Protect Your Children Online- December 23, 2013
Ensure Children Understand What Information to Provide Online.
Fraudsters will often use a game or a free offer that will request personal information, or will include spyware to track and steal information from your computer or mobile device. You can protect yourself by encouraging your children to limit online contact to friends they actually know, setting privacy controls to restrict access to private information, and enabling parental controls that allow access to only trusted sites. You should also talk to your children about not giving out their name, address, date of birth, or any other personal information online without talking to a parent first.
Strategies to Avoid Fraud
Don't let criminals get away with ruining your financial security.
Monitor your Financial Statements and Online Banking Regularly. December 9, 2013.
You should get into the routine of checking your statements and periodically reviewing your account transactions and online activities. This will help you identify unauthorized account activities early, preventing potential losses to your personal accounts.
To combat attacks from unwanted sources, it is recommended that you use strong passwords. No matter how many precautions you take and security measures you put into place, there is one way perpetrators can easily gain access to your systems—a weak password.
Never be shared with anyone or written down;
Be a minimum of eight characters;
Use a combination of upper and lower case alphabetic characters (B, c) and alphanumeric characters (6, 11), including special characters (!, &);
Not use sequential or repeated characters (e.g. 123456 or gfedcba);
Not contain family members’ names, nicknames, or initials;
Not contain birth dates, telephone numbers, Social Security numbers, or any other easily-identifiable personal information, or similar information for your loved ones;
Not use words that would appear in a dictionary in any language.
There are numerous strategies you can employ to create complex passwords that are nearly impossible to guess, but relatively easy for you to remember. One approach is to utilize a verse from one of your favorite songs, poems, or quotes as it relates to the website or account in question. For example, if you’re creating a password to access your online banking you might use the phrase “I love my cat, Mittens who was born in 2012!” It is too long to use as a password, but can easily be condensed to IlmcM12!, which breaks down to:
“I” represents “I”
“l” represents “love”
“m” represents “my”
“c” represents “cat”
“M” represents “Mittens”
“12” represents “2012”
You should also consider these additional protections for passwords:
Password age. Frequent password changes reduces the amount of time available for attackers to crack passwords.
Password length. Increasing the number of characters required for a password makes it harder to crack.
Strong passwords are an important method to protect your financial and personal information.
Use these tactics to steer clear of scams:
- Choose tough passwords. Fraudsters use Facebook and other social media profiles to figure out passwords. These scam artists skim profiles trolling for common names and phrases that consumers often use for passwords. Create passwords that contain numbers, letters, and symbols and are more than six characters.
- Don't be an open book. The information you post on the Internet isn't private. Use careful judgment about anything you post online.
- Shred personal documents. Thieves still are stealing personal information by dumpster diving. Use a cross-cut shredder to dispose of paper items containing personal information such as Social Security numbers and account numbers, as well as unsolicited credit card applications and receipts.
- Know with whom you're dealing. Fraudsters posing as family members may ask you to wire funds or send emergency cash. If you have any qualms about e-mails you receive, be leery. Contact the family members the e-mail is supposedly from--outside the e-mail channel--and ask if they sent the email.
- Use caution when job hunting. If you find a job online that entails working from home and the opportunity to make some quick cash, use caution. Fraudsters comb online job boards to prey on those eager to find work.
MoneyGram recommends you remember three key word to help prevent wire transfer fraud: Throw, Know and Show:
- Throw--Dispose of offers promising easy ways to earn money. Be extra cautious if the offer requires you to send money before actually earning money.
- Know--Only send money to people you know. Never send money to strangers.
- Show--Don't share information about money transfers with anyone except the recipient.
Save Money and Avoid Scams on Spring Break
Spring break is all about cutting loose, but if you let that relaxed mindset guide your vacation spending as well, you'll be in for a rude financial awakening when you return to campus (Investopedia Feb. 8).
You can curb spending and still enjoy a memorable trip. These money-saving suggestions from Kinoli Inc. should help:
- Remember your student ID. Some hotels or rental car companies offer discounts for students, so don't be afraid to ask for one when you're booking lodging and transportation. You also can inquire about student discounts throughout your break. Many restaurants, museums and other attractions have special pricing for students, regardless of where you're from.
- Avoid weekend travel. Flying on the weekend is almost always pricier than flying during the week. If possible, schedule travel time for weekdays. You may have to come back a day or two early, but that also means fewer nights spent in a hotel, which can save even more money.
- Look into gift cards. Before you depart, check out discount gift card websites like GiftCardGranny.com. You often can find gift cards for airfare, accommodations, and gas for as much as 50% off, sometimes more.
- Think beyond hotels. That swanky boutique hotel might be tempting, but you can save big by considering other lodging options. Think about staying in a hostel, even to cut costs for just a night or two. Research hostels on HostelWorld.com to find one that's clean and safe.
- Stock the cooler. Instead of eating out for every meal of the day, pack some food of your own or visit a local grocery store when you arrive at your vacation spot. You still can check out restaurants--just scale back your spending in that area. One idea: Take care of your own breakfast and lunch, and head to a restaurant for dinner.
While you're having a blast on break, make sure you've covered your bases back home, too. Spring-break season can lead to "family scams," which occur when scammers call parents or grandparents, claiming their vacationing child is in trouble. Scammers then ask parents to wire money for medical care or bail. It's often only after parents have sent money that they realize they were set up for a scam--and their money is long gone.
To prevent this, MoneyGram, a global money transfer company, recommends keeping a close eye on personal belongings when you're lying out on the beach or sipping drinks at local bars or clubs. Scammers often will steal student IDs or other identifying information to find parents they can swindle.
And, as much as you may groan at the thought, check in with your parents a few times while you're on break. By letting Mom and Dad know you're safe and having a great time, you're also arming them with the information they need to spot a scam before it happens.
Debit Card Safety Tips
Use caution during some transactions
To avoid debit-card drama, be careful when swiping your debit card for some transactions. Bankrate on its website recommends using extra caution at these locations:
- Outdoor ATMs. Thieves often have an easier time affixing skimming devices, which steal your card's information, to isolated, easily accessible outdoor machines. Skimming devices are usually hidden over an ATM's card slot, and can be difficult to spot. If you must use an outdoor ATM, aim for one in a busy, well-lit area, and check the card reader for any components that don't look quite right.
- Gas station pumps. Like outdoor ATMs, gas station card readers also provide ideal opportunities for skimming. Pumps that aren't monitored closely make it easy for thieves to attach skimming devices or small cameras to a card reader without detection. Before you swipe, examine card readers for anything that looks suspicious.
- On the Web. Making online purchases with a debit card is risky--your information can be compromised at multiple points in a transaction. Data breaches, unsecured wireless Internet connections, or malicious software on your own computer all could put your data at risk. Opt for your credit card when shopping online--and even then, only buy items from businesses you trust.
- Restaurants. Handing your debit card over to a restaurant server at the end of a meal also can be risky. A server who disappears to run your card could be privately nabbing your card information, as well. You simply don't know--so it's better to turn to your credit card or cash in this instance.
MEMBERS WITH CELL PHONES HAVE REPORTED TWO LOCAL SCAMS.
The first scam involves the member receiving a computerized call informing them that their debit card needs to be blocked due to a scam and asking the member to enter their Debit Card number.
The second scam involves the member being told that the caller wants to send them a $500 gift card, but needs the member's Debit Card number in order to charge a postage fee for mailing the free gift card.
Two things are important to remember.
1) The Credit Union will never call you and ask for your debit card number, account number, Social Security number or other information. We already have it.
2) If it sounds too good to be true, IT IS.
If you feel you've been the victim of a scam and have given out your information, CALL US IMMEDIATELY at (207) 783-1475 so we can try to prevent fraud on your account.
What was the most stolen online password of 2011? "Password." Computer users who think switching the "o" to a zero to make it "passw0rd" didn't fare much better. Both are on the list of the 25 most common passwords used on the Internet this year, according to SplashData, a provider of password management applications.
Other common passwords include simple numerical choices like "123456," common names like "Ashley" and "michael," and patterns based on the layout of the keyboard like "qwerty" and "qazwsx."
According to SplashData, the most common passwords on the Web are:
Pay those fines, or credit score suffers
Maybe you ignored a speeding ticket you got while traveling because you figured you wouldn't be back in the area soon enough for it to matter. Or maybe you simply forgot about that pesky parking ticket you got while downtown.
Now an increasing number of cities are trying a new tactic to get violators to pay up--and if those drivers don't, their credit scores could take a major dent (TIME Nov. 3).
Many cities are sending unpaid traffic and parking tickets straight to collection agencies. If you continue to ignore a ticket once it's in a collection agency's hands, you could lose serious points from your credit score.
And a minor ticket can affect your score as much as more serious types of debt. "For scoring purposes, the credit formula doesn't make a distinction between a $25 parking ticket you got when your meter expired and an outstanding credit card debt of $25,000," according to the TIME article.
This could mean higher rates or flat-out rejection the next time you need an auto, mortgage, or other type of loan--even if your credit was formerly spotless.
"Someone with a 680 score could lose roughly 50 points from the addition of a collection of this nature," said Fair Isaac Corp. spokesperson Barry Paperno in a recent Washington Post article (Oct. 31). "For someone with a 780 score--very, very good credit--the appearance of one of these collections could lower their score by as much as 105 to 125 points."
The best way to protect your credit score? Don't ignore those tickets. Even if you think you can get away with not paying them, the consequences for your credit score could be much more costly in the long run.
Mobile Fraud Alert
Be proactive in managing your mobile activities. Practice these five guidelines from ConsumerReports.org to protect yourself from mobile fraud:
- Secure login. Make sure you are logging in to a secure mobile site when using your phone's Web browser to access mobile banking sites. Look for indications on your browser that the site is secure, such as a lock symbol or "https" at the beginning of the site's web address.
- Trusted apps. Only allow trusted applications the ability to send text messages or update social networks. Untrustworthy apps may initiate fraudulent messages or spam, and add charges to your cell phone bill.
- Public Wi-Fi. Never conduct mobile banking, e-commerce, or other business involving user names, passwords, or other personal information on a public Wi-Fi network. Crooks may be able to capture login and password information.
- Reliable source. Avoid downloading spyware, which may accompany an application by obtaining your smart phone applications from a trusted source. Cell phone spyware can seize personal information including messages, conversations, and, via GPS coordinates, even your location.
- Security software. Purchase and install security software on your cell phone. Security software for your phone may help you find your cell phone if misplaced, allow you to delete data if the phone is lost, and prompt you to remove malicious software.
Facebook Feature Threatens Privacy
The social networking website Facebook continues to roll out its new facial recognition feature for uploaded photos, "Tag Suggestions," amidst privacy protection concerns (abcnews.go.com June10).
The new feature scans user-uploaded photos with facial recognition software to automatically, and without permission, identify people photographed in an attempt to make categorizing and sharing of photos easier for Facebook users.
Advocacy groups in the U.S. and authorities across the globe are concerned the new feature is a danger to consumer privacy. The Electronic Privacy Information Center and other advocacy organizations in the U.S. recently asked the Federal Trade Commission to order Facebook to suspend the feature. European Union data protection regulators and authorities in the United Kingdom and Ireland announced in early June they are independently looking into the Facebook feature for possible rule violations (consumerreports.org June 13).
Concerns surrounding the "Tag Suggestions" feature emphasize the need for Facebook users to adjust their privacy settings to prevent criminals from stealing personal information and using it to commit identity theft and fraud. Here's how to adjust two important Facebook settings to better protect your privacy:
Tag Suggestions. While many Facebook users will find this new feature useful, you may want to disable it. Here's how:
- Log in to your profile and select "Privacy Settings" under the "Account" drop-down menu located at the top right.
- Locate "Sharing on Facebook" and click on the "Customized Settings" link near the bottom of the section.
- In the "Things Others Share" section, click on the "Edit Settings" button next to the "Suggest photos of me to friends" option and select "Disable."
Contact Info. Your address, phone number, and even your birthday are pieces of information that can be used to steal your identity, exposing you to ID theft and fraud. Follow these steps to conceal this information:
- Log in to your profile and choose "Privacy Settings" under the "Account" drop-down menu located at the top right.
- Locate "Sharing on Facebook" and click on the "Customized Settings" link near the bottom of the section.
- In the "Contact Information" section, click on the settings button next to each item such as your address, phone number, and e-mail address and select "Custom."
- Choose the setting you believe is best; the "Only Me" setting hides the information from others; it can only be see by you when logged in.
Best Practices for Business Members to Reduce
the Risk of Online Banking Fraud
Wise giving in the wake of Hurricane Harvey
August 28, 2017
by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC
It’s heartbreaking to see people lose their lives, homes, and businesses to the ongoing flooding in Texas. But it’s despicable when scammers exploit such tragedies to appeal to your sense of generosity.
If you’re looking for a way to give, the FTC urges you to be cautious of potential charity scams. Do some research to ensure that your donation will go to a reputable organization that will use the money as promised.
Consider these tips when asked to give:
• Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
• Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events. Check out the charity with the Better Business Bureau's (BBB) Wise Giving Alliance, Charity Navigator, Charity Watch, or GuideStar.
• Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
• Never click on links or open attachments in e-mails unless you know who sent it. You could unknowingly install malware on your computer.
• Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate. Research the organization yourself.
• When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before you donate. The charge will show up on your mobile phone bill, but donations are not immediate.
• Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials. If they should be registered, but they're not, consider donating through another charity.
To learn more, go to Charity Scams. For tips to help you prepare for, deal with, and recover from a severe weather event, visit Dealing with Weather Emergencies.
Scammers phish for mortgage closing costs
March 21, 2016
by Colleen Tressler
Consumer Education Specialist, FTC