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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!


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

Security Fraud

Ah, technology.

Our high-tech world moves at lightning speed, with communication and tasks often happening in real-time. In many ways, security has lagged behind innovation. Now, new security measures such as two-factor authentication  have emerged to protect the vast amounts of information and money that is exchanged online. But criminals are beginning to exploit those extra security measures and options, and you need to be on the lookout for this latest ploy to access your accounts.

Financial partner CO-OP, which owns and operates credit union ATMs nationwide, recently warned Kirtland FCU of a tactic called ‘SMishing’—phishing (posing as a legitimate company) via SMS text messaging. And it’s effective because of the popularity of texting. According to the Pew Research Center, 97% of Americans send at least one text every day. 

What The SMish?
SMishing, according to CO-OP, is a text is designed to look like an automated text communication from a legitimate company. There are two different methods of SMishing that we’ll discuss: the SMished text alert and the SMished two-factor. 

SMished Text Alert
Criminals in possession your debit card details and other forms of personally identifiable information (PII) are spoofing credit union phone numbers in an effort to fool credit union members into thinking that the text messages are actually from the fraud department of a particular credit union. Fraudsters are sending text messages under the guise of trying to validate recent card activity and are including hyperlinks within some text messages.
 
Fraudsters are also using text messaging to deceive credit union members into providing card-related data and login credentials. A typical SMishing occurrence can begin with a member receiving a text message inquiring about a suspicious transaction on an account. In reality, the fraudster is looking to obtain other information from members such as debit card numbers, CV2 codes, expiration dates, PINs and other web login credentials.

Before we go into how to spot one of these texts, you should know that there ARE legitimate texts that can come in from your credit union (especially if you’ve registered for Text Alerts  Online Banking login, transaction alerts for your cards, or use Text Banking. But there are key differences between a SMishing text and a valid text transaction alert).
 
SMishing Text Contains Legitimate Text Contains
A vague reference to a bank or no reference at all An abbreviated version of  your credit union's name
No specific card information The last 4 digits of the card number
No specific transaction information The amount of the transaction detail
No merchant information Merchant details
Hyperlinked phone numbers and/or web addresses No hyperlinks
Requests for card numbers, CV2 codes, passwords, PINs, expiration dates Reply options of: YES, NO or STOP (to opt out)

The SMished Two-Factor

Have you opted in to two-factor authentication for your financial accounts? Many companies and financial institutions are now offering two-factor authentication  as a way to make logging in faster and safer by requiring not only a username and password but the entry of a one-time code, sent through a different channel (usually e-mail, text, or voice call). Which means that if a fraudster obtained your username and password to a specific account, they would also need to have access to your e-mail account or phone to obtain the one-time code—an unlikely situation. Thieves are now calling members, posing as credit union employees, to get you to turn over the code while you’re on the phone with them!

While on the phone with a member, the fraudster logs into a credit union Online Banking site. When the one-time code is sent to the member’s phone, the fraudster asks the member to provide the code as a means to validate the member. When the information is shared with the person the member believes is a credit union employee, the fraudster uses the code to finalize access to Online Banking, which is typically followed by changing the Online Banking password and transferring funds from member accounts.

How To Miss The SMish
  • Be aware! By simply knowing of the possibility of a SMishing attack, you can keep an eye out for the signs
  • Never provide information via text. A legitimate credit union employee or alert text will never ask for personal information to be sent over unsecured channels, and you will NEVER be asked for your Online Banking password or two-factor code outside of your login attempt.
  • Never click hyperlinks in texts. Legitimate requests to validate card activity will request a simple response of YES or NO. They will not include hyperlinks to other websites or ask for any personal info.
  • Don’t believe the caller ID. It’s amazingly easy to spoof a phone number—to make it look like a call is coming from a legitimate source.
  • When in doubt, check! You can always call the credit union (Kirtland FCU member, call 1-800-880-5328) to check on the validity of a transaction alert or to report a request for information that seems, well, phishy.
 

Security Fraud

As cybercrime and identity theft continues its relentless increase in both prevalence and sophistication, are you taking advantage of all the ways you can increase security for your own accounts?

Passphrases > Passwords

‘Password’ is a terrible password. So is 123456 (alarmingly, the most common password in the nation). Why? Because these passwords are simple and easily guessed. And while an overly simple password is easy to remember, choosing one is the equivalent of installing a lock made of cotton balls on your front door—not what you want protecting your identity and your money. The problem is that long and complex passwords are not only difficult to guess (which is good) but difficult to remember (bad for the user).

The National Institute of Standards and Technology has recently revised its recommendation of using complex passwords in favor of using a passphrase—a sequence of words and other text. Passphrases are naturally much longer than passwords, making them more secure (usually).  Longer passphrases result in more “randomness” generally, making it hard for computers to figure it out—shoot for 4-5 random words (not ones that form a sentence or borrow from quotes or sayings).

The difference between passwords and passphrases is eloquently illustrated by science comic blogger Randall Munroe (XKCD):



If you have the option to use a passphrase (no requirements for special characters and no limit on length) do so! You will likely find that many of your apps and websites have yet to implement this change in recommendation with their own password requirements, so if you cannot choose a passphrase, make the password as random and as long as possible and avoid these common pitfalls:
  • Don’t use family names, birthdays, or other information that could be found elsewhere. (Make it hard to guess.)
  • Don’t use the same password for every application. (Make it unique.)
  • Don’t use short or common passwords like QWERTY or 123456. (Make it strong.)
If you have access to a password protected computer, you can use a password manager like Dashlane or LastPass to generate and remember tough passwords for your logins. Some browsers will also generate and remember your passwords if you ask it to, but be careful about using this functionality if anyone else has access to your computer. And DON’T use this option if you’re on a public computer or connected to unsecured Wi-Fi. In fact, don’t log into any program while connected to an unsecured Wi-Fi. It’s scary easy to steal information over an unsecured Wi-Fi connection.

The Two-Factor Option

Have you set up two-factor authentication yet? Many programs now offer this secure method of login, and you should be taking advantage of it. Google, for example, offers two-factor authentication: when you type in your Google password to log into Gmail or another of Google’s apps, you’ll also be asked for a second entry of a six-digit code that is texted to your phone (or sent to you via the Google app on your phone). Once an account’s two-factor authentication is set up, a thief would not only have to possess your password but your physical phone to access your account


Don’t want to enter a six-digit password every time? You can set Google to remember a personal computer but require two-factor authentication on new devices. Or, if you have a security key like this Yubico, you’ll be prompted to plug it into your computer’s USB port or touch it to your phone to complete the two-factor authentication—literally a physical key for your account! And a physical security key is about as safe an option as you can find.

Many sites and apps offer two-factor authentication—Facebook, YouTube, Google, various password managers, and many financial institutions, including Kirtland FCU Online Banking!

Online—you should be here!

If you’re thinking, “Geez, it’s too risky to be online! I’m just going to do banking the old-fashioned way, with checks and branch visits,” you might want to reconsider. Most financial institutions offer some version of online banking options, and if you don’t claim yours and set up your own passwords and security, you leave the path clear for a thief to do it for you. And you won’t have any way of knowing something has gone wrong until you get your next banking statement a month later! Setting up Online Banking and checking your accounts often allow you to:
  • Catch fraud and theft early
  • Limit losses
  • Secure your accounts with your own passwords and options
Technology is changing and improving every day. Make sure to take advantage of the latest options offered by each account and login you set up.

To register for your Online Banking account with Kirtland FCU, give us a call at 1-800-880-5328.

 

Security Fraud

It’s a buzz term that gets thrown around during discussions of data breaches and identity theft— the “dark web”.

You may have even seen advertisements for services that are supposed to alert you—or even claim to be able to remove your information—when your information is discovered there. But what is the dark web, and how can you keep yourself safe if your information ends up on one of these sites?

The dark web is a network of websites that can only be accessed with a special browser that renders the user anonymous and untraceable. Sites on the dark web make up about 3% of all websites and while not every site accessible on the dark web deals in illicit activity, it’s easy to see the appeal for an identity thief. After a data breach, information often floods the dark web, offered up for sale as a bundle of information for as little as $10 per bundle.

Many services will offer to scan the dark web for your information. Finding it is one thing; eliminating it is another. The former will allow you to take action to protect yourself. The latter is all but impossible.

Beware any service offering to scan the entire dark web

Because that’s impossible. The ever-shifting landscape of the dark web makes it impossible to crawl every site. One of the major differences between the normal web and the dark web, besides the multiple re-routes built between a user and a site, is the suffix of the sites themselves: sites on the dark web often end in .onion and have an incomprehensible string of numbers and letters before it. The last count of onion sites according to a 2017 Vice article was 1,208,925,819,614,629,174,706,176. And it’s not unusual for a site to appear for 12 hours and then vanish. We can’t even count these sites accurately, never mind crawl them in any kind of reliable fashion.

What a site will do to “scan” for your information is likely to look at the latest data dumps: files of information that do often end up on the dark web.

If you do a scan, and your information is found on the dark web, here are a few things to remember.
  • No service can erase your information. There’s no putting the genie back in the bottle. You should be leery of any service offering to erase your information.
  • Consider account alerts. Early detection of fraudulent activity can help you limit losses.
  • Mitigation is the name of the game. If you are alerted that your information is on the dark web, the best idea is to freeze your credit to limit fraudulent activity with your social security number. You should also order new credit and debit cards.
  • Monitor your credit frequently. Look for any unusual activity so you can take swift action.
  • Practice good security hygiene. Keep your data and passwords as private as possible.  Read here to find out more

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