8 Ways to Protect Your Identity While Shopping Online

Concept of mobile shoppingAs we move into the most frenzied shopping season of the year, scam artists will be on the prowl for vulnerable shoppers. To avoid becoming a victim, consider taking steps now to keep your financial accounts and personal information safe.

1. Skip attachments and hyperlinks. Even attachments from people you know can be nefarious, since those acquaintances could be infected with a computer virus. If the email contains unusual or scant wording, don’t open the attachment. The same logic applies to hyperlinks in emails (or requests for information received over text message). First hover over the link to make sure it’s going to direct you to a valid address.

2. Don’t make purchases over coffee shop lattes. Any public Wi-Fi connection, such as those offered at coffee shops or libraries, carry extra risks, since they aren’t private. Try to avoid shopping online or engaging in any financial transactions, like logging into your bank account, from such hot spots.

3. Protect your smartphone. Web browsers and retailer apps on mobile devices make it easy to shop on the go, but doing so can also expose shoppers to extra risks since many phones don’t have the same kind of data encryption that’s often installed on computers. Even taking a relatively simple step, like enabling the password lock feature on your phone, will make it harder for a thief to access private data stored on the phone in case it’s lost or stolen. The computer security company McAfee also warns against downloading apps that might steal personal information.

4. Don’t trust your “friends.” Hackers target social media, including Facebook and Twitter, because they know it’s easier to get people to click on a link that appears to be recommended from a friend. McAfee has identified dozens of examples, including free dinner offers at Cheesecake Factory and fake mystery shopper invitations. Offers that sound too good to be true, such as free iPads or free iPhones, are also a common lure. The company cautions against clicking on fake alerts from friends, who may have been hacked themselves, and avoiding shortened links on Twitter that claim to offer deals.

5. Open e-cards with caution. They can be cute, but they can also be malicious. McAfee warns that some e-cards download viruses onto your computer when you download them. To avoid that outcome, the company suggests only opening e-cards from domain names that you recognize.

6. Upgrade your passwords. The holiday season can serve as a good reminder to give your passwords a makeover; security experts recommend changing them regularly as a precaution against hackers. Avoid common and simple words, use long combinations of words that also incorporate numbers or symbols, and never use duplicate passwords for multiple accounts. Sites that offer two-step authentication, such as Twitter and Gmail, can also add another layer of protection.

7. Check up on an e-retailer before making purchases. Some fly-by-night operations take advantage of the uptick in shopping around the holiday season to collect cash without ever mailing out the goods in return, warns the Better Business Bureau. The same applies to in-person exchanges on Craigslist or other online sites. To protect yourself, the bureau recommends never wiring money or paying in advance, and bringing a friend to any in-person exchanges.

8. Review your statements. The first sign of identity theft is often an unfamiliar charge on a credit card or bank statement; reviewing those statements carefully and contacting your financial institution or card provider with any concerns can prevent a theft from expanding. Credit cards usually come with some measure of automatic protection, as long as you report the scam relatively quickly.

Following these tips might leave you feeling overly cynical about the world, but the real downer would be dealing with a stolen identity just as the holiday season is heating up.

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!**

Article Source: Kimberly Palmer for US News – Money, Http://money.usnews.com/money/personal-finance/articles/2014/09/16/8-ways-to-protect-your-identity-while-online-shopping

*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.

8 Steps to Protect Against Credit Card Fraud

Secure purchasesIn light of recent retailer data breaches and with credit and debit card fraud becoming more frequent, be sure to read and follow these 8 steps to protect yourself and your identity from being stolen.

1. Be sure to get a new replacement credit or debit card if yours was compromised. If you suspect fraudulent transactions on your card and your financial institution hasn’t contacted you or provided you with a replacement card – be sure to call and request one.

2. Check your bank account register and credit card activity online to see whether your card was used at Home Depot or at any other place that was recently hacked. Don’t wait for your print statement to come in the mail; check the latest account activity digitally by signing up for online access to your account information or by using a mobile banking app. Also watch out for changes to your debit card PIN.

3. Be alert for post-breach phishing attempts. Hackers don’t always get everything they need to break into your accounts, so they will typically send you e-mails or even call on the phone and pose as your bank or card issuer to try to trick you into giving up the missing pieces, including mother’s maiden name, account username and password, date of birth, and Social Security Number. Do not give this information out – your bank will never call, text, or email you for the information you already provided when you opened your account.

4. Lock down your credit report with a security freeze, which essentially shuts off access to your credit history by new would-be lenders. If a hacker applies for a loan in your name, the creditor is less likely to approve it if he or she can’t see your credit file. Freezes are typically free for victims of identity theft, which you are if you paid with plastic at Home Depot between April and September of this year.

5. Get as many as 18 free credit reports per year so you can regularly monitor them and keep an eye out for fraudulent new accounts. You can get three free credit reports (one from each credit bureau) from annualcreditreport.com and three more in many states that also mandate free annual reports.

You’re also entitled to a free credit report from each bureau after you file a 90-day fraud alert, which you should do every 90 days if you’ve been a victim of the Home Depot or other data breach, or have a good-faith suspicion that you’re about to become a victim of identity fraud.

6. Ask merchants big or small if they’re PCI-DSS compliant. If they don’t know or have not even heard of this most basic of data security measures, pay with a credit card, rather than debit card, because fraud theft from your checking account/debit card can set off a cascade of headaches, including penalty fees for bounced checks or insufficient funds.

7. Change your passwords regularly on your various financial accounts and use strong passwords to thwart hackers and protect yourself online.

8. Don’t panic, but take the breach threat seriously, because this problem is now a fact of life until the big payment card brands, banks, and retailers improve the security of payment processing systems in the U.S.

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: Jeff Blyskal for Fox Business, http://www.foxbusiness.com/personal-finance/2014/09/23/steps-to-protect-against-credit-card-fraud/

 

Will Paying Off My Car Loan Help My Credit Score?

Credit-Score-325x222There are a lot of different kinds of credit out there. One of the most common forms is the auto loan. Though we are all itching to pay off our long-term debts and own something free and clear, there are a few precautions to know about before racing to get that statement to read zero.

To determine if paying off your car loan will help your credit score, it is important to understand several factors that go into your credit score.

Multiple facets of FICO

First, it’s important to understand the components that make up your FICO credit score. There are five key elements that are used to makeup that all-important number:

  • 35% of your score is weighted toward your payment history
  • 30% is weighted toward the amounts owed on your credit cards
  • 15% is devoted to length of credit history
  • 10% is generated by new credit
  • 10% comes from types of credit used.

The relative importance of each category depends on the consumer themselves.

If you have an auto loan that you’ve been diligent about paying, you’ve benefitted from that 35% devoted to payment history. By paying it down, you are also contributing to that 30% element of amount owed, since theoretically you are decreasing your credit utilization rate. However, if you’ve been increasing the balance on other forms of credit, that may cancel out some of that good behavior.

If you have a 3 to 5 year car loan, you also have length of credit history going for you. The new credit category doesn’t really apply in this scenario.

Did you know First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection program not only protects you and your family members from ID Theft, but it also monitors its users’ credit reports? When you enroll in ID Theft Protection with First Financial, your credit report is monitored continuously for new or suspicious activity. If new activity occurs, an alert is sent via email and text message, allowing you to confirm whether or not the activity is fraudulent. To enroll in our ID Theft Protection services, stop into any First Financial branch or call 866.750.0100.*

Types of Credit

But what’s interesting is the 10% weighted to types of credit used. On a positive note, a car loan alters the types of credit you have, assuming you have things like credit cards or even a mortgage.  However, if you pay it off, you may eliminate this type of installment loan as a type of credit used (this is a very different type of credit than a credit card).

Your ability to pay installment accounts, in addition to others, demonstrates that you are responsible and diligent enough to plan your finances around all these different types of credit.

The Biggest Factor

Weighing against all this, however, is a large factor that requires you to look more holistically at your credit lifestyle. A general rule of thumb is that if you can pay off a debt of any kind, in full, do so (with the exception of a mortgage).

If you have a great deal of debt, we also have a free, anonymous online debt management tool called 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.

*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 courtesy of Nerd Wallet Online

1 in 14 Fell Prey to Identity Theft in 2012

identity-theftThe government says 1 out of every 14 Americans age 16 or older was a target or a victim of identity theft, a crime imposing a heavy emotional toll on many of its victims in 2012.

According to a national household survey of 70,000 people issued by the Bureau of Justice Statistics, identity theft resulted in $24.7 billion in financial losses last year.

The crime affected 16.6 million people and fell most heavily on households with annual incomes of $75,000 or more. In that income bracket, 10 percent of such households were victimized. The survey counted both attempted and successful incidents of identity theft.

Two-thirds of identity theft victims experienced financial losses, which averaged $1,769.

For many victims, the size of the loss was eclipsed by concerns that someone had stolen their identity and that it might take weeks or months to repair the damage.

Among victims who spent six months or more resolving financial and credit problems stemming from identity theft, 47 percent experienced severe emotional distress, compared with 4 percent who spent a day or less resolving problems.

Victims experienced a wide range of issues having to do with credit, banking, debt collectors, even cutoffs in utility service. In general, victims whose personal information, such as a Social Security number, was misused were more likely to experience financial, legal or other difficulties, according to the bureau.

Ten percent of victims spent more than a month clearing up associated problems. A majority spent a day or less. Victims whose personal information was used to open a new account or for other fraudulent purposes spent an average of about 30 hours resolving problems. Victims of existing credit card account misuse spent an average of three hours resolving problems.

According to the report, 1 in 10 identity theft victims reported the incident to police, while 9 in 10 victims contacted a credit card company or financial institution to report misuse or attempted misuse of an account or personal information.

“What we’re seeing here is the exponential growth of information technology, and with that comes the ability to be hacked,” said Jim Bueermann, president of the Police Foundation, a research organization.

Bueermann said that “at one point in the past, people lived in places where they didn’t lock their doors.”

“Over time, they started to lock them,” he said. “We’ll come to the same place in our digital life, hopefully sooner.”

Less than 10 percent of victims bought identity theft protection or used an identity theft security program on their computer after being victimized, according to the survey. Of people interviewed in the survey, 85 percent took one or more preventative actions such as changing passwords on financial accounts or examining bank or credit statements.

Theft involving existing credit cards and bank accounts made up for the vast majority of the 16.6 million victims. Some 7.7 million victims reported the fraudulent use of a credit card, and 7.5 million reported the fraudulent use of a bank account such as a debit card, checking account or savings.

 

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Check out our ID Theft Protection products – with Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, 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 new 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.

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*Article by Pete Yost of ABC News. Click here to view the article source.

5 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Identity Theft

WideModern_IdentityTheftComposite_121813620x413In 2012, 16.6 million people fell victim, amounting to financial losses of $24.7 billion

We’re all experts on identity theft.

Not by choice – but live your life, and it’s hard not to pick up something on the topic. And odds are, you or a friend or family member has been a victim. According to a 2012 U.S. Bureau of Justice Statistics survey of 70,000 people, 1 out of every 14 Americans ages 16 or older has been a target or a victim of identity theft. Last year, 16.6 million people fell victim to the crime, which resulted in financial losses of $24.7 billion, paid by consumers, companies and credit card companies.

So in the interest of protecting yourself and learning even more about identity theft, here are some things you probably didn’t know.

Military members are particularly at risk. Military veterans file more complaints about identity theft than any other group, according to Scott Higgins, CEO and founder of Veterans Advantage, a national program that partners with corporations, offering discounts on various goods and services. The Federal Trade Commission even designated July 17 as Military Consumer Protection Day to help educate the military about the dangers of identity theft.

What is it about being in the military that makes members such prime targets? Higgins says servicemen and women are conditioned to provide whatever personal information is asked of them throughout their service. “Unfortunately, this ‘conditioning’ often stays with them beyond their careers, leaving them susceptible to both ID theft and data grabbers who bird-dog veterans – offering a small perk and then selling their personal data wherever they can make the biggest buck.”

Medical identity theft is becoming a problem. Just because someone isn’t using your credit card illegally doesn’t mean you’re safe from identity theft. Someone could be using your name to get free medical services at a clinic or hospital, “possibly sticking you with the bill,” says Van Zimmerman, compliance and solutions architect at DataMotion, an email encryption and health information service provider in Morristown, N.J.

According to the Ponemon Institute, a research center devoted to privacy, data protection and information security policy, medical identity theft has increased 20 percent within the past year, and almost two million Americans have fallen victim. How does it happen? A thief with access to your personal information can create a fake ID with your name on it, and suddenly they’re you – at least as far as a hospital or doctor’s office staff knows.

Unfortunately, there isn’t much you can do to avoid this since, as Zimmerman says, so many of consumers’ medical files are managed by third parties. But it may give you yet another reason to be careful when it comes to giving out personal information.

Identity theft via computer games is a growing trend. According to Rob D’Ovidio, an associate professor of criminal justice at Drexel University in Philadelphia, video game accounts “are increasingly coming to the attention of identity thieves as they realize that these accounts hold real-world monetary value. Trends in phishing show attacks against financial services, online payments services and online auction brands decreasing, while attacks against video game and social networking brands are increasing.”

Phishing, in case you’re not aware, occurs when scammers construct a fake website with the goal of luring consumers to provide their personal and financial information. For instance, an email hits a gamer’s inbox, stating there is a problem with their account information. The gamer clicks on the link and provides information to the scammer posing as the legitimate service. Or a consumer might receive an instant message, seemingly from a friend, with a link to a gaming website – but clicking on the link brings malware, a type of software that can disrupt your computer or steal your personal information.

D’Ovidio says criminals who manage to access video game accounts through phishing and other methods can also steal virtual money and virtual goods and sell them for real-life dollars. “As well, video game and video game console community accounts are, at times, tied to the account holder’s or their parents’ credit card,” D’Ovidio says.

Click here to view our previous blog post on “Record Breaking Phishing Attack Attempts.”

Search engine poisoning is more popular than ever. “Identity thieves are increasingly using a technique known as search engine poisoning to manipulate the results that show up and bend reality,” says Hugh Thompson, a Columbia University computer science professor and the program committee chair of RSA Conference, an annual information security conference.

Thompson says identity thieves, hackers and attackers can manipulate search engines so that their fake websites “appear higher in the search results than the real thing.”

Then, if it works, you’ve just been phished. Fortunately, there are ways you can spot a fake, and some of them are pretty obvious. If there are a lot of grammatical errors on the site, for example, that may be a danger sign. Many of the rules in the next section can help you realize you’re about to be had.

Criminals like to put fake Wi-Fi hotspots up at public Wi-Fi hotspots. If you go to a hotel or airport and log onto the official Wi-Fi hotspot, generally speaking, you’re perfectly safe. The problem is that you may wind up logging onto a fake Wi-Fi hotspot that simply looks like it belongs to your hotel or the airport, says Thomas Way, associate professor of computing sciences at Villanova University in Villanova, Pa.

He says there’s no sure-fire way to identify a criminal’s hotspot, but there are red flags to look for. First, look for the SSID (service set identification), the “name you see in the list of hotspots, and see if it is the one that the hotel, airport, et cetera, has told you to use,” Way says. “Second, when you get the typical approval page, where you usually click on a button or checkbox to agree to the terms of use, you should never have to enter identifying information, only, at most, a hotel room number and last name. If it asks for more, don’t do it.”

Way adds that just to be safe, look at the URL of the first page. “It should match whatever the page claims to be,” he says. “If it is a hotspot provided by the hotel, it should either be the hotel Web address or it should match the company that is providing the hotspot. If it is a spoof page, it’ll be noticeably different.”

Despite all the talk about online identity theft, you still need to watch your wallet. According to Phrantceena Halres, CEO of Total Protection Services Global, a Charlotte, N.C.-based security services company, only a fraction of identity theft cases are related to online fraud. “The majority is made up of stolen credit cards, checkbooks and wallets,” she says.

That’s because plenty of criminals aren’t computer geniuses. Most of them are hoping you’ve been careless enough to leave your wallet, filled with cash and credit cards, lying on the passenger seat of your unlocked car.

Are you aware of our latest ID Theft Protection Services? First Financial’s latest ID Theft Protection products can easily be set up, there are options for setting up a credit score tracker, as well as a virtual vault to store your important documents and passwords online, and should an ID Theft incident occur – you’ve got an advocate on your side assisting you every step of the way. Ask us how to get started today!*

*Article by  of USNews. Click here to view the article source.

*Identity Theft Insurance underwritten by subsidiaries or affiliates of Chartis Inc. The description herein is a summary and intended for informal 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.

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Protecting Yourself From Holiday Fraudsters

HolidayMailTheftThe holiday season is here and you’re beginning to spend your hard-earned money while shopping online, by phone, or in stores—and fraudsters are on the prowl, ready to steal your cash and personal information. Don’t let these criminals get away with ruining your financial security.

We encourage you to protect yourself against fraud now before it’s too late. Below are some easy strategies you can use to help better detect and avoid falling victim to fraud and identity theft.

  • Review Credit Reports at Least Once a Year. This will help ensure fraudulent accounts have not been opened using your personal information. Additionally, the Fair Credit Reporting Act entitles consumers to a free credit report once a year from each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies. You can receive your report by contacting the credit reporting agencies directly or by visiting www.annualcreditreport.com.
  • Shred Documents with Personal and Financial Information. Financial statements, credit card offers and billing statements are examples of documents you should be shredding. Consider going to a local shred day in your area so you can safely discard your personal and financial records.
  • Monitor Financial Statements and Online Banking Regularly. You should get into the routine of checking your statements and periodically reviewing your account transactions and online activities. This will help identify unauthorized account activities early, preventing potential losses to your personal accounts.
  • Ensure Children Understand What Information to Provide Online. Fraudsters will often use a game or a free offer that will request personal information, or will include spyware to track and steal information from your computer or mobile device. Protect yourself by encouraging your children to limit online contact to friends they actually know, setting privacy controls to restrict access to private information, and enabling parental controls that allow access to only trusted sites. It is also a good idea to talk to your children about not giving out their name, address, date of birth, or any other personal information online without talking to you first.
  • Beware of Downloading Sneaky Apps. Smartphone or social networking applications may provide application developers with access to your personal information, such as messages, contacts, emails and photos. Often, this information isn’t related to the application’s purpose. Instead developers may share the information with marketers or other third parties. Be sure to read the privacy policy of each application before downloading to understand what private information you’re sharing.
  • Look Out for Scams Involving Social Engineering. Fraudsters may impersonate a credit union (or other legitimate organizations) to trick you into giving out personal account information. This social engineering tactic is often utilized as part of an elaborate scheme involving phone calls, emails, text messages and other forms of communication. Keep in mind that you should never reply to unsolicited telephone, email, text or pop-up messages asking for personal account information. It is important to understand legitimate organizations never ask for sensitive information over unsecured communication channels. Click here to view some important articles with tips and advice about how you can protect yourself from fraud. Remember, a fraudster’s greatest advantage is your lack of knowledge and awareness – so get educated!
Check out our ID Theft Protection products – with Fully Managed Identity Recovery services from First Financial, 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 new 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.

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