Category: FINANCIAL LITERACY,

Last month, we provided some tips on how to identify recent scams. This is part 2 of our series on how to identify them and what to watch for. E-mail Fraud/Phishing – What is Phishing? Phishing is a general term for e-mails, text messages and websites fabricated and sent by criminals and designed to look …

Scams are on the rise. Protect yourself, don’t become a victim (part 2).

Last month, we provided some tips on how to identify recent scams. This is part 2 of our series on how to identify them and what to watch for.

E-mail Fraud/Phishing – What is Phishing?

Phishing is a general term for e-mails, text messages and websites fabricated and sent by criminals and designed to look like they come from well-known and trusted businesses, financial institutions and government agencies in an attempt to collect personal, financial and sensitive information.  It’s also known as brand spoofing.

Characteristics: 

•            The content of a phishing e-mail or text message is intended to trigger a quick reaction from you. It can be unsettling, might contain exciting information or demand an urgent response.  Phishing messages are normally not personalized.  

•            Typically, phishing messages will ask you to “update,” “validate,” or “confirm” your account information or face dire consequences.  They might even ask you to make a phone call.  

•            Often, the message or website includes official-looking logos and other identifying information taken directly from legitimate websites. Government, financial institutions and online payment services are common targets of brand spoofing.

Catch phrases:  

•            E-mail Money Transfer Alert:  Please verify this payment information below…

•            It has come to our attention that your online banking profile needs to be updated as part of our continuous efforts to protect your account and reduce instances of fraud… 

•            Dear Online Account Holder, Access To Your Account Is Currently Unavailable…, Important Service Announcement from…, You have 1 unread Security Message!

•            We regret to inform you that we had to lock your bank account access.  Call (telephone number) to restore your bank account.

In some cases, the offending site can modify your browser address bar to make it look legitimate, including the web address of the real site and a secure “https://” prefix.

Information sought: Social Security numbers, full name, date of birth, full address, mother’s maiden name, username and password of online services, driver’s license number, personal identification numbers (PIN), credit card information (numbers, expiry dates and the last three digits printed on the signature panel) and bank account numbers. 

Foreign Government Fraud 

Watch out for emails from senders posing as government or business officials offering to share large sums of money. If you have received an unsolicited letter containing any of the characteristics listed below, you should consider this a scam and delete the email. Most letters are variations of the following:

•            You receive an “urgent” business proposal “in strictest confidence” from a foreign civil servant or businessman.

•            The sender, often a member of the “contract review panel”, obtained your name and profile through the Chamber of Commerce or the International Trade Commission.

•            The sender recently intercepted or has been named beneficiary of the proceeds from real estate, oil products, over-invoiced contracts, cargo shipments, or other commodities, and needs a foreign partner to assist with laundering the money.

•            Since their government/business position prohibits them from opening foreign bank accounts, senders ask you to deposit the sum, usually somewhere between $25-50 million, into your personal account.

•            For your assistance, you will receive between 15-30% of the total, which sits in the “Central Bank of ______” awaiting transfer.

•            To complete the transaction, they ask you to provide your bank name and address, your telephone and fax numbers, the name of your beneficiary, and, of course, your bank account number.

•            The sender promises to forward your share within 10-14 working days!

Money Mule – What is it?

The Money Mule (victim) is recruited – often unknowingly – by scammers to move money made from illegal activity. Money is moved from one bank account to another. By using a money mule, it makes it harder for authorities to track down.

How do people become Money Mules?

Fraudsters approach their money mule victims in a variety of ways including social media, email, mail or phone. Many scams are typically disguised as online job opportunities that promise a fast and easy way to earn money. All they need is your account information to let money be transferred into your account. Then you move the money out of your account for a commission.

These scams look attractive, especially when a little extra income wouldn’t hurt, which is why so many people fall for them. But they are actually helping criminals commit crimes.

Tips:

1.           Be cautious of unsolicited emails and social posts.

2.           Verify company information online or give them a call.

3.           Thoroughly check offers from overseas companies.

4.           Never give out your bank account information.

Remember, 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.

Five simple moves after New Year’s Day can make tax filing easier

There’s nothing fun about paying taxes. But by taking these five steps in January to organize your paperwork, you could avoid getting frustrated, frazzled, and perhaps befuddled come tax time.

1. Make a copy of your 2020 tax return and attachments. With this to guide your 2021 tax prep, you’re less likely to forget a source of income or a deduction.

2. Collect the tax IDs you’ll need. You’ll want your dependents’ Social Security numbers and the SSN of anyone you employed (e.g., a babysitter, housecleaner, or nanny).

3. Start a file folder labeled “Income.” Put in it the following tax forms you’ll receive in January:

  • W-2s and 1099-MISCs from employers
  • 1099-INTs reporting interest income
  • 1099-DIVs reporting mutual fund or stock dividends
  • 1099-Bs reporting brokerage transactions

4. If you itemize, start another folder labeled “Deductions.” Some of the information that goes here will come by mail; the rest you may have to dig up yourself.

  • 1098s reporting interest you paid on mortgages and equity loans (also real estate taxes, if included in your monthly mortgage payment)
  • A receipt for real estate taxes if you paid them yourself
  • A copy of your W-2s showing state and local income taxes you paid
  • A receipt for personal property tax from your town or the taxing authority
  • Receipts for charitable donations and document your mileage
  • Receipts for medical expenses and document mileage
  • Receipts for bills incurred while job-seeking

5. Rev up your retirement saving. There’s still time before April to contribute to a Traditional IRA or Roth IRA. For details, search “IRA Contribution Limits” at www.IRS.gov. Don’t have an IRA yet? Ask us about our insured IRA choices.

Compass has partnered with TurboTax, which guarantees 100% accurate calculations so you can be confident your taxes are done right and get your biggest possible refund. With TurboTax Live, you can even talk with a tax professional onscreen for unlimited advice and a final review of your return. To learn more, visit https://compassccu.org/membership/benefits/

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.

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.