5 Steps to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

According to a survey done by Bankrate.com, 41 million Americans have been victims of identity theft. Most Americans aren’t taking the necessary steps to protect themselves until it’s too late. For those unfortunate enough to have had firsthand experience, it’s a scary experience that can take years to fix. And in the process, your finances can get destroyed. Before this happens to you, it’s important to take the steps to safeguard yourself from identity theft. Here’s what you should do:

Closely Monitor Your Bank Statements

Most people hardly ever check their credit card or bank statements. If your account information is compromised, you might not even know about it until it’s too late. Be proactive – it’s best to check your statement monthly. You should also make it a habit to log into your accounts at least once a week to review the transactions and see if anything looks off. The earlier you catch any unauthorized transactions, the easier it will be for you to dispute the discrepancies with your financial institution.

Check Your Credit Report Yearly

You are legally entitled to a free credit report every year from each of the three major credit bureaus, TransUnion, Experian, and Equifax. Take advantage of this. Your credit report can change often so it’s important you know what’s going on, especially if you plan on making a large purchase or taking out a significant loan in the near future. AnnualCreditReport.com is a good place to get started. There are many other websites that offer free credit reports, but they may charge you fees after a period of time so be sure to always read the fine print.

Strengthen Your Passwords

We share so much on the internet. Most of us are on at least one social network, if not more. We also depend on the internet to do much of our shopping and banking. While it’s a great convenience, it’s also dangerous as well. Many hackers prey on unsuspecting internet users and shoppers. Before you post something on a social profile, be careful what you share – especially if it contains any personal information. Also, use strong passwords containing a mix of capital and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. You should also periodically change your passwords as well, especially for sensitive accounts such as your email and bank account.

Secure Sensitive Documents

Paper trails can be just as dangerous as digital ones. Keep your sensitive documents in a safe place in your home, ideally in a locked cabinet or safe. If you need to get rid of any documents with sensitive information on it, be sure to shred them beforehand to prevent them from getting into the wrong hands.

Don’t Give Out Personal Information

If something sounds fishy or phishy, it probably is. Don’t fall victim to a phishing scam. If you receive any requests for personal information such as your social security number, don’t give it out – even if it comes from a company you recognize. Scammers disguise themselves as something or someone else all the time. Call the company and speak to a representative first before you give out any information.

The most important thing to remember is to be proactive and vigilant. Identity theft is a real concern but with the right steps, you can prevent it from happening to you.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Enroll in Sherpa identity theft protection from First Financial. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Connie Mei for moneyning.com

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

Important Member Alert: Mail Fishing Scams

There has been a fraud concern growing in New Jersey called Mail Fishing. Tools covered with sticky substances are being utilized to pluck bank documents and checks out of large blue postal collection boxes. The post office claims they are implementing innovative methods to protect mail, such as replacing collection boxes with new models. Here’s how to keep your mail safe, and additional precautions to take if you’re using a collection box.

5 ways to protect your mail

  • Don’t use a collection box. Instead, use the letter slots inside a post office to drop off mail, or hand it to a letter carrier.
  • Don’t leave mail in your mailbox overnight, especially if you’re expecting checks or credit cards. The U.S. Postal Service discourages sending cash through the mail.
  • Ask your bank for “secure” checks that can’t be altered.
  • If you can’t be there to pick up your mail, make arrangements for someone you trust to pick it up, or contact your post office to hold your mail while you are out of town.
  • Didn’t get that check you were waiting for? Report suspected mail theft immediately to police, then call Postal Inspectors at 877-876-2455 (press 3).

3 ways to use collection boxes safely

Police are discouraging the public from using collection boxes altogether due to these recent security concerns. However, if you must use a collection box, here are the best practices according to police and the U.S. Postal Service.

  • Pay attention to collection times. Last collection for the day is typically at 5pm. If mail is deposited afterward, it will sit vulnerable until the next business day.
  • Avoid dropping mail in collection boxes over holiday weekends, or on nights before holidays. Fishing incidents are most common on Sunday night, according to police.
  • Speak with your local post office or mail carrier to determine which collection boxes in your area are up-to-date with security regulations. Certain collection boxes in New York have been retrofitted with security measures after a rash of mail fishing in the area in 2017.

If you think you were a victim of fraud, identity theft or another mail-related crime, report it at postalinspectors.usps.gov, or call 877-876-2455.

We encourage our members to utilize online banking resources to monitor statements electronically, and pay bills right online, so as to not fall victim to this type of fraud.

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: Jessica Presinzano for northjersey.com

 

How to Protect Your Money After the Equifax Data Breach

If you haven’t already, the first, best, and fastest way to protect yourself from the Equifax data breach is to place a security freeze on your credit files at the big three credit reporting bureaus.

Consumers should apply the freeze to Equifax, and also to Experian, and TransUnion. For extra security, you can apply a freeze to a fourth, lesser-known consumer reporting agency, Innovis.

You can do this by contacting each bureau either through their website or through the customer service number. There may be a fee for placing the freeze.

Equifax stated it would not charge for credit freezes for those affected by the breach.

The massive data breach involves the potential compromise of the personal data of 143 million consumers, including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and birth dates.

In addition to the credit freeze, there are four more steps to put an iron wall around your money.

Activate Two-Factor Authentication

In today’s world of digital crime and internet fraud, two-factor authentication is an important extra layer of safety. It requires not just a password but a second element, such as a code texted to your smart phone, which you have but a crook can’t easily get. Set up and activate two-factor authentication on all of your existing mobile banking, savings, credit card, home equity line of credit, and other financial accounts that offer it.

Maximize Your Mutual Fund Security

Although the Securities and Exchange Commission requires mutual funds companies to identify, detect, and respond to red flags of identity theft, unlike FDIC-insured banks and NCUA-insured credit unions, these investment firms aren’t required to restore assets stolen by hackers.

You should call your 401(k) plan provider and other investment managers to learn their fraud protection policies, as they can vary from company to company. If your investment company doesn’t explicitly reimburse stolen funds, consider moving your money elsewhere.

Place a Fraud Alert on Credit Reports

A fraud alert is different from a credit freeze. The fraud alert is a notice on your credit report that warns both current and prospective lenders that they must take reasonable steps to verify your identity before granting credit, such as a new credit card or loan, or extending credit on an existing account.

You need to request a fraud alert at one of the big three credit bureaus, which will then pass it on to the other two, and separately place another alert with Innovis. An alert lasts 90 days. If you’re an ID-theft victim, you can get a fraud alert that stays in place for seven years. But you may be better off with the 90-day alert, because that allows you to get a free credit report from each of the four credit bureaus each time you renew the alert, which means you can get up to 16 free reports per year.

Secure Your Smartphone + Email

How you manage your smartphone and email accounts can be critical to your online security. Your phone is where all your second-factor text message codes are sent and where your mobile banking and other money apps live. Email is where your financial institutions send alerts and password reset links.

Here’s how you can make your phone and email harder targets:

  • Activate two-factor authentication on your email account. When you log into your email on an unfamiliar computer or phone, you’ll get a text with the necessary code to complete login. A hacker would need that code, too, but can’t get it without your phone. Better yet, download an authenticator app such as Google Authenticator or Microsoft Authenticator, which generates these codes without the need for texts, which can be intercepted.
  • Use a password management app such as LastPass on your computer’s browser and on your phone. LastPass creates and plugs different passwords into each of your accounts when you log in, so you don’t have to invent and keep track of dozens of passwords. This eliminates the temptation of using the same password for multiple accounts, which can provide a master key for hackers.
  • Never click unsolicited, unexpected, or suspicious-looking links sent to you by email or text. They could download malware capable of spying on your phone or personal computer activity.
  • Follow other security tips for your phone’s specific operating system using the FCC Smartphone Security Checker, a customizable interactive tool.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from SherpaThe best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today! 

Article Source:  Jeff Blyskal for Consumer Reports

4 Items You Should Never Carry in Your Wallet

When it comes to your wallet – there are some things you should surely throw away, and there are others you should take out and file away immediately to prevent identity theft.

Social Security Card

It may seem obvious to not carry this with you, but many people have long kept their SS card in their wallet. But think about it, if you have your number memorized, which most of us do, when do you actually need your card? Have you ever had to present your card to someone? Carrying this information around with you is a bad idea. If the wrong person gets ahold of your social security number, you could end up with loans opened up in your name and new credit card accounts.

Passwords

It seems every website we visit now requires a password. How are we ever supposed to keep up with them all? It’s a great idea to have a cheat sheet where all your passwords are kept, but do not be tempted to keep this information in your wallet. Instead, keep your notes at your desk, locked in your phone, or filed away somewhere at home with other sensitive information.

Credit Cards

Many of us are way past the point of having a credit card just for “emergencies.”  It’s hard to check out at any retail store without being asked if we’d like to “save 10% by opening up a store credit card.” No matter how many cards you have, it’s wise not to carry all of them in your wallet at once. Think about it: if your wallet is stolen or lost, would you want someone to have access to every account you have? Instead, keep one card with you for those emergencies and leave the others at home in a safe place – unless you are specifically going to that particular store. This can also keep you from making spur of the moment purchases you’ll likely regret.

Receipts

Once you get home from a store after making a purchase, decide right then if you need to hold on to the receipt. Is there a chance you’re going to return the item? If not, then toss the receipt right away. If it is a larger purchase or some type of home technology, you may want to keep the receipt until after the purchase shows on your next credit card statement, to ensure you were charged the correct amount and that the item functions properly.

Don’t wait until it’s too late! Be sure to enroll in First Financial’s Identity Theft Protection Program from Sherpa today. The best part? You can enroll right online, 24/7. You can trust in First Financial and Sherpa to help keep your personal information protected. Packages begin at just $5.99 per month – so click here to enroll today!

Article Source: Wendy Bignon for CUInsight.com