Phone Scams that are Still Alive and Kicking

no solicitorsJust because we are all high tech these days, doesn’t mean the old fashioned phone scams have gone away. Below is a list of the top ones that still happen on a regular basis, according to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

1. The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) will not call you unsuspectingly and ask you for private information or tell you to send money somewhere because you owe them taxes. Don’t fall for it. If the IRS has a legitimate concern with your taxes, they will initiate contact with a letter via the regular mail.

2. No matter how sophisticated our software is these days, there is no way that Microsoft or any other technical support will know out of the blue that you have malware on your computer and will voluntarily call you to help you fix it. There are scammers out there that will call you claiming to be technical support in an effort to convince you to pay them a fee to “fix” your computer. While there is probably a good chance you may have some issue with your computer, these people are trying to scam you. If you have a technical issue, you should be the one to initiate a call to support.

money trap3. We would all love to have “free money” spontaneously show up at our door. However, if you didn’t sign up for a sweepstakes, don’t let someone convince you over the phone that if you send a processing fee to them, you will be able to collect your valuable prize. Never send money to collect a prize.

4. Even the FBI is exploited in phone scams. If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from there and asking you to send money to help a Prince or Princess in Distress, don’t do it. Cinderella is a fairy tale as is this line. This is just not ever going to legitimately happen. If you have a real FBI agent calling you on the phone, you may have more urgent issues with which to focus your attention.

5. Caller ID can be spoofed and sometimes scammers will do just this to try and trick you into sending money. It can look like the caller is from a legitimate organization, perhaps your bank, or even your mom hoping you will pick up the phone so they can convince you to send money. Just because the caller ID claims the number is one you may know, it isn’t necessarily the case. If the caller sounds suspicious, trust your instincts and hang up. You can always call back with a number you already have to verify the call.

screaming into phone6. Immigrants have been in the current events news a lot recently and this just makes the likelihood of scammers taking advantage of that rise. Sometimes they will pose as an official from Homeland Security (DHS) or Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) threatening deportation of someone in your home unless you provide private information that can be used against you or for a fee. The government doesn’t operate this way, so hang up.

7. The federal government also will not randomly call you claiming you won a government grant for some large sum of money. Even more shocking is that you didn’t even apply for one. So if you get a call like this asking for fees in exchange for your grant, it is fake, even if you did apply for a government grant. Hang up. Generally, with any official agency, you will receive notification by mail first.

8. Healthcare and medical related scams are on the rise and phone scammers may be calling you to get in on that action. Sometimes they claim to be from Health and Human Services (HHS), Medicare, or the Affordable Care Act (ACA, also known as Obamacare). They may threaten to suspend healthcare benefits if you don’t fork over fees or personal information. Again, this is not how these agencies will work with you, so if you get such a call, and especially if you feel like you are being threatened by the caller, hang up.

FBI guy9. Finally, there is the scareware tactic where a link results in a popup that has a phone number for you to call. The dialogue claims that you are locked out of your files, the FBI has determined your are doing something illegal and has locked up your computer, or some other ruse. There is a number to call and the person on the other end may try to scare you into sending money in some form, often by sending a prepaid card somewhere in exchange for a code to unlock your files.

Back up your files regularly either to the cloud or to an external drive. Depending on the size of the files you want to back up, you may even be able to put them on a USB stick.  In any case, don’t ever pay any type of ransom. Most of the time, this “code” is never sent and you have lost your files and your money.  If you have a recent backup, you can restore those more easily.

If you believe you have been scammed in one of these ways, you should file a report with your local law enforcement agency as well as with the FTC using their FTC Complaint Assistant.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Buying vs. Leasing A Car

Auto Sales Provide Jump In Monthly Retail NumbersBuying vs. Leasing—Most shoppers aren’t able to pay cash for a new car, so you’ll need to decide how you’re going to finance it. While many people take out a car loan, leasing a new car is simply another form of new-car financing. Let’s look to see if leasing or buying makes the most sense for you.

Benefits of Leasing a Car

Leasing a car is similar to financing the purchase of the car in many ways, but there are some key differences. You might be able to get more car for less money by leasing. That’s because a car loan is based on the full price of a new car, while a lease is based on only a percentage of the car’s price. For example, on a $30,000 car, you’d finance the entire $30,000 purchase price with a car loan. With a car lease, you only pay the difference between the car’s price and what it’s expected to be worth at the end of the lease, which is a car’s residual value. So if the car’s residual value is 55 percent after three years, for example, that means the $30,000 car would be worth $16,500 at the end of the lease. You’d make lease payments on the remaining $13,500 and not the full $30,000.

If you only have a small down payment saved up, leasing may also be better for you. Many car leases require anywhere from $0 to several thousand dollars up front, though the down payment is negotiable. Many advertised lease offers will promote low payments, but require a sizeable down payment. If you want to put as little down as possible, remember that your monthly lease payments will be higher.

Many leases last about three years, which is typically the length of many new-car bumper-to-bumper warranties. That means the car is usually covered under warranty for repairs for the duration of the lease. You still need to maintain the car, though, which includes oil changes, tire rotations and recommended maintenance from the manufacturer. Failure to properly maintain the car during the lease can result in fees when you turn the car in at the end of the lease.

If you enjoy having the newest high-tech features, leasing could be the better choice for you. Since you’d be leasing every few years, each new car you lease will have the latest and greatest technology and safety features. With a leased car, you don’t have to worry about selling the car or getting a good price for your trade-in. When the lease is up, you can simply turn in the car and walk away.

Drawbacks of Leasing a Car

Lease contracts limit the number of miles you can drive. These mileage restrictions typically are 9,000, 12,000 and 15,000 miles a year. You need to estimate how many miles you drive per year so you can determine how many miles to purchase. If you go over that amount, you’ll pay a fee per mile at the end of the lease when you turn the car in. These overage charges can be very expensive.

With leasing, you can sometimes make minor alterations to the vehicle that can be reversed before you turn the car back in, but you generally can’t make any major alterations. Make sure you read the lease contract carefully before signing.

Another drawback is that when you lease, you’re really just renting the car for a few years and paying interest to finance that car over a specified period of time. Since you’re basically renting the car when you lease, you’re not building any equity. That means that when the lease ends, you either have to get a new car, with new payments, or take out a loan to buy the car you were leasing.

Another potential downside to leasing is that usually only shoppers with good credit scores will qualify for a car lease. If your credit score is less than perfect, you may want to consider waiting to lease until you can increase your credit score.

Benefits of Buying a Car

If you like to keep your vehicle as long as possible, buying is probably better for you. When you buy, you own the car when the loan is paid off. Until the car loan is paid off, the lender owns the vehicle. As you continue to make loan payments, you’re gaining equity in the vehicle. Once you’re done paying off the loan, the car is yours – you own it and don’t have to include a monthly car payment in your budget. That’s a significant benefit because it means that over several years of not having a payment, you could save money compared to someone who has to keep leasing a new car every three years.

One of the biggest benefits that buying has over leasing is that there are no mileage restrictions. If you do a lot of driving, buying is probably better for you.

Drawbacks of Buying a Car

When you buy a new car, you roll the dice a bit with its resale value. It’s hard to determine what the vehicle will be worth when you’re ready to trade it in or sell it. With leasing, that future value is predicted up front and put in writing on the contract. If the car is worth less than that amount at the end, it’s not your problem. However, if you have a loan on a car and the car is worth less than what the loan is for, you have negative equity (that’s also called being upside down on the loan). This is only a drawback if you plan on selling it or trading it in because you’ll have to come up with the difference between what the car sells for and the amount of money still left on the loan.

Another potential drawback of buying is a sizeable down payment. Many lenders require about 10 to 20 percent down when taking out a car loan. On a $30,000 vehicle, that’s $3,000 to $6,000. It can be tough for people to save up that much money.

One other downside of buying is that to get the monthly payments to fit your budget, you may have to stretch out the length of the loan. Auto loans can last five, six or even seven years. That longer loan term gives more time for interest to add up, so you end up paying more for the car than if you had a shorter loan term. A larger down payment will also help lower your monthly payments when you finance, but again, coming up with that much cash can be difficult.

When it comes to buying and leasing, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer. Consider your budget, driving needs, lifestyle and credit history before you decide whether to buy or lease. There are auto lenders who can provide you with financing that works best for you, no matter whether you decide to buy or lease your next vehicle.

©Copyright March 11, 2015, US News & World Report

Teens and Money: Preparing for Future Expenses

Kids_9

You may feel emotionally ready to move out on your own, but are you financially prepared? Living independently means much more than not having to be home by curfew; it comes with a great deal of financial responsibilities. Before you take the leap, know how much the big move will cost you, now and in the future.

Moving out

There are many costs to prepare for just to walk in the door of your first home. You may need to save for at least a few of these big ticket items:

  • Moving expenses. If your friends won’t do it for the price of a couple of pizzas, you may be looking at hiring some help and renting a moving van.
  • Rent for the first and last month. Paying two months rent protects the landlord financially (in case you move out on a moments notice) but it can be quite a lot of money for a first-time renter to come up with.
  • Security deposit. Most landlords require a security deposit, which is held as protection against damages to the premises or unpaid rent.
  • Cleaning deposit. Yet another cash sum a landlord is likely to want is a cleaning deposit. This is held in the event the residence needs some extra scrubbing after you move out. If you have a pet, expect the cleaning deposit to be even higher.
  • Utilities and telephone deposit. Before you ever turn on the heat or make a phone call, you may have to put down some money to activate these necessities.
  • Furniture and appliances. Most rentals don’t come furnished. Depending on the room, you may have to buy a few key items to be somewhat comfortable:
    • Bedroom – bed, mattress, linens, pillows, dresser, rugs, lamps
    • Living room – sofa, chairs, coffee table, television, DVD player, stereo, lamps, rugs, pictures
    • Kitchen – table, utensils, dishes, cookware, microwave, cleaning supplies
    • Bathroom – hair dryer, shower curtain, bath mat

Of course if you will have roommates, you’ll be sharing at least some of these costs. But even with a quick estimation you can see that you may need to save quite a lot to leave home.

Monthly bills

Once you are in your own place, the costs continue. It is extremely important to pay all bills on time. If you don’t, you’ll probably be charged late payment fees, and if left unpaid, they will go into a collection agency. Dealing with collectors is not only highly unpleasant, but the negative effect on your credit report is severe. And if you default on some, such as telephone and other utilities, you may not be able to turn them on again until they’re paid (and even then it can be difficult).

If you are sharing your home with roommates, establish how the bills will be paid from the beginning. You may be able to split some and each send a check for your portion of the amount due. Another option is for one of you to act as money manager and collect from the others. However you arrange it, if the accounts are in your name, know that you are responsible for sending the complete payment in on time.

  • Rent: If the rent is due by the first, don’t pay on the fifth or some other late date. Think ahead. It is highly unlikely that you will remain forever in the first place you get, so being a good tenant today will help you rent another place in the future. The last thing you want is to establish a bad relationship with your landlord – the very person you will turn to for a glowing rental history reference.
  • Utilities: Utilities include cable, Internet access, garbage, gas, electric, and water. You will soon understand why your parents were always telling you to turn the lights off when you leave the room.
  • Telephone: Whether you have a landline, cell phone, or both, know that all that chatting can cost you – big, big money. Be especially careful with cell phone minutes. Once you have exceeded your plan’s limit, the cost per minute can be outrageous. Bills of many hundreds of dollars are common.

Moving out and living independently for the first time can be a thrilling experience. You can make it even better by being financially prepared and responsible from the beginning.

 

©Copyright Balance

Apple Pay™ Coming Soon to NASA Federal!

Great news! In mid-May, members will be able to add their NASA Federal Visa® Credit and Debit Cards to Apple Pay to pay in stores and in apps with a single touch on their iPhone 6. We are excited to offer this service to our many iPhone 6 NASA_ApplePay_BlueCard_040315_Page_1users, as we know they are also very excited to use the service on their phones.

Following are the main benefits of Apple Pay to members:

  • An Easier Way to Pay—Members will be able to make purchases at hundreds of thousands of stores and participating apps.
  • Pay with a Single Touch—Members will be able to add their eligible NASA Federal Credit and Debit Cards to Apple Pay. Once the Cards are loaded into their phones, members will be able to pay for purchases by holding their iPhone 6 near point-of-sale terminal readers with their fingers on TouchID™. There’s no need to open an app or even wake their phones.
  • A Secure Way to Pay—Apple Pay on iPhone 6 combines the latest security technology from Apple® and Visa. Every transaction is authorized with TouchID or passcode.

Be on the lookout for more information as the launch date approaches.

Setting and Targeting Investment Goals

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Investing without setting clear-cut goals is like regularly throwing money into a hole and hoping for the best. If you’re lucky, you may end up with enough money to meet your needs, but you have no way to know for sure.

Defining investment goals requires questions, as well as answers. Here are a few that the CFS Financial Advisors at NASA Federal Credit Union Investments can help you with when you set an appointment to meet with one.

clubHow do you set investment goals?

Setting investment goals means defining your dreams for the future. When you’re setting goals, it’s best to be as specific as possible. For instance, you know you want to retire, but when? You know you want to send your child to college, but to an Ivy League school or to the community college down the street? Writing down and prioritizing your investment goals is an important first step toward developing an investment plan.

What is your time horizon?

Your investment time horizon is the number of years you have to invest toward a specific goal. Each investment goal you set will have a different time horizon. For example, some of your investment goals will be long term (e.g., you have more than 15 years to plan), some will be short term (e.g., you have 5 years or less to plan), and some will be intermediate (e.g., you have between 5 and 15 years to plan). Establishing time horizons will help you determine how aggressively you will need to invest to accumulate the amount needed to meet your goals.

How much will you need to invest?

cliffAlthough you can invest a lump sum of cash, many people find that regular, systematic investing is also a great way to build wealth over time.

Start by determining how much you’ll need to set aside monthly or annually to meet each goal. Although you’ll want to invest as much as possible, choose a realistic amount that takes into account your other financial obligations, so that you can easily stick with your plan. But always be on the lookout for opportunities to increase the amount you’re investing, such as participating in an automatic investment program that boosts your contribution by a certain percentage each year, or by dedicating a portion of every raise, bonus, cash gift, or tax refund you receive to your investment objectives.

Which investments should you choose?

Regardless of your financial goals, you’ll need to decide how to best allocate your investment dollars. One important consideration is your tolerance for risk. All investments involve some risk, but some involve more than others. How well can you handle market ups and downs? Are you willing to accept a higher degree of risk in exchange for the opportunity to earn a higher rate of return?

Whether you’re investing for retirement, college, or another financial goal, your overall objective is to maximize returns without taking on more risk than you can bear. But no matter what level of risk you’re comfortable with, make sure to choose investments that are consistent with your goals and time horizon. A financial professional can help you construct a diversified investment portfolio that takes these factors into account.

Investing for retirement

After a hard day at the office, do you ask yourself, “Is it time to retire yet?” Retirement may seem a long way off, but it’s never too early to start planning, especially if you want retirement to be the good life you imagine.

For example, let’s say that your goal is to retire at age 65. At age 20 you begin contributing $3,000 per year to your tax-deferred 401(k) account. If your investment earns 6% per year, compounded annually, you’ll have approximately $679,000 in your investment account when you retire.

But what would happen if you left things to chance instead? Let’s say that you’re not really worried about retirement, so you wait until you’re 35 to begin investing. Assuming you contributed the same amount to your 401(k) and the rate of return on your investment dollars was the same, you would end up with approximately $254,400. And, as this chart illustrates, if you were to wait until age 45 to begin investing for retirement, you would end up with only about $120,000 by the time you retire.

(This hypothetical example is not intended to reflect the actual performance of any investment. Taxes and investment fees are not considered.)

Investing for college

gradPerhaps you faced the truth the day your child was born. Or maybe it hit you when your child started first grade: You have only so much time to save for college. In fact, for many people, saving for college is an intermediate-term goal–if you start saving when your child is in elementary school, you’ll have 10 to 15 years to build your college fund.

Of course, the earlier you start, the better. The more time you have before you need the money, the greater chance you have to build a substantial college fund due to compounding. With a longer investment time frame and a tolerance for some risk, you might also be willing to put some of your money into investments that offer the potential for growth.

Investing for a major purchase

houseAt some point, you’ll probably want to buy a home, a car, or even that vacation home you’ve always wanted. Although they’re hardly impulse items, large purchases are usually not something for which you plan far in advance; one to five years is a common time frame.

Because you don’t have much time to invest, you’ll have to budget your investment dollars wisely. Rather than choosing growth investments, you may want to put your money into less volatile, highly liquid investments that have some potential for growth, but that offer you quick and easy access to your money should you need it.

Review and revise

Over time, you may need to update your investment strategy. Get in the habit of checking your portfolio at least once a year–more frequently if the market is particularly volatile or when there have been significant changes in your life. You may need to rebalance your portfolio to bring it back in line with your investment goals and risk tolerance. If you need help, a financial professional can help.

Investing for Your Goals
Investment goal and time horizon At 4%, you’ll need to invest At 8%, you’ll need to invest At 12%, you’ll need to invest
Have $10,000 for down payment on home: 5 years $151 per month $136 per month $123 per month
Have $50,000 in college fund: 10 years $340 per month $276 per month $223 per month
Have $250,000 in retirement fund: 20 years $685 per month $437 per month $272 per month
Table assumes 3% annual inflation, and that the return is compounded annually; taxes are not considered. Also, rates of return will vary over time, particularly for long-term investments, which could affect the amounts you would need to invest. This hypothetical example is not intended to reflect the actual performance of any investment.

IMPORTANT DISCLOSURES

Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. does not provide investment, tax, or legal advice. The information presented here is not specific to any individual’s personal circumstances. To the extent that this material concerns tax matters, it is not intended or written to be used, and cannot be used, by a taxpayer for the purpose of avoiding penalties that may be imposed by law. Each taxpayer should seek independent advice from a tax professional based on his or her individual circumstances. These materials are provided for general information and educational purposes based upon publicly available information from sources believed to be reliable—we cannot assure the accuracy or completeness of these materials. The information in these materials may change at any time and without notice. Non-deposit investment products and services are offered through CUSO Financial Services, L.P. (“CFS”), a registered broker-dealer (Member FINRA/SIPC) and SEC Registered Investment Advisor. Products offered through CFS: are not NCUA/NCUSIF or otherwise federally insured, are not guarantees or obligations of the credit union, and may involve investment risk including possible loss of principal. Investment Representatives are registered through CFS. NASA Federal Credit Union has contracted with CFS to make non-deposit investment products and services available to credit union members.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015.

 

 

 

NASA Celebrates Earth Day with #NoPlaceLikeHome Event

 

NASA

Get involved in highlighting the amazing places and landscapes on our home planet this Earth Day, April 22, by posting photos and videos of your favorite place on Earth.

Image Credit: NASA

This Earth Day, April 22, NASA is asking people around the world to share pictures and videos on social media that show there is no place like home – planet Earth.

NASA’s Earth Day #NoPlaceLikeHome project seeks to get the public involved in highlighting the great diversity of the places, landscapes and ecosystems of our home planet. Participants are invited to post photos and videos that answer a simple question: What is your favorite place on Earth?

Images can be shared using the hashtag #NoPlaceLikeHome on Twitter, Instagram, Vine, Facebook, Google+ and Flickr. Leading up to Earth Day, NASA will participate by posting its own images and videos.

NASA’s mission includes exploring beyond Earth and using the vantage point of space to improve our understanding of the most complex planet we’ve seen yet. The agency’s Earth-observing satellites, airborne research and field campaigns are designed to observe our planet’s dynamic systems – oceans, ice sheets, forests and atmosphere – and improve our ability to understand how our planet is changing and could change.

For more information on the #NoPlaceLikeHome project, visit:

http://www.nasa.gov/likehome