Banking Apps More Secure Than Using Your PC

Businessman doing online banking or making a purchase through an online store using his dank credit card and a mobile phone close up view of his hands

Jim Stickley, CEO of Stickley on Security had just finished spending an hour demonstrating various ways he could create malicious apps to rip off people via their mobile devices when someone said “I bet you never would use an app for online banking.”

Actually, he does almost all of his banking via mobile apps. Of course this probably shocks you as it would most. Especially since he has spent more than 20 years being paid to rob secured facilities, hack into corporate networks, and create malware that can get around even the most sophisticated security solutions. So why hasn’t he lost faith in cyber technology and in mobile banking in particular?

It’s because knowing how bad apps can be has also shown him just how secure the mobile devices really are in comparison.

Mobile apps can be malicious, no doubt. However, there are also limits to what a hacker can do with them. When a personal computer gets a virus, everything on that device is compromised. But, when a malicious mobile app is installed, the other apps on your device remain secure for the most part. This is the fundamental difference between the security of your computer at home and your mobile devices.

What this means is that the risks you face are directly related to the decisions you make when installing mobile apps. If you choose to only install apps from reputable organizations such as your financial institution, or from an official app store, and use those apps for their intended purposes, you should feel far more secure than you would by using your web browser on your personal computer to conduct online banking. While there are always risks, the simple fact is that right now, your mobile device is the more secure choice for banking online.

So, if you are going to bank on your mobile device, be sure to use the approved app from your financial institution or download it from the official app store for your device. It is also advised that you keep your mobile devices updated as soon as patches are released and install some type of reputable anti-malware app on them. There are many to choose from and some of the good ones are even free for basic protection. Just make sure you read the reviews and do other research before making your choice. 

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

IRS Agent Imposters May Take More Than Your Money

IRS tax auditor man with a stern or mean expression

The IRS was recently hit by hackers, compromising personal information for hundreds of thousands of taxpayers. It’s not the first time the IRS has been used to illegally obtain sensitive data from unknowing consumers. One effective scam, Impersonating IRS agents, is gaining in popularity among cybercriminals because it works so well.

Typically, contact is initiated through phone calls, texts and emails. This attempt also relies heavily on the element of fear. Contact, no matter how it’s done, preys on worries of the individual. It’s not unusual for the intended victim to hear they face jail time if they don’t pay up immediately. Those who aren’t legal citizens are popular targets, being told they need to fill out “legitimate” tax forms. These forms are altered by scammers, requiring sensitive information the real IRS forms don’t ask for.

It’s scary and it’s illegal, but it’s also preventable. Listed below are safeguards one can use to deter or completely avoid letting IRS impersonators from being successful.

•The IRS uses only the U.S. mail to make initial contact. Phone calls, texts, faxes, and emails are used only after first contact is made by legitimate IRS agents?

•Ask for the agent’s contact information such as name, ID number and, perhaps most importantly, their phone number. Thank them, immediately hang up and call the main number to the IRS (1-800-829-1040) or a number listed on the IRS website. It’s an easy and proven way to ferret-out scammers.

•Do not provide credit card numbers, purchase pre-paid debit cards, or wire money. IRS agents would never ask for wire transfers or pre-paid cards.

•Don’t give in to pressure to act immediately. Scammers rely on not giving you time to think. If someone is telling you that you’ll be arrested if you don’t pay right away, or other punishments will happen within moments if you don’t comply, think twice. Even if you know you may owe taxes, the IRS gives people time to think and correspond with them before acting. Nothing is immediate.

Call and contact the IRS and other agencies without hesitation regarding your experience and concerns. Visit the IRS website for more details and avenues for action. If the IRS is a government agency you dread hearing from, IRS impostors pose an even bigger nightmare. The best defense against them is education about the scam, and vigilance guarding against it.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Life Insurance at Various Life Stages

protecting a family

Your need for life insurance changes as your life changes. When you’re young, you typically have less need for life insurance, but that changes as you take on more responsibility and your family grows. Then, as your responsibilities once again begin to diminish, your need for life insurance may decrease. Let’s look at how your life insurance needs change throughout your lifetime.

Footloose and fancy-free

As a young adult, you become more independent and self-sufficient. You no longer depend on others for your financial wellbeing. But in most cases, your death would still not create a financial hardship for others. For most young singles, life insurance is not a priority.

Some would argue that you should buy life insurance now, while you’re healthy and the rates are low. This may be a valid argument if you are at a high risk for developing a medical condition (such as diabetes) later in life. But you should also consider the earnings you could realize by investing the money now instead of spending it on insurance premiums.

If you have a mortgage or other loans that are jointly held with a cosigner, your death would leave the cosigner responsible for the entire debt. You might consider purchasing enough life insurance to cover these debts in the event of your death. Funeral expenses are also a concern for young singles, but it is typically not advisable to purchase a life insurance policy just for this purpose, unless paying for your funeral would burden your parents or whomever would be responsible for funeral expenses. Instead, consider investing the money you would have spent on life insurance premiums.

Your life insurance needs increase significantly if you are supporting a parent or grandparent, or if you have a child before marriage. In these situations, life insurance could provide continued support for your dependent(s) if you were to die.

Going to the chapel

Married couples without children typically still have little need for life insurance. If both spouses contribute equally to household finances and do not yet own a home, the death of one spouse will usually not be financially catastrophic for the other.

Once you buy a house, the situation begins to change. Even if both spouses have well-paying jobs, the burden of a mortgage may be more than the surviving spouse can afford on a single income. Credit card debt and other debts can contribute to the financial strain.

To make sure either spouse could carry on financially after the death of the other, both of you should probably purchase a modest amount of life insurance. At a minimum, it will provide peace of mind knowing that both you and your spouse are protected.

Again, your life insurance needs increase significantly if you are caring for an aging parent, or if you have children before marriage. Life insurance becomes extremely important in these situations, because these dependents must be provided for in the event of your death.

Your growing family

When you have young children, your life insurance needs reach a climax. In most situations, life insurance for both parents is appropriate.

Single-income families are completely dependent on the income of the breadwinner. If he or she dies without life insurance, the consequences could be disastrous. The death of the stay-at-home spouse would necessitate costly day-care and housekeeping expenses. Both spouses should carry enough life insurance to cover the lost income or the economic value of lost services that would result from their deaths.

Dual-income families need life insurance, too. If one spouse dies, it is unlikely that the surviving spouse will be able to keep up with the household expenses and pay for child care with the remaining income.

Moving up the ladder

For many people, career advancement means starting a new job with a new company. At some point, you might even decide to be your own boss and start your own business. It’s important to review your life insurance coverage any time you leave an employer.

Keep in mind that when you leave your job, your employer-sponsored group life insurance coverage will usually end, so find out if you will be eligible for group coverage through your new employer, or look into purchasing life insurance coverage on your own. You may also have the option of converting your group coverage to an individual policy. This may cost significantly more, but may be wise if you have a pre-existing medical condition that may prevent you from buying life insurance coverage elsewhere.

Make sure that the amount of your coverage is up-to-date, as well. The policy you purchased right after you got married might not be adequate anymore, especially if you have kids, a mortgage, and college expenses to consider. Business owners may also have business debt to consider. If your business is not incorporated, your family could be responsible for those bills if you die.

Single again

If you and your spouse divorce, you’ll have to decide what to do about your life insurance. Divorce raises both beneficiary issues and coverage issues. And if you have children, these issues become even more complex.

If you and your spouse have no children, it may be as simple as changing the beneficiary on your policy and adjusting your coverage to reflect your newly single status. However, if you have kids, you’ll want to make sure that they, and not your former spouse, are provided for in the event of your death. This may involve purchasing a new policy if your spouse owns the existing policy, or simply changing the beneficiary from your spouse to your children. The custodial and noncustodial parent will need to work out the details of this complicated situation. If you can’t come to terms, the court will make the decisions for you.

Your retirement years

Once you retire, and your priorities shift, your life insurance needs may change. If fewer people are depending on you financially, your mortgage and other debts have been repaid, and you have substantial financial assets, you may need less life insurance protection than before. But it’s also possible that your need for life insurance will remain strong even after you retire.

For example, the proceeds of a life insurance policy can be used to pay your final expenses or to replace any income lost to your spouse as a result of your death (e.g., from a pension or Social Security). Life insurance can be used to pay estate taxes or leave money to charity.



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.

Instagram Money Scam Involves Your Debit Card and PIN

banking loan or cash concept, businessman give money

People can be too trusting and in the world of the Internet, that can be dangerous. There is a scam that promises to make you rich using Instagram; and who wouldn’t want to be rich if it’s as easy as sending your debit card and bank account to a nice looking person on your Instagram feed? Be aware though, that nice and seemingly trustworthy person who promises to help you, may run off with the entire contents of your bank account.

The scam is not new, but the strategy has evolved and in such a way that it really seems a bit crazy to believe. It’s a variation of the money flipping scam. The nice person holding a wad of 20 dollar bills in a photo claims it and more can be all yours if you just send her your debit card and PIN so she can deposit money directly into your account. And if it is that easy to get rich, why wouldn’t you do it?

The scammers actually may deposit money in to your account with a check. Then, shortly after, you will see a withdrawal of a much larger amount. The check was fake, of course, and not only does your new Instagram contact disappear with your money, but you may also owe the bank some fees as well.

  • Never give your debit card to anyone and consider your PIN especially secret.
  • Consider strangers you meet on the Internet as you would those you just met walking down the street. If you wouldn’t give someone you met on the street your debit card and PIN, why would you send it to someone you never met and only know through social media?
  • It isn’t possible to get rich quick, so don’t fall for the easy money ploys.
  • No legitimate advertiser will ask you to mail in your debit card and give out your PIN, so that should be a big red flag that the offer is a scam.

An example of this “flipping money” scam came from a young person who saw an ad on a social media site. The promise was that if she sent a text to a number, a person sent instructions for where to send her debit card and PIN. The scammer said she’d make the victim $4,000. The debit card was kept for a week and instead of $4,000 being deposited to her account, she was told she owed the bank $6,000 and the deposited check was a fake. Of course the scammer’s Instagram account was deleted and the scammer was nowhere to be found.

If you have been the victim of this scam, contact local law enforcement and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Instructions for doing this are on the organization’s website.

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security

Seven Bad Money Habits to Curb Now

broken piggy

Whether it is biting our fingernails, losing track of house keys or procrastinating; we all have some bad habits that we’d like to break. Often, we simply “accept” our bad habits without thinking about how they may actually be standing in the way of us living our lives as we want to. When it comes to making the most of your money, consider curbing some of these actions that may be taking a toll on your wallet.

  1. Ignoring your bills: Just because you don’t look at them does not mean they don’t exist. Mail has this unfortunate way of piling up very quickly, so take a few minutes every day to sort through your papers to make sure you don’t miss bills or other important paperwork. Setting up automatic payments through your bank can make this process easier.
  2. Maxing out your credit cards: When used correctly, credits cards are an effective and useful tool in helping you to make big purchases and build a good credit history. The key is paying off your balance every month. Be wary of spending up to your credit limit and just paying off the minimum amount each month. That is one way people fall easily into debt.
  3. Not contributing to your 401k plan: It may feel like you have absolutely no money to spare, but investing in your company’s retirement plan is crucial to building a nest egg for the future. Start by talking to the HR person at your company and learning about your benefits. Then, try to contribute as much as your company matches since it is essentially free money towards your personal savings.
  4. Spending blindly: It’s important not to be oblivious to how much money you spend on a daily, weekly and monthly basis. All of those receipts for gas, snacks, soft drinks and restaurants add up very quickly if you are not aware of how much you are spending every day. You can use this calculator to create a budget for your daily expenses.
  5. Not having an emergency fund: Whether your car breaks down, you chip a tooth eating, or you get laid off – unexpected events can wreak financial inconvenience and havoc. Save regularly for a rainy day (experts recommend having 3–6 months worth of living expenses saved) so you will be covered if the unexpected happens.
  6. Living beyond your means: With so many temptations from new electronic equipment, to new fashion every season, to “big” sales every other day at your favorite department store, it is easy to fall into the habit of constantly buying new things. Becoming a financially disciplined person is simply learning how to resist the urge to spend what you don’t have. You can use this Saving for a Goal calculator to set aside money for something special.
  7. Stop playing money mind games: What we say to ourselves and to others about our finances can have a big impact on how we interact with money. Watch out for statements like, “I’ve never had money, and I will never make any money,” “Shopping is my therapy,” and “But, I’ve always let my partner take care of our finances.” Be aware of excuses and negative talk that may keep you from feeling confident about being able to manage your finances.

For more ways to break bad money habits, check out this Bankrate article.

Copyright© Visa

Online Summer Shopping Safety: Shop Safe, Shop Smart

Beautiful woman shopping by computer over internet.

It’s that time again! Shopping for back-to-school and summer sales is a great way to save some cold cash. Internet shopping is a quick and easy way to find super sales and bargains galore. However, the truth is internet thieves are ready to shop with you. Easy access to shopper accounts and passwords make life easy for those looking to relieve you of your hard-earned dollars.

There are ways you can make it difficult for the bad guys to gain your information. Following a few simple steps give internet interlopers a hard time getting access to your accounts. Hopefully these crooks will give up on you. So, get ready, take aim and guard your information!

Don’t pass on great passwords.

It’s true. When creating accounts on shopping sites, start smart with passwords using a mix of upper and lower case letters and numbers. Use a special character or a few. Don’t use dictionary words either. Regularly change passwords and avoid reusing the same ones for different accounts. All of these help give your summer-deal shopping a great start!

If you don’t know it, don’t put your money on it!

Use websites you trust or are well-known. If it looks phishy, it probably is. Scammers have ways of making websites look official, gaining your trust. Look for little things giving a disreputable site a series of red flags. Misspellings and bad grammar are easy to spot. Incredible offers may also be a lure by phishing desperadoes.

Do your homework

A few minutes well-spent may keep you from a world of hurt. Do a little background search regarding bad reviews and rip-off reports from previous shoppers on a site. Someone’s unfortunate shopping experience should be your warning to stay away. And remember that just because it shows up on Facebook, doesn’t mean it can be trusted. Scammers use social media to lure victims all the time.

Get the right connection

Always shop at websites beginning with “https:” That way you know your information is less likely to be railroaded into someone’s scamming attempts. If you don’t see the “s” on the end of the http, skip it. There is usually a lock icon somewhere on the browser to give you more sense of security as well.

Avoid using unsecured Wi-Fi. Internet shopping on public sites is an open invitation for scammers. Shopping on smartphones isn’t any safer than using a tablet or desktop computer. Use the same security measures on all your devices. Remember that if you are shopping from your mobile device, only use apps that you downloaded from the official app stores for your device.

Protect your PIN

Use a credit card when making online purchases rather than a debit card. If a crook gets both your card number and the PIN, he can recreate your card and drain your account. Instead, use the credit card features, a gift card, or other payment types such as PayPal when offered.

Following these basic guidelines is the start to a safe internet shopping spree. Common sense and intuition, along with computer smarts are your best defense against scammers. Don’t help these crooks steal your identity, ruining your summer shopping deals. Arming yourself and those you love is the best deal of all!

© Copyright 2015 Stickley on Security