Is Plaid Safe?

Q: When using peer-to-peer payment apps, banking apps and free-trading apps, I’m often redirected to the Plaid network, where I’m asked to input personal information. Can I feel safe using Plaid?

A: The instinct to be wary of any service that’s asking you to share sensitive information is appropriate and commendable. Most financial apps will ask you to share your banking information, and some will even ask you to share your Social Security number. But it begs the important question; Should you be sharing this information?

While the safety and security of each financial app is individual, apps that are powered by Plaid are safe to use. Plaid is a reputable company that uses encryption and industry-standard security measures to protect your sensitive information.

Here’s what you need to know about Plaid.

What is Plaid? 

Plaid is a financial technology company that serves as an intermediary between financial services and their users. Apps like Venmo, You Need a Budget and Robinhood use Plaid to securely link their users’ financial accounts to their own platforms. This way, the financial apps do not have access to their users’ information; they instead rely on Plaid to supply it for them.

Plaid works by using a universal Application Programming Interface (API) to share users’ data with other applications. APIs are software intermediaries that allow two different applications to communicate. Plaid has developed an API that can be used by any financial institution or application, making it simpler and safer for users to share their financial information digitally.

How does Plaid work?

When you sign up for any of the 3,000+ financial applications currently powered by Plaid, you’ll be asked to choose your financial institution from a list that’s provided by Plaid. Next, you’ll enter your banking login info and password. Some apps will have you create a new password at this point. Once you’ve logged in, Plaid securely shares the information you’ve chosen to link, such as your checking account number, with the app you’re using.

It’s important to note that Plaid itself does not move money around. The technology merely enables other financial apps and their users to send funds from one account to another. Plaid holds onto your encrypted password information without touching your money, while the linked financial app can move your money, but cannot access or know your login credentials.

Is Plaid safe?

Sharing personal information with an app can be unsettling — and it should be. However, you can rest easy, knowing that Plaid uses the highest levels of security possible. When you link your checking account with a financial application by using Plaid, the company instantly encrypts the sensitive data and then shares it with the application using a secure connection.

According to the Plaid website, the company uses these measures to keep your information secure:

  • End-to-end data encryption. Plaid uses a combination of the Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256) and Transport Layer Security (TLS) to keep your personal information completely safe.
  • Multi-factor authentication.  An extra login step adds another layer of security.
  • Cloud infrastructure. Plaid uses secure cloud infrastructure technologies to enable quick and safe connection.
  • Robust monitoring. The Plaid API and all related components are continuously monitored by a security team.
  • Third-party security reviews. Security researchers and financial institutions regularly audit Plaid’s API and security controls.

When using an application that is powered through Plaid, practice standard online safety measures. Check the URL to ensure you have the correct site, look for the lock icon and the “s” following the “http” in the address. Also, make sure the security settings on your device are updated and set to their strongest levels. Finally, if you need to choose a new password for the app, be sure to choose a strong, unique code and not to share it with anyone.

In a world that is increasingly mobile, Plaid safely connects users to thousands of financial apps and 11,000 financial institutions across the country. Follow basic online safety protocol, keep your login info private, and you can use Plaid knowing your information is secure.

Your Turn: What steps do you take to keep your data safe? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
getdivvy.com
plaid.com

5 Steps to Take Before Making a Large Purchase

Have you been bitten by the gotta-have-it bug? It could be a Peloton bike that’s caught your eye, or maybe you want to spring for a new entertainment system, no matter the cost. Before you go ahead with the purchase, though, it’s a good idea to take a step back and follow the steps outlined here to be sure you’re making a decision you won’t ultimately regret.

Step 1: Wait it out

Often, a want can seem like a must-have, but that urgency fades when you wait it out. Take a break for a few days before finalizing a large purchase to see if you really want it that badly. For an extra-large purchase, you can wait a full week, or even a month. After some time has passed, you may find that you don’t want the must-have item after all.

Step 2: Consider your emotions

A bit of retail therapy every now and then is fine for most people, but draining your wallet every month to feed negative emotions is not. Before going ahead with your purchase, take a moment to identify the emotions driving the desire. Is this purchase being used as a means to fix a troubled relationship? Or to help gain acceptance among a group of friends, neighbors or workmates? Or maybe you’re going through a hard time and you’re using this purchase to help numb the pain or to fill a void in your life. Be honest with yourself and take note of what’s really driving you to make this purchase. Is it really in your best interest?

Step 3: Review your upcoming expenses 

What large expenses are you anticipating in the near future? Even if you have the cash in your account to cover this purchase, you may soon need that money for an upcoming expense. Will you need to make a costly car repair? Do you have a major household appliance that will need to be replaced within the next few months? By taking your future financial needs into account, you’ll avoid spending money today that you’ll need tomorrow.

Step 4: Find the cheapest source 

If you’ve decided you do want to go ahead with the purchase, there are still ways to save money. In today’s online world of commerce, comparison shopping is as easy as a few clicks. You can use apps like ShopSavvy and BuyVia to help you find the retailer selling the item at the best price.

Step 5: Choose your payment method carefully

Once you’ve chosen your retailer and the item you’d like to purchase, you’re ready to go ahead and make it yours! Before taking this final step, though, you’ll need to decide on a method of payment.

If you’ve saved up for this item and you have the funds on-hand for it now, you can pay up in cash or by using a debit card. This payment method is generally the easiest, and if it’s pre-planned, it will have little effect on your overall budget.

If you can’t pay for the item in full right now, consider using a credit card with a low interest rate. Most credit card payments have the added benefit of purchase protection, which can be beneficial when buying large items that don’t turn out to be as expected. Before swiping your credit card, though, be sure you can meet your monthly payments or you’ll risk damaging your credit score.

Another option to consider is paying for your purchase through a buy now, pay later program. Apps, like Afterpay, allow you to pay 25% of your purchase today, and the rest in fixed installments over the next few months. This approach, too, should only be chosen if you are certain you can meet the future payments.

Large purchases are a part of life, but they’re not always necessary or in the buyer’s best interest. Follow these steps before you finalize an expensive purchase.

Your Turn: What steps do you take before finalizing a large purchase? Tell us about it in the comments.

Learn More:
thesimpledollar.com
thebalance.com
fool.com
moneywise.com

When Should I Do It Myself and When Should I Leave it to the Pros?

Q: Which home improvement projects can I tackle myself, and which should I leave to the pros?

A: In today’s world, when you can look up how to do practically any project online, it’s tempting to want to do everything yourself, but it isn’t always the best choice. Attempting to do a project on your own can sometimes end up costing more time, money and mess than it’s worth. Here’s how to know when to do it yourself, and when to leave it to the pros.

Home improvement projects you can probably do on your own

While everyone’s level of skill and dexterity is different, these home improvement projects are simple enough for nearly everyone:

  • Cosmetic improvements. This includes painting, wallpapering, wood staining, installing adhesive carpet tiles and replacing the hardware on cabinets and drawers. Before you start, check out tutorials on YouTube for useful tips and tricks.
  • Minor plumbing jobs. Almost anyone can snake a clogged toilet, and most people can handle fixing a minor faucet leak, changing a shower head and even installing a toilet. Again,  when it comes to DIY projects, YouTube is a wonderful plumbing mentor.
  • Minor electrical work. Don’t try to rewire your home on your own (unless you’re a licensed electrician), but you can probably successfully install new light fixtures and change your light switch plates.
  • Install tiles. Think a new backsplash for your kitchen, new tiles for your bathroom floors and walls and new floors for your kitchen and foyer. You’ll need to research exactly how to lay tiles, using a notched trowel to spread your tile adhesive in horizontal strokes. If you’re not comfortable with the installation of your new tiles, you can still save a buck by removing your old tiles with a hammer and chisel before calling in the experts to lay your new ones.

Six questions to ask before tackling a project on your own

  1. Have I done a project like this before? If this isn’t your first time doing a project like this, you can probably handle it now. If it is your first time attempting this kind of project, you may still be able to do it, as long as you’re prepared for the extra work and focus it will involve.
  2. Do I have a reliable resource to turn to with any questions that may arise? It’s best to be prepared in case you run into trouble mid-project. Get that contractor friend on speed dial!
  3. Will this project involve any structural framing? It’s best not to tackle projects that involve cutting through walls, as you run the risk of cutting through engineered lumber and trusses, which can then lose their weight-carrying capacity. If your project fits into this category, have a pro do the job or ask them for guidance before you begin.
  4. Will this job involve any electrical, plumbing or HVAC work? Here, too, you run the risk of messing up structural elements of your home. If your project involves cutting through pipes and wires, it’s probably best to leave it to the pros.
  5. Do I have the resources to complete this job? Many homeowners are eager to start a project on their own and save on pro prices, but they neglect to consider how much time and money the job will take. It’s best to make an estimation of how much the supplies and tools for the job will run you, and how many hours of work you can expect it to consume. You may find the DIY route is not as desirable as you believed it to be.
  6. Will this job risk personal injury? Don’t risk your safety on a project that should really be left to the pros.

Paying for a home improvement project

Whether you decide to DIY, or you’re going to call in the experts, a home improvement project can cost a pretty bundle. Consider tapping into your home’s equity through a home equity loan or a home equity line of credit through Advantage One Credit Union to help you pay for the project. Increasing the value of your home is one of the best ways you can use your home’s equity.

Your Turn: Are you an avid DIYer? Share your best success stories with us in the comments.

Learn More:
lifehacker.com
plygem.com
homeisd.com
usatoday.com

The Back to School Guide for These Unconventional Times

Back-to-school season is traditionally marked by a run on discounted pencils, overcrowded malls and lots of nail-biting nerves about new teachers. But this year, the woman putting on young girls face maskback-to-school season is entirely different. Forget the crowds and a race to find the hottest-selling backpack. This year, it’s all about the trendiest face masks and getting ready for a school year that promises to be unlike any other. And for a child, that can be more than a little frightening.

As with every transition, proper mindset and preparation is key to smoothing out the inevitable bumps and hurdles. Whether your school district is starting off the year exclusively with distance learning, going back to in-person learning five days a week or they’ve settled on something in between, we’ve got you covered.

Here’s our complete guide to helping you prepare your child for the new school year in these unconventional times.

Talk to your child about what to expect

The more your child knows about the dynamics of the upcoming school year, the better off they’ll be. As the situation evolves, and you learn more details about the year’s schooling, speak to your child about what to expect. If your school’s administration has decided to continue in-person instruction with daily temperature checks, let your child know to expect them. If the school year will start off with remote learning and tentative plans for returning to in-person instruction in January, share this information with your child. The more your child knows, the easier it will be for them to handle changes as events unfold.

Create a back-from-school protocol to keep your home safe

If your child will be going to school full-time, or even partially, it’s important to establish a sanitizing ritual for them to adhere to when they walk through the front door after each day of school.

“When children return from school, they should immediately sanitize their hands,” advises board-certified pediatrician, Dr. Candice W. Jones. “Once at home, at the very least, they should remove clothes/shoes and place them in the laundry, or in a designated safe place for disinfecting. A shower would be great, but is not absolutely necessary.”

Talk to your child about this daily disinfecting routine, and run a practice round or two to make it easier to remember when school starts.

Zooming in on remote schooling

Many states and school districts have announced the continuation of distance learning for the start of the new school year. If the idea of sitting your child down in front of the screen for hours at a time again makes your head spin, it’s time to rethink your strategy. Dr. Linda Carling, an associate research scientist at Johns Hopkins University, shares these tips for helping children succeed at remote learning:

Encourage movement. Squeeze in some stretching breaks throughout the school day and pencil in larger chunks of time for longer exercises, like a bike ride around the block. If your child finds it particularly difficult to sit still for long periods of time, set up a tablet or laptop on a raised surface and have your child stand through their classes.

Reduce distractions. Create a distraction-free zone for your child’s learning to help boost their focus. Noise-canceling headphones can also be helpful to drown out auditory distractions.

Adjust your schedule as needed. Many younger children need constant or intermittent guidance to help them with their remote learning. If possible, adjust your own schedule so you can be on hand to help your child as necessary.

Use a checklist for focus. A basic visual checklist of tasks that need to be completed can help children focus. Draw up the checklist with your child at the beginning of each day and have them cross off tasks as they’re completed.

Provide immediate positive feedback. Each time your child successfully follows instructions, provide immediate and positive feedback. You can keep it small, from a sticker on their work assignment or words of praise to an extra 15 minutes of play before bedtime.

Help your child prepare for face mask wearing while at school

School supply lists are looking very different this year, with “face masks” penciled in right next to “erasers” and “glue.” But having your child wear a mask for hours on end while sitting through school can sound next to impossible.

To help your child prepare for face mask wearing while at school, it’s best to model positivity.

It’s no secret that kids mimic the adults in their lives. Though you may find it difficult to wear a mask yourself, you can help your child build up a positive attitude about mask-wearing by talking about how your mask is keeping you and others safe, as well as how the discomfort is a small price to pay for safety.

It’s also a good idea to practice mask-wearing at home. This will serve the dual purpose of getting your child accustomed to wearing a mask, and help to ensure your child is wearing it correctly before school starts. If your child is particularly resistant to wearing a mask, you may want to employ some strategies, like having them wear the mask for the length of their favorite song, or playing dress-up as a doctor or your child’s favorite superhero.

For the sensory child, face masks can be a nightmare. Make it easier by finding the style that is most comfortable for your child, whether that’s a classic ear-loop mask, a bandanna style covering, or a neck gaiter. Extenders or button headbands can also be a welcome relief for irritated ears.

Finally, make masks fun again by choosing a child-friendly pattern. You can go with these adorable bear face masks from Amazon, have your child design their own mask on Etsy, choose an extra breathable and lightweight mask from Athleta or pick out a mask featuring your child’s favorite movie character from Disney.

Get the school year off to a great start with these preparatory tips for you and your child.

Your Turn: How are you preparing for the upcoming school year? Share your best tips with us in the comments.

Learn More:
franciscanhealth.org
education.jhu.edu
today.com
cdc.gov
realsimple.com

Home Improvement Hacks

Young bi-racial couple assembles assemble it yourself furniture in their modern home.You’ve finally finished scrubbing and purging your home from top to bottom in honor of spring. And now, with every surface, closet, and room sparkling clean, you’re starting to see all the areas that could use a facelift. Maybe you’re hankering after a complete kitchen makeover. You might be dreaming of a fresh coat of paint for your bedrooms. Or maybe your window treatments are in desperate need of an overhaul.

The only thing standing between you and your dream home is finding piles of cash for funding it, right?

Maybe not. Lucky for you, you don’t need to spend a fortune this spring to give your house a new look. Read on for our list of home improvement hacks and learn how to upgrade your home on a budget.

1. Cabinet makeover
Instead of dropping a ton of money on replacing your kitchen cabinets, you can give a tired kitchen a fresh new look by replacing just the cabinet fronts. You’ll pay a fraction of the price and no one will know it’s your old, shabby cabinets hiding behind those beautiful new doors.

Want to go even lower-cost? Consider painting the front of your cabinet to upgrade the look without spending much money or time. You can also replace those dated cabinet pulls with something nicer and trendier for a more modern look.

2. Cover your countertops with contact paper
Granite countertops can be gorgeous, but they’re also incredibly pricey. Instead of taking out a second mortgage for beautiful counters, try covering them with pretty, patterned contact paper. You’ll find loads of granite lookalikes at home improvement stores and you can learn how to apply your knockoff covers neatly from DIY tutorials on YouTube. You might even fool your friends and family into thinking it’s the real thing. But don’t worry: We won’t tell anyone it’s fake!

3. Use PVC pipes for curtain rods
Pretty curtains and drapes add a splash of color and personality to any room. You can make your own inexpensive curtains by picking up some fabric from a sewing supply store. The only issue? You’ll need rods to hang up those curtains—and if you need specific measurements and colors, that can get pricey.

Make it happen with this hack: Use PVC pipes instead of curtain rods. You can paint your pipes to match the décor of the room and hang them with inexpensive hooks that fit well. Curtains, done!

4. Create a mirrored backsplash
All you need for this fantastic hack is a pack of self-adhesive mirror tiles. These retail for about $15 per 20-tile pack and you can find them online or at a home improvement store. Use your snazzy tiles to create a mirrored backsplash in your kitchen. Decorate with inexpensive decals to up the glam or just leave it bare. The mirrors will give the illusion of greater space and you won’t have to deal with grout and caulking. It’s a super-cheap way to make your kitchen sparkle!

5. Slipcover your sofa
If your sofa is hopelessly stained and you’d love to update it, but can’t spare the cash, try covering it in a slipcover. You can find a leather-look slipcover to match the shape of your sofa for $100 or less. They’re not just for protection; the right slipcover will give you an (almost) brand new couch! Make sure you read reviews before purchasing, because quality really makes a difference here.

6. Let the light in
Light fixtures can really make or break an area in your home, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to get it right. Walk through your home and take note of the light fixtures that are relics from a past life, paying close attention to highly visible areas. Then, take a trip to a home improvement store or check out sites like Wayfair and Hayneedle for trendy, striking light fixtures. For less than $100, you can give your house an entire new look!

7. DIY paint
If the walls in your home desperately need fresh coats of paint, look no further than your local home improvement store. No, you don’t have to be a genuine DIYer to get this right; it’s fairly simple. You’ll find loads of painting tutorials on YouTube, and you’ll only have to spring for the actual paint plus a few supplies. Best of all, when you’re in charge, you can get as creative as possible. Using painter’s tape and your imagination, you can paint funky designs on your walls, like diamond contrasts, vertical and horizontal stripes, or, if you’re feeling really artsy, go for a full-blown mural!

These hacks will make your home beautiful this spring for just a bit of money. If you need more major home improvements that require serious cash, though, we can help. Call, click or stop by [credit union] today to ask us about opening a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan. We can make that happen, too!

Your Turn:
Are you making home improvements on a budget? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thrillist.com/amphtml/home/home-improvement-hacks-under-50-diy-home-projects

https://diyjoy.com/diy-remodeling-hacks/

http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/15-smart-hacks-that-will-save-you-money-while-remodeling-your-home/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.remodelista.com/posts/apartment-rental-simple-easy-budget-hacks/amp/

4 Apps To Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a new year and a new you!

If you’re like most Americans, your New Year’s resolutions include cleaning up your finances, losing weight or getting into better shape and kicking some bad habits. It’s also likely, though, that your resolutions are almost identical every year.

Make 2019 the year those resolutions actually last by using one or all of these super-helpful apps to keep you on track.

Caoch.me blue and white logo1.) Coach.me
Do you feel like you need ongoing motivation to keep you working toward your goals? Then look no further than Coach.me! This free app is just like having an inspirational speaker, life coach and personal trainer inside your phone. Coach.me lets you set any goal and then share your progress with an entire supportive community. You’ll be encouraged to stick to your resolutions, cheered on as you reach your targets and pushed to pick yourself up when you fall. The app also lets you hire an actual life coach if you want one-on-one motivation.

Try Coach.me. It’s the perfect tool for making those resolutions stick!

Blue My Fitness Pal logo, white silhouette of woman performing plie under white interlock "UA" Under Armor logo2.) MyFitnessPal
Shed those pounds for good this year with MyFitnessPal! The weight-loss app boasts a database of nutritional stats for more than 5 million foods and allows you to scan the barcodes of packaged foods to get the information, thus making calorie-counting a breeze. You can also track your energy output with MyFitnessPal’s step-counting feature or sync it with another exercise app like Fitbit or Jawbone. The massively popular app offers a free option, or you can choose to shell out $9.99 a month to unlock additional features.

Get fit in 2019 with MyFitnessPal!

HabitBull logo consisting of a coral colored rounded square with white silhouette of a longhorn bull's head3.) HabitBull
Do you have a bad habit you need to kick? Let HabitBull help you make it happen! Whether your habit is harmless and annoying, like nail-biting, or dangerous and expensive, like smoking, the app will track your progress and celebrate your successes until you’ve shown that habit the door. If going cold turkey on a bad habit scares you, you can take it in small steps. The app isn’t limited to yes-or-no questions, and it also allows you to track data, like “number of drinks today,” so you can work at your own pace.

Download HabitBull today and get started shaking those habits for good!

Happify logo consisting of a multi-color ring around an orange, lower-case, san-serif h.4.) Happify
Have you resolved to be happier and more positive in 2019? Download this app to make it happen! Happify will help you beat the winter doldrums, and lead a more joyous and optimistic life, by giving you a daily happiness boost. After signing up, you’ll be asked to fill out a short questionnaire about your personal stressors and downers. The app will then give you a daily list of science-based activities and tasks that are guaranteed to help you lose the stress for turning that frown upside down.

Make 2019 a happy year with Happify!

Your Turn:
Are you using any apps to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions? Share them with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/pictures/apps-to-help-you-keep-your-new-years-resolutions/

https://www.pcmag.com/feature/330773/apps-to-help-you-keep-your-new-year-s-resolutions

https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/technology/new-years-resolution-app

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Five Must-have Gadgets For College Students

You’ve already got your laptop, tablet and, of course, your smartphone. What more can you need for college?

Teen girl wearing headphones while studying in her dorm roomCheck out our list of 5 super-convenient gadgets that every college student should know about.

1. Smartpen
This is perhaps the most helpful gadget imaginable for students. Livescribe smartpens are incredible. You can use them to capture your notes digitally as you take them during lectures. You can use them in conjunction with your smartphone, laptop or tablet. Not only do these awesome pens capture your writing, but they also record beautiful digital audio that you can use to listen to your professor’s lectures again when you are getting ready to ace your midterms

2. Laptop lock
There’s nothing more terrifying than leaving your laptop on a table in the library only to come back a minute later and find it gone. Avoid this nightmare with this quick and cheap solution. Purchase a security cable for your laptop to keep it where it is. You can buy a Ruban’s notebook lock for just $8.99. The cable runs up to 6.2 feet long and will make your laptop immovable for everyone who doesn’t know your four-digit code.

3. Google Chrome extensions
All that research can give your Google Chrome quite a workout! Let it do its job swiftly and more efficiently by installing a Google Chrome extension on your laptop. You can download your choice of extension for free – and make your work a whole lot easier!

4. Dictaphone
Never miss a word of the lecture again! This is one of those gadgets most college students don’t realize they need until half the semester is over. An efficient Dictaphone can be left at the lectern during a class and serve as the perfect backup to spotty note-taking. Choose a model that is sturdy and solid with a decent battery life for the best performance.

5. Noise canceling headphones
You can control your own study habits most of the time, but there’s no way you can control your roomies’ method of dealing with schoolwork. If your roommate loves to party hearty in your room every night while you’re cramming for finals, or you just want to block out the entire world and concentrate on your notes, you need a pair of noise-canceling headphones. You can plug into your favorite tunes while you work, or even wear them without plugging into any device at all! You’ll have that quiet you’re craving and it’ll be just you and your work; you won’t even notice the distractions surrounding you. Study on and go ace that exam!

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite can’t-live-without-it gadget? Share your best pick with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/30/best-gadgets-for-college-students.html

https://www.youniversitytv.com/tech/6-apps-gadgets-improve-college-students-productivity/

https://www.google.com/amp/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/pictures/20-must-have-back-to-school-college-gadgets/

Fake Check Scams On The Rise

Married woman writing check out at homeIn early September, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a report warning about a spike in fake check scams across the country. While these scams are not new, their occurrence rate has doubled over the last three years and is up 12% from 2017.

The BBB further announced that billions of dollars in fake checks circulate each year, and that the number of victims this scam snares annually is close to 500,000.

The amount of money lost from these scams is just as staggering: The FTC reported losses of approximately $40 million from fake check scams in just one year.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this scam is the fact that the largest pool of its victims falls between the ages of 20 and 29 – a segment of the population that is far more familiar with electronic payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo, than with the archaic paper check. This makes them easy victims for the scam.

Aside from ordinary paper checks, this scam can also be pulled off with cashier’s checks and money orders. Regardless of the medium, each of these scams involves a scammer “overpaying” a victim and requesting the check be cashed with the difference being deposited into a designated account belonging to the scammer.

Steve Baker, an investigator with the BBB, cautions: “What they all have in common is that the check is counterfeit, and just because the money is credited to your account does not mean the check is good.”

Here are the most common variations of the fake check scam:

  • “Buyers” send sellers a check written out for more than the asking price of an object sold on an online marketplace, such as Craigslist.
  • Lottery “winners” are rewarded with an inflated prize and given instructions to pay back a part of the check to cover taxes or fees.
  • “Employees” are granted checks for supplies, with instructions to wire back a part of it to the “company.”

In each case, the fake check or money order seems to clear in the bank or credit union. It is only a few days later, when the victim’s payout to the scammer is deposited and the account does not have sufficient funds to cover it, that the scam becomes clear.

The BBB warns that this scam can be hard to spot, especially for millennials who may not be familiar with paper checks. To that end, learning what to look for to determine a check’s authenticity is the public’s best weapon against this scam.

Wondering if a check is a fake? Hold it up to this checklist:

  • Is the check’s paper stock weak and flimsy?
  • Check the company’s name and address. Are they spelled correctly?
    Every check will have an identification number printed toward its top and again at the bottom. Verify that these numbers match up.
  • If you’re allegedly holding a lottery-winning check in your hands, the check should be written out from a state lottery commission. If it’s made out by a random company, it’s bogus.
  • Look for the special ink required for the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code that’s at the bottom of the check.
  • The check should have a routing number from its bank. You can Google the bank to find out if the routing number is genuine.

Aside from knowing how to recognize a fake check, it’s important to know which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams. If you come across any of the following, run the other way and don’t look back:

  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re not familiar with.
  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.
  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Now that you know how to spot a fake check and which kind of transactions to avoid at all cost, those scammers don’t stand a chance!

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a fake check scam? Share your story with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.semissourian.com/story/2549480.html

https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2018/09/05/better-business-bureau-releases-report-fake-check-scams/1202964002/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/fake-check-scams-an-exploding-epidemic-new-report-says-better-business-bureau/

Credit Card Fraud In Fives

Businessman enters credit card number on a laptopNo one wants to be the victim of credit fraud. Aside from the stolen money you may never recover, victims of fraud can be faced with an enormous hassle. That hassle involves the closing of accounts, putting a fraud alert on your credit and a huge ding on your credit history, which can be difficult to fix.

Whodunnit? When we’re talking about credit card fraud, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else.

Consumers tend to blame the credit card issuer, but the vulnerability usually lies with the point-of-sale terminal. Tampering with a credit card reader takes just a few minutes and can be done with an inexpensive device that’s available on Amazon. In addition, there are lots of other ways your information can be skimmed, none of which point to a security deficiency with your credit union or credit card company.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and recognize credit card fraud before it happens. Read on for all you need to know about credit card fraud in 5 lists of fives.

5 ways your card can be frauded

  1. It’s physically lifted from your wallet.
    The old-fashioned pickpocket is still a very real threat. Invest in a secure wallet and/or purse and always keep your card inside.
  2. A restaurant or bar server skims it.
    When you hand over your card to a dishonest server at the end of a meal, you give them a few minutes to skim your card while it’s in their possession.
  3. A terminal you use is compromised.
    Payment terminals can be tampered with and rewired to transmit your information to scammers. This is especially common in pay-at-the-pump gas stations.
  4. An online breach puts your information on the black market.
    After a company you use suffers a breach, your personal information may be up for sale on the dark web.
  5. Your computer’s been hacked.

Once a scammer gets inside your computer, they have full access to all of your sensitive data.

5 signs a terminal’s been compromised

  1. The security seal has been voided.
    Many gas stations have joined the war against credit card crimes by placing a security label across the pump. When the pump is safe to use, the label has a red, blue or black background. When it’s been breached, the words “Void Open” will appear in white.
  2. The card reader is too big for the machine.
    The card reader is created to fit perfectly on top of the machine. If it protrudes past it, it’s likely been tampered with.
  3. The pin pad looks newer than the rest of the machine.
    The entire machine should be in a similar condition.
  4. The pin pad looks raised.
    If the pin pad looks abnormally high compared to the rest of the machine, the card reader may have been fitted with a new pin pad that will record your keystrokes.
  5. The credit card reader is not secured in place.
    If parts of the payment terminal are loose, it’s likely been compromised.

5 times you’re at high risk for credit card fraud

  1. You lost your card.
    If you misplaced your card – even if it was eventually returned to you – there’s a chance your information has been skimmed.
  2. You’re visiting an unfamiliar area.
    When patronizing a business in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you don’t know who you can trust.
  3. A company you use has been breached.
    If a business you frequent has been compromised, carefully monitor your credit for suspicious activity.
  4. You shared your information online with an unverifiable contact.
    If you’ve willingly or unwillingly shared sensitive information online and you’re not certain of the contact’s authenticity, you’ve likely been frauded.
  5. You downloaded something from an unrecognizable source.
    Have you accidentally downloaded an attachment from an unknown source? Then your computer has likely been compromised and you’re at risk for credit card fraud.

5 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud

  1. Check all card readers for signs of tampering before paying.
  2. Never share your credit card information online unless you’re absolutely sure the website you’re using is authentic and the company behind it is trustworthy.
  3. Check your monthly credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports on a frequent basis.
  4. Use cash when patronizing a business that’s in an unfamiliar area.
  5. Don’t download any attachments from unknown sources.

5 steps to take if your credit card has been frauded

  1. Lock the compromised account.
    Dispute any fraudulent charges on your compromised accounts and ask to have them locked or completely shut down.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

  3. Consider a credit freeze.
    This will make it impossible for the scammer to open a line of credit in your name.
  4. Alert the FTC.
    Visit identitytheft.gov to report the crime.
  5. Open new accounts.
    Begin restoring your credit with new accounts and lines of credit.

At [credit union], we’ve always got your back! Call, click, or stop by today to ask about steps you can take to protect your information from getting hacked.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? Share your story with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/how-credit-card-skimming-works-960773

https://www.thebalance.com/more-at-risk-of-credit-card-fraud-960780

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/credit-card-fraud-works-stay-safe/

http://gizmodo.com/home-depot-was-hit-by-the-same-hack-as-target-1631865043