Summer Vacation Scams: Possible Hazards of Hoteling

Customers paying at the hotelBooking a hotel stay for a summer vacation? Before you check in, check out how scammers can try to take advantage of travelers.  Always be aware and on the lookout for possible scams!

The late night call from the front desk.

You think you’re getting a late night call from the front desk telling you there’s a problem with your credit card and they need to verify the number, so you read it to them over the phone. But it’s really a scammer on the line. If a hotel really had an issue with your card, they would ask you to come to the front desk.

The pizza delivery deal.

In another scam, you find a pizza delivery flyer slipped under your hotel door. You call to order, and they take your credit card number over the phone. But the flyer is a fake, and a scammer now has your info. Before you order, make sure you check out the business (ensure it’s a franchise or reputable), or get food recommendations from the front desk. 

The fake Wi-Fi network.

You search for Wi-Fi networks and find one with the hotel’s name. But it turns out it’s only a sound-alike and has nothing to do with the hotel. By using it, you could give a scammer access to your information. Check with the hotel to make sure you’re using the authorized network before you connect. Read more tips on using public Wi-Fi networks.

Other things to be cautious of when staying at or booking a hotel stay:

  • Always lock your car, and don’t leave anything valuable in your vehicle and/or visible.
  • Try to park your car as close to the front office of the hotel as possible.
  • Don’t leave anything valuable in your room unless there is a secure way to do it (like an in-room safe).
  • Check your credit card statement after your stay to make sure it’s accurate.
  • Be weary of hotel booking websites - there have been instances of advertisements claiming that for booking a hotel room you can receive a complimentary gift card from a known retailer. When clicked on, the scammers will oftentimes ask for a credit card number and more personal info.

Haven’t booked your trip yet? If you’re thinking of getting a vacation rental, take a moment to read up about rental listing scams. And check out these other travel tips, including tell-tale signs that a travel offer or prize might be a scam.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit.* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and find out how you can enroll today – as well as get started with your first 90 days free!**

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

**Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program.

Article Source: Amy Herbert – Consumer Education Specialist for the FTC, http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/hazards-hoteling.

Turn the Lights Out on Fake Utility Bill Collectors

Phone scamThe caller sounds convincing: If you don’t pay your utility bills immediately, your gas, electricity or water will be shut off, and then they ask you to pay using a specific and unusual method.

Be warned: The call probably is a scam.

The Federal Trade Commission, state and local consumer protection agencies, and utility companies have gotten a slew of complaints from consumers about utility bill scams.

 

Here are a few signs you may be dealing with a scammer:

  • You get a call or an email claiming your services will be cut off unless you call a number or click on a link and give your account information. Most utility companies don’t ask you to send your account information by email.
  • Someone calls demanding you wire the money or use a prepaid or reloadable debit or gift card to pay your bill. Legitimate companies don’t demand you use those methods to pay.  
  • The caller tells you to call a phone number and give your credit, debit, or prepaid card number. If you do that, the scammer can access the money from your credit, debit, or prepaid card, and you can’t trace where your money went. Once it’s gone, it’s gone.

If you get a call from someone threatening to shut off your utility service:

  • Make sure you’re dealing with your utility company before you pay any amount. Call the company using a number you’ve looked up. Or go to their website to determine the status of your account. Confirm where and how to pay your bill. Don’t give out your account information on the phone unless you place or expect the call.
  • Never wire money to someone you don’t know, regardless of the situation. Once you wire money, you cannot get it back.
  • Do not click links or call numbers that appear in unexpected emails or texts, especially those asking for your account information. If you click on a link, your computer could become infected with malware, including viruses that can steal your information and ruin your computer.
  • If you are falling behind on your utility bill, contact the utility company and see if they can work with you to come up with a payment plan and a way to keep your service on

If you think a fake utility bill collector or any other scammer has contacted you, file a complaint with the FTC and your state consumer protection agency.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit.* To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and find out how you can enroll today – as well as get started with your first 90 days free!**

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

**Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program.

Article Source: Lisa Lake – Consumer Education Specialist for the FTC, http://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/lights-out-fake-utility-bill-collectors

eBay Asks 145 Million Users to Change Passwords After Data Breach

alert-resized-600Online commerce giant, eBay, recently asked users to change their passwords after hackers stole encrypted passwords and other personal information, including names, e-mail addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.

The data breach occurred between late February and early March 2014, according to a press statement posted on the company’s website.

The company stated that Cyberattackers compromised a small number of employee log-in credentials, allowing unauthorized access to eBay’s corporate network. The company is currently working with law enforcement and security experts to investigate the breach and has not noticed any fraudulent activity related to the incident. eBay discovered the breach in early May, meaning it went unnoticed for about a month. The company spent a few weeks investigating the incident before disclosing it to the public.

Here’s what you need to know:

  • The company is asking all of its 145 million active users to change their passwords as a “precautionary measure,” but is not sure how many accounts were compromised in the breach.
  • No financial information, including credit card numbers, were stolen.
  • Paypal information was also safe because it was encrypted and stored on a different network.
  • Users that use their eBay password elsewhere should immediately go change that password on other sites – especially their e-mail.

It is important that users heed eBay’s request to change their passwords because the hackers may eventually be able to break the encryption that secures them.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored and you can try it FREE for 90 days!*

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!**

*Available for new enrollments only. After the free trial of 90 days, the member must contact the Credit Union to opt-out of ID Theft Protection or the monthly fee of $4.95 will automatically be deducted out of the base savings account or $8.95 will be deducted out of the First Protection Checking account (depending upon the coverage option selected), on a monthly basis or until the member opts out of the program. **Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Article source courtesy of Andrea Peterson of the Washington Post.

Learn How to Avoid Identity Theft at this FREE Seminar in June 2014

2282_identitytheftIdentity theft is the fasting growing crime in the United States and about 19 people per minute fall victim to identity theft.* First Financial encourages you to be cautious – especially when it comes to the Internet, and always be on the lookout for instances of online fraud. This free seminar will teach attendees about these important preventative measures.

Attending this seminar, you will learn:

  • The best way to safeguard your personal information
  • Common warning signs of identity theft
  • How you can defend yourself from identity theft
  • How to react if you suspect identity theft
  • Most common ways identity theft occurs

Join us on Tuesday, June 10th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar titled, How to Avoid Identity Theft, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Toms River branch located at 1360 Route 9 South, corner of Route 9 and 571. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

*Click here to view fact source.

4 Ways Scammers Can Steal Your Tax Refund

48d9f43eab68404d0dc0def19d14ba6dIdentity thieves LOVE tax season.

Any thief who has your personal information can easily file a tax return, collect the fraudulent refund and leave you waiting months to get your own refund back and clear up the issue. Unfortunately, it’s only getting worse – last year the IRS launched 1,492 investigations into tax-related identity theft, where criminals used stolen personal information like Social Security numbers to claim fraudulent refunds. That’s up 66% from 2012 and more than 200% from 2011.

Here are some of the ways scammers use to steal your identity and how to avoid becoming a victim.

1. Fake calls from the IRS. Last month, the IRS said a nationwide phone scam had swindled $1 million from consumers in what the agency called “the largest scam of its kind.” As part of the scheme, callers impersonating IRS agents told victims that they owed taxes and needed to pay by wire transfer or a prepaid card. Other scams are carried out through email, and ask for personal information like a Social Security number or birthdate — which can later be used to claim tax refunds.

To protect yourself, be wary of any correspondence from someone claiming to be from the IRS. The agency says it usually reaches out by mail, and it will never ask for personal information via email or phone. If you receive something questionable, reach out to the agency yourself and verify that it’s legitimate.

2. Rogue employees. Be careful about giving out your personal information. Don’t ever give away more personal information than you need to and don’t be hesitate to ask someone why they need any of your personal information.

Some tax preparers could potentially be a scam artist. To avoid being fooled, be wary of any preparers who charge fees based on the size of your refund and never let a preparer ask for the refund to be deposited into an account in their control rather than sent straight to you. To help you detect if you’ve been scammed, be sure to regularly monitor your bank accounts and credit card statements for any suspicious charges.

3. Data breaches. Data breaches occur when hackers break through a company’s privacy walls and access private customer information and scarily enough, it’s becoming increasingly common. Once that information is in a fraudster’s hands, it’s easy for them to file a tax return in your name. If you know or suspect that your information was compromised during a data breach, consider signing up for identity theft protection (see below) or start regularly monitoring your accounts on your own. Be sure to investigate any charges you don’t recognize, no matter how small they are.

Most of the time if someone has a stolen card, the thief will often test it with a small transaction first in order to see if the card is activated, to make a bigger purchase. And because there’s a good chance you will be more susceptible to identity theft after a data breach, make sure to strengthen your passwords utilizing at least 8 characters, including upper- and lower-case letters as well as numbers and special characters (!@#$%).

4. Snail mail. It’s not as common as online identity theft these days, but many fraudsters still use the old-school strategy of stealing mail from mailboxes to piece together the information they need to file a tax return in someone else’s name. Other times, thieves will go as extreme as dumpster diving – it’s a low-tech way to easily retrieve your information, so make sure you ALWAYS shred any personal documents.

Another easy way to protect yourself is to file early. Many scammers are able to get fraudulent refunds because they file before the victim does. If you file first, the IRS will be forced to investigate when a second return from the same person arrives.

LifeSizePennyDon’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!*

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Click here to view the article source by Blake Ellis of CNN Money.

Recent Data Breaches Should Be a Wake-Up Call for Your Finances

identity_theftIn terms of the recent data breaches, the data thieves were likely motivated by money. With credit and debit card information for tens of millions of cards, they could buy items with the credit cards and drain cash out of people’s accounts with the debit cards prior to being found out.

While, as a consumer, you won’t ultimately be held responsible for false charges on your account from a breach, that doesn’t guarantee you’ll be free from any effort associated with the losses. While your card company probably had fraud monitoring capabilities that blocked much of the thieves’ charging, if your account did get wrongly charged, you still have to make sure it gets cleaned up.

When Credit Beats Debit

Cases like these — in which people’s card information gets stolen and used for nefarious purposes — illustrates one way that credit cards clearly beat debit cards. If you were shopping with a credit card during a data breach, all it would likely take is one phone call to your card company to get the charges reversed and the card replaced. In some cases, card issuers have been proactively replacing cards that were used during the breach window.

If, on the other hand, you were shopping with a debit card, it gets a bit more challenging. You must contact the financial institution that issued your debit card within two days of noticing the theft, to be covered by its maximum guarantee. If the money came out of your checking account, your financial institution generally has 10 days to investigate the theft before deciding whether it has to refund the money.

That’s 10 days after you report that your cash is missing from your account. That’s potentially 10 days of bounced checks, late payments, overdraft fees, returned check fees and all the other personal headaches associated with not having your money in your account.

Still, Be Responsible With Credit

While credit cards are safer than debit cards when it comes to the fairly rare event of fraud, they can still be financially dangerous tools in everyday use. If you are going to use credit cards, be smart with them. Pay off your balance in full every month to avoid interest charges. You might even want to act like the money is coming directly out of your checking account as if it were a debit card by deducting it from your checkbook with each transaction. That way, you’ll know how much you really have available to spend on everything else to reduce your risk of overspending.

As recent data breaches remind us, our digitally interconnected world can be a dangerous place for you and your money. While you can’t eliminate all financial risk from your life, you can mitigate the damage by staying vigilant and on top of your spending — no matter how you spend your money.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out First Financial’s ID Theft Protection products – with our Fully Managed Identity Recovery services, you don’t need to worry. A professional Recovery Advocate will do the work on your behalf, based on a plan that you approve. Should you experience an Identity Theft incident, your Recovery Advocate will stick with you all along the way – and will be there for you until your good name is restored.

Our ID Theft Protection options may include some of the following services, based on the package you choose to enroll in: Lost Document Replacement, Credit Bureau Monitoring, Score Tracker, and Three-Generation Family Benefit. To learn more about our ID Theft Protection products, click here and enroll today!*

*Identity Theft insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informational purposes only and does not include all terms, conditions and exclusions of the policies described. Please refer to the actual policies for terms, conditions, and exclusions of coverage. Coverage may not be available in all jurisdictions.

Article Source: Chuck Saletta of The Daily Finance
http://www.dailyfinance.com/on/target-data-breach-wakeup-call-personal-finance/