How to Prevent Person-to-Person Payment Scams

Person-to-person (P2P) payment options have certainly made paying back borrowed money to friends and family very convenient. From going out to eat and splitting the tab, to chipping in for a gift, or paying a trusted contact for a service – P2P payment services have made our lives quick and easy. However, if you are a user of a P2P payment service such as Zelle, Square Cash, PayPal, Venmo, Facebook Payments, Google Wallet, Apple Pay, Payzur, and the like – buyer beware.

Continue reading to ensure you know how to spot a P2P payment scam so that you don’t fall victim to this type of fraud. P2P scams are extremely serious, because the victim unfortunately usually is not protected from money lost and fraudulent access to their account(s).

Why are victims of P2P scams usually not protected?

Due to the fact that P2P transactions are consumer initiated, there is not much protection when a fraudulent transaction occurs – because technically the consumer authorized the transaction. Whether it’s the actual consumer or a fraudster who initiated the payment service transfer, there really is no way to prove it. In addition, user error is often not covered either. Most P2P apps have user agreements prior to first time use, where the user agrees when money is sent through the app – any losses are on the user, since they authorized a transaction.

Recently, Zelle’s P2P service added a measure to help prevent users from sending money to the wrong person. Zelle now includes a pop-up warning if a user is trying to send money to someone who is not in their contacts, which makes them think twice before allowing the funds to leave their account.

How does a P2P scam work?

A P2P scam is basically an account takeover scam. Fraudsters will send text messages to an unsuspecting consumer, appearing as if the message is coming from the individual’s financial institution.

  • The text will usually appear to come from the individual’s financial institution (aka: spoofing) and will warn them of suspicious debit card activity.
  • For those who respond to this fraudulent text, the fraudster will call that consumer also spoofing the financial institution’s phone number – and claim they are from the bank’s fraud department and would like to verify a suspicious transaction.
  • The fraudster will then try to get the unsuspecting consumer to verify their identity, and let them know a passcode will be sent via text message – and that the consumer must provide the passcode over the phone.
  • Once the fraudster has that passcode, they’ll attempt a transaction that triggers another two-step authentication passcode (such as forgot password so they can reset the consumer’s password, or they’ll try to initiate a P2P transaction).
  • The fraudster now has access to all of the consumer’s accounts within Online Banking, as well as access to their P2P payment service if one is provided through the bank (such as Zelle) – and will begin using P2P payments to transfer money to themselves.

And unfortunately, there is not much that can be done once this happens – because it appears that the consumer approved the P2P transfer. Since the fraudster spoofed the financial institution phone number, they more than likely won’t be caught either – once it’s recognized that a scam occurred.

How can I make sure I don’t become a P2P scam victim?

  • Only send money to people you actually know. P2P transactions are instantaneous (meaning they happen within seconds) and are often irreversible.
  • Get all of your recipient’s details prior to initiating a P2P payment. Before you press “send” or “pay,” be sure you have the correct user name, phone number, photo, or other identifier. If you incorrectly enter a recipient’s email or phone number, the money could go to the wrong person and you may not get it back. Some P2P services offer the option of receiving a special code to confirm that the person you’re sending money to is your intended recipient. If this feature is available – use it.
  • Confirm you know how to get help if something goes wrong. Before using a P2P service, search the app for procedures and customer service contacts. Know who to reach out to if you have a problem.
  • Keep your app updated. Hackers usually look to exploit vulnerabilities. If your software is not up to date, you’re missing out on protections. Be sure automatic updates are turned on so you know you’re covered.

While P2P services are a useful and convenient way to pay those you know without having to go to the ATM or get change – it’s important to also be aware of the risks and ways to avoid fraud while using them.

Always remember that your legitimate financial institution will never ask you for your login credentials, passcodes, or user name. If you have additional questions or concerns about P2P payment services or have been a victim of a P2P scam in relation to a First Financial account, please give us a call at 732.312.1500 or email us at info@firstffcu.com.

Article Sources:

CUNA Mutual Group 2019 Peer-to-Peer Payments Risk Overview

CUNA Mutual Group Risk Alert – Sophisticated Scams Lead to P2P Fraud (May 12, 2020)

Better Ways to Use Your Tax Refund

According to the IRS, the average tax refund is $2,893. Add that amount to any stimulus checks you’ve received, and there could be quite a bit of money currently in your bank account. What’s the best way to handle all this cash? While you might be tempted to go off on a shopping spree, it’s probably a better idea to hold onto your check as long as you can. Here are some better uses for your tax refund.

Pay Down Debt. You might want to put your tax refund toward paying down any outstanding debt you have. Making a large payment can not only significantly reduce the amount you owe, but can also be a motivating factor for continuing to pay off your debt more quickly. Focus on paying off the highest interest debt first, or the one with the lowest balance – depending on whichever method you prefer. Credit card debt is the kind of debt typically with the highest interest and the one you don’t really want lingering, so it’s usually best to pay off credit card debt first. Then continue attacking your other debt with any extra money.

Add to Your Emergency Fund. If you don’t have an emergency fund, you should start one as soon as possible using your tax refund or stimulus payments. An emergency fund can help you prepare for unexpected expenses, as well as keep you on a better financial path. It can be hard to contribute to an emergency fund on a regular basis without a large boost. Think about putting a significant portion of your tax refund away for this purpose.

Save for Retirement. If you really don’t have any debt and already have an emergency fund, you might want to think about using these extra funds for your future retirement. The earlier you start saving, the more it will add up over time. One way to do this is with a Roth IRA. You’ll get tax benefits and continue to save for years to come. If you have questions about opening a Roth IRA, contact the Investment & Retirement Center located at First Financial.*

Contribute to a Travel Fund. Traveling can be expensive, but an extra lump sum of money can help you save up for that trip you’ve been dreaming about. Open a separate savings account dedicated to your travel fund only. Deposit your tax refund into that account and then continue to contribute even a small amount each time you get paid, to this account and watch it grow.

Spend it on Something You’ve Always Wanted. If you have extra money available, sometimes you might want to reward yourself for all your hard work over the past year and enjoy it now – instead of waiting until much later. For example, maybe you’ve been wanting to purchase a bike to ride around town in the nice weather and for some fresh air, or perhaps you’ve been wanting to take a class but just didn’t have the extra money laying around. It’s okay to use some of these funds on yourself for your own personal mental health and growth. Plus if you have the cost covered, you won’t be going into debt for it either.

Home Upgrades. Maintaining your home or upgrading your living space is usually something that gets pushed to the bottom of the spending list. If you have extra money and have been thinking about upgrading your backyard outdoor space, buying new furniture, or finally getting that energy efficient appliance – this may be a great way to use your tax refund.

Be sure you’re spending and saving your tax refund and any stimulus money you’ve received wisely!

*Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Non-deposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source: MoneyNing.com

3 Reasons Not to Pay Off Your Loan Early

You may hear acclaimed financial experts talk about the benefits of paying off your loan early, and what they say is right…mostly. However, are there circumstances when paying a loan off early could be more hurtful than helpful?

Let’s take a look.

While paying loans off early can have some benefits like freedom from debt and money saved in interest, there are times when paying a loan off early isn’t to your benefit.

Here are three instances when it benefits you to keep a loan and put your extra funds somewhere else:

1. You waited too long. Maybe paying off your loan early would have been a good idea … years ago. Some loans (your mortgage for example) have you paying the largest chunk of the interest in the early years of the loan. If you’re many years into your mortgage, while you might choose to pay off the loan a little early – you’re not really going to see the great financial benefits of paying extra each month toward the end of the loan.

2. You’re not financially prepared. Paying off debt should not come at the expense of larger goals – such as saving for retirement, making investments, or funding college for your kids. Even more important is growing (or replenishing) your emergency savings. Too often people pay off debt, only to have an unexpected expense come up soon after and have to take out another loan to cover those expenses.

3. You could be penalized. If your loan is subject to pre-payment penalties, you’ll be charged a fee if you pay it off early. Not all loans come with pre-payment penalties and even if yours does, the penalties vary depending on the loan and the lender. Be sure to check your loan documents and terms to make sure that the loan you want to pay off is not subject to pre-payment penalties first.

Wondering if paying off your loans is the best use of your money? Just ask! We’ll be happy to review your credit report, help you do the math, and layout the options that will most benefit you.

Tips for Buying a Home in the Current Housing Market

If you are currently in the market for a home, you are probably well aware that the nationwide housing inventory is at a record low, and the shortage is causing a problem for many prospective buyers. The current market can even create problems for sellers, because sellers still need to live somewhere after they sell their home. Between bidding wars, cash purchases, and low available inventory – here are a few strategies to help you navigate the current housing market.

Know where you stand. Being aware of your credit score, borrowing power, and housing budget is the key to security in today’s market. Sit down with your lender, financial planner, or real estate agent to talk about realistically, what can you afford. It’s especially important to know exactly how high you can go in a bidding war, because homes are often selling above value and at record speed.

Get expert advice. A real estate agent familiar with the current housing market conditions can advise you when homes you’re looking at are priced too high, and provide tips and leads you normally wouldn’t be able to get on your own. Agents who are familiar with your target neighborhood may know of possible pocket listings too – homeowners who may want to sell without putting their house on the market. In these instances, you may be able to get a home before the competition ever finds out.

Be first in line. The competition is definitely heating up these days. If you want a home badly enough, you’ll have to be ready to put in an offer as soon as the home is listed. Even if the seller decides to let the public bid on their home, if you’re prepared – you’ll get a chance to tour the home as soon as it’s listed if your buyer’s agent is active in the local area, and be one of the first bids in.

Get pre-qualified by your lender before you shop. Having pre-qualification paperwork to present when you place your offer is impressive to a seller and will get you a step ahead of the process in normal market conditions. In today’s market, having proof that you can afford the home you are bidding on is the bare minimum. Right now being pre-approved for a certain amount is very important in terms of competing offers. You’ll also want to be sure you can provide proof of where the down payment is coming from too.

Show that you want it, but don’t get too caught up in a bidding war. It’s tempting to keep placing higher counter offers if you’re outbid on a house that you love, but don’t let your emotions get the best of you. Stick to your budget and it’s okay to bow out if bids increase drastically above value. You can also send a letter to the owner as well. This tactic frequently works. Sellers are often emotionally attached to their homes and memories they’ve made in it, so it may help your offer get selected by letting them know just how much the home would mean to you and your family.

In the end, you may just have to be patient and try not to get discouraged. You don’t want to get stuck with a mortgage you can’t afford either, and eventually – the housing market will normalize again. When that does happen, you’ll be happy you held out for a home you could comfortably afford.

When you’re ready to take that leap – come talk to First Financial. Take advantage of our great mortgage and refinance rates, easy application process, and we’ll help you get pre-qualified before you shop.* Give our lenders a call, they’ll be happy to answer your questions with no commitment required!

*Subject to credit approval. Credit worthiness determines your APR. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history and are for qualified borrowers. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. Higher rates may apply depending on terms of loan and credit worthiness. Available on primary residence only. The Interest Rates, Annual Percentage Rate (APR), and fees are based on current market rates, are for informational purposes only. Mortgage insurance may be required depending on loan guidelines. This is not a credit decision or a commitment to lend. If mortgage insurance is required, the mortgage insurance premium could increase the APR and the monthly mortgage payment. See Credit Union for details. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a mortgage and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: Moneyning.com

Spring 2021 Newsletter

It’s one of the most beautiful times of the year, and we hope all our members are staying safe and healthy as we enjoy the Spring Season. Below is a digital copy of our Spring 2021 Quarterly Member Newsletter!

In a continued effort to go green, we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website, and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches.

The Spring Newsletter features the following articles:

 To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Happy Spring!

4 Ways to Teach Your Kids About Money

Mother’s Day is this upcoming weekend (Happy Mother’s Day to all our First Scoop reading Moms!), and in thinking about this important holiday and all you’ve taught your children in life up to this point – here are a few significant pointers you can teach them about their future finances.

  1. Let your kids earn some money. It’s rather difficult to teach your children about money if they don’t physically have any. Though just giving it to them without explaining the value of earning money based on hard work, won’t teach them anything either. Instead, give them some responsibilities around the house (taking out or walking the dog, age appropriate chores, etc.) and provide them with a weekly or bi-weekly allowance so they will know that money needs to be earned through consistent work.
  2. Teach your kids to save money. If your kids just spend their allowance on whatever they want, whenever they want – this isn’t helping them or teaching them about the importance of savings. Talk to your children about saving for a rainy day, retirement savings, and compound interest. You can even try setting savings goals for your kids and reward them for saving by giving them a little bit extra when they meet the goal.
  3. Allow your kids to spend some money too. Instead of just buying your children whatever they ask for, teach them the significance of making responsible purchases and to really think about their purchase before buying something. This will show them that they can get an item of their choice, but in order to do so they are also learning about saving, budgeting, and spending money too.
  4. Show your kids it’s okay to be frugal. One of the most important lessons you can instill in your children is the value of saving their money for things that really matter. Teach them to comparison shop, use coupons whenever possible, and not to buy things for the sake of just buying something.

The best way to teach your children to be financially responsible is to be an example for them. Don’t be afraid to talk to your kids about your own personal money experiences too!

Article Source: CUInsight.com