Misspell A URL And Give Up Your Sensitive Information

It’s not important to know what GitHub is or even what cryptocurrency is. However, there is a new phishing scheme that uses malware residing on the former to steal the latter, as well as lift your sensitive information. In this case, it uses fake phishing sites that look so similar to the real one for GitHub, that it’s incredibly difficult to tell the difference. It employs a method called typosquatting to take advantage of users who are trying to download the source code for the cryptocurrency platform EtherDelta and who have “fat fingers.”

First, “fat fingers,” is a reference to clumsy typing or making typos. Typosquatting (also referred to as domain jacking) is the term used to describe someone who takes advantage of a brand by buying a domain that looks like or is a typo away from one that is well-known and in this case, using it to deliver malware or something else that isn’t desired by the user. Cybercriminals used small misspellings, or typos, of the development platform GitHub, to get malware onto the computers of unsuspecting victims that stole cryptocurrency and other valuable information.

The best way to avoid becoming a victim of typosquatting is to bookmark your frequently visited sites and uses those instead of manually typing in the address.

Alternatively, check the web addresses when you type them in manually very carefully before hitting the “enter” key on the keyboard. Make sure it reflects the site you really want to visit.

If you’re doing a web search for a site and using keywords, examine the result closely before clicking on the links that appear in the results list.

Doing this is very important particularly when going to websites that store your sensitive data, such as your financial institution or healthcare site.

© Copyright 2017 Stickley on Security
September 22, 2017

5 Steps to Financial Relief After a Natural Disaster

Hurricanes Harvey and Irma may be over, but the recovery is just beginning.

As any victim of a natural disaster knows, putting your life back together may take weeks, months or even years. Fortunately, when it comes to property and finances, you can take actionable steps to reclaim what you lost.

The following tips can’t undo the damage, but they can put you on the road to financial recovery.

1. File insurance claims ASAP

Getting assistance for the damage inflicted on your home may take a while. So as soon as it’s safe to enter, survey your house and photograph the aftermath. Save receipts for related expenses as well. Having detailed records will help bolster your insurance claims, and improve your chances of receiving coverage.

2. Beware of financial scams

Never missing an opportunity to swindle people, scammers often prey on victims of natural disasters. If someone contacts you about a “relief” loan with a too-good-to-be-true interest rate, avoid it.

3. Contact creditors if you’re unable to pay

If you exhaust your savings and max out your credit cards to cover disaster-related expenses, let your creditors know ASAP. Similarly, if you’re unable to pay your mortgage or other loans, don’t blow the monthly due date. Explain your situation and politely ask for an alternate plan (e.g., reduced or delayed payments). Failing to contact them may look like negligence on your part.

If you’re struggling to manage your finances or need help dealing with your creditors, you can always contact one of BALANCE’s Certified Financial Coaches for one-on-one assistance.

4. Prioritize your expenses

In a time when costs quickly pile up, you may have to make some tough decisions. Replacing essential damaged items might mean you don’t have enough money to pay a bill. Make a list of financial necessities in order of importance, and see what you can postpone for now.

5. Use caution with contractors

Like loan scammers, shady contractors may also try to take your money. If you need help rebuilding your home, get estimates from three different professionals. Pro tip: avoid the cheapest bid. Typically, the medium-price estimate will deliver quality work at a reasonable price.

Resources

Individuals and business owners who sustained losses from Hurricane Harvey can apply for assistance by registering online at www.DisasterAssistance.gov or by calling 1-800-621-FEMA (3362).

BALANCE
September 2017

5 Things to Do With an Unexpected Inheritance

Unexpected money from a friend or relative can be a great surprise or a potentially difficult money lesson. How you plan for unexpected money issues overall can be a key to how well you’ll handle a sudden windfall.

Many people don’t do so well. A recent study from Ohio State University suggests that adults who inherit money are saving only about half of what they receive. Researcher Jay Zagorsky reported that about only 11 percent of the participants had received an inheritance with the median amount only around $11,340. Zagorsky suggests awareness of such high spending numbers suggest it is time for a campaign on saving inherited wealth.

Want to get there early? Here’s a plan for dealing with an unexpected inheritance or any other surprise money issues in the future:

1. Start by getting control of your current finances. Why wait for an inheritance? In 2013, the Gallup organization reported that only 1 in 3 Americans actually prepared a written or computerized household budget. If you’ve never prepared a budget before, know that it is the traditional starting point for all personal finance decisions.

2. Start saving now. The long-term purpose of budgeting is to find excess dollars so you can save and plan for the future. Even if it’s a few dollars a week as other resources go toward everyday expenses, get in the habit of regular savings and investment now. Consider activating direct deposit to build those amounts automatically. If an inheritance happens, you will already have savings habits in place and account relationships set up to receive the money.

3. Line up qualified advice. Skilled financial or tax experts can help you review what you’ve done so far with your money and suggest ways to make your personal savings or investments go farther. Having this relationship in place before an expected – or unexpected – windfall is valuable. They’ll know your situation and the best ways to handle new money. If an inheritance happens, consider a certified financial planner, certified public accountant and an attorney involved in trust or estate matters for your financial team.

4. Evaluate your relationships. Money can change people for better or worse. This is why you see so many troubling news stories about people who have an unexpected windfall. The best approach to sudden money is to go quietly and immediately into the planning phase – don’t make announcements and involve only key loved ones who need to be part of the process.

5. Don’t go on a spending spree. If you’re lucky enough to receive an inheritance of significant size, planning doesn’t mean quitting your job, buying a car or moving out of your current place, at least not immediately. Involve members of your financial team in your planning. After any tax or estate issues are settled and money is free for use, extinguish long-standing expenses, build an emergency fund and then establish savings and investments that are appropriate for you and your loved ones. Once details are complete, do have some fun, but try to keep the cost below 10 percent of the total inheritance amount.

Bottom line: Inherited money can help build a financial future. Get some advice, plan thoughtfully for taxes and investments and save a little bit for fun or luxury. Without proper planning, windfalls don’t always last as long as you think.

Make Sure Your Freshman Gets A Money-Smart College Start

Does your college-bound freshman know how to handle money at school?

Campus life can test even the most disciplined young adults on money matters. In the final weeks before you help your student pack up for the dorm, it’s a good time to pack in some money lessons as well.

Start with what college will cost. On average, the Class of 2015 graduated with a little over $35,000 in student loan debt, according to Edvisors. Depending on your financial situation and how you’ve planned for your child’s college education, start with an overview of how your student’s college costs will impact your finances now and after graduation.

If your child will be paying off personal or student loans once they graduate, discuss how that reality should define financial choices throughout college. That doesn’t mean saving every penny and having no fun at all, but such a talk should reinforce how handling money intelligently, setting priorities and getting a jump on savings can position your child for a much stronger financial start upon graduation.

Train them to budget. If your child hasn’t learned budgeting skills, it’s time for a crash course. Budgeting is the first essential skill in personal finance. Teaching children to budget now gives them a head start on dealing with post-graduation debt or long-term goals like affording a home or car. Because teens often live their lives on smartphones, familiarize yourself with the growing range of budgeting apps to keep their money management on course.

Talk through on-campus banking and credit needs. Many parents start their kids with custodial savings and checking accounts at their local bank when they are younger. If your bank has branches in the teen’s college town, that relationship can easily continue. Responsible credit card use is also wise to start in college. Keep in mind that The Credit Card Accountability, Responsibility and Disclosure (or Credit CARD) Act of 2009 requires that anyone under 21 without independent income have a co-signer to qualify for a card. As such, you’ll be able to keep track of your child’s credit use. However, if they default, you’ll be on the hook – so monitor your child’s bank and credit relationships closely until you agree they’re ready to manage them on their own.

Cover credit monitoring and identity theft. With smarter online thieves emerging every day, your child is at risk of identity theft from the minute he or she is assigned a Social Security number. While most teens generally don’t have a credit report until they start earning a paycheck at age 16, be on the lookout for fraudulent activity earlier and make sure they get in the habit of ordering the three free credit reports they are entitled to each year. Throughout college, consider sitting down with children so you can review their annual credit reports together.

Bottom line: There’s plenty to do in the final weeks before your kids leave for college. Don’t forget to reinforce important money lessons before they go.

Last Minute Vacation Ideas for Any Budget

The season may be drawing to a close, but that doesn’t mean you lost your chance for some RnR!!

Here’s the thing about summer: the warm weather gives you plenty of options for travel. And lest you think all the fun destinations are already booked, check out these affordable last-minute ideas:

National Parks

National parks offer a rare opportunity: you can have a life-changing experience even on a tight budget. Whether you’re introducing your children to the historical scenery, or seeking some much-needed peace and relaxation, national parks are a perfect end-of-summer option.

The more popular destinations charge a higher entrance fee, but some parks—like The Great Smoky Mountains—are free to enjoy.

Camping

Speaking of the outdoors, camping lets you explore nature without breaking your budget.

If you don’t have any gear but want to try it before committing, most outdoors retailers will let you rent what you need.

However, if you plan on camping more than once, it’s typically worth it to buy your tent and supplies up front. The small investment definitely pays off over time.

Whether you’re staying in a national park or hitting up a local site, camping offers a chance to bond with your family and friends while enjoying the tranquility of the outdoors.

Staycation

If you’re trying to save money but also need to scratch your vacation itch, take some time off in your own home.

With a staycation, you can plan affordable day trips or do fun activities on your property. Want to catch up on some peaceful gardening? Have a queue of movies to watch? Avoid the stress and costs of travel, and relax at home instead.

BALANCE

August 2017

Those “Other” Costs of Home Ownership: How to Budget for the Big Picture

The price tag for a new home includes some obvious expenses: list price, monthly mortgage, and closing costs.

But for those of you who are new to the home ownership game, there are other, less apparent costs that require planning. Check it out:

Insurance

Even if you pay renters’ insurance on your apartment, buying a home takes your costs to the next level.

As an owner, you’re responsible for the property, which means your coverage now includes electrical, plumbing, heating—anything that’s prone to problems, and could potentially affect the value of the home.

Upkeep

You want your house to look good (you own it after all). So appearances—particularly landscaping and the lawn—will become a priority.

Planting new bushes and trees can get pricey fast. And even if you forgo hiring someone to take care of your lawn for you, you’ll still need to invest in a lawn mower, sprinklers, fencing and of course, your time.

Property Taxes

When making your monthly budget, make sure you plan for property taxes. Simply take the yearly total, divide by 12, and add the amount to your monthly mortgage. Unfortunately, property taxes only tend to go up, so prepare for an increase in the years to come.

AC/Heat

If you’re new to central air and heat, welcome to a more comfortable living experience. However, you may also get hit with big monthly bill if you use it.

Furnaces are expensive to run and determining their longevity can be tricky, no matter what your inspector tells you. So be prepared to absorb some new expenses and, at some point, to replace your heating / cooling system.

Buying a home is an exciting milestone and can be a great investment. As long as you’re ready for the additional costs, your finances will be just fine.

BALANCE
August 2017