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Welcome To The Insighter!

Explore the latest happenings at Kirtland FCU and learn about important topics from around the financial world. Here’s your insight!


Fraud

On January 30, 2020, a person misrepresenting himself as being affiliated with Kirtland Federal Credit Union visited a member who had recently refinanced his home with Kirtland FCU. This man went to the member’s home and attempted to sell the member mortgage insurance while purporting to have a business relationship with Kirtland FCU. 

If you’ve recently closed a loan with Kirtland FCU, here are a few things to keep in mind.
  • Liens against your home are public record. When you purchase or refinance your residence, that transaction is available as a matter of public record. Do not assume your address or situation is known only to you and your lender.
  • Kirtland FCU does NOT sell member information to third parties. Some lenders DO sell customer/member information to third parties, but this fact is required by law to be disclosed to you during the course of any loan or account opening. Kirtland FCU follows all local, state and federal regulations regarding the handling of your information. We do not sell your information to third parties.
  • Not sure of the person you’re talking to? If you were approached at your home by anyone claiming to be an employee of Kirtland FCU or affiliated with Kirtland FCU, that person is misrepresenting themselves. Whether a criminal attempting to perpetrate fraud or simply an unethical employee using dirty tactics to garner business, ask that person to leave. You can always call Kirtland FCU at 1-800-880-5328 to check the validity of any person who is claiming to be an employee of Kirtland FCU or with a company affiliated with the credit union.
It is possible for someone to obtaining publicly available information and use that information to misrepresent himself/herself as being affiliated with the lender in order to gain business. 

 

If you’re approached by anyone in a similar fashion, contact Kirtland FCU immediately. Do not sign any forms, turn over any money, or provide any other personal information to the individual.


Stay safe out there.

Taxes

When is the last time you looked at your W-4 form? 

If you just scratched your head and thought, “What’s a W-4 form?” then you are in good company. If you’re like many employed Americans, you likely filled out a W-4 as part of your hiring process, and you never saw it again. And if you haven’t made edits to your form lately, you could be in for a rude awakening on your tax filings next year after some major tax changes in 2018. With a brand-new W-4 form for 2020, now is the time to double-check your form and make any updates.
 
So let’s start with the basics. Your W-4 form lets your company know how much to withhold for state and federal taxes every paycheck. The old W-4 form asked you for a number of “allowances” to determine your withholding. The more allowances you enter, the less tax would be taken out of your paycheck. These allowances ostensibly matched up with the personal exemptions you’d be able to claim on your taxes—if you’d entered the proper amount of allowances, you’d neither owe or receive refunds come tax time.
 
But with the sweeping changes to the federal tax code in 2018, personal exemptions were done away with at the federal level in favor of nearly doubling the standard deduction and limiting certain itemized deductions, including applying a new $10,000 cap on state and local tax deduction. To catch up with this new tax reality, the new 2020 W-4 form is a lot more dynamic in terms of the information it takes into account. On the redesigned form, you’ll be asked for personal information, information about other jobs or your spouse’s job, dependent information, and other factors that could affect your tax situation.

To help filers gets ahead of these changes and take advantage of the new W-4 form, the IRS has answering some of your most taxing (hehe) questions about the redesigned W-4 form.
 
Why did the IRS put out a new form?
The new design reduces the form's complexity and increases the transparency and accuracy of the withholding system. While it uses the same underlying information as the old design, it replaces complicated worksheets with more straightforward questions that make accurate withholding easier for employees.

Do I have to fill out a new form?
No. Employees who have furnished Form W-4 in any year before 2020 are not required to furnish a new form merely because of the redesign. Employers will continue to compute withholding based on the information from the employee's most recently furnished Form W-4.

Why do I need to account for multiple jobs on the redesigned form? I never had to before.
Tax rates increase as income rises, and only one standard deduction can be claimed on each tax return, regardless of the number of jobs. Therefore, if you have more than one job at a time or are married filing jointly and both you and your spouse work, more money should usually be withheld from the combined pay for all the jobs than would be withheld if each job was considered by itself. Adjustments to your withholding must be made to avoid owing additional tax, and potentially penalties, when you file your tax return. All of this has been true for many years; it did not change with the recent tax law changes. The old Form W-4 accounted for multiple jobs using detailed instructions and worksheets that many employees may have overlooked. Step 2 of the redesigned Form W-4 lists three different options you should choose from to make the necessary withholding adjustments. Note that, to be accurate, you should furnish a 2020 Form W-4 for all of these jobs.

When should I increase or decrease my withholdings?
You should generally increase your withholding if:
  • you hold more than one job at a time or you and your spouse both have jobs (Step 2) or
  • you have income from sources other than jobs or self-employment that is not subject to withholding (Step 4(a)).
  • If you do not make adjustments to your withholding for these situations, you will very likely owe additional tax when filing your tax return, and you may owe penalties. For income from sources other than jobs, you can pay estimated tax instead of having extra withholding.
 
You should generally decrease your withholding if:
  • you are eligible for income tax credits such as the child tax credit or credit for other dependents (Step 3), and/or
  • you are eligible for deductions other than the basic standard deduction, such as itemized deductions, the deduction for IRA contributions, or the deduction for student loan interest (Step 4(b)).

Where can I find the redesigned W-4 form?
You can download the new form here. You can also stop by your HR department and request to fill out the new W-4 form.

So, make visiting your HR department a priority in 2020 and be tax ready next year!
 
You can also take advantage of a handy tool from the IRS that can help you estimate your withholdings.

See a full list of FAQs and more resources from the IRS here!

 

Security Fraud

Puerto Rico. California. Florida. Australia.

What do all these places have in common? They’ve all experienced a disaster or event that prompted an outpouring of donations and an influx of charity involvement in the recovery efforts. And there’s no question as to the willingness of people to give. In 2017, Hurricane Harvey became the second-costliest storm on record in the United States, causing an estimated $125 billion in damages. In the three months following the storm, at least $1.07 billion is estimated to have been donated to U.S. nonprofit organizations in response, according to a study by the Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. More than 30 percent of U.S. households made a disaster-related donation in 2017 through a variety of sources.


Image from U.S. Household Disaster Giving Report, Indiana University Lilly Family School of Philanthropy and the Center for Disaster Philanthropy. https://www.issuelab.org/resources/34757/34757.pdf

After a disaster, donations tend to explode. In fact, most donations are made in the first six weeks following a disaster and have all but tapered off six months later. The first few weeks after a disaster, especially one with high-profile news coverage, are prime season for fraudsters who capitalize on the disaster and peoples’ desire to make a difference by posing as a charity organization.

In August of 2019, as Hurricane Dorian approached the shores of Florida, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and the Better Business Bureau offered advice on how to make the most of your donation in the face of a disaster and how to spot a fraudulent attempt to divert donations.



Hurricane Harvey relief workers hand out supplies. Photo courtesy of michelmond / Shutterstock.com

After a disaster, donations tend to explode. In fact, most donations are made in the first six weeks following a disaster and have all but tapered off six months later. The first few weeks after a disaster, especially one with high-profile news coverage, are prime season for fraudsters who capitalize on the disaster and peoples’ desire to make a difference by posing as a charity organization.

In August of 2019, as Hurricane Dorian approached the shores of Florida, the BBB Wise Giving Alliance and the Better Business Bureau offered advice on how to make the most of your donation in the face of a disaster and how to spot a fraudulent attempt to divert donations.

Give directly to reputable organizations
Well-established organizations are the most experienced in working with disaster relief and recovery. They often have strong local ties and will know how to work together with other agencies as well as governments.

Watch for look-alike charities
It’s not uncommon for organizations to pop up in an attempt to collect a portion of a massive volume of donations being made in the wake of a disaster. Many fraudulent organizations will create names that are similar to legitimate organizations. And even new, legitimate charities may be well-intentioned but not well-positioned to help immediately. Check with Give.org for a list of credible charities assisting with recovery efforts or with the IRS’ Tax-Exempt Organization Search to make sure you’re dealing with a legitimate organization.

Understand crowdfunding
The explosion of online crowdfunding—the collecting of money for a project or venture by raising many small amounts of money from a large number of people—has made it very easy for fraudsters to cash in after a disaster. If you’re going to donate via a crowdfund, it’s best to makes sure you know the owner personally. The person running the crowdfunding campaign isn’t necessarily the person who you want your money ending up with, and you’re trusting that they’ll follow through on their promises.
 
Beware direct requests for money
If you’re contacted by someone you don’t know on social media or via e-mail in a direct request for donation funds, you should hear alarm bells in your mind. Legitimate organizations that you aren’t already affiliated with will likely not reach out to you directly to request help. Be even more concerned if that person is requesting gift cards or P2P payments (Apple Pay, Paypal, etc.) Likewise, do not click on links in unsolicited e-mails requesting donations. DO NOT give out personal financial information to anyone who solicits a contribution.

Do not send cash
A cash donation is a bad idea. Leave a paper trail for tax and security purposes by using a check or credit card to make a donation. If something goes wrong, you have avenues you can follow with your card company and documentation of the amount and where it was supposed to go. Checks have to be cashed somewhere. When you hand over cash or gift cards, the trail ends—and if you’ve given your donation to a fraudster, you have no path for recourse. 

Report suspected fraud
If you receive an e-mail requesting donations and suspect it may be fraudulent, report it to the IRS.

We know the desire to help is nearly overwhelming in the days and months following a disaster. But by being aware of the dos and don’ts of donation, you’ll be able to avoid fraudsters and make sure your donation provides the maximum amount of relief in the right hands.

 

Credit

You’ve certainly heard the term before. But what IS a balance transfer, and why should you consider taking advantage of one to help you manage your debt? Well, settle in—welcome to Credit Card Balance Transfer 101.

Let’s start by defining terms. A credit card balance transfer is a simple concept: moving balance of a credit card to another credit card. Usually, the new credit card is offering a promotional rate on the transferred balance, make it an attractive move for those with high balances on higher interest rate cards.
 
We’ve just wrapped up (haha!) the holiday season. If you signed up for a store-only credit card during your shopping in order to take advantage of that shiny promo rate, you will want to pay that balance off or transfer the balance to another card before the promotional rate ends. The average interest rate on a store-only card is a whopping 27.52% APR! Carrying a balance on a card with that kind of interest rate is bad news for your monthly budget.
 

THE PROS

A lower initial rate
Most credit card companies offering balance transfers will have a lower promotional rate for the transferred balance for a period of time. But these rates DO expire, so keep in mind how long you’ll be making payments based on that rate, and what your rate will be after the period is over.

Consolidation of payments
Transferring more than one balance to a single card can make it a lot easier to keep track of your credit card bills. Or should we say bill—singular—since you’ll have one balance and one payment to think about.
 
Long-term savings
The true benefits of a lower rate lay in the long-term reduction of interest fees. Take a look at the chart below. The credit card on the left—we’ll call it the ‘old card’—has a higher interest rate that equates to higher minimum payments and a much higher cost over the life of the balance when compared to the newer, lower interest rate card on the right. You can see that on a store card with a $1,000 balance, you’ll end up paying back $1,353.37! With a rate like the one you could get on the Independence Credit Card, you pay back only $1,069.02. And if you transfer the balance to a card below that is offering a promotional rate on the balance transfer, your costs are lowered even further.
 
  Old Credit Card Independence
Credit Card
Balance $1,000 $1,000
Interest Rate 27.52% APR 7.25% APR
Monthly Payment $50 $50
Time to Payoff 28 months 22 months
Interest Payments $353.37 $69.02
Interest Payment Savings $284.35
 

THE CONS

Fees
Many credit card companies offering balance transfers will charge fees for the transfer, usually a percentage of the transferred balance, so that needs to be taken into account when considering a balance transfer. For example, if you have a $5,000 balance, a 3% fee would add $150 to your balance right off the top. (The Independence Credit Card has ZERO balance transfer fees!)

The non-promotional rate
There is a lot more to consider about your new card than just the interest rate. How long does the promotional rate last and what is the interest rate after the promotional period ends? If you plan to pay off your balance before the promotional period ends, that would maximize your savings. But if you don’t, you risk being hit with a much higher interest rate again.
 
More fees
Many credit cards charge an annual fee, so be sure to read the fine print of any credit card before initiating a balance transfer. A few cards do have no annual fee (including the Independence Credit Card!) If your fees and new interest rate are going to cost you more money than you’ll save in a balance transfer, it’s probably not the right card for you.


KEEP IN MIND

Any new purchases you make on your new card will not be subject to the low promotional rate. And the rate you DO get will be based on your credit worthiness.

Think a balance transfer may be right for you? Consider the Independence Credit Card from Kirtland FCU! There are NO balance transfer fees, NO annual fees, and you can qualify for an interest rate as low as 2.99% APR on the transferred balance through December 31, 2020!
 
Apply before March 31, 2020, to get started! Unstuff your wallet and take control of your debt with a balance transfer!

Get started now!
 
*APR = Annual Percentage Rate. Annual percentage rate and balance transfer rate is based on credit history and other factors. If you do not qualify for the type of card for which you have applied, you may be offered credit under different terms and conditions. The special balance transfer promotion is valid on transferred balances conducted between January 15–March 31, 2020. Balances transferred to your credit card by March 31, 2020 and will remain at the introductory promotional rate until your December statement cycle. On your January statement, all remaining transferred balances will convert to your current Annual Percentage Rate. Membership eligibility required. See a representative for complete details. Chart above is for illustration purposes only.
 

Taxes

New year, new you!

Do you set New Year’s resolutions? We all have our tried-and-true avenues for becoming a healthier person in the new year—giving up the treats we spent the holidays indulging in or starting a new workout routine. This year, instead of just resolving to hit the treadmill more often, let’s commit to becoming financially fit!

Making smart financial decisions and changing bad habits may not be easy. Keeping track of your money, making and managing a budget, and setting and tracking goals are challenging in today’s fast-paced world. It’s just a $5 cup of coffee here and a forgotten gym membership there, but those little things add up. Do you know where your financial blind spots are? With the right technology, it’s easy to keep your thumb on the pulse of your financial well-being. Money Management IS that technology, and it’s FREE for Kirtland FCU members!

What is Money Management?

Money Management is mission control for your money! It’ a free budgeting and money management tool you can use to view and manage your complete financial picture. Accessible right from your Online Banking account and your Mobile App, Money Management allows you to:
  • View all your accounts, including those at other financial institutions, in one place for a truly 360-degree view of your financial situation.
  • See where your money is going with intuitive, easy-to-read graphs and charts.
  • Set and track goals and set alerts to keep you on the right path.
  • Make a budget (or let Money Management do it for you based on your spending history!)
Spotting trends and seeing places where you can streamline and improve? Invaluable, and Money Management can bring that to your fingertips.
 

What’s included?


BUDGET
Budgeting is KEY to financial wellness! Knowing how much money is coming in and going out on a daily, weekly, monthly basis is essential. What are your NEEDS versus your WANTS? And have you factored in debts and savings? Capturing every aspect of your finances can be challenging, but without it, you’re leaving a lot up to chance. There are many online budgeting tools, but none of them are as seamless as Money Management. With Money Management, you can custom-create budgets, or the system can generate one for you based on your spending history! However it works for you. And Money Management budgeting technology not only tracks your transactions, it will help you categorize to spot patterns and set goals. 



MANAGE SPENDING 
Okay, you know you need to see all that money moving in and out of your various accounts. But what do you DO with all that information? Taking into account every penny, trying to wrap your mind around your financial situation can be overwhelming. You could try to categorize transactions by hand, but that’s time consuming and the risk of missing something is high. Check out Money Management’s colorful, easy to read charts and graphs that make it easy to not only set your monthly budget but see how you’re doing at a glance. It’s not just seeing your transactions; you need reliable analysis that transforms your finances into understandable trends that you can use to make real change in your habits.



360-DEGREE VIEW
If you’re just taking a peek in your checking account once in a while to track spending, you’re missing a big chunk of your financial picture. If you have different accounts at different banks, different loans through different companies, and even investment and retirement accounts, you can see them ALL in Money Management, side-by-side. And on any device—desktop, mobile, tablet. 


 

And perhaps the best thing about Money Management? It’s FREE and accessible right from your Online Banking account! Experience your finances in full color, stereo surround sound. Make 2020 the year of 20/20 vision when it comes to your finances. New year, new you, a new path to financial wellness! No gym membership required. 

But if you get a gym membership—Money Management will help you budget for that, too. 

Learn more and get started now! 

 

Taxes

Well, hello, 2020! Right now, millions are heading back to work in the new decade after weeks of holiday splendor. That means one thing—W-2s are coming! Tax return preparers are also heading back to work, prepping for a busy season of tax filings. More than three-quarter of a million people are registered as tax preparers with the IRS, meaning they hold a Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). But not every tax preparer is on the up-and-up. Along with these legitimate services, scammers are also busy at work, gearing up to take advantage of tax filers.
 
‘Ghost’ preparers, the IRS says, are preparers who use shady practices to take advantage of tax filers. They are usually not properly licensed as is required by the IRS of anyone who is paid to complete or assist in the completion of someone else’s tax return.

Dishonest tax preparers may also:
  • Promise a big refund.
  • Charge fees based on the refund size.
  • Require payment in cash only and will not provide a receipt.
  • Invent income to erroneously qualify their clients for tax credits or claim fake deductions to boost their refunds.
  • Direct refunds into their own bank account rather than the taxpayer’s.
Perhaps one of the scariest aspects of ghost filers is that if the IRS has issues with your return and you need help to handle it, the ghost filer has, well, ghosted! They’re nowhere to be found, and you could be on the hook for any errors and omissions in your return.

If you’re one of the 56% of Americans who use tax preparation services, the IRS has suggestions for making sure the service you use is trustworthy.
 
  • Ask if the preparer has an IRS Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). Paid tax return preparers are required to register with the IRS, have a PTIN and include it on tax returns.
  • Inquire whether the tax return preparer has a professional credential (enrolled agent, certified public accountant or attorney), belongs to a professional organization or attends continuing education classes. Tax law can be complex. A competent tax professional needs to be up-to-date in these matters. The IRS website has more information regarding the national tax professional organizations.
  • Check the preparer’s qualifications. Use the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Return Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications. This tool can help locate a tax return preparer with the preferred qualifications.
The Directory is a searchable and sortable listing of tax preparers registered with the IRS. It includes the name, city, state and zip code of:
  • Attorneys
  • CPAs
  • Enrolled Agents
  • Enrolled Retirement Plan Agents
  • Enrolled Actuaries
  • Annual Filing Season Program participants
 
  • Check the preparer’s history. Ask the Better Business Bureau about the preparer. Check for disciplinary actions and the license status for credentialed preparers. For CPAs, check with the State Board of Accountancy. For attorneys, check with the State Bar Association. For Enrolled Agents, go to IRS.gov and search for “verify enrolled agent status” or check the Directory. 
  • Ask about service fees. Avoid preparers who base fees on a percentage of their client’s refund or boast bigger refunds than their competition. Don’t give tax documents, Social Security numbers or other information to a preparer when only inquiring about their services and fees. Unfortunately, some preparers have improperly filed returns without the taxpayer’s permission once the records were obtained.
  • Make sure the preparer offers IRS e-file and ask to e-file the tax return. Paid preparers who do taxes for more than 10 clients generally must file electronically. The IRS has processed more than 1.5 billion e-filed tax returns. It’s the safest and most accurate way to file a return.
  • Provide records and receipts. Good preparers will ask to see tax records and receipts. They’ll ask questions to determine the client’s total income, deductions, tax credits and other items. Do not rely on a preparer who is willing to e-file a return using a pay stub instead of a Form W-2. This is against IRS e-file rules.
  • Understand representation rules. Attorneys, CPAs and enrolled agents can represent any client before the IRS in any situation. Annual Filing Season Program participants may represent taxpayers in limited situations if they prepared and signed the return. However, non-credentialed preparers who do not participate in the Annual Filing Season Program may only represent clients before the IRS on returns they prepared and signed on or before Dec. 31, 2015.
  • Never sign a blank return. Don’t use a tax preparer that asks clients to sign an incomplete or blank tax form.
  • Review the tax return before signing. Before a taxpayer signs a return, they should review it and ask questions if something is not clear. Taxpayers should ensure they are comfortable with the accuracy of the return and that the refund goes directly to them – not into the preparer’s bank account. Reviewing the routing and bank account number on the completed return is always a good idea.
Report abusive tax preparers to the IRS. Taxpayers can report abusive tax return preparers and suspected tax fraud to the IRS. Use Form 14157, Complaint: Tax Return Preparer. If a return preparer is suspected of filing or changing the return without the client’s consent, also file Form 14157-A, Return Preparer Fraud or Misconduct Affidavit. Forms are available on IRS.gov.

Learn more about your tax filing options and why it’s a good idea to file early! 

Happy returns!

Taxes

The article below is up to date based on the latest tax laws. It is accurate for your 2019 taxes.

The holidays are coming up and while taxes may the last thing you may want to think about, now is a good time to start thinking about money you shelled out for tax-deductible expenses this year so you can start gathering receipts in order to make an impact on your taxes by increasing your tax refund or lowering the amount of taxes you owe.

Here are 10 money-saving tax deductions (and credits) to keep in mind when you start gathering your receipts for tax-time.
  1. Education Expenses: There are two education credits available — the American Opportunity Tax Credit and the Lifetime Learning Credit. The American Opportunity Tax Credit is a credit worth up to $2,500 for the expenses you paid for the first four years of college. The Lifetime Learning Credit, worth up to $2,000 of tuition and fees, is available even if you aren’t pursuing a degree. Make sure you count books and lab fees — even the books you rent on sites such as Chegg and others.
  2. Camp for Your Kids: You may be entitled to the Child and Dependent Care Credit if your children are under the age of 13, and you took them to a before and after school care program, daycare, or day camp so that you can work. However, overnight and sleepover camps are not eligible.
  3. Health Insurance: If you are self-employed, you can take a tax deduction for the health insurance premiums you pay for yourself and your family. If you are not self-employed, health insurance premiums paid after taxes may be tax deductible if you can itemize your deductions.
  4. Medical Expenses: Medical expenses, including miles driven for medical reasons (at 20 cents per mile), may be tax-deductible if they exceed 10% of your income in 2019 and you are able to itemize your tax deductions. The cost of exercise equipment or purchasing and maintaining a spa or swimming pool may be tax-deductible as medical expenses if your doctor recommends them to mitigate a medical condition.
  5. Charitable Contributions: If you made any donations, no matter how small, remember to have your receipts ready since you may be able to deduct them. It’s easy to forget the smaller amounts you contributed to various walks or races, but they add up quickly. You can’t deduct the value of your time when you volunteer, but you can deduct your travel at 14 cents per mile as well as any parking and tolls you paid. TurboTax ItsDeductible will help you accurately value and track your charitable contributions year-round and then transfer your contributions to your TurboTax return.
  6. State Income or Sales and Local Tax Deduction: You are permitted to deduct either the state income tax paid or the state sales tax paid, if you itemize your tax deductions. You can choose either but if you live in a state without a state income tax, it’s a no-brainer — you would deduct the state sales tax you paid. You are free to choose the one that gives you the biggest tax deduction. TurboTax will choose the option that gives you the biggest tax deduction based on your entries. The amount you are able to deduct is capped at $10,000 including property taxes, state income taxes or sales tax.
  7. Home Office: If you use part of your home regularly and exclusively to perform administrative or managerial activities for your business, you can claim a home office deduction for a portion of utilities, rent, mortgage interest, depreciation, maintenance and the like based on the square footage of your home used for your business.
  8. Miscellaneous itemized tax deductions. Miscellaneous itemized deductions like unreimbursed job expenses and tax preparation expenses, unless it’s tax preparation for your self-employment taxes, are no longer available. Uninsured losses due to fire, storms, shipwreck or theft more than 10% of adjusted gross income are tax-deductible only if they are the consequence of a federally declared natural disaster.
  9. Other Dependent Credit: If you are caring for someone other than a child dependent, take advantage of the new deduction. This is a tax credit of up to $500 per non-child dependent that you support.
  10. Mileage Expenses: If you use your vehicle for business and you are self-employed, you can deduct your mileage 58 cents for 2019 (it was 54.5 cents per mile in 2018). If you work for multiple clients, the cost of traveling between job locations is tax-deductible as well.
Don’t worry about knowing these tax rules. TurboTax asks you simple questions about you and gives you the tax deductions and credits your eligible for based on your answers. If you have questions, you can connect live via one-way video to a TurboTax Live CPA or Enrolled Agent. TurboTax Live CPAs and Enrolled Agents are available in English and Spanish and can even review, sign and file your tax return.

And did you know that, as a Kirtland FCU member, you can take advantage of discounted prices for TurboTax filing? Learn more and get started now! 

 

Security Fraud

Financial wellness—the ability to have a healthy financial life—hinges on budgeting, managing debts and making smart decisions for the long-term. Financial wellness allows you to handle medical bills, afford housing and transportation, and have access to the credit you need. Education and good habits go a long way toward being financially well!

But, in this technological age, there are many obstacles that can derail your financial wellness. A big one on that list? Identity theft.

In 2018, the Federal Trade Commission processed 1.4 million fraud reports totaling $1.48 billion in losses. The time and money a victim will spend trying to recover from identity theft is significant and can impact financial wellness. And the emotional toll that an identity theft can take could affect a victim’s job, relationships, and physical health. The growing prevalence of identity theft and fraud means that identity theft protection has to a be a part of the whole financial wellness package.
 

What YOU Can Do

  1. Monitor your credit report regularly - Catching discrepancies early can limit losses. Your credit report is free to you. Download yours FREE at AnnualCreditReport.com and check for accounts or activity you don’t recognize.
  2. Consider dark web monitoring - While dark-web monitoring doesn’t actually scan these sites for your information, it can help detect your information if it appears when stolen data is uploaded to sell. Learn more about the dark web now
  3. Practice good identity theft habits - Keeping your important information secret, setting strong, unique passwords, and staying aware of popular scams can help prevent you from falling victim to an identity thief. Learn more about how to keep your identity safe.

Extra Protection

Kirtland FCU partners with Identity Fraud, Inc. to offer a comprehensive suite of protection products that help minimize your risk of becoming a victim of identity theft. Services can include:
  • SSN Monitoring – to catch thieves using your social security number
  • Credit Monitoring – to identify unusual activity so you can take action
  • Credit Card Monitoring – scours chat rooms and online activity for your credit card information to identify potential fraud
  • DataSweep Monitoring – to identify your personal information online and alert you
  • Identity Insurance – should the worst happen, you’ll be covered
  • Lost Wallet Services - a 24/7 support team that helps you act quickly to limit your losses, maintain your good credit, and replace your lost or stolen cards
  • Keystroke Encryption Software - helps protect your identity by encrypting your keystrokes and hiding them from hackers, malware and key loggers intent on stealing your sensitive credentials while using the internet.
  • 24/7 Unlimited Resolution & Prevention Assistance - Staff ready to assist you with fraud resolution, no matter what type or how you experience identity theft.
Cover yourself with these protective services, and more, for less than $3 a month!

Explore and sign up for Identity Fraud, Inc. coverage!

Security Fraud

“It’s an older scam, sir, but it checks out.”

If you’re holding a check, made out to you, you’re going to want to read this before cashing it. Fake check scams have been around for a long time. Technology has opened up new avenues of implementing the scam, but the scam itself remains relatively unaltered. If someone you don’t know wants to pay you by check, be aware—it could be a scam. It could start with someone offering to buy something you’ve advertised on Facebook or Craigslist. It could come in the form of a supposed job opportunity! Or, it could be an even more enticing story of a sweepstakes win! Whatever the method, this scam is still in play for one reason: it works.

According to the Better Business Bureau’s 2018 Scam Tracker Risk Report, check fraud exposure (the likelihood of being targeted by a given scam) nearly doubled from 2017 with a median loss of $1,500 per incident! Fake checks are also a tactic in other types of scams, including employments scams.

Three Common Check Fraud Scams
 
  1. The Craigslist Overpayment - This one doesn’t have to be on Craigslist, but it will begin with the victim listing an item for sale, in a newspaper or online on Facebook or Craigslist. A buyer will send the victim a check for the item in a greater amount than the buying price. They’ll make up a convincing excuse and ask the victim to deposit the check and then withdraw the overpaid amount and send it back, usually in the form of a gift card. The check will bounce, and the victim is on the hook for the whole amount.
  2. The Employment Advance - This tactic is a crossover with employment scams. Usually, the victim will receive a fantastic job offer and an advanced check to cover supplies or training. The rest of the story follows the same path as the overpayment scam above.
  3. Winners! - In this one, the victim will receive a check to cover “taxes” on a fictional prize. The victim then pays the “taxes”. A few days later, the check bounces, and the victim is left confused—and broke.



Source: BBB 2018 Scam Tracker Risk Report

If you do deposit a check that is not from a friend or family member, wait at least two weeks to be sure it clears before spending any of the money.

If the check is indeed fake and bounces, you will not be out any of your own money. If you’re receiving pressure to do so, it’s a big red flag that the check may be fake.


How To Avoid These Scams


You can save yourself a big headache by taking these simple steps.
  • Inspect the check
    • Is the amount what you expected? There is NO LEGITIMATE REASON TO WRITE A CHECK FOR MORE THAN A NEEDED AMOUNT. Make sure the check matches the transaction.
    • Also, check the personal details on the check. Look up the bank or business associated with the check and call to confirm its validity.
    • If certain items such as a signature, address, or bank logo that are usually on a check are missing, or words are misspelled, don’t cash it. 
  • Consider the reason for the check
    • Did you prompt the sending of the check, or did it suddenly appear in your mailbox? Take some time to do a little sleuthing. Research the person or company the see if the payment makes sense. Trust your instincts! If it seems too good to be true, well, it likely is.
  • Don’t use the money
    • If you have a check that doesn’t pass the sniff tests listed above, and you haven’t cashed it yet, DON’T. Contact your credit union to discuss your concerns. If you already cashed it or deposited it, don’t spend the money. Credit unions and banks are required to make your deposited checks available to you within a certain period—for example, a government or cashier’s check is required to be cleared one business day after deposit. If the check has not yet been identified as fake, that money would still be available to you, even though the check is bad. Once the bounce happens, banks and credit unions have the right to withdraw the check from your account, even if you already spent the funds. If your balance can’t cover that amount, you could be facing negative balances and many more headaches.
  • Alert the authorities

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