Author: Compass Community Credit Union

We have recently seen an increase in scams and would like to provide you with some tips on how to identify them and what to watch for. Prize Pitch (Lottery) Scams  The classic prize pitch scam involves victims receiving notification by mail, phone, or e-mail indicating they have won a prize (monetary or other valued …

Scams are on the rise. Protect yourself, don’t become a victim (part 1).

We have recently seen an increase in scams and would like to provide you with some tips on how to identify them and what to watch for.

Prize Pitch (Lottery) Scams 

The classic prize pitch scam involves victims receiving notification by mail, phone, or e-mail indicating they have won a prize (monetary or other valued items). 

However, in order to collect the prize the victim is required to pay various fees or taxes in advance. Victims either never hear from the organization again or receive further requests for money.

Tips: 

  • Challenge a caller who says you’ve won a prize to tell you where and when you entered. If you didn’t enter, you can’t win.
  • Keep track of contests, draws and lotteries you enter.
  • If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

Watch out for Charity Scams 

Fraud artists hope to profit from people’s generosity. Consider the following precautions to make sure your donations benefit the people and organizations you want to assist:

•            Be wary of appeals that tug at your heart, especially pleas involving current events.

•            Ask for written information about the charity, including name, address and telephone number. A legitimate charity or fund-raiser will give you information about the charity’s mission, how your donation will be used and proof that your contribution is tax deductible.

•            Ask the solicitor for the registered charitable tax number of the charity. Question any discrepancies. 

•            Check out the charity’s financial information. For many organizations, this information can be found online or call them.    

•            Watch out for similar-sounding names. Some phony charities use names that closely resemble those of respected, legitimate organizations. If you notice a small difference from the name of the charity you intend to deal with, call the organization to check it out. 

•            Be skeptical if someone thanks you for a pledge you don’t remember making. If you have any doubts about whether you’ve made a pledge or previously contributed, check your records. Be on the alert for invoices claiming you’ve made a pledge. Some unscrupulous solicitors use this approach to get your money. 

•            Refuse high-pressure appeals. Legitimate fund-raisers won’t push you to give on the spot. 

•            Be wary of charities offering to send a courier or overnight delivery service to collect your donation immediately. 

•            Be wary of guaranteed sweepstakes winnings in exchange for a contribution. According to law, you never have to donate anything to be eligible to win. 

•            Avoid cash gifts. Cash can be lost or stolen. For security and tax record purposes, it’s best to pay by check. 

Advance Fee Fraud 

Classified advertisements for loan opportunities do not guarantee the legitimacy of a company. Some companies claim they can guarantee you a loan even if you have a bad credit history or no credit rating at all. They usually request an up-front fee of several hundred dollars. If you send your money to these companies, it is unlikely you will get your promised loan and your advance payment will be at risk.

Advance fee loans operating for a criminal purpose generate millions of dollars annually in the U.S. Persons with poor credit ratings are usually the key targets and once the ‘loan processors’ receive your money, they usually disappear.

If you have doubts about the organization, contact the Better Business Bureau for further information.

Most important, do not give out your personal or account information unless you are absolutely sure you know who you are dealing with. If you have any questions or concerns, please call us at 707-443-8662.

Why You Should Monitor Your Automatic Payments

Between working, spending time with your friends and family, and pursuing your hobbies, there never seems to be enough time in the day. As a result, we are all looking for ways to cut the amount of time spent on mundane chores. Setting up automatic payments for recurring bills is a modern convenience that saves a significant amount of time. As long as you have the funds in your account, you’ll simply be able to set it and forget it, right? Yes—you could, but here are a few reasons why you should monitor your automatic payments:

Overdraft Fees

When making manual bill payments, you can always check to ensure you have sufficient funds in your account before you pay. When you enroll in auto-pay, there’s a greater risk of an overdraft to your account. While truly being able to set it and forget it would be great, it’s a good idea to continue checking in on your accounts before your automatic payments clear each month. This is especially crucial if you’ve automated any variable expenses, such as a utility bill. Try to get in the habit of checking your account balance before your auto-pay clears. While it’s not exactly a “set it and forget it” approach, it’s still more convenient that manually paying your bills each month.

Unnoticed Errors

There are a number of benefits to enrolling in auto-pay. It’s convenient and you’re less likely to miss a payment. A major downside, however, is actually something out of your control. Payees do occasionally make mistakes. While rare, these mistakes could be costly. If you aren’t monitoring your automatic payments, a significant mistake could go unnoticed.

Cancelled Services

If you’ve enrolled in auto pay and had only positive experiences, you might simply let your automatic ACH or Bill Pay services take care of everything. However, your auto-pay service doesn’t know when you’ve stopped going to the gym or canceled a service. If you’re letting your auto-pay take care of everything, you may find yourself wasting money on subscriptions you’re not using. Instead, simply check in on your account statements each month to ensure that you aren’t throwing your hard-earned money away.

If you decide to sign up for auto pay, set up eAlerts using the Compass app. You will receive a notification when your balance is low or when a transaction has occurred. It’s a great way to stay on top of your payments without having to manually make them yourself. Auto pay is incredibly convenient and is a payment process that is certainly worth looking into, but it’s important to have good financial habits rooted in an awareness of what you’re paying and when.

Elder Abuse Awareness Day – June 15th!

Every year, scammers inundate senior Americans with all kinds of fraudulent schemes. Here are just a few:

  • Phony investment schemes
  • Bogus charity fundraisers
  • Medicare fraud
  • Predatory reverse mortgages
  • Sweepstake scams
  • Fictitious surveys

Be wary of emails requesting personal information. Scammers send bogus emails that look like they come from a company you recognize. They include the company’s branding and logo so you think it’s legit. These scams are designed to trick you into providing your username and password. Do not click on any links in the email. Contact the company directly through their website by typing the web address yourself. You can also call the phone number that you have on file or the number listed on their website.

Crooks like to create fake websites that look genuine. They can be very impressive to deceive you in thinking it’s real. Then, they try and trick you into providing your debit/credit card number or your username and password. The best thing to do is go directly to the website by typing the web address yourself rather than from the link. Look at the website address and make sure it matches the site you’re trying to access. Tip: Scammers usually misspell or add an extra letter to the website address. An example is Amazon becoming “Amazone” or “Amazne.”

Fraudsters con people out of over 60 billion dollars every year. It can be difficult for some to admit they may have been victimized. According to AARP, there are several telltale signs to watch for:

  1. Money and valuables are disappearing for no good reason.
  2. Bills aren’t paid, and a parent seems confused about finances.
  3. They are being secretive about money and asking for more. There may be strange credit card charges.
  4. A family member won’t answer questions about your parent’s money.
  5. Someone new befriends your parent and manages to take joint title to accounts and property.

To help keep our seniors safe, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau has created some free materials at www.consumerfinance.gov.

Spring Financial Cleaning

Are your finances in shape? If not, here’s what you can do to get everything in order.

Review your credit report

Have you looked at your credit report lately? This is one of the most important steps to take each year to keep your finances in order. You can obtain a free copy once a year from each of the three major credit reporting agencies at annualcreditreport.com. You can get all three at once and compare them to make sure everything is correct, or you can order one from each agency about every four months. You’ll want to ensure that your payment history and amount owed are listed correctly and make sure there are no inaccuracies or accounts you are not aware of.

File documents

Made any big purchases? Home improvements? Business expenses? Insurance policy changes? Gather the documents for these important financial events and file them where you can easily find them when needed. These receipts, contracts, and policy documents can be essential for filing taxes or when selling your home or vehicle.

Also, go through your files and discard paperwork you no longer need. If possible, shred those documents, don’t just toss them in the trash. Get rid of warranty documents for appliances and vehicles you no longer own, insurance policies you no longer carry, and other outdated paper. Check with your tax adviser to see which receipts and tax documents you need to keep and for how long.

TIP: You can scan and attach a receipt to the transaction using the Compass mobile app. To learn more, click here.

Check your budget

This is a good time to make sure you’re achieving your financial goals, such as hitting a savings benchmark, retirement strategy or paying down debt. Look at how you are spending your money. Are you overspending in a category, such as food or clothing? Have your main expenses changed?

Take a little time to clean up your finances so you can make changes as needed — and stay on track to reaching your financial goals.

April is Youth Month

April is National Youth Month, designed to encourage kids to develop healthy saving habits by making saving fun and exciting. This year’s theme is:

Save Small, Dream Big.”

As a parent, you instill good values and financial guidance in your children. Compass is committed to help teach and encourage kids to develop good financial habits. We are providing an incentive to help our younger members see the importance of putting money aside. Click here to learn more.

It’s important to stay on top of global cyber-attacks.

Fraudsters use circumstances like this to prey on innocent people. To protect yourself from scams, use caution and watch for these types of threats.

1. Financial Imposter Scam
Fraudsters create SMS/Text Messages that look like they came from your financial institution, prompting you to take action immediately. Once you respond, they follow up with a call pretending they are from the security department. They use some of your information found on social media or the internet to coax you into providing your username, password and 2FA code. This information allows them to access your online banking. Compass will never ask for your password or 2FA code and you should never give this information out.

2. Phishing Emails
Be wary of emails requesting personal information. Scammers send bogus emails that look like they come from a company you recognize. They include the company’s branding and logo so you think it’s legit. These scams are designed to trick you into providing your username and password. Do not click on any links in the email. Contact the company directly through their website by typing the web address yourself. You can also call the phone number that you have on file or the number listed on their website. 

3. Spoofed (Fake) Websites
Crooks like to create fake websites that look genuine. They can be very impressive to deceive you in thinking it’s real. Then, they try and trick you into providing your debit/credit card number or your username and password. The best thing to do is go directly to the website by typing the web address yourself rather than from the link. Look at the website address and make sure it matches the site you’re trying to access. Tip: Scammers usually misspell or add an extra letter to the website address. An example is Amazon becoming “Amazone” or “Amazne.”

4. Reusing Usernames and Passwords
Protect yourself by using different usernames and passwords for every account. Passphrases consisting of simpler words or constructs are better than short passwords with special characters. A password is a short character set of mixed digits. A passphrase is a long string of text that makes up a phrase or sentence. Example: mydogRocky#1

For additional information and to learn more about other security tips, visit Compassccu.org/securitytips. If you think you have been a victim of fraud, please contact us at 707-443-8662.

Better Way to Manage your Money

One thing you don’t want to waste – your time. With mobile banking, you can access your accounts anytime, anywhere. It’s safe, secure and super easy to use.

Deposit checks without visiting a branch. All you need to do is sign, snap a picture of both sides of the check, and submit the check through the Compass mobile app. It’s that easy!

Tagging transactions allows you to locate your purchases quickly and organize.

  • Attach images of your receipts
  • Add notes to provide more context
  • Easily find transactions with dynamic search filters
  • Export data for a range of dates in a variety of formats

With the Low Balance Alert, you can receive notifications when your balance goes above or below a pre-selected threshold or for large transactions.

Mobile banking helps you spend time doing what matters most to you. Ready to get started? Just download the Compass Community Credit Union app and follow the prompts. For more information, visit https://compassccu.org/personal-banking/mobile-banking/

The Hidden Costs of Buying a Home

Buying a home is often one of the biggest financial decisions you can make. The process of becoming a homeowner can take a great deal of patience and fiscal commitment, but in the end, it’s an incredibly rewarding milestone to achieve. However, it’s important to remember the total cost of buying a home encompasses more than just your down payment and monthly mortgage. Below are some often overlooked and unexpected costs of buying a home.

Utilities

Typical utilities include electricity, water, internet, heating, cooling, and waste management. Be sure to factor in utility costs when determining whether you can or can’t afford to purchase a home. If you want a better idea of what the costs will be for a home you’re interested in, request a copy of previous bills from the real estate agent.

Homeowners Insurance

Your home is far more than a roof to sleep under. In many cases, a home is one’s most valuable asset—an asset that most can’t afford to replace out-of-pocket in the event of disaster-related damage or total loss. Homeowners insurance helps protect your asset. Additionally, most lenders require that you have insurance on your home, as it safeguards them (as well as you) against financial loss. Make sure you add in the cost of protecting your home when putting together your monthly budget.

Property Taxes

Beyond your mortgage, down payment, and insurance, it’s important that you also remember to factor in property taxes. The cost of your taxes will vary depending upon where you live and the value of your home. The taxes will either be billed directly by your local taxation office or paid through your mortgage lender.   If paying directly, you’ll usually make two payments each year.  If paying through your lender, the cost will be added to your monthly mortgage payment. Make sure to budget for this ongoing, recurring cost, as you will always need to pay property taxes.

Maintenance and Repair

As a renter, your landlord was likely responsible for regular maintenance and repairs. If your furnace stopped working, you could call your landlord and they would coordinate making the repair at no extra cost to you. As a homeowner, though, it’s up to you to fund maintenance and repairs. According to the one percent rule, you should set aside one percent of your home’s value each year for home maintenance. If your home is valued at $200,000, you should be setting aside $2,000 to cover any repair costs.

When you’re ready to take that next step to buy your home, Compass is here to help you with the financing. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to us at 707-443-8662 x5.

Six Tips to Get the Best Deal on a New Car

Are you in the market for a new or used car? When it comes to car shopping, timing is everything! Did you know you have a better chance of leaving the dealership with a great deal in the winter? Or that getting pre-approved can save steps at the dealership and keep you focused on your budget? Here are the six best tips to get you into a new ride this season:

1.            Get pre-approved! Before you buy, apply online with Compass at compassccu.org or call 707-443-8662. Get pre-approved so you have the best chances of negotiation. Once you’re pre-approved, you can shop for the car as if you had a check in your pocket. This helps you stay focused on the actual selling price of the car, rather than keeping track of the interest rate, down payment, loan term and trade-in.

2.            Winter months offer the greatest potential for deals. After the holiday shopping rush has settled down, consumers are less likely to make larger purchases such as a car. Foot traffic through car dealerships usually remains slow from the New Year into February.

3.            Shop during the week. By avoiding the weekend crowd, you’ll be more apt to get the salesperson’s undivided attention. They may even feel more willing to negotiate because of how few people shop for cars mid-week.

4.            Make your offer late in the day. If you know what you want, and have done your research, it might save you time and money to visit the dealership closer to closing time. The salesperson might not want to spend hours negotiating a deal, pressing them to make a good deal.

5.            Don’t think about the monthly payments. Of course, you have to consider the monthly payments and whether or not you can afford them! However, worry about the actual price of the car. A low monthly payment won’t do you any good stretched out over a long period of time and will eventually add up to more than the sticker price!

6.            Avoid tax refund season. Consumers commonly use their tax refund checks to purchase big ticket items—like a new car! The bad news about this time of year is that dealers don’t feel the need to offer quite as many discounts to entice shoppers to buy.

Not sure what to buy? Research and shop inventory – click here.

7 Ways to Protect Yourself When Shopping Online

Every year, stolen debit and credit card information account for billions of dollars in losses and fraud. Cybercriminals are standing by 24/7, so we’ve compiled a list of tips to keep yourself protected.

1. Credit Card vs. Debit Card

Both can fall victim to fraud. If you’re the victim of fraud or theft, Compass can assist you with filing a dispute to get your money back. Best practice is to monitor your account regularly with our free online banking or free Compass mobile app. You can even set up alerts to help manage your account.

2. Don’t Store Your Card Information on a Website

If your computer asks: “remember my password,” the correct answer is “no.” This feature is obviously convenient, but it leaves you vulnerable should someone gain access to your computer or browser. Similarly, if you’re making a purchase, some sites will ask if you want to save your card information for future purchases. Always choose “no.”

3. Monitor Account Activity and Boost Anti-Fraud Measures

Many credit and debit card issuers allow you to sign up for transaction alerts that will notify you when a purchase has been made over a set amount, which can help you monitor your account. Regularly log in to your account to keep tabs on your account activity. If you notice anything questionable, report it right away.

4. Look for http “s” Before Purchasing

Not all sites are safe and secure. Ensure the site you are visiting is secure before purchasing by looking for the “https://” in the browser’s address bar before you provide your credit card information. The “s” stands for Secure and should appear on all web pages that require disclosing financial information. If it’s not there, the site is not secure, so discontinue any transactions or sharing of personal information.

5. Be Wary of Emails Requesting Information

Attackers may attempt to gather information by sending official-looking and sounding emails requesting that you confirm a purchase or account information. Legitimate businesses will not solicit this type of information through email. Do not provide sensitive information through email. If you receive an unsolicited email from a business, instead of clicking on the provided link, directly log in to the authentic website by typing the address yourself.

6. Be Careful of Faked Websites

“Typosquatting,” also called URL hijacking, is what may occur when you mistype a website name and don’t realize it. Scammers set up fake domain names that are just a letter or two off from popular sites to take advantage of unintentional misspellings. Those who normally type quickly and rely heavily on autocorrect are especially at risk. This can result in Amazon becoming “Amazone” or “Amazne.” Also, bookmark the pages you visit most often to make navigating easier and less of a hassle.

7. Assume Public Wi-Fi is Not Secure

Wi-Fi hotspots in coffee shops, libraries, airports, and other public places are convenient but often not secure. Online shoppers don’t realize that cyber thieves can grab their wireless data at Wi-Fi hotspots because the majority of these places don’t encrypt the information you send over the Internet. If a network doesn’t require a password, it’s safe to assume it is not secure.

The Bottom Line: It’s important to take extra precautions while shopping or doing any financial transactions online. Cybercriminals know we’re conducting more business online than ever and they’re looking for ways to target unsuspecting consumers.

Stay on top of your credit scores and protect your identity with our IdentityIQ plan. To learn more, click here.

In short, a credit union is a cooperative financial institution where people work together to make everyone’s lives better. Everyone who has an account here is a member. And every member is an owner.

Rather than making profits to send to far-off shareholders, Compass CCU reinvests in our credit union. Which means we reinvest in YOU. That’s why we say that, at Compass Community Credit Union, we guide you to better banking.