6 Ways to Protect Yourself from Fraud

  1. Keep hard copies of all credit and debit cards in a safe, secure place.
  2. Use double-authentication on all online banking transactions.
  3. Never click on any suspicious-looking links or download anything when you’re unfamiliar with the source.
  4. Don’t share sensitive information online unless you can absolutely verify the identity of the other party.
  5. Check your credit card and checking account statements carefully each month. Report any suspicious activity immediately.
  6. Set a spending cap for your credit and debit cards as well as a specific geographic area for their use.

Your Turn: How do you keep yourself and your money safe from fraud? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Share Button

Don’t Let Christmas Season Be Open Season On Your Personal Information!

Every year has a new hit toy that must get under the tree. These toys fly off the shelves, spawning an incredibly inflated secondhand market.

Unfortunately, scammers are capitalizing on parents’ desire to make Christmas memorable for their children. Recently, scammers set up fake Facebook pages, Instagram sites and Twitter profiles offering “giveaways” to people who followed them and downloaded a “fan app.” There was nothing given away. Worse yet, the fan app was a piece of malware that stole personal information and transmitted it to scammers.

This is the most recent in a round of scams featuring the popular toy. These tips will help keep you safe as you browse the web for holiday gifts.

1.) Never download anything you don’t need

When people are tricked into installing something on their computer, they can unknowingly send personal information to a scammer.

Before you click any downloadable link, ask yourself three questions:

  1. Do I know the company that produced this software?
  2. Do I trust the person who sent the link?
  3. Do I need this software for my daily life?

If the answer to any of those questions is “no,” close the browser immediately. If you  doubt the safety of a piece of software, don’t download it.

These rules apply for every device you use. Often scammers will intentionally targeted mobile users. Your phone has as much personal information on it as your PC does; safeguard both!

2.) Double-check when shopping online

Many scammers have taken a more conventional route: They promise goods, take the payment, then don’t deliver the goods. While this scam is common year round, the holiday-shopping insanity makes more people more vulnerable.

More insidiously, scammers have been posting “black market” toys. Factory defects are sold at many times the retail prices, even on reputable websites like Amazon. To avoid this scam, check reviews for the account. If someone’s selling a new toy or product but they’ve never sold anything before, it’s likely they’re running a scam.

If you must shop secondhand, try to deal locally. Never send payment through unsecured means, like a cashier’s check or wire transfer. Meet your buyer in a public place, and always inspect the goods before paying.

3.) Read the reviews before the hype

Reviews are written for a reason: to help you avoid faulty products and planned obsolescence.

Stick to products and toys that not only have high reviews, but several reviews.  A product that has five stars but only one review should be a red flag.

Ask your children what they really want for Christmas; it may surprise you. Find something they’ll really treasure. They, and your pocketbook, will thank you!

Don’t forget that building great holiday memories doesn’t cost a dime. You just need to spend time together! Happy Holidays!

Sources:

http://www.inquisitr.com/3799685/hatchimals-scams-on-facebook-twitter-and-instagram-some-giveaway-contests-and-coupons-are-phishing-tricks/

http://www.wrdw.com/content/news/OYS–Beware-the-Hatchimals-Hype-407067595.html

http://www.mirror.co.uk/money/black-friday-2016-buying-hatchimals-9334059

Share Button

Eight Questions (And Answers) About Currency Transaction Reports


1. What is a CTR?

CTR stands for Currency Transaction Report.  This is a report filed to the Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) by financial institutions regarding any withdrawals, deposits, payments, transfers or exchanges of currency in the value of $10,000 or more.  CTR’s apply to transactions of cash, foreign bank notes, Federal Reserve notes and U.S. silver certificates.

2. What’s the Purpose of a CTR?

The purpose of a CTR is to enlist financial institutions in the fight against money laundering and other financial crimes.  While transactions of $10,000 or more aren’t inherently suspicious, keeping tabs on large paper transactions helps the government scrutinize potential cases of money laundering and other criminal activity.  Employees of financial institutions have the ability to mark a CTR with an SAR (Suspicious Activity Report) if there are other signs that the transaction may be tied to criminal activity.

3. Who Has to File CTRs?

All financial institutions are required to file CTRs. Broadly, this means banks and credit unions.  But it’s important to know that websites like PayPal and Venmo are also beholden to regulations concerning CTRs and SARs.

4. What is FinCEN?

The motto at The Financial Crimes Enforcement Network (FinCEN) is “follow the money,” and that’s exactly what this organization does.  The bureau of FinCEN is part of the U.S. Treasury Department.  It is responsible for collecting data on financial transactions and is interested in tracking large or otherwise suspicious transactions because they may be connected to money laundering, fraud, terrorist financing and other crimes.

5. Do Financial Institutions File a CTR for Multiple Transactions Adding Up to $10,000 or More?  What About Transactions of $9,999?

The point of a CTR is to notify FinCEN of suspicious transactions.  While $10,000 is the standard amount, employees of financial institutions are obligated to issue an SAR for transactions that seem to be intentionally dodging a CTR.  For instance, if an individual made a $5,000 deposit to his own personal account as well as a $5,000 deposit to his brother’s account, this activity would warrant a CTR.

In other words, it is the responsibility of the financial institution to look at transactions as part of a larger picture and to make adequate filings of CTR and SAR accordingly.

“Structuring” refers to when individuals regularly make transactions of just under $10,000 to avoid a CTR.  This is an offense for which both the individual making the transaction and the financial institution’s employee could be punished (if the employee failed to file an SAR).

6. Do Financial Institutions Have to Tell Customers About CTRs?

No.  If a member/customer asks, they will be told, but banks don’t need to be forthcoming about this information.  Also, if a customer asks to do a transaction of $10,000 or more and then asks about CTRs, he or she cannot lower the amount for avoiding the CTR.  The teller at the bank or credit union will need to deny any requests to lower the transaction amount as well as file both a CTR and an SAR in response to this request.

7. Don’t CTRs Violate Customers’ Financial Privacy?

Before the CTR was developed, it was the responsibility of individual tellers to call the police over suspicious transactions.  This wasn’t the most efficient or secure way, but it was seen as necessary to protect customers’ financial privacy and protect financial institutions from liability.

However, in October of 1986, the Money Laundering Control Act was passed, making allowances for reporting transactions in the amount of $10,000 or more.  The act stipulated that financial institutions will not be held liable for releasing suspicious transactions to FinCEN.

Today, rather than it being on the shoulders of each individual teller, CTRs are automatically filed for transactions of this size.  It is, however, still the responsibility of bank and credit union employees to look out for other signs of suspicious activity, beyond just the amount.  This is why CTRs, while auto-filed in most cases, also have an SAR check-box on them for bank and credit union employees to use.

8. How Do Financial Institutions File CTRs?

There are many software systems in use by financial institutions to meet the regulatory demands of CTR and SAR filing.  Some institutions use custom software, while others use systems such as  NICE Actimize,  Oracle, DBI Financial Systems and American Bank Systems.

SOURCES:

https://www.fincen.gov/frequently-asked-questions-regarding-fincen-currency-transaction-report-ctr

https://www.treasury.gov/about/history/Pages/fincen.aspx

https://www.fincen.gov/sites/default/files/shared/CTRPamphlet.pdf

Share Button

Credit Cards or Debit Cards – What’s the Smartest Swipe?

Most people own at least one debit card and at least one credit card. They know they have them, but they may not know about all the differences that exist between using a credit card and a debit card.

Believe it or not, there are many. The most basic difference is the fact that each time you use a credit card, you’re borrowing money. A debit card, on the other hand, simply transfers your own money from your checking account to the vendor you’re paying.

When you use your credit card, your credit union is lending you money, which you’ll need to pay back along with interest. A debit card takes funds directly from your account similar to the way that checks do – only quicker. Some processing terminals will require a PIN and some will require signature.

Both credit and debit cards are convenient, quick and easy. They’re also safer than cash, because cash cannot be replaced if lost or stolen.

Which one should you use? The answer depends largely upon your lifestyle.

1.) Budgeting

Credit cards allow you to buy now and pay later. Unfortunately, this can turn into a nightmare because of the obvious financial pitfalls in being able to purchase things you don’t have the money for now. If you think you’ll be tempted to overspend, regular credit card use may not be ideal for you.

However, it’s nearly impossible to incur thousands of dollars of debt through debit card usage. Most credit unions will cover purchases that put your account into the red, but only up to a few hundred dollars. If this happens, you’re accountable for your purchases and charged an overdraft fee.

2.) Safety

The convenience of debit cards can make fraud more likely. Unless reported promptly, debit card theft or fraud can quickly drain your account. Credit card companies are held to strict liability laws: Consumer liability for credit card fraud is limited to $50. If you report suspicious charges in a written request within 60 days, the company is obligated to investigate and restore the funds to your account if the charges are determined to be fraudulent.

For debit card fraud, your liability is $50 if you notify the credit union within two days of seeing the fraudulent charges. After two days, your liability increases to $500. If you report the activity 60 days or more after it happened, you may be liable for all of it. Although many credit unions have implemented voluntary plans to limit customer liability to $50, there is no federal law requiring them to do so.

In addition to stricter liability laws, credit cards offer consumer protection on purchases. You can always cancel a charge if you are the victim of an online scam or bought something that was never delivered or wasn’t what you expected. This makes credit cards the ideal choice for large or fragile purchases that will be delivered to your home for additional insurance on the purchase.

3.) Rewards

One major draw for credit cards is the points awarded for purchases. That’s a strong advantage over debit cards. The ability to earn airline miles and the lure of a possibly free flight are attractive to many consumers. Of course, you may be paying for those miles with a high interest rate or an annual fee.

Don’t get hooked on the points. Research each card carefully to make sure you’re really getting your money’s worth.

4.) Credit History

Another important benefit to using a credit card is establishing or restoring a positive credit history. Debit card usage may encourage responsible spending, but a major factor in measuring your credit score is your credit card usage. Occasionally using a credit card and paying your bill on time can really improve your credit rating. This, in turn, improves the likelihood of earning favorable terms for home loans, auto loans, personal loans and more.

5.) Annual Fees and Interest

A strong disadvantage of credit cards is the money you spend to keep them. Some cards charge an annual fee, and the interest on your credit card bill can easily be a third of your payment or more. If you’ve overspent one month and are unable to cover the entire amount due, you may need to pay only the minimum payment. More of your payment will soon be going toward interest than toward lowering your bill. This makes the next payment higher, and again you’ll be paying a significant portion toward interest. This is often how credit card debt spirals. Interest becomes a huge hurdle, making it nearly impossible for the consumer to make headway.

If you don’t think you will be able to pay your bills in a timely manner, keep credit card usage to a minimum.

As a UCCU member, you already have access to fantastic rates and optimal security. To find out which debit or credit card is best for you, call, click or stop by today!

Your Turn: In what situations do you prefer to use a debit card or a credit card? Why do you choose one over the other? Share your thoughts with us!

Sources:

Share Button

Intro To Investing – Dividends

Intro To Investing – Dividends

Most people dream of being able to make a stable income just from investing the money they have now. One of the easiest ways to do this is through dividends – one form of return you can receive on your investment dollars.

Dividends are the payments companies make to their owners, who in this case are their stockholders. Here’s a helpful analogy to make it clear.

If you and a friend built a chair using lumber you purchased for $10 and you sold that chair for $50, you’d each take home $20. The “company” in this case is you and your friend, who are working together. Whoever paid for materials would be reimbursed out of the sale of the proceeds. The rest of the money would be the company’s earnings and the company would pay you both, as owners.

Things aren’t so straightforward with stocks and dividends, though. You’re an investor in the company, so you’re essentially loaning the company money (or are buying someone else’s loan). The company might use that money to pay employees, buy raw materials, improve their machinery or expand their business. In exchange for that loan, the company agrees to pay you a set amount, called a dividend. Dividends can pay out monthly, quarterly, semiannually or annually.

There are a few other keywords to know when looking at dividends. First, recognize the difference between dividend yield (a percentage) and payable dividend (an amount of money). Payable dividend is the amount of money the company pays per share. If a company pays 32 cents per share, and you own 100 shares, your dividend will be $32. The yield is the payable dividend divided by the stock price. This lets you know what percentage return you’ll get on your investment.

Be careful when shopping for stocks that offer a high dividend yield. Often, companies looking to attract investment will take steps to lower the price of their stock by increasing the percentage yield without changing the payable amount. A company that pulls these kinds of tricks is often not in the best financial position, and your dividend money could dry up in a hurry.

The second set of terms is pay date, ex-date and announcement date. The pay date is the date on which the company will pay out the dividends. They’ll deposit money in your brokerage account or mail you a check on that date. The “ex-date” is short for excluded dividend date. If you were a shareholder on the ex-date, you are entitled to dividend payments. If you sold before that or bought after that, you don’t get dividend payments. The announcement date is the date at which the board of directors announces they’ll be paying a dividend. Such an announcement will include a pay date, an ex-date and a payable dividend amount.

Dividend investment strategies differ from growth strategies in two key ways. First, growth investors try to get in on the ground floor of an emerging stock, while dividend investors are usually buying shares of established companies that have strong track records. Second, growth investors have to sell their shares to receive their investment gains. Dividend investors want to hold their shares as long as possible to keep getting those dividend payments. While growth investment offers more risk, it also has the potential of offering a higher reward. Growth stocks generally increase in value faster than dividends increase.

Fortunately, the UCCU Financial Group is ready and willing to help you navigate through the complexities of investing. Visit uccufinancialgroup.com, or contact Steve Lloyd at lloyds@peakfns.com , 801-223-7502, to learn more about how you can maximize your investment portfolio.

Share Button

Rising Interest Rates: What Do They Mean For You?

Home

If you read financial headlines, you’ve no doubt seen the news that the Federal Reserve is raising interest rates. These headlines can be accompanied with all sorts of hyperbole about the end of the stock market, the boom of bonds or any of a dozen other possible predictions. It’s easy to get overwhelmed when there’s this much information and so much of it is conflicting. Let’s set the record straight on what rising prime interest rates mean for you and your:

  • Adjustable-rate Mortgage
  • Portfolio
  • Savings
  • Debt

The prime interest rate is the rate that the Federal Reserve charges financial institutions to borrow from it. It influences a lot of other financial prices. Many of these are only of concern to investment bankers, professional investors and other economic enthusiasts. Here are some key ways the prime rate hikes can affect you!

1.) Get out of your ARM

Many people opted for adjustable-rate mortgages (ARMs) when interest rates were historically low. These mortgages often have much better rates for an introductory period, usually five years, before they adjust to a new rate. That new rate is determined in large part by the rate the Federal Reserve charges.

The Federal Reserve is planning to continue to increase interest rates as the economy continues to improve. This means the rate on your ARM may go up as well. Worse yet, the rising rates could make your monthly mortgage payment unpredictable, putting you in a bit of a budget bind. Fortunately, you can refinance your mortgage into a fixed-rate loan and take advantage of still-low interest rates. You may still be able to secure a low rate on a 10-, 15- or 30-year fixed-rate mortgage. As interest rates continue to rise, your fixed-rate mortgage will stay the same, meaning your savings will increase as time goes on.

2.) Balance your portfolio

The historically low interest rates over the past six years have done wonders for the stock market. Because companies could borrow at affordable rates, they could expand rapidly. That expansion fuels growth in stock prices.

As interest rates rise, that credit availability will decrease. Companies will find it more difficult to expand, and their growth will slow. This slowing of growth may lead to a decline in stock prices.

However, as interest rates rise, bond rates will also increase. That will lead to an increase in their price as more investors chase those rates. Individual investors need to ensure their portfolios are properly balanced to take advantage of changing market conditions. Speaking to a financial adviser to ensure your assets are where they need to be will help keep your investments growing at a healthy rate.

3.) Save more

The Federal Reserve interest rate also affects the rates that financial institutions are able to offer account holders. As it becomes more expensive to borrow from other institutions, it’s more profitable for those institutions to “borrow” from their members in the form of certificates and savings accounts. As interest rates continue to rise, it’ll be increasingly more profitable to sock your money away in an interest-bearing account.

If you’ve been putting off opening a certificate or increasing the deposits in your share account, now is an excellent time to consider it. With a 12- or 24-month certificate, you can take advantage of rising interest rates while still leaving yourself the flexibility to re-invest once interest rates rise again.

4.) Refinance your debt

The service charges on several kinds of debt are tied to the prime rate. Notably, credit cards and private student loan rates may increase as the prime rate continues to climb. That makes now a great time to think about refinancing.

Take advantage of currently low interest rates with several strategies. A home equity line of credit can help bundle your high-interest, unsecured debt with your low-interest mortgage. A personal loan for refinancing can also help secure a better interest rate. Other options exist, and the sooner you speak with a debt counselor or other financial professional, the better off you’ll be.

It’s easy to get overwhelmed by all the financial terminology surrounding news events like rate hikes. That’s why it’s best to have an advocate in your corner to help you figure out what to make of a changing economic landscape. Utah community Credit Union can do just that. Call, click or stop by to speak to a member services representative about how you can take advantage of this opportunity and put yourself on the path to financial wellness.

Find your nearest UCCU location here: http://www.uccu.com/home/uccu/locations

Your Turn: Got questions about rising interest rates? Leave your questions in the comments. Or, if you’ve got a handle on all things economic, share your wisdom with others!

Sources:

http://www.azcentral.com/story/money/business/consumers/2017/01/19/bit-bit-rising-interest-rates-making-impact/96560462/
https://www.nytimes.com/2017/01/18/your-money/increases-in-interest-rates-on-savings-accounts-remain-slow-to-materialize.html?_r=0
http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/personalfinance/2016/12/28/what-2017-may-mean-your-personal-finances/95736736/

Share Button

Security Bulletin: Voice-based “Vishing” Attack Targets Financial Institutions

Utah Community Credit Union has been alerted to a voice-based scam — commonly known as “vishing” — where fraudsters are using the National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) name in an attempt to obtain personal financial information from consumers. The call informs consumers that their debit cards have been compromised and instructs them to follow prompts and enter their personal information, including sensitive financial data and identification details. 

What is Vishing? – The term “vishing” refers to a technique for stealing information or money from consumers using telephone systems. The term comes from combining “voice” with “phishing”, with phishing being online scams that get people to give up personal information.

If you receive this type of call please hang up the phone. UCCU will never call and ask for such information. If you did receive a call like this and provided your account or card information please contact us at (800) 453-8188 immediately.

What can you do to protect yourself?

  • Be suspicious of any unsolicited calls where personal information is requested. Be just as suspicious of phone calls as you are of e-mails asking for personal information.
  • Don’t trust caller ID. Just because your caller ID displays a phone number or name of a legitimate company you might recognize, it doesn’t guarantee the call is really coming from that number or company.
  • Call them back. If someone is asking for information, tell them you will call them back. In the case of Utah Community Credit Union, call us using our number from your records.
  • Never provide credit card information or other private information to anyone who calls you.
  • Register your number with the National Do Not Call registry at www.donotcall.gov. Most legitimate telemarketers obey the rules and laws about contacting consumers.

If you were contacted by this vishing scheme you may contact the NCUA’s Consumer Assistance Center Hotline at 800-755-1030 or by email at phishing@ncua.gov to report the details of the scam. They have operators available to take calls Monday through Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. Eastern Time.

You may also report vishing to the FTC on their website www.ftc.gov or call them at (888) 382-1222. The FTC will ask for the number and name that appeared on the caller ID, the time of day you received the call and what was said or heard in any recorded message. If you think you’ve been a victim of a vishing attack you can also contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center.

Share Button

Finding the best and earliest strategies for Social Securities

uccufinancialgroup_computer

On Nov. 2, 2015 President Obama signed the Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015 which drastically modified some of the options available within Social Security.

Two popular Social Security claiming strategies were severely limited.  If ever there were a sense of urgency in ensuring that you get the most you are eligible for under Social Security that time is now.  There is a small grace period to lock in those benefits that ends May 1, 2016.

Our Social Security Timing® software identifies the best and earliest strategies in easy-to-understand charts, and allows you to add alternates for comparison.

We offer this service at no cost or obligation.  Please give us a call to schedule a convenient time to evaluate your own situation.  To schedule your appointment contact Steve Lloyd, Office Manager at UCCU Financial Group.  Their phone number is 801-223-7502.

Securities and advisory services offered through Cetera Advisor Networks LLC, member FINRA/SIPC. Cetera is under separate ownership from any other named entity.
Not NCUA/NCUSIF Insured – No Credit Union Guarantee – Not a Deposit – May Lose Value –Not Insured By Any Federal Government Agency.
Share Button

What's the Big Deal About EMV?

Gallery

How EMV Works The U.S. market is the last major market that still uses the magnetic-stripe payment method. Due to the high amounts of fraud EMV technology has been implemented to try and mitigate the security issues magnetic-stripes can pose. … Continue reading

Share Button

How to Protect Your Child From Identity Theft

Gallery

  As a parent you worry about your child’s education, their health, their safety, and their future. That’s why it is crucial to monitor and protect your child’s personal information from identity thieves from a young age. Here are some … Continue reading

Share Button