Beware of Tech Support Scams

How to spot a tech support scam

Tech support scams are growing at a rapid pace.  It seems you’re always putting yourself out on a limb when you call tech support. You dial the number the company gives you, and perhaps after a while of waiting, you’re connected to someone who may be working on the other side of the world in a completely different time zone. Then you’re asked to give this anonymous person identifying details about your phone or computer and the technical problems you’re experiencing.

Of course, you’re fairly certain the speaker works for your device’s company and you believe it’s perfectly safe to share this information. At the very least, they have contracted with this individual and are tracking their service.

All of that gets a little riskier when you’re asked to allow the tech support agent to have remote access to your device. This step is sometimes necessary to fix the glitch, but it can also be unnerving. Suddenly, it’s as if an invisible person has taken over your screen. Letters you haven’t typed are showing up on the display and the cursor is flying all over the screen, even though you haven’t touched the mouse.

You’re essentially letting someone have free access to a device that houses some of your most personal information. Yikes!

And that’s exactly what tech support scam artists are looking for with their nefarious hacks. It’s truly as awful as it sounds: In these scams, fraudsters contact victims and trick them into granting the scammer access to their computers. The crooks may reach out to people through a phone call, insisting the victims have a virus or another problem they’ve somehow detected from the company’s headquarters. Alternatively, they’ll send a popup to the victim’s computer which will flash dire warnings about an impending or existing virus that can be “fixed” by clicking on a link.

There are several outcomes of such tech support scams, none of them good. Sometimes, a scammer will trick you into installing malware on your computer, claiming you have to click on a link in order to heal your computer of its ills. Other times, they might sell you expensive “software” by making the same false claims. Still other times, they’ll direct you to a bogus tech support website where you’ll be asked to input your credit card information. And they’ll oftentimes simply help themselves to the sensitive data they find on your computer and then wreak havoc on your financial life.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Scams

Tech support scams are nothing new, but a recent wave of these scams has taken on an ironic twist. The very organization that leads the battle in taking down scammers is being exploited for a particularly heinous hack.

Scammers posing as FTC employees are calling victims, asking for remote access to their computers. They assure victims they can help restore any affected devices to their previous working conditions. Many of them are claiming to represent the FTC’s Advanced Tech Support Refund program.

This program was created to help victims of previous scams collect their refund money from the FTC. The scammers will convince the victims that they are moments away from seeing their money – they just need to provide the alleged FTC employee with remote access to their computer. They may also ask for an upfront payment before the refund can be issued or for checking account information, claiming it’s necessary for the refund to clear.

Of course, none of this is true and the caller has never worked for the FTC. In fact, the FTC will never request remote access to your device or ask you to pay to receive a refund. Also, their refunds are sent in check form via snail mail, and do not require any checking account information at all.

The FTC has alerted the public that the only genuine number to call for information about the Advanced Tech Support Refund program is 877-793-0908. If someone calls you on their own, assume it’s a scam. End the call immediately and report the incident to the FTC.  Check here for more info on the types of tech scams out there.

Recognizing Tech Support Scams

As mentioned, the wave of tech support scams in which fraudsters impersonate the FTC are easy to spot if you know this basic information about the FTC: They will never request remote access to your computer, ask for payment in exchange for a refund, or reach out to you on the phone.

Here’s how to prevent other variations of tech support scams:

  • Never click on a pop-up box that claims your computer has a virus and offers to clean it. This will only infect your computer or grant a scammer remote access to your device.
  • Always call tech support on your own; if they call you, especially if you’re not aware of any problem with your computer, hang up as quickly as you can.
  • Never agree to purchase expensive software online to fix an alleged virus.

Feel free to share this helpful infographic and article with family and friends.

How to spot tech support scams
How to Spot Tech Support Scams

If you think you’ve been scammed, tell everyone you know about it and be sure to alert the FTC.  It’s also a good idea to give us a call or stop by so we can take a look at your account and make sure it’s still secure.  Regularly changing passwords to email and other important personal accounts is always a good idea.  

Let’s do our part to put those crooks out of business for good!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a tech support scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!  You never know who you might help…

7 WAYS TO SPRING CLEAN FOR SUMMERTIME CASH

young woman cleaning off shelves looking for extra cash

Spring has been around a while and you still need two things:  cash and a clean house.  When that first delightful spring breeze started blowing, you knew it was time to get your house in shape.  And now, with summer just around the corner, you know it’s time to get busy.  

The warmer weather and the brilliant sunshine pouring through your windows can fill you with boundless energy. You’re going to banish those dust bunnies! Every piece of useless clutter must go! You are on a mission to turn your home into a sparkling palace that is completely free of junk. 

But there’s more than just a neat house awaiting you at the end of all that hard work. Here’s how you can spring clean your way to riches – well, almost. You won’t become a millionaire from your junk, but you’ll put some extra cash in your pocket just by taking a few extra steps while clearing out the clutter. And that’s always a good thing! 

1.) Trade in your electronics 

Don’t throw out that digital camera or printer just yet! Gather all the old gadgets and devices you no longer use and bring them to your local electronics store. They’ll likely offer you a gift card for your treasures. 

Some larger chain stores, like Best Buy, even run a retail-collection program to help you responsibly dispose of your old electronics. You’ll earn a gift card that can help you save money on your next purchase.  

2.) Get cash at the consignment store 

Your outdated clothing from the ‘90s might just be someone else’s idea of high fashion today. We’re looking at you, neon jeans! Instead of filling your local dumpster, bring your old clothing to the neighborhood consignment shop and see what they’re willing to take. If you’re open to traveling a bit, you can search for consignment chains that might be a little further out, like Plato’s Closet for teens and 20-somethings; Clothes Mentor which resells designer clothing for all ages; and Once Upon a Child, a chain that specializes in children’s clothing and toys. 

You can also look up consignment shops online, like ThredUp, Tradesy or Poshmark. And if all else fails, there’s always eBay! 

3.) Trade in your video games 

If you’ve got a serious gamer at home who always needs the latest and greatest, consider trading in your old games at GameStop. You’ll get a store credit that will help support this relatively costly habit and you’ll get rid of that huge pile of video games at the same time!  

4.) Sell old books 

Books take up lots of room, and if no one’s reading them, why not get rid of them for good? Look up your closest Half Price Books locations and bring your collection over to them in exchange for a tidy sum. 

If you’ve got a stack of textbooks lying around, earn back some of the money you shelled out for them by selling them online on BookFinder, Cash4Books or eCampus. 

5.) Sell your expensive electronics 

If you’ve got some older smartphones or laptops that are in decent condition, they should be able to fetch you a pretty penny. Try selling your stuff on Gazelle.com. They offer free shipping, and once your item is officially logged by the company, you’ll get paid via check, gift card, or PayPal. It’s an easier, faster option than selling on Craigslist or eBay. 

6.) Get cash for unused gift cards 

Do you have a pile of gift cards you will never use? It’s time to get rid of the whole lot – and make some money on the side! There are loads of sites that offer a gift-card exchange service, and though you may not make back the full amount, you’ll usually land a decent offer. Besides, if these cards were originally given to you as gifts, any money you make off them is extra. 

Try your luck with your gift cards at giftcard.com, giftcardgranny.com or tradya.com to fatten up your wallet with greenbacks instead of useless cards. 

7.) Donate to charity 

Donating unused clothing toys, or electronics to charity might be the easiest way to get rid of clutter. You’ll be helping out a worthwhile cause and making someone else happy with your belongings. As an added bonus, donating goods to charity will earn you a tax deduction, so long as you keep your receipt. Thrift shop chains like Goodwill and the Salvation Army will happily accept clothing that’s in decent condition, all kinds of housewares, used furniture, toys, gadgets and more. 

You’ll be making someone else’s day and earning a tax break at the same time. 

Spring cleaning is a chore that’s gotta be tackled with lots of energy, time, and hard work. With a bit of extra planning, you can earn some summertime cash in return for the work. 

Your TurnHave you spring-cleaned your way towards extra cash? Tell us what worked for you in the comments! 

5 Cringe-Worthy Credit Mistakes

Man cringing over credit card mistakes

You don’t need a special news alert to know…

…we’re all human.

Being human means we’re all bound to make a mistake or two when it comes to making credit decisions. Here are 5 of the most common credit card mistakes. See how many you’ve evaded.

Applying for every credit card under the sun (and being approved). Having a little buying power is great, but too much power can lead to a mountain of available credit and plenty of potential to begin mounting debt. This looks risky to a lender. Stick with one or two and be sure they’re the best card you can carry.

Misplacing your magnifying glass—you really do need to read the fine print. Within that tiny print lies the answer to whether you’ll be paying more to have that credit card in your wallet and how long. Do your homework–there are plenty of companies out there with annual fees, short introductory rate periods, difficult repayment terms, fees to transfer balances and more.

How does your card rate? Low, we hope. When applying for a credit card, you probably didn’t opt to be tied for life to its balance. Not shopping for the best rate can mean paying down a balance for much longer than you might realize. Save yourself some time, money and stress and search for the best rate you can get. The lower the rate, the faster the balance will be paid off.

Don’t listen to mom—less isn’t always more. When it comes to paying off high-interest credit cards, making the minimum payments may seem innocent enough, but it leads to bloated balances. To keep balances low and easy to maintain, don’t charge more than you can pay off within a month or two and be sure to make more than the minimum payment. Your future self will thank you.

Fashionably late or just bad credit karma? Though there isn’t a specific formula to follow for A+ credit, one thing’s for sure: making your payments on time, every time, is the best thing you can do to keep your credit score up. Be the life of your own credit party—be fashionably on time with your payments.

When you’re ready to begin building your own credit or make the switch to a card that’s in your best interest, look to MembersFirst to provide a reasonable solution to your credit needs (even for those who’ve thought ‘guilty’ after each of the 5 cringe-worthy mistakes above.) Visit membersfirstga.com for a list of solutions and details on our various credit card programs and promotions for anyone, at any age and any stage.

5 Car Finance Gimmicks and Tricks to Beware Of

Auto Loans — the offers are everywhere.  Some are greater than others while others just seem like a great deal, but are they really?

“0% for 6 months!” “No payments for 90 days!” “Cash back up to $3000!” “We’ll give you more for your trade!”

How do you know which great deal is really, well…a great deal?

While some could prove to work in your favor, here are a few auto finance gimmicks and deals to be mindful of.

  1. Too-Good-To-Be-True advertised discounts and rates.  Not all dealers are created equal.  Some use lower-than-usual rates and price discounts to draw buyers in.  The deal could be on one particular vehicle that may or may not still be available.  Be sure to get all the details before sitting down in a finance chair.
  2. Don’t be bullied by special discounts and offer time limits.  If you’ve been quoted a price with a substantial discount which also comes with a fast-approaching expiration date, don’t feel you need to make a hasty decision without time to consider.  The expiration date of a promotion should be clear and upfront and shouldn’t make you feel rushed into making a decision to buy.
  3. Focusing on the payment vs. the purchase price and terms.  While it’s important to make sure your payment falls within your means, don’t get caught up in what you would prefer to pay each month and neglect the details of the purchase price and finance terms.  Paying less each month, but stretching the terms longer to afford a higher-priced vehicle could prove to cost a lot more in the long-run.
  4. Substantial offers to pay off your trade.  You know what your trade is worth—so does the dealer.  If you’re offered much more than your trade is typically worth, be sure the overage hasn’t been retrofit into the finance side of the deal.  Traditionally, less is offered for your trade than its worth, so research the value before signing on the dotted line.
  5. Offers of 0% vs. Cash Back.  One way or another, a lender is going to profit from the sale of a vehicle.  0% offers usually work for the dealer by increasing the sales price of a vehicle.  Cash back deals are usually contingent upon the rate you pay or the price of the vehicle—sometimes both.  Give a good look to the fine print of these deals and consider traditional pricing and financing before these.

Get a quote from your credit union before finalizing a loan with a dealer.  Your credit union is here for you with one goal – to help you afford life.  It doesn’t matter where you find the car you choose (we do have some great friends at local dealers as well!), we will always check the values against the asking price, we’ll always give you a fair rate and we will ask for a copy of the vehicle title to avoid unnecessary hassle when it comes time to register your vehicle. Our GAP and Warranty programs are very affordable and save you from hidden dealer fees. You can protect your family and yourself in the event of unfortunate circumstances with our Optional Credit Life or Credit Disability Protection.  We share a financial relationship built on trust and value your membership as we work to fit your needs. You’ll always see the terms and conditions of our offers up front and receive fair pricing and rates on all the products and services we offer. With that in mind, you can feel comforted knowing an auto loan through MembersFirst is a great decision.

Ready to purchase your next vehicle?  Check with us first!  We have loan programs for everyone, in every stage of life.  Whether you’re just starting out on your journey to build credit, doing just fine or need a fresh start, look to MembersFirst!  Visit membersfirstga.com, give us a call at 404-978-0080 or stop by your local office to get the process started today. 

And, if you’re ready to start looking for a fantastic car, take a look at some of the services offered through MembersFirst:

Member Showroom:  A Car-Buying Service, Powered by TRUECar
Enterprise Car Sales:  A great pre-owned car-buying experience in your area

Goal Diggers: This one’s for you.

email header image hands on wheel splash logo color cropped

We talk often about that stress-inducing ‘B’ word (budgeting…), but why do we concern ourselves with building a basic budget and focusing on putting money in savings anyway?

One word.  GOALS.

Whether you’ve never given it much thought or voiced yours aloud, to your spouse, your mom or even to your barista, we all have financial goals.  Much like snowflakes, no two goals are exactly alike.  Your version of financial freedom may be freeing yourself from credit card debt while your BFF’s view could be paying cash for their next vehicle.

Regardless, you can’t quite get to the point of knowing how to get somewhere without defining where you’re going.  So, let’s take a moment to think on that topic:

“What do I want?”

Before the panic sets in as you realize you’re not quite sure what you want or maybe you feel you want too much and none of it feels attainable–we have good news.  Here’s a simple goal setting worksheet that helps you get it all down on paper and even helps you define the ‘why’ of it as well as suggests some next steps for tracking and rewarding.

Goal Setting Worksheet Preview
Goal Setting Worksheet

A few things to keep in mind when setting your financial goals.

1.  No goal is too small.  Believe it or not, your small goals help you build toward your larger goals anyway, so think small as much as you’d like.  Essentially, you’re testing the waters with a small goal so you can see and feel how the process works.  You’ll soon see how each of the saving/spending choices you’re making become easier.

2.  How do you eat an entire cake?  Bite by bite.  Yes, we threw a cliché out there (kinda).  But, it’s true… don’t become overwhelmed with the magnitude of your financial big picture.  Just like anyone else, you’ll be breaking each goal down into bite-size pieces that make sense for you.  Eventually, you’ll see it all coming together.  For some, that’s major motivation to keep pushing themselves to take more bites, or steps, toward their bigger goals.

3.  The only mistake is not starting to begin with.  You really only have two choices when it comes to reaching goals:  you can choose to work toward reaching them or choose to do nothing.  Even if you jot down your goals on scrap paper (note napkins count, too) and get started with a burst of enthusiasm and motivation then fall off the bandwagon (oops, another cliché) a quarter of the way through, well, at least you started.  Just don’t forget to restart.  You may have to pick yourself up and reassess, but you’re already miles ahead.  The bottom line is… it’s ok to mess up every now and then.

4.  Be lazy.  Yep.  Be lazy.  Make reaching your goals as easy on yourself as possible.  Use the tools available to you to make transitioning from a not-so-savvy to a super-savvy-saver simple.  Once you’ve set a budget to determine the amount you can comfortably save, go ahead and set up an automatic transfer to savings.  Or, even better, set up a payroll deduction from your paycheck to savings.  If you don’t see the cash entering and leaving your checking account, you’ll miss it less (if at all).

5.  See it and believe it.  For the visually inclined, personal vision boardsor tools which use images to help you better define and focus on a specific goal, are growing in popularity.  You can make yours as detailed or simplified as you’d like to help you stay on top of your goals.  For instance, if saving enough money to pay for your child’s future education is part of your plan, you may have photos of your child, images of colleges, books or school logos, along with inspirational quotes about growing up pinned, stapled, taped or glued to a poster board, corkboard or even a blank wall in your home.  Each time you pass these vision boards, they help you remember why you do what you do each day, especially when having to make a tough financial decision.

Gather your own inspiration from our “Vision Board” on Pinterest here.

6.  My goal is (not) better than your goal.  Who’s to say your financial goals are less important or exciting than anyone else’s.  You do you.  You know what works for you.  You know what’s most important to you.  Don’t worry if it seems your ideas of financial soundness aren’t aligning with your peers’; not everyone wants the same things.  In the end, what matters is you’re happy with your outcome.

Talk to us.

If you need a little push in the right direction, let’s talk.  You can drop by and talk with one of our Member Advisors a little bit about your goals, find out which tools you can use to make it easy on yourself and get a little guidance on where your focus should be.

And don’t forget that ‘note napkin’ or your Goal Setting Worksheet.  When someone asks you what your goals are and why, you’ll be ready to talk it through with them and work up a plan that best fits your budget and means.

Good luck, Goal Digger.

Download the Goal Setting Worksheet.