Scammers are notorious for capitalizing on fear, and the coronavirus outbreak is no exception. Showing an appalling lack of the most basic morals, scammers have set up fake websites, bogus funding collections and more in an effort to trick the fearful and unsuspecting out of their money.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has published on its website a warning against email scams connected to the coronavirus. The agency claims it has received reports from around the world about phishing attempts mentioning coronavirus on an almost daily basis.
Closer to home, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning against a surge in coronavirus scams, which are being executed with surprising sophistication, so they may be difficult for even the keenest of eyes to spot.
The best weapons against these scams are awareness and education. When people know about circulating scams and how to identify them, they’re already several steps ahead of the scammers. Here’s all you need to know about coronavirus-related scams.
How the scams play out
There are several scams exploiting the fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus. Here are some of the most prevalent:
The fake funding scam
In this scam, victims receive bogus emails, text messages or social media posts asking them to donate money to a research team that is supposedly on the verge of developing a drug to treat COVID-19. Others claim they are nearing a vaccine for immunizing the population against the virus. There have also been ads circulating on the internet with similar requests. Unfortunately, nearly all of these are fakes, and any money donated to these “funds” will help line the scammers’ pockets.
The bogus health agency
There is so much conflicting information on the coronavirus that it’s really a no-brainer that scammers are exploiting the confusion. Scammers are sending out alerts appearing to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the WHO; however, they’re actually created by the scammers. These emails sport the logo of the agencies that allegedly sent them, and the URL is similar to those of the agencies as well. Some scammers will even invent their own “health agency,” such as “The Health Department,” taking care to evoke authenticity with bogus contact information and logos.
Victims who don’t know better will believe these missives are sent by legitimate agencies. While some of these emails and posts may actually provide useful information, they often also spread misinformation to promote fear-mongering, such as nonexistent local diagnoses of the virus. Even worse, they infect the victims’ computers with malware which is then used to scrape personal information off the infected devices.
The phony purchase order
Scammers are hacking the computer systems at medical treatment centers and obtaining information about outstanding orders for face masks and other supplies. The scammers then send the buyer a phony purchase order listing the requested supplies and asking for payment. The employee at the treatment center wires payment directly into the scammer’s account. Unfortunately, they’ll have to pay the bill again when contacted by the legitimate supplier.
Basic preventative measures can keep scammers from making you their next target.
As always, it’s important to keep the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer up to date, and to strengthen the security settings on all of your devices.
Practice responsible browsing when online. Never download an attachment from an unknown source or click on links embedded in an email or social media post from an unknown individual. Don’t share sensitive information online, either. If you’re unsure about a website’s authenticity, check the URL and look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” indicating the site is secure.
Finally, it’s a good idea to stay updated on the latest news about the coronavirus to avoid falling prey to misinformation. Check the actual CDC and WHO websites for the latest updates. You can donate funds toward research on these sites as well.
Spotting the scams
Scammers give themselves away when they ask for payment via specific means, including a wire transfer or prepaid gift card. Scams are also easily spotted by claims of urgency, such as “Act now!” Another giveaway is poor writing skills, including grammatical errors, awkward syntax and misspelled words. In the coronavirus scams, “Breaking information” alerts appearing to be from health agencies are another sign of a scam.
You can keep yourself safe from the coronavirus by practicing good hygiene habits and avoid coronavirus scams by practicing healthy internet usage. Keep yourself in the know about the latest developments.
When trying to trim a monthly budget, most people don’t consider their fixed expenses. These recurring costs, which include mortgage payments, insurance premiums and subscription payments, are easy to budget and plan for since they generally remain constant throughout the year. While people tend to think there’s no way to lower fixed expenses, with a bit of effort and research, most of these costs can be reduced.
Here are five ways to trim your fixed expenses.
1. Consider a refinance
Mortgage payments take the biggest bite out of most monthly budgets. Fortunately, you can lower those payments by refinancing your mortgage to a lower interest rate. The refinance will cost you, but you can roll the closing costs and other fees into your refinance loan. Plus, the money you save each month should more than offset these costs. A refinance is an especially smart move to make in a falling-rates environment or if your credit has improved a lot since you originally opened your mortgage.
2. Lower your property taxes
Taxes may be inevitable, but they aren’t set in stone. You may be able to lower your property taxes by challenging your town’s assessment of your home. Each town will have its own guidelines to follow for this process, but ultimately you will agree to have your home reappraised in hopes of proving its value is less than the town’s assessment. This move can drastically lower your property tax bill; however, if you have made improvements to your home, it may be appraised at a higher value, which could raise your taxes.
3. Change your auto insurance policy
The Geico gecko and Progressive’s Flo, who love disrupting your favorite TV shows, actually have a point: You may be overpaying for your auto insurance policy.
If you’ve had the same policy for several years, speak to a company representative about lowering your monthly premiums. By highlighting your loyalty and having an excellent driving record, you may be able to get a lower quote. You can also consider increasing your deductible to net a lower monthly premium.
If your insurance company is not willing to work with you, it might be time to shop around for a provider that will. A few minutes on the phone can provide you with a significant monthly savings for a similar level of coverage. Once you have a lower quote in hand, you can choose to go back to your original provider and tell them you’re seriously considering a switch; they may change their mind about their previous lowest offer.
4. Consolidate your debts
If you’re carrying a number of outstanding debts, your minimum monthly payments can be a serious drain on your budget. Plus, thanks to the high interest rates you’re likely saddled with, you might be feeling like that debt is going nowhere.
Lucky for you, there is a way out. If you have multiple credit cards open, each with an outstanding balance, you might want to consider a balance transfer. This entails opening a new, no-interest credit card, and transferring all of your debts to this account. The no-interest period generally lasts up to 18 months. Going forward, you will only have one debt payment to make each month. Plus, the no-interest feature means you can make a serious dent in paying down that debt without half of your payment going toward interest.
Another way to consolidate debt is to take out a personal loan at Artesia Credit Union. Our personal loans will allow you to pay off all of your credit card debt at once. With interest rates starting at just 9.00% APR*, you’ll only need to make a single, affordable monthly payment until your loan is paid off.
5. Cut out subscriptions you don’t need
Another fixed expense most people mindlessly pay each month are subscriptions. Take some time to review your monthly subscriptions and weed out those you don’t really need. Below, we’ve listed some of the most commonly underused monthly payments:
- Gym membership. Are you really getting your money’s worth out of your gym membership? It may be cheaper to just pay for the classes you attend instead of a full membership. Or, if you have a favorite workout machine at the gym, consider purchasing it to use at home for a one-time cost that lets you to drop your gym membership.
- Cable. Why are you still paying for cable when you can stream your shows for less through services like Netflix and Hulu? If you don’t want to cut out cable entirely, consider downgrading to a cheaper plan that drops some of the premium channels you don’t watch much.
- Apps. How many apps are you signed up for? You may not even remember signing up for an upgraded version of an app you rarely use. A quick perusal of your monthly checking account statement or credit card bill can help you determine how much these subscriptions are costing you. Drop the apps you’re not using for more wiggle room in your monthly budget.
Your fixed monthly expenses are actually not as “fixed” as you may have thought. By taking a careful look at some of these costs, you can free up more of your monthly income for the things that really matter.
*APR refers to Annual Percentage Rate
You’re determined that this will be the year you finally pay down (or pay off) that debt. Get ready, because every month, our Do It Today plan will have you taking another step on your journey toward living a debt-free life.
First, sit down and take stock of all your debts. Don’t let the numbers scare you; you need to do this to move forward. Get out every single credit card bill, personal loan, student loan, and any other debt you’re carrying (except your car and mortgage payments). Tally up the numbers to give yourself an idea of what you’re dealing with.
Next, organize your debt into different categories, such as credit card debt, student debt, personal loans etc. Use a spreadsheet to list your debt, the remaining term of each loan (if applicable), the minimum payment and the interest rate.
Finally, designate one hour each week for working on your finances.
‘Tis the season to be jolly! And unfortunately, ‘tis also the season for scammers to go after your hard-earned dollars. Keep your money safe by reading up on the most common scams taking place this time of year and practicing caution.
1. Phishing emails
Always popular, phishing scams get even more prevalent before the holidays. They can take the form of bogus delivery confirmation requests seeking your information or even a personalized letter to your child from “Santa.”
Be extra careful this holiday season when it comes to sharing personal information online or with an unverified requester.
2. Other “Ishing” Scams
Vishing is the telephone equivalent of phishing. It is described as the act of using the telephone to scam the user into surrendering private information that will be used for fraudulent purchases or identity theft.
Skimming is perpetrated by using electronic devices to surreptitiously scan and store credit and debit card numbers and PINs. ATMs and some unattended terminals, such as gas stations, are targets for this practice. This information can then be sold to fraudsters or used to commit theft directly. Fraudsters can use the numbers to make online purchases or to create fake cards for in-store transactions.
Phishing is the fraudulent practice of sending emails purporting to be from reputable companies in order to induce individuals to reveal personal information, such as passwords and credit card numbers.
SMiShing (SMS phishing) is the act of attempting to acquire personal information such as passwords and details by masquerading as a trustworthy entity through SMS text messages on cell phones. SMiShing messages may come from telephone numbers that are in a strange or unexpected format with links directing to fake websites.
A typical SMiShing occurrence can begin with a cardholder receiving a text message inquiring about a suspicious transaction on an account. In reality, the fraudster is looking to obtain other information from cardholders such as debit/credit card numbers, CV2 codes, expiration dates, PINs and other web login credentials.
3. Fake charities
Sadly, many scammers will capitalize on the goodwill that flourishes this time of year by asking you to make a donation to a charity that does not actually exist. Verify the authenticity of any charity you’d like to make a contribution to by checking it out on a website like CharityNavigator.org. Also, it’s best to contact a charity on your own instead of following a website or email link.
4. Package theft
It’s holiday time, and those UPS and FedEx trucks are everywhere, dropping off boxes of goodies all over the neighborhood.
Usually, these drop-offs go as planned. Unfortunately, though, some 23 million customers will have their packages stolen from their doorsteps this year.
Don’t be one of them! If possible, and especially when ordering something expensive, arrange for a delivery that requires your signature upon receipt. Otherwise, track your order and know when to look out for it so you can bring it inside as quickly as possible after it’s dropped off.
When sending a gift to someone else via Amazon, consider sending it to an Amazon Locker location instead of to the recipient’s household. There’s no fee for using this service, and this way, your gift is safe.
4. Bogus sites
You might get lucky and find that perfect gift at a super-low price, but don’t believe any ads or websites that are practically giving away the good stuff for free. These are, quite likely, scams. Once you click an ad link and place an order, you’ll never hear from the site again. Worse yet, they may use the information you shared to empty your accounts.
Only shop on reputable sites. Remember to check the website address/URL before placing an order. It may look strikingly similar to a popular site, but if one letter is off or missing completely, the site is bogus and you need to get out. Also, always look for that important “s” after the “http” in the web address to verify a site’s security.
5. Fake freebies
Did you really just see a Facebook post offering you a new iPhone, completely free of charge? If you have, run the other way and don’t look back! You’re looking at a scam, designed to lure you into sharing your information with criminals or unwittingly installing malware on your device.
Fake freebies run the gamut from new phones, complementary cruises and various luxury gift items to free holiday-themed downloads, like music, wallpaper and games.
If you’re offered any outrageous free gifts by text message, email or social media posts, ignore them. Downloads, though, may be safe, but need to be carefully vetted for authenticity before you accept them.
6. Defunct gift cards
Many scammers sell expired or empty gift cards this time of year, hoping to make a profit on a card that isn’t worth more than the plastic used to make it.
Ask to inspect any gift card you purchase before you finalize the sale. Check to see if the activation code is exposed. If it is, the scammer has probably already used the card or has copied the information and will use it soon.
7. Temporary holiday jobs
Lots of businesses are hiring extra hands to get them through the busy holiday season. Don’t get stuck working for criminals!
Many scammers will pose as employees of recognized businesses and post help-wanted ads on social media platforms and popular websites. When a job seeker follows the links in these ads, they are directed to a bogus site that looks just like the site of the company the scammer claims to represent. They’ll be asked to share personal information to submit an application. The scammer will then make off with this information and the promised job will never materialize.
If you’re looking for a seasonal job, apply in-person or directly on a business’s website. Do not follow any links.
As always, be aware and be cautious when enjoying the holiday season. Don’t get grinched! Stay alert and use caution to keep your money — and your information — safe.
4. Sales based on a dishonest manufacturer’s price
‘Tis the season to shop until you drop-or until you go broke. But you don’t have to overspend.
There’s no need to rack up a huge credit card bill or go into debt just to cover your holiday expenses. Enjoy a stress-free season by keeping your spending in check with these six tips:
- Create a detailed list of all your expenses
Don’t leap into your holiday shopping armed with nothing but a credit card. Before you hit the mall or start browsing, sit down and draw up a complete list of every holiday expense you can anticipate. Include all gifts, holiday décor, travel expenses, charitable donations and food costs. Try to keep this list as trim as possible by cutting out any non-essentials and using stuff you may already have in storage from previous years. Bonus points for any homemade gifts!
- Determine how much money you can spend
Once you have all of your expenses written out, work on finding a magic number that will cover everything on your list and that you can realistically afford. Ideally, this money should come from funds you’ve set aside just for this purpose.
- Divide and conquer
Next, assign specific amounts of money in your budget for each expense category and for every person on your gift list. For example, you can decide to spend $300 on your preteen daughter’s gifts and to donate $100 to charity this season. Again, make sure your numbers will work from both a financial and practical perspective.
- Track as you shop
You’re ready to hit the mall! As you shop, keep a careful account of exactly how much money you’ve spent for each person and in each expense category. It’s best to use cash or a debit card when shopping, and to review your budget often to make sure you’re staying on track. This way, you’ll know how much you’re spending and you won’t be hit by awful “Santa shock” come January when you need to pay those credit card bills.
To make this job easier, use an app designed for this purpose. A common favorite is one called Santa’s Bag. The app allows you to set a budget for each person on your list and then makes tracking the amount you spend super simple. It will even warn you when you’re nearing your preset spending limit or when you’ve gone over budget.
- Shop smartly and spend less
Keep your spending to a minimum by following these hacks:
- Use shopping apps, like the Coupons Appand Shopular, to get your favorite retailers’ best deals and coupons delivered right to your phone.
- Follow the 24-hour rule.Before purchasing anything on the expensive side, wait 24 hours. Sometimes, after sleeping on it, you’ll find that you don’t need to buy that pricey gift after all. Or, you might find the same item somewhere else at a lower price.
- Shop online on Tuesday morning.Research shows this time of week is when you’ll find the hottest online deals.
- Shop with a friend.Take advantage of BOGO sales by splitting the cost of a single item with a friend and each of you taking one item home.
- Shop late.Everyone likes to get an early start on holiday shopping, but prices actually drop in the weeks leading up to Christmas as retailers seek to clear out their holiday inventory.
- Let Artesia Credit Union help
If you’re having trouble covering your holiday expenses, or you want to get a head start on next year’s costs, let Artesia Credit Union help! Here are three ways we can take the financial stress out of the holiday season:
- Skip-a-Payment.We get it. The holidays are crazy expensive. That’s why we allow qualifying members to skip one payment on a loan [or credit card] this time of year without hurting their credit or defaulting on their loan. It’s extra breathing room, just when you need it most!
- Holiday Loan.If you can’t come up with the funds you need for the holidays, consider taking out a Artesia Credit Union Holiday Loan. Our fantastic terms and affordable rates make it a no-brainer!
Don’t let financial stress ruin your holiday cheer this year. Follow our tips to keep your spending down, and stop by Artesia Credit Union to see how we can help!
In a world where you can order almost anything using your mobile phone, it makes sense that Artesia Credit Union offers mobile banking services for our members. You can now check your account balance and transfer funds between accounts, all from the comfort of your home.
One of the most convenient features we offer through our mobile banking service is Artesia Credit Union Remote Check Capture app. All it takes to deposit a check is a few minutes of your time and a phone with internet access.
Let’s take a closer look at remote check capture and mobile deposits.
What is remote check capture?
Remote check capture is a way for you to deposit a check into your ACU Checking or Savings Account from a distant location using a mobile device with internet access. You can be practically anywhere in the world and make your deposit at any time.
The process is simple: You’ll sign into our mobile check deposit app and prepare your check for deposit. Tap on the Deposit A Check icon and the app will guide you through snapping a picture of both the front and the back of the check. You’ll also be asked to verify the check amount. Once you’ve made the confirmation, your check will be submitted for deposit into your account.
It’s that easy.
The benefits of remote check capture
1. Convenience. As mentioned, with remote check capture, you can make your deposit anywhere, at any time.
2. Speed. Your check will generally clear more quickly through a mobile deposit than it will through an ATM deposit.
3. Accuracy. You’ll be asked to confirm the check amount for accuracy. On the small chance that an error happens, you’ll still have the physical check, which you can then deposit at Artesia Credit Union.
Some facts you may not know about remote check capture
A. Deposit limits. For your safety, the maximum amount you can remotely deposit in one go is $10,000.00.
B. Bounced checks. Just like a confirmed check deposit can end up bouncing several days later, if we cannot collect the funds, a mobile deposit can also be returned for the same reasons.
C. Holds on checks. Any checks deposited after our evening cutoff of 4 p.m. will be placed on hold until the next business day.
But is it safe?
We take many precautions for ensuring your personal information is protected throughout the remote check capture process.
First, no one can sign into your Artesia Credit Union mobile deposit account without knowing your strong, unique password.
Second, our mobile app does not store your check images in your phone. Once your check has been submitted, the image is erased from your phone and stored only in our own software.
Finally, if an error occurs, you’ll always have the physical check to deposit if necessary.
Artesia Credit Union Remote Check Capture is quick, easy and safe. Try it today!
It’s hard to believe, but 2019 is half over. Take a timeout from barbecues and beaches to give yourself a mid-year financial checkup. Use the seven steps below to guide you.
Step 1: Revisit Your Budget
Take some time to review your monthly budget. Is it working for you or are you falling behind each month? After reviewing, adjust your budget as necessary.
Step 2: Anticipate Large Expenses
List any large expenses you anticipate in the coming six months. This can include household appliances that may need replacing or an anticipated medical expense that is not fully covered by insurance.
Next, determine the spending category you will take the money from to cover these expenses. Deciding on a source for these funds now will help you avoid making the wrong choices when you’re under pressure in the future.
If you do not have enough money set aside for these expenses, build a savings plan into your monthly budget so you have the funds available when you need them.
Step 3: Review Your Tax Withholdings
Review your tax withholdings to see if they need any adjusting. Your goal here is to pay the perfect amount so you’re not hit with a huge tax bill at the end of the year, but you’re also not lending the government your money all year long.
Step 4: Check Your Credit Score
Visit AnnualCreditReport.com for your free credit report from any of the three major credit bureaus. If your score has gone up in the last six months, you’re doing great!
Conversely, if your score has dropped, review your report in detail. Take the necessary steps to fix your score today, whether that means contesting an erroneous charge with the Federal Trade Commission, setting up an automatic payment on some of your bills or lowering your credit utilization rate by paying with plastic less often.
Step 5: Review Your Investments
Review and adjust all of your investments. This includes your retirement funds, any stock investments, bonds, trust funds or share certificates at Artesia Credit Union. Make sure you are maximizing your contributions when possible and that your other investments are performing according to plan. Adjust as necessary.
Step 6: Tackle Your Debt
List every outstanding debt you carry, including credit card debt and all kinds of loans. Designate one debt to tackle first and work on a plan to pay it down. Once you’ve paid off this debt, move to the next one on your list.
Step 7: Review Your Financial Resolutions and Long-term Goals
Review the financial resolutions and goals you dreamed up at the end of 2018 and then determine whether you are taking the steps necessary for making them happen. If you’ve been neglecting them, create a plan for working toward them for the rest of the year.
Now you can kick back and enjoy the season, guilt-free. Happy summer!
Your Turn: What’s on your list for your mid-year financial checkup? Tell us about it in the comments.
Your bags are packed, your itinerary is set and you’re counting down the minutes until you take off for your dream summer getaway. Before you head out to the airport, though, read through this checklist of important things people tend to forget before leaving for vacation.
1.) Let us know
Give us a call at 575-748-9779 before you set off on your vacay. If you’re traveling overseas, ask us about any foreign transaction fees and the best practices of using cash or debit/credit cards. We’ll help you make the best decisions for managing your money while you’re away. Plus, we’d love to hear all about your awesome travel plans!
2.) Check your auto insurance plan for coverage
If you plan on renting a car when you land, check with your auto insurance provider first to find out if rental cars are covered in your plan. If they’re not, you may want to purchase travel insurance, just in case.
3.) Pay all your bills
Before heading out on your trip, make sure all of your monthly bills are paid up. You don’t want to be busy paying bills when you’re sunning yourself on the beach or take a chance of getting hit with late fees.
4.) Set up an automatic email response
Your boss might know that you’ll be away this week, but potential and existing clients will not. Set up an automatic response that lets people know you’re out of the office to avoid appearing unprofessional or negligent.
5.) Put your mail on hold
An overflowing mailbox is an open invitation to thieves. If you’ll be gone for more than a few days, ask the USPS to put a hold on your mail. They’ll happily keep your mail at the post office until your return, at no cost to you. Alternatively, ask a neighbor to collect your mail and hold it until you return.
6.) Unplug your electronics
Don’t pay vampire charges for electronics you’re not using while you’re away. Pull the plug on all small appliances and electronics before you leave.
7.) Clean your home
Before your departure, give your house a thorough cleaning so you’ll be greeted by a spotless, clean-smelling house upon your return. Plus, you’ll avoid an invasion by ants and other critters. Here’s a quick list to get you started:
- Scrub countertops and tables.
- Wipe down the refrigerator and toss all perishables.
- Sweep and mop, or vacuum all floors.
- Take out the garbage.
- Scrub your bathrooms.
- Seal any open food packages in airtight containers.
- Pour a cup of baking soda down your drains and toilets to rid any lingering odors.
- Change your bed sheets.
Yes, you’re busy with your packing and travel arrangements now, but your post-vacation self will thank you for any scrubbing you do now.
8.) Let your mobile service provider know about your travel plans
If you’re travelling abroad, you’ll want to check with your cellphone company about possible overseas service plans that allow you to use your smartphone for calls, texts and internet access when on vacation.
9.) Shut off your main water supply
Avoid coming home to a flood by turning off your water supply before leaving on your vacay. A small, unnoticed leak can easily turn into a huge problem when left unattended for days or weeks on end.
10.) Adjust your thermostats
If you have the AC blasting throughout the summer, you’ll want to adjust your thermostat before leaving. Turning it off completely is not a good idea, because you’ll want some air to circulate for keeping the humidity under control and to avoid mold. Instead, turn it a few degrees higher than you usually keep it. You can also program your AC to go on and off while you’re away. Also, set your hot water heater to its vacation setting so it’s heating the same water less often.
11.) Invest in a timer
Keep the prowlers out by setting your lights to go on and off in different rooms and at different times of the day throughout your vacation. It’s a small investment when weighed against the money and aggravation it can save you.
12.) Confirm your reservations
It’s a good idea to confirm your flight, hotel room, car rental and attractions before setting out on your trip. You may have booked some of these reservations months ago, and you don’t want any unpleasant surprises ruining your vacation.
Your Turn: Did we miss anything? Share your own pre-vacation to-do list with us in the comments.