Early Bird Holiday Shoppers Targeted with Fake Apps in Apple Store

Online shopping concept nackground. Mobile phone or smartphone with cart and boxes and bag. 3d

Each year it seems that the holiday shopping season starts earlier and earlier. As soon as the jack-o-lanterns and super hero costumes are put away, the wreaths and sparkly lights seem to appear, as if by the flick of a magic wand. Unfortunately, the fraudsters are at it earlier and earlier too and hundreds of phony shopping apps have been spotted in Apple’s App Store for those in the holiday spirit already to get duped right at the start of the season.

Phony shops such as Dollar Tree, Dillard’s, Nordstrom, Zappos, and Footlocker as well as designer name brand shops such as Jimmy Choo and Christian Dior have been found in the app store without being caught by Apple’s review process.

Always use caution when downloading apps, even from the app store. As more and more apps apply to get into the various stores, it is more difficult for the companies to review and approve all of them. The Apple App Store has over 2 million apps already. That puts more pressure on the consumer to do research and make sure the apps are the real ones. Read the reviews to see what others are saying and if they aren’t so good, perhaps it’s best to skip it. In addition, if there are no or very few reviews, particularly for a large department store, second-guess it. While being an early adopter has its perks for a lot of things, in this case patience is a virtue. Wait a few weeks before trying again. If results are the same, it’s probably one of the fake ones.

Many of the fake apps seem to come from Chinese developers who are paid to write the apps in English. One had a menu with drastically misspelled English words, such as spelling Friday as “Firday.” Keep an eye out for those types of errors too and if there are any, don’t use the app.

Don’t assume that Android apps are safe. In fact, because of the less restrictive policy for getting apps into the Google Play store, there are similar risks of downloading phony apps there.

The recent apps have largely been found to pop up annoying ads rather than do real damage. However, some of them do ask for payment card information and other personal details. Therefore, if there is any doubt about the app’s legitimacy, don’t download it or delete it if you already have.

While you’re at it, make sure your devices are updated with the latest versions of the operating systems and apps, and confirm that anti-malware is installed on them and is updated too. As mobile becomes a preferred way to shop, it’s more likely that malicious apps that do harm will show up.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security

How to Financially Plan a Career Move

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For most of us, dreaming of a new job is a weekly (if not daily) occurrence. There are seemingly a million reasons why we think about a different opportunity as much as we do- pay wage, quality of life, commute, and office atmosphere to name a few.

One thing is for sure though; there is a right way and a wrong way to go through the process of looking for a new position away from your current job. Leveraging your steady paychecks for as long as you can while you begin to research, narrow down, and contact potential opportunities is very important.

You’ll also need to take a good look at both your current spending habits, as well as what you can presume they will become with an impending new pay scale, commuter fee, etc. Here are three steps that can significantly increase the likelihood of a smooth transition between jobs for both you and your wallet.

 

  1. Make Yourself More Marketable Now – Don’t be “that person” who blindly takes a leap of faith by not preparing well in advance for a career change; that person is at a disadvantage right from the get-go that ends with them not getting hired. While you don’t necessarily need to know the absolute end goal in the form of an exact position/company, you do need to know enough about the direction you want to take moving forward to make sure you are educated enough to even properly plan for it. For example, don’t just get up and leave the financial market for the acting world unless you’ve actually paid for a few acting classes to test the waters first while you are still currently employed. Best case scenario- you love it and you can continue to use your incoming pay to strengthen your new found passion while planning your eventual departure. The worst case scenario- your current job was never the wiser to you giving something new a shot and you go back to work Monday like nothing ever happened. Additionally, update your resume/LinkedIn profile now, as well as purchase any job finding resources you plan on leveraging before leaving your job. Simply put, don’t start paying for the things that are going to help you after you stop bringing in consistent money.

 

  1. Establish a “New Means” and Live by It– Things are going to be changing and unfortunately, your spending habits are going to have to follow suit; especially if you are entering completely new territory career-wise without an established baseline of salary from previous positions. Trim the fat and focus in on a realistic budget you need to (somewhat comfortably) live on until you not only sign the contract for your next job, but have been there long enough to have a certain amount of security. Experts recommend holding steady with an apprehensive spending habit until you’ve developed a proven level of success within your new role for a full year. We’re not saying you need to start eating canned dinners, but the fact of the matter is that unless things work out perfectly, you’ll have at least a small amount of time in your immediate future without a paycheck coming in. When the time does come to start enjoying the finer things in life on a more regular basis, do it through a gradual pace; it can be easy to accumulate debt when you suddenly have money coming in again, so be careful.

 

  1. Properly Plan Your Departure Date– The old gold standard of proper employer/employee relations was to always provide your boss two full weeks before you planned on departing the company. While you should certainly do your best to assist your company in transitioning away from your employment as to not “burn a bridge” for future opportunities, there ARE certain timing factors that you should certainly weigh into your decision. Do you have any upcoming quarterly or year-end bonus payout dates? Is it close enough to the holidays where it would make sense to hold out for any perks? Have you used all of your vacation or paid PTO time? If you are going to be working until the very end, there is absolutely no reason you shouldn’t be afforded all that comes with still being employed at the company, or fully exhausting all of the benefits you’ve accrued to this point before you go.

 

 

 

Five Ways to Overcome Debt Stress

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If overwhelming debt is causing you stress, you are not alone. Millions of Americans are suffering from anxiety and depression because they have difficulty paying their financial obligations.

Whatever the cause of the debt – be it over-spending, salary reduction, or emergency expenses such as medical bills – the action you take to beat the “bill blues” is the same.

Talk about it. If you are depressed about money problems, you may feel alone. Yet the moment you begin to discuss it, you will find you are not only in immense company, but that discussing it can make you feel a lot better. If you feel your “debting” is compulsive, you may want to talk to the professionals at Debtors Anonymous. Log on to www.debtorsanonymous.org or call 800-421-2383 to find a meeting near you.

Put it in perspective. Do you have your health? The love and support from friends and family? Focus on the good things that are happening in your life. It’s hard, but you are going to need to be optimistic to make positive changes.

Confront the problem. Rather than hiding from bill collectors, regain control by answering the calls. Be calm and rational. Understand the Fair Debt Collections Practices Act, a law that protects your rights as a consumer. Write to your creditors to explain your situation. Include what led to the problem (even if it was your “fault”) and how you plan to fix it.

Fight inertia. Doing nothing, while easier than taking action, will get you nowhere. Get up and get out, but resist the urge to shop if your spending is out of hand. If you are already loaded down with debt, and keep receiving offers for more credit cards in the mail, destroy them and throw them away.

Prioritize your spending. Chances are, there are some expenses you can reduce or cut out that can immediately relieve some of the pressure. Review your spending plan and eliminate expenses that aren’t absolutely essential. Prioritize according to necessity – basic needs such as food, housing, utilities and children’s expenses come first, and everything else after those.

 

BALANCE

Revised January 2016

Eight Awesome Alternatives to Binge-Shopping

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It would great if we all made only rational, well-analyzed spending decisions. But none of us are robots. We’ve all made emotional buys at one point or another. Think back on things you bought because you had a rough day at work. Or maybe it was an argument that got you agitated. No matter the cause, purchases made on feelings instead of frugality can be rough on your bottom line. Here are a few ways to soothe yourself without draining your funds.

Create “me” time

In a lot of cases overspending happens because it gives you a sense of control over your surroundings. Instead of trying to grab control with money, take control of your time and your surroundings. Whether that means gifting yourself with a nice hot bath or time to work on that tinkering project in the garage, commit to unwinding on your own terms.

Connect with a loved one

Loneliness is another emotion that can turn you into a frenzied consumer. A call to a relative you haven’t spoken to in a while or even a spontaneous get-together with a friend can remind you of the wonderful bonds in your life.

Volunteer

It may sound strange, but in many cases the best way to help yourself is to work at making someone else’s life better.

Exercise

Scientists believe that for certain people splurge shopping releases the same amount of endorphins in the brain as skydiving. So if you are one of those people who gets a real charge out of filling a shopping cart, consider alternatives like going to the gym, walking or riding a bike to get your endorphin rush (if the plane and parachute are not available).

Enjoy nature

One of the best ways to get away from your problems is to, well…get away from them! Leave your connectivity behind and get back in touch with a favorite out-of-the-way spot.

Read

A little healthy escapism is always good for taking your mind off your day-to-day worries. Whereas passive media like television usually serves more as just a casual distraction, diving into a good book forces you to actively engage in the story.

Play

Be it with children or a pet, having some silly fun can shed a lot of stored up tension you might otherwise look to purge with shopping.

De-clutter

Because coming home to a place full of stuff can add to your stress level, give yourself a present and a future of increased serenity by hunting for items that can be donated or sold online or at a garage sale.

 

BALANCE

Revised January 2016

Focus on Credit Factors, Not Credit Scores

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You should want to know your credit score. After all, your credit can be incredibly important to your financial future. It could impact your likelihood of getting approved for a loan and the interest rate you’ll get on new financial products. However, understanding the factors that influence your credit score can be even more important than knowing the score itself.

There are five key factors that influence your credit scores. Fair Isaac Corporation’s FICO credit scores are used for most lending decisions in the U.S., and the latest FICO base scoring model has a 300 to 850 range. The score depends on the information in a person’s credit report, and the lower the score the more likely the person is to pay late.

Past credit mistakes can stay on your reports for seven to 10 years. While the impact of negative marks diminishes over time, the credit-building process can be slow. However, just as a rising tide lifts all boats, improving your core credit factors could help raise all your scores over time.

FICO shares the five key factors that you should focus on to build healthy credit and the approximate weighting of each.

1. Payment history – 35 percent. A history of on-time payments can help your credit, while late payments, collection accounts, bankruptcies or other negative payment-related items could hurt it.

Some types of accounts, such as utility or mobile phone contracts, don’t generally report positive activity (on-time payments) to credit bureaus. But if the account gets sent to collections, that could still hurt your credit.

You might want to open an account that reports your payments to the credit bureaus if you don’t already have one (you can call the issuer and ask). Some people start with a secured credit card or a credit-builder loan from a credit union, but consider what type of account best fits your situation.

2. Amounts owed – 30 percent. The amount you owe versus your available credit, known as your utilization rate, is another important factor. A lower utilization rate often leads to better credit.

If you’re able to pay down credit card debt, that could quickly improve your utilization rate. Increasing your cards’ credit limits and keeping credit cards open even when you don’t regularly use them could also help.

3. Length of credit history – 15 percent. FICO looks at the age of your oldest account, newest account and average age of all your accounts. A longer history is usually better than a short one.

Keeping accounts open, and ideally in good standing, can help you increase your length of credit history. Even when you close an account it will remain on your reports and count towards your credit history for seven to 10 years.

4. New credit – 10 percent. The new credit section considers how many new accounts you have, what types of accounts they are and recent inquiries into your credit.

Hard inquiries generally occur when someone requests your credit report to make a lending decision or rental screening. A single inquiry will generally drop your score by a few points for several months, while multiple inquiries could have a larger negative impact.

However, credit-scoring agencies let you shop for a loan without a penalty. Multiple hard inquiries for some types of loans, such as auto loans, could count as a single inquiry for credit-scoring purposes if they occur within a 14- to 45-day period.

Soft inquiry, which can happen when you check your credit or a company pre-qualifies you for an offer, don’t hurt your credit at all.

Try not to open new accounts unless you need them and avoid new hard inquiries in the months leading up to applying for an important loan.

5. Credit mix –10 percent. Your experience with different types of credit, such as revolving credit and installment loans, could impact your score, particularly if there isn’t a lot of information in your credit report.

Having at least one credit card could help your credit mix, although that’s not necessarily reason enough to apply for a card.

Bottom line: Learn which factors matter the most to your credit scores, and try to make a habit of practicing credit-building behavior. Creating a system that’ll help you make on-time payments and only using a small portion of your available credit are good starts.

By Nathaniel Sillin

Phishing and Spear-Phishing: The Same Yet Different

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Have you ever wondered what is the difference between phishing and spear phishing? Well, you may be surprised to find out that you don’t use a spear in spear-phishing. Ok, you probably weren’t wondering that, but there is indeed a distinction between the two.

Phishing is any type of attempt to bait a user into performing an action such as opening an attachment in email, clicking on a link, or clicking on an advertisement. It’s usually more individual and personalized. An email may look like it was sent from a friend or colleague, but is actually sent by someone who wants information from you such as your social security number or credit card information or to install malware on your device.

Spear-phishing, on the other hand, is a bit more serious. A message still may come from what appears to be a trusted source; however, it is more likely that the sender will look like a colleague in your company or a vendor. The attacks are not from “random” hackers, but more likely from organized groups or individuals out for financial gain, trade secrets, or even military information. Often times, it may seem to be from someone at an executive level asking the recipient to perform some task such as a wire transfer or to send W-2 information as happened recently to some in companies such as Seagate and Snapchat.

People fall for this because it may seem to be a reasonable request. For example, there are so many online accounts that it may not be out of the question for the CEO to ask for login details to a financial account. However, it’s never a good idea to provide any confidential or sensitive information or to perform tasks such as transferring large sums of money without confirming the request. To do this, don’t just reply to a message and never send this type of information in an email message. Walk to the requestor’s office or desk or call him or her on the phone.

If you don’t have procedures in place for getting multiple approvals for wire transfers, it’s advised to do so. Always confirm them, have someone independently verify the funds, and make sure that without a doubt it is the intention of the requestor to do this.

There are several ways that spear-phishers get the information needed to perform these attacks. Social media accounts such as LinkedIn provide ample data mining resources. Many details were recently leaked from a data breach of that company, but the reality is that a breach doesn’t even need to occur. Most people post their names, titles, job functions, etc. on that site. This makes it easier for someone to find an employee in the finance department that may be responsible for performing financial transactions. Be cautious of what you put online. If you don’t need to put your title or specific job functions on your profiles, don’t. If you do work in an accounting or finance department, perhaps be a bit vague.

The FBI also lists some recommendations for avoiding becoming a victim of BEC and other financial crimes:

  • Verify any changes to vendor payment information and confirm any funds transfer requests
  • Be wary of any requests that seem urgent or an emergency or of which the sender request secrecy
  • Implement multi-step procedures for wire transfers
  • Implement intrusion detection systems and set them to flag email addresses that look similar to the company’s, but are not exactly the same.
  • If possible, register all domains that are similar to the company URL. This will prevent a cyber criminal from using your company for domain jacking (do-jacking) attacks.

Business email compromise (BEC) scams are on the rise. Earlier this year, the FBI warned that BEC hit the $3 billion in losses mark. Wire fraud phishing scams are increasing in 2016 and will likely be close to $1 billion in losses to victimized companies.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security