11 Steps To Improving Your Credit Score

BullsEye

 

Your credit score plays an important role in many aspects of your life, from the rate you get on a loan to passing a background check for your dream job. Having bad credit scoring can keep you from achieving your goals. Luckily, improving your credit score isn’t a mystery; it is a simple process that you just need to follow consistently.

Step 1: Check Your Credit Score

Your credit score is determined based on your credit history. Actions like your payment history, types of credit, and amount of credit are reported and recorded. Positive behavior, like making on-time payments, improves your credit score. Negative information, like late payments or bankruptcies, hurt your credit.

Your credit score is a number between 300 and 850 and is built looking at the last seven years of history. The lower the number, the poorer the credit.

The first step to fixing your credit is to know exactly where you stand. Too many people know they have “bad credit,” but don’t know exactly what their credit score is or what negative marks are on their credit report. Every American is entitled to a free copy of their credit report from all three major credit bureaus.

You can request your free credit reports here.

Step 2: Clear Any Mistakes

Now that you have your credit report, look through it to see what is negatively impacting your credit score (also called a derogatory mark). They could be things like late payments, an account in collections, or defaulting on a loan. Some of these might be legitimate, and we will discuss how to deal with those in a moment, but right now we are looking for anything that might be a mistake.

If you find an error, you will need to send a letter to the creditor letting them know of the mistake. The FTC provides a free letter template for filing this dispute.

There are other companies that provide digital tools to help you identify and dispute errors on your report.

Step 3: Settle What You Can

Once we have cleared all the errors from your report, you should focus on resolving what you can. There is a technique called “pay for delete.” Essentially, you call the collection agency holding the debt and ask them to remove the derogatory mark once you settle the debt. Not all agencies will do this as the legality of doing so is somewhat questionable.

Regardless of if you choose to try and negotiate a “pay for delete” deal, you should try and settle whatever debts you can, as that will always help your credit score.

Step 4: Prioritize Card Repayment For Utilization

One of the factors considered in your credit score is something called “credit utilization.” It is the amount of credit you have used in relation to your total combined credit limit. For the sake of simple math, pretend you have a credit line of $1,000. You spend $500 of it. You have utilized 50% of your credit ($500/$1000).

A general rule of thumb is to try to keep your credit utilization under 30%. The lower, the better, as it is a proxy of how well you are handling your debt.

To help improve your credit score, look for the credit card with the highest utilization score and pay that down. That will be a card that is maxed out. A card with a $100 limit and $99 spent will have a credit utilization of 99%. A card with a $1,000 limit and $99 spend will have a credit utilization of 9%. In this step, we’re looking for cheap and quick fix. This is different from a strategy to get out of debt; if that is your goal target the credit account with the highest interest rate.

Step 5: Automate Bill Payment

The single best thing you can do for your credit is to consistently pay bills on time and in full. Sometimes we fail to pay on time, even when we could, simply because we’re human and we forget. Remove the option to forget and enroll in automatic payments.

Bill pay is so valuable, that many institutions will provide a discount just for enrolling. Check your insurance provider, cell carrier, and financial institution to see what discounts might be available.

Step 6: Keep Accounts Open

Another heavily weighted variable in your credit score is the length of an account. Some people will advise cancelling your credit card when it gets paid of in order to remove temptation. If you feel like you need that, then certainly do it, however you will be removing an old line of credit. Consider cutting up the card but keeping the account open.

Step 7: Automate Credit Building

Remember, credit is built by successfully paying off debts on time. A simple way to ensure that it happens is to put small, recurring payments on a card and then have it automatically paid off in full each month. For example, put your water bill on automatic pay. Have that be the only bill on this credit card and set the card up to be paid in full every month.

Step 8: Become An Authorized User

Your score can benefit by becoming an authorized user on an account of someone who already has a great credit score. Since the time an account has been open is a factor, you might want to look to your parents or grandparents. Do not get a physical card or use this line of credit for purchases — you don’t need it. You just want your name on the account so that you can benefit from their good behavior.

Step 9: Get Rent Payments Counted

Not all bills are reported. For example, your rent payments don’t help you build credit, even though that is likely your most expensive monthly bill. There are some services out there that will help make sure you rent helps to build your credit.

These services work by either contacting your landlord, or by serving as a middle-man in making your rent payments (you cut them a check, then they pay your landlord). You’ll probably have to pay a monthly fee for this service, but it could be worth it for the boost in your credit score.

Step 10: Consider New Products

Another product you might want to consider enrolling in is Experian’s “Boost.” This feature helps you to get credit for your phone and utility bills.

Step 11: Don’t Open New Accounts

There are two issues to be aware of when it comes to opening new accounts.

First, applying for the account usually requires a credit inquiry. There are two types of checks (or pulls); hard and soft. Soft pulls are often done for things like a background check and don’t impact your credit score. Hard pulls are done when you apply for a line of credit (like a car loan) and they do lower your credit score anywhere from 5 to 20 points.

Second, opening several new accounts rapidly shows that you are looking to get a lot of credit, which can be interpreted as having financial difficulties.

Conclusion

Fixing your credit score isn’t hard, but it does require you to consistently follow some basic rules: know your scores, pay on time and in full, get credit for everything, and then continue credit monitoring. Repeating these steps raise your credit.

 

SOURCES:

https://blog.kasasa.com/2019/06/11-steps-to-improving-your-credit-score/

https://blog.kasasa.com/2018/07/how-does-my-credit-score-affect-my-car-loan/

https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/articles/0384-sample-letter-disputing-errors-your-credit-report

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/finance/credit-report-rent-payments-incorporated/

https://www.experian.com/consumer-products/credit-score-boost-a.html

 

Paperless Statements – Pros and Cons

Paperless Statements – Pros and Cons

Woman organizing papers

Switching from paper bills to paperless billing might save time, but is it worth it?  Below we will review the Pros and Cons of signing up to receive paperless statements, bills and notices.

•••Tetra Images / Getty Images

How Paperless Billing Works

When you sign up for paperless billing statements, you won’t get a credit card statement in the mail anymore. Instead, your statement will be available online, often as a PDF file that you can download, save, and print. Your credit card issuer will send an email each month you when your statement is ready.

For your convenience, some credit card issuers also include your minimum payment due and the due date in the body of the email. If you’re thinking about ditching traditional paper statements, consider the pros and cons before you make the change.

Pro: Saving the Trees

Paperless statements are good for the environment. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, the average American uses about one 100-foot-tall Douglas fir tree in paper each year. If credit card issuers send out fewer billing statements, there will be less demand for paper, which means less air pollution from paper production. Some credit card issuers have even promised to make their own contributions to environmental causes when you sign up for paperless billing.

Con: Easier to Miss Payments

One of the downsides to paperless statements is that it’s easier to forget to send your payment when you don’t have that physical bill as a reminder.

If you need a due date reminder, you can print the statement from the internet and post it where you normally put your bills. Paper is still being saved since you’re skipping the envelope and billing statement inserts.

You could also miss your due date if the credit card issuer’s emails are caught by your spam filter and never delivered in your inbox.

Make sure you add your credit card issuer’s email address to your “safe list” to prevent the emails from being automatically quarantined.

Pro: Less Mail and Paper in Your Home

The elimination of billing statements means there is less paper and clutter in your home. You’ll save time sorting through bills and figuring how what you should keep, what can be thrown in the trash, and what must be shredded.

If you download your billing statements, you can save them to your computer or external drive and access later when you need them. Most credit card issuers make several months of billing statements available online, so it’s may not be necessary to save your most recent statements.

Con: More Passwords to Remember

When you sign up for online billing, that means you’ll have yet another username and password to remember. Even if you try to use the same ones for all your sites – which generally isn’t a good idea – there are always a few sites with slightly different restrictions that will require you to come up with something different from what you normally use, something that you’re more likely to forget. And if you can’t remember your password, you’ll have to use the password recovery process to check your statement every time you forget your password.

Pro: Perks for Online Billing Statements

Some credit card issuers offer incentives to cardholders who sign up for paperless statements. For example, you may be entered into sweepstakes when you switch to paperless billing statements. Some card issuers charge a fee to send a paper statement and waive this fee when you sign up to receive your billing statement online.

Con: Less Access to Previous Statements

Credit card issuers typically only make a certain number of statements available online. If you need more than that, e.g., for tax purposes, you may have to go through a few extra steps (and could even have to pay a fee) to access older statements. You could get around this by printing your billing statement each month and filing it away so you can access it if you need to.

Pro: Identity Theft Prevention

Switching to paperless statements could help prevent identity theft resulting from stolen mail.

Since statements aren’t mailed to your home, mail thieves won’t get access to your credit card number if they intercept your mail. Even hacking your email account wouldn’t give a thief access to your credit card information since you have to log in to your credit card issuer’s website to view your statement. Emails from your credit card issuer should never contain your full account number.

Con: Delay in Catching Credit Card Fraud and Credit Card Changes

If you’ve set up an automatic payment for your account, you could easily forget to review your statements each month, a step that’s critical to catching credit card fraud. You have 60 days to report billing errors, beyond that the credit card issuer could make you pay for purchases you never made.

There’s another downside to paying without reading your statement – no alert to changes in your minimum payment. If your minimum payment increases beyond the payment you’ve set, you’ll be hit with a late fee even if the payment is made on time. After 60 days, your interest rate will increase, and the late payment status will hit your credit report.

Con: Email Address Change Notification

Just like you have to notify your credit card issuer when you change your mailing address, you should also update them with a new email address. Otherwise, you’ll miss the monthly notification that your billing statement is ready. You could also miss an email letting you know about suspected fraud on your account (but beware of phishing scams) or to alerting you to other changes to your account, e.g., a credit limit increase.

Pay Online Without Paperless Billing

Even if you choose not to sign up for paperless billing, you can pay your account online either through your bank if they offer online bill payment services or directly to the credit card issuer through their website.

 

Source Information:  https://www.thebalance.com/pros-and-cons-of-paperless-billing-statements-960230

Go paperless and save

Power Outage Continues to Affect a Mutual Branch & an ATM Location (4/16)

update Mouse Social

UPDATE AS OF TUESDAY, APRIL 16TH: Due to continued power outages in our area following the storms and tornadoes on Saturday (4/13), the 2086 South Frontage Road Branch of Mutual Credit Union in Vicksburg, MS remains closed TODAY (4/16). Our ATM located at The Pemberton Mall is also out of service until power is restored. Please visit any of our other four (4) branch locations to conduct business. Click Here for a list of branch and ATM locations.

Remember, you also have access 24/7 to your account(s) & bill pay through online banking at https://mutualcu.org. Should you need further assistance, please contact us at 877-457-3654 option 0 during normal business hours (Monday-Thursday 9a-5p; & Fridays 9a-6p) to reach someone in the Call Center or submit your question through our web-page.

Thank you for your patience as we all work together to get our Vicksburg community back online.

Financial Importance of Protecting Yourself Online

Online financial purchase

Why you should keep financial information private

There’s no denying that financial information is some of the most sensitive data we deal with every day. Because of the sensitive nature of financial information, it should be a priority for all individuals and businesses to do everything in their power to protect it. In order to protect all financial information, encourage your friends, families, coworkers, and employees to protect their Personally Identifiable Information (PII). This type of information includes names, personal ID numbers such as social security, driver’s license, taxpayer and credit account numbers, addresses, biometrics, vehicle IDs, phone numbers and technology asset information such as IP addresses. If these identifiers are kept private, hackers will have a more difficult time breaking into your larger systems and accessing financial information once inside.

 

Prevent identity theft

Identity theft occurs when an unauthorized individual gains access to personal information online and impersonate a said person with malicious intent. Those who gain access to personal accounts can retrieve all login information, personal data and commit cyber crimes such as tax fraud and theft. Identity theft can have repercussions that last for years following the attack and can negatively affect your finance, digital reputation, and privacy. In order to avoid identity theft, precautions can be taken that increase your security online and lock down confidential information on various levels.

 

How to protect financial information

The first step in ensuring your information is safe online is implementing a few new practices into daily digital activity. A few of these practices include:

  1. Using strong passwords – One of the most important things you can do to keep your systems safe is to lock down systems with strong passwords. The use of weak passwords makes all internal accounts easier for cybercriminals to hack and is something that can be easily avoided with a quick update. When you go to update passwords from weak to strong, be sure to include both lower and upper case letters, at least one special character, and avoid using personal information such as qualifiers, which include names, home addresses, and birthdates.
  2. Enabling 2-factor authentication – To further keep financial information secure, utilize a two-factor authentication security process for all internal systems. The addition of this second step provides an extra layer of security to limit who can access your information. With this form of authentication, simply knowing the password is not enough to gain access to private accounts. Rather, anyone trying to break in will go through multiple forms of security checkpoints, such as a fingerprint scan or facial recognition, before successfully logging in. Many of these second checkpoints require the use of multiple devices as well, making it even more challenging for hackers to penetrate the system.
  3. Never save payment information online – According to a study conducted by CreditCards.com, approximately 100 million American individuals currently store their credit card or debit card information within apps or on websites to make future shopping experiences more convenient. While it may seem helpful at the time, storing your financial data on these kinds of sites actually makes it easier for hackers to access your information. Not only could this site be hacked, but your personal device might be stolen. In either scenario your personal information would be at risk.
  4. Making purchases from only trustworthy sites – A pro tip to ensuring you are browsing on and entering financial information on a safe site is to look for the “S” after “HTTP” in a website’s address. This “S” signifies that the site you’re visiting is protected by Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) encryption. You can also double check for a trust icon (which looks like a padlock symbol) on the site with the words “Secure” or “Verified”. Click this icon to see if you are taken to a verification page and if you aren’t, you’ll know that it’s a fake, unsecure site. This can help you avoid filling purchase orders or fulfilling other financial activities on sites that could easily open your system up to hackers.

 

Protect your company’s reputation

Research shows that a single data breach can cost American businesses an average of $7 million, considering the firm’s direct monetary loss along with business disruption, fines, and credit monitoring and identity theft repair efforts. On top of these costs, failing to protect your customers’ and employees’ sensitive personal data can destroy their trust in your brand. To avoid these repercussions, consider implementing these practices for your whole enterprise:

  1. Using secure applications and tools – Some of the most important things to lock down within your systems are the tools your employee base use every day. From messaging systems and call center software to the email platform you send all important data through, ensuring these tools have adequate security measures is critical. One simple way to keep these tools in sync is to streamline them all through a cloud-based unified communications platform with built-in security measures. Not only does implementing the cloud ensure the safety of all tools your employees are using, but it also makes it simple to track that security by being hosted in one, unified system.
  2. Encrypting data – These days, most correspondence between professionals happens via email, which increases the need to protect data by utilizing email encryption. Not sure what encryption is? Email encryption is the process of using an authentication mechanism to prevent unauthorized personnel from accessing private email messages and information. Most well-known email platforms come with a form of built-in encryption, but that often isn’t enough for sensitive financial data. Instead, consider upgrading to a more secure form of encryption and require all individuals within your network to do the same.

 

Even if you think you are invincible online or have nothing to hide, it’s important to protect privacy from both a personal and professional standpoint. You never know when something completely innocent-seeming could lead to a threat or breach. In order to prepare for these unknown attacks on your data, the best thing you can do is make that information less accessible, starting with these tips laid out before. To also stay up-to-date on the best security practices available, continue to research and update security measures as necessary.

 

Source: https://blog.kasasa.com/2019/02/protecting-yourself-online/

 

BEWARE! Tax Scams 2019

TAXES 2019

Each year, the IRS publishes the “Dirty Dozen,” a list of 12 scams that are rampant during that year’s tax season. 

This year, the IRS is cautioning taxpayers to be extra vigilant because of a 60% increase in email phishing scams over the past year. This is particularly disheartening, since it comes on the heels of a steady decline in phishing scams over the previous three years. 

Typically, an email phishing scam will appear to be from the IRS. Once the victim has opened the email, the scammer will use one of several methods to get at the victim’s personal information, including their financial data, tax details, usernames and passwords. They will then use this information to steal the victim’s identity, empty their accounts or file taxes in the victim’s name and then make off with their refund. 

Scammers have several means for fooling victims into handing over their sensitive information. The most popular tax-related phishing scams include the following: 

1.    Tax transcript scams. In these scams, victims are conned into opening emails appearing to be from the IRS with important information about their taxes. Unfortunately, these emails are bogus and contain malware. 

2.    Threatening emails. Also appearing to be from the IRS, these phony emails will have subject lines like “IRS Important Notice” and will demand immediate payment for unpaid back taxes. When the victim clicks on the embedded link, their device will be infected with malware. 

3.    Refund rebound. In this scam, a crook posing as an IRS agent will email a taxpayer and claim the taxpayer was erroneously awarded too large a tax refund. The scammer will demand the immediate return of some of the money via prepaid debit card or wire transfer. Of course, there was no mistake with the victim’s tax refund and any money the victim forwards will be used to line the scammer’s pockets. 

4.    Phony phone call. In this highly prevalent scam, a caller spoofs the IRS’s toll-free number and calls a victim, claiming they owe thousands of dollars in back taxes. Those taxes, they are told, must be paid immediately under threat of arrest, deportation or driver’s-license suspension. Obviously, this too is a fraud and the victim is completely innocent. 

If you’re targeted 

When targeted by any scam, it’s crucial to not engage with the scammer. If your Caller ID announces that the IRS is on the phone, don’t pick up! Even answering the call to tell the scammer to get lost can be enough to mark you as an easy target for future scams. If you accidentally picked up the phone, hang up as quickly as possible. 

Similarly, suspicious-looking emails about tax information should not be opened. Mark any bogus tax-related emails that land in your inbox as spam to keep the scammers from trying again. 

If you’re targeted by a tax scam, report the incident to help the authorities crack down on these crooks. Forward suspicious tax-related emails to phishing@irs.gov. You can also alert the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov. 

Protect yourself from tax scams 

Stay one step ahead of scammers this tax season by being proactive. Protect yourself with these steps: 

  • File early in the season so scammers have less time to steal your identity, file on your behalf and collect your refund.
  • Use the strongest security settings for your computer and update them whenever possible.
  • Use unique and strong passwords for your accounts and credit or debit cards.
  • Choose two-step authentication when conducting financial transactions online.

Remember, the IRS will never: 

  • Call about taxes owed without having first sent you a bill via snail mail.
  • Call to demand immediate payment over the phone.
  • Threaten to have you arrested or deported for failing to pay your taxes.
  • Require you to use a specific payment method for your taxes.
  • Ask you to share sensitive information, like a debit card number or checking account number, over the phone.

Be alert and be careful this tax season and those scammers won’t stand a chance! 

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a tax scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/taxes/beware-of-these-common-irs-scams/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.forbes.com/sites/kellyphillipserb/2018/12/04/irs-warns-on-surge-of-new-email-phishing-scams/amp/

https://www.businessinsider.com/irs-phone-scam-what-to-do-if-you-get-scam-call-2018-2

5 SCAMS TO WATCH FOR AFTER THE HOLIDAYS

The mad holiday rush may be over, but scammers aren’t slowing down. The post-holiday weeks bring an increase in scams that, unfortunately, are quite believable during this time of year. HOLIDAY SCAM ALERT

Don’t be the victim of a post-holiday scam! Read on to learn about five common ways fraudsters seek to dupe consumers after the holidays: 

1.) Gift-picking 

With the holidays behind us, many people are enjoying new, and often expensive, gifts. These can be top-of-the-line electronic devices, luxury entertainment systems or phones with four-digit price tags. If you’re the lucky recipient of such an expensive gift, you may be targeted by old-fashioned thieves who are looking for a good picking. 

Protect yourself by keeping your gift under wraps. Dismantle all packaging that contained your gift. Discard them in a covered trash or recycling bin instead of leaving them at the curb where potential thieves can spot them and peg you as an easy target. For extra precaution, consider hauling your boxes off to a communal dumpster or the local recycling station. 

2.) Charity scams 

The last two days of December see more charity donations nationwide than the rest of the year. While this may speak well of our goodwill, it also offers scammers another opportunity to help themselves to other people’s money. 

Be wary when giving charity this time of year. Don’t donate to any organization without first checking it out on a charity vetting website, like CharityNavigator.com. If you have a favorite cause you like to give to, contact them yourself instead of clicking on an ad or calling a number that appears to represent them. 

3.) Underpriced gifts for sale 

You may think you just found a real steal of a deal on Craigslist from a seller who is eager to get rid of a gift because “My wife didn’t like it.” But, be suspicious of any prices that seem too good to be true; they are likely to be scams. 

If an item for sale appears authentic, proceed, but with caution. Don’t rely on email communication. Instead, get the seller’s phone number and street address. If possible, ask for references and pictures of the item. If everything appears to check out, arrange to meet the seller in a well-lit, populated area, preferably one with ample security-camera coverage. Finally, never wire money online to any seller—let the cash and item change hands at the same time. 

4.) Belated holiday e-cards 

Don’t assume every e-card that lands in your inbox with a heading like “Oops! I’m late!” is legitimate. Too often, e-cards are ridden with malware and will infect your device as soon as you click on an embedded link. The e-cards may even bear the name of your friend, but don’t be fooled; scammers can easily pick these names off the internet. Authentic e-cards will include a confirmation code for you to copy and paste at the issuing website, so only open e-cards that are accompanied by a code. 

5.) Post-holiday ‘sales’ 

The holiday shopping frenzy is over and retailers are eager to drum up more business. This makes the post-holiday sale scam seem especially believable. Your social media platforms may be exploding with ads that are offering exclusive deals and deeply discounted prices at your favorite stores. While some of these ads may be legit, lots of them are scams. 

Here’s how to spot the fake ads and differentiate them from the real ones: 

  • The URL is off by one letter. Carefully check each landing page as you make a purchase.
  • The site is not secure. Always look for the “s” after the “http.”
  • The words “deals” or “discounts” are part of the URL. Authentic retailers sell from their home site and will rarely create a new website just to sell sale items.
  • The store’s logo is missing from the website. Look for a genuine store logo on every landing page.

Post-holiday scams are everywhere, but by knowing how to spot a scam, you’re already one step ahead of the criminals. Stay alert and stay safe! 

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a post-holiday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://blog.aarp.org/2017/12/30/protect-yourself-from-post-holiday-scams/

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.fox5atlanta.com/news/i-team/beware-post-holiday-loan-scams

https://dayair.atomicdevbox.com/blog/post-holiday-scams-to-know-about/

5 SCAMS TO AVOID THIS BLACK FRIDAY

Black Friday Scam Alert

Black Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch. 

Here are 5 scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving.  

1. Crazy deals that are actually bogus 

The noisy crowds and flashy ads on Black Friday can lead you to make rash decisions and spend more than you planned. But be careful not to leave your senses at home. 

An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of genuine Ugg boots for just $9? These deals sound insane because that’s exactly what they are. And yet, thousands of people happily send their money to online stores that are advertising these laughable prices on Black Friday. And of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they won’t hesitate to use it for their own shopping spree – all on your dime. 

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. It’s only bait used by scammers to lure you into their trap. Black Friday deals tend to fall within the 20-30% off range or an offer of free shipping. 

2. Black Friday gift cards for cheap 

In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you might see an explosion of cheap gift cards being sold at online marketplaces. The gift cards are linked to big-name retailers and are offered for a fraction of their real value. 

These cards are usually stolen from their real owners. The victim of the theft will likely report the loss and the card will be disabled. And you’ll have forked over your hard-earned money for a card that’s not worth the plastic it’s made from. 

Be smarter: Don’t buy any gift cards that are retailing at a heavily marked-down price. 

3. Bait and switch 

Want to be the lucky winner of a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details and take this survey. You may just be the proud new owner of the super-expensive phone! 

If you know anything about online scams, you’ll already recognize this one. Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. And, with holiday expenses growing each year, it’s the perfect time to lure an innocent victim into thinking they’ve just saved a ton of money. 

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from this scam just because you’re doing all your Black Friday shopping at the mall. “Bait and switch” scams can happen offline, too. 

The brick-and-mortar version of this scam is somewhat less nefarious. Retailers will advertise deals so amazing you’ll find yourself travelling across town and battling impossible traffic to grab these bargains. Once you finally reach the store, though, you’ll be told that those items are all sold out, but you can check out the items they do have in stock. You’ll be shown similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are just a waste of your time and often your money, too. 

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with. 

4. Delivery problems 

With so much of your shopping happening online, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases. But if you get an email like this asking you to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date, you’re looking at a scam. You may also receive a message asking you to pay an extra fee for delivery after you’ve completed an order. Again, this email is bogus and you’re being scammed. Ignore these emails. And, if you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly. 

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source. 

5. Online purchases that can only be paid for with a wire transfer 

If you’re planning on going on an all-out spending spree this Black Friday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected. 

A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and retailers you trust and frequent often. 

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back. 

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card. 

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and outsmart scammers! 

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a Black Friday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.finder.com/black-friday-scams

https://www.scam-detector.com/article/black-friday-scam

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-scams-watch-black-friday-cyber-monday/

Tropical Storm GORDON

GORDON nOTICE

A Message to All Members:
As you may be aware, Tropical Storm Gordon continues to make a path towards the Mississippi coast and is expected to reach hurricane status as it reaches land. Mutual Credit Union is monitoring the situation and preparing for possible weather related effects. Please monitor Mutual’s social media pages and website for alerts and updates related to any possible branch closures due to impact from the weather system.
This tropical storm system arrives just in time for September, National Preparedness Month. Some resources that you may find useful to prepare for weather outcomes.
Mississippi Emergency Management Agency (MEMA) http://www.msema.org/
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) http://www.noaa.gov/
Federal Trade Commission with information on making a preparedness plan (FTC) https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/09/its-national-preparedness-month-make-plan?utm_source=govdelivery
Thanks!
Mutual Credit Union
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HOW TO CREATE AND KEEP STRONG PASSWORDS

 

Your passwords are like the keys to your life.

And when it seems like there’s another big security breach every week, you want to be absolutely sure your passwords are strong and safe.

After all, with just a few keystrokes, a scammer can have full access to your personal information, financial accounts, social media pages and so much more. 

But creating those perfect passwords – and remembering them – can be difficult. 

Below, we’ve outlined 6 steps for creating and keeping super-strong passwords that will keep scammers guessing. 

Step #1: Choose a password manager 

With so much of our lives accessible online, it’s more important than ever to keep passwords secure. The best way to do this is to use a password manager. These services will generate strong passwords for all of your financial accounts, favorite websites and social media platforms and then keep them safely encrypted. You will only need to create and memorize one master password, which you will use when logging into all of your accounts. 

There are lots of password managers on the market, but the ones that come most highly recommended are 1password, Lastpass and Keepass. 

1Password and LastPass are both cloud-based services, and can be vulnerable to remote attacks. However, both services heavily encrypt your data and don’t store your one master password in the cloud. As long as that password is strong, you’ll be safe even if these services get hacked.

Step #2: Create an unbreakable master password 

Once you’ve chosen your password manager, create a strong master password. This code can open up every password of yours to potential scammers, so be extra careful about choosing one that is super-secure and virtually unbreakable. 

Scammers are becoming increasingly more efficient at password-cracking. They use multiple dictionaries which include English words, names, foreign words, phonetic patterns and more. They look for dates, commonly used substitutions, like “$” for “s,” “@” for “a,” and they run their dictionaries with various capitalizations. 

Follow the rules below and you’ll have a strong password. 

  • Make it long. Many sites require a password that is a minimum of 8 characters long, but a 12-character password is even stronger.
  • Be creative. Avoid using names, places and recognizable words because these are easily cracked.
  • Mix it up. The best way to keep your password unbreakable is to mix up your capitalization and the kinds of characters you use, switching back and forth from letters to numbers to symbols.
  • Don’t use any of variation of these commonly used – and commonly hacked – passwords:
  • 123456123456789
  • Passwordadmin
  • 12345678qwerty
  • 1234567111111
  • 1231231234567890000000
  • Abc1231234
  • iloveyouaaaaaa

If you’re unsure about your password’s strength, you can run it through an online password checker, like the one on  OnlineDomainTools.com.

Bonus tip: Worried about creating and remembering a long, unbreakable password? Turn a sentence into a password by using mnemonics, misspelled words and symbols that only you will understand. Here are a few to get you started:

  • WOO!TAwonTWS = Woohoo! The Astros won the World Series!
  • D:’(OspldMlk.JdreenqOJ = Don’t cry over spilled milk. Just drink orange juice
  • 1tubuupshrtsin2Mpnts = I tuck button-up shirts into my pants.

Once you’ve created a super-strong master password, work on memorizing it. Don’t store the password anywhere online or on your phone; write it down on an unmarked piece of paper. Rip up the paper as soon as you’ve committed the password to memory. This should happen fairly quickly since you will be using it quite often. 

Step #3: Update all your passwords 

Next, you’re going to sync all the websites and accounts you use with your password manager. Follow the guidelines on your password manager for this step, as they differ with each service. 

When you’re through, you’ll only be able to log into these sites by using your master password. 

Some sites you use might employ outdated systems that won’t work with a password manager. For these sites, you will need to use different passwords. You can slightly amend your master password for these sites or create new ones using the guidelines above. Never double passwords; use a different one for every site you use. 

Step #4: Use two-factor authentication 

Add another layer of protection by choosing two-factor authentication whenever you have that option. 

Step #5: Be careful with security questions

Ironically, security questions are extremely insecure. Anyone can Google your dog’s name or your mother’s hometown. And, if all a scammer has to do to retrieve your password with the “I forgot my password” tab is answer a security question, the strongest passwords in the world won’t do you any good.

Protect yourself by treating security questions like passwords. Never answer them truthfully. Instead, make up mnemonics or nonsensical answers that are hard to crack but easy for you to remember.

Step #6: Don’t let your browser or phone “remember” your passwords 

Don’t be lazy; keep your passwords in your head and not on your devices. Otherwise, you’ll be in deep trouble if your computer or phone is swiped. 

Keep your passwords strong and safe. You don’t want to be an easy target for scammers! 

Your Turn: What’s your best tip for creating a super-strong password? Share it with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/lifehacker.com/how-to-create-a-strong-password-1797681069/am

https://lifehacker.com/four-methods-to-create-a-secure-password-youll-actually-1601854240

https://www.pcmag.com/article2/0,2817,2407168,00.asp

 

New Online Banking Security Feature

 Releasing Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Beginning on Tuesday, February 27, 2018, the Mutual Credit Union Online Banking service will offer a new security feature. This added step in the login process helps safeguard your personal information by adding another layer of identity verification to online financial interactions. The protection of your personal information is of the utmost importance to us.

How does this new security feature work?
When logging into online banking on your computer, you will receive a message (text or voice) on your phone with a 4-digit code. You will be asked to enter this 4-digit code to complete the login process on your computer. NOTE: This feature requires a simple setup, but it takes the place of answering security questions when logging into online banking. This feature does NOT apply to our mobile app.

When will this new feature begin?
Starting Tuesday, February 27, 2018, when you log into online banking on a computer, you will be asked to set up your verification phone number.

How do I set up this feature?
After you enter your username and password, you will see the screen below:

  • You can choose a phone number that is currently listed on your account, or add another number of your choice.  It will save up to 5 phone numbers on your account.
  • Choose your Notification preference (Text or Call).
  • Click “Save”, and you will receive two text or voice messages: one notifying you that alerts are activated, and the other with a 4-digit code to verify the phone number.  Instructions for Opting Out of this service are also listed in the first text.  All verification codes will be 4-digit codes.
  • You are now set up for this security feature!

Important notes:

  • All verification messages will come from the same 5-digit phone number (28369).
  • The 4-digit verification code will be different each time you receive an alert.
  • Once you are signed up, you can update your phone number: Log into online banking, go to Settings > Security and Alerts > Identity Verification Phones.

The 4-digit verification code is only active for 5 minutes.  If it takes you longer than 5 minutes to enter the code and authenticate your account then please go back into your online banking and generate another verification code.

To make changes to your profile and phone settings from a mobile device login to the www.mutualcu.org website using “Safari,” “Chrome”, “Explorer”, or “Edge” internet browsers and then access Online Banking.

Please let us know should you have any further questions by calling 877-457-3654. We are pleased to be able to offer this level of security and account protection to our members. We appreciate your trust in Mutual Credit Union as your primary choice in financial institutions.