Fake Verification Tweet Steals Credit Card Information

MONTREAL CANADA - MARCH 20 2016 - Twitter application on android smartphone. Twitter is an online social networking service

Twitter users should be aware of a scam currently showing up in some feeds. The tweet claims to help them “verify” their accounts so that they can reach larger audiences. However, whoever is behind this one really just wants login details and payment card numbers.

It’s been reported that within a three-day period at least 812 people clicked on that fake tweet.

 

Another recommendation is to implement two-step verification on all Twitter accounts. This makes it more difficult for anyone to use the account fraudulently in the future. Twitter uses text to send a random six-digit code that must be entered before access is granted. Any time multi-factor authentication is offered for an online account, it’s a good idea to take advantage.

In addition, make sure to check payment card charges diligently for the next year at least. If anything looks unfamiliar, report it to the card issuing institution immediately.

All who have been or think they may have been victims of this scam should change their Twitter passwords right away. Make sure to use at least eight characters and combine upper and lower case letters with numbers and special characters.

Whenever entering sensitive information into a website, make sure the page is secured. It will show some sort of lock icon on the page and the address should be preceded by “https://.” In some cases, the URL or part of it will turn green to signify that it’s safe.

For this one, if a user clicks one of these fake links, a landing page appears that makes some good arguments for getting verified. Then if the “get started” button is clicked it will take the user through a series of pages asking for user name, password, email address, and other details. It appears this information is protected, as a “secure” icon shows on the address bar. However, it eventually asks for credit card details and that secure icon disappears. That should be a signal not to go any further in entering information.

To be clear, there actually is a Twitter verification process that is legitimate. You may see that little “promoted” icon on some tweets. That means that it’s likely a tweet that someone paid for in order to sell something or generate attention for some reason or another. Scammers know this process occurs and they are using it to their advantage.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security

Has Your Data Been Accessed? Yes It Has

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If you think you haven’t been the victim of a data breach, you are probably wrong. In fact, some experts think that more identities of those in the United States have been compromised than have not. It’s at the point that cyber criminals now may know more about us than companies with which we do business. In addition, Symantec reported that in 2015, additional tens of millions of personal records were stolen by or exposed to cyber criminals that were not reported. This is an 85% increase over the previous year. Security experts find this to be quite a disturbing trend.

Large companies that are targeted will likely be targeted multiple times in 2016. There are a few tips that both individuals and businesses can consider to help lower the risk.

For Individuals:

  • Use strong passwords that are at least eight characters and contain upper and lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Use a unique password for each online account and change them every three months if possible.
  • Be certain that any links or attachments clicked are safe. Confirm those that are unexpected before taking any action to view them.
  • Use anti-virus and anti-malware software on all devices. Keep it updated at all times. Make sure that all software products are kept up-to-date with the most current security and critical patches and that firmware is updated as well.
  • When deciding on what software or apps to use, do the research on the products. Read the reviews and make sure they are from reputable companies. Don’t be afraid to pay for them and be wary of freebies. Those should be researched even more thoroughly. When downloading apps, use the official app stores for your devices. Sideloading adds additional risk.
  • Limit what information you put on social media or disclose to anyone. The more you share publicly (even if it’s just to your friends, it’s still technically public), the more it may be used against you. This is particularly important on professional networking sites where you list your job title and function. Scammers often use that for business email compromise (BEC) scams.

For Businesses:

  • Implement multi-layer security including firewalls, reputation-based technologies, multi-factor authentication, and strong password policies.
  • Create an incident response plan (IRP). Practice what is included and review it annually and when response team members change or their information changes.
  • Provide ongoing training and education on security practices, procedures, and threat prevention. Make sure to include training on what is sensitive data, how to protect it, and what to do if a compromise occurs. Then make sure to test your users and address weaknesses appropriately.

Attributing to all the data exposure were several large breaches including Anthem (80 million), Premera Blue Cross (11 million), Avid Live Media (37 million) and the OPM breach (21.5 million at last count).

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security

How to Save Money on Holiday Meals

 

Family All Together At Christmas Dinner

 

While the holidays are a time for getting together with family and friends to be thankful for all that we have, unfortunately, they also often become the most expensive months of the year.  Big “get-togethers” mean big meals and that can mean big bills for whoever is playing host.

For most of us, gift giving, vacations, and time away for work can cause enough stress as it is on our wallets over the holidays; add the cost of hosting Thanksgiving and Christmas morning? Good luck. Therefore, it is extremely important to save where you can this time of the year, and luckily, cooking is an area you can really make a meaningful difference.

Here are three easy ways to help save your much needed money while prepping for holiday season and the expensive fun that comes along hosting.

Leverage Sales throughout the Year– Just like clothing, yard tools, and other “seasonal” products, certain foods considered to be part of typical holiday fare are often put on sale at off-peak times during the year. For example, Shopright’s “Can Can” sale is a great opportunity to get full cases of canned veggies, gravies, and other tasty items for as little as 20 cents a can!

These goods have long shelf lives, so why not stock up on the peas, corn, and of course, cranberry sauce for thanksgiving early in the Summer. Beef, turkey, and chicken stock can be used in everything from soups to sauces; these versatile ingredients should be in every pantry anyways, so again, leverage the major sales when they come up to continue to save big.

Plus, the variety of options during these sales are often greater as well; since the cost is so low, your family will enjoy trying out new products and different brands with very little financial repercussions for not liking them.

Do Your Own Baking – For many of us, the holiday season is a time for indulging in once a year sweets and desserts that we truly miss in the Spring and Summer. That means hundreds of cookies, dozens of pies, pan after pan of brownies, and endless batches of special breads and cakes.

If you can follow simple instructions (often on repetition if you have a big family), you can save significant funds by buying ingredients in bulk to do your own baking with as opposed to paying full price for the pre-boxed or store prepped versions.

Sure, the “pros” make delicious desserts, but why not try your own creation or kick start a tradition by bringing back an old family recipe again. Not only will it be fun for all, and add a lasting personal touch to an already meaningful holiday season, you’ll have that much more money for other family fun too.

Don’t be Afraid to Ask for Help! – You know how everyone always asks “what can I bring?” whenever you invite them somewhere? Well, there is absolutely nothing wrong with actually requesting something off of your to-do list.

For example, and this is obviously dependent on the size of your party, have a few couples bring dessert and a few others provide side dishes while you prepare the main course and some appetizers. Let’s face it, Fall and Winter in general, let alone the holidays, are just great times to get together and enjoy good food and good company; unfortunately, that tends to add up if you’re consistently playing host and shouldering the bulk of the expense.

Even if you are the one who’s lucky enough to have the “party house” in the family, where it is almost expected to be the spot, that doesn’t mean you need to also be a professional chef with a never ending bankroll. Take your family and friends up on their offer to help, heck some of them may even be good cooks too!

 

Salary Negotiations Can Help Boost Your Income When Changing Jobs

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Whether you’re actively looking to make a move or being lured away by a recruiter, a new job offers many opportunities for growth. Discovering how different organizations run and tackling the learning curve during the first few months is part of the fun, and struggle, of making a change.

Switching employers can also greatly benefit your financial future. While staying at the same job could lead to a modest annual raise, you might be able to negotiate a much larger jump in pay when changing companies. Negotiating a job offer can be daunting, but consider what happens if you don’t negotiate – you might wind up earning less than a hiring manager was willing to offer.

Do your homework to find an appropriate salary range before negotiating. Whether you are a veteran or a novice negotiator, you may want to spend time researching before sitting down at the table. Keeping in mind that compensation can vary depending on location, look online for studies or personal accounts that reveal the salaries of someone in a similar role.

Several for-profit companies compile and share compensation information online, and the Bureau of Labor Statistics has pay data based on occupation and geography. You could also reach out to recruiters who focus on placing candidates in your industry as they’re accustomed to discussing compensation.

The more data on your profession’s compensation you can get the better, because you want to be able to make a fact-based request. Ask for too much and you risk being seen as unreasonable or out of touch. Ask for too little, and that might be all you get.

Job seekers often get stuck on who says a number first. While advice ranges, one thing is for certain – you don’t necessarily want to use your previous salary as a starting point. Especially if your research reveals you’re below the current market rate, you want your next offer to reflect the experience and talent you bring to the table. If you’re being pressed to respond first, answer with the salary range you’re aiming for during your job hunt.

Don’t get stuck on money – keep the big picture in mind. It can be easy to fixate on the cash portion of your compensation when negotiating, but sometimes there isn’t any wiggle room in the budget. Look at the big picture of your potential pay and benefits. Perhaps a lower-than-desired cash offer is offset by a generous retirement contribution matching program, great healthcare benefits, stock incentives or bonus opportunities.

When the total compensation doesn’t meet your expectations, try to think outside the box and give the hiring manager alternative options. You could request additional paid time off, the freedom to work from home one day a week or a professional development stipend. After all, flexibility and personal growth can be more valuable than money.

At smaller companies, you could ask for a quarterly lunch with an executive in your department or your direct supervisor. A lunch won’t cost the company much money, but it could give you insight into the company’s future, let you know which skills to focus on developing and strengthen your personal relationship with higher ups.

Back up your request with valid reasons. Aim to reinforce each of your negotiation requests with a valid, relatable and quantifiable reason. When asking for more money, point to experience or skills that distinguish you from other candidates. Less traditional requests, such as meetings with an executive, could be justified by your dedication to self-improvement and desire to stay in touch with the company’s needs.

Bottom line. While changing jobs and negotiating an offer can be a challenge, moving to a new company could accelerate your salary’s growth. Before jumping into negotiations, take time to research the market, consider your overall wants and validate your requests. Presenting a coherent argument can help win over a hiring manager and set you apart from other candidates.

 

By Nathaniel Sillin

Leveraging the Internet for Your Next Car

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Buying or leasing a new car can be one of the most complicated and frustrating drawn out processes we encounter as we go through life. The very nature of the business makes it difficult to sift through the in your face advertising, hidden small print fees, and overly pushy salesman that litter the landscape of just about every car lot out there.

There are also seemingly two very different types of people in the world- those of us who love cars and go out of our way to know every small detail of what they are attempting to buy from engine to interior; and the rest of us who ultimately just want something spacious and reliable that won’t break the bank.

Regardless of if you are a car fanatic or someone just looking to fit the kids comfortably, however, obtaining a vehicle can be an equally expensive endeavor for all of us. That is why it is important to do all you can to approach the situation in an intelligent, prepared manner.

Researching and negotiating online has become a necessity when it comes to intelligent car buying in 2016. Rather than waiting to try and haggle with one salesman at a time across the town, why not make several dealerships work against each other to give you the best deal possible from the comfort of your own home?

First things first, you need to know exactly what you are looking for- a  grey 2008 Ford Escape with under 80,000  miles on it and a sun roof for example. Next, put a few feeler emails out there to different locations asking for best price while letting them know that you are speaking to several other dealerships for the best offer.

Experts suggest that there are three key areas you need to identify at this point- the credit for a trade in of your current vehicle (if that is even needed), the price of the car itself (including any needed financing rates, closing costs, etc.), and of course, the “bells and whistles” that come along with each deal in the form of incentive additions. Once you’ve identified your “winner” through a little comparison and requests for “last chance offers,” you get the luxury of walking into the dealership with everything basically done to the point of signature; hopefully ensuring a quick and painless closing process.

Here are a few more quick tips to remember while conducting your pre-purchase online research:

  1. Be sure to check a reputable publication like Edmunds for “true market value,” which reveals what buyers are paying for the same make and model as what you are looking at across the country
  2. For important mechanical, warranty, and incentive options, don’t forget to leverage the automaker’s website.
  3. Don’t forget to research the most important aspect of any car, its safety rankings. Check out both IIHS.org and SaferCar.gov amongst others.
  4. You can save by buy at the end of the” model year” and preferably at the end of the month when quotas may come into play.

Try to limit your financing applications to a 14-day period; all of your loan applications will only count as one inquiry, thus minimizing the impact on your credit, if everything stays within that timeframe.

 

Year-End Tax Moves That Could Save You Money

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The end of the year is approaching and between visiting friends and family and celebrating the holidays, your taxes may be the last thing on your mind. However, putting off tax preparation until later could be a costly mistake. While tax season doesn’t start until mid-January, if you want to affect the return you file in 2017, you’ll need to make some tax moves before the end of 2016.

You might make this a yearly tradition – while there may be slight alterations in the rules or numbers from one year to the next, many of the fundamentals behind tax-saving advice remain the same.

Sell losing investments and offset capital gains or income. Do you have property, stocks or other investments that have dropped in value and you’re considering offloading? If you sell the investments before the end of the year, you can use the lost value to offset capital gains (profits from capital assets). Excess losses can offset up to $3,000 from ordinary taxable income and be rolled over to following years.

Optimize your charitable contributions. Many people make an annual tradition of donating their time and money to support charitable causes. It’s a noble thing to do and could come with a tax benefit. The value of your donation to a qualified charitable organization, minus the value of anything you receive in return, could offset your taxable income.

Charitable contributions are deductible if you itemize deductions. However, most taxpayers find it best to take the standard deduction – $12,600 for married people filing jointly, $9,300 for heads of households and $6,300 for single or married people filing separately for the 2016 tax year. If it’s best for you to take the standard deduction for 2016 but you think you may itemize your deductions next year, consider holding off until the new year to make the donations.

Defer your income to next year. You might be able to lower your taxable income for 2016 by delaying some of your pay until after the New Year. Employees could ask their employer to send a holiday bonus or December’s commission in January. It could be easier for contractors and the self-employed to defer their income since for them, it’s as simple as waiting to send an invoice.

Don’t let FSA savings go to waste. Employer-sponsored Flexible Spending Accounts (FSA) let employees contribute pre-tax money into their FSA accounts, meaning you don’t have to pay income tax on the money. FSA funds can be spent on qualified medical and dental procedures, such as prescription medications, bandages or crutches and deductible or copays.

FSA funds that you don’t use by the end of the year could get forfeited. However, employers can give employees a two-and-a-half month grace period or allow employees to roll over up to $500 per year. Check with your employer to see if it offers one of these exemptions, and make a plan to use your remaining FSA funds before they disappear.

What can wait until after January 1? Procrastinators will be pleased to hear that there are tax moves you can make after the start of the new year.

You have until the tax return filing deadline, April 18 in 2017, to make 2016-tax-year contributions to a traditional IRA. The money you add could offset your income, and you’ll be saving for retirement – a double win.

The maximum contribution you can make is $5,500 ($6,500 if you’re 50 or older) for the 2016 tax year. However, the deductible amount depends on your income and eligibility for an employer-sponsored retirement plan.

Bottom line. Don’t wait for the tax season to start to take stock of your situation and get your finances in order. While there are a few tax moves that can wait, what you do between now and the end of the year could have a significant impact on your return.

By Nathaniel Sillin