A Financial Education Event
 

Identity Theft Protection for Girlfriends, Grandma and Grandkids

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My husband brought me the credit card bill and asked “What did you DO on your last trip to New York?” He was stunned, “These charges are to a tattoo shop, an liquor store and a series of bars. Please tell me this is some kind of mistake!”
It was a classic case of identity theft. I may have been guilty of buying one too many lattes and pastries at Dean and Delucas in New York, but I had no tattoos! I tried to respond to my hubby but couldn’t speak . . .
And then I woke up.

Yes, I know. I’m a strange breed because my nightmares consist of dreams about identity theft. Unfortunately, my nightmares are other people’s reality, especially in light of recent major data breaches.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, it takes 12 months, on average, for a victim of identity theft to notice the crime. You may feel YOU are safe, but what about your girlfriends in your group of friends? What about Grandma in the retirement home? She’s a prime target. So is your four year old grandson, when scammers want to take over his social security number.

I just got back from an informative trip to USAA in San Antonio. They flew out a group of us, who also write about these topics, and they shared the newest ways they help their members in a variety of areas. I interviewed Mike Slaugh, the Executive Director of Financial Crimes Prevention and he gave me some great ways to keep you and (those who love) safe from the ever growing threat of identity theft. Here are some ways to identify and protect yourself from the latest scams.

Phishing Scams – Never give your social security number, account numbers, date of birth or other personal information via email or on the phone unless you initiated the contact.  Never click a link in an email, no matter how official the email looks. Instead, open a browser and put in the name of your credit card or lending institution sending the email. “Some of the most popular scams are romance, charity, work at home and advanced fee scams” says Slaugh. “If you are asked to send money so they can pay you money, then that’s classified as an advanced fee scam.”

Checks – When you pay your credit card by check, never put your credit card’s full account number on the check, just write the last four digits. This will prevent someone in transit from harvesting your account number. Better yet, set up an automatic pay from your checking account and you won’t have to write a check at all (plus, you’ll never be late on your payments.)

• Data Breach – To see if your data was among those compromised during the Equifax Data breach, just go to the website they set up to verify your data. You’ll only use 6 digits of your social to see if your name appears on the list. Remind your girlfriends, Grandma and grandkids to check this info as well. If your info was compromised, then they offer a list of actions to take to help, this also includes getting credit monitoring. Your bank or credit card company might offer free credit monitoring as a benefit to their customers. Our family are USAA members and they partner with Experian to provide those members with free credit monitoring. I’ve seen alerts that tell me new lines of credit were opened.  If these accounts weren’t opened by me, then I can take immediate action.

MFA or Multifactor Authentication – Mike Slaugh emphasized the need to “make sure your financial accounts utilize MFA.” This means that your mobile app or website requires a touch ID, face or voice authentication, and/or a four digit pin, or a security token built into the app. This could include email or cell phone authentication or recovery that would send a code to your phone or email to authenticate usage on a new device.

• Deployed Military Members — During our Heroes at Home Financial events at bases, we encourage deploying military members to bring a device with them that can support MFA such as a keychain token. At the USAA Deployment Checklist you’ll find where a USAA member can go to their security section and ask for the token. Furthermore, you may want to put a credit alert on your social security number to make sure that scammers can’t use personal info to authenticate. Dana Martinez, USAA Director of Corporate Communications adds, “The Active Duty Alert gives extra protection for the service member.” You can put this alert in place by contacting any of the three credit reporting bureaus: Experian, TransUnion or Equifax.

• Auction Fraud or Fraudulent Websites– Auction fraud is a frequently reported consumer fraud complaint at the FTC, totaling 51,000 auction complaints last year. The fraud is simple – put up a fake ad on eBay or other auction site, let someone “win” the bid and send in their money, but never send out the merchandise. Make sure the seller has an established history before you click “buy.” Also, watch out for websites that offer deals that are incredibly good. “If it’s too good to be true, it probably is” says Mike Slaugh. Check out any questionable website with the Better Business Bureau. Or google the website name, address or phone number and see the results.

I had a family member recently try to buy a dog for a great deal. She checked out the website and it wasn’t reported as fraudulent. But when she got to the payment portion, they wanted a Western Union payment before she got the dog– red flag!  There’s no recourse with that kind of payment and you can’t get your money back with a wire transfer or a money order. She googled the phone number listed on the website and saw it was connected to a previous scam website that was taken down. Her savvy sleuthing saved her from losing a lot of money just by being aware and doing her research.

• Identity Theft or Credit Repair Scams — The Federal Trade Commission has warned that some companies that claim to be identity theft prevention companies are scam artists trying to get your driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number or credit and bank account numbers. If you are unsure about a firm, check it out with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org .

 

Keep your data safe and be sure to pass along your knowledge to friends and family members, you could save them a lot of grief just by sharing this wealth of information.

 

Ellie Kay

America’s Family Financial Expert (R)

 

Cyber Safety and Savings

Military families, especially those stationed overseas will order more items online this year than ever before. A recent report from the U.S. Census Bureau of the Department of Commerce estimated that 87.5 billion will be spend on retail e-commerce sales. Whether you are buying online or on your phone, it’s important to take extra steps to stay safe from cyber criminals while you shop.

Here are a few items to keep in mind when you shop, not only during this time of the year, but year-round:

  • Convenience Can be Costly – I know that when I shop at Bed, Bath and Beyond or Amazon, I like to save my credit card information so that I can use it more conveniently the next time I shop. However, allowing a retailer to keep your credit card information can be a security risk. So keep your info to yourself and enter every time you shop rather than saving it on the site.
  • Check Your Statements – In an effort to go green, many of you may have elected to have paperless delivery for credit card and bank statements. It’s important to review those statements each month to check that all the charges are accurate. Even a small discrepancy could indicate a larger problem.
  • Say “No” to Public and Free Wi-Fi – Criminals love to hack into your connection and steal your info. So while you can use free wi-fi to surf the web or check your email, don’t use it to purchase items where you have enter your credit card or bank information.
  • Be Diligent With Passwords – It’s a lot easier to repeat the same password over and over with different online accounts, but it also sets you up to be a victim of fraud if your information is compromised in a security breach. So create new passwords and emails to associate with different accounts.
  • Speaking of Passwords, Set One On your Phone – I was at a Starbucks recently, prepping my coffee at the creamer bar when I saw that someone left their phone. A couple had just left that area and walked out so I grabbed the phone and ran after them. When I caught up with them and gave them the phone, the man was so excited, he looked as if I had just given him the Publisher’s Clearinghouse prize. Even though our phones are usually in our hands or within arm’s reach, who of us hasn’t experienced the panic of thinking we lost it or left it somewhere. So set a password on your phone and change it every couple of months.
  • Don’t Click Through on Emails – I opted in to get certain notifications from retailers of deals, coupons and special offers. Cyber thieves know this and regularly send our pfshing emails for major retailer like Amazon, Wal-Mart, Sam’s and Walgreens. Never click through on an email’s special offer. Instead, capture any coupon code information, then go to your browser and enter the website address directly.

What ways do you use to stay safe online? Share your ideas with me and let me know how stay safe online and when shopping on your phone.

Red, White, and Scammed: Part 1

 

We have a long tradition of military service in our family. My grandfather was a bombardier who died in WWII, my father is a retired chief master sergeant in the Air Force, my husband, Bob, flew Air Force fighters for 25 years, our son, Philip, graduated from the Naval Academy and cross commissioned into the Marine Corp, our next son is a junior at the Air Force Academy, and the youngest son a plebe at Westpoint. In fact, the photo you see is Bob, pinning on the Philip’s Airborne wings–the very wings Bob earned 30 years ago when he was a cadet at the Air Force Academy!

Enlisted men and women are easy marks for sleazy car dealers, insurance scammers predatory lenders, and identity thieves. So pervasive are the rip-offs and so troubling is the debt incurred by military personnel that US Department of Defense officials recently labeled the situation a threat to national security. Here are a few things to keep in mind and to share with your military friends and family.

Q. The DOD has labeled the fraud situation among the military as a threat to national security. How does getting scammed impact lives overseas?

ELLIE: It’s all about distraction. When military members are distracted, whether it’s worry over identity theft or trying to wondering if their spouse is able to deal with messy finances at home—then that’s when accidents happen. Distraction leads to worry which leads to accidents. And when accidents happen, then there is loss of life. So if we want to help save lives overseas, then we can all do our part to protect our military members by exposing rip offs and scams whenever possible.

Q. What kind of paycheck does a typical recruit make & what are some of the questionable ways that local businesses try to get a piece of that paycheck?

ELLIE: They earn about $1800 per month & these paychecks can be carved to bits by bad deals. For example, a computer store outside of Great Lakes Naval Training Center in Illinois employs attractive women to troll for new sailors. Once they get them inside the store, they are pressured into buying a very basic laptop for more than $4000, which is three times as much as the computer is worth. Then they finance the deal and the computer ends up costing even more with the store also making money on financing.

Q. What are some other common ways that the military is ripped off and people should be aware of?

ELLIE: There was recently a multi-state investigation launched into life insurance scams that were being perpetrated against military members just before they took off to the Middle East. These scamsters sold soldiers extremely overpriced or misrepresented policies, taking advantage of the emotional situation of leaving families to go into harm’s way. This investigation ended with the companies offering more than $70 million dollars in refunds to thousands of service members. When it comes to life insurance, military members are offered SGLI or Servicemembers Group Life Insurance, which is a legitimate source for low premiums, so there’s really no need to secure other private insurance!

Q. Tell us about the “Red Cross” scam that is getting a lot of attention among military families?

ELLIE: This is fairly despicable, as it prays on the emotions of family members. A con artist claiming to be with the Red Cross will call a parent of a servicemember or their spouse, telling them their loved one has been injured and they need their social security number to authorize help for them. In some cases, they ask for an initial cash payment. Military members need to clear any report of injury through the chain of command or by contacting the base family community services.

Q. It seems that our military is very young, what is the average age of a service member and do they receive any kind of personal finance education as part of their training?

ELLIE: Yes, they are young, in fact, the average age range of military members is between 22 and 28 years old. Of the groups I routinely speak to around the world, I’d say that the average 22 year old has an even younger wife and a baby as well—so it’s a lot of responsibility for someone so young. The good news is that since 2004, service members learn about personal finance as part of their early training. When I go to give my “Heroes at Home” message I teach about finances and also encourage them to use the resources they have available to them on base. Army Community Services, Airman and Family Readiness Centers, Fleet and Family Support Centers—all of these have personal finance counselors there who are ready and willing to give free financial counseling to service members and their families. It’s what I call my $300 tip, because a couple hours with the caliber of financial professional at any of these centers is equivalent to paying $300 to a CFP or CPA.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)
http://www.elliekay.com/

Identity Theft and Other Nightmares


My husband brought me the credit card bill and asked “What did you DO on your last trip to New York?” He was hurt and stunned, “This charges are to a tattoo shop, an liquor store and a series of bars. Please tell me this is some mistake!”
It was a classic case of identity theft. I may have been guilty of buying one too many lattes and pastries at Dean and Delucas in New York, but I had no new tattoos! I tried to respond to my hubby but couldn’t speak . . .
And then I woke up. Yes, I know. I’m a strange breed because my “nightmares” consist of dreams about identity theft. Unfortunately, those nightmares are other people’s reality.
According to the U.S. Federal Trade Commission, it takes 12 months, on average, for a victim of identity theft to notice the crime. So how do you keep yourself safe from the ever growing threat of identity theft? Learn to identify the latest scams:

Phishing Scams – Never give your social security number, account numbers, date of birth or other personal information via email or on the phone unless you initiated the contact. Most major internet sites and financial institutions have been targeted including Citibank, PayPal, eBay, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS), and America Online (AOL). These scams usually show up in your email inbox with a message from the “System Administrator” telling you to perform some urgent maintenance on your account.

Checks – When you pay your credit card by check, never put your credit card’s full account number on the check, just write the last four digits. This will prevent someone in transit from harvesting your account number.

• Auction Fraud – This was the second most reported consumer fraud complaint to the FTC, totaling 51,000 auction complaints. The fraud is simple – put up a fake ad on eBay, let someone “win” the bid and send in their money, but never send out the merchandise. Make sure the seller has an established history before you click “buy.”

• Identity Theft or Credit Repair Scams — The Federal Trade Commission has warned that some companies that claim to be identity theft prevention companies are scam artists trying to get your driver’s license number, mother’s maiden name, Social Security number and credit and bank account numbers. If you are unsure about a firm, check it out with the Better Business Bureau at www.bbb.org .

Prize Scams – If someone calls you on the telephone and offers you the chance to receive a major prize but insists on gathering personal data first, ask them to send a written application in the mail. If they refuse, then hang up.

Credit Card Applications – Consider getting a secure mailbox (key access) as many identity thieves like to take your mail directly from the box (or from the trash), fill out your credit card applications and put their address in the information box. Always shred all credit card applications and contact your credit card companies to never release this information to other companies.

Ellie Kay
America’s Family Financial Expert (R)