Check Fraud & Swiss Cheese


Just about every article you read about fraud, security and identity theft is based on the idea that with increased technology comes increased security.  In fact, we do everything we can to bring as much cutting edge technology to your defense as possible. Unfortunately, some of the greatest vulnerabilities in your security come from low-tech attacks.

Think about it this way: A dedicated criminal wanting to get into your checking account has to spend thousands of dollars on an RFID skimmer, a device to crack your PIN, and other technological marvels out of a “Mission: Impossible” movie, but when they get access, our fraud protection kicks in after only a very small expenditure.  So, why would a criminal spend thousands of dollars when they could get the same benefits from spending $5 on a blunt object with which to threaten you physically? Why steal RFID signals out of the air when you can pick pockets and shop online?  Why go high-tech and hassle with all our security experts when a criminal can go low-tech and wait for you to slip up?

It helps to think of your financial security as a metaphorical block of Swiss cheese.  Every layer of security may have a few holes, just like every step you take to protect yourself has holes.  The idea is that, if we put enough layers of cheese on top of each other, we can make sure that none of the holes go all the way through the cheese, leaving you vulnerable.  In that spirit, we’ve identified a low-tech hole in the cheese, and we’re putting down another layer.  We’d like to make sure you put down some cheese, too.

Check fraud is still a major problem, and it could get worse as EMV chips and software security make ATM and point of sale transactions more secure.  Check fraud is an umbrella term for a variety of strategies scammers use, ranging from creating blank checks on computer software to stealing and using old checkbooks.  Your checkbook is a source of fraud vulnerability for many of these strategies, but the ways to protect yourself are fairly simple. 

1.) Treat your checkbook like cash.  The easiest thing to do is to just not give thieves access to your checks.  You wouldn’t put an envelope of cash in your mailbox with the flag up, would you?  Then don’t do it with a utility check.  If you’re going to mail a check, drop it into a blue USPS box on your way to work.  You can also see what’s available to pay online.  Our online services are really impressive, and if you set up an automatic payment through us or use our online banking, you never have to mail a check again.

 2.) Balance your checkbook every month.  It may seem like a chore, but balancing your checkbook is the easiest way to make sure you’re the only one spending your money.  We have special buttons built into our online account view to make this as easy as possible. If you want a little personal guidance, come talk to us and we’ll walk you through the process.  It’s easier than it looks. If it takes you forever every month, you might not be using all of our features! Call Destinations Credit Union at 410-663-2500 and we’ll help you make the process much easier. 

3.)  Destroy your old checkbooks and order new ones regularly.  For whatever reason, you might have found yourself with old checks lying around.  Maybe you were running low on checks and ordered a new checkbook but decided not to finish the old one  because they came so quickly. Maybe you’ve moved and didn’t bother to finish the set with your old address. If that’s the case, destroy them.  It’s worth the cost of a checkbook or the effort of a few minutes at the office shredder to keep from leaving yourself vulnerable. Also, don’t put your driver’s license number on the checks when you order them.  It might take a few extra minutes at the register, but that inconvenience is a lot worse for a scammer holding your checkbook than it is for you.  If you need to order a new checkbook, you can do it here:  https://orderpoint.deluxe.com/personal-checks/home.htm. 

It’s a different world for your checkbook than it was even a few years ago. Nationally, we’re writing fewer checks in fewer places and many of us don’t carry a checkbook at all.  Across the country, speech teachers are showing “I Have a Dream” to their students and they have to pause the video to explain what a promissory note is and why Dr. King is talking about writing a check for freedom. They may seem old-fashioned, but that’s exactly why they represent such an important vulnerability in your financial security:  They’re just paper and ink.  No chips to crack, no PIN, no online security protocols.  Don’t let your Swiss cheese have holes that go all the way through. Protect yourself from check fraud.
Sources:

http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2008/05/19/frank-abagnales-tips-on-avoiding-check-fraud
http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0159-fake-checks#Youandyourbank
http://www.ckfraud.org/ckfraud.html

The Best RFID-Blocking Wallets For Women


We recently brought you information about the best RFID-blocking wallets for men. Today, we have a review of the best RFID-blocking wallets for women, who have far more options in terms of styles, looks, and formality. If you’d like to read the previous installment, click here http://blog.destinationscu.org/2015/08/the-best-rfid-blocking-wallets-for-men.html.  In it, you can learn about what RFID is and why you need a wallet that blocks the signals from your cards.


Here are our top choices for four very different kinds of card-protecting options:

Women’s Trifold Wallet

by Access Denied ($55.95-$66.95)

Our first option is one of the most basic wallets offered to women that is also capable of holding everything while still looking fashionable. The Access Denied trifold wallet has space for your cash, cards, passport and checkbook, so you know that this wallet can handle whatever you need for your day. It’s also available in a variety of neutral tones and common purse colors to coordinate with your everyday bag. It’s hard to find this much convenience and variety under $60.


That said, if you’re a fan of high-quality leather, you might be put off by the lack of full or top-grain leather with this wallet. If that’s something that upsets you, be warned that this guide is very light on such top-flight materials, because the wallet manufacturers don’t seem to use them very often for RFID wallets. If you want to step into high-quality leather goods that keep your identity safe, you’re going to be paying a lot of money.

RFID-Blocking Secure Ladies Mini-Trifold

By ID Stronghold ($49.99)


Identity Stronghold has an inexpensive wallet that should fit into any purse.  If you want the convenience and storage options of a much bigger wallet, the Identity Stronghold Mini-Trifold has a zippered coin pouch, credit and ID card slots and a pocket for your cash.  The faux-reptile leather finish is a stylish touch that Jane Birkin would appreciate because, unlike the Hermes Bag named for her, no alligators were harmed in making it.  


The wallet comes in a few different faux-reptile finishes, ranging in color tone from muted purple to the bright red pictured here.  It’s deceptively stylish for the price.
 

RFID-Blocking Cross Body Bag (Left)

by Travelsmith ($99.00)

RFID-Blocking Double Frame Clutch (Right)

by Travelsmith ($68.99)

Another option is to find a small bag that you like and use it for carrying your wallet. Both of these options from luggage maker Travelsmith offer full RFID protection for everything within the bags, including credit cards, IDs and passports. Like the Access Denied trifold wallet above, these bags are available in a variety of colors to suit just about any taste.


If you find the idea of moving away from a beloved bag or purse unappealing, the chain straps can be removed from either of the Travelsmiths and the bags can be used as wallets. Each bag comes with some organizational features, but if you want everything to have a place, you may find the lack of dedicated pockets frustrating.

Fine Art RFID-Blocking Card Sleeves

by Armored Wallet ($9.50)


Finally, we have the option for anyone who would like to keep their current wallet or purse, regardless of style preference or gender. These inexpensive sleeves wrap around your cards individually to protect them from skimmers and look great while doing it. Armored Wallet offers a variety of colors and prints featuring classic works of art. There’s something to be said for the unique touch of carrying classic art in your wallet, and even more to be said for protecting yourself while getting change back from a $10 bill.


The masterpieces featured on the sleeves come mostly from European impressionists like Van Gogh and Monet, and don’t extend much past the paintings you might have had as a dorm poster in your college days. So, if you were hoping for Klimt or Kandinsky, you’re out of luck.


In the end, your choice will be dictated by your personal style. If you’re an upscale fashionista, you may be disappointed with the season’s offerings; among Saks 5th Avenue, Nordstrom, Barney’s New York, and Coach, not a single RFID-blocking women’s wallet can be found. If you prefer simplicity, you might want to check out the men’s wallets, most of which claim to be unisex. If, however, you’d rather save money and protect yourself from identity theft than look good on the runway, you have your choice of a vast number of styles and colors. Whichever you choose, make sure you find a way to protect your cards, even if that means wrapping them in tinfoil until you can find a suitable and fashionable alternative.

Sources:
 

The Best RFID-Blocking Wallets For Men


By the end of the year, you’re going to be carrying some brand new tech in your wallet. That is, if you aren’t already doing so. The major credit card companies have all moved to chip-and-PIN cards, which use Radio Frequency Identification (RFID) to prevent fraudulent transactions and keep your data safe. Unfortunately, the cutting edge technology that makes your transactions more secure at the register also decreases your security everywhere else. That’s because scammers can steal radio signals from the air and use your credit card information and then go on a shopping spree before you know anything’s wrong.

  

When RFID passports were released in the UK, scammers had broken into them within 48 hours. That’s enough to scare even the most tech-ignorant among us.

  

To combat this vulnerability, you need a wallet that can protect your identity by blocking those radio signals, which many new wallets can do by simply adding a layer of metal that goes entirely around your wallet. So many new wallets can protect you from scammers that you might find the choices overwhelming, particularly if you’re the kind of guy who uses a velcro trifold style wallet. We’ll walk you through your choices and pick the best one for each category, based on style, security, and price, because there’s no point in buying a wallet so expensive you have nothing to put in it.

  

Here are our top choices for three very different kinds of wallets:

Front Pocket Wallet in Bison Leather

by Herrington ($49.95)

  

If you don’t carry much cash or the idea of sitting on metal plates bound in leather sounds uncomfortable, you might be in line for a front pocket wallet. Back pocket wallets have been linked to sciatica and other forms of chronic back pain, so carrying a few cards in your front pocket may be the best long-term choice you can make for both your financial and physical health.

Herrington’s front pocket wallet is curved to fit into the front pocket of your pants without bouncing around or disrupting the lines of your outfit. The handsome Bison leather is masculine and stylish, so you won’t be embarrassed to pull it out at a business lunch or on a date.

The wallet is manufactured in Maine out of multiple layers of material that create a Faraday cage for preventing radio signals from escaping and therefore allowing skimmers to get at your cards.  

  

 

The Ridge Wallet ($45-$115)

   

If you want something even slimmer, you may be interested in one of the all-metal wallets that have taken over Kickstarter in the last few years. These wallets wrap your cards in layers of metal held together with a nylon band or screws and look like incredibly modern, wallet-sized Swiss Army knives. Some even have fold-out extensions to hold keys, USB drives or very small pens!

Our choice among the modern, minimalist, metal wallets opts for simplicity. The Ridge Wallet doesn’t have key rings or add-ons, just a simple wallet with a clean look. Ridge offers four different materials ranging from the youthful and inexpensive polycarbonate, which comes in a variety of bright hues, all the way to pricey and indestructible titanium in various shades ranging from gray to black. If you want a wallet sleek and cool enough for Batman, but you don’t want to carry an entire utility belt, you want a black titanium Ridge Wallet.
  

Derrick RFID-Blocking Flip ID Bifold

Manufacturer: Fossil

Price: $45

It’s tough to argue with the classic bifold. With ample room for cards and cash, a classic design certain to fit any outfit, and all the features you’ve always enjoyed, a leather bifold wallet is a traditional men’s accessory that never goes out of style. 
Fossil offers a selection of RFID-blocking wallets that don’t look too technical or modern, with the Derrick bifold at the top of the list for its combination of looks, materials, and price. The RFID-blocking material is sewn into the lining, so you won’t feel like you’re sitting on a phone book, but you’ll still be protected. The Derrick bifold is the kind of wallet you can buy now and not think about for a few decades, which tends to be the way most men buy wallets.  

  

 

Altoids tin

Manufacturer: Altoids

Price: $3

   

If you’re looking for a budget option, or a stopgap security solution while you shop, you can always keeps your cards in an Altoids tin. The thick metal is an effective Faraday cage that offers top-flight security at a price that can’t be beat. Just don’t be surprised if people are quick to comment how fresh your cards smell!
In the end, you’re going to have to decide what matters to you. Unlike other fashion items, you’ll carry your wallet every day, and you probably don’t want to replace it very often. It’s up to you to weigh fashion, security and comfort and come to a decision for your own peace of mind. The only thing you need to make sure of is that you don’t leave your financial information available for motivated scammers to steal.
Please note:  Destinations Credit Union is planning to convert to the “Chip” cards in early 2016.

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