Scammers Deliver Malware Using Fake FedEx Message

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FedEx customers are the latest targets of phishing by cyber criminals. Comodo Threat Research discovered an email message making its way around with a malicious document claiming to be from the package delivery company. If the included attachment is opened, malware is delivered to your computer instead of a package to your door.

It isn’t the first time FedEx and UPS have been used to deliver malware. The ICE trojan appeared a while back using a similar tactic. However, FedEx wrote in a statement that it does not send unsolicited email messages to customers requesting package details, account numbers, invoice information, passwords, or personal information. It’s good practice not to open attachments in any email messages unless you are without a doubt certain they are not malicious.

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In this scheme, the email is targeting both English and Italian speaking customers. Apparently great care has been put in place to ensure the phishing attempts are difficult to spot. The logos and coloring appear to be very well done, but there do appear to be some syntax errors in the written message. Always watch for clues such as these to identify if phishing may be in play. Also for this case, the message states a package is to be delivered but the recipient was not home. It asks for the attachment to be printed and taken to the FedEx location to retrieve it.

Rather than click on any attachments or links, go directly to your FedEx account or contact the company via phone to find out if there is indeed a package scheduled to be delivered to you.

Fortunately, this malware appears not to contain ransomware, but it is designed to corrupt computers. So while you’re ensuring all your anti-malware and other software is updated, make a backup of your important files too. This is a great way to avoid stress should something unwanted get delivered to your systems.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security

Working Out on a Budget

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It’s true–good health really does save money.

A Towers Watson survey (https://www.towerswatson.com/en-US/Press/2012/11/research-shows-prevention-is-key-to-reducing-health-care-costs-for-all-employees) noted that employee wellness programs saved employers an average of $100 in health care costs per worker. So if you’re going to get healthy, do it the smart way and make well-researched spending decisions throughout the year. Here are a few tips at the starting line.

Do a little heavy lifting with your budget first. Whatever your goals, check your overall finances to see what bad health behaviors might be costing you now in terms of immediate everyday costs or long-term impact on medical bills. You might find that a successful fitness plan can return hundreds of dollars–and possibly thousands–to your budget.

Pick a workout you like. If you loved swimming or jogging as a kid, such sports might be a good place to restart your fitness regimen. Restart your fitness habits modestly but consistently with activities you like. If they require a facility, test it out for a few days to comparison-shop. If they’re offering specials, read the fine print carefully and try to stay away from long-term membership commitments if you can.

Don’t overlook your community. Check out taxpayer-supported facilities and activities you’re already paying for in your community to see what they offer. Community centers are great resources for inexpensive or free classes. You might be surprised how many free public tennis courts, swimming facilities and other recreational spaces are available in your city or town. Also take advantage of any regional, state or national parks that are near you. There’s no greater motivation to stay active than getting outside.

Find buddies. You’ve seen them when walking or driving past a park or other locations around town–people who run together, walk together or dance together. Joining a fitness group doesn’t have to cost any money at all; you might make new friends and you’ll hopefully challenge and keep each other motivated.

You don’t need all the latest gear. Unless you need specific clothes or equipment for protection or safety, raid your closet to save on your fitness plan. Keep it cheap and focus on improving your health. Consider setting workout milestones and reward yourself with a new purchase after hitting your goals.

Adjust your commute. If you have access to public transportation, take the bus or train more often–you’ll automatically walk more to and from your destinations. If you do drive, park at the farthest end of the lot to add a short, cost-free workout into your daily schedule.

Prepare your own meals. Working out is important to getting healthy, but eating properly can help you achieve results faster. One of the most effective ways to improve a diet–and save money while doing it–is resolving to prepare more meals at home (http://www.practicalmoneyskills.com/calculators/lunch/). Also, commit to selecting more healthful options whether you are at home or dining out. There are almost limitless resources in libraries and online to learn about quick, healthy food preparation and smart food shopping.

Bottom line: Working out on a budget doesn’t always require added expenses. There are many inexpensive or free options to meet both health and financial goals in your neighborhood, at work and many other places.

 

By Nathaniel Sillin

Bogus debts, bogus collections

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At the FTC, they sue abusive debt collectors and try to do right by people who’ve been harmed by unlawful practices. But they also try to protect people from being harmed in the first place. That’s exactly what this article sets out to do: warn you about debt collectors calling about debts that the FTC knows are bogus.

The bogus debts supposedly are payday loans from these companies: USFastCash, 500FastCash, OneClickCash, Ameriloan, United Cash Loans, AdvantageCashServices, or StarCashProcessing. The companies are real, but if you’re hearing from anyone other than those companies, the debts are fake and you don’t need to pay.

Sometimes, if they can’t collect money owed to them, companies sell lists of those debts to debt collectors. But, in this case, we know that didn’t happen. The company that processed and serviced loans from these companies told the FTC that it never sold any customer or account information to debt collectors. Their lawyer even filed a legal declaration saying that.

Even so, we’ve still heard about abusive calls from debt collectors claiming to be collecting money owed to the companies listed above – and we already know that’s not true. But we also know that many of the people who have been called never even had a loan with those lenders in the first place – so the debts themselves also are bogus.

What to do if you get a call from a debt collector who says you owe money to one of those companies? You have rights. Ask for a validation notice, which says what you owe and to whom. After you get it, consider sending a letter saying that you don’t owe the debt. If you’re getting debt collection calls, check your free credit report at annualcreditreport.com. If a debt you don’t recognize shows up there, follow the instructions to dispute the debt. And, as always, report any problems to the FTC.

by Christopher Koegel
Assistant Director, Division of Financial Practices, FTC

3 Ways to Profit from Spring Cleaning

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It’s an American tradition; every year as the weather warms back up, we get restless and start opening windows, cleaning out the house, and setting things aside we no longer want/need. While it’s always a shame to just throw out the things we once held dear to us, many people opt for this action since it is both the quickest and easiest thing to do with all of this “stuff.” Well before you load up the car or your curb, experts suggest weighing a few other options that can actually net you and your family some extra cash. Here are three ways to turn this year’s Spring Cleaning into a profitable ordeal:

1. It’s Time to Sell!–Ever hear the old adage that “one man’s trash is another man’s treasure?” Well, in today’s digital world, there are tons of ways to capitalize on this fact and sell your old valuables. Long gone are the days where a family had to rely on a neighborhood wide garage sale or a local flea market to reach potential “customers.” Now, we’ve got eBay, Craigslist, and Etsy; there are even Facebook Garage Sale Groups you can join! While it may cost money in certain situations to post your goods, you should absolutely leverage these vendors to extend your reach, especially on larger or harder to sell items. People often foolishly think that selling items in this manner will just provide you with a “few extra drops in the bucket,” as opposed to a nice flow of cash; while you certainly shouldn’t rely on these sales as solid income, you also should not underestimate the nice chunk of change they can often provide.

2. Donating Helps Everyone–Not only does it feel great to help those in need; donating your old clothes, electronics, and other goods can actually provide you with excellent write-offs come tax season. So when it comes to ridding your home of your past valuables, make sure you reach out to both your local and national charities of choice to coordinate a pick up/drop off. Big Brothers Big Sisters, Lupus, and many others do full neighborhood sweeps where all you have to do is leave your donation clearly marked outside your door on the pre-set date; just make sure you follow through in collecting the necessary receipt documentation that can serve as proof of your donation if you are ever audited. Your tax specialist should be able to not only find you valuable deductions for tangible goods you’ve provided to others, but monetary donations too!

3. Trade and Upgrade–If you don’t have the time to sell your old goodies, and want a little more in return than tax incentives, you should look into what trade-in options you may have available to you. Did you know that major retailers like Best Buy actually have retail-collection programs that offer gift cards for trade-in’s on electronics and appliances? Additionally, sites like Gazelle.com offer Paypal and Amazon gift cards when you trade in your outdated cell phone or tablet. See which retailers/vendors offer you the best trade options, and leverage these scenarios to upgrade your home through new items purchased with these rewards certificates, gift cards, and credits. Remember, your flip phone from college might seem useless to you now that you have an iPhone 6, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get something out of it towards a future purchase.

When Changing Jobs, Should You Leave 401(k) Money Behind?

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With the average American spending only 4.6 years at any given job, it’s never been more important to have a plan for any retirement funds you’ve accrued at any employer.

A big problem that began during the 2008 recession but continues today involves loans, hardship withdrawals and complete cash-outs of 401(k) plans. A 2015 Boston College study (http://crr.bc.edu) reported that 1.5 percent of retirement assets “leak out” of 401(k) plans and personal IRAs each year, reducing an individual’s wealth at retirement by about 25 percent.

Meanwhile, a 2014 Fidelity Investments study sounded a particularly urgent alarm about 401(k) cash-outs and workers under the age of 40. The mutual fund giant noted that 35 percent of all participants were simply cashing out their 401(k) assets when leaving a job. However, for workers aged 20-39 – indeed, those with the longest savings horizons – that number jumped to 41 percent.

So what should you do? A great deal depends on your age, time to retirement and specific needs.

Start by taking an inventory of your retirement assets. Either alone or with the help of a qualified financial or tax expert, put together an official list of current and former 401(k) plans, personal IRAs or, depending on your years of work history, assets from traditional defined benefit retirement plans that were popular more than 20 years ago. Then see where you are.

Make sure you always review retirement options whenever you change a job. If an employer is highly motivated to get you on board, query the company about the retirement savings options that would fit the position you’re interviewing for. Ask hiring managers in general terms about how well their retirement options have performed and if you would have the option of rolling over your 401(k) assets to that employer. If, for example, your prospective employer has a more generous matching feature than your current employer has, that could create a favorable environment for transferring those assets. If not, you may want to keep your money in your employer’s existing plan or consider a rollover to a personal IRA with the features you’re looking for. Ask plenty of questions.

Evaluate IRA choices carefully. If you are considering rolling your former employer’s assets into a personal IRA, evaluate your tax situation, both Traditional and Roth IRA options and their performance and fee levels before you arrange for a transfer.

Go for the best-performing investment options that fit your needs and anticipated retirement date. Employer-based 401(k) plans generally disclose investment choices and investment fees (http://www.dol.gov/ebsa/publications/401k_employee.html). It may be a good idea to get qualified help to review those documents. Age is important. There’s typically a 10 percent penalty if you withdraw money from a 401(k) or IRA before age 59 ½. But if you lose or leave your job at age 55 or later (or earlier for certain public employees), you can generally take 401(k) withdrawals without penalty. An IRA rollover requires the account holder to be at least 59 ½ years old before they can take a penalty-free IRA distribution. While keeping your money invested as long as possible is key to a successful retirement, withdrawal issues are also important to consider based on your age and time to retirement.

Invest on your own. It’s important to do parallel personal retirement planning with any employer-based retirement options available to you. Again, get qualified help to assist you in evaluating the retirement savings and investment decisions you make on your own and at work.

Bottom line: Frequent job changing can derail anyone’s retirement planning. Whether you roll over a former employer’s retirement assets every time you switch or decide to keep your money in certain plans, get help if you need it.

 

By Nathaniel Sillin

Five Ways to Save on an Overseas Trip

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My neighbors and I talked for weeks about their upcoming European vacation with their teenaged kids. We discussed every single place they planned to visit. But when I asked if they knew how much their European train and ground transportation, smartphone data plans and meals out were going to cost, they shrugged and said, “We’re not worried. That’s the cheapest part of the trip!”

They might have been right ‐ if they had planned ahead. Sometimes it’s not the airfare and hotel bill that get you, it’s the failure to monitor small expenses that can turn into big ones in a hurry. No matter where you go, there are hidden money pits. That’s why smart money management before you travel is so important. Whether you meet or exceed your budget depends on how you plan and execute your spending.

Consider these five tips to help you conserve funds in all major areas of vacation spending:

1. Start by sweating the small stuff. Take some time to do a bit of research on basic expenses at the various locations where you’re planning to go. Talking to friends can help and so can travel magazines and sites.

2. Keep the costs of ground transportation in mind. The convenience of cabs or rental cars will likely cost more ‐ and depending where you go, some options might be safer than others ‐ so study options like reloadable city smart cards or continental rail passes. Paying individual ticket prices for short hops or long journeys can drain your budget. Also, consider traveling at off-peak times of the day to get cheaper rates on train travel.

3. Know what it costs to use your electronics. You’ve probably heard about people getting socked with huge cell phone bills. To avoid this, call your carrier before you leave to make sure your phone will work wherever you’re going. If so, check if they offer an affordable international talk and data plan. If not, consider options like an international SIM card ‐ a small chip card that fits inside your phone for specific use within that country ‐ or a prepaid phone. If you’re downloading any apps to supply maps, translation or reading material on your phone or computer, do it while you are home to avoid chewing up international data at your destination. Also, be careful with Wi-Fi. Many recognizable global restaurants and fast-food chains offer the service for free, so check before you pay for it. Once you’re home, be sure to cancel any international services you’ve ordered.

4. Eat like the locals. The Internet and the myriad travel sites it offers make it easy to find good places to eat at all price levels practically anywhere in the world. But eating food out can add up. Focus on the cheapest and safest ways the locals eat.

5. Travel insurance can be smart money management. Lost luggage, missed connections or a medical emergency won’t just ruin your trip ‐ they can potentially wreck your finances. Check your personal home and health insurance to see what they might cover on a trip and back your protection with a leading travel insurance policy. Visit websites that will allow you to compare coverage you need to select the best option for you. Make sure to check any travel insurance policy closely for any exclusions or pre-existing conditions that could void your coverage.

Bottom line: It’s surprisingly easy to overspend when traveling overseas if you don’t do your research. Take the time to analyze all possible expenses large and small before you leave. Your travel budget will thank you.

 

By Nathaniel Sillin