Lost Cell Phone? Here’s How to Keep Your Finances Safe

We depend on our cell phone for so many day-to-day tasks that go beyond communication. We keep track of our appointments, monitor our healthy lifestyle, and stay updated on breaking news. Additionally, our cell phones have become a hub for managing our finances.

The Federal Reserve reports that Americans use their smart phones or other mobile devices for a variety of monetary activities.

    • 51% of smartphone users had used mobile banking.
    • 24% of smartphone users had made a mobile payment.
    • 38% of mobile phone users had deposited a check using their phone.

Financial apps have made it faster and easier than ever to access your money on the go, and view all your financial information right from the palm of your hand.  But, what dangers could arise if you are one of the 5.2 million people who, in a year’s time, lose their smart phone or have their smart phones stolen? How can you protect your finances in the event that your cell phone ever goes missing?

Before your phone is ever compromised, take these precautions to prevent strangers from accessing your phone or the programs and apps it holds.

Passcode Protection: 62% of smartphone owners don’t have a passcode set to protect their phone. You should always set your phone or mobile device to lock when it’s not in use, and set a secure passcode or password for access to your phone. Some smartphones now let you take security even further and utilize your thumbprint or facial recognition to unlock your phone.

Activate Find My Phone: The Find My Phone feature on your smartphone allows you to quickly trace your phone’s location if it ends up missing. Your operating systems may also offer a lost mode. With this feature, you can send a message to your home screen asking anyone who finds your phone to call to you at a specified number.

If your smartphone is lost, quick action can be the difference between saving your financial information or months of headache if your accounts are accessed by a stranger. Take these actions as soon as you realize your phone is gone.

Contact Your Financial Institution: Let your financial institution, credit card companies, and lenders know your phone or device is missing and someone may have access to your account information. They can flag your account as “compromised,” freeze your accounts, or monitor suspicious activity.

Change Your Passwords: Use your desktop computer or another mobile device to reset the passwords for your online banking or payment tools. Also reset your email password. This way if someone uses the “Forgot My Password” feature on any financial app or website, they cannot access your email and reset your passwords themselves.

A Final Tip: Always log out of financial websites or apps before you close out of them. Keeping yourself logged in or enabling auto sign-in means that your information is easily accessible, even if you’re not the one holding your device.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a lost or stolen cell phone, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm.

Article Source: Kara Vincent for CUInsight.com

Watch Out for Card Skimming at Gas Pumps

The FTC is warning drivers about skimming scams at the pump. Typically, we New Jersey drivers don’t pump our own gas – but if you plan to take any Fall road trips to enjoy the foliage in another state, you might want to be on the lookout for the following gas pump scam.

Skimmers are illegal card readers attached to payment terminals. These card readers grab data off a credit or debit card’s magnetic stripe without your knowledge. Criminals then sell the stolen data or use it to buy items online. You won’t know your information has been stolen until you get your statement or an overdraft notice.

Here are a few tips to help you avoid a skimmer when you fuel up out of state:

Make sure the gas pump panel is closed and doesn’t show signs of tampering. Many stations now put security seals over the cabinet panel. If the pump panel is open, the label will read “void.”

Look at the card reader itself. Does it look different than other readers at the station? For example, the card reader on the left has a skimmer attached, the reader on the right does not.

Try to wiggle the card reader before you put your card in. If it moves, report it to the attendant. Then use a different pump.

  • If you use a debit card at the pump, run it as a credit card instead of entering your PIN. That way, the PIN is safe and the money isn’t deducted immediately from your account if there is a card skimmer attached. Better yet, if you have a credit card on you – use that instead.
  • If you’re really concerned about skimmers, pay inside rather than at the pump.
  • Monitor your credit card and bank accounts regularly to spot unauthorized charges.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a scam, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm. Learn more about card skimming by reading our user guide.

Article source: Colleen Tressler for the Federal Trade Commission

Top 10 Ways to Prevent Cyber Crime at Work and Home

Cyberattacks are unfortunately a common occurrence and on the increase. In fact, an average of 200,000 new malware samples are discovered daily, presenting an ominous threat to consumers at work and at home.  The following is a list of the top 10 cyber security tips.

1. Don’t click on emailed links. Instead, type the website URL directly into the web browser’s address bar, or search for the site using a search engine like Google.

2. Avoid opening any attachments you were not expecting. However, if you must – scan the attachment first for viruses.

3. Keep computers patched and up to date. This includes operating systems like Windows and iOS, and applications such as Adobe and Java. Keep antivirus software up to date on all devices, including phones.

4. Clean your desktop and your desk. Lock your screen whenever you leave your workstation or office. When you leave work for the day, lock all paperwork in your file cabinets. Everyone has a smartphone camera today, you always want to be cautious with sensitive documents and information.

5. Double check your work. Breaches can easily occur due to simple miscommunication. For example, someone within a company thinks another person has changed the password – and vice versa.

6. Shred it. This goes for any paperwork you are no longer using at work and at home.

7. Use different passwords for different sites. For personal use, consider using a password tool that allows you to set different passwords for each site you frequent, while only requiring you to remember one strong password.

8. Beware of phishing scams. Unlike common spam, a phishing email is after personal data and will likely have a sense of urgency, asking you to click here, act right away – the offer is time limited. Delete any emails that don’t sound right to you.

9. Avoid oversharing. The most common consumer threat today is social engineering in unexpected places like Facebook. Don’t answer questions on where you went to school, whether you have ever done something, or what your nickname is. This information can be used to break into your accounts.

10. Consider turning Siri off, and Amazon Echo, Alexa, and all the new devices that are listening and recording. You need to have a healthy suspicion of where this data is going. It might not be going where you think it is.

Ultimately, we should all strive to be good net neighbors, protecting our own identity at work and at home. This means taking care of ourselves so we don’t get infected and harm others. The threat is real, but following the right security protocols can dramatically reduce our risks.

Read up on how to protect yourself even further with our ID theft prevention guidebook.

Article Source: Colette L’Heureux-Stevens for Co-Op Financial Services

Important Alert: Scammers Create Fake Emergencies to Get Your Money

Scammers are now trying to trick you into thinking a loved one is in trouble. They call, text, email, or send messages on social media about a supposed emergency with a family member or friend. To make their story seem real, they may claim to be an authority figure, like a layer or police officer, and they may have or guess facts about your loved one. These imposters may insist that you keep quiet about their demand for money to keep you from checking out their story and identifying them as imposters. But no matter how real or urgent it seems – it’s a scam.

If you get a call or message like this, what should you do?

  • Check it out before you act. Look up that friend or family member’s phone number yourself. Call them or another family member to see what’s happening (even if the person who contacted you told you not to).
  • Don’t pay. Don’t wire money, send a check, overnight a money order, or pay with a gift card or prepaid reloadable card. Anyone who demands payment in these ways is always, always, always a scammer. These payment methods are like giving cash – and are nearly untraceable, unless you act almost immediately.
  • If you sent money to a family emergency scammer, contact the company you used to send the money and tell them it was a fraudulent transaction. Ask to have the transaction reversed, if possible.
  • Report the message to the FTC

Check out this short video on how the family emergency scam works and prevent it from happening to you.

If you feel that any of your First Financial accounts may have been compromised as a result of a scam, please contact Member Services at 732-312-1500 Monday through Friday 8am-6pm EST, or Saturday 8:30am-1pm.

Article Source: Carol Kando-Pineda for the Federal Trade Commission

5 Summer Travel Safety Tips

We’ve got about one month left of summer. Time flies when you’re having fun doesn’t it? If you’ve got an upcoming vacation planned for August, don’t miss these essential summer travel tips.

1. Make copies of important travel documents.
Make copies of your travel itinerary, health insurance cards, credit cards, and passport. Then give the copies to someone you trust in case of an emergency. It’s also smart to email any important information about your trip to yourself before you leave so it’s easily accessible if something gets lost, especially if you’re traveling overseas.

2. Don’t overshare on social media.
Not only do you not want every person with access to your social media accounts to know that you’re away from home (hello, burglars!), you also don’t need your followers (or lurkers) to know where you are in real time. This can invite all kinds of unwanted attention and danger. You should also avoid posting any pictures with personal information, like your boarding pass or passport, to social media. These photos might look fun on Instagram, but they also give cyber predators easy access to your secure data.

3. Don’t use public Wi-Fi to access financial information or make online purchases. It’s very easy for hackers to steal information from public internet servers. Furthermore, you should never leave your laptop or cell phone in a vulnerable position (i.e. at the breakfast table while you run to the bathroom or on your beach chair while you take a dip). This might seem like common sense, but it’s easy to let your guard down when you’re on island time!

4. Use a prepaid debit card specifically designated for traveling. A prepaid travel card will help you stay within your budget while you’re on vacation and keep your personal information safe. Prepaid travel cards, like the First Financial First Choice Prepaid Reloadable Card, is not linked to your checking or savings account, so if your card information is compromised, you’ll have less of a mess to clean up down the road.* Another bonus: you won’t have to worry about foreign ATM skimmers and various other threats to your financial data while trying to relax on vacation. Interested in learning more about getting started with a First Financial Prepaid Card before your trip? Stop into your nearest branch, or click here.

5. Research, research, research. It’s important to learn the ins and outs of your destination and do some digging to find out what areas are safe and what areas should be avoided.  A good place to start? Read hotel reviews online to see what neighborhoods and destinations other travelers recommend. If a location seems unsafe or makes you feel uncomfortable, you should leave right away. Download the State Department’s Smart Traveler app (travel.state.gov) and sign up for the State’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP), which allows U.S. citizens who are traveling abroad to enroll their trip with the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate.

Above all – enjoy your trip and have fun. Just be prepared before you go and plan ahead!

*3rd party fees may apply for Debit or ATM transactions. Foreign transaction fees may apply for transactions processed outside of US. The Visa® Prepaid Card can only be reloaded by a First Financial FCU Checking Account, Debit Card, or Credit Card online. A First Financial membership is required to obtain a Visa® Prepaid Card. A First Financial membership is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties, NJ. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any account/loan. See credit union for details. Other terms/conditions and fees may apply. Federally insured by NCUA.

Article Source: Naomi Anderson for CUInsight.com

Traveling with Your Credit Card: Safety Precautions to Consider

It’s summer, which means that many of us are packing up our bags and heading for the hills (or the beach, or the museums). The last thing you want to worry about is your credit card.

Unfortunately, all too many of us face hassles with credit card security while traveling — especially during trips abroad. These problems can range from the annoying to the devastating, but most of them are very preventable. Here’s how to have a worry-free vacation.

Pre-departure Preparations

You wouldn’t leave home without booking your flight or packing your bag, and credit card security is just as important. Make sure to add a few credit card specific tasks to your pre-departure list.

  • Call your card issuer to notify them of your travel plans.

Many credit card issuers have built-in fraud protection that could shut down your card if it’s used outside of your normal purchase pattern. The last thing you want is to have your card denied at that fabulous Italian bistro, so give your card issuer a heads up.

  • Do some research regarding foreign transaction fees.

If you carry multiple credit cards, you should know that there might be a wide variation between your cards when it comes to foreign transaction fees. Call your card issuers or do some digging online to compare fees.

  • Learn how to contact your credit card issuer while abroad.

Toll-free numbers don’t typically work abroad, so you’ll need a different way to contact your credit card issuer if you encounter problems during your travels. Some cards have international numbers printed right on the back. If yours doesn’t, call them up before you leave and ask them what number to use. Write down this number and keep it with your travel documents.

  • Make copies of the front and back of your credit cards.

This is one step that’s frequently overlooked, but if your cards are stolen, having photocopies can be very helpful. Many travelers also do this for passports.

  • Make sure your card will be accepted abroad.

Not all cards are taken around the world. Consider getting an EMV chip card (if yours doesn’t already have this feature), which is more widely accepted abroad – especially in Europe.

EMV Chip Cards

EMV security chip cards are fairly new to the U.S. market, but they have become the go-to standard in other countries. These cards feature embedded microchips that can hold a large volume of dynamic data. They also require entry of a pin in order to complete a transaction, and that means that a thief who simply has your card number can’t use your card.

If you bring an American swipe card abroad, expect it to be rejected at several common locations, including:

  • Gas stations
  • Parking meters
  • Many merchants and retailers
  • Destinations in Europe other than major cities

Handling Your Credit Card While Abroad

So you’ve taken all the precautions before boarding the plane: what about when you’ve reached your destination? There are several steps you can take to avoid fraud, theft, and unnecessary trouble abroad.

  • Avoid use of your credit card in less-than-secure situations.

The street vendor may have a lovely smile and even better food for sale, but this probably isn’t the best place to pull out your credit card.

  • Have your travel companion carry a different card as a back-up.

Even if you plan on relying primarily on one card, it’s not a bad idea to have a back-up along — and to have it carried by someone else. That way, if your wallet or money carrier is lost or stolen, you aren’t completely out of luck.

  • Keep your credit card in sight.

Try to hand your credit card directly to the person who will be processing the transaction. You’ll want to avoid situations where someone takes your card out of sight to process a transaction, because that scenario makes it easy for them to steal your information.

  • Be cautious with ATMs.

ATM fees can be extremely steep for international transactions. In addition, many foreign ATMs (especially outside of western Europe) are not as secure as we may expect from our U.S. counterparts. If you are traveling abroad and you must use an ATM, choose one that is attached to a legitimate business (preferably a bank).

  • Carry cash or travelers checks as back-up.

Try to carry enough local currency or traveler’s checks to get by each day (but not so much that you’re a ripe target for muggers). Credit cards are convenient, but if yours is declined or stolen and you don’t have an alternative method of payment available, you won’t think it’s very convenient. Look into getting a discreet carrying pouch specifically designed for passports and money, which is much more secure than a wallet or purse.

  • Document everything.

Keep receipts of all purchases in case mysterious charges are added to your account later. Keeping receipts also helps with expense tracking, so you can stay on budget.

The Bottom Line

This list may have left you a little uneasy. Don’t worry — you’ve already taken the first step by informing yourself. Credit cards are usually part of the solution — not the problem, when you’re traveling abroad. All you have to do is take proper precautions and exercise a bit of due diligence. Just think about how much more relaxing that well-deserved vacation will be, knowing that you don’t have to spend a moment worrying about your credit cards.

Bon Voyage!

Article Source: Ellen Gans for thesimpledollar.com