FAQs About Share Secured Loans

As a member of Destinations Credit Union, you already know we’re here to help you iStock_000003173522XSmall dollarmanage your money and let it grow in the best ways possible. That typically involves wisely using only the products and services best suited to your needs and goals.

One of our most convenient products is share secured loans. If you’re wondering what these loans are, and if they’re for you, read on!
Here are some answers to frequently asked questions about share secured loans.
1.) What are share secured loans?
Share secured loans are essentially a way for you to borrow, using your own savings as the collateral. Instead of using all your savings to make a purchase, thus losing out on all future dividends and your emergency safety net, you’re borrowing against that sum while your money stays in your account. You will pay interest on the amount borrowed until the loan is paid up, but most borrowers find the convenience to be a reasonable offset.
2.) How does it work?
In a share secured loan, your credit union will place a hold on the amount you want to borrow against. There is usually a minimum you can borrow, ranging from $200 to $500, and a maximum set at 80-100% of your entire savings balance. When you apply for the loan, your credit union will grant you the amount you requested in the form of a check or a deposit into your checking account. You can make payments on the loan through a monthly automatic withdrawal from your checking account, via direct deposit or by sending in a check each month.
 
3.) Who would benefit from a share secured loan?
While there are many benefits to a share secured loan, borrowers with damaged credit who may not otherwise qualify for a loan stand to gain the most. Since there is minimal risk, most credit unions will grant instant approval of a share secured loan without requesting a credit report. However, your credit history will have an impact on your interest rate.
4.) When will the funds I am using as collateral be available for me to use again?
The availability of these funds varies by credit union. Some credit unions will release these funds in predetermined amounts as you make monthly payments on the loan. Others will not allow you to access the frozen portion of your savings account until you’ve paid the entire loan.
Regardless of your credit union’s policy, your shares will continue to earn dividends while your funds are frozen.
5.) What are some advantages of a share secured loan?
  • Inexpensive. Since the lender is taking very little risk, they don’t need to charge a high interest rate to make their risk worthwhile. Interest rates on share secured loans are often only 1 to 3% above the dividend rate on your savings account. Since your account is earning dividends throughout the life of your loan, the actual loan ends up costing you much less.
  • Convenient. You can usually get on-the-spot approval for a share secured loan. Your credit union only needs to verify the amount in your savings, approve of the amount you want to borrow, and place a hold on the funds you’re using to secure it. Once you’ve been approved for the loan, you can use the money in any way you’d like.
  • Improve your credit score. While the actual loan won’t improve your credit rating much, you can use the money you’ve borrowed to pay off outstanding loans and increase your credit score.
  • Low requirements. There is generally no credit check when you apply for a share secured loan. As long as you’re a member of Destinations Credit Union and you have enough in your account to sufficiently cover the loan, we’ll be happy to help you take out a share secured loan.
6.) Are there any disadvantages to a share secured loan?
Though the advantages abound, don’t assume that everything about share secured loans are beneficial. Here are some factors to consider before taking out a share secured loan:
  • Increased risk to the borrower. When your own money is used as collateral, it’s your money at risk of being lost. If you can’t repay the loan, you’ll lose the funds you borrowed against.
  • Less credit reward. Your actual loan will not affect your credit score much, even if you are timely with your payments. Since they pose no risk to the lender and usually don’t require a credit report, they don’t offer future lenders much confidence in your financial stability.
  • Interest fees. If you are choosing between liquidating a savings account and borrowing against it, it is probably cheaper to empty your account because it won’t cost you anything. Borrowing always comes with interest having to be paid, and even when the interest rate is favorable and the cost is offset by the dividend payments to your account, it still isn’t free.
Still unsure about share secured loans? Feel free to call, click, or stop by Destinations Credit Union to have all your questions answered!
Your Turn: Have you ever taken out a share secured loan? Share your experience with us in the comments!
SOURCES:

The Story Behind the Sonic Breach

It’s been a rough go of things when it comes to the security of debit and credit card as sonicwell as personal information. The massive Equifax breach has already left many Americans feeling unprotected and insecure while Yahoo experienced yet another breach soon afterward. To top it all off, the popular burger chain Sonic Drive-in announced in late September that its payment portals had been compromised.

Experts estimate that information for millions of cards was hacked from the nearly 3,600 Sonic locations across 45 states. The card numbers and details are now up for sale on the darknet.

Here’s what you need to know about the latest in a long line of nationwide security breaches:

What happened?

The breach became a reality when Sonic’s card processing company reported “unusual activity” on a large number of cards that had been recently used at Sonic. Further investigation uncovered a tremendous data breach with the potential to affect millions of consumers.

Sonic utilizes a single point-of-sale system that is deployed at the majority of its locations. Using sophisticated malware, hackers were able to access the system. The malware copied the information on every card that was swiped in the payment terminal, and then sent it back to the hackers.

The hackers then put this information up for sale online, where buyers can use the card details to rack up huge bills, empty accounts or even steal victims’ identities.

While Sonic was quick to share this basic information with the public, it can be months before more details are known and shared with concerned customers.

This breach is similar to the one that hit Wendy’s last year, lasting nine months and affecting 300 restaurants. It took that long to determine the issue and resolve it because many of Wendy’s locations are franchises. Approximately 90% of Sonic’s joints are franchises as well, thus adding to the delay.

Who was affected?

Anyone who’s used a debit or credit card at any of Sonic’s locations during the last year may have been a victim in the breach. It is still unclear exactly how many customers were affected by the breach, though it is estimated that there may be as many as five million victims in this malware attack.

While most cards with compromised info were linked to activity at one of Sonic’s locations, it is possible that other companies’ security systems were also breached.

How did Sonic react to the attack?

Sonic has announced that it will offer all customers 24 months of complimentary fraud protection through Experian’s IdentityWorks program.

Sonic was also quick to hire third-party forensic experts to help investigate the attack and identify the hackers. They have also promised to research ways for improving their current system to better protect customers in the future.

How can you protect yourself from this and all future data breaches?

1.)   Find out if you were affected: If you’re a regular, or even an occasional, Sonic customer, find out if you were affected by the breach. Review your recent account information on all your cards. If you spot suspicious activity, alert your card issuer and place a freeze on your account. You can also place a fraud alert with the credit bureaus. This will warn creditors that you’ve recently been targeted in a hack, alerting them to verify that anyone seeking credit in your name is actually you. Lastly, accept Sonic’s offer of two years of free fraud protection.

2.)   Use fraud protection: Even if you haven’t been affected by this breach, it’s a good idea to sign up for fraud protection. These services don’t usually come free, although, in light of its recent data breach, Equifax is now offering a full year of protection with their TrustedID program, free of charge. Fraud protection services will ease the stress of monitoring your credit for fraudulent activity and unusual behavior.

3.)   Monitor your accounts: It’s always wise to keep a sharp eye on your money – and that means more than just checking that your wallet is safe. Review all checking account activity several times a week to determine whether your account information or debit card has been hacked or stolen. Also, never throw away a credit card statement without carefully reviewing it to be sure every transaction belongs to you. Additionally, it’s wise to shred such paperwork rather than throwing it in the trash. Finally, request a credit report from the three major credit reporting agencies once a year to see if anyone is using your name to rack up a huge bill or take out a generous loan.

4.)   Set up alerts: You can receive notice about suspicious activity almost as soon as they happen by signing up for alerts. Place a maximum transaction amount on your credit and debit card so a thief won’t get away with a huge purchase. You can also limit your transactions to a specific area or region of the country so long-distance hacking won’t work.

Your Turn: How do you protect yourself from data breaches? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://thepointsguy.com/2017/09/credit-card-security-breach-sonic/ 

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.usatoday.com/story/708850001/  https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/10/04/sonic-shares-dip-on-news-of-payment-breach.html 
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/report-sonic-security-breach-could-affect-millions-2017-9

Equifax Breach: What Happened And How Can You Protect Yourself?

On September 8, 2017, Equifax, one of the major credit reporting agencies, announced a 8480c-hackerbreach from mid-May through July 2017.  During this period, hackers accessed people’s names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses, drivers license numbers, and credit card numbers.

Equifax has set up a Web site — https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com — that anyone concerned can visit to see if they may be impacted by the breach. The site also lets consumers enroll in TrustedID Premier, a 3-bureau credit monitoring service (Equifax, Experian and Trans Union) which also is operated by Equifax.

According to Equifax, when you begin, you will be asked to provide your last name and the last six digits of your Social Security number. Based on that information, you will receive a message indicating whether your personal information may have been impacted by this incident. Regardless of whether your information may have been impacted, the company says it will provide everyone the option to enroll in TrustedID Premier. The offer ends Nov. 21, 2017.

In addition, you should closely monitor your accounts with financial institutions.  At Destinations, you can set up a “code” word that you will be asked whenever you call in to perform a transaction.  To do that, log into your Online Banking and go to “Info Center” –> “Personal Information” and click the Edit button.  This will allow you to add a code word.  As an additional security measure, you will receive a message in the e-mail you have on record with Destinations to notify you that personal information has been changed.

As always, you should get your free credit reports from all three credit bureaus at least annually.  You can get them all at once or request each at different times of the year.  To get your free credit reports, go to annualcreditreport.com to get yours.

Can Living Frugally Make You Happier Than When Living Lavishly?

Do you believe money is the key to happiness?63e01-piggyeducation

Somewhere deep inside, we all know that money cannot buy happiness. Many people overspend and rack up thousands of dollars in credit card debt to live a lifestyle they believe will make them happy, only to discover they are living beyond their means. This, in turn, adds stress and worry … causing unhappiness. Believe it or not, living frugally can actually make you happier than living lavishly.

Living a frugal lifestyle isn’t necessarily about pinching pennies and denying yourself things you want. It’s about making your life easier and worrying less about money.

If you’ve decided it’s time to start living more frugally, ask yourself why you want to do it and establish a goal. Without a reason to change your spending habits and a goal to work toward, it’s easy to fall back into old habits. Maybe you’d like to retire early, or travel the world or buy your dream home. Maybe you’d like to work less and spend more time with your family. Whatever your reason, write it down. Place reminders of your goal where you’ll see them often.

Once you’ve started your new frugal lifestyle, you may be pleasantly surprised at your newfound happiness. Below are some benefits of living the frugal lifestyle that can lead to more happiness and better money management.

  • You’ll learn to appreciate what you have. You’ll become thankful for your resources and learn to make the most of them. Rather than throwing away old items, you learn to repurpose them and let little go to waste.
  • You’ll tend to choose experiences over objects. Rather than going to the mall and purchasing a new outfit or the newest video games, you’re more apt to go for hike, to the beach or play board games with friends or family. These experiences provide memories and happiness that can last a lifetime. Conversely, that new outfit or video game will provide only temporary happiness.
  • You’ll start to notice your debt diminishing. The burden of debt often ties people to jobs and locations that they hate because they feel they have no other choice. Once your debt disappears, you’ll have the freedom to choose a profession and location that makes you happy.
  • You will have more leisure time. Once you’re able to pay down debt, you won’t need to work as many hours to make ends meet. This will give you more free time to spend on hobbies and other leisurely pursuits.
  • Living frugally may put you on the path to early retirement. Rather than spending your golden years working, you could be gardening, traveling, enjoying your grandchildren or any number of more pleasurable things. Being able to put more funds away for retirement will help you reach a financially comfortable level long before many of your colleagues.
  • You might find joy in helping others. By reducing your own expenses and saving money, you are able to give more to others and support social causes that are important to you.

Now, you may be thinking – the frugal lifestyle doesn’t sound all that bad, but how do I get started? The key is to start small. Make a list of what you’d like to accomplish, how much money you’ll need to achieve it, and formulate a plan. Figure out expenses you can live without. Instead of buying high-priced gourmet coffee at a drive-thru in the morning, brew your coffee at home. Brown bag your lunch rather than eating out. Make a weekly meal plan and cook your meals at home. These items alone can potentially save you hundreds of dollars a month.

If you’re paying down multiple credit cards, look into consolidating them into one loan or to a single, lower-interest credit card. This can give you significant savings on interest charges. Check out Destination Credit Union’s low interest credit card options and apply online. Once you’ve consolidated your credit card debt, keep your your oldest credit card, but use it infrequently and close all others. Keeping your oldest card open may positively impact your credit score. Leaving the others open, though, may lead to a temptation to use them again, thus defeating the purpose of paying them off.

Learn to stretch your money as far as you can. When purchasing groceries, clip coupons and look for sales. When purchasing clothes or other non-grocery items, check thrift stores, yard sales and clearance racks for the best possible deals.

Look for ways to lower your monthly bills. Are you paying a huge bill for cable TV? Could you live without it? Many people pay a large cable bill and only watch a handful of channels. Check to see if there is a cheaper package available. Is your electric bill higher than it should be? Try hanging your clothes outside to dry rather than using your clothes dryer whenever possible. Also, washing your clothes in cold water instead of hot will save your hot water heater from working as hard – and your clothes will still get cleaned. Another good habit to get into is unplugging electronic devices when you’re not using them.

Give frugal living a try! You have nothing to lose but debt and can gain some unexpected happiness along the way.

Your Turn: Does saving money make you happy? How do you save – and enjoy the process? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.wisebread.com/how-living-on-a-tight-budget-makes-you-happier  

https://www.thebalance.com/frugal-living-4074014  
https://toughnickel.com/frugal-living/101-Frugal-Living-Tips-You-Need-to-Know  
https://www.thepennyhoarder.com/life/frugal-living-rich-life/  
https://www.thebalance.com/lower-your-electric-bill-1388743  

The Dos And Don’ts Of Credit Repair


If you’ve recently been rejected from a credit application of any kind, you may be poor creditlooking at a poor credit score for any number of reasons. You might have been late with your credit card payments, have an outstanding judgment against you or have even been frauded or victimized by identity theft.

Whatever the cause of the fall in your score, you’re probably looking for ways to get it back on track. Tread carefully! There are lots of dishonest opportunists looking to make a quick buck off your pressing need. Don’t become the next victim of a credit repair scam. In fact, there’s nothing a credit repair company can do for you that you can’t do yourself.

This probably has you wondering how to untangle the legitimate steps you should be taking now from the pointless and costly actions. Look no further! Our handy guide of credit repair dos and don’ts will help get you on the road to improving your credit score.

Do: Determine your actual credit score

If a recent credit application of yours has been denied, don’t take it at face value – find out why it happened. The three major credit reporting agencies – Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion – are each required to provide you with a complimentary copy of your credit report once a year, upon request. To order yours, visit annualcreditreport.com, or call 1-877-322-8228.

If you’ve already requested a report from each of the agencies in the last 12 months, you can still get one free of charge; you are entitled to a free report whenever a company takes adverse action against you, such as denying your application for credit, insurance or employment. To qualify, just request a report within 60 days of receiving notice of the action.

Do: Review your report and dispute any errors

Once you receive your report, review it for inaccuracies. If you spot any fraudulent purchases or erroneous information, you’ll need to dispute them in writing. In your letter, identify every item you are disputing and the reasoning behind your claim. Include copies of documents that support your stance and ask that the errors be removed or corrected. It’s best to send your letter by certified mail so you can ensure the credit reporting company actually received it if that is necessary. Also, keep a personal copy of your letter and all supporting documents for your own records.

You’ll also need to dispute the charge with your actual creditor, taking the same steps you did above.

Don’t: Expect any quick fixes

Anxious as you may be to improve your score, know that there is no “quick fix” for creditworthiness. Enhancing your score takes time, lots of hard work and creating and sticking to a realistic debt repayment plan.

If your credit score is poor, you may be bombarded with promotional material from credit repair companies that promise to increase your score by 100 points in less than a month. If you think these claims sound too good to be true, you’re absolutely right. There are some legitimate credit repair companies out there, but as mentioned, there’s nothing they can do for you that you can’t do on your own – and without paying their hefty fee.

Do: Take steps toward fixing your credit

If you’ve determined that your credit report is accurate, you’ll want to take a careful look at the habits that may be leading to your unfavorable score.

Are you timely with your credit card payments? If you’re consistently late, consider setting up an automatic bill-pay system so you never forget to make a payment. Are you making headway on your debt? If you’re paying your bills on time but your debt is not going anywhere, it’s time to rethink your spending habits. Don’t shop with credit cards; use only debit or cash. Look for ways to trim your expenses, like couponing wherever possible, planning dinner menus around sale items, and finding cost-free ways to relax instead of blowing money at a restaurant or on retail therapy.

Are your monthly bills unmanageable? If you can’t make it through the month and still meet all of your minimum payments, your debt may need an overhaul. Consider debt consolidation, in which your debt is transferred to one low-interest account, or a balance transfer to a card that has an interest-free period. Be aware, though, that lots of open credit is not considered favorable by creditors; close as many accounts as you open – but leave your oldest one open as it shows a longer period of credibility.

Also, no card is interest-free forever. When the introductory period ends, you may be hit with higher than usual interest rates. Alternatively, you can contact your creditors and work out a more reasonable payment plan.

If these options don’t sound feasible, try finding ways to increase your income instead, using all extra cash exclusively for paying down your debt.

Don’t: Expect to see any changes immediately

Don’t fret if you’ve made strides toward fixing your credit and haven’t yet seen an increase in your score. Creditors will only report to the credit reporting agencies on a periodic basis, usually once a month. It may take upward of 30 days or more for your account to be updated and your score to improve.

Do: Ask us for help

Here at Destinations Credit Union, we’re all about helping you manage your finances. If you’re in financial trouble of any kind, we can help! Look into our credit counseling services and assistance with creating and sticking to a budget. [We even offer debt consolidation loans, providing you with the opportunity to transfer your debt to one low-interest loan, making the prospect of paying down your debt a lot more manageable.]

Your Turn: Have you drastically improved your credit score? What was your secret weapon? Share your success and best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.credit.com/credit-repair/

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0058-credit-repair-how-help-yourself
http://www.experian.com/blogs/ask-experian/credit-education/improving-credit/credit-repair/

How To Spot A Credit Repair Scam

Repairing your credit can be an uphill battle. You’re looking at months of hard work, headache billsnegotiating with creditors, reworking your budget and identifying the factors that are making your credit score lag. In short, it’s a hassle and it takes lots of time.

Those two aspects are what makes credit repair scams so successful. They know you’re looking for a quick way out, and they’re offering it to you on a silver platter. Unfortunately, when they’re done with you, not only will your credit score be just as low as when you started, but you’ll also be out hundreds or thousands of dollars, and may even be facing criminal charges.

There are legitimate credit repair companies, but without educating yourself, finding them instead of the scammers who only want your money can be tricky.

Here are the most common warning signs of a credit repair scam:

1.) Demands upfront payment

Know your rights. Under the federal Credit Repair Organizations Act, credit repair companies are forbidden to request or receive payment until they’ve completed the services they’ve promised. If a company is demanding upfront payment, it’s surely a scam.

2.) Makes big promises

To lure you into their trap, many scammers make wild promises about your credit score. They may assure you that they can remove negative information from your credit report, even if that information is accurate and current. Don’t believe them; no one can do this.

They might also promise to boost your score a huge amount in just a few weeks or less. This, too, is absolute hogwash. You will never see an improvement on your score until at least 30 days has passed since you’ve taken action.

3.) Promises to help you create a “new credit identity”

This red flag should alert you to one of the most devastating credit repair scams possible. In these scams, companies promise to create a new credit identity for you in exchange for a fee. After you cough up the money, the company will provide you with a nine-digit number that’s similar to a Social Security Number. They may refer to this number as a CPN – a credit profile number or a credit privacy number. Alternatively, they may direct you to apply for an EIN – an Employer Identification Number – from the IRS.

Once you have your new number, the company will instruct you to use this form of ID to apply for credit. They assure you that the process is legal. In reality, though, it’s not – and you’ve just been scammed.

These companies are actually selling you a stolen SSN, often one belonging to a child. They walk away with the money you paid them, while you are stuck in a far deeper hole than when you first contacted them. It is a federal crime to misrepresent your Social Security number, to obtain an EIN from the IRS under false pretenses and to lie on a credit application.

Falling for a credit identity scam could mean facing fines or prison time. If you come across a credit repair company offering you a new identity, run the other way and don’t look back (and report them to the authorities)!

4.) Tells you not to contact the credit reporting agencies

Every U.S. citizen has the right to a complimentary report from the three major credit reporting agencies every year. If a company advises you not to contact these agencies directly, they will probably charge you for obtaining the report on their own. In other words, you will be paying for a free service.

5.) Tells you to dispute accurate information on your credit report

Disputing accurate information on your credit report is dishonest and illegal.

6.) Is evasive about your legal rights and their services

The Credit Repair Organization Act made it illegal for credit repair companies to lie about your legal rights and about their services. This law is enforced by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). To comply with this law, credit repair companies are required to explain:

  • Your legal rights and clear details in a written contract of the services they’ll perform
  • Your three-day right to cancel the contract without charge
  • The anticipated amount of time it will take until results are evident
  • The total cost you will need to pay for their services
  • Their guarantee

If you’ve already hired a credit repair company and they haven’t lived up to their promise, you still have options.

You can choose to sue the company for your losses in federal court or seek punitive damages – money to punish the company for violating the law. You can also find other victims so you can band together and file a class action lawsuit against the company.

To protect others from falling prey to the same scam, it’s best to report it to your local consumer affairs office or to your state Attorney General.

It’s also advisable to file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission. The FTC cannot resolve individual credit disputes, but it can take action against a company for multiple law violations. You can file your complaint online at ftc.gov/complaint or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.

Finally, if you’re in financial trouble of any kind, we can help! Stop by today to ask about our free credit counseling services and assistance with creating and sticking to a budget. [We even offer debt consolidation loans, providing you with the opportunity to transfer your debt to one low-interest loan, making the prospect of paying down your debt a lot more manageable.]

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

SOURCES:
https://www.consumerfinance.gov/ask-cfpb/how-can-i-tell-a-credit-repair-scam-from-a-reputable-credit-counselor-en-1343/
https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0225-credit-repair-scams
https://www.thesimpledollar.com/dont-fall-for-these-credit-repair-scams/
https://www.lexingtonlaw.com/blog/credit-repair/is-credit-repair-a-scam.html 

Beware Of Phishing Scams!

Scammers never take a break! Just when you think they’ve run out of steam, another *scam surfaces in which fraudsters try to quietly take both your money and information.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has warned of a recent upsurge in phishing scams involving credit unions. With just a bit of online digging, scammers lure victims into forking over thousands of dollars or divulging confidential information.

Like all phishing scams, the scammer contacts the victim, posing as a legitimate business or service provider that the victim is familiar with. In this case, the scammers claim to be a representative of your credit union.

The fraudsters use social engineering to trap their victims. This means they take advantage of social norms to inspire trust and manipulate people into clicking on their links or answering their emails. It’s almost impulsive for people to download attachments that look like they’re from friends or a familiar business.

The scammers most commonly reach out via email, but they may also use mediums like phone calls, text messages or social media sites. They convince the victims of their legitimacy by providing some personal details about the victim – which they easily pull off the internet.

Victims are lured into providing information with the promise of compensation for a survey or by claiming the victim needs to verify or update an account. Once the scammer has the information, they can empty the victim’s accounts, track their online activity and/or steal their identity.

Alternately, the scammer may lead a victim to click on links that are embedded with spyware. The links lead to a website that may look just like the credit union’s site, but is actually bogus. In such instances, the victim is probably certain they’re browsing their credit union’s website, and won’t hesitate to share information or input usernames and passwords.

The biggest clue that these transactions are scams is their means of communication. Your credit union will never ask for sensitive information through insecure channels. We also won’t ask you to verify your account number – we already have that information!

Despite this red flag, hundreds of people are falling prey to phishing scams. Don’t be the next victim! Here are four tips to help you protect yourself from phishing scams:

1.) Ignore suspicious emails

When online, be on guard. If you receive an email from an unidentifiable source, ignore it. Don’t reply to the email, click on any embedded links or open attachments. If you suspect an email is from a scammer, delete it and add the domain and email address to your spam filter to prevent a recurrence.

Similarly, never “friend” or otherwise accept communications from a stranger via social media. Facebook and Snapchat are for real buddies only!

As a general rule, it’s best not to share any personal information over the internet. If you do need to provide financial information over the web for completing a transaction, only use a secured site. You can verify a site’s security by looking for a lock icon on the browser’s status bar or by finding a URL that begins with “https.” The “s” signifies that this is a secure site. Remember, though, that these indicators are not foolproof in any way. Even a secure site can be hacked.

2.) Alert Destinations Credit Union

The best way to stop scammers in their tracks is to report every attempt they make. If you have reason to believe you’ve been contacted by a scammer impersonating [credit union], let us know! Send us an email with all the details of the scam attempt so we can catch those crooks. It’s best to forward the exact email you received. If you’ve already deleted the email, report the date, time of day and all other details you can recall. The more we have to work with, the easier our hunt will be.

3.) Report all suspicious activity

While we will do all we can to stop these phishing scams, we can use all the help we can get. That’s why it’s important to file your complaint at www.ftc.gov. You can also visit the FTC’s Identity Theft website at www.consumer.gov/idtheft to learn how to minimize the fallout of a possible identity theft.

4.) Strengthen your computer’s protection

It’s always a good idea to beef up your computer’s border control. Equipping yourself with sufficient antivirus software will protect it from accepting these emails in the first place. If your software doesn’t update automatically, be sure to update it manually on a frequent basis so it will recognize and reject the most current viruses and scams.

A strong firewall will prevent scams and viruses by making you invisible on the internet and blocking all communication from foreign, unauthorized sources. It’s especially prudent to run a firewall if you use a broadband connection.

If you’re a genuine social media junkie, be sure to make your settings as private as possible. Don’t lay out your life for just anyone to see. Having another few hundred “friends” or “likes” is not worth the risk of a stolen identity!

Finally, as mentioned above, all suspicious email addresses should be added to your email’s blacklist as quickly as possible. Remember: Your spam filter is only as strong as you allow it to be.

With precaution, alertness and the proper steps toward prevention, you can keep yourself safe from phishing scams!

Your Turn: Have you ever reported suspicious emails or other messages? What made you flag it as a scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.navyfederal.org/security/phishing-scams.php 

https://www.mycreditunion.gov/protect/fraud/pages/default.aspx 
https://insightcreditunion.com/tools/fraud_prevention/how_not_to_get_hooked_by_a_phishing_scam.aspx 
https://www.mccoyfcu.org/security-center/fraud-and-scams.html 

All You Need to Know About Ransomware

This past year has seen some of the worst cyberattacks in history. From the WannaCryransomware attack in May to the Petya attack in June, thousands of people have lost thousands of dollars and valuable data to criminals using ransomware.

Ransomware has been tagged as an “epidemic” by major security companies. Like a virus that keeps evolving, new strains of ransomware are constantly emerging, many of them using new and original techniques that haven’t been tried before.

You probably already know the intended goal of ransomware is to kidnap a victim’s data and demand payment for safe return. Educating yourself about the workings of ransomware will help you remain alert, aware, and keep your money and data safe.

Here’s all you need to know about ransomware:

What is ransomware?

Ransomware is a subset of malware. However, instead of trying to steal user credentials and interrupt key processes like most forms of malware, it tries isolating a victim’s data and then demanding payment for the data’s release.

Ransomware is often embedded inside harmless-looking software and applications. It activates as soon as the user launches the program. Devices can also be infected through email links or malicious websites. Victims may not know they’re under attack until they find that their files are locked and a ransom demand is asking for money for the return of those files.

How does a ransomware attack work?

There are two primary types of ransomware: locker and crypto.

Locker ransomware locks victims from using important device functions like accessing a desktop or browsing the internet.

Crypto is the more common form of ransomware. It encrypts files and demands a ransom payment for their return.

In a crypto ransomware attack, a user’s device is infected with a malicious code which will select certain files and encrypt them using a unique algorithm. Victims will then receive a warning screen accusing them of breaking the law or simply informing them that they’re under attack. The cybercrooks will demand a ransom payment, usually in bitcoins. Then, a countdown timer begins, forecasting the files’ deletion if no payment is made.

What is bitcoin?

Bitcoin is a form of digital currency that allows you to pay for goods or services easily, remotely and anonymously. You can send bitcoins digitally using a mobile app or a computer.

This currency is stored in a digital wallet, which resides in the cloud or on your computer. It’s almost like a checking account, only it’s not insured by the FDIC nor is it subject to any regulations. Also, bitcoins aren’t tied to any country and have no credit card fees.

Each bitcoin transaction is available on a public log. However, only wallet IDs are revealed – the names of buyers and sellers are anonymous. This assured anonymity is the reason bitcoin payments have become the payment method of choice for cybercriminals.

To make a bitcoin payment, victims are usually instructed to download anonymous browsers for visiting a URL hosted on anonymous servers.

To pay or not to pay?

Should the victim of an attack pay the ransom for their files’ return? That is the million-dollar question!

While many are quick to give a blanket “no,” other experts say it may be worthwhile to pay the ransom.

Joseph Bonavolonta, the assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Cyber and Counterintelligence Program, claims that the FBI often advises people to pay the ransom.

He explains that when more people pay the ransom, it keeps the ransoms low. He also believes that most scammers will keep their word and decrypt the victim’s files.

However, other FBI officials disagree with Mr. Bonavolonta’s remarks and urge victims not to pay ransoms. They say there is never a guarantee of the files’ return, and that agreeing to the cybercrooks’ demands encourages more attacks.

One thing everyone agrees on, though, is that victims should seek assistance from law enforcement agencies. When victims share the names of their attackers or the details of their attack, the law enforcement agents will be able to tell them whether they’ve seen this group attack before and whether the group tends to return encrypted files.

If your computer’s been infected and you decide to pay the ransom, you may be looking at a payment that falls anywhere between $200 and $10,000.

Before you pay, though, find out if there’s a decryption tool online. You may be able to find the keys to decrypt your files on your own.

If you decide not to pay the ransom, shut down your computer and disconnect from your network. Scan your computer with an anti-virus or anti-malware program and let it remove everything on your device.

Prevention

It’s always best to be proactive. Ward off strangers by strengthening your email’s spam filter. Also, don’t ever click on suspicious links or download mobile apps from unfamiliar application stores.

Make sure your operating system (OS) is protected with a strong firewall, spyware and sufficient, updated anti-virus software.

It’s equally important to back up your files on an external hard drive or on a USB every few weeks.

Despite your best efforts, you may be the victim of a ransomware attack. If the unthinkable happens, keep your cool, contact a law enforcement agency to get info about your attacker, and check for a decryption tool online. If you do decide to pay, make sure to take preventive measures against future attacks.

Your Turn: Have you been the victim of a ransomware attack? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://links.ismgcorp.com/dc/zw7oNi_TweRxxDXp2CfOI676ee7YeNA5vLpZhs7Qp1nFj4hUFQbjnMysWYK-R50E8_CM-mB1LJAZBwY9hTVltvqCj0VhFFbDvHChOElx17O-x_DgGFHYFeL0osgs-vdGLy4MbBnkVtaKUNAxkZWT3dZ-_QU4yWgF7U0GEFM29DI=/x0Z0040D0nI0pkX0xd3U2Ic  

 https://www.columnit.com/what-you-need-to-know-about-ransomware.html

Yes The Dow Jones Reached 22,000. What Does That Mean?

It seems like everyone is talking about the stock market hitting an all-time high of 22,000.bull bear What does that mean, in real-world terms? Is that a good thing?

The stock market can be confusing and seem overwhelming. If you’re not completely clear about the stock market, stock exchange, the Dow Jones Industrial Average, etc. – you’re not alone.Let’s start with a brief explanation of what the stock market is.

1.) What is the stock market?

The stock market is where stocks and bonds are bought and sold. When you purchase stock, you become a shareholder, which means you now own a “share” of the company (much like you are an owner of shares at your credit union). If the company’s profits go up, the value of your shares goes up. If the company’s profits go down, so does the value of your shares. When a company needs to raise money, it issues shares. The price of the share is based on how much the company is estimated to be worth, and how many shares are being issued. The company gets to keep all of the money raised in the initial sale of shares. Traders and investors continue to buy and sell the stock of the company on the stock exchange, although the company itself no longer receives any money from this type of trading.

2.) Why do stocks continue to be traded once they’re purchased?

Traders and investors continue to trade their purchased stocks because the perceived value of the company changes over time. The investors may make or lose money depending on whether or not their predictions on the value of the stock are correct or not. Trying to predict which stocks will rise or fall in value, and when, can be tricky. The ultimate goal of buying stock is to make money by purchasing stocks in companies you expect will do well and increase in value.

3.) What are the stock exchanges?

Stock exchanges are the markets where stock buyers connect with stock sellers. The two most common stock exchanges in the United States are the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and the NASDAQ. The NYSE is primarily auction-based, which means the trading facilitators are physically present on the trading floor. The NASDAQ is an electronic exchange where buyers and sellers are connected over a telecommunications network. Companies listed on either of these exchanges must meet various minimum requirements and baseline rules. But these are by no means the only legitimate exchanges. Electronic communication networks (ECNs) connect buyers and sellers directly, cutting out the trade facilitator. There are also Over-the-Counter exchanges (OTCs). OTC markets generally list small companies, and these companies often (but not always) have been placed on the OTC market because they were delisted from NASDAQ.

4.) What is the Dow Jones Industrial Average?

The Dow Jones (aka, Dow) is a U.S. stock market index composed of 30 large public companies such as Disney, Wal-Mart, Coca-Cola and Pfizer. It is calculated by adding up the 30 companies’ stock prices and then dividing them by a magic number called the Dow Divisor. The divisor is adjusted to account for stock splits, dividends or spin-offs, which affect the share prices of Dow components.

On Aug. 2, 2017, the Dow Jones Industrial Average hit 22,000 for the first time in history. The reason for this jump could be due, in part, to several factors:

  • Low unemployment, steady GDP growth and other economic indicators point to a still-improving economic climate, encouraging optimism. This all leads to more investment and spending.
  • The Federal Reserve has increased interest rates three times since December; another reason to be optimistic about the economy.
  • Companies have been earning higher profits and expect to earn more in the future as the economy improves and business and consumer spending increase.

5.) What does the Dow reaching 22,000 mean for me?

On the surface, not much. The number 22,000 itself is a relatively meaningless milestone. It will simply become a new trading level that in no way guarantees an improving economy or a declining unemployment rate.

What is relevant, though, is the trend this number represents. The Dow has reached 30 record highs this year, leading some investors to fear that this latest milestone could be a market top, as stock prices are likely too high for the current economic environment to support. Others believe this trend will continue.

Your Turn: Are you a stockholder? If so, what are your thoughts on the Dow reaching 22,000 points?

SOURCES:
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/08/01/wall-street-set-to-open-higher-on-earnings-momentum.html  

http://www.investopedia.com/terms/s/stockmarket.asp  
http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/stock-exchange.html  
https://www.thebalance.com/what-is-a-stock-exchange-358113  
http://www.investopedia.com/terms/d/djia.asp  
http://www.jsonline.com/story/money/2017/08/05/dow-keeps-climbing-making-some-investors-wary/538685001/  
https://www.usatoday.com/story/money/2017/08/02/dow-has-reached-another-record-too-late-buy-stocks/532563001/  
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/08/01/business/dealbook/dow-22000-stock-markets-dollar-value.html 

Am I A Shopaholic? How To Determine If You Have A Serious Problem

Q: I love shopping. It makes me happy! I don’t go into debt to cover my habit, but I do go shopaholicover my budget. Quite often, actually. Am I addicted to shopping?

A: Your problem is not uncommon.

Though a true shopaholic is hard to quantify, it is estimated that up to 12% of Americans suffer from a shopping compulsion.

It’s important to note, however, that most people are not truly addicted to shopping. A bona fide addict, or one who would be thus diagnosed by a competent psychologist, would go to extreme measures to support their habit. They may even resort to thievery and the like.

However, compulsive shopping definitely exists and it can certainly impair one’s quality of life.

Are you a shopaholic? You may be if this checklist describes you:

  1. You have unopened and tagged items hanging in your closet
  2. You tend to shop beyond your means
  3. You often purchase items for which you have no use or need
  4. Disagreements and disappointments trigger shopping trips for you
  5. You feel a thrill when you make purchases, no matter the reason
  6. You often feel remorse after making a purchase
  7. You try to hide your purchases from family members
  8. On days that you don’t shop, you feel anxious and unsettled

Why do people become compulsive shoppers?

Like all addictions, shopping works to fill a void. Compulsive shoppers may be feeling lonesome, depressed or anxious. Shopaholics experience a rush of dopamine from shopping, which makes them feel better and has them craving that rush again.

While it’s normal to feel a thrill when you find that perfect pair of jeans or buy yourself a new phone, it isn’t normal to feel this thrill when doing your grocery shopping or buying school supplies for your kids. It also isn’t normal to feel out of sorts on days that you don’t shop.

Ironically, the act of shopping ultimately makes people feel worse. The guilt that accompanies overspending, coupled with the shame of not being able to control the habit, leaves the shopper feeling more down and anxious than they were to begin with.

To take it one step further, people tend to make big purchases following a big disappointment. Say you were turned down for a job and then go out and buy an expensive pair of shoes. Your bruised ego might be temporarily soothed. But, in the long run, the purchase will make you feel a lot worse.

“Buying and displaying products to compensate for our `psychological blows’ might sometimes backfire by reminding us of our setbacks and failures,” explains Monika Lisjak, Ph.D., and assistant professor of marketing at Erasmus University.

In other words, your brain will now associate that purchase with your rejection, and you’ll feel that hurt every time you wear those shoes.

Unfortunately, in an era of frenzied consumerism and excessive advertising of every kind, compulsive shopping can be difficult to control. If you think you might be a shopaholic, don’t despair. With a bit of planning, discipline and help from family and friends, you can kick the habit for good.

Here’s how to curb the urge to splurge:

A.) Talk it out

When you feel a shopping binge coming on because of a rejection, a dashed hope or another kind of emotional overload, call a friend. Talk through your feelings instead of smothering them in unnecessary and expensive purchases. You’ll feel a whole lot better afterward, and of course, it’ll be easier on your wallet!

B.) Cash and debit only

When you’re shopping, use cash or a debit card connected to your checking account balance. This will force you to stick to your budget and keep you from overspending. If you don’t like the idea of carrying a stack of greenbacks, you can also use a prepaid gift card. There’s no way you can overspend when the limit has already been set for you.

C.) Avoid temptation

If you know you tend to buy more than you need in certain stores, keep away from them until you have your habit under control.

D.) Identify triggers

The next time you feel the urge to shop, take note of what’s got you feeling that way. Whether it’s an argument with a loved one or a talking down from your boss, you’ll be better equipped to deal with these triggers when you learn to recognize them. If you don’t want to talk out these feelings, get creative and come up with a way to deal with them that doesn’t involve spending. You can hit the gym, listen to music, or watch reruns of your favorite TV show to help you feel better.

E.) List it

Shopping lists aren’t just for groceries. When you need to shop for anything, first create a detailed list of everything you need. This will help you buy only what you need and minimize your spending.

If you feel like you’ve got a serious problem and you’re in over your head, we can help. Call, click or stop by Destinations Credit Union today to ask about debt management and other financial services. We’ll help you get your finances under control!

Your Turn: Based on what you’ve read in this article, do you think a little retail therapy is ever warranted? Why or why not? Share your thoughts with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.livescience.com/2338-truth-shopaholics.htmlhttp://www.psychguides.com/guides/shopping-addiction-symptoms-causes-and-effects/  

https://lifereimagined.aarp.org/stories/39576-Why-Retail-Therapy-Makes-Us-Feel-Bad-Not-Good  
https://www.moneytalksnews.com/7-signs-youre-shopaholic/  
http://business.time.com/2013/04/16/is-retail-therapy-for-real-5-ways-shopping-is-actually-good-for-you/