330,000 Possibly Affected by IRS Data Breach

data breachA breach of an IRS computer database reported in May 2015 affected as many as 330,000 taxpayers, reports said Monday, August 17th.

Reports this past May said that thieves used stolen Social Security Numbers and other information in an effort to access prior-year tax return information for about 225,000 U.S. households. This included about 114,000 successful and 111,000 unsuccessful attempts, the report said.

The IRS has now said a review going back to November 2014 shows that another 390,000 taxpayers may have been affected, new reports say – including some 220,000 households for which prior-year return data may have been accessed and another 170,000 instances where there were attempts that failed to clear the authentication process.

The breaches involved use of an online application, “Get Transcript,” that allowed taxpayers to get prior-year return information, the reports said. This application has reportedly been shut down.

The IRS reportedly also noted that while just a few thousand of affected taxpayer accounts were targeted in efforts to defraud, it thinks hackers may be gathering data to use for fraudulent purposes during the 2016 tax-filing season.

If you suspect that your identity has been compromised, you can place a fraud alert on your credit file by calling any one of the three major credit reporting agencies shown below. A fraud alert is a notation on your credit file to warn credit issuers that there may be a problem. The credit issuer is asked to contact you at the telephone number that you supply to validate that you are the person applying for the credit. This is not the same as credit monitoring.

TransUnion: 1.800.916.8800

Experian: 1.888.397.3742    

Equifax: 1.800.685.1111

In accordance with the Fair Credit Reporting Act, it is permissible for consumers to request a free copy of their credit report once every 12 months from each of the three major credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Experian and Equifax).

To order a free credit report: 

Online: www.annualcreditreport.com or by Telephone: 1.877.322.8228

First Financial would like to remind our members that your accounts with us are monitored 24/7 by an experienced team of security professionals for any suspicious or potentially fraudulent activity. First Financial employs the most advanced fraud detection and prevention technology to guard members’ accounts against unauthorized access and use. If our security team observes any unusual activity on member accounts, we will contact members immediately to determine whether the transaction activity is legitimate and authorized.

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!**

We will continue to monitor all members’ accounts for suspicious activity. If you have any additional questions or concerns, please give us a call at 866.750.0100 or email us at info@firstffcu.com. Thank you for being a valued member of First Financial.

*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.

 

Learn How to Avoid ID Theft at This Free Seminar in May 2015

Identity Theft on Dark Digital Background.Identity 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 now even on your mobile phone, and always be on the lookout for instances of fraud. This free seminar will teach attendees about 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
  • The most common ways identity theft occurs

Join us on Thursday, May 7th at 6:00pm for our free consumer seminar, How to Avoid Identity Theft, presented by the experts at First Financial. The seminar will be held at our Neptune Branch located at 783 Wayside Road. We invite you to bring a guest but space is limited, so make sure you sign up today!

*Click here to view fact source.

Beware of Counterfeit Clothes and Scam Websites

womanshpgonlineDuring the holiday shopping season it’s important to know that there are scam artists out there who will try to take advantage of you. Be on your guard from a new influx of counterfeit clothes and scam websites. The internet has been a great asset to US clothing shoppers looking for good buys on the best brands. Unfortunately, it has also been a great asset to criminals dealing in counterfeit clothes they try to pass off as the real thing. While the illegal market in fake top brand clothing predates the World Wide Web, the Internet has opened up new avenues of opportunity for those dealing in counterfeit clothes.

The United States has seen a large rise in 2014 of scam websites that typically promise that popular and expensive items of clothing manufactured by the best known brands can be had at bargain prices. They often have fake web addresses that falsely give the impression that they are operating in the US, when in fact the website owners may be scammers operating out of other countries.

The quality of the clothes is often far below the standards set by the real manufacturers, with some websites operating with no actual inventory. Consumers order, their money is accepted, but they never receive anything at all.

The dealing in counterfeit clothes is not some small scale operation. The sums of money involved are huge, with some estimates putting the total take of larger scam websites at millions of dollars per year. The counterfeit clothes racket also ties into other criminal activities, such as banking fraud and identity theft. Once you give a criminal organization your credit card number, there are a wide array of illegal ways it can be used to rob you again.

Because the clothing scam websites are located overseas, it can be all but impossible to complain about poor quality, orders never received or seek relief in the United States legal system. Even reporting the scammers to the law enforcement agencies of the countries from which they operate will seldom bring any results. Sometimes action can be taken to deregister the scam sites so that others won’t get duped, but even this can be ineffective.

The market for counterfeit clothes is not confined to the United States. In Great Britain last year, hundreds of scam shopping websites were closed for selling fake designer clothing and jewelry. In Ireland, poorly made counterfeit clothing became so widespread that the European Consumer Centre made a special plea to consumers to be cautious when buying clothes online.

The center strongly advises “consumers to do comprehensive research on a trader when shopping on the Internet” a spokeswoman said. She continued to suggest that customer look for contact details, as any missing information is a red flag.

It’s also important to know what too look for with counterfeit products. Examine the product as closely as you can online, counterfeit designer goods often have logos that are fuzzy, misspelled, or otherwise off from the brand, something a high quality designer would never allow to ship. The stitching on counterfeit merchandise is often sloppy. If you can see the stitching without much effort, it is nearly guaranteed to be a fake.

Caution should always be used online, but becoming familiar with the genuine product and examining potential deals is one of the best ways to stay safe.

As counterfeit production becomes more elaborate, the proper tags do not necessarily mean a genuine product. As a result, many manufacturers of high quality clothing have taken extra steps to ensure their product stands out. Holographic logos and serial numbers are just a few methods that can ensure a legitimate purchase. Know the designer’s key marks and beware of products that lack them.

Be cautious of high fashion clothing being advertised at greatly reduced prices and only pay using a secure, refundable, method such as a credit card or a secure service such as PayPal.

Make sure you use online retailers that do provide genuine merchandise at a discount. In the end, you’re your own best advocate to prevent getting scammed. Use your common sense and know what you’re buying, and remember the old saying that “if it seems too good to be true, then it probably is.”

Protect yourself this holiday season and all year-round with First Financial’s ID Theft Protection! 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.

Original article source courtesy of Lori Kelley of SavingAdvice.com.

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