EMV Chip Cards Are Being Issued. How Will They Help?

Closeup of a credit card with a gold chip

After all of the point of sale (POS) system breaches last year like at Home Depot, Bebe, and Chick-fil-A, card issuers are beginning to send out new cards with EMV chip technology. EMV stands for EuroPay, MasterCard and Visa who are the three companies that developed the chip verification standard. This technology can be used in conjunction with your PIN, often called chip-and-PIN, but this may not always be the case. Depending on the verification method tied to the chip on your payment card, you may swipe the card; enter it into the POS for chip verification; and then provide your signature, often called chip-and-signature.

This technology has greatly reduced card-present fraud in Europe by preventing criminals from creating duplicate credit cards from stolen breach data. Every time a payment card is used for a transaction, the EMV chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. Therefore, if a hacker were to steal the chip and magnetic strip information from a POS device, it would be useless “because the stolen transaction number created in that instance wouldn’t be usable again and the card would just get denied,” said Dave Witts, president of U.S. payment systems for CreditCall.

The down side of the chip technology is that it does little to prevent online fraud or device fraud, such as ApplePay and GooglePay. Therefore it is wise to remain diligent in monitoring your transaction statements to identify any fraudulent or suspicious charges.

The magnetic strip will not disappear from the new cards to ensure they can still be widely used. Most payment terminals will begin to accept both types of cards in the very near future, if they don’t already. The new card is also widely used in most other countries as the U.S is the last major market to adopt the EMV chip. So there should be no problems with using the new card while you are on travel.

So, as these cards are being issued, it’s a great time to review PIN security.  Following are a few tips to creating a secure PIN and keeping it safe:

  • Choose a PIN that isn’t related to a birthday or a word that is easily associated with you or appears in your wallet or purse.
  • Memorize the PIN. Don’t share it with anyone and it’s especially important not to write it on the card.
  • Keep the card in a safe place at all times with the same care you take with cash.
  • Use as many characters as the issuer allows or that make sense and you can remember.  Keep in mind if you travel worldwide, that many ATMs outside the U.S. only allow four characters and don’t put letters on the keypads. This makes it more important to choose the PIN wisely and not use characters easily attributed to you. Consider changing it before the trip to four digits and changing it back when you return home.
  • Protect your PIN by covering your hand when you enter it into a payment terminal and even at the ATM.
  • Change your PIN at least every six months.

Remember that financial institutions will not send you a link to click and will never ask you to confirm your PIN or other private information. If you need to change your PIN or any other account information, you should initiate a phone call or log in to your account directly and make modifications that way.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Building a Fraud-Free Family


A generation ago, most families didn’t think about financial fraud. Today, it can come in many forms – over the phone, through the mail and increasingly, online. It’s an equal opportunity crime that affects consumers of all ages.

For the 15th straight year, the Federal Trade Commission tapped identity theft as the number one source of consumer complaints in its 2014 Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book (https://www.ftc.gov) released in February. The agency also noted a “large increase” in so-called “imposter” scams – phone calls and emails from thieves purporting to represent the government as a way to steal data and money from unsuspecting adults.

Young people – particularly students – may be the fastest-growing group of fraud targets. Due to their dependence and sometimes unwitting use of computers and mobile devices, young people may be the greatest potential victims of financial fraud, according to a 2015 study (https://www.javelinstrategy.com) by Javelin Strategy & Research. More than 64 percent of respondents said they were not “very concerned” about identity fraud, but were far more likely to find out they were fraud victims long after the damage occurred, such as through a call from a debt collector or a rejection letter from a lender.

Most consumers under the age of 18 shouldn’t have a credit record at all. But as digital thieves become more sophisticated and federal agencies become occasionally vulnerable to hackers, critical privacy data like Social Security numbers – which many parents obtain for their children in infancy to save or invest money or buy insurance on their behalf – could be at risk years before a child ever opens a bank account or applies for a loan.

For all of these reasons, it may be time to think about a family fraud plan. Here are some steps to consider.

  • Check the accuracy of all family credit data. Parents should begin by checking their own credit reports (https://www.annualcreditreport.com/index.action) to make sure creditor data and loan balances are accurate and no inaccuracies or unfamiliar lenders have crept into their information. Once clear, adult children can make sure senior relatives are taking similar steps. As for minors, the three major credit agencies – TransUnion, Equifax and Experian – have their own website guidelines for confirming and evaluating a minor’s credit data.
  • Make sure mailboxes are safe from thieves and any document with an account number or identifying data is destroyed before it is placed in the trash. The same goes for tax returns that are no longer needed.
  • Learn how to protect all mobile computer and handheld data and have a plan in place in case any family member loses a smartphone, tablet or laptop/desktop computer. Tips are available online, from smartphone service providers and device manufacturers.
  • Online, by phone and in person, be wary of collection demands or requests for Social Security numbers or other specific account data unless the identity of the caller can be verified. Fraudulent calls are called “vishing” scams, similar to “phishing” scams that involve fraudulent emails, texts and websites used to illegally collect personal data.
  • Install all software security updates immediately on mobile devices and computers and ensure passwords are unique and frequently updated.
  • Sign up for fraud alerts from banks, credit card issuers or investment companies to receive immediate word of unusual or potentially illegal activity on accounts.

Bottom line: Identity thieves and other financial fraudsters watch consumer behavior closely and are equally adept at stealing money and data in person, over the phone and online. Have a plan in place to protect the entire family.


By Nathaniel Sillin


Should You Co-Sign?

Should-You-Co-Sign-an-Apartment-Lease-620x348It is a question that few want to hear: “Will you co-sign for me?” Typically coming from relatives or friends with no or low credit scores, it can be a difficult request to respond to. Most people do not want to ignore a family member or friend in need, but co-signing comes with risks that make many justifiably nervous to sign on the dotted line. So, should you do it? There are many factors to consider before making a decision.

What are the risks?
One risk that you incur when co-signing is the primary applicant making the payments late or not at all. Even if the primary applicant is the one who is supposed to make the payments, late or non-payments may still be recorded on your credit report, which can lower your credit score. If the primary applicant stops paying, you may also start to experience collection activity, such as phone calls from the creditor. You could even be sued. The creditor is under no obligation to try to collect from the primary applicant before taking action against you. If he or she stops making payments, do you have the money to pay the bill? If not, co-signing may not be a good idea.

Even if the primary applicant makes all of the payments on time, you may still be affected if you are planning to apply for credit yourself in the future. When you apply for some types of credit, like a mortgage, many lenders consider how much debt you already have in deciding whether to lend to you and how much to lend to you. In general, the higher your debt payments, the less you can get. Lenders commonly include debt you co-signed for in calculating your level of debt, even if you are not the one paying it. (However, some lenders will ignore co-signed debt if you have proof that the primary applicant is making all of the payments.) This means that you may not get as much as you would have if you did not co-sign.

Why does the person need a co-signer?
You probably would not co-sign if you knew the person asking you would not make the payments, but how do you know ahead of time if he or she will? A low credit score can be seen as a sign that there is a good chance the person will not repay the debt, but it is also helpful to consider why the person has a low score. Was he not able to pay previous bills due to losing a job but has a well-paying job now? Is she still struggling with bill-paying due to purchasing an expensive house, fancy car, and luxury goods put on credit cards? A person who had problems in the past, but corrected them, is probably less of a risk than someone who continues to experience difficulties or exhibit poor financial habits. If the person has no credit score, you obviously cannot examine past credit use, but you can consider how conscientious he or she has been in other things, such as in saving money and paying household bills, when deciding if you should co-sign.

What are you being asked to co-sign for?
Is your daughter who just graduated from college asking you to co-sign for an apartment so that she will have a place to live or for a $2,000 loan so that she can buy a big screen television? Ask yourself if the person can do without what you are being asked to co-sign for. It may not make sense to put yourself at risk if what you are co-signing for is not even a necessity. The person should be able to work on building his or her credit score so that a co-signer will not be needed to get credit in the future.

Minimizing the risks
If you would like to co-sign, but have concerns, there are steps you can take to minimize your risk. One way would be to pay the creditor directly yourself and have the person send the money to you. He or she could send the payments to you late, but your credit score would not be affected as long as you send the payments to the creditor on time. Another option would be to choose a lender that allows you to see the account information on-line. This allows you to check the status of the account before the due date to see if the payment has been made, instead of waiting for the creditor to call you after the account has become delinquent. If you see that no payment was made yet, you can make it yourself.

Co-signing can help a friend or relative in need, but it comes with risks. Understanding what the risks are, and why the person needs a co-signer, can help you make an informed decision and not unnecessarily jeopardize your financial future.


Copyright©2008 Balance



Wills and Living Trusts: The Basics

living-trusts-versus-willsPreparing for the distribution of your estate (assets you own at the time of your death) can be a very stressful experience. After all, with so many important decisions to make, no one wants to make the wrong one. One of the most common dilemmas is whether to have a will or a living trust – or both. Knowing the fundamentals of each will help you make the right decision.

First begin with understanding probate, as it plays a significant role in estate planning. Probate is the administrative and court process that takes place after you die. It includes proving the validity of a will (if there is one), identifying, inventorying, and appraising property, paying debts and taxes, and (finally), distributing whatever assets remain.

Because probate can drag on for months or even years, much of the wealth you’ve accumulated over your lifetime can be eroded. Wills and trusts have the power to reduce probate dramatically – so your heirs can efficiently inherit what you want them to receive.


A will is nothing more than a set of instructions that specifies who gets what of your assets. If you have property and loved ones, having a will is vital. If you die without one, state law takes over and makes distribution decisions on your behalf. In most cases everything goes to your spouse and/or children. If you have neither, your closest relatives will be the recipients, and if you have no relatives, your entire estate will be absorbed by the state. While the court may make the same decisions you would have, in many cases it does not.

One of the most compelling reasons to draw up a will is if you have children who depend on you for care. A will allows you stipulate guardianship. Without one, the court will make this very personal choice for you.

If your estate is relatively simple, you may choose to create your own will with the help of a quality software program or guidebook. For more complex situations, or if you do not feel comfortable writing your own will, hire an attorney or legal service to do it for you. Because this is such an essential document, you’ll want to be sure its done right. Consider investing in a lawyer to at least look over your finished product.

Living Trusts

A living trust is a bit more complicated in concept than a will, but in essence it is a separate legal entity that holds title or ownership to your property and assets. While you are alive, and acting as the trustee, you hold full control over all the property held in the trust.

The primary reason to create a living trust is to avoid probate. Property held in a trust won’t have to go through probate before your loved ones receive their inheritance. More, where wills are public, trusts are private, and usually harder to contest.

As with a will, you can create your own living trust by using software and guidebooks developed for “do-it-yourselfers.” However, living trusts by nature are often more involved than wills, so having a lawyer draw it up for you in the first place may be the better way to go.

Not everyone needs a living trust though. Before spending the money to create one, be aware that they can be costly to arrange, are time-consuming to put together, and require considerable ongoing maintenance (adding to the cost). Changes to a trust can take a long time, and moving certain assets such as real estate, savings, and brokerage accounts into the trust requires re-titling, which can be cumbersome.

A Will Plus a Trust

Wills and living trusts are not mutually exclusive estate planning devices. In fact, if you have a trust, you should probably have a will to make sure all of your assets will be distributed according to your wishes. Most trusts do not provide instructions for everything in your estate. A will acts as a back up for what is not included in the trust, as it would have a clause naming a person who you want to receive all leftover property. Without a will, anything you didn’t transfer into the trust will go through that long and expensive probate process. Once again, those assets will be distributed according to state law – and most likely not the way you would choose to have your property dispersed.

While estate planning certainly can be an anxiety provoking process, knowing the fundamentals of wills and living trusts should ease some discomfort.

Copyright © 2005 Balance

Star Trek(TM)-Themed Credit Cards Are Here

Star Trek Cards HiOur new Star Trek™-branded credit cards are now available! The four new cards, under license by CBS Consumer Products, provide unique benefits of Star Trek merchandise and experiences, as well as the outstanding value of the current NASA Federal Credit Union Platinum Advantage Rewards credit card.

The cards made their pre-launch debut in early August to significant fanfare at the Annual Star Trek Convention in Las Vegas, where over 5,000 Star Trek fans converged daily. “As soon as I saw NASA Federal Credit Union’s credit card with Star Trek emblems on it,” stated one Star Trek fan, “I had to have one!” To date, nearly 1,000 people have signed up for new cards in anticipation of official availability today.

The new Star Trek Credit Cards include: the Starfleet Academy Alumni, Starfleet Command, United Federation of Planets, and the Captain’s Card. In addition to exclusive Star Trek merchandise and experiences, all four cards feature a competitive interest rate, no balance transfer fee, and a very generous rewards program.

Star Trek fans may become NASA Federal members and apply for the new cards online at www.nasafcu.com/startrek.


TM & © 2015 CBS Studios Inc. STAR TREK and related marks and logos are trademarks of CBS Studios Inc. All Rights Reserved.


3 Financial Tips to Help Prepare Young Adults

College-Financial-Literacy-1-friends2_400wNow, more than ever, children are becoming young adults at a seemingly lightning fast speed. The internet has allowed them to have access to a wealth of knowledge at a much earlier age, while toys and board games have long since been replaced by ever-evolving technology like video games, tablets, and phones.

I mean we live in a world where kids don’t know how to mail a letter and are no longer taught script in school, but if you need someone to restart your wireless router or teach you what all the emojis mean on your iPhone, they have you more than covered. A huge part of growing up (especially at a quicker rate), is developing a sense of understanding for the many financial aspects of life.

Since we now live in a world where you can buy almost anything with the click of a button or the swipe of a finger, it is crucial that our children learn the value of money and how to manage it. Here are a few easy ways to get your son or daughter on the right track to financial success.

  1. Develop a Respect and Understanding– Let your kids shadow you at the store and while paying bills early in life. Show them the importance of buying things on sale and budgeting common purchases to fully have a manageable plan. They can also learn a lot by experiencing how a paycheck should be broken down, with certain percentages going to savings, taxes, and of course groceries. More importantly, let them see the inner workings of owning a home, so they can fully understand utilities bills, mortgage payments, taxes, etc. Obviously, choose a participation that is fitting for their age, but the more they can get a grasp on before they themselves are thrown into it, the better.
  2. Let Them Work!- You can teach your children a million things about money, but nothing will hit them harder and with more purpose that understanding the value of THEIR OWN money. While they are younger, let them work around the house for a small allowance; if you resist helping them pay for larger items outside of their birthdays and holidays, they’ll develop a strong connection to work being their means to fun. As they get older, after school jobs will also allow them to get their first experiences with taxes and maybe even a bank account or credit card. Take them to get their taxes done at the end of the year so you can help them with questions, and be sure to limit credit card spending to emergencies in the beginning. Resisting the urge of credit card dependency early in life is vital! Too many young adults become dangerously enamored with cars and clothes the moment they can get a card at 18. It’s extremely hard for an after school part time job to keep up with wild, foolish spending.
  3. Take Care of Their Health and Their Future– Hopefully, your son and daughter are young, healthy, and full of possibilities for a bright future. Keep them on the path to success by getting them to save for college early, and more importantly, making sure they understand and purchase health insurance when it’s time for them to leave your coverage. Too many people think that health insurance is a waste of money because “they are never sick,” and “you don’t get the money back if you stay healthy.” Yea, well the flip side of that is you could trip on the curb and sprain an ankle tomorrow, costing you upwards of five figures if you were too stupid to have coverage. Remember, health insurance is a precautionary expenditure that is absolutely pivotal to building stability and economic growth. No one can fully plan for life’s craziness; never gamble with your health and your wallet.