Friday, April 28, 2017

Do Your Homework on Car Shopping

We all know about homework, right? The idea is practice and learn how to perform better when it counts. Whether in the classroom, arts, or sporting arena the value of preparation cannot be denied. If we recognize that homework is valuable for these purposes then it must be beneficial for major purchases. 

Purchasing an automobile is one major purchase where proper homework can payoff in considerable reduced cost. Researching information surrounding a vehicle purchase BEFORE meeting a seller is really a necessity to make an informed transaction. 

To keep things simple, below is a basic homework list for potential car shoppers;

1. What to buy? You know what you like so research a list of vehicles that you are interested in. Consumers Reports is a great resource for research on reliability, strong points, and weak points of vehicles tested. For pricing information and are excellent resources. You as the buyer should NOT be paying the retail value on most vehicles. Split the difference between wholesale/average trade-in and the retail value for an offer price. If buying a new vehicle you should work up from the invoice price, not down from the MSRP price.This is a fair price to both the buyer and seller. If you have a trade-in vehicle be sure to obtain the pricing info on it as well. You can usually obtain more for your vehicle by selling it yourself but that process is not always convenient for everyone. A CARFAX report is relatively inexpensive and well worth the price if the seller does not have the report available for your review.

2. Where to buy? The world wide web has opened up so many more sellers with vehicles available. Online shopping sites allow you to customize and search for exactly the type of vehicle you want. We have seen more and more members buying vehicles out of the area, especially if the vehicle being sought is limited in supply. Be leery of online offers that request a deposit to "hold the vehicle" for you as often these are just pure scams. It's always good to buy local and support local dealers when possible but keeping local dealers honest by checking pricing elsewhere is the right approach to doing your due diligence in obtaining a fair price. If buying a used vehicle from an individual it is important to promote safety in meeting locations, and avoid carrying large sums of cash until you're certain of a deal. It is advisable to meet in a public place such as a financial institution parking lot or police area. 

3. How will you pay for the vehicle? Amazingly this factor is often neglected until the vehicle has already been selected and that car fever is at a high level. The emotional side of us just wants to get the deal done and move out to the road in that shiny new ride. You may have negotiated a great deal on the vehicle but if you don't do you homework on financing (if you needing to finance) you are a prime candidate for paying too much. Dealerships especially make a considerable amount of profit from the financing and various add-on's that they will offer on a vehicle. Do you homework on available loan rates and offers, knowing the full terms and conditions connected to them. You might hear a "low as 1.50% APR" rate offer but then discover that the low rate is only available for 24-month financing for a A-rated credit score. Everyone has risk-based pricing meaning that your actual loan rate will be determined by your credit score and length of the loan. Shop around and know what the rate could be for the term you will want. A pre-approval is a great way to find out exactly what is available to you. Don't forget to research what your insurance costs will be as well. 

4. Avoid the "How much are you willing to spend?" game. I have had dealers to ask me that question and I always answer "What it's worth." If you reply with a desired monthly payment amount they will find a vehicle within that range and have you paying that amount much longer than you would like. You would also likely be forever upside down on that vehicle, meaning that you would owe more than the vehicle is worth.  This upside down situation makes it much more difficult to sell or trade that vehicle later on. 

5. Read what you're signing. You need to know what is the final Annual Percentage Rate (APR), monthly payment, term of the loan (how many months), and any fees or charges associated with the loan and paperwork. There are several dealers now charging extremely high document fees of $500, $600, & more. You can negotiate a lower price of the vehicle as a result of these higher document fees. When shopping different dealers find out what the different document fees are. 

6. Do your homework on add-on products as well. One big seller on all vehicles is Guaranteed Asset Protection (GAP) that covers any gap that might exist in an accident total loss situation between what the loan payoff is and what your automobile insurance will pay. Dealers sell this product for upwards of $500 and higher where NAECU sells the product for $199. Extended warranties, roadside assistance programs, and other products will be presented as well so research these as well before adding to the obligation. 

Doing the proper homework on all aspects of a vehicle purchase will make you an informed buyer and reduce the possibility of paying more than you should for a transaction that you will be living with for multiple years. 

Thursday, February 23, 2017

MobiMoney - Take control of YOUR Debit Card!

Tired of data breaches where your Debit Card info gets hacked and money is taken from your account? We are too! Take control of your debit card and help stop fraud with our new MobiMoney phone app. With the MobiMoney app you can turn your Debit Card off and on, set lower dollar amounts for approved transactions, receive notifications on transactions, and other controls.

The Credit Union would recommend that you use this FREE app to turn the card off/on as necessary and set a dollar amount for approved individual transactions that you normally perform, like $150.00 to $200.00. Setting notifications for some specified dollar amount is also a good tool to make sure that only you are performing transactions on your debit card. If a hacker attempts a $500.00 transaction in California and you have these controls on, that transaction would be denied plus you will receive an instant alert through your phone on the transaction. You can always change your max dollar amounts for transactions so long as they don’t exceed our daily institution cap of $1,500.00 per day. (Controls can be changed live on the spot at any time using the app.)

To download the FREE app go to your Play Store or iTunes and search for “MobiMoney”. After downloading the app enter your MasterCard Debit Card number to enroll in the FREE service. IMPORTANT: Please remember or record your “Username” so that you can reset your password later if you forget it.

There is no worse feeling in the world than having your MasterCard Debit Card in your possession and having a counterfeit card transaction take place, stealing money from your account. This FREE MobiMoney app can help to prevent that nightmare situation from happening.

Personally, I use this MobiMoney app to turn my debit card off when not in use. (Just remember to turn back on before use!) When the card is turned on I have a lower dollar amount maximum in place that I can change on the spot of a retail store if necessary. I also have set transaction notifications to be sent on transactions above $50.00. These would go through but I would see them immediately which would be helpful if one came through that I didn’t do.

Please note that each joint owner would need to enroll their own cards since card numbers vary by each owner or joint owner. If the credit union had a majority of members using this MobiMoney service for their MasterCard Debit Cards, unauthorized fraud losses would decrease dramatically. Protect yourselves and take control using MobiMoney! 

CLICK HERE for a short video on the MobiMoney app by our card processor, Vantiv! 

Tuesday, December 6, 2016

Inheritance Scam: Not Your Lucky Day!

Below is a copy of an actual email received on the infamous "Inheritance Scam" that never seems to go away. I have placed XX's in those areas where the scammer had a name and contact information given. I find it interesting that the communication never addresses my own name at all and in fact they have a section at the bottom for me to enter my information. If I was truly the benefactor of such a large inheritance, you would think that they would already have my name/address. Even if you receive a similar email with your name and contact information included, these foreign inheritance emails and/or letters are always fake. You certainly would never have to split funds with anyone or pay taxes ahead of time to receive your money. This has been cut and pasted so pardon the structure and spellings;

I am writing to confirm, if you received 'my previous e-mail' regarding you having the same Surnames with my late client/inheritance.I hereby request your assistance and delegate the necessary authority to you on behalf of my late client to carry out this claim. Who was a business magnate that lived in Europe for over a decade prior to his death. I got your detailed contact e-mail Address through your country data, while searching for any possible relative OR a last name similar to my late clients.

Prior to my late client death; He made a mutual investments deposit worth the sum of $7,400,000.00 (SEVEN MILLION, FOUR HUNDRED THOUSAND DOLLARS) with a Financial safekeeping investment company (holding a client's securities or other assets on his/her behalf) here in Europe and declared it as a family-treasures. As the Attorney/Solicitor present during the deposit by my late client and family, the Financial safekeeping institutions has officially notified and instructed me to present heir/heiress to make Claims, so that he/she can be paid the outstanding deposit,which have been recorded by the company.Else the fund will be confiscated and taken to the Bureau of government treasury as unclaimed.

Further to extensive research, I decided to contact you; My suggestion to you is that I will like to present you as the heir/heiress to the Financial safekeeping institutions.Having a common Last Name with him is our ability to defend it and stand firm in other for us to achieve our goal;but I would like to assure you that I am proposing this project to you with the best of my intention.All I require from you is your honest co-operation; I guarantee that this transaction will be executed under a legitimate arrangement that will protect you from any breach of law. Upon successful conclusion of this project, once the deposit is been release to you, we shall disbursed the content in the ratio of 50% /50% for me respectively as our benefit ($ 3.7 Million each).

Kindly confirm your understanding of this delegation by sign OR call my direct telephone number, via my office email address. Email: as above you can equally send a fax with your Telephone /fax number for oral clarification.

Call at direct telephone number for effective communication on how to proceed next.
Contact telephone number : + xx xxx xxx xxx

We appreciate your assistance in this matter.
Your Printed Name: ----------------------
Telephone Number: -----------------------

Kindest Regards,
Executor of a Will
Tel : + (xx) xxx-xxx-xxx

Tel : xxx-xx-xxx-xxx-xxx

Friday, November 4, 2016

Election Day 2016

Americans enjoy many freedoms that often get taken for granted over time. The right to vote is one freedom that a majority of Americans do exercise in presidential elections, although roughly 60% of the eligible voters participating could be argued as a low number. That means that 40% of the people eligible to vote are not voting for some reason. Apathy is a big reason cited by voters who are not voting. This presidential race in particular has probably generated more apathy and discomfort in the political process than any presidential race that I can remember. 

Whether we like one or none of the presidential candidates, Americans will elect a new President to begin a new term in 2017. Our individual voices via our votes are the only way to determine who our elected officials will be. Everyone has their own process for determining who they will vote for and there is no wrong or right way. It is YOUR vote. It is YOUR right as an American citizen. 

This country was founded as a replacement for a political system where there were no votes being cast for government officials and there was no representation of the people. Our current political system is not perfect, far from it, but the voice of the people can make a difference when ballots are cast. Voters can send a message that can serve as a mandate for change, even in losing efforts. 

Vote. Encourage those you know to vote. While this election season has generated considerable division among the candidates and their supporters, we all should be unified in participating in the process that ultimately listens to our collective voices. 

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

Gas Stations and Card Skimming - Be Alert!

Millions of travelers will be hitting the roads this Labor Day holiday weekend and consumers are urged to remain alert to the possibility of card skimming at gas stations. Our insurance bond carrier, CUNA Mutual Group, has alerted member credit unions about the possibility of increased card skimming activity at gas stations. The new EMV card readers are not required at gas stations until October 2017 so gas station locations around the country have become a popular spot for stealing card information. More than 260 skimming devices have been detected in the last year at gas pumps in the state of Florida alone.

Part of the problem with gas pumps is that most of them have a universal key lock making them extremely vulnerable to tampering by data thieves. Once the tampering is done with a skimming device inside the gas pump, it is often well disguised and not easily noticeable to patrons.

After the data is captured, fraudsters return to harvest the stolen card information from the skimming device or, is some cases, access and retrieve the data remotely. The harvested data is then used to manufacture counterfeit cards or the data is sold to other criminals.

Scary stuff here! While the credit unions have some internal tools to monitor card activity, what steps can consumers take to protect themselves?

Look for security tape over gas pump cabinets to reduce the chances that it hasn't been tampered with by unauthorized parties. (Picture above in left corner). If the tape is removed, cut, or the gas pump appears tampered with, do not use it and report it to the gas station manager.

Try to utilize gas pumps that are located closer to the front of the gas station as fraudsters will typically place skimming devices at gas pumps away from the store to go unnoticed.

Consider using a credit card rather than a debit card at the gas pumps. While there is consumer liability protection for both, most find dealing with a credit card compromise less intrusive.

If using a debit card at the gas pump, run the debit card as a credit authorization where you don't have to enter your card PIN number. This would prevent counterfeit ATM transactions since they would not have the stolen PIN number.

Consider going inside the gas station to prepay for your gas purchase. They may have the EMV card reader inside to protect your data from being stolen.

Finally, check your card accounts closely to watch for any unauthorized transactions. Home banking and mobile banking are great ways to closely monitor your accounts during the month plus they can show pre-authorizations that have not been debited yet on the account.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Liars, Thieves, and Crooks

There doesn't seem to be any shortage of thieves trying to separate consumers from their money from online or telephone scams. The credit union continues to hear about multiple variations of old dirty tricks designed to either invoke trust or fear as the catalyst for stealing money. 

It seems as if more telephone scams by calls or text are on the rise. The fake jury duty call scam has been making the rounds where a call is made stating that a warrant has been issued for your arrest because of failing to appear for jury duty. Providing a credit card number can pay the fine and make it all go away they say. Fake calls for a loved one supposedly in a jail or hospital late at night are fairly common. Again, fear is the prime motivator here as they strike fear into the victim's heart in hopes of rendering them oblivious to the normally obvious red flags associated with an unknown caller. 

Fake collection calls where they state that your arrest is imminent if you don't pay over the phone are another common scam taking place.

Fake Microsoft or Internet support calls from "tech support" callers are numerous and they want access to your computer to steal your personal information. I had one of these calls myself some time ago and quizzed them on multiple points which of course caused them to promptly hang up.  

Calls and text messages claiming to be from your financial institution attempt to utilize trust and fear as a tool to steal. Members typically trust their credit unions so if their credit union says that something is wrong with their account, they must act quickly to avoid any loss of their hard earned savings. Unfortunately the opposite occurs when criminals are able to obtain personal account information. Our Fraud Department will call and text members on suspicious transactions but we will not be asking for any personal information. 

How do you keep from becoming a financial victim? 

First and foremost, recognize that people wake every day thinking up ways to steal your money.
Adopt a general distrust of any calls or texts that you receive that are asking you to provide any personal information. NEVER give out personal information or account numbers to strangers, including callers who claim to be from your financial institution. Remember not to trust Caller ID as a verification of the actual caller since Caller ID can be spoofed to display any number. 
If fear is a component of the urgency of a requested transaction, that is a huge red flag. Step away from the situation and ask yourself "does this make sense?". If a loved one is supposedly in harm's way and needs assistance, contact other relatives to confirm or ask for the name of the facility/location involved and call yourself using a telephone number that you have verified yourself. 

If urgency is required, caution is required. 

Call the credit union with any suspicious requests that you may receive. I'm happy to speak with members on these scams as it also helps us to know what types of fraud is being attempted in the community. Be careful out there! 

Monday, May 23, 2016

EMV Chip Cards are Here: Now What?

The new EMV chip debit and credit cards are here. That being said, how should you change how you used your new EMV chip for transactions? The security value of these new cards is only realized when the EMV card is being used by an EMV card reader by the merchant accepting the card for payment. Much of the counterfeit card fraud that has taken place over the past few years occurred because of a card swipe where the data was stolen at some point by hackers. Cards that are swiped for the authorization do NOT transmit that card information in the most secure environment. There are many merchants and retailers out there right now who have the EMV chip reader at their point-of-sale terminals but do not use them because they don’t have the technology implemented yet. So what does that mean? They ask you to swipe your EMV chip card for your transaction. This is defeating the purpose of the technology and expense of issuing EMV chip debit and credit cards. Merchants who utilize the EMV chip reader at the point-of-sale are doing their best to protect your personal card information. As consumers and holders of these EMV chip cards, it is in our best interest to transact business with those merchants and retailers who have functioning EMV chip card readers.

True, the liability does shift from the issuer (credit union in this case) to the merchant/retailer when the EMV chip reader technology is not being utilized. Does that really mean much to you though when your money has been taken out of your account from a counterfeit card transaction from a location five states away? It is an incredible inconvenience to have your card information hacked and money stolen. Initially, your money is gone and you don’t have a working debit or credit card anymore.

Consumers need to put pressure on the merchants and retailers to implement the EMV card readers at their point-of-sale terminals. Does the authorization process take slightly longer than a swiped card transaction? Yes, but that time is secure time and would greatly reduce the threat of your money being stolen at some point in the future. Ask the store manager why they aren’t doing all they can do to keep your card information as safe as possible. If you have two retailers and one has an operational EMV card reader and the other doesn’t, you would be wise to choose the first one.

So far in 2016, North Alabama Educators Credit Union members have seen just over $80,000 in fraudulent transactions due to counterfeited debit cards on data that was stolen from the merchant card swipe process. Let’s get away from the card swipe process at retailers and reduce card fraud for everyone!