important to make your goal something concrete. Save for a vacation, or for a new vehicle, or for your education.

Picking a concrete savings goal is step one in keeping yourself motivated. Next, you’ll want to document your goal. Snap a picture of yourself with what you’re saving for. If you want to pay off your mortgage, take a picture of yourself in front of your house. If you want a new car, take a picture of yourself behind the wheel at a dealership. If it’s a tropical vacation you’re after, take a picture of yourself in a swimsuit in front of the giant piles of snow outside. Document your goal so you’ll always have something to look at when you get discouraged.

Best of all, snapping that picture could get you $500 toward your goal. Share your picture on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or other social media. Use the hashtag #imsavingfor. Then, navigate to the America Saves Week website and let them know what you did. You’ll be entered in a drawing for $500 to kickstart your savings and you’ll inspire your friends to set and follow their savings goals as well!

3.) Stay inspired

There’s a rush of enthusiasm that comes from starting a new project. At first, it’s novel and effortless. Then the days drag on. The novelty starts to wear off. The project becomes just another routine. A missed day turns into a missed week. The enthusiasm that characterized the start of the project just isn’t there.

Make sure this doesn’t happen to you with your America Saves Week pledge. Take some time to flip through the inspiring stories, like Mary Brown. A Wisconsin resident, Brown spent 7 years in Milwaukee public housing before saving to her goal of $2,000. Now, she’s finished her B.A. and moved her family into their first home. Stories like these remind us of the power of commitment, discipline, and dedication.

Take time each day to reflect on the progress you’ve made and the challenges you’ve overcome. Take a look at your goal and think about how good you’ll feel once you’ve accomplished it. Thank yourself for helping to keep the economy strong and your career on track. Most importantly, keep saving!


Job Seekers Beware: ‘Re-packing’ Jobs Could Lead To Jail Time!

We keep hearing the economy is improving, but that news rings hollow for many Americans. Long-term unemployment is still a reality for 2.8 million people. They’re isolated and increasingly desperate, making them a perfect target for cyber-criminals.

The Better Business Bureau is reporting a new breed of cyber-crime that turns innocent people into accessories in the distribution of stolen merchandise. The scam starts like a lot of others, with a job offer from an anonymous company. The work sounds ideal. It’s work-from-home, set your own hours, and work as much or as little as you like. Best of all, it’s easy. You receive shipments at your house, then repack them and ship them to another address.

If you sign up, you’ll receive packages containing products and instructions about shipping them to other addresses, sometimes overseas. Your employer will want you to cover shipping, but promises to reimburse you for costs on top of your salary. At the end of the month, you get a check from your employer.

The first bad news comes when you attempt to cash that paycheck and it turns out to be fake. All the work you’ve done, plus the shipping costs you paid out of pocket, are gone. It’d be bad enough if it ended there.

Worse yet, you might end up facing criminal charges. At the very least, you’ll be an accessory to the theft of the goods you handled. If you helped to redistribute those goods, you handled stolen property. Even if you didn’t know the goods are stolen, if you didn’t ask questions where a reasonable person would have, you’re guilty.

To make matters worse, if you shipped those items internationally, you likely had to lie on customs documents. That’s a federal offense. The scammers just tricked you into taking all of the legal risk while they keep the money.

Similar scams are common in money laundering. A scammer will contact you or leave a post on a job board asking for financial service assistance. They’ll send a check and ask you to deposit it, then wire them back some of the money. You can keep a portion of it as your payment. The check was written against stolen funds and the issuing institution refuses to pay it. You’re out whatever you wired the scammer and could face charges as an accessory to fraud.

These scams are an unfortunate part of the job search process. They prey on the uncertainty and desperation that characterizes long-term unemployment. The widely anonymous nature of the Internet provides a perfect cover for schemers. If you want to keep yourself safe, follow these tips: 

1.) Be proactive in your job search 

It’s possible that your dream job may fall in your lap, though it’s far more likely that you’ll have to work really hard to get it. If you post your resume on a job site and walk away, it’s possible that the only people who are going to contact you are scammers. If you work with a recruiter or employment agency, you’ll form a contact that can help you land the job you want.

Working with an agency will also help you weed out the scams. You’ll have someone you know and trust to sort the real opportunities from the bogus ones. They’ll help put your resume in places where it needs to be instead of in the wrong hands. 

2.) Check the links 

Many of these scams work by “spoofing” a legitimate job posting. You’ll see an email saying that X company has reviewed your resume and thinks you would be a good fit for this position. The email will contain a link to something designed to look like a legitimate job posting on a big job board like Monster or Indeed.

Checking to see where links are really going is a hassle, but a quick mouse-over the link will show you the URL. If you don’t recognize the domain (the first part after the http:// and before the .com or .org), don’t click the link. Report the email as the scam attempt it is. 

3.) Watch for keywords 

“Repackaging” or “reboxing” are common keywords in these scams. For money-laundering, scammers often refer to the work they are proposing as “payment processing” or “wire transfer assistance.” It’s worth taking a moment to think about what you’d be doing. No legitimate business would need a personal checking account to move money around. If they’re a business that can pay for your services, they have a checking account. Similarly, they have an address and postal services.

If an employer is seeking your personal information before they’ve hired you, they’re not a potential employer. They’re crooks trying to steal your identity. It’s as simple as that. 


You Don’t Have An ‘Email Quota’

Scammers will concoct any number of believable-looking lies in pursuit of your personally identifying information. They’ll pretend to be anyone and claim anything to get you scared, anxious and uncertain. They know that’s when you are most likely to make mistakes.

A new circulating scam is a remix of that old con. The Better Business Bureau reports this week on a new malware distribution scheme.

In this scheme, the scammers email you pretending to be from your email service provider (Google, Yahoo, etc.). They’ll tell you you’ve exceeded your email quota or that you have “deferred email.” The email will instruct you to follow a link to retrieve your un-checked email. Other variations of the scheme will tell you that you need to “update your personal information” to continue using your email service, which will require you to click a link to log in.

The link is to a malware download site, and once you click the link, you’ll be infected. The breed of malware will vary from attempt to attempt. Some may only bog down your computer with popup ads and other irritations. Others will root through your browsing history and personal files, looking for account numbers, personal information, and passwords. You may never know you’ve been infected until you get an unexpected credit card collection call.

Some scammers have gotten more sophisticated with the initial pitch, and will include “unsubscribe” or “change notification settings” in the footer of the e-mail. People looking to reduce the amount of unsolicited email they receive might click this link. They would be disappointed to learn that this link will also direct them to malware download sites.

If you’re looking to keep yourself safe from this new threat, here are three steps you can take.

1.) Know your Terms of Service

While there are upper limits on the amount of email your service provider will store for you, unless you’re sending DVDs worth of information regularly, you will never approach that limit. Gmail, for instance, will store around 65 gigabytes of email data for you. This is bigger than the biggest memory card available for your camera. If you received 23 professional-quality photos every day, it would take you a year to exceed your storage limit, assuming you never deleted any of them.

Email service providers also set some limits on the number of emails you can send, but if you’re clicking the send button each time, you’ll never exceed that frequency. These limits are designed to prevent malicious or fraudulent activities, which is why they target automatic message sending. If you’re running a business out of your home, you might worry about tripping this limit. For your personal email, though, this will never be a concern.

If you’re expecting an email regarding a job interview, family news, or other significant life event, be proactive. Contact the person you’re expecting to hear from and ask for an update. Sitting and waiting creates anxiety, which makes an environment ripe for scams.

2.) Don’t follow mystery links

If you receive an email from someone you don’t know, and it contains a hyperlink, don’t click it. Even visiting malicious websites can infect your computer, causing untold damage. Even if the message comes from someone you know, if there’s no context for the link, don’t click it.

You can take steps to figure out if the message you’ve received is legitimate. Look at the “from” line. The message may appear to be from “Google Admin,” but the email address might be googleadmin@freesites.ru (for example). If the second part of the email address (the domain) doesn’t match what you think it should be, it’s probably bogus. If there’s even a shred of doubt in your mind, don’t click.

Part of practicing good Internet hygiene is keeping your computer away from dangerous websites. Even if you think there’s nothing on your computer worth stealing, your computer could be used by scammers to cause serious damage to your friends and family. Stay safe, and keep your friends safe, too.

3.) Report suspicious activity

Email service providers take these scams as seriously as you do. Someone is trafficking in their good name to exploit their customers. They are eager to put a stop to it to keep their brand image safe and their customers happy.

If you have any doubt about the legitimacy of a message, forward it to your provider’s abuse address. Gmail has an option to “Report phishing” in the drop-down menu next to the reply button. Yahoo and Hotmail offer similar functionality. For larger corporations, try forwarding the message to “abuse” or “admin” @ the company’s website – abuse@target.com, for example.

These companies would rather sort through a thousand false positives than let people continue to defraud their customers. They value you because they’re providing you a service. Don’t hesitate to let them know something’s amiss.

For more information about fraudulent practices, visit Destinations Credit Union’s website and take a look in the Fraud Prevention section.


Affordable Care Act Tax Forms

The Affordable Care Act (ACA), also called Obamacare, made a lot of changes to the tax system. This last year, people saw the healthcare side of the bill, including the healthcare exchange marketplace, pricing rules and simplified plans. This year, the funding side of the act goes into effect.

This change in regulation might seem like it’s happening somewhere far away from daily life. Most of the time, that’s true. When it comes to tax time, though, the ACA will get up close and personal.

There are a variety of new tax forms people must use to comply with the regulations of the act. They might seem confusing, but they’re no worse than any other tax form. Let’s take a look at three steps you might need to take under the new rules.

1.) Check a box on your 1040

The “master sheet” of your return, where you list your gross income and deductions, is called the 1040. This year, there’s a new line that asks you to certify you have health insurance. If you do, check that box. If you have insurance through your employer, or you’ve purchased private insurance, that’s all you need to do. Keep a copy of a statement from the company just in case the IRS needs proof and move on to the rest of your taxes.

The IRS estimates that 75% of taxpayers will have to do no more than this. “For the vast majority of Americans, tax filing under the Affordable Care Act will be as simple as checking a box to show they had coverage all year,” said Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew in a press statement. Line 61, where the check box is located, will be the only noticeable change to your tax form.

2.) Deal with new forms

Like many new government regulations, the ACA created several new forms to fill out. The most common of these is the 1095a, which provides proof of your coverage and how much of a credit you were advanced to cover the costs of your premiums.

People interested in claiming that credit will not be able to file a 1040-EZ, the simplified 1040 form used by people in straightforward tax situations. To claim the credit, they will have to fill out their return on the standard 1040 form, which is slightly longer. They will also need to fill out form 8962. This is also the form to use for reconciling the amount of tax credit advanced versus the amount due.

If you got a new job, got a raise or had another significant life event, you may have to pay back part of the subsidy on your insurance. If you had a child, lost your job or had your hours cut, you might be eligible for an additional credit. That same form, 8692, will help you figure out what your life changes mean for your taxes.

3.) Pay a penalty (or request an exemption)

The reason for the check box on the 1040 is to ensure compliance with the so-called individual mandate that requires everyone have health insurance. If a person didn’t have health insurance in 2014, they can expect to pay a penalty this year. The penalty is calculated based upon how much their family earns above a certain level. Most tax experts predict the average penalty will be $301 this year and could go as high as $600 next year.  If you need to obtain insurance, Destinations Credit Union has partnered with TruStage to offer health insurance to our members.

There are a few available exceptions to the individual mandate. Individuals who make less than the income filing threshold, for example, are not required to purchase insurance. You may also claim an exemption if the cost of the premium would exceed 8% of your household income, or if the gap in your coverage was less than 3 consecutive months. These exceptions are all certified through form 8965.

If you can’t claim an exemption, it might be time to buckle down and get health insurance. The cost will continue to rise, and the longer you wait, the more you’ll pay. You’re also gambling that your health will hold. Insuring younger people without health problems is cheaper than insuring older people with health problems.

The IRS has devoted considerable resources to public outreach about the new changes. It is encouraging anyone who has questions about the new policy to visit its website, IRS.gov, and follow the link to the ACA help page. It’s also included video tutorials showing how the new forms work and providing walk-throughs of the trickier parts.

Tax time can be confusing! If you’re absolutely flummoxed by the new forms, it might be time to find an expert. You can also used a guided system like TurboTax Online to make it a lot easier.  Destinations Credit Union has partnered with TurboTax to provide a discount to our members!  Check it out for free.  Then make sure you directly deposit your refund check into your Destinations account!


Direct Deposit: Safe, Simple And Convenient

There’s a very short list of things that really haven’t changed in the past 50 years: apple pie, your fourth-grade teacher’s fashion sense and paper checks. Despite the advances that have been made in financial technology, paper checks are really about the same instruments they always have been. In a digital world, they’re increasingly expensive, cumbersome and insecure.

While larger companies have been using an all-electronic system for paying their employees for years, many smaller employers already have or are moving to direct deposit of your net pay as well. Direct deposit transmits your paycheck from your employer’s business account directly into your checking, savings or pre-paid account(s). You still get a pay stub or an electronic equivalent from your employer that lists the amount of the transfer along with any deductions, like taxes, health care or retirement.

What you won’t have to do is hold on to that check until you can find time to get to a branch. Payroll deposits clear instantaneously, which means the money is generally available in your account the same day.

Direct deposit really is the way of the future. Many large employers and some benefit providers require it, and it’s easy to see why. Let’s look at three reasons why direct deposit is right for you. 

1.) Safety 

Think like a criminal for a second. A paycheck is the largest check most people see on a regular basis. This makes it a tempting target for theft. Think about how your employer would react to someone picking up your paycheck for you. Someone could pretend to be a spouse, babysitter or friend doing you a “favor.”

While the signature requirement is some protection, many check-cashing establishments don’t look closely for a match. It’s remarkably easy to cash a stolen check and the law provides little protection. Your employer might be sympathetic, but they’re probably not willing to issue you a second paycheck. The burden would be on you to prove the theft before you could get your salary.
With a direct deposit, those concerns are virtually nonexistent. There are no paper checks to keep safe. No one needs to pick up your paycheck for you. There’s no concern that someone else will accidentally be given your check. The whole transaction is handled seamlessly by computer. 

2.) Simplicity 

Believe it or not, the process of payroll is incredibly complicated for companies. Many of them hire outside firms at great expense to ensure they’re accurately paying their employees in compliance with various state and federal regulations. One of the costs involved in payroll production is the printing of checks. Paper checks must be printed, signed and recorded, all of which requires labor.

The cost of writing, verifying and safeguarding a paper check is about $1 per employee per pay period, assuming no lost checks or pay disputes. The lost time to distributing and depositing those checks is about $2 per employee, so it costs businesses about $3 to print and distribute paper checks. Direct deposit costs about half as much.

These savings may seem insignificant, but they add up quickly. Your employer spending less money on payroll means more money to pay you. Whether those cost savings result in a lower-priced product, more investment in the business or higher wages, you benefit. When your employer comes out ahead, so do you.

3.) Convenience 

Obviously, direct deposit saves you an errand every pay period. The stress of fighting rush-hour traffic to make it to a branch office before closing time on payday is considerable. There’s also no need to worry if you got your paycheck deposited in time for same-day processing. Say goodbye to account guessing games.

Beyond the obvious conveniences, direct deposit opens up a slew of other possibilities. You can more easily automate your savings by depositing a portion of each payroll into a savings account and the rest into your checking. You can pay bills more easily online since you get confirmation your funds are available. You may also be able to secure lower fees or a higher interest rate on your checking account!

Paperless payroll saves trees, it saves time and it saves frustration. It does all of this while being safer, faster, and more secure. If you’re unsure about your direct deposit options, stop by or call Destinations Credit Union. Our helpful representatives can get you the information you need to set up direct deposit and can even help you organize your deposits to meet your financial goals.

Call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today!  If you are getting a tax refund, make sure you designate Destinations Credit Union to receive your refund via electronic deposit!