Credit Card Surcharge to Take Effect January 27, 2013

iStock_000017073811XSmall-300x199As a result of a recent court settlement between retailers and the credit card industry, merchants can now pass along their payment processing costs to consumers who pay with a credit cardbeginning January 27, 2013. Please be advised that merchants who choose to exercise this surcharge, sometimes referred to as a “checkout fee,” could subsequently increase your credit card purchase amount by as much as 4% (the maximum allowed).

Under the settlement:

  • The surcharge cannot exceed the amount that the merchant actually pays to accept credit cards – normally between 1.5% and 3% of the transaction amount.
  • Surcharges can be imposed on credit card transactions only, not on purchases made with debit cards or prepaid cards.
  • Merchants must disclose the credit card surcharge clearly – at the store entrance and the point of sale or on the homepage if the merchant does business on the Internet.
  • The disclosure must include the amount of the surcharge, the fact that the fee is being charged by the merchant, and that the fee does not exceed the merchant’s cost to accept credit cards.
  • The dollar amount of the surcharge must appear on the transaction receipt.

Merchants are not allowed to impose a credit card surcharge in California, Colorado, Connecticut, Florida, Kansas, Maine, Massachusetts, New York, Oklahoma or Texas, where such fees are prohibited under state law.

Visit the links below for more information on checkout fees:

To see our previous blog post on checkout fees, click here.


Warning: Beware of Spam E-Mails Being Sent to Postal Customers

alert-resized-600Some postal customers are receiving bogus e-mails about a package delivery or online postage charges. The e-mails contain a link or attachment that, when opened, installs a malicious virus that can steal personal information from your PC.

The e-mails claim to be from the U.S. Postal Service and contain fraudulent information about an attempted or intercepted package delivery or online postage charges. You are instructed to click on a link, open the attachment, or print the label. But Postal Inspectors warn: DON’T DO IT!

Like most viruses sent by e-mail, clicking on the link or opening the attachment will activate a virus that can steal information—such as your user name, password, and financial account information.

What to do? Simply delete the message without taking any further action. The Postal Inspection Service is working hard to resolve the issue and shut down the malicious program.

If you have questions about a delivery or wish to report spam, please call 1-800-ASK-USPS or e-mail


Warning: Hurricane Sandy Scam Tips

iWarningWATCH FOR SCAMS: First Financial, the U.S. Attorney Booth Goodwin, the FBI, and the National Center for Disaster Fraud urge those wanting to give money to assist with victims of Hurricane Sandy to use caution.

Before making a donation of any kind or providing any personal information, consumers should adhere to certain guidelines, including the following:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (spam) incoming emails, including clicking links contained within those messages, because they may contain computer viruses.
  • Do not give your personal or financial information to anyone who solicits contributions or claims to be from your bank and lost your information due to outages. Providing such information may compromise your identity and make you vulnerable to identity theft.
  • Be cautious of individuals representing themselves as victims or officials asking for donations via email or social networking sites.
  • Beware of organizations with copycat names similar to but not exactly the same as those of reputable charities.
  • Rather than following a purported link to a website, verify the existence and legitimacy of nonprofit organizations by using Internet-based resources.
  • Be cautious of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, because those files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders.
  • To ensure that contributions are received and used for intended purposes, make donations directly to known organizations rather than relying on others to make the donation on your behalf.
  • Do not be pressured into making contributions; reputable charities do not use coercive tactics.
  • Avoid cash donations if possible. For security and tax record purposes, contribute by check or credit card or another way that provides documentation of the gift. Also, do not make checks payable to individuals, make sure it is written out to the charity or organization.
  • Legitimate charities do not normally solicit donations via money transfer services.
  • Most legitimate charities maintain websites ending in .org rather than .com. Some are using names or websites that sound or look like those of respected, legitimate organizations. One way to verify they are legitimate is to check the IRS’s online information on exempt organizations and use the Exempt Organizations Select Check search feature or the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s website.

If you believe that you have been a victim of fraud by a person or organization soliciting relief funds on behalf of hurricane victims, or if you discover fraudulent disaster relief claims submitted by a person or organization, contact the NCDF by phone at 866-720-5721, fax at 225-334-4707 or email at You can also report suspicious e-mail solicitations or fraudulent websites to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at

In addition, if there has been any fraudulent activity on any of your First Financial accounts, please contact us immediately at 866.750.0100 or

Social Security Checks will go Paperless in 2013

Effective March 1, 2013, the Social Security Administration will no longer issue paper checks. You will need to complete these 3 steps before the above date - IT’S THE LAW!

Recipients of benefits will have to choose from the following 2 options:

  1. Direct Deposit: Your money will be sent directly to your First Financial bank account. You will need to have your account information on hand when you sign up.
  2. Direct Express® Debit MasterCard®: Your money will be posted to a prepaid debit card account on payment day.
Have the following information on hand:
  • Social Security number or claim number
  • 12-digit federal benefit check number
  • Amount of most recent federal benefit check
  • First Financial’s routing transit number – 231278339
  • Membership number
Then, visit any First Financial Branch or call us at 866.750.0100, go online to or you can also call 1-800-333-1795 Monday through Friday 8am to 8pm.

Alert: Credit Union Members Recruited as Money Mules

alert-resized-600What is a Money Mule you may ask? A Money Mule is a person who transfers stolen money or merchandise from one country to another, either in person, through a courier service, or electronically. The term is commonly used to describe online scams that prey on victims who are unaware that the money or merchandise they are transferring is stolen. As a precaution, First Financial wanted to alert our members that there have been several reports of credit union members across the country being recruited as Money Mules, and unknowingly assisting fraudsters in laundering stolen funds. We want you to be aware of this scheme and to report any suspicious activity to your local authorities immediately.

Alert Details

Money Mules unknowingly assist fraudsters in laundering stolen funds. The source of the stolen funds received by the Money Mules is often from account takeovers at other financial institutions through online banking systems.

Money Mules are most often recruited through bogus job offers for payment processors, financial managers, or overseas representatives. Fraudsters typically find their potential Money Mules by searching websites where job seekers post their resumes. A key consideration in accepting the position is the ability to work from home.

Upon accepting the job, the Money Mules are notified they will receive deposits to their accounts via ACH and/or wire transfer. In some cases, the money mules are instructed to open an account at a financial institution in order to receive the funds. The Mules are instructed to not share details of their new job with anyone. Upon receipt of the funds, the Mules are instructed to either wire the funds to an account at another financial institution (foreign and domestic) or send the funds to individuals via Western Union. The Money Mules keep a portion of the funds deposited to their accounts as wages.

The deposits made to the Money Mule accounts via ACH and/or wire transfer are actually stolen from deposit accounts at other financial institutions and investment accounts held at brokerage firms. Using sophisticated banking Trojans, such as Zeus, fraudsters steal the login credentials of online banking users and investors who access their investment accounts online. The fraudster logs into the account and transfers funds.

If you’ve fallen for the scam and become a Money Mule, here’s what has gone wrong:

  • You’re receiving stolen money. This may be through bogus sales from online auctions or the proceeds of phishing, where crooks have obtained victims’ bank details and are transferring their cash to your account (which is why they often want you to open an account at a particular bank — the same one as their victims).
  • It may even be cash from a crime that the crooks just want to get out of the country. Or someone just sends you a bogus check that you bank and then forward.
  • You’re taking a cut of the proceeds of crime and transferring the rest via an untraceable money wire to a crook.
  • You’ve given away your own personal information in that phony employment contract you signed, leaving yourself open to identity theft.

Although easy-money job offers sound so inviting, you do not want to become the real perpetrator of this crime. So here are some ways to make sure you DO NOT become a Money Mule:

  • First and foremost, money forwarding jobs like this don’t exist. Period. There is no law preventing global companies from directly transferring money from one country to another.
  • Never accept payments from anyone and then transfer part of the proceeds by money wire.
  • Don’t open a new bank account to receive money from people you don’t know.
  • Scrutinize the name of the company offering employment. Go to a site and check out when the website was registered. If it’s a scam, it’ll probably be within the prior 28 days.
  • Check the advertisement or e-mail for poor language and grammar.

Please contact our Member Service Center at 866.750.0100 if you suspect any fraudulent activity on one of your First Financial accounts.

Contributing Article:


Warning: Phony Sweepstakes Scam Using FTC’s Name

iWarning“Hi, I’m calling from the Federal Trade Commission to tell you that you have won $250,000…”

If you receive a phone call like this, you are most likely being targeted as a potential victim of a scam. Reports of someone claiming to be from the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) have surfaced, so be aware not to fall victim.  The scammers in this situation pretend to be from the Federal Trade Commission, possibly even using the name of an actual FTC employee, and ask you to pay “taxes” or “insurance” in order to claim your prize, either by wiring money or sending a check.

TelemarketedIf you receive any sort of calls like this,DO NOT send any money, and report the incident to the FTC  The FTC is the nation’s consumer protection agency and they investigate fraud and provide free information.  The FTC will never ask you to send them money, and neither will a legitimate sweepstakes company.

Take the following precautions to prevent yourself from falling victim to any type of sweepstakes scam:

Don’t pay to collect winnings.  If a company makes you pay to collect your sweepstakes winnings, you aren’t dealing with a legitimate company and may end up never seeing that money again.  Legitimate sweepstakes companies will never ask you to pay “taxes,” “insurance,” or “shipping and handling” on your winnings.

Hold on to your money.  When scammers act, they will try to pressure you into wiring money through commercial money wiring companies such as Western Union.  Wiring money is essentially the same as sending cash, so if you do fall victim, there is very little chance of recovering your money.  Also don’t mail a check or money order, especially by way of any sort of high speed shipping.  This allows the scammers to receive the money before you realize the scam.

Beware of look-alikes.  It is illegal for anyone to lie about an affiliation with or endorsement by a government agency or other well known organization.  Sometimes scammers may use a similar name to trick you into trusting them, but remember, insurance companies will never insure delivery of sweepstakes winnings.

Phone numbers can be deceptive.  Internet technology exists that allows con artists to disguise their area code.  Although it may appear that your caller is contacting you from Washington DC, they could in fact be calling you from anywhere in the world.

Alert the FTC! If somebody tries to impersonate a government agency to try and take your money, be sure to file a complaint at or call 1-877-FTC-HELP.  When you do this make sure you provide as many details as possible.  Your complaint is more helpful if it includes information such as the time of the call, the phone number, name of the person or organization who called, which FTC employee name(s) were used, requested amount and method of money to be sent, or any other details.

We urge you to constantly be on the lookout for scammers and to always protect your personal and account information. Do not hesitate to call our Member Service Center at 866.750.0100 or stop into one of our branches if you suspect any fraudulent activity on your First Financial accounts.