Can We Have Your Number?

What’s the most important number your credit union or bank can have on file for you? Your account number? Your social security number? Your date of birth?

It might actually be one you wouldn’t think of right away – your current phone number. Does your financial institution have the best phone number to reach you at on file? Because it could be super inconvenient for you if they don’t.

can i have your number

It’s not that your credit union or bank just wants to call you to say, “Hi!” And it’s not that they want to make solicitation calls to your number. Your financial institution needs your up-to-date contact information so they can reach you in the event that there’s an issue with your account. If we have your correct contact information on file, most likely we will reach you in time to deal with any problems that might arise promptly. If we have your grandmother’s phone number from when she opened your kiddie savings account in 1985, then things don’t go as smoothly.

Say, for example, that we’ve detected fraud on your debit card. The first two things we will do are freeze your card and give you a phone call. If you answer, we can determine whether or not the transaction is really fraudulent and then we can deal with it accordingly, right then and there. If you don’t answer or we leave a voice-mail at a number you don’t check any more or the number we have on file for you has been disconnected, you likely won’t find out what happened to your card until it gets declined. And, depending on how long it takes for you to notice that something is wrong, it might not be as easy to fix as it would have been in the early stages of fraud detection.

Lesson learned – always alert your financial institution(s) to any changes in your contact information. If you get a new number, give them a ring to make sure they update that information on your account. Your credit union and your wallet will thank you!

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To Shred or Not to Shred: A Guide to Maintaining Documents

In the Gillespie household, we love to shred things. It’s a trait we inherited from my grandfather, who used to wait until you were at the critical turning point of a good movie to wander over to the shredder with 50 pieces of paper he “needed to destroy immediately!” Nothing ruins the climax of a story like the “EGGHHHHHHGGGHHH” sound of a shredder.

While shredding is super fun and an effective way to ruin family movie night for everyone, there are some documents you need to keep on file for longer than it takes to build up a good “To Be Destroyed” pile. Here’s a guide to which documents you should maintain and how long you need to keep them on file.

CLIP ART SHRED PIC

FOREVER & ALWAYS

Documents that you should never shred or throw out:

– Birth Certificates

– Marriage Licenses

– Divorce Decrees

-Adoption Records

– Passports

– Educational Records (diplomas, etc.)

– Military Service Records

– Life Insurance Documents

– Social Security Cards

BUT DID YOU MEAN IT, BABY?

Not to get all T. Swift on you, but you only need to keep the following documents temporarily. After the specified period of time you can shred them.

– Tax Records = 7 years from filing date

– Will = Until updated

– Real Estate Deeds = As long as you own the property

– Home Purchase Documents = As long as you own the property

– Home Improvement Records = As long as you own the property

– Investment Certificates = Until you cash or sell the investment

– Investment Statements = Shred monthly statements when you get the most recent one, keep annual statements until you sell the investment

– Loan Documents = Until loan is paid off in full

– Vehicle Titles = Until you sell or dispose of the vehicle

– Medical Records = 5 years, or longer if medical condition is chronic/ on-going

– Medical Bills = 1 year

– Receipts for Large Purchases = Until you sell or discard the item

– Service Contracts or Warranties = Until you sell or discard the item

– Insurance Records = Until you renew your policy

– Social Security Statements = Shred old statement when you receive the most recent one

– Bank Statements = 1 year, unless needed to support tax filings

– Pay Stubs = 1 year, make sure final stub matches W2 then shred them

– Credit Card Records = Until Paid

– Contracts = Until Updated

NEVER GETTING BACK TOGETHER, LIKE EVER

These are documents that you can shred right away, because you’re so over them.

– ATM/ Bank Receipts = Once you confirm that this record matches your online banking history, chuck it

– Receipts for Small Purchases = Same as above

 

Remember, anything with sensitive information (name, address, social security number, account number, card number, PIN, etc.) should be shredded, not just thrown out. Or if you just love to shred go ahead and put everything in there . . . I wouldn’t judge you. 🙂

 

Phishing Is No “Phun”

Unless you have been living under a rock, you have probably heard about the Data Breach at Target this holiday shopping season. You might even be one of the 40 million customers who unwittingly had their account, debit card, address, and other personal information stolen while shopping for Christmas knick-knacks.

What the Target scammers did is called “phishing.” This type of scam refers to any criminal activity that attempts to obtain sensitive information without the owner’s permission.

We're not talking about the fun kind of fishing here!

We’re not talking about the fun kind of fishing here!

All of the media hype makes it seem like what happened at Target is a unique situation and that Target is a terrible, awful, no-good, greedy corporation that doesn’t care enough about the little people to secure customers’ private information.

However, the idea that what happened at Target is a unique occurrence is both flat out wrong and potentially dangerous.

The truth is, personal financial information is stolen every day. When I worked as a teller I saw countless members who had their debit card number stolen and as a result had fraudulent activity on their account. Just to give you an idea of how frequently this happens, according to IT security vendor Kaspersky Labs 37.3 million internet users faced phishing attacks during the last 12 months. All financial institutions have security measures in place to monitor and prevent unauthorized transactions, but scammers tend to be one step ahead of the game and are constantly discovering new ways to access your private information.

I might have a flare for the dramatic (as evidenced in my most recent post where all I did was yell at my Brother In-Law about the plight of the working man . . . or something like that), I don’t think it’s unreasonable in this day in age to be overly cautious about protecting your private information. You might not need to hunker down in your post-apocalyptic bunker, cut your internet cords, and use only cash from now on, but it is important to be aware of potential scams.

Here’s what you can do:

Be suspicious of any e-mail that includes urgent requests for your private information.

  1. Typically scammers ask for info such as your date of birth, social security number, credit or debit card number, online username/password, etc.
  2. Your financial institution already has this information on file. We would NEVER ask you to verify personal information via an unsecured e-mail.
  3. Scammers may use upsetting or exciting statements to get you to take immediate action, before you have time to fully analyze the situation. Don’t fall for their trap. Example statement: “Your debit card has been compromised. Please confirm the following information immediately to continue using your card.”

DO NOT use links in e-mails, instant messages, or texts to get to a webpage if you are unfamiliar with/ suspicious of the sender. Call the business directly if you have questions or type in the address of a familiar website yourself.

DO NOT fill out forms that come embedded within an e-mail.

  1. You should only give personal information via a secure website or phone.
  2. Some financial institutions, like Casco FCU, may use an online document signing company like Docu-Sign to allow members to complete applications electronically. It is important to remember that you will never be sent one of these electronic forms unless YOU REQUESTED it. If you receive an unsolicited electronic form, contact your financial institution directly by phone.

Just because the URL says https:// DOES NOT mean the site is secure.

  1. Phishers can forge the https:// part of a URL, create a legitimate looking URL address, and forge the lock symbol that pops up next to the web address. Seeing any or all of those features is not a sure sign that the website is secure.
  2. To ensure that you are truly on a secure site, double click on the lock symbol. A security certificate for the site should pop up telling you that it has been verified and is safe to use. Likewise, double clicking the lock symbol will tell you if a site cannot be verified, in which case you should not enter any personal information.

 

This is a screen shot of our online banking page. See the green box/lock symbol at the top? Double clicking that makes a security certificate pop up saying our site has been verified.

(See how the https:// and lock symbol are green? When I double clicked on that it popped up to tell me the site had been verified and was encrypted. An unsecure site comes up in red and when double clicked says that the site cannot be verified.)

Still not feeling secure? Here’s a few everyday things you can do to prevent scammers from phishing successfully for your information:

  1. NEVER e-mail personal information. E-mail is not a secure form of communication.
  2. Use trusted security software and set it up to scan your computer automatically.
  3. Review your account statements (credit card, checking account, etc.) on a regular basis. Put a reminder on your calendar so you don’t forget. Report any unusual or unfamiliar activity to your financial institution ASAP.
  4. Check your credit report annually. You can get one free copy per year at https://www.annualcreditreport.com. Report any errors or issues immediately to the credit bureau.
  5. Invest in some form of Identity Theft Protection that will help you monitor your credit and your accounts. LegalShield, for example, has a very affordable Identity Protection Plan which you can check out here https://sites.legalshield.com/gs/init?grp=cascofcumembers.

 

I hope these tips help you keep your information private and secure!

 

Hackers and Fraudsters and Scammers . . . Oh My!

When I think of financial scams, the first thing that comes to mind is that episode of “the Office” where Michael tries to sign everyone up for a pyramid scheme.

michael scott

Oscar: This sounds like a get rich quick scheme.
Michael: Yes! Thank you! You will get rich quick. We all will!
Toby: Didn’t you lose a lot of money on that other investment, the one from the email?
Michael: You know what, Toby? When the son of the deposed king of Nigeria emails you directly, asking for help, you help! His father ran the freaking country, okay?
– The Office, Season 2, Episode 19, “Michael’s Birthday”

While Michael probably should have spotted his “business opportunity” as a scam, financial fraudsters today aren’t always so easy to recognize. They use well-known websites, send checks that look authentic, and are really, really good at tricking you into giving them your money. You might be doing something a routine as answering a phone call from what you think is your credit union or selling an old laptop online and the next thing you know your bank account has been hacked.  Scammers rely on the fact that you feel safe giving out your info or doing your business online.  If you are totally oblivious to potential scams, you’re the perfect target! Although I don’t expect you all to turn into crime-fighting, fraud-preventing superheroes (get out your capes and tights!), knowing the warning signs of a potential scam can save you some major bucks and a lot of hassle.
Here’s a quick overview of a few of the more common check scams out there:
Phishing – Someone calls or e-mails you posing as a familiar bank, retailer, or government agency. They say that something is wrong with your account and ask you to give them personal or financial information in order to fix the problem. A legitimate business would never contact you unexpectedly to request this kind of information; these types of calls are likely scammers trying to get access to info like your bank account number, Social Security number, passwords, etc. If you get a call or e-mail like this that you suspect is a scam, end the interaction right away, don’t give them any info, and contact the business you thought you were dealing with directly.
**Example: “Rachel from the credit card company” calls my parent’s house all the time saying that she can help them lower their interest rate if they just confirm some of their information. The fact that she doesn’t specify which credit card company should tip you off right away that it’s a scam. If your credit card company did want to lower your interest rate (which is rare), they would identify themselves.
Overpayments – Let’s say you sell an item online and the buyer sends you a check or money order for more than the amount you agreed on. They claim that the overpayment is a mistake and that you can just send them the extra money back. Or they say the check came from someone else who owed them money. They want you to take what you need and forward the remaining amount to them along with the item they purchased. Whatever explanation they give, it’s a scam! Legitimate buyers would agree to send you a check for the correct amount. Accepting an overpayment can leave you without your item and without the cash!
Rental Schemes – This is a trick that I had never heard of until I checked out www.fakechecks.org. It’s super sneaky! In this scheme you put an ad for a rental apartment or house online. A potential tenant, typically from outside the area, contacts you about renting the place. They send you a check or money order for more than the agreed upon rent and ask you to use the extra money to pay for the cost of shipping their stuff, getting their rental car, or some other expense. They could just send the money directly to this third party, but they ask you do to it for them instead. DON’T DO IT! The check is probably fraudulent and I’m willing to bet that they are on the receiving end of that “shipping” company you sent money to. You probably won’t see them in your apartment any time soon.
Work-From-Home Offers – We’ve all seen the ads: “Work from home! Make $8,000 a day for 4 hours of work! Live the life you’ve always wanted!” Admit it – there’s a small part of you that’s tempted to click on those links and see if they’re legit. Because who wouldn’t want to make a lot of money and not be stuck at the office for 40 hours a week? You know what they say though, if it seems too good to be true, it probably is! Scammers will contact you via e-mail, social media, or phone offering to hire you without an in-person interview or background check. They may ask you to deposit checks made out to the business into your personal account and tell you to keep a portion of it as your pay. Or they might send you funds to “test” a money transfer service for them. Whatever the set-up is, remember that legitimate businesses would pay you the old-fashioned way, with a paycheck and tax deductions.
Sudden Riches – Surprisingly, there are not a lot of people out there just dying to give you buckets of cash for no good reason. In a perfect world we would all be millionaires without having to lift a finger; but in the real world, it is highly unlikely that a sudden windfall of riches will come your way. One common check scam is to notify people that they have won a sweepstakes. They send you an “advance” on your winnings to help you pay for legal expenses or taxes. Or they say that in order to claim your winnings you first need to send them a check for a small amount so that they have your account information. A legitimate sweepstakes would never ask you to send them money before they sent you your winnings. Taxes and any other expenses would be deducted from money you won in a legitimate contest before they sent it to you. Additionally, notice of these winnings always comes by certified mail, not by regular mail, phone, or e-mail.
**Warning Sign: If you didn’t buy a lottery ticket or enter yourself in a sweepstakes, you probably didn’t win one! If anyone contacts you about winning a contest you didn’t enter (especially one in a foreign country you’ve never been to), it’s probably a scam!
Love Losses – This scam is the last and, in my opinion, saddest one on my list. This is the financial version of Catfish (a great documentary about a guy who thought he was dating a hot, young girl online and it was really a middle-aged woman – you should watch it!). Here’s how it happens: you start chatting with someone online, maybe through a well-known social media or dating site. The person claims to live far away from you, out of state or even in another country, so it would be difficult for you to meet in person. Once you’ve spent a lot of time getting to know each other and have built a relationship, they ask you to send them money. It might be for a medical emergency, to help someone in their family, or to travel to visit you. Whatever the reason, they need you to send them money ASAP. You should never send money to someone you haven’t meet in person. No matter how much you may trust or feel connected to this person, you run the huge risk that they aren’t who they claim to be.
So now that you’ve read through all of them (hopefully 😉 ) what are you supposed to do to avoid all of these potentially dangerous situations? Hide in your room? Go off the grid? The answer is simple – just be on the look-out. You don’t have to become overly suspicious of everyone you do business with, but be aware that fraudsters are out there and that they are always looking for new victims. Here are a few key things to keep in mind:
1. If you deposit a bad check or money order into your personal account, YOU are responsible for the funds. If a bad check overdraws your account, you have to come up with the money to cover the negative balance. Once you sign a check and deposit it, the issuing party is no longer responsible for the funds, even if the check is bad. If you’re unsure about a check, don’t deposit it!
2. Just because a check cleared your account, does not mean that it was good! It can take a long time for checks to be declared fraudulent (sometimes up to a few months). Federal law requires your financial institution to make funds available to you quickly, usually within 10 days, meaning that you could withdraw the money from a check deposit before finding out if it is bad. So again, if you’re not sure about a check, don’t risk depositing it.
3. Never accept an overpayment. A legitimate buyer or employer will always agree to send you a check for the correct amount. There is never any genuine reason that someone would need you to accept a check for a higher amount and return excess funds to them.
4. Never give your personal information to a person or business over the phone or online that you did not contact directly.
5. Never send money to someone you have not met in person. Similarly, never agree to cash a check or money order for someone you do not know.

If you want more information about check scams and how to avoid them, visit www.fakechecks.org. They have lots of great videos that help you understand exactly how these types of schemes work as well as a link to site where you can report suspected fraudulent activity. If you ever have questions about a potentially fraudulent check or a financial situation that seem suspicious, contact your credit union or bank right away; they help you decide how best to proceed.

Hopefully, you if you are aware of potential scams and are cautious about who you give personal information to you won’t end up like Michael Scott.

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