Wire Fraud Phishing Scams on the Rise in 2016

Thin line flat design of internet banking transaction secure money transfer using credit card online financial business operations. Modern vector illustration concept isolated on white background.

Wire fraud phishing scams are not new. In fact, they seem to be on the rise. Between October 2013 and August 2015, the FBI reported that nearly $750 million was stolen from over 7,000 U.S. companies using this method.

It isn’t limited to the United States either. It happens in Canada and according to The Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre, this type of Business Executive Scam typically results in losses of more than $100,000 for a company. In that country, in the first eight months of 2015, this type of fraud cost companies $6 million. Compared to all of 2014, that is on target to surpass the $19 million from all of 2014.

What can people and companies do to avoid this?

  1. Read emails, particularly unsolicited ones very carefully if they present any kind of urgent situation that supposedly requires immediate attention. This is one clue that it may be phishing.
  2. If asked to wire or transfer funds from a company account, confirm and re-confirm with the requestor by means other than email to make sure it is legitimate. Don’t simply reply to a message.
  3. Set up a separation of duties process so that no one person can wire money alone. It should require signatures and approvals from at least two people.
  4. Pay attention to grammar and spelling, as well as logos and formatting of email messages, and signatures, even when you know the sender. It’s easy to fake an email address, so when in doubt, trash the message.
  5. Look for urgency cues such as “this needs to be done immediately,” or phrases like “I can’t answer calls right now, so please email back.” These make it seem urgent and attempt to bypass any separation of duties processes that may be in place.

Don’t forget that taking a few minutes to educate staff on how to identify fraudulent requests and phishing email will go a long way in protecting your organization.

© Copyright 2016 Stickley on Security

Personal Finance Gifts for the New Graduate

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College graduation season is upon us. How about a gift that will really mean something to a student in your life?

The best graduation gift may not be just a check in an envelope – it’s coming up with a few great, memorable ideas to help a new grad get a great financial start in life. At a time when money skills for young adults have never been more important, consider the following:

Buy them a session (or more) with a money coach. If you already work with a qualified financial planner or professional tax preparer, why not pay for a session or two for the new grad to help them work out their first budget as a working adult? Take the time to talk with the professional about specific financial issues the grad will need to address as well as their first, formal budget setup if they’ve never budgeted before.

Help them get a start on their retirement savings. Again, most of these gift ideas can come from one person or a group throwing in cash contributions. Consider taking your new grad out to open a Roth IRA (https://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Roth-IRAs) or Traditional IRA (https://www.irs.gov/Retirement-Plans/Traditional-IRAs). Early retirement investing is one of the most important lessons any new college grad can learn.

If they’re continuing school, create a 529 plan or contribute to an existing one. Many new college graduates return to school to start a master’s degree or other advanced training. If such an idea makes sense for your finances, consider opening or contributing to a 529 college savings plan (https://www.irs.gov/uac/529-Plans:-Questions-and-Answers) to support their continuing education. A 529 plan is a college savings plan set up by a state or educational institution that offers tax advantages and potentially other incentives to make it easier to save for college and other post-secondary training for a designated beneficiary, such as a child or grandchild. A friend or a relative can set one up and name anyone as a beneficiary – the new grad, another relative, even yourself – and there are no income restrictions on doing so. You’ll also be free to change the beneficiary if necessary. One suggestion – before you act, talk it over with the new grad or his or her family members to make sure this is the best approach for helping with their future education.

If your new grad loves a company, consider buying them a few shares. Again, evaluate this decision against your own finances and parental opinion, but if there is a particular company the new grad has bought merchandise from or otherwise has taken a great interest in, consider going with them to a brokerage to buy a few shares in the company. Make it a lesson not only in the purchase process, but in the valuation, tax and ownership issues anyone has to deal with as a long-term shareholder. Even though he or she will probably own more investments in mutual funds over a lifetime, understanding the ownership of individual stocks will inform all the investing they do.

Bottom line: Money issues can be daunting for today’s new graduate. Why not disarm their concerns with some solid advice from experts you trust? By offering up basics in budgeting, saving and investing, you just might become one of their favorites.

 

By Nathaniel Sillin

3 Financial Tips That Will Lead to a Better Mortgage

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Buying a house is one of the most exciting (and nerve-racking) times in a person’s life. As you begin reviewing the inventory that is available in your local towns, you’ll want to take several pro-active steps to ensure that securing a mortgage is as easy as possible when the time comes to bid.

Since you’ll be dealing with what seems to be mountains of legal paperwork, the stress of selling off any old properties you have, and literally scouring each bank account you own for every piece of usable savings, it is important to have a clearly organized path towards successfully obtaining a mortgage neatly laid out in front of you.

It is in that light that experts suggest focusing on the following 4 tips as you prepare to formally buy a house

  1. Clean up Your Financial Life– The first step towards successfully securing a mortgage is to make sure that your (and your fiancée’s!) personal expenses are in proper order. Look into every credit card and recurring bill to make sure there are no large outstanding balances. Double check that your accounts are all in good standing and that you are up to date on your taxes. Most importantly, make sure that there are no unusually large deposits in the bank account you plan on leveraging for your down payment within at least 3 months of your planned bidding date; loan advisers will not only want to see your detailed bank account history, you’ll have to formally explain every non-recurring paycheck deposit of over a $1,000. Simply put- they’ll want to make sure you aren’t relying on non-maintainable means for your home like a family loan.
  1. Get Pre-Approved– Becoming pre-approved adds a certain level of “seriousness” to your bidding ability. Sellers will be much more inclined to accept an offer from a pre-approved buyer because there’s significantly less uncertainty as to whether they can afford to purchase the house. From a buyer’s point of view, providing the necessary tax returns, bank statements, and paycheck stubs to get pre-approved early in the process will only save you valuable time on the back end; there’s no need to over-complicate the closing with unforeseen financial issues that can stop you from receiving your mortgage in the “25th
  1. Be Smart About Closing Costs– Most people totally forget about closing costs when it comes to planning out the percentage they want to establish as their down payment. Deposits, attorney and agency fees, inspector invoices, etc. all need to be accounted for to ensure a smooth transaction. There are so many things that can slow or completely halt a closing process. Make sure you’re financially equipped.

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.

fedexscam2

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