Important Member Alert: Don’t Fall for EMV Email Scams

3d image Scam issues concept word cloud background

With the new, more fraud-resistant Europay, MasterCard and Visa (EMV) chip in many credit cards, scammers are working a new angle to steal from consumers.

As consumers are anticipating the delivery of new debit and credit cards with the EMV chip, they are being targeted by scammers via emails that look like they are coming from their bank asking for updated personal financial information.

Bonnie Smyre, an Internet security expert explains, “These types of phishing emails have been around for a long time. You might remember the, ‘Hey I’m your long lost relative from a distant country and I left all of my money to you. I just need your banking account info’. Most people read those but said this looks fishy.”

Scammers saw an opportunity to freshen up this scam by contacting consumers about their new EMV chip credit card.

So now scammers are sending much more legitimate emails. It’s hard to tell that they’re fake. They often fake an email address so it looks like it’s from your bank. They use graphics from your bank. It looks very legit then they say, “You need to update your information. Your card is on the way, but before it can take effect – we need your personal and banking information to be updated,” added Ms. Smyre.

Don’t bite. Don’t reply to the email. Don’t click any links. It’s a new twist on an old scam meant to draw consumers in. If you get something like that and have questions about whether your bank or credit union is really trying to contact you, call the number on the back of your credit card or on your bank statement. If you have any questions about your First Financial accounts – please call 866.750.0100 or email info@firstffcu.com

Be sure to enroll in our newest, upgraded Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – click here to enroll today!

Article Source: New Jersey Credit Union League, Daily Exchange Newsletter from 1.14.16

Card Skimming 101: How to spot, avoid, and deal with it

A thief use magnet steal credit card

“Skimming” is a method by which thieves steal your credit card information, and all it requires is a little illicit technology and a lot of criminal intent by those who handle your credit card. Skimming occurs most frequently at retail outlets that process credit card payments — particularly bars, restaurants and gas stations.

How skimming works
Skimmers are small devices that can scan and store credit card data from the magnetic stripe. Crooks can install skimmers on a gas pump, or corrupt employees can have a skimmer stashed out of sight of customers. Once the card is run through the skimmer, the data is recorded, and the crooks can sell the information through a contact or on the Internet, at which point counterfeit cards are made. The criminals go on a shopping spree with a cloned copy of the credit or debit card, and cardholders are unaware of the fraud until a statement arrives with purchases they did not make.

John Brewer, assistant district attorney in the major fraud division of Harris County Texas District Attorney’s Office, says, “Many consumers think that shopping online is a high-risk endeavor compared to going to a brick-and-mortar store, but I believe the opposite. The vast majority of cases we investigate have to do with employees at a physical store stealing your information.”

How to avoid skimming

  • Make sure your card stays in sight, and never let anyone leave your presence with the card if you can help it. “Skimming occurs most at restaurants since the waiter has to walk away with your card,” Brewer says. “If you are in a retail store and they say they have to go to another counter to run the card, follow them.” If you are concerned about letting go of your card at restaurants, use cash instead.
  • Your credit card is like cash. “You need to be aware that your credit card is very valuable,” Brewer says. “Treat it like a diamond or cash. Would you just give someone cash and let them walk away with it?”
  • Monitor credit card receipts and check them carefully against your statements. If you are married, sit down with your spouse to account for all charges, Brewer says. Some thieves take out small amounts in hopes cardholders won’t notice.
  • Shred unwanted financial solicitations and put your mail on hold when you leave town. This will help with other forms of identity theft.

To further protect yourself from potential unauthorized charges or identity fraud, you can request that credit bureaus monitor your accounts for unusual spending patterns and require them to notify you before new credit can be granted in your name. These services come at a price; normally under $100 per year depending on the credit agency. But that might be a worthy investment, especially if you eat in restaurants on a regular basis.

How to deal with skimming

  • Call the police. “When your identity or credit card is stolen, it’s just like having a car stolen,” Brewer says. Make a police report and hang on to the police report number.
  • Contact your bank or credit card issuer immediately and tell them your card data has been stolen. If you don’t make a report quickly, you may be liable for some or all of the unauthorized charges.
  • If you report swiftly, federal law caps your liability at $50. Most credit cards voluntarily go further, and won’t charge you at all — again, if you report quickly. “If you end up being a victim, it’s probably not going to cost you any money,” Brewer says. “If you notify your bank quickly, they’ll return the money. Don’t get hung up about the fact that someone might drain your bank account. The most you will probably spend on it is wasted time and lots of aggravation, since it can be a long process to get everything worked out.”
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus — TransUnion, Equifax and Experian — to request a security freeze, which prevents new credit authorizations without your consent. Brewer suggests visiting the website www.annualcreditreport.com.  Through the site, which was mandated by federal law in response to consumer outcry, you are entitled to receive one free credit report each year from each of the three major credit bureaus.

Brewer suggests viewing the credit reports on a computer you can print from – since you only get to check them once a year. “Look at the inquiries section of your report, and see which companies have looked at your credit,” Brewer says.

If a car dealership looked at your report but you didn’t go there, it’s a sign that the person with your card information went car shopping. Give these reports to the police; it will help them investigate your case.

Be sure to enroll in our newest, upgraded Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa – don’t wait until it’s too late! The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Ben Woolsey and Emily Starbuck Gerson for CreditCards.com, http://www.creditcards.com/credit-card-news/credit-card-skimming-scam-1282.php

5 Unique Ways to Save on Your Holiday Shopping

gifts isolated on white background

Whether we like it or not, the holiday season is here. That means one thing: spending money and potentially a lot of it. In a survey by the American Research Group, Americans plan on spending nearly $900 on their holiday shopping. Such an amount can put a significant stress on a budget, leaving families looking for ways to save money.

We all know about the traditional ways to save money on shopping, from Black Friday to Cyber Monday sales. Those discounts can provide nice savings, but they only scratch the surface. There are many other tools and tricks to help you stretch your holiday budget. Below are some unique ones to help you save this year.

The Four-Gift Rule

The four-gift rule has made its way around the Internet over the past few years. The idea behind it is relatively simple. Instead of overwhelming recipients with a lot of gifts and costing you more, you make your gift-giving more intentional. The rule dictates the following: You buy the person something they want, something they need, something to wear, and something to read.

The rule may not work for everyone, as it’s particularly angled toward a younger child or perhaps a spouse. With children, in particular, this approach can help avoid excessive gift giving and thus save you money in the long run. It’s practical and still also allows for fun and creativity.

Use Apps

Smartphone apps can be a great way to save money on holiday shopping. We all know about popular apps like Amazon that allow you to compare prices in real-time. There are many other apps out there that can help save you money on your holiday shopping needs.

Some of these newer apps are Flipp and Slice. “It rounds up all of the shopping ads and circulars in your local area and presents them to you in a format that’s very easy to flip through,” says Jill Cataldo, founder of the Super-Couponing.com. The Flipp app also allows you to collect local coupons so as to maximize your savings.

The Slice app allows you to set a price tracker, which tracks the amount you spent on an item. If the price drops, it notifies you so you can get the difference refunded from participating merchants.

Use Gift Cards

MarketWatch reports that $750 million in gift cards were unused in 2014. If you have an unused gift card lying around, that is free cash not being spent. There may be a number of reasons you didn’t use the card, from not liking the store to forgetting you had the card.

Regardless of the reason, an unused gift card can be a great way to reduce the overall amount you spend out of pocket for holiday gifts. Instead of letting that card continue to collect dust and lose value due to potential inactivity fees, use them to buy gifts. It may feel tacky, but it is a great way to save money.

Buy Discounted Gift Cards

Gift cards play a dual role for potential savings. Many who have unused gift cards sell them for cash. This has opened up a market for sites like Card Cash, Raise, Card Pool and others that sell discounted gift cards. Such sites allow individuals to buy gift cards for up to 35 percent off standard price.

Such a service can be a great way to save a little extra money if a gift card is on your shopping list. Just make sure to read the terms and conditions prior to purchase.

Break It Up

Another overlooked way to save money on holiday items is by purchasing an item in bulk. That may sound counterintuitive, but it works. “The set gives you a lower price per unit and you can toss them into a gift bag helping you save without skimping on the gift,” says money-saving expert Andrea Woroch.

Woroch explains that the item bought at a warehouse club can be broken up and repackaged into smaller gifts while still allowing you to take advantage of the lower per unit cost. If you are giving multiple people the same gift, then this can be a great way to save extra money instead of purchasing higher-priced individual gifts.

The holiday shopping season can be a stressful one financially. It doesn’t have to be. With a little planning and creativity, you can avoid being an “average” shopper and become one who saves money.

The perfect way to save for your holiday expenses is by opening a Holiday Club Account right here at First Financial! No need to put yourself into debt over holiday spending – simply save ahead and come out on top (and not in debt)!*

  • Open at any time
  • No minimum balance requirements
  • Dividends are posted annually on balances of $100 or more
  • Accounts automatically renew each year
  • Deposits can be made in person, via mail, payroll deductions, or direct deposit
  • Holiday Club funds are deposited into a First Financial Checking or Base Savings Account

*A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account. All personal memberships are part of the Rewards First program and a $5 per month non-participation fee is charged to the base savings account for memberships not meeting the minimum requirements of the Bronze Tier. Click here to view full Rewards First program details, and here to view the Tier Level Comparison Chart. Accounts for children age 13 and under are excluded from this program.

Article Source: John Schmoll for http://money.usnews.com/money/the-frugal-shopper/2015/11/09/5-unique-ways-to-save-on-your-holiday-shopping

Smart Shopping Tricks to Make Your Budget Last All Month

shopping cart postitWe can all use ways to stretch our paycheck each month, but it’s not always easy to know which expenses to focus on minimizing first. The fact is, some costs are easier to trim down than others. The strategies below will help you always score the lowest price, making it easier for your budget to go farther.

Always look for the deal.

Local drugstores often feature special deals on everything from personal care to grocery items. While the selection is generally smaller than at the grocery store, drugstores can offer even better discounts. Looking for these deals, and applying them to your purchase can generate big savings.

Register for rewards programs.

Many stores feature rewards programs, including drugstores. Walgreens has Balance Rewards, CVS has ExtraCare, and RiteAid has Wellness+. If you register for these programs you’ll likely receive frequent emails, but there will be gems among them, and you might even save 20% off an order. A smartphone app like Key Ring makes it easy to track account numbers for multiple programs.

Use manufacturers’ coupons.

In addition to browsing through Sunday circulars, you can rely on websites like coupons.com to search and print coupons at no cost to you. Since most manufacturers’ coupons usually have an expiration date that is at least one month into the future, hold onto the coupons until you find a great deal.

Look out for store coupon books.

Many stores offer coupon books, usually at the front of the store near the pile of circulars. They often contain many high value store coupons that can be combined with sales and manufacturers’ coupons for additional savings.

Shop online.

When it comes to essential drugstore items, you can often find the lowest prices online, especially when coupons are applied. Some coupons offer deeper discounts to online shoppers, and you can find everything from vitamins, cleaning supplies, personal care items and pain relievers for reduced prices.

Use blogs.

Many blogs and websites collect coupons and deals for readers, which makes your job even easier. Retailmenot.com, bargainbriana.com, and MoneySavingMom.com are three examples – they research and sort deals for you, and you can often match the deals with sales in circulars.

Don’t pay full price.

Many retailers, including J.Crew, Kohl’s and the Gap, make it easy to find deals online. In fact, you should never pay full price for your purchases, at least before checking for discount codes. Signing up for the stores’ email lists will also help make sure you don’t miss out on discounts.

Get an Amazon Prime membership.

It might sound counterintuitive, but purchasing a $99 Amazon Prime membership can actually end up saving you money. That’s because it comes with two-day shipping on most orders, movie and TV streaming, and one free book rental per month. You can try out a 30-day free trial membership to see if it would end up saving you money.

Write a review.

Some companies are willing to pay customers, in the form of discounts, for leaving reviews on their products listed online. HonestFew and SnagShout are a couple companies that make this process easy. Once you receive items at a low price (or sometimes even free), then you simply log in to leave your review, whether it’s good or bad.

Buy a reusable water bottle.

Going through a handful of water bottles a day is expensive, unnecessary, and bad for the environment. Instead, pick up a reusable water bottle for yourself. You can even get one that comes with a built-in carbon filter to remove tap water impurities. Your body, and the Earth, will thank you.

Use apps.

Many stores have made it even easier to save these days by introducing their own apps, such as the Target Cartwheel app and the Sears Shop Your Way App. Both of these apps offer special discounts to shoppers that cannot be found anywhere else, and saving is as easy as opening the app and seeing what deals are available. You can even do this while standing in the checkout line. Other apps, like Shopkick, work at many stores. You can earn points by checking in at stores and making purchases, and then using those points to earn gift cards.

Plan ahead.

Planning out meals in advance is one way to keep grocery store costs down because you can minimize waste or unnecessary purchases. You not only cut out impulse purchases at the grocery store but also eliminate the need to order delivery on those nights you realize you don’t have anything to make. Pinterest can also help with new recipe inspiration if you’re feeling stuck.

Article Source: Lisa Koivu for http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2015/10/20/smart-shopping-tricks-to-make-your-budget-last-all-month

4 Signs You Have a Spending Problem and How to Fix It

Cracking piggybank

One in five Americans spent more than what they earned in the last 12 months, according to a Federal Reserve Board survey. Some might be relying on credit or dipping into savings to cover their spending because they are having trouble making ends meet. And, some might be simply living beyond their means.

Regardless of the reason your spending exceeds your income – your overspending might be making it hard to pay bills, have money for emergencies, and save for the future. It could also lead to serious consequences, such as bankruptcy.

Here are five warning signs that indicate you are spending too much, how your overspending can hurt you, and how to get your spending under control:

1. You max out your credit cards and pay only the minimum.

If you’re maxing out your credit cards and can’t pay off your balances every month, it’s a sign that you’re relying on credit to supplement your income. Not only can this hurt your credit score, but it can also leave you in debt longer than necessary.

If a high percentage of your available credit is used — in other words, most of your cards are maxed out — the credit scoring agencies consider this to be a sign that you are overextended and will likely lower your credit score. A lower score will make it harder for you to get additional credit and might force you to pay higher rates on that credit.

Paying the minimum on your credit card won’t necessarily hurt your score, but it could take you a long time to pay off your debt and cost you extra money in interest. For example, if you had a $1,000 balance on a card with a 16% APR and made a minimum monthly payment of $25 on your balance, it would take nearly five years to pay off your debt. And, you’d pay about $440 in interest too.

2. You pay bills late.

About one out of 20 people with a credit file are at least 30 days late on a credit card or a non-mortgage account payment, according to an Urban Institute report.

Paying bills late because you don’t have the cash to cover them is a sign that you’re overspending. And it sends a red flag to your credit issuers, which could hike your interest rates or lower your credit limit, according to the National Foundation for Credit Counseling. You’ll also be hit with fees — which can add up quickly — and several late payments will hurt your credit score.

If you’re more than 180 days late on a payment, your debt typically is assigned to a collection agency or debt collector. Having debt in collections can lower your credit score and will remain on your credit report for seven years, according to myFICO.com. What’s worse is that your creditors or debt collectors could potentially sue you and be allowed to garnish you wages to pay the debt you owe.

3. You raid your retirement account.

You might think there’s no harm in borrowing from your retirement account because it’s your money. About 20% of 401(k) plan participants have taken a loan from their account, according to the Pencil Research Council Working Paper. You can borrow up to half of your 401(k) balance, up to a maximum of $50,000, but rarely is this a good idea.

If you borrow from your retirement account, you will have to pay yourself back with interest — which can be lower than the rate of return you would’ve gotten if you had left the money in the account. So really, you’re just shortchanging your retirement savings.

4. You borrow from friends and family.

If you have to turn to friends and family for money, it’s a sign that your overspending has left you financially strapped. You might think it’s a good way to get an interest-free loan, but being unable to pay back the loan can lead to tension and can affect your relationship.

How to Stop the Overspending Habit

If you’ve realized that you have an overspending problem, rest assured — there are different ways you can get your spending under control and create healthy spending habits.

1. Create a budget.

The first step to getting your spending under control is to create a budget. Take a close look at what you’re spending money on and ways to cut back.

2. Rely on cash.

By living on a cash or debit-only budget, you can curb the impulse to overspend. Set a budget for each shopping trip and only bring that much cash with you to avoid making impulse purchases.

3. Get help.

If you’re buried in debt and can’t curb your spending, your best option might be to get professional help. The National Foundation for Credit Counseling provides free and affordable debt counseling and other money management services. You can find an agency in your area through NFCC.org.

Don’t forget about First Financial’s free, online debt management tool, Debt in Focus. In just minutes, you will receive a thorough analysis of your financial situation, including powerful tips by leading financial experts to help you control your debt, build a budget, and start living the life you want to live.

Article Source: Cameron Huddleston, http://www.gobankingrates.com/personal-finance/5-signs-spending-problem/

3 Tips for Getting Control Over Your Spending

Glamour purse fill with money isolated on white background

Two days after you receive your paycheck, do you wonder where all the money went? Is your closet full of clothing and other items that still have the tags on them? Then your spending habits may need some adjusting.

Many consumers aren’t saving enough for a rainy day. The U.S. personal savings rate has increased within the last 12 months (5.3% compared with 4.8% the year before), but there is still room for improvement. Approximately 44% of households across the nation have less than three months of savings, according to the Corporation for Enterprise Development’s 2015 Assets & Opportunity Scorecard. Furthermore, a recent Bankrate Money Pulse survey revealed that less than 4 in 10 people are capable of covering an emergency expense, and about 18% don’t have a budget.

If you’re struggling to control your spending, there are a few things you can do to break bad habits. Here are three tips for regaining your footing and getting back on the path toward financial health.

1. Carry Cash
One of the best ways to keep spending in check is to pay for most of your purchases with cash. When you rely on a credit or debit card, it’s easy to lose track of how much money you’re shelling out. Swiping your card is simple and can make you feel like you have more money than you really do. Cash, on the other hand, will allow you to see exactly what you’re spending. And when the cash runs out, you know it’s time to put your wallet down and stop making purchases for that day. Try your best to get out of the “buy now, pay later” mentality.

2. Use a Spending Tracker
There are plenty of mobile phone apps and online web tools that can assist you with keeping tabs on your spending. If you’ve been slow to devise a budget, these technologies are a great way to get started. Some useful apps available are Goodbudget, Mvelopes, and Pocket Expense.

3. Go on a Financial Fast
Resolve to cut out all of your spending for a certain period of time; it could be two weeks or one month, the timing is up to you. When you refrain from spending any money (except on necessities such as mortgage payments and groceries) you’ll quickly see what you can truly live without.

Article Source: Sheiresa Ngo for http://www.cheatsheet.com/personal-finance/3-tips-for-getting-control-over-your-spending.html/?a=viewall