Financial and Preparedness Tips for Summer Roadtrips

Amidst the Coronavirus pandemic, as bigger trips get cancelled and flights are limited – some may be considering road trips to other states as this year’s family summer vacation. While the CDC still urges limited travel, those who decide to take a roadtrip should consider the following before hitting the road:

  • What’s actually open? Planning is especially important this summer because many state parks and businesses in certain states may still be closed. Do your research ahead of time.
  • Face masks – Bring one for every passenger, and wear them in public. Even places where it looks like social distancing is in force can become crowded in a hurry.
  • Call ahead – Be sure to confirm any potential restrictions for where you are traveling.
  • Call the hotel – If you plan to stay overnight at a hotel, call ahead to make sure it is still open and will have rooms available.
  • Stop early and often for fuel and breaks, just in case. Check online to see which state-run highway rest stops are open and which facilities are operational.

Auto Maintenance Tips for Traveling by Car:

  • Bring your own protective equipment – This includes gloves for pumping your own gas, paper towels, disinfectant wipes, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper. Some gas stations/rest stops may be limited in what they have available, so be sure to bring your own just in case.
  • Prepare in advance – Be sure to stay up to date on oil changes and have your tires checked before you go. Also check your windshield washer fluid level, coolant, light bulbs, battery life and so forth. Book a service appointment for your vehicle prior to leaving.
  • Do you have a roadside assistance plan? If not, you may want to enroll in one before your trip.

Packing and Preparedness Suggestions:

  • Don’t overload your car, and store the heaviest items low (or opt for a rooftop cargo carrier).
  • Be sure to bring a car phone charger, basic tools, road flares, a flashlight, spare tire and changing kit, and jumper cables.

Did you know that First Financial’s mechanical repair coverage can help you limit out-of-pocket costs should you ever have a covered breakdown? Be sure to check it out before you hit the road this summer. To research, compare, and buy Mechanical Repair Coverage, visit creditunion.forevercar.com/firstffcu or call 855.927.0224

*Mechanical Repair Coverage is provided and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc. in all states except CA, where coverage is offered as insurance by Virginia Surety Company, Inc., in WA, where coverage is provided by National Product Care Company and administered by Consumer Program Administrators, Inc., in FL, LA and OK, where coverage is provided and administered by Automotive Warranty Services of Florida, Inc. (Florida License #60023 and Oklahoma License #44198051), all located at 175 West Jackson Blvd., Chicago Illinois 60604, 800.752.6265. This coverage is made available to you by CUNA Mutual Insurance Agency, Inc. In CA, where Mechanical Repair Coverage is offered as insurance (form MBIP 08/16), it is underwritten by Virginia Surety Company, Inc. Coverage varies by state. Be sure to read the Vehicle Service Contract or the Insurance Policy, which will explain the exact terms, conditions, and exclusions of this voluntary product.

Article Source: Patch.com

Beware of Coronavirus Unemployment Scams

Millions of Americans have found themselves out of work as the economy still reels from the impact of COVID-19. A record number of Americans have filed for unemployment insurance in recent weeks. Unfortunately, when there’s bad news – scammers aren’t far behind. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Americans have lost a collective $13.4 million to coronavirus-related fraud, and unemployment scams have contributed their fair share to the loss.

With a high number of individuals filling out claims, along with the overloaded unemployment websites and phone lines – it provides the perfect cover for con artists. In light of the pandemic, the federal government has also waived some regulations of unemployment insurance, including the requirement to actively be seeking work in order to be eligible for benefits. This looser criteria has only made it easier for scammers to pull off their schemes without getting caught.

Here’s what you need to know about circulating unemployment scams:

How the scams play out

An unemployment scam can involve a con artist filing in someone else’s name and then collecting their benefits or claiming to have been employed by a place of business where they have never held a job. The victim will thus be denied their own benefits.

According to the Inspector General of the U.S. Department of Labor, these fraudsters can also take the form of a scammer impersonating a government employee and offering to help the victim fill out their application form for unemployment insurance. The victim, seeking assistance with their claim – will willingly comply with the scammer who is only out to get information so they can nab the victim’s benefits. Or worse, the scammer may use this information to steal the victim’s identity.

Other times, while allegedly helping the victim fill out their forms, the scammer will ask the victim to make a payment via credit card to enable them to receive their benefits. Of course, this money will go straight into the scammer’s pocket and the victim’s unemployment claim will never be filed.

In yet another variation of the unemployment scam, fraudsters create bogus websites that look like the federal websites used for claiming benefits. Scammers use sophisticated software to create these sites and lure unsuspecting victims via social media posts or emails. Once the victim is on the site, they willingly share information and assume they are actually filling out their unemployment forms.

Unemployment scams can make a challenging situation all the more difficult by leading to theft, delaying an unemployment claim, or completely disqualifying a victim from receiving unemployment insurance altogether.

How to spot an unemployment scam

As always, arming yourself with knowledge is the best way to protect against an unemployment scam.

  • First, it’s important to note that there is no fee involved in filing or qualifying for unemployment insurance.
  • Second, government officials will never ask you to share personal information over the phone unless a phone appointment was pre-planned and scheduled for a specific date and time. This includes a full Social Security Number, date of birth, employment history and financial information.
  • Finally, sensitive information should never be shared on a site without first verifying its security. Each state will have its own website dedicated to filing and checking unemployment claims, but you should also look for the lock icon next to the site’s URL and for the “s” after the “http” in the web address. It’s also best to visit your state’s unemployment site on your own instead of clicking on an ad or a link that’s embedded in an email.

The coronavirus pandemic has changed the world as we know it. Society is now looking toward the future while determining the next step in their new reality. Part of the recovery process involves picking up the pieces and putting personal finances in order. Scammers are out to thwart this process, but you can outsmart them. Always stay alert for potential scams, and practice vigilance when sharing sensitive information online or over the phone. Stay safe!

Article Source: CUContent.com

Coronavirus Stimulus Payments Now Arriving on Prepaid Debit Cards

Don’t throw it away by mistake!

Did you recently receive an unmarked envelope in the mail that looked like junk mail or just another credit card offer? Be sure to read and open carefully, because it may actually be your economic impact payment!

The government is now issuing Coronavirus stimulus payments via prepaid debit cards instead of paper checks in the mail, if they were unable to directly deposit the funds into your bank account. These Economic Impact Payment (EIP) Cards are sponsored by the Treasury Department’s Bureau of Fiscal Service, managed by Money Network Financial, LLC and issued by Treasury’s financial agent, MetaBank®, N.A. If you receive an Economic Impact Payment Card, it will arrive in a plain envelope from Money Network Cardholder Services. The VISA name/logo will appear on the front of the card, and the back of the card has the name of the issuing bank, MetaBank®, N.A. These are legitimate prepaid cards and are not a scam, so be careful not to toss them by accident!

I received an EIP Card in the mail – what do I do with it?

  • The first thing you will need to do is activate your card, either on the phone by calling 1-800-240-8100 or online here.
  • Each household will only receive 1 card and it must be activated by the primary cardholder listed on the mailing envelope (and the first name appearing on the actual card).
  • You will need to provide your name, address, and social security number to validate your identity at the time of activation.
  • You will then be asked to create a 4-digit PIN, should you choose to withdrawal cash from the card at a participating ATM.
  • Once this is all set up, you’ll be able to find out how much is on the card and start using it.
  • There is no monthly or inactivity fee associated with the prepaid card. You will not need to pay this money back and will not have to pay taxes on this money.
  • Please note that this is a government issued card, and you will not be able to load money onto the card. Once your balance runs out, the card will not be able to be used further.

How can I check my card balance?

  • Visit https://www.eipcard.com/ and login to your account
  • Call 1-800-240-8100 and use the automated phone system
  • Download the Money Network® Mobile App
  • You may also be able to check the balance by inserting the card at an ATM, but be advised that depending upon the ATM/financial institution – there may be a fee associated with the ATM balance inquiry. The above 3 methods for checking your balance are free.

How can I use my EIP card to get cash without paying any fees?

  • Use one of the in-network Allpoint Surcharge Free ATMs listed on the EIP card website or from within the mobile app ATM locator.
  • Choose the cash back option at participating merchants when used as a debit card.
  • Request a Money Network Check and cash it at select participating check cashing locations listed on the EIP card site locator when you enter your zip code.

Can I transfer the money on my card to my bank account?

Yes. To transfer to a personal bank or credit union account, you will need to provide your routing and account number for your personal account at EIPcard.com.

What should I do if my card gets lost or stolen?

Call 1.800.240.8100 right away to lock your card to prevent anyone else from using it. You can also lock your card online on the EIP card website. If you need a replacement card, there is a $7.50 fee.

For a list of other Frequently Asked Questions associated with EIP prepaid debit cards, click here.

To view the cardholder agreement online, click here.

Article Sources:

https://whnt.com/taking-action/bbb-consumer-alerts/dont-throw-it-away-irs-stimulus-card-payments-arriving-in-unmarked-envelopes/

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/economic-impact-payment-prepaid-card/?utm_source=newsletter&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=eipcard#balance

Smart Reasons to Live Below Your Means Right Now

Having things and buying items is great, but life can still be amazing even when it’s simple. Cooking meals at home more often will definitely help you save money, and many are probably realizing that due to the recent pandemic. When was the last time you used your credit card just to shop? You are most likely not doing it as often as you used to. Living a modest lifestyle can actually be very satisfying. Even if you haven’t missed a single day of work due to COVID-19, here are a few reasons to live below your means anyway.

You’ll pay off debt faster: Debt is not cheap, which you probably know. If you’ve ever had to swipe your credit card for an unexpected bill you know it can sometimes take years to pay it back. If you’re living paycheck to paycheck, it’s probably even worse. These days during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re spending has probably slowed down – but if you focus on cutting back even more, it will provide you with an opportunity to pay down your debt even faster.

You can still have amazing experiences: Sometimes we remember the items we spent our money on years ago, and may regret those purchases thinking that we actually wasted our hard earned dollars on them. However if you really think about it, what most individuals remember are the people and experiences in our lives. Once things start to return to normal, most will want to have those experiences with the people that they’re unable to spend time with right now.

You’ll teach your children: Don’t let your kids see you trying to “keep up with the Joneses,” it only teaches them that material things and spending money are important. You want your children to learn to appreciate the little things in life. Recently staying at home and spending time together as a family and playing outside has probably shown them exactly that. Plus, this may also teach them to be a lot more frugal when they’re spending their own money one day.

Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Why Haven’t I Received a Coronavirus Stimulus Payment Yet?

Does everyone you talk to seem to have received their stimulus money already, but you’re still waiting for your payment to arrive?

More than half of eligible Americans have already received their Economic Impact Payment, but tens of millions more are still waiting. Here’s when you can expect yours, how to help it arrive quicker, or why you may not be receiving a stimulus payment.

The Schedule for Issuing Payments

The IRS is trying to get stimulus payments out to Americans as quickly as possible, but with approximately 150 million checks that need to be issued – it will take some time.

First, the IRS is working on getting the funds to Americans via direct deposit. Most of the payments being issued to people whose account details are known by the IRS have already been distributed, and the rest are scheduled to be deposited as the information is obtained.

Next, the IRS will send payments for individuals currently receiving federal benefits, such as Social Security checks, retirement or disability benefits, Railroad Retirement benefits, Supplemental Security Income (SSI) or Veterans Affairs (VA) benefits. The stimulus payments will be issued the same way these individuals receive their regular federal benefits – whether by direct deposit, Direct Express, or paper check. The Treasury has promised that all Social Security and Railroad Retirement beneficiaries will receive their benefits earlier in May. SSI and VA beneficiaries should get their payments by mid-May.

On April 24, the IRS began issuing paper checks to Americans who had not provided their banking details. Lower-income Americans were prioritized, and individuals earning an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $10,000 or less should have already received their checks. The IRS will then begin sending out approximately 5 million paper checks each week, scheduling the mailings according to incomes in increasing $10,000 increments. For example, checks for individuals with an AGI that falls between $20,000 and $30,000 were mailed out on May 1. On May 8, the checks for those with incomes between $30,000 and $40,000 will be mailed out. This schedule will continue through September 4th.

How Can My Stimulus Money Get Here Quicker?

The IRS will use your most recently filed taxes to determine where to send your stimulus money and the amount you are eligible to receive. If your most recently filed returns have not yet been processed, or you’ve received your refund by paper check, the government does not have your checking account information and your payment may be delayed.

You can update this information on the track my payment portal on the IRS website. You will need your Social Security Number, the gross income of your most recent tax returns, your bank routing number and your checking account information. Once you’ve shared your account information, your stimulus payment should be scheduled for deposit within the week.

If the IRS already has your account information and you still have not received your stimulus money, or you would prefer to receive your payment by paper check, you can track your payment on the same link. The site is updated once a day.

What if my Information has Changed Since I Filed my Last Tax Return? 

If the checking account used for your most recently filed taxes has since been closed, the payment will bounce back to the IRS, and they will send a paper check to the home address on file from your tax returns.

To update a checking account, use the IRS payment portal to enter your current information.

If you’ve moved since filing taxes, you can choose to update your address information with the IRS, or use another method which may include informing the U.S. Postal Service of a change of address.

What if I Don’t File Taxes?

If you are not required to file taxes and you are eligible for an Economic Impact Payment, you can still receive your check. Just enter your information here.

Why You May Not Qualify for a Check 

The CARES Act does not promise payments for every American. Dependents older than 16, individuals who do not have a Social Security Number and those with an AGI above $99,000, will not be getting a stimulus payment. The threshold is higher for individuals filing as a head of household at $136,500, and up to $198,000 for joint filers.

Watch Out for Stimulus Scams

While the IRS urges people to update their information on the payment portal, it’s important to note that they are not reaching out to individuals. If you receive a phone call, social media post, email or text message asking for your personal financial information, it is a scam. There is also no application fee or processing fee for Economic Impact Payments. If you’re asked to pay one, it’s also a scam. Be diligent and stay financially safe and healthy!

Article Source: CUcontent.com

Business Owners: Watch Out for COVID-19 SBA Loan Scams

If you’re a business owner, you may have already applied or are still planning to apply for a loan to assist your business by paying employees through the SBA’s (Small Business Administration) CARES Act Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) or Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDL) program. Both programs recently got billions of dollars in new funding. However, while you’re focused on getting a loan – scammers may be hoping to trick you into giving them sensitive business information, like your bank account numbers, employees’ Social Security Numbers, and your money.

Below are some guidelines to prevent you and your business from getting scammed as you apply for a small business loan.

Things to Do:

 Things You Shouldn’t Do:

  • Never pay for information. All the information from the SBA is free at sba.gov/coronavirus.
  • Don’t pay in advance for a government business loan. You will never have to pay anything up front to get an SBA loan.
  • Don’t give your information to anyone who calls, emails, or texts you. The SBA will not call unsolicited to find out information about you or your business, or to ask you to apply for a loan. The SBA will not send you emails or text messages asking for sensitive information. If you get an email or text like this, it’s a scam.
  • Don’t apply for a loan without verifying the lender. Only SBA authorized lenders can provide PPP loans, and the other loans (bridge loans, debt relief loans) that may be available through SBA directly. To find an SBA authorized lender in your area, use this SBA tool.
  • Don’t click on links or reply to emails or text messages from unknown senders. If you click on any links typically sent in these types of communications, you could download malware to your device or be connected to a scammer. Also be on alert for fraudulent calls. If you think your business has been contacted by a scammer, report it at ftc.gov/complaint

To inquire about applying for a PPP Loan for your small Monmouth or Ocean County NJ business, please email our Business Development Department at business@firstffcu.com. First Financial is an SBA approved lender.*

We are here to help our local small businesses during this difficult time!

*Please be advised that due to high volume in regard to requests with PPP Loans, our response time may be delayed. We will get to each inquiry in the order in which it was received.

Article Source: Rosario Mendez of Consumer.FTC.gov