Consumer Alerts

Protect Yourself from Gift Card Scam December 6, 2018

Scam-AlertIt is being reported that several old and reliable scams are circulating in the area. These have included email impersonations of executives requesting gift cards for the holidays, human resource record requests, payroll information changes, and fraudulent local sports fundraising campaigns.

 

With the holiday season these activities usually peak. 

 

A few businesses in the area have fallen victim to this scam. We encourage you to advise your staff to watch the email addresses requesting gift card purchases and pay close attention to unusual requests from internal personnel, dealing with customers, and personally.

 

Be safe out there!

 

Are You Covered for 2019? Don’t Miss the Deadline! November 26, 2018

It’s a busy time of year. The holidays have rushed in and you’re probably swamped with shopping, decorating, parties, and visits from the in-laws. In the midst of year-end chaos, don’t miss an important deadline. Open Enrollment for 2019 coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA) ends on Saturday, December 15.

Have you signed up for a plan for next year? If not, contact your insurance provider right away to make sure you have coverage when the calendar flips to 2019. ACA coverage is provided through the Health Insurance Marketplace for those who don’t have health insurance through another source, such as an employer or Medicare. Cost for the insurance is based on your income.

Your insurance agent can walk you through the various options available and help you complete the necessary paperwork. To sign up for a plan, you’ll need information about the size of your household, basic contact information and social security numbers for those being covered, employer information, income amounts, and current policy numbers if you have 2018 coverage.

 

2019-open-enrollment-calendar

 

What happens if you miss the deadline? Certain individuals may qualify for a Special Enrollment Period. Others may be eligible for an extension. For example, those whose current plan was discontinued and those who have had certain life events, such as getting married, usually qualify for an extension. Additionally, some states offer state-based marketplaces that have deadlines later than December 15. Areas affected by hurricanes have also been given extensions.

Contact your agent to determine if you qualify for any of these special circumstances and to get your coverage process underway.

Correct Way to Dispose of Old Computers October 24, 2018

old_computer_recycleGetting rid of your old computer? You can ensure its hard drive doesn’t become a treasure chest for identity thieves. Use a program that overwrites or wipes the hard drive many times. Or remove the hard drive, and physically destroy it.

 

Understand Your Hard Drive

Computers often hold personal and financial information, including:

  • passwords
  • account numbers
  • license keys or registration numbers for software programs
  • addresses and phone numbers
  • medical and prescription information
  • tax returns
  • files created automatically by browsers and operating systems

When you save a file, especially a large one, it is scattered around the hard drive in bits and pieces. When you open a file, the hard drive gathers the bits and pieces and reconstructs them.

When you delete a file, the links to reconstruct the file disappear. But the bits and pieces of the deleted file stay on your computer until they’re overwritten, and they can be retrieved with a data recovery program. To remove data from a hard drive permanently, the hard drive needs to be wiped clean.

 

How to Clean a Hard Drive

Before you clean a hard drive, save the files you want to keep to:

  • a USB drive
  • a CDRom
  • an external hard drive
  • a new computer

Check your owner’s manual, the manufacturer’s website, or its customer support service for information on how to save data and transfer it to a new computer.

Utility programs to wipe a hard drive are available both online and in stores where computers are sold. These programs generally are inexpensive; some are available on the internet for free. These programs vary:

  • Some erase the entire disk, while others allow you to select files or folders to erase.
  • Some overwrite or wipe the hard drive many times, while others overwrite it only once.

Consider using a program that overwrites or wipes the hard drive many times; otherwise, the deleted information could be retrieved. Or remove the hard drive, and physically destroy it.

If you use your home or personal computer for business purposes, check with your employer about how to manage the information on your computer that’s business-related. The law requires businesses to follow data security and disposal requirements for certain information that’s related to customers.

 

How to Dispose of Your Computer

Recycle it.

Many computer manufacturers have programs to recycle computers and components. Check their websites or call their toll-free numbers for more information. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has information about electronic product recycling programs. Your local community may have a recycling program, too. Check with your county or local government, including the local landfill office for regulations.

Donate it.

Many organizations collect old computers and donate them to charities.

Resell it.

Some people and organizations buy old computers. Check online.

Remember, most computer equipment contains hazardous materials that don’t belong in a landfill. For example, many computers have heavy metals that can contaminate the earth. The EPA recommends that you check with your local health and sanitation agencies for ways to dispose of electronics safely.

This article and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only.  The publisher will not be responsible for errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. 

Sources: Federal Trade Commission – Consumer Information

 

Protecting Yourself Online October 15, 2018

Though the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. According to a Norton Cybercrime Report, 143 million U.S. consumers were victims of cybercrime in 2017. The American Bankers Association recommends the following tips to keep you safe online:
  • membersloginKeep your computers and mobile devices up to date.  Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Establish passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. 
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with. 
    • Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email. 
  • Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download malware onto devices and/or/ route users to bogus websites. Hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL that you are being routed to. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL. For example: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc.  Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it. Consider using a Virtual Private Network (VPN) app to secure and encrypt your communications when connecting to a public Wi-Fi network. (See the Federal Trade Commission’s tips for selecting a VPN app.)
  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

This article and any information contained herein is intended for informational purposes only.  The publisher will not be responsible for errors or omissions or any damages, howsoever caused, that result from its use. 

Sources: American Bankers Association

Online Dating Scams October 5, 2018

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