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Consumer Archive

Consumer

Little pigs fall prey to Internet wolf

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MADISON, Wis. (3/31/10)--Remember the story about the three little pigs? Maybe you thought it ended with the wolf in a pot of boiling water. But here’s what happened next, according to the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) National Press Office ( March 12) and the Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance: The refund scam. To make some extra money, the Third Little Pig placed an online ad to rent out a room in his house of bricks. A wolf replied by e-mail, explaining that he was desperate to find lodging and was willing to rent the room sight unseen. The wolf sent a cashier’s check for several months’ rent, which the pig deposited and his bank cleared. However, the wolf soon called the pig to say that his plans had changed and asked for a refund. The pig sent him the full amount, but when the bank learned that the cashier’s check was counterfeit, the pig had to reimburse it for the lost money. Moral of the story:
* Request would-be renters’ personal references and check them out. * Be suspicious of anyone who offers to rent without viewing the property or offers a check written for more than the agreed-upon fee.
The missionary scam. His house of sticks destroyed, the Second Little Pig answered an online ad for a rental condo at a great price. Unfortunately the ad linked to a website for a fake real estate broker. The pig unknowingly dealt directly with the property “owner,” a wolf who claimed to be a missionary working overseas. Needless to say, when the pig wired the rent to the wolf, he never saw his money again. Moral of the story:
* Never send funds to someone about whom you know nothing. * Ask for a rental application. Be skeptical if one is not available, because most managed properties require one.
And the First Little Pig? The scams his brothers fell for were the last straw. He signed up for FBI fraud alerts, learned how to avoid common schemes, and is now living high on the hog in a very affordable three-sty apartment.

What health care reform means for consumers

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MADISON, Wis. (3/29/10)--Unless your annual income is more than $200,000 for a single person or $250,000 for couples, your Medicare payroll tax probably won’t change as a result of the health care reform President Barack Obama signed into law last week (CNNMoney 3/23/10). Affluent households will see their Medicare payroll tax bill go up. Right now that payroll tax is 2.9% on all wages, split between workers and their employers with each paying 1.45%. Starting in 2013, high-income consumers will pay another 0.9 percentage points, taking their share to 2.35% of wages, reports CNNMoney. For context, in 2008 about 4.5 million (3.8%) of all U.S. households earned more than $200,000, a number that may have dropped during last year's economic freefall and rising unemployment. High income consumers also would pay a new 3.8% Medicare tax on investment income, also starting in 2013. According to an analysis by Deloitte for CNN, consumers might not owe the full 3.8% on all their investment income: The tax applies to whichever is less--investment income or the amount that a person's modified adjusted gross income exceeds high-income thresholds. And while the new legislation is meant to provide access to health care for more than 31 million consumers who do not have coverage, the vast majority of Americans, who get coverage from their employers, will not see significant changes. An analysis by The New York Times (March 21) highlights these changes:
* Uninsured consumers who do not buy insurance would pay a penalty of $95 or 1% of income, whichever is more, the first year of coverage. The penalty could rise to as much as $695 or 2% of income. * Uninsured families below the income-tax filing thresholds would not pay anything, nor would people who can’t find a policy that costs less than 8% of their income. * Six months after enactment, many insurance plans would be blocked from placing lifetime limits on medical coverage and could not cancel policies of people who become ill. * Children with pre-existing conditions would not be denied coverage. * Parents could keep children on their health insurance plans until they are 26 years old. * People who have been locked out of the insurance market because of a pre-existing condition could get subsidized coverage through a new high-risk insurance program until 2014, when Medicaid and state-run insurance exchanges would kick in. * More lower-income consumers younger than 65 would be covered by Medicaid. A family of four earning less than $29,327, for example, would be eligible. * People earning more than $29,327 but less than $88,200 (for a family of four) would be eligible for premium subsidies. * Premiums would be capped at a percentage of income, from 3% to as high as 9.5%. * The so-called doughnut hole in Medicare prescription drug benefits--where millions of consumers now have to pay out of pocket--would be gone by 2020.
More changes become effective in 2014: Employers with 50 or more employees could face federal fines for not providing insurance coverage, and all lifetime and annual limits on coverage would be eliminated for people not able to get coverage through an employer. For more information, read “How to Keep Your Job When You Become Ill,” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio spotlights big cost cutting late tax tips

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WASHINGTON (3/26/10)--Sunday's H&FF Radio program presents suggestions on how to save big bucks by cutting costs, tips for young adults about how to manage their money, and last minute actions to save on 2009 taxes. This broadcast is a special event taped live at the Credit Union National Association (CUNA) Marketing Council Conference in Washington, D.C., which ended Wednesday. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. Sunday's show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* “Save Big: Cut Your Top Five Costs and Save Thousands!” Elisabeth Leamy, consumer correspondent, Washington, D.C., ABC’s Good Morning America, shares cost-cutting examples that she says can save you at least a thousand dollars. * “Financial Tips for Young Adults.” Dara Duguay, consultant, Dara DollarSmart, Washington, D.C., and former executive director of the Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, provides money management advice for the under-30 group. * “Last Minute Income Tax Tips.” Eric L. Smith, national spokesman, Internal Revenue Service, Washington, D.C., outlines ways to save on your 2009 taxes and describes how to get a six-month, no-excuses extension.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. For more information, read “Earn Tax Credit for Energy-Efficient Improvements” and “Live Simply to Reap Savings” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Prevent convenience check surprises this spring

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NEW YORK (3/24/10)--Consumer spending in the U.S. is expected to increase as warmer weather and the Easter holiday spring shoppers into action. Shoppers plan to spend an average of $118.60 this Easter season, a 2% increase from 2009, according to the National Retail Federation’s 2010 Easter Consumer Intentions and Actions survey. The small increase in discretionary spending is a positive sign for the economy (cnn.com March 16). While chocolate bunnies and spring sales coax a few extra dollars from wallets, be alert if you use convenience checks from your credit card issuer. These checks are indeed a useful convenience. Just be aware that they are cash advances with potential pitfalls consumers should consider (fdic.gov March 15). Here’s how to enjoy the convenience and avoid trouble:
* Understand the agreement. Know the interest rate and whether it will change after an introductory period. Also, know what transaction fees and other charges may be assessed. * Shred what you don’t use. Crooks search through trash for important documents and financial information. To prevent fraud, always shred unused convenience checks--and any valuable documents--before disposing. * Understand that different rules may apply. Use of a credit card allows you to withhold payment under certain circumstances for defective goods. Convenience checks do not provide the same protection.
For more information, read “Get Real About Credit” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Protect credit score when closing accounts

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McLEAN, Va. (3/22/10)--Credit card companies are imposing new and creative fees as they react to the credit-card reform law. As a consequence, like many Americans, you may be afraid you’ll get hit with an inactivity fee for not using a credit card. But closing that account could hurt your credit score. What to do? (USA Today March 9) It’s a tough call but, if you’re careful, you can close the cards you don’t use with little effect on your credit score. The best strategy is to pay down all your balances before closing any credit-card accounts. Here’s why: Your credit-utilization ratio--the total of your card balances divided by the total credit limit on all of your cards--traditionally has been the second-most influential factor in your credit score. Since the three credit bureaus rolled out a new formula to calculate scores in 2009, that credit-utilization ratio may be the most influential factor in your credit score. If you close cards you haven’t used in awhile without paying down the others, your total balance due becomes a higher percentage of your new, smaller, overall limit. Your credit-utilization ratio goes up. The best credit utilization is 0%; a good utilization ratio is less than 30%. And it doesn’t matter if you pay your credit card balances in full each month. What counts in credit scoring is the amount you've charged that month, because you never know on which day the score is calculated. Your best strategy: Pay down your balances before closing any card accounts to minimize the impact on your credit score. Be on the lookout for these five factors that carry the most weight in affecting your credit score:
* Your overall revolving debt. This is the amount of credit card debt you owe in relation to your available balances, both on an individual account basis and overall. Historically it weighed a little less than your payment history (30%) in determining your credit score. Now it counts the same or even more. Contrary to popular belief, it is better to owe a smaller amount on several cards than to max one card to its limit. A good long-term approach is to keep your balances between 10% and 35% of your available credit, and definitely at 10% in the three-to-six month period before you apply for any sizable loan. * Your payment history. Before 2009 it weighed the most (35%) in determining your credit score. Your payment history is still a big factor, but may weigh less than overall debt. Paying before the due date can mean the difference between an average and an exceptional credit score. By the way, your most recent history is more important than what you did a few years ago. * The length of your credit history. Raise your score by keeping accounts open for more than seven years. The length of your credit history accounts for about 15% of your credit score. Instead of closing accounts, work toward paying them off and then let the accounts remain open. Use them for small purchases that you pay off each month. * The number of inquiries and new debt in your records. Inquiries and new debt account for about 10% of your score. Fortunately, all mortgage inquiries within 30 days are grouped as one inquiry. Auto inquiries similarly have a 14-day limit. Since the formula changed in 2009, inquiries have less of an effect. * The kind of debt you incur. It’s still true that 10% of your score is based on the kind of debt you incur: installment debt (auto loans, for example) vs. revolving debt (credit cards). Credit bureaus look more favorably on installment debt than revolving debt. What’s new since 2009? You get points for successfully managing multiple types of debt (mortgage, auto loan, and credit cards).
For more information, read "Five Tips for the New Credit Card Era" in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio plumbs security breaches military family resources

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WASHINGTON (3/19/10)--Sunday's H&FF Radio program delves into consumer security breaches, buying food locally, teaching your kids the psychology of money, and resources for military personnel and their families. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. Sunday's show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* "Consumer Security Breaches Increase--U.S. Has No ID Theft Plan." Adam Levin, president and founder, I.D. Theft 9-1-1 and credit dot com, Scottsdale, Ariz., discusses why businesses and government should be more protective with consumer information. * "Eat Locally, Save Money, and Strengthen Your Local Economy with Tips from Farmers Market Cookbook." Scott Jones, executive food editor, Southern Living Magazine, Birmingham, Ala., discusses why to buy local and ideas for saving money at the market. * "Kids, Wealth, and Consequences: Ensuring a Responsible Future for the Next Generation.” Richard Morris, principal, Resource for Ownership Intelligence Consulting, and adjunct professor, Lake Forest Graduate School of Management, Chicago, Ill., provides information for parents who want to raise children with the financial and psychological skills needed in today’s world. * "Military OneSource." David Julian, a retired Naval commander representing the defense department, Washington, D.C., shares free resources--available 24/7 anywhere in the world--for military personnel and their families.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. For more information, read “Gouged by Groceries” and “Services, Sites Help Veterans Navigate Benefits” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

What I cant deduct that

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NEW YORK (3/17/10)--There’s no lack of tax-time publicity covering deductions for home and car buyers, individual retirement account (IRA) contributions, and even energy-efficient furnaces. With all the coverage, you might think you can write off almost any expense. Not so. Here’s a list of 10 common nondeductible items that just beg for trouble with the Internal Revenue Service (walletpop.com March 9):
* Gambling losses. Tax law is on the side of Lady Luck. Gambling winnings are taxable, but if you don’t have any winnings, you can’t deduct losses. If you lose more than you win, you can’t claim the excess. * Child support. Court-ordered alimony, or spousal support, is deductible. Child support is not. However, you may be able to deduct child-related expenses such as child care (irs.gov). * Roth IRA contributions. Many people make an IRA contribution by April 15 for that last-minute deduction. It doesn’t work that way for a Roth IRA. With a Roth IRA you can withdraw tax free; you can’t deduct contributions. With a traditional IRA, withdrawals are taxed. * Job change expenses.You can deduct expenses that help you maintain or improve your job performance, or are required by your employer or by law to keep your salary, status or job. Expenses that will help you qualify for--or find--a new job don’t count. * Commuting costs. The expense of getting to and from work isn’t a valid deduction. But you can deduct car-related expenses while on the job, such as traveling from one site to another, visiting customers or vendors, or attending business meetings off-site. * Personal legal expenses. Writing a check to defend a homeowner lawsuit or to recover losses from an accident seems like it should be deductible, but it’s not. Legal fees for personal actions aren’t a tax write-off. There’s an exception for individual taxpayers using attorney services related to obtaining tax advice. * Hobby losses that exceed hobby income. You may make a nice side income selling your homemade crafts on Etsy. If so, you’ll need to report income on your tax return. You can report expenses, but only to the extent that you have income. * Your time. When you volunteer for a charity, your reward is service and that warm fuzzy feeling. There’s no tax deduction, even if the value of your time is easy to ascertain, say, for a therapist or lawyer who bills by the hour. The good news is, you may deduct certain out-of-pocket expenses such as mileage. * Weight loss programs and health club memberships. The only way you can take this deduction is as a treatment for a specific disease diagnosed by a physician, along with an order for the treatment that lists a weight-loss program and gym membership. And then, the deduction only applies if the cost exceeds 7.5% of your adjusted gross income (irs.gov). * Home repairs. Unless your repair is the result of a federally declared disaster or loss from damage from unusual events like a flood, fire, or earthquake, you generally can’t take a deduction. Casualty losses have tax relief, but that’s not how you want to save on the tax bill.

Five signs census taker is a crook

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PHOENIX (3/15/10)--The 2010 census officially gets under way this week--most forms arrive in mailboxes today through Wednesday. But expect con artists to exploit this once-every-10-years event by getting you to let your guard down and divulge personal information to impersonators (AZCentral.com March 3). Legitimate census workers go door-to-door from the end of April to July to capture information from households that fail to mail back the form. Crooks know this and will attempt to collect information from you that’s not required by the census--personal information that could lead to identity theft. Take the census seriously, fill out the form, and mail it back. But don’t get taken by impersonators with smooth tactics. Know the five signs that point to a census scam:
* “Please verify your Social Security number.” Legitimate census takers don’t ask for this. In fact, there are just 10 simple questions on the form—that’s it. And a question about your Social Security number isn’t one of them. * “We need your credit union or bank account number.” No, they don’t. None of the census' 10 questions asks for financial data (MarketWatch.com Feb. 27). And the Census Bureau will never ask you for your PIN, passwords, or similar access information for credit cards or financial accounts. * “Please fill out your census form by replying to this e-mail or visiting this website.” That’s a sure sign it’s a scam, because the Census Bureau never will contact you by e-mail or ask you to answer questions on a website. * “Of course I’m a census taker--you know about the census, right?” Legitimate census takers carry official badges and will give you the phone number of the local Census Bureau office so you can verify identities. To be safe, find your regional census office phone number at Census.gov/regions and call to verify identities. * “In cooperation with the census, we’re asking for donations to a local charity.” Legitimate census takers don’t collect money for charities or political parties, according to the Census Bureau.
If you think you’ve been a victim of a census scam, contact your regional Census Bureau office immediately. Don’t reply to suspicious e-mails or click on links within e-mails that portend to be from the Census Bureau. Instead, forward the e-mail or website URL to ITSO.Fraud.Reporting@census.gov. Then delete the message. The Census Bureau will investigate and notify you of its findings.

HandFF Radio discusses business sale debt management

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WASHINGTON (3/12/10)--Sunday's H&FF Radio program takes a look at how to position your business for a successful sale, avoid getting stung on rebate offers, choose a legitimate debt management company, and benefit from the lessons of National Consumer Protection Week. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. The Credit Union National Association (CUNA) and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. Sunday's show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* "RIPE: Harvesting the Value of Your Business." Deborah Douglas, managing director, The Douglas Group, St. Louis, Mo., covers what business owners considering retirement or looking to cut losses can do to position their companies for a successful sale. * "National Consumer Protection Week." Jan Garkey, manager, adult education, CUNA's center for personal finance, Madison, Wis., talks about why folks need to pay attention to the messages long after the official week ends. * "Rebates: Harder to Get; Harder to Use." Edgar Dworsky, founder, ConsumerWorld.com and MousePrint.com, Boston, warns about picky rebate rules and describes how to get, and spend, every rebate dollar you earn. * "Consumer Tips on Debt Settlement Companies." Susan Grant, director of consumer protection, Consumer Federation of America, Washington, D.C., offers information about how to choose a reputable company to help you get out of debt.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve the country worldwide. For more information, read “Debt Settlement Sets a Costly Trap” and “Tough Times Series: Guard Your Small Business Against Fraud” in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Fed details credit card law changes

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WASHINGTON (3/10/10)--Most consumers are aware that credit card laws changed recently--that’s a good thing. Unfortunately, more than half (65%) don’t know the specifics, according to a January survey by the Consumer Federation of America and Credit Union National Association. To help consumers comprehend the new credit card protections, the Federal Reserve launched an interactive website in late February. Consumer’s Guide to Credit Cards explains credit protection laws and more. In addition to running through key changes of the Credit Card Accountability Responsibility and Disclosure (CARD) Act in English and Spanish, the site offers:
* A guide to the interest rates, charges, and fees section of credit card offers, with rollover interpretations of a sample offer; * Sample credit card statement, with rollover definitions; * Repayment calculator; * Video with five tips on using credit cards wisely; and * Glossary of common credit card terms.
Consumers will find valuable guidance--almost hidden on the site--under “5 Tips for Getting the Most From Your Credit Card.” The tips, succinctly put, are:
* Pay on time; * Stay below your credit limit; * Avoid unnecessary fees; * Pay more than the minimum; and * Watch for changes in the terms of your account.
This last point is essential. Since the first phase of CARD Act protections in 2009, large banks that issue cards have been adjusting terms to maintain profits. With the second phase of protections now in force, be alert for new fees and more rate changes. Better yet, instead of waiting, compare bank card terms with a credit union credit card. Since your credit union is a not-for-profit financial institution, any gain on credit cards is returned to members in the form of lower loan rates and better savings rates. For more tips on managing credit cards, listen to the “Credit Card Reform” audio file in Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

National Consumer Protection Week Fun for all

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WASHINGTON (3/8/10)--This week marks the 12th annual National Consumer Protection Week (NCPW), which ends Saturday and is presented by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) and its partners. This year’s theme--Dollars & Sense: Rated “A” for All Ages--stresses the importance of using smart consumer sense at every stage of life, from grade school to retirement (FTC website March 2). “This year we wanted to emphasize that kids are consumers and that they will be consumers in the future,” said Nicole Vincent, consumer education specialist in the Bureau of Consumer Protection with the FTC. “It’s never too early or too late to become a more informed consumer. “We’ve highlighted resources that are fun and creative in hopes of grabbing the attention of younger consumers,” Vincent said. For the first time, the NCPW website features a blog where visitors can find resources and read stories about consumer protection. The blog allows visitors to connect directly with representatives of public and private consumer protection agencies, and highlights available resources and fraud and scam alerts. “Scammers read headlines,” Vincent said. For instance, the earthquake in Haiti has brought a lot of public attention, but unfortunately also spawns scammers trying to swindle folks out of money. “We want to say ‘Yes, of course try to help, but be careful about which organization you’re giving to,’ ” Vincent added. The blog shows how to choose a legitimate charity. Credit unions, libraries, schools, colleges, city halls, and senior centers across the U.S. are participating in NCPW. Check out the event page on the NCPW website to find consumer protection fairs, shredathons or workshops in your area. To learn more about scams and how to prevent fraud, visit the “Consumer Protection” section of the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

HandFF Radio raises identity theft warning

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WASHINGTON (3/5/10)--Sunday's H&FF Radio program explores potential identity theft issues associated with predicted data breaches, explains how to help consumers living in poverty get ahead by matching their savings, and answers questions about the government's stimulus package and credit card repayment solutions. Home & Family Finance airs Sundays at 3 p.m. ET on the Radio America Network. The show also is carried on American Forces Radio Network. The one-hour program devoted to consumer finance issues is brought to you by America's credit unions and their 90 million members, and is presented by CO-OP Network. CUNA and Radio America are podcasting Home & Family Finance through iTunes, Podcast Alley, Odeo, and other popular podcast library sites, as well as on Radio America and CUNA's websites. Sunday's show, which you also can hear later via the Internet, features Paul Berry, Washington, D.C., journalist and broadcaster, discussing these topics with special guests:
* "Perfect Storm for Identity Theft Brewing: Worst Data Breach Yet to Come." Adam Levin, founder, Credit.com, and former director of the New Jersey Division of Consumer Affairs, Scottsdale, Ariz., warns of anticipated dangerous data breaches and how they might translate to a surge in identity theft cases. * "MatchSavings.org." Janette Klaehn, former vice president, communications, World Council of Credit Unions, Madison, Wis., describes how the website provides more lasting value than a handout or a loan through savings accounts, where you match a first-time saver’s deposits for housing, micro-business, education, or health care. * "Your Questions Answered." Host Paul Berry covers what's in the government's stimulus package for individuals and credit card repayment solutions.
Home & Family Finance is a resource center for personal finance information at CUNA. The radio show is sponsored by CO-OP Network, the national credit union ATM network; Cabot Creamery Cooperative, maker of award-winning cheddar; Western Corporate FCU (WesCorp) and its member credit unions; and the Defense Credit Union Council and member credit unions, serving those who serve our country worldwide. For more information, read the “MatchSavings.org Connects People, Builds Savings” article and view the “Guard Your Plastic Cards” video in the Home & Family Finance Resource Center.

Dont get hooked by tax scams

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MADISON, Wis. (3/3/10)--If Benjamin Franklin were alive today, he might amend his famous dictum, "'In this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death, taxes, and insidious attempts to cheat you via e-mail.” One of the most popular online cons is “phishing,” the request for personal information from an apparently legitimate source. This is the time of year when scammers often use the authoritative name of the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to collect financial details from careless victims. The Credit Union National Association's Center for Personal Finance offers this advice to avoid taking the “IRS phishing” bait:
* Do not respond to e-mail that purports to come from the IRS. Do not reply, click on links, or open attachments from someone claiming to represent the IRS or directing you to an IRS site. The Internal Revenue Service does not ask for passwords or other details about your credit union or bank accounts via e-mail--nor do those financial institutions. * Report suspicious e-mails to the IRS. Don’t fall for fake Treasury Department or IRS logos or a tone of urgency. You can see samples of phishing attempts at the IRS website (www.irs.gov), which also includes instructions for forwarding bogus e-mails. * Teach your children to protect their personal information. Young Internet users often take online communications at face value. A healthy skepticism about the Web has become a basic consumer protection skill, and parents can find opportunities to instill it in their children.