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/

How To Create And Keep Strong Passwords

Your passwords are like the keys to your life. And when it seems like there’s another bigPeople using computer with secure login screen security breach every week, you want to be absolutely sure your passwords are strong and safe. After all, with just a few keystrokes, a scammer can have full access to your personal information, financial accounts, social media pages and so much more.

But creating those perfect passwords – and remembering them – can be difficult.

Below, we’ve outlined 6 steps for creating and keeping super-strong passwords that will keep scammers guessing.

Step #1: Choose a password manager

With so much of our lives accessible online, it’s more important than ever to keep passwords secure. The best way to do this is to use a password manager. These services will generate strong passwords for all of your financial accounts, favorite websites and social media platforms and then keep them safely encrypted. You will only need to create and memorize one master password, which you will use when logging into all of your accounts.

There are lots of password managers on the market, but the ones that come most highly recommended are 1password, Lastpass and Keepass.

1Password and LastPass are both cloud-based services, and can be vulnerable to remote attacks. However, both services heavily encrypt your data and don’t store your one master password in the cloud. As long as that password is strong, you’ll be safe even if these services get hacked.

Step #2: Create an unbreakable master password

Once you’ve chosen your password manager, create a strong master password. This code can open up every password of yours to potential scammers, so be extra careful about choosing one that is super-secure and virtually unbreakable.

Scammers are becoming increasingly more efficient at password-cracking. They use multiple dictionaries which include English words, names, foreign words, phonetic patterns and more. They look for dates, commonly used substitutions, like “$” for “s,” “@” for “a,” and they run their dictionaries with various capitalizations.

Follow the rules below and you’ll have a strong password.

  • Make it long. Many sites require a password that is a minimum of 8 characters long, but a 12-character password is even stronger.
  • Be creative. Avoid using names, places and recognizable words because these are easily cracked.
  • Mix it up. The best way to keep your password unbreakable is to mix up your capitalization and the kinds of characters you use, switching back and forth from letters to numbers to symbols.
  • Don’t use any of variation of these commonly used – and commonly hacked – passwords:
    •    123456123456789
    •    Passwordadmin
    •    12345678qwerty
    •    1234567111111
    •    1231231234567890000000
    •    Abc1231234
    •    iloveyouaaaaaa

If you’re unsure about your password’s strength, you can run it through an online password checker, like the one on OnlineDomainTools.com.

Bonus tip:Worried about creating and remembering a long, unbreakable password? Turn a sentence into a password by using mnemonics, misspelled words and symbols that only you will understand. Here are a few to get you started:

  • WOO!TAwonTWS = Woohoo! The Astros won the World Series!
  • D:'(OspldMlk.JdreenqOJ = Don’t cry over spilled milk. Just drink orange juice
  • 1tubuupshrtsin2Mpnts = I tuck button-up shirts into my pants.

Once you’ve created a super-strong master password, work on memorizing it. Don’t store the password anywhere online or on your phone; write it down on an unmarked piece of paper. Rip up the paper as soon as you’ve committed the password to memory. This should happen fairly quickly since you will be using it quite often.

Step #3: Update all your passwords

Next, you’re going to sync all the websites and accounts you use with your password manager. Follow the guidelines on your password manager for this step, as they differ with each service.

When you’re through, you’ll only be able to log into these sites by using your master password.

Some sites you use might employ outdated systems that won’t work with a password manager. For these sites, you will need to use different passwords. You can slightly amend your master password for these sites or create new ones using the guidelines above. Never double passwords; use a different one for every site you use.

Step #4: Use two-factor authentication

Add another layer of protection by choosing two-factor authentication whenever you have that option.

Step #5: Be careful with security questions

Ironically, security questions are extremely insecure. Anyone can Google your dog’s name or your mother’s hometown. And, if all a scammer has to do to retrieve your password with the “I forgot my password” tab is answer a security question, the strongest passwords in the world won’t do you any good.

Protect yourself by treating security questions like passwords. Never answer them truthfully. Instead, make up mnemonics or nonsensical answers that are hard to crack but easy for you to remember.

Step #6: Don’t let your browser or phone “remember” your passwords

Don’t be lazy; keep your passwords in your head and not on your devices. Otherwise, you’ll be in deep trouble if your computer or phone is swiped.

Keep your passwords strong and safe. You don’t want to be an easy target for scammers!

Your Turn: What’s your best tip for creating a super-strong password? Share it with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/how-to-create-a-strong-password-1797681069/am

https://lifehacker.com/four-methods-to-create-a-secure-password-youll-actually-1601854240
https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp

 

Should I Refinance Before I Retire?

Q: I’m in my mid-50s and I’m preparing to retire sometime down the line. I’m wondering group of people around a table outdoorsif I should refinance my mortgage as part of my retirement planning. Is that a good idea?

A: Refinancing your existing mortgage can have a large impact on your financial health, for better or for worse. Be sure to consider all angles before deciding if a pre-retirement refinance is right for you.

The first thing you need to know before taking this step is that refinancing doesn’t come cheap. It’s only worth the cost if you come out ahead. Crunch the numbers carefully before making this decision. To verify if you will indeed gain from a refinance, check out this  calculator.

The second factor to consider is how long you plan on staying in your home. Financial experts only recommend a refinance for homeowners who plan to continue living in their home for at least 10 years. Otherwise, it is unlikely that they’ll recoup the cost of the refinance.

Another important issue to weigh is the significant tax savings that many homeowners believe a mortgage affords them. While this may be true under certain circumstances, it is rarely the case for those who are nearing retirement.

Homeowners are offered tax deductions on the interest of their mortgage payments. However, toward the end of a mortgage’s life, most of the monthly payment is going toward the principal of the loan and not toward interest. This means the tax savings from an older mortgage are minimal.

If you are holding onto a mortgage for this reason, consider a refinance that will lower those small interest payments and help you be rid of your house debt before you’re ready to retire.

Next, understand that there are a few ways to refinance, only some of which make sense for a homeowner who is nearing retirement.

Here are the three primary ways to refinance a mortgage:

  • Lengthening an existing loan into a new 30-year mortgage
  • Refinancing to a loan with a lower interest rate
  • Shortening the life of a loan to a new 10- or 15-year mortgage.

While the second two courses of action will afford you several long-term benefits, it is rarely a good idea to refinance a mortgage to a lengthier loan pre-retirement. Doing so has several disadvantages:

  • You may end up leaving your heirs with a mortgage to pay off after you pass on.
  • You will retire with debt. This can increase your stress levels and put a severe strain on your financial independence during your retirement.
  • You can trigger tax complications. With more fixed expenses to cover pre-retirement, you may be forced to pull money out of your retirement accounts. This can cause an increase in your income tax payments.

On the other hand, refinancing to a lower-interest loan, one with a shorter life, or a mortgage that offers both advantages together, can offer you several significant benefits upon retirement.

Here are just a few of the reasons you may want to consider this kind of refinance before you retire:

  1. Extra cash flow – Having more liquid assets is the primary reason many pre-retirement homeowners choose to refinance. By switching to a loan with a lower interest rate, you’ll find yourself with considerable monthly savings that can help you live out the rest of your years in financial independence. Use that money for basic living expenses, to fund your travels as you explore the world or even to finance a move to a retirement community. You can also choose to let that money grow by investing it in the market or adding it to your existing retirement fund. However you decide to use the money you’ll save on a lower-interest mortgage, you’ll come out ahead.
  1. Retire debt-free – If you have more than a decade to go until retirement, refinancing a 30-year mortgage into a 10- or 15-year loan can allow you to retire completely debt-free. As long as you can afford the higher monthly principal for the short amount of time left to pay off your loan, you’ll save on interest. Best of all, you’ll be able to retire with peace of mind, knowing that you don’t owe a penny.
  2. Pay off other high-interest debts – Some pre-retirement homeowners are carrying significant amounts of credit card or other debt. In that case, refinancing to a lower-interest loan can be an easy way to come up with extra cash to pay off a high-interest balance. Don’t let those credit card bills continue to haunt you throughout your golden years!

Refinancing your mortgage before you retire, can help you sail into your golden years, debt-free. Call, click or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to ask about your refinancing options. We’re committed to helping you achieve and maintain financial wellness through every stage of life.

Your Turn: Did you refinance before you retired? Which factors drove your decision? Share them with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/refinance/decide-whether-to-refi-before-you-retire.aspx/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.hsh.com/amp/finance/refinance/should-I-refinance-before-I-retire.html  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.fool.com/amp/investing/general/2015/04/03/retire-with-your-mortgage-or-refinance.aspx  
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/learnvest/2014/02/05/7-pros-and-cons-to-refinancing-before-retirement/amp/  

Should I Be Concerned About Rising Mortgage Rates?

On June 13th, the Federal Funds Target rate was officially raised by .25%. This increase Two women reviewing loan documentsmarks the second time interest rates were raised in 2018 and experts expect another two increases this year.

The rate increase was prompted by optimistic feelings about the general state of the economy. The Fed pronounced the economy to be rising at a “solid rate” and claimed that inflation rates are close to their target goal of 2%. Most notably, unemployment rates have dropped to just 3.8% in May, 2018, tying with April 2000 for the lowest rate since 1969.

While this might be good news for the economy, all these indicators point to rising interest rates-and that might not be the best news for current and hopeful homeowners.

Is it a good time to buy a house? Should you choose an ARM or a fixed-rate mortgage? If you’re a homeowner, should you be taking any action now?

So many questions-and we’ve got answers! Read on for what you need to know about the rising interest rates and what it all means for you.

What you can expect for the rest of the year

Here’s what experts anticipate for the remainder of 2018:

  • More market increases. The fed is expected to raise interest rates again at their meetings in September and December.
  • A healthy economy that keeps growing. With unemployment rates at record lows and the recent tax cuts keeping the economy strong, business is booming across the country. Hiring is up and firing is down. If you’re an employee, you can anticipate a raise in 2018 and the security of a job you can hold onto for years.
  • More homeowners choosing to stay put. In 2017, U.S. homeowners gained $1 trillion in equity. This means most homeowners are now sitting on newfound wealth. It now makes more sense for them to tap into their home’s equity to fund renovations on their homes instead of going through the hassle and paying the costs of a move. Cash-out refinances, in which the homeowner takes out a bigger mortgage and pockets the difference in cash, will be especially popular. When homeowners stay put, it can create a tighter housing market which can make prices rise.

Why a healthy economy means higher mortgage rates

When the economy is thriving, inflation increases. This causes investors to seek higher returns for their investments. The only way to keep investors interested in mortgage bonds when the economy is booming is to raise interest rates on mortgages.

It’s more that, though. The Feds want to keep inflation stable so that it doesn’t spikesuddenly and trigger a market panic which can lead to a crash or a recession. By gradually increasing interest rates, they can keep the economy growing at a steady, stable pace.

What do mortgage rates look like now?

Mortgage rates have already surpassed predictions set by major housing agencies at the end of 2017. As of August 1st, 2018, mortgage rates are hovering between 4.5% and 5% and are not expected to drop anytime soon. If anything, they’ll only continue rising throughout the rest of the year.

If you’re a homeowner

If you own a home and haven’t yet locked in your interest rate, now is the time to do so. Rates are only going to continue climbing and you want to get the best interest rate for your mortgage before it gets too expensive to handle.

If you haven’t already, consider refinancing your existing mortgage to one with a lower interest rate.

If you’re in the market for a home

House prices have soared over the last seven years. According to the National Association of Realtors, the average price tag for a home is now $264,800, up by almost 100K from 2011. When you adjust these numbers for inflation, house prices have seen a 33% increase in seven years.

If you’re house-hunting now, don’t pay more for your mortgage than you absolutely have to.

Housing agency Freddie Mac urges new-homeowners to shop around before choosing a mortgage. Get as many quotes as you can, do your research, and make some more phone calls. You do it before every other major purchase; why not shop around when it comes to a decision that will affect your monthly mortgage payments for years?

“One additional mortgage quote could save you $1,500 over the life of your loan,” Freddie Mac shares. “Five quotes could save $3,000.”

It’s also a good idea to consider an adjustable-rate mortgage (ARM). ARMS are 30-year loans that have fixed rates for a specified amount of time, usually 3-7 years. Rates will then change according to national rates. When mortgage rates are rising, ARMs are usually priced more reasonably than fixed-rate loans. 30-year fixed rates, now priced up to 5%, hovered in the high 3s throughout 2017. ARMs are now in the same range.

ARMs can give you a fixed, stable payment for up to 7 years. After the initial period, they can be adjusted just once a year-and there are limits to how much the rate can be increased.

Considering a refinance? Shopping for a mortgage? Don’t forget to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to learn about the mortgage products we have available for you.

Your Turn: Have you taken any action in response to the Fed’s interest rate increase? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://themortgagereports.com/32667/mortgage-rates-forecast-fha-va-usda-conventional

https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2018-06-20/fed-s-powell-says-case-for-gradual-rate-hikes-remains-strong
https://www.nar.realtor/research-and-statistics/housing-statistics
https://www.forbes.com/sites/advisor/2018/06/19/fed-now-hinting-at-four-potential-rate-hikes-in-2018/#20c2283f2d6a
https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/mortgages/adjustable-rate-mortgage-good-bad-idea-rates-rise/

Don’t Get Caught In A Free Trial Scam!

You know what they say: “If it’s too good to be true, it probably isn’t.” And yet, dozens ofFingers pointing to computer key labeled Free Trial people fall for scams that promise them the moon – and they don’t realize they’ve been played until it’s too late.

Because of this truism, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning of an uptick in free trial scams. The scams come in several shapes and sizes, but most will look something like this:

You see an ad from Netflix or a cosmetic company saying you’ve been granted a temporary subscription to their service or product. They say it’s absolutely free. The only catch? There is none. They say that, anyway. That is until you’re asked to pay for hidden fees in addition to shipping and handling at a time when it’s too late to back out. Or, you might be asked to share all of your financial information even though you’re officially not obligated to pay anything.

In other words, there’s hardly a “free trial” that won’t cost you big.

In one such scam, a company aggressively advertised “free trials” for skin care products, dietary supplements and e-cigarettes on various popular websites. The lucky consumer would only need to cover the cost of shipping and handling and the product would be delivered – absolutely free!

Of course, the product wasn’t free and the unlucky victims sometimes paid close to $100 in fees before the first shipment was sent out. Worse yet, they were charged this same fee each month for the next year, with no way to back out of their contract until the 12 months were up.

In another scam with a similar setup, consumers were asked to share payment information for the $1.03 to cover shipping and handling for the “free” products. After their order was placed, another screen with a “Complete Checkout” button appeared. Shoppers who clicked that button unwittingly agreed to pay for monthly shipments of the product to the tune of $94.31 each month. And when that button was clicked, yet another “Complete Checkout” button appeared.

Again, those who clicked this button were subjected to a $94.31 charge each month. Consumers who’d taken the bait twice ended up with a total monthly charge of $188.62 – plus shipping.

In a third “free trial” scam, shoppers were lured into signing up for a 12-month trial subscription to a popular service, like Netflix, absolutely free. Unfortunately, though, the company advertising for the free trial wasn’t Netflix at all; it was a group of scammers. Victims were redirected to a new webpage where they were asked to share their sensitive information to qualify for the trial.

You can probably guess the ending: The scammer made off with the consumer’s information and emptied their accounts, went on a wild shopping spree or stole their identity.

Don’t let this happen to you! Here’s how to steer clear of free trial scams:

  • Do your research. A quick online search of the company name with words like “scam” or “negative review” should give you a basic idea of what the business is all about.
  • Read the fine print. Too often, there’s no way to refute charges relating to this scam because the consumer agreed to pay them. Don’t click anything without reading all of the terms and conditions attached to the offer. If you can’t find any, or you can’t understand them, opt out of the offer immediately.
  • Look for an exit strategy. Is there a way to cancel the offer? Can you change your mind about the product? If you only have a small pocket of time to cancel the trial, you might be looking at a scam.
  • Always review your credit card and checking account statements. This way, you’ll immediately spot anything suspicious and you’ll be able to determine if you can back out of a shady deal.
  • Never share sensitive information online. Unless you’re absolutely sure you know who you’re dealing with, it’s difficult to know if a website is 100% secure.
  • Check URLs. When signing up for a free trial, you’ll usually be redirected to a new site. Check the URL of the webpage and determine if it matches the company you are allegedly dealing with.
  • Ignore urgent calls to action. If an ad urges you to “Act now!” or claims an offer will expire momentarily, it’s likely a scam.

Read the fine print and only sign up for free trials that won’t cost you in more ways than you’d imagined.

Your Turn: Have you ever been duped by a free-trial, or similar, scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.lovemoney.com/news/amp/69117/netflix-free-trial-subscription-scam-warning-fake-1-year-offer-email

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/taxonomy/term/858
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/07/dont-let-free-cost-you

Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

You may be deep into your summer routine of lazy afternoons at the beach, family day mini shopping cart with school supplies insidetrips and bedtimes postponed in favor of firefly-chasing, but back-to-school season is already in full swing. And, any way you slice it, it’s going to be expensive! Between new backpacks, textbooks, a long list of supplies and a fresh autumn wardrobe, most parents are looking at a bill of close to $700 for school-related expenses this season.

Be proactive and save big! Read on for our handy list of back-to-school shopping hacks that will help you keep more money in your wallet.

1.) Plan to shop 5 times

To take full advantage of the sales and clearance events throughout the summer, don’t buy everything at once. Plan on making 5 shopping trips this season, and you’ll get the best prices out there.

2.) Stock up

No, your child doesn’t need a 6-month supply of No.2 pencils for the first day of school or five spare pocket-folders. But, if you buy enough school supplies while prices are low to last through the first half of the year – or even all the way into June – you’ll save big.

3.) Take advantage of loss leaders

Every week during back-to-school season, retailers will advertise one product at a super-low price. This is their loss leader, an item priced so cheaply that retailers actually lose money on sales. Of course the bargain-priced product attracts customers, so it’s worthwhile for the retailer, but all you need to worry about is snagging those ridiculous prices. Make sure you catch those hot deals!

4.) Shop the dollar store

Before you hit the typical retail stores, shop for real bargains at dollar stores like Dollar Tree and Family Dollar. You can find calculators, paper, pencils, pens and more – for just a buck!

5.) Buy designer backpacks online

If your kid is begging for a brand-name backpack, but you don’t want to shell out big bucks for a label, check out sites like 6PM and eBags. You’ll find fantastic deals on designer backpacks that will keep both the fashion-conscious child and mom happy.

6.) Look for manufacturer coupons

Comb circulars, like RedPlum and SmartSource, for manufacturer coupons from supply companies like Bic and Mead. You can also find them in magazines geared toward parents like Parenting or on online coupon sites, like Retailmenot and CouponCabin. These are usually steeper discounts than retailer coupons and they can be combined with in-store specials.

7.) Decode price tags

When shopping for new clothing, you want to know if you’re getting the best deal possible.

Most stores have a system for tagging items at their final markdown. Learn how to decode price tags and you’ll save big. Here’s how these popular stores mark their lowest prices:

  • The Gap: Ending in $.97
  • Target: Ending in an 8
  • Old Navy: Ending in $.47
  • TJMaxx: Yellow price tag

8.) Shop through Ebates for cash back

Do all your online shopping through cash-back sites, like Ebates, and get 2-4% of every purchase back. Ebates is affiliated with almost every major retailer, and it hardly takes any extra effort to shop through their site. It’s like getting paid to shop!

9.) Coordinate with other parents

To help you get the best deals and save some time, work together with other parents of school-aged kids. If you’re in Walmart when they have their penny deals on pencils and you can get a box of 24 for just $0.50, offer to buy a few boxes for your friend’s kids. And, when your friend finds the super-hot deal on crayons, they’ll pick up a few boxes for your kids. That’s money saved and fewer trips to the store.

10.) Use the season to teach your kids financial responsibility

With all the kid-centered shopping this season, it’s the perfect time for some financial lessons. Is your child desperate for designer supplies? Offer to pay for the regular price and let her fill in the rest with her own money. Give your older kids a list and some cash and let them shop on their own. Offer children a choice between a pricier backpack or a new pair of shoes. The teachable moments during back-to-school shopping are everywhere!

11.) Check out gift-card sites before you shop

Save by buying discounted gift cards to stores, like Michael’s and JCPenney, on sites like GiftCardGranny and Raise.

12.) Use the Amazon App to price-match

Have your phone handy when shopping so you can comparison-shop when buying your supplies. If an item is cheaper on Amazon, why buy it at the store (especially if you are an Amazon Prime member and can get free shipping)?

13.) Sign up for promotional mail

Most major retailers offer a discount for signing up for their promotional emails or text messages.

  • H&M: Save 20% on one item when you text your email address to 707-03
  • Kohl’s: Save 15% off your entire order by texting SAVE15 to 564-57
  • Old Navy: Sign up for a weekly text alert by texting 6046 to 653-689 and get a $5 coupon, and also sign up for promotional emails at OldNavy.com and you’ll be rewarded with a 30%-off coupon
  • Crazy8: Sign up for emails and receive 18% off your next order, plus free shipping
  • The Children’s Place: Input your email address in the pop-up box on TheChildrensPlace.com and get a $10 coupon.

14.) Take advantage of price-matching

Lots of stores you’ll be shopping at this season, like Office Depot, Staples and Target, offer to match any competitor’s prices. Take advantage of this generous offer by coming prepared with an online price posting of a cheaper item you’ve found elsewhere. You’ll visit fewer stores this way and save money, too.

15.) Shop early in the week

Weekly sales go live on Sundays and the best stuff gets grabbed first. Shop Sundays and Mondays so you never miss out on a great deal again.

Save big this season with [credit union’s] back-to-school shopping hacks!

Your Turn: What’s your secret back-to-school shopping hack? Share it with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/thekrazycouponlady.com/tips/money/back-to-school-shopping-hacks.amp.html

https://www.worthpointeinvest.com/the-best-time-saving-hacks-for-back-to-school-shopping/
https://www.sixsistersstuff.com/10-back-to-school-shopping-hacks/
https://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/07/22/14-back-to-school-shopping-hacks

What Can I Do About Robocalls?

Are you sick of grabbing your ringing phone five times a day only to find yet another Hand holding phone with answer or decline call optionsrobocaller on the other end?

If robocalls are getting to you, you’re not alone. Those super-annoying automatic calls have recently exploded, and it’s enough to make anyone go bonkers. More than 30 billion robocalls were made in the United States in 2017, and the Federal Trade Commission answered a whopping 375,000 complaints about robocalls each month.

Unfortunately, those numbers are only rising.

If you feel like your phone is ringing off the hook from robocalls and you’re just about ready to throw it against the wall, read on. We’ll give you the inside scoop on these dreaded calls and show you what you can do to put a stop to them once and for all.

How do they have my number?

Many people ask how so many businesses and scammers have their number. It’s because robocallers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated and the internet is making their job easier. Scammers and telemarketers can scrape almost anyone’s phone number off the web.

They might find it on your Facebook page, another social media platform you frequent, or even drag it off your business’s website. Robocallers also buy phone numbers from popular companies or websites that require visitors to log in by submitting some basic personal information that includes their landline and cellphone numbers.

Or, robocallers may simply be dialing thousands and thousands of numbers at random, with no rhyme or reason at all.

Who’s on the other end of the line?

Robocalls come in many forms. Sometimes they’ll be trying to sell you a product or urge you into signing up for a service. Other times, they’ll try to scam you by appearing to represent a government agency, like the IRS.

You might think no one’s buying the marketed product, or that whoever actually believes the robotic voice telling them they’re about to be arrested is super naïve. Remember, though, that even if just a few people agree to buy the product or are taken in by the scam, the minimal cost of running the calls is more than worth it for the person behind the calls.

Here’s how the robocalls take a stab at appearing authentic:

  • Spoofing. Using software, the robocaller can tweak the way their number shows up on caller ID. They can make it look like the IRS is on the phone, that your electric service company is calling you or like a representative from Apple is seeking you.

Recently, scammers have been using neighbor-spoofing, in which their caller ID looks like a local number. This throws victims off and can help robocallers gain their misplaced trust.

  • Disguised identity. Robocallers may also choose to appear mysterious and show up on your caller ID as “private number,” “unavailable” or “unknown.”

Steps you can take

Thankfully, you don’t have to be bombarded by those irksome calls for the rest of your life. Here are several steps you can take to keep most robocalls from reaching your landline or cellphone:

  1. Don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers – If you don’t recognize the number on your caller ID, let it go to voicemail. If the ID shows a local number or the name of a recognized company you have no reason to believe is calling you, ignore it as well.
  2. Block unwanted numbers – It’s time to get offensive and start intercepting those numbers before they reach your phone. First, if there’s any specific number that calls you persistently, use your phone to block it and you won’t have to hear from them again.

    Next, check with your phone service provider about possible technologies you can download to block anonymous calls or those from specific area codes. Some systems allow you to create your own blacklist of numbers that will be blocked or sent directly to voicemail. You can also create a “white list” of numbers you allow to go through and stop every other number from reaching you.

    You may also want to enlist the help of a robocall-blocking app that can offer you a stronger defense against unwanted calls. Here are some apps that provide this service along with their prices:

○     Nomorobo: 14-day free trial. $1.99/month or $19.99/year

○     RoboKiller: Free 7-day trial. $2.99/month or $24.99/year

○     Hiya: Free. Hiya partners with Samsung, AT&T and T-Mobile and also has standalone apps.

○     TrueCaller: Free

  1. Require caller input –  To keep all automatic calls from reaching your phone, you can set up a call-blocking technology, such as the Sentry Active Call Blocker, that greets all callers with a message requiring them to enter a number before the call can proceed. That’s something robots can’t yet do.
  2. Don’t share your number – Never share your phone number on your social media profiles or pages. If a business asks for your number, do not give it out unless you absolutely must.
  3. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry – Visit www.donotcall.gov to add your landline and cellphone numbers to the list of registered callers who don’t want to be bothered by telemarketers. Scammers won’t pay much attention to this list, but law-abiding companies that ignore the listed numbers risk being fined and will usually abide by the registry’s rules. This service is free and your number will never be taken off the list.
  4. File a complaint – If you’ve signed up for the Do Not Call Registry and, after a month, you are still receiving robocalls from specific companies, file a complaint with the FTC at ftc.gov. When the agency receives enough complaints about a number, it will take action.

    If you’re constantly receiving unwanted calls from a known business after signing up for the Do Not Call Registry, you can file a complaint with the Better Business Bureau.

You don’t have to let those robocalls overtake your life. Take action today and reclaim your peace!

Your Turn: What’s your best defense against robocalls? Share your favorite tip with us in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.consumerreports.org/robocalls/how-to-deal-with-robocalls/

https://www.moneytalksnews.com/7-tips-stop-annoying-robocalls/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.theverge.com/platform/amp/2018/3/6/17071478/spam-calls-how-to-stop-block-robocalls-robots-scam-iphone-android
https://www.robokiller.com/blog/why-do-i-receive-robocalls/

Why Beer, Cars And Washing Machines Are About To Get More Expensive

The president has made good on his promise to come down hard on the country’s trading partners. As a tax-paying citizen, who cars in dealer showroomlikely purchases more foreign-made goods than you realize, you owe it to yourself to learn how these new tariffs will impact your wallet. And we’re here to help you do just that!

First, let’s explore the general concept of tariffs and review those that recently went into effect.

A tariff is a tax on imported goods. The individual consumer or American company purchasing the imported product is responsible for paying the tax associated with it. The ultimate purpose of a tariff is to give an edge to U.S.-manufactured goods by raising the prices of their foreign-crafted counterparts.

Tariffs have long-lasting effects on the economy that fall beyond their intended purpose: When a company is forced to pay more for its materials, it will likely pass this extra expense onto its own consumers. Alternatively, they may choose to cut costs by hiring fewer workers and giving fewer raises to employees. Some companies will even move part of their production overseas.

The first of the recent wave of tariffs, targeting washing machines and solar panels, went into effect earlier this year. These were followed by a recent 25% tax on imported steel and a 10% tax on imported aluminum. Another wave of tariffs will go into effect later this month, focusing on hundreds of Chinese industrial goods. More are still planned, including taxes on Chinese-made TVs and cellphones.

Let’s take a look at how these tariffs impacted various industries and what it all means for the American consumer.

1.) Washing machines

The first move in the trade war taxed imported washing machines by 20-50%. The tariff was passed in an effort to stop Whirlpool from losing out to Korean-based Samsung and LG, who were grossly undercutting Whirlpool’s prices. While the move initially boosted the American company’s stock and employee base,the more recent tariff on steel will push up Whirlpool’s costs and likely offset any previous gains.

What this means for you: The price of washing machines has jumped by 17% in the last three months. Once the steel tariff hits the industry, those prices are likely to increase again.

2.) Solar panels

Imported solar panels were hit with a 30% tariff in January, 2018. However, there are plans for this tax to gradually decrease over the next few years. Like the tariff on washing machines, this tax was imposed because American manufacturers were losing out to offshore companies that were undercutting prices.

An incredible 80% of all solar panels in the U.S. are imported from overseas. For businesses that manufacture solar panels, this tariff is great news for their bottom line. But the many companies in the business of installing, marketing and distributing those panels have been dealt a near-fatal blow.

What this means for you:  The average price for solar panels is expected to increase by 40% over the next year.

3.) Aluminum

The 10% tax on imported aluminum was created to help American manufacturers of this heavily used raw material. Unfortunately, though, the many American companies that use aluminum for the production of their own goods will be forced to pay more for this essential metal. They will then pass this extra expense onto their customers.

While the administration is hopeful that the tariff will force the country to produce more aluminum, there’s no way for America to manufacture enough of this raw material to meet the country’s needs.

What this means for you: Your favorite drinks will likely see a price increase. Lots of beverage companies, like Coca-Cola and Budweiser, rely on cheap and imported aluminum to keep their costs down. You might see a price hike in lots of canned food products as well.

4.) Steel

Steel was recently slapped with a hefty 30% tariff. Like the aluminum tariff, it was passed with hopes that the U.S. will increase its steel production, thus creating more jobs. But, in another echo of the aluminum tariff, the U.S. doesn’t have the capacity to produce enough steel to meet its needs. It is also likely that the negative effect the tariff will have on other industries will more than counterbalance any gains.

What this means for you: The steel tariff has the largest impact of all; steel is used in the production of a huge scope of goods.

Here are some industries that will be affected by the steel tariff:

  • Cars. The American auto industry produced 11 million cars last year. With close to 2,000 pounds of steel used in the production of each car, the auto industry is going to be hit hard by the tariff. Naturally, car prices will rise dramatically.
  • Construction. Steel is used heavily in construction and renovations. Expect to see an increase across the entire construction industry.
  • Airline travel. Steel is a major part of every airplane. Expect to see flight costs rising thanks to more expensive steel.
  • Appliances. All major household appliances, like refrigerators and washing machines, are created from steel – and they’re all about to get more expensive.

There’s not much you can do about the upcoming price hikes, but now that you know what to expect, you won’t be in for much of an unpleasant surprise when you purchase products manufactured overseas or crafted using imported materials.

Your Turn: Do you think the tariffs will ultimately benefit the U.S.? Share your take on the trade war in the comments.

SOURCES:
https://www.timeinc.net/time/money/5316029/trump-tariffs-prodcut-prices

http://time.com/money/5295529/donald-trump-tariffs-beer-iphones-more-expensive/?xid=homepage
http://money.cnn.com/2018/05/31/news/economy/aluminum-steel-tariff-impact/index.html
https://www.bbc.com/news/amp/business-42784380

All You Need To Know About The Ticketmaster Breach

Hackers are at it again! This time, they’re skimming information on third-party sites in Ticket master logowhat may be the largest credit breach ever.

To that end, in late June, Ticketmaster announced that several of its sites had been compromised. Recent research, though, has revealed that this breach was only a small part of a massive credit card-skimming hack that may have affected more than 800 e-commerce sites.

Here’s what you need to know about the Ticketmaster breach:

What happened?

Ticketmaster revealed that customer information on several of its sites was compromised. The ticket-selling giant claimed no U.S. sites – or customers – had been hacked.

However, cybersecurity firm RiskIQ has said that more than 800 international e-commerce sites have been compromised in this hack.

Sites like Ticketmaster often rely on a third-party code that’s hosted on other sites to support their own payment systems. Third-party codes present a single point of failure. That means, if this code is breached on its host site, every site that uses the code will then be compromised.

That’s exactly what happened with Ticketmaster. Several of the ticket giant’s websites ran code from Inbenta, a customer support software company. When Inbenta was hacked, the sensitive information of these customers was compromised.

Though Inbenta claimed only these Ticketmaster customers had been affected by the hack, RiskIQ has found that some of Ticketmaster’s global sites – including its U.S. site – was running code from SocialPlus, another third-party that had been compromised by the same group that hacked Inbenta.

The breach gets even worse: All websites that relied on code hosted on Inbenta or SocialPlus were also compromised. The number of hacked sites has been estimated to reach 800.

The hack was executed quietly and efficiently. Scammers changed the code on the host sites to skim the credit card information being entered at checkout on the e-commerce sites. Since each code can be used on numerous sites, compromising this point can give hackers instant access to the information of 10,000 victims.

Who is behind the attack?

RiskIQ has identified Magecart as the hacking group behind the attacks. This group has been active since December 2016, and RiskIQ has been tracking them for nearly as long.

The hacking group targets software companies that provide codes for e-commerce websites. By altering these codes, the hackers can skim information from millions of customers every day.

According to Yonathan Klijnsma, a threat researcher at RiskIQ, the Ticketmaster breach has a larger impact than any other credit card breach to date.

While the cybersecurity firm did not name specific compromised sites beyond Ticketmaster, it did disclose that close to 100 top-tier sites have been breached, including large brands and popular online retailers.

What should I do if my information has been compromised?

Unfortunately, with the point of failure in this hack taking place at a third-party site, there’s not much you can do to protect your information from being compromised. However, by taking immediate action if you’ve been hacked, you can mitigate the damage to your credit and help law enforcement agents apprehend the hackers as quickly as possible.

If your information has been compromised, take the following steps:

  • Place a fraud alert on your credit accounts. This will warn creditors that you may have been victimized by identity theft and make it harder for a scammer to use your credit identity.
  • Consider a credit freeze. This will make it impossible for a hacker to open new credit in your name.
  • Alert the Federal Trade Commission. Let the FTC know you’ve been hacked at ftc.gov.
  • Tell Destinations Credit Union. Don’t forget to tell us that your information has been compromised. We’ll help you determine your next step and guide you until your credit has been cleared.
  • Dispute fraudulent charges. If you find any suspicious charges on your credit account, dispute them immediately. To do this, contact the associated financial institution and file a police report as well.

Scammers never take a break. Make sure you know what to do if your information has been hacked!

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

SOURCES:
https://www.nafcu.org/newsroom/more-800-e-commerce-sites-targeted-cyber-attack?utm_source=NAFCU+Today&utm_medium=Email&utm_campaign=daily+news

http://www.nbc-2.com/story/38649397/ticketmaster-data-breach-part-of-larger-credit-card-scheme-report-finds
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/article/ticketmaster-breach-was-part-of-a-larger-credit-card-skimming-effort-analysis-shows/
https://www.riskiq.com/blog/labs/magecart-ticketmaster-breach/