‘Tis the Season (for Holiday Fraud)

The best time of the year is here, but it’s also a time of year when fraud increases too. If you are doing any sort of holiday shopping, be aware of the following scam tactics designed to steal your personal and financial information:

E-Skimming – This is what happens when a scammer gets control of an unsecure link within a website that you may be shopping on. Without even realizing it, you could be redirected to a malicious domain where a skimming code can capture your personal and financial information as you are making your purchase online. Such a skimming code would be sent to a remote server in real time where fraudsters would be collecting all your personal data. This data is often sold and then used to make fraudulent purchases in your name afterward. Before you click on any links in emails or on the web – make sure it’s a secure website (you’ll see an https at the top) and only open emails from trusted sources.

Social Media Scams – Sometimes social media platforms are used to set up a fake online store. The site will feature advertising messages and take payments, but unfortunately you will never receive what you ordered and your financial information may also be compromised in the process. When following a brand on social media, look to see if it’s a verified business (blue check mark in the profile) and look to see their website and contact details, number of followers, and the like. If something seems off or too good to be true, it probably is.

Porch Pirates – This is a big time of year when delivered packages often disappear from the doorstep of unsuspecting homes and businesses. Be sure to track anything ordered as it ships to you, look for a delivery confirmation from the retailer, and try to not leave packages out on your porch for hours on end. If you are going to be away from home when a package is delivered, ask a trusted neighbor or family member to pick it up and hold it for you.

Shipment Update Scam Emails – You may find that a fraudster sends you a fake email that tells you your item failed to deliver and then asks you for updated shipping and contact information. This is a scam! The email may look legit (though you will usually find a fake or unusually long email address with a slightly different domain name), but it often contains a link with malware that will steal your personal information if you click on it. The original retailer has all of this contact information and will not ask you for it again.

Donations to Fake Charities – Scammers know that people love to give back this time of year. A donation scam will often duplicate a charity website and get you to click on a link (which is malware) to donate money. Instead of going to the actual charity, your donation goes right into the pocket of a criminal. Do your research before you donate, ensure the site is legitimate and verified.

Additional steps you can take to help prevent fraud this holiday season:

  • Sign up for transaction alerts to receive emails and/or texts for all your credit and debit cards.
  • Pay careful attention to links in emails and on websites.
  • Try to avoid entering card information into website forms. Instead use PayPal or a digital wallet like Apple or Google Pay when you can.
  • Make sure your home computer and mobile devices have anti-virus protection and a firewall.
  • Only shop on well-known and verified websites when buying online.
  • Go directly to a retailer’s website yourself instead of through a social media ad.
  • Look for skimming devices at the ATM or a gas station pump.
  • Monitor your bank accounts on a daily basis and if you see a purchase that was not made by you, report it to your financial institution right away.

Follow the above tips for an enjoyable, safe, and risk free holiday season. Think First!

Article Source: CUNA Mutual Risk Alert 11/14/19

 

How to Keep Holiday Shopping Happy (and Safe)

Keep your holiday shopping merry and bright with these tips to help you watch your wallet, shop smart, and protect your personal and financial information.

  • Make a list and a budget. Impulse purchases (ahem, gifts for yourself) are less tempting when you have a set plan. Consider how much you’re willing to put on your credit card this holiday season, and how long it will take to pay it off. If money is tighter this year, paying for a gift over time with a layaway option may be a smarter move. Or if you can save up enough cash before you shop, that is an ideal option.
  • Do your research. Read reviews and recommendations about products, the seller, and warranties from trusted sources. If you’re shopping online, read reviews to see if items were never delivered or not as advertised. Are you donating to a charity this holiday season? Look into all the details first to make sure it’s legitimate.
  • Look for the best deals. Check out websites that compare prices for items that you are looking to buy. Be sure to also check out shipping costs for online orders and factor that into your budget. Search for coupon codes by looking up a particular store’s name along with terms like “coupons,” “discounts,” or “free shipping.” To save extra money later on, keep an eye out for rebates on your purchases.
  • Keep track of your purchases. Make sure you were charged the correct amount, and save all your receipts. If you shop online, keep copies of your order number, the return policy, and shipping costs. Be sure your packages are delivered to a secure location or pick them up at your local store. Gift cards should be treated like cash and stored in a safe place.
  • Don’t give out personal information. Protect yourself online by shopping only on secure websites with an “https” web address. Look to see what shopping apps and websites do with your personal data and how they keep it secure. Avoid any offer, phone call, text message, or email that asks you to give out your personal or financial information – no matter how great it may sound. It is most likely a scam trying to steal your identity and financial data.

Follow these five steps and you won’t have anything to worry about this holiday season (aside from figuring out how long it might take you to wrap up all those great holiday deals you purchased).

Article Source: Gretchen Abraham for consumer.ftc.gov

Tips for Avoiding Impulsive Holiday Spending

It’s that time of year again. If you’re prone to swiping your credit card or blowing your budget in December, knowing a few ways to curb your impulse spending can help you get through to the New Year with your finances unharmed.

Understand why you buy. For the majority of non-essential purchases, most consumers make the decision to buy based on emotion. The product conjures up a positive feeling that is compelling enough to make you want to open your wallet. Stopping to examine the reason why you buy can help you determine if it’s a wise purchase and if it’s absolutely necessary.

Don’t shop hungry. Below normal blood sugar can impair your judgment.  Being hungry can cause you to be cranky, emotional, and more impulsive. Eat a balanced meal before leaving the house and always carry water and healthy snacks before going out shopping.

If you are easily swayed by the opinion of others, shop alone. Although, if you have little willpower when it comes to overspending, take along an accountability partner and discuss your spending limits and budget before you walk into the store.

Use a prepaid card. If you know you’re inclined to overspending, determine your budget and put the funds on a prepaid debit card allocated for holiday gift purchases. Leave your other cards at home and take only your driver’s license and enough money for gas and meals. When the prepaid card is empty, you need to be done shopping.

Shop online. Some consumers do better sticking to a budget when shopping online. Using a prepaid card or connecting through your PayPal account, you can safely do a lot of holiday shopping online. This allows you to thoroughly research products at your leisure without the pressure of other hurried shoppers, crowds, or a relentless salesperson. You also have the ability to review your shopping cart extensively and remove any unwise purchases without embarrassment before you buy. If you are shopping online, remember to research online coupon codes to get the best deals too!

Walk around the store with your items for awhile before purchasing and see if you really still want them by the time you are ready to check out.

When considering the cost of an item, think of how many hours of work it will take you to earn the full purchase price. If you would be willing to work a 40-hour work week without pay in return for receiving that item you’ve been eyeing, it may be a good purchase. Otherwise, walk away.

Freeze your credit cards for the month of December. When all else fails and you don’t want to give in to using your credit cards – put them in a cup of water and stick them in the freezer until the holiday shopping season is over. Do not defrost them before the new year.

Call your financial institution and request a lower daily spending limit on your debit or credit cards. This may be a great budgeting option if your bank or credit union offers it.

You don’t have to buy a gift for everyone you know. Be frugal with your gift list. Write down the people who you absolutely have to buy for: your kids, nieces and nephews, and so forth. Do you really need to buy individual gifts for all your co-workers? If so, try to make the spending limit minimal. Perhaps you can also suggest doing Secret Santa gifts with co-workers or if you have a large family as well. This way you only need to buy a gift for one person and there is typically a spending limit. Another idea for co-workers or a group of friends is not to exchange gifts and just all get together for a meal or night out instead.

The usual tips of don’t wait until the last minute and make a shopping list and stick to it always apply, but for many impulsive shoppers – this isn’t enough to control the spending behavior. If none of these tips will help you break your impulsive spending habit, your best solution may be to make a list and let someone else do the holiday shopping for you within the set budget and funds you provide them with.

Article Source:  Jamie Simmerman for Moneyning.com

3 Money Saving Tips for the Upcoming Holiday Season

Have you started to think about this year’s holiday shopping? Before you know it, Thanksgiving will be here – along with Black Friday and Cyber Monday, two of the biggest holiday shopping days of the calendar year. Even though Halloween was only a few weeks ago, this year’s holiday season will soon be in full swing, and here before you know it. If you’re in need of some extra cash for gifts this year, here are few tips to get you started.

Get ahead: If you’re buying something big and on the costly side, shopping on Black Friday or Cyber Monday may be your best bet. If you have a smaller list, start looking for deals as soon as possible. Take your time and don’t buy anything until you’ve done your research and found the best price. In December, you probably won’t be able to use this method. Whether you’re shopping for gifts, food, or holiday decorations – look early and find the best deals. They’re out there!

Pay in cash only: A digital wallet like Apple or Google Pay makes it easy to pay with your phone passcode when you’re in a store or even online. Venmo makes it simple to share money between friends and family. Amazon allows you to buy everything you need with the click of a button at any time. With all of this digital payment technology, even if you lock up your credit cards – your phone can still be a culprit for out-of-control spending. If you’re not usually the cash type, it’s time to become that way at least for the holiday season. Using cash is often a wake-up call for your spending habits. Set a dollar amount for your holiday budget, take out the cash, and when it’s time to spend it you will realize how strict you’ll instantly become.

Cut back everywhere: Whether it’s cutting back on going out to eat or dropping the thermostat a few degrees, having a few extra dollars to spend will be a pleasant surprise when you’re making your shopping list over the next few weeks. Maybe even think about shutting down your Hulu or Netflix accounts for a month or two while you’re shopping for the holidays and paying off holiday bills. You will be so busy you probably won’t even think about them and you’ll save money that you can use on gifts in the process.

Happy Holidays!

 Article Source: John Pettit for CUInsight.com

Last Minute Halloween Costumes on a Budget

Halloween is almost here and that means your time to find a costume is limited. If you are like many Americans, a Halloween costume is something that seems to slip to the bottom of the list every year. Whether you are putting together a last-minute fix for your child or a low-key costume for the neighborhood party, we have a few options for you.

Stick with the classics.

Everyone knows Charlie Brown. While his dreary disposition may not seem like the ideal inspiration for a fun Halloween costume, it is important to remember that Charlie always keeps it simple. Stock up on the following materials and create your own Peanuts ghost costume. You’ll need:

  • 1 white bed sheet
  • 5 sheets of black cardboard paper
  • 1 pair of scissors
  • 1 container of glue

Punny is priceless.

Everyone knows someone who doesn’t like to dress up. If you are that person, you’re in luck, this one’s for you. This costume commandeers the style of our Canadian friends and relies heavily on denim (also known as: the Canadian tuxedo). Grab your favorite pair of jeans, a denim jacket or shirt, and one “HELLO MY NAME IS” name tag. Fill out the name tag with the name “Jean” and you’re good to go. As a bonus, this costume will definitely keep you warm even on a cool October night. Costume supplies:

  • 1 pair of jeans
  • 1 denim top
  • 1 “HELLO MY NAME IS” name tag
  • 1 marker
  • Denim shoes or hat (optional)

Kick it old school.

Style is always changing and with decades of life experience comes decades of outdated apparel lining the back of your closet. Dig into your closet and revitalize one of your favorite old-school looks. From the bell-bottoms and big collars of the 70’s to the big hair and bright colors of 80’s – your Halloween costume is probably hiding in your closet, you just have to find it. This one’s easy – you’ll need:

  • Willingness to relive past fashion mistakes (and have fun with it!)

At the end of the day, Halloween is about having fun. Keep the stress and the cost low this year and handle the whole process in-house with these easy last minute costume ideas. Happy Halloween!

Ways to Make Back to School Shopping Happy and Frugal

Summer is winding down and the school season has arrived. Whether it’s for new clothes, backpacks, technology or books, the back to school season is one where there is a ton of shopping. Furthermore, no one ever wants to disappoint their children, so this is a time when you can really break the bank without even realizing it. If you are stressing about how you can frugally (and happily) get your kids back to school, keep reading!

1. Check Out Bargains All Year

Stocking up is always a great way to save money, and back to school supplies are no different. Throughout the year, school supplies are constantly sold at a discount. If you spend some time to stock up when things are on sale, all you need to do is bring those supplies out in August and give them to your kids.

2. The Dollar Store is Your Friend

This is one of the best kept back to school shopping secrets. A lot of the time, you can even find name brand merchandise for a dollar. Don’t underestimate hitting up your local dollar store before you shop for school supplies anywhere else.

3. Do Everything Online

Shopping online is convenient and frugal. Not only can you buy things for less, it also gets delivered to your door. Plus, many merchants offer free shipping too (depending on what you spend). If you plan in advance, this is probably the easiest way to shop.

4. Shop Late

There are always last minute deals and back to school time is no different. If you can wait on the items you need to buy, you might just be rewarded.

5. Shop Alone

Kids can be amazingly talented at wanting more than you can afford. In order to resist the temptation to satisfy them, shop alone. This way, they won’t be tempted by all the advertising in the stores and you can zip through and buy only what you actually need.

6. Shop Around

Sound shopping advice tells us to always compare prices. You can most likely find a place where the item you’re looking for is being sold for less, so be sure to check all sources first.

7. Second Hand is Not Second Class

Go to garage sales and see if you can pick up items for less. You just might find something very useful for the school year.  Another idea is to organize a back to school exchange program.  Do you live in a neighborhood with a lot of kids? Get all the parents on board and list out available items and see if other parents can take advantage of what someone else bought previously and is no longer using. If you can work out a deal where you can all trade amongst each other, it’s a win-win situation.

If you need additional help paying for back to school supplies and clothing, First Financial offers some of the lowest credit card rates around. To learn more about First Financial’s VISA® Credit Cards and apply today, please visit our credit cards page.*

*APR varies up to 18% when you open your account based on your credit worthiness. These APRs are for purchases, balance transfers, and cash advances and will vary with the market based on the Prime Rate. Subject to credit approval. Rates quoted assume excellent borrower credit history. Your actual APR may vary based on your state of residence, approved loan amount, applicable discounts and your credit history. No Annual Fees. Other fees that apply: Cash advance fee of 1% of advance ($5 minimum and $25 maximum), Late Payment Fee of up to $25, Foreign Transaction Fee of 1% plus foreign exchange rate of transaction amount, $5 Card Replacement Fee, and Returned Payment Fee of up to $25. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a VISA Credit Card and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties.

Article Source: David Ning for Moneyning.com