Don’t Trust that Text… You Might Get “Smished”

The newest ruse called “smishing” is a variation of phishing where cyber thugs use SMS text messaging to target mobile banking customers.  Several articles suggest that we are in the early stages of mobile threats and that cyber criminals are still figuring out the best way to gain access to your personal information via cell phone. 

Malware, which is short for malicious software, is still the most pervasive fraud out there and can attack any computer through e-mail or poisoned Web downloads.  This is how criminals take control of your computer and ultimately your finances.

Obviously, mobile banking is becoming more and more common.  Criminals know this and will become very efficient at digging for your information.  Please make sure you and your friends are aware of this situation and if you receive a text that says it’s from your bank and to call the 1-800 number, go to your bank’s website to get the contact info, don’t just call the number provided in the text… You might get “smished”.  Your bank will never text you for the purpose of soliciting information.

Guest Blog by Tim M

Holiday Shopping – Unwrapped

I can’t believe there are less than two months until Christmas.  I’ve been trying to come up with ways to save some money this holiday season, so I’ve been doing a little research online. I ran across an article yesterday that listed 19 gift ideas that would save you money. It sounds like your typical holiday shopping guide, but it’s not quite that simple. Each gift on the list will supposedly save the receiver money as well.

As I went through the list of ideas I had to laugh. In my opinion, several items on the list would make terrible gifts! So, in order to be fair, I polled my coworkers and we decided which items would actually be good gifts to give to friends and family. Here’s what we came up with: 

  • CFL Light Bulbs or LED Light Bulbs – good for the environment, and they last forever!
  •  Newspaper Subscription – coupons and news about great deals!
  •  A Coupon Book – I hope the reasoning behind this one is obvious.
  •  Candles – can be used for light during late-night storms and smell great.
  •  Gas Card – probably the best idea ever… I will say no more.
  •  Metal Water Bottle – use, reuse, repeat.
  •  Water Filter – paired with a metal water bottle you could save someone hundreds of dollars!
  •  Crockpot & Recipes – yum, yum and yum. I had Crockpot roast just yesterday.
  •  Smart-Power Strip – doesn’t feed on electricity, even when your electronics are turned off!
  •  A Day Planner – not sure I agree that this will save you money, but it’s a great gift and one I always appreciate.
  • Stamps and Envelopes – I’m forever running out of stamps and thank you notes, this idea gets an A++.
  • A Finance Book – learn to manage your finances from a book… OR just log into our handy-dandy website for FREE!
  • Gift Cards/Certificates – one of the best inventions known to man. I LOVE getting these. Top of my list this holiday season? An Amazon gift card! So I can buy books for my Kindle!
  • A Favorite Indulgence – my second, favorite gift idea. It probably doesn’t make sense, so here’s an example. My friend loves Bath and Body Works lotions, but doesn’t buy them much because of the expense. For Christmas, I could buy her a favorite scent. That will save her money – and is guaranteed to make her day!

Here’s a few gifts on the list that we thought weren’t such good ideas:

  • Rechargeable Batteries & Recharger – the batteries always seem to be running out of juice.
  • Reuseable Shopping Bags – they may help save the environment, but we couldn’t think of a store that gives a significant discount if you use them.
  • Wind-up Flashlight – these things are awesome, but the ones I’ve received as gifts are already dead and won’t recharge. Plus, some of them take a lot more work than a simple twist of a handle.

To see the complete list and reasons these 19 items were picked visit the actual blog at, http://frugalliving.about.com/od/christmas/tp/Gifts_that_Save_Money.htm

     
 

 

Fall Fever

Fall is my absolute, favorite season. I love the color, the smell, the weather, the holidays and the food. I’ve heard that people who are pessimistic like fall and people who are optimistic like spring. I don’t feel like a pessimist… but I’m not sure how you can diagnose yourself when it comes to things like that. Anyhow, I’m telling you all this because there is only one aspect of fall that I dislike…

The stores! Every fall I feel the need to empty my wallet (and bank account) buying meaningless decor, gifts, smell-goods, clothes, food, you name it… I want to buy it. And the stores take advantage of helpless shoppers like myself. They make in-store displays extravagant and beautiful. They put out fragrances that are pleasing, festive and cause shoppers to feel good when entering a store. Sure, they do similar things year-round, but for some reason I am hit harder September through November.  I have an endless supply of pumpkins, candles, leaves, and Halloween decor. Do I have a single Easter decoration? No sir! I can’t say that I’d display such items – even if receiving them as gifts.

Do you suffer from a similar illness? Do you want to stop obsessive, autumn buying habits? Well… here’s a couple tips that may be helpful this season – or even during other seasons if you’re a boisterous Easter bunny, passionate Patriot or even Santa Claus’ head elf:

  • Make a list before a trip to the store – and stick to it.
  • Each time you buy new decorations get rid of the old ones. Lots of people can’t afford decor at big-box stores, so help them out by donating your old decor to thrift stores.
  • If you’re grocery shopping go to the grocery store instead of a catch-all store like Walmart or Target. You’ll be less inclined to buy things other than bread, milk and cheese.
  • Take along a friend or relative that is less likely to buy compulsively. I have a good friend who will follow me around the store and ask me “Do you really need that?”. Usually I don’t have a good explanation and end up putting items back. Now, when I go shopping without her I hear her voice in my head…
  • Put yourself on a budget. Go to the store with a specific amount of money in mind and don’t spend a penny over. In the end you’ll thank yourself.
  • Set seasonal items aside. If a week goes by and you haven’t opened the packaging then you probably don’t need to keep it. I’m a big return-er. (Conversely, if you’ve used the item all season, and left the tags or stickers on it… don’t return it! Nothing annoys me more than people who work the system and figure out ways to buy an item for one event, so they can return it later and get their money back.)

Any other ideas let me know! I’m always looking for ways to cut down on excessive spending.

Suspicious Telephone Calls Claiming to Be From the FDIC

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous reports of suspicious telephone calls where the caller claims to represent the FDIC and is calling regarding the collection of an outstanding debt.

To date, the callers have alleged that the call recipient is delinquent in payment of a loan that was applied for over the Internet or made through a payday lender. The loan may or may not actually exist. The caller attempts to authenticate the claim by providing sensitive personal information, such as name, Social Security number, and date of birth, supposedly taken from the loan application. The recipient is then strongly urged to make a payment over the phone to “avoid a lawsuit and possible arrest.” In some instances, the caller is said to sound aggressive and threatening.

These suspicious telephone calls are fraudulent. Recipients should consider them as an attempt to steal money or collect personal identifying information. The FDIC generally does not initiate unsolicited telephone calls to consumers and is not involved with the collection of debts on behalf of operating lenders and financial institutions.

If a caller demonstrates that he or she has the recipient’s sensitive personal information, such as Social Security number, date of birth, and bank account numbers, the recipient may be the victim of identity theft and should review his or her credit reports for signs of possible fraud. The individual should also consider placing a “fraud alert” on his or her credit reports. This can be done by contacting one of the three consumer reporting companies listed below. Only one of the three companies needs to be contacted. That company is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of the report.

  • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, California 92834-6790
  • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, Georgia 30374-0241
  • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9554, Allen, Texas 75013

Back-to-School Tips!

It’s that time again! Time to put the kids to bed on time, buy school supplies and figure out where they stashed their backpacks after the end of last school year. And then, when you can’t find the backpacks – OR the lunch boxes – you go out and buy new stuff for everyone… just to be fair.

Here’s a few tips I’ve found to be useful over the years. See if you can convince your kids to try them out and maybe you can save some time, money or peace of mind!

  • Make everyone clean their bedrooms before school starts. It helps everyone get a fresh start – and you may be able to locate lost school supplies like backpacks.
  • If you are still paying for your kids’ lunches you might consider getting then a checking account for storing lunch money. It’s a good way to build responsibility. Instead of bugging you every day for money your child can learn budgeting while you’re still able to bail them out of trouble. Budgeting will become very important to them when they’re halfway through the month and have no lunch money left.
  • Pack sack lunches – it’s healthier and cheaper. Or, make them pack their own. My Mom had a mantra – pack your own lunch or eat school lunch. Due to our nasty school lunches I learned very quickly how to pack a lunch – of course, Mom sometimes had to watch how many sweets we were throwing into the sack, but for the most part we ate well.
  • If your child is in college convince them to buy textbooks used. Bookstores charge high prices because they can – not because they should.
  • Pull out the remaining supplies from last school year and make the kids use them up before you buy all new stuff. We used to spend a fortune on school supplies every year because I thought I had to have new stuff. And hey, who doesn’t like new stuff? I’m just thinking that we probably threw away a lot of good stuff because it was “old”. And that gets expensive.

Any other ideas? Leave us a comment if there’s something I’ve failed to mention! We love money savers – and time savers. And I know there are tons of Moms out there with great ideas. We’d love to hear them!

Tips for Building Your Credit

I’ve been doing some research lately on building my credit score. I know that within the next five years it will be time to search for and buy a house, so it seems like a good time to start preparing. Probably shortly after the house will come the children, so saving will be a big issue as well, but we’ll handle one thing at a time for now.

The thing I keep reading - when I search for credit information online - can be conveyed by a simple formula: checking + savings = stability. If you’re able to manage both accounts well it’s going to show creditors that you are stable in your decisions and responsible with your finances.

After that, everyone seems to offer a slight variation on these 3 simple guidelines:

  • Pay your bills ON TIME
  • How much available credit do you use? Experts suggest that you never max out all of your credit options. It is recommended that you never charge more than 30% of the credit limit offered to you.
  • Don’t charge more than you can pay off in a month. It’s a slippery slope. If you ever stop paying off your credit card balance at the end of every month then you will only get further behind each month after that. In fact, sometimes I make a payment each time I get paid – which means I make a credit card payment every two weeks – that way I have a better idea about how much money I can actually afford to spend.

I have also read a few tips for getting better credit, once you’ve had problems or for building credit if you don’t have any:

  • Piggyback on someone else’s credit – In other words, get added to another person’s credit card so you can build up your own. Just make certain that they are financially stable and have good credit themselves. It’s not going to be much help to piggyback off of someone owing $30,000 to various creditors.
  • Get a store credit card – It’s usually much easier to get credit from a store, however you also must realize that it will be a slow process to build credit this way. They don’t help as much as some of the other options. Also, they tend to have higher interest rates, so when you aren’t able to pay the balance off in one month’s time then you end up having more problems than before you got one.
  • Get a secured card from a bank – These usually require a security deposit or collateral of some kind. The only thing about this suggestion that is hard is most people who need credit usually don’t have anything to put up for collateral. So unless they have a stack of cash sitting around and can put up the cash, it would be hard to secure this type of card.

So, one last thing that might help you out if you’re looking to get a credit card is to have a list of things you should look for in a credit card. The top three I’ve heard about are:

  • No application fee
  • Low annual fee
  • Credit will be reported to Equifax, TransUnion, & Experian – the three major U.S. credit bureaus

Don’t know what your credit score looks like? Request a free report now via the Central National Bank website. Click the Credit Report button at the bottom, right of our home page.

Automated Phone Message Attack in Progress

Pre-recorded phone messages are being delivered to random consumers with the warning that their debit cards have been closed. When consumers call the telephone number provided in the recording they hear a request for their 16-digit card number and PIN.

Please do not call – these messages are from fraudsters trying to collect your personal information. Central National Bank will never call you to ask for your account number, card number, or PIN.

Always use extreme caution when you receive an unknown call or text. Please do not give any account or personal information to an unknown caller.

If you have any questions, please call 1-888-262-5456.

False E-mail Claiming to Be From the FDIC

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) has received numerous reports of a fraudulent e-mail that has the appearance of being sent from the FDIC. For more information you can visit the FDICs website.

The subject line of the e-mails state, “you need to check your Bank Deposit Insurance Coverage.” The e-mail tells recipients that, “You have received this message because you are a holder of a FDIC-insured bank account. Recently FDIC has officially named the bank you have opened your account with as a failed bank, thus, taking control of its assets.” The e-mail then directs recipients to click on a link stating, “You need to visit the official FDIC website and perform the following steps to check your Deposit Insurance Coverage.”

This e-mail and associated Web site are fraudulent. Recipients should consider the intent of this e-mail as an attempt to collect personal or confidential information, or to load malicious software onto end users’ computers and should not click on the link provided.

The FDIC does not issue unsolicited e-mails to consumers. Financial institutions and consumers should NOT follow the link in the fraudulent e-mail.

Criminals often use names of organizations we all know to lure users into clicking links that may infect their computer. Users should always ask themselves if an email makes sense. If not, never click links or open attachments in the email. If suspicious, contact the agency directly to verify legitimacy.

U.S. Census Bureau 2010 Census Campaign Warning

US-CERT asks users to be vigilant during the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2010 Census campaign and to watch for potential census scams.

According to the U.S. Census 2010 website, they began delivery of the printed census forms to every resident in the United States on March 1, 2010. The only way to complete the census is by filling in the form using pen and ink; in some instances, census takers will be visiting households to complete the form face-to-face. It is important to understand that the U.S. Census Bureau will not, under any circumstances, be providing an online option to complete the 2010 census form.

US-CERT encourages all residents in the United States to take the following measures to protect themselves:

ABA Warns of Fraudulent Emails

WASHINGTON, Jan. 26 – The American Bankers Association has been alerted that someone or a group of individuals sending emails purporting to be from ABA are actually part of a scam commonly known as phishing. These con artists are sending emails asking people to click on a link for more information — a popular technique to get financial information from the email recipient.

Phishing for financial information has been a long-standing practice. However, criminals are increasingly phishing for access to corporate, small business and government accounts and using that access to withdraw large sums of money from those accounts. Clicking on the link could enable fraudsters to download malicious software on to victims’ computers and steal bank passwords and other account information.

The emails inform recipients that an “unauthorized transaction” has been charged to their account using their “bank card.” The amount of the transactions is typically between $3,000 and $7,000. ABA would never contact a consumer and ask for financial information.

ABA is working with law enforcement to identify the source of the emails and to disrupt them. ABA offers the following advice to consumers, business and government organizations:

  • Never give out financial information in response to an unsolicited phone call, fax or email, no matter how official it may seem. If you are uncertain, call your financial institution or the organization that is purportedly contacting you using a phone number you know is safe.
  • If you have already responded to this type of call or email by providing financial information, contact your financial institution immediately to protect your account;
  • Be extremely cautious about clicking on links within unsolicited emails. When in doubt, contact the organization purportedly sending the email.
  • Inform the ABA about fraudulent phone calls and emails that use ABA’s name by sending an email to alert@aba.com.