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What Can I Do About Robocalls?
Are you sick of grabbing your ringing phone only to find a robocaller on the other end?  Read on for the inside scoop on robocalls and what you can do about them.

How do they have my number?  Thanks to the internet, scammers and telemarketers can find almost anyone’s phone numbers.  Robocallers also buy numbers from companies or websites that require visitors to submit basic information that includes phone numbers. Other times, robocallers simply dial thousands of numbers at random.

Who’s on the other end of the line?  Robocalls might try to sell you a product or urge you into signing up for services. Other times, they’ll try to scam you by appearing to represent a government agency. Even if just a few people are taken in by the scam, the minimal cost of running the calls is more than worth it for the person behind the calls.

Here’s how the robocalls take a stab at appearing authentic:

  • Spoofing. Using software, the robocaller tweaks the way their number shows up on caller ID. They can make it look like the IRS is on the phone, your electric service company is calling or like a representative from Apple is trying to reach you.
  • Disguised identity. Robocallers may also choose to show up on your caller ID as “private number,” “unavailable” or “unknown.”

How to block robocalls

  1. Don’t answer calls from unfamiliar numbers – If you don’t recognize the number on your caller ID, let it go to voicemail. Ignore all calls from recognized companies you have no reason to believe are calling you as well.
  2. Block unwanted numbers – If there’s a specific number that calls you persistently, use your phone to block it from reaching you again. Next, check with your phone service provider about possible technologies you can download to block anonymous calls or those from specific area codes. Consider downloading a robocall-blocking app, such as Nomorobo, RoboKiller, Hiya or TrueCaller for a stronger defense against unwanted calls.
  3. Require caller input – Consider setting up a call-blocking technology, such as the Sentry Active Call Blocker, to greet callers with a message requiring them to enter a number before the call can proceed. That’s something robots can’t yet do.
  4. Don’t share your number – Never share your phone number with random websites unless you absolutely must.
  5. Sign up for the Do Not Call Registry – Visit www.donotcall.gov to add your numbers to the list of registered callers who don’t want to be bothered by telemarketers.
  6. File a complaint – If you’ve signed up for the Do Not Call Registry and, after a month, are still receiving robocalls from certain companies, file a complaint at ftc.gov.

Take action against robocalls today and reclaim your peace! 


Beware the Password Scam!

How it works
The victim gets an email from a "hacker" claiming to have cracked their passwords, broken into their computer and used their webcam to watch online activity. They'll threaten to reveal that the victim has been visiting disreputable sites or to loot their accounts-unless the victim pays a steep price.

To prove that they are "legitimate," the scammers will share a password that the victim had used many years ago. They'll often include the password in the subject line to grab the victim's attention.
 
If you receive an email like this, don't panic. There's no professional hacker behind the scam, and no one has watched your online activity. The simple explanation for how the scammer got your password lies in previous breaches.
 
Over the last decade or so, there have been massive database breaches of major corporations, sites, and retail stores like Yahoo, eBay, Target, and more. Thanks to these breaches, there are now huge amounts of personal data and passwords floating around the internet. This data can be easily nabbed by a partially skilled hacker or purchased illegally.
 
How to spot the scam
Many potential victims recognize this scam for what it is as soon as the hacker claims to have dirt on them. For others, the outdated password is their clue. However, for victims who have been using the same passwords for years, this old code might still be in use and the scam seems legit.
 
If you receive an email with your password in the subject line, ignore the message and delete it.
 
Protect yourself
There's not much you can do about the sensitive data loose on the internet. However, you can protect yourself from falling prey to this, or a similar scam. Here's how: 
1. Update your and use strong, unique codes for each site.
2. Choose two-factor authentication when possible.
3. Never open emails from suspicious sources.
4. If you are targeted, alert the FTC at ftc.gov.

Tax Bill - Some Key Changes

RETIREMENT ACCOUNTS
Despite efforts to create limitations on the availability of pre-tax contributions to 401(k) retirement plans, Congress decided to leave retirement plans largely untouched after receiving powerful pushback from taxpayers in all sectors of the economy. The Act did make some minor changes though, including changes to a rule regarding the ability to convert funds in traditional IRAs to Roth IRAs. Currently, taxpayers have the ability to convert funds from a pretax IRA to a post-tax Roth IRA and pay tax on the money that is converted. Taxpayers also currently have the ability to change their minds and undo this conversion through a process called recharacterization. The Act has repealed the rule allowing recharacterization of a Roth IRA back into a traditional IRA after a conversion.

MORTGAGE INTEREST TAX DEDUCTION
The final Act will not affect current homeowners; it would allow them to continue to deduct the interest paid on up to $1 million of mortgage debt. New homebuyers will only be able to deduct the interest on up to $750,000 of their mortgage principle on home purchases scheduled to close on or after January 1, 2018. The new cap expires at the end of 2025.  It is important to note that the MITD only applies to those filers who opt not to take advantage of the new standard deduction, which is $12,000 for individuals and $24,000 for joint filers under the Act. Those individuals who opt to still itemize, will also be able to deduct up to $10,000 in state and local property taxes under the bill.

HOME EQUITY LOAN INTEREST DEDUCTION
The Act limits the deductibility of interest paid on some home equity loans/lines of credit for loans beginning after December 31, 2017, depending on the purpose of the loan. The Internal Revenue Code currently distinguishes between "acquisition" debt, meaning loans to buy, build or substantially improve a main or second home, and other "home equity" debt. The Act does not alter this distinction, but eliminates the deduction of "home equity" debt and limits total "acquisition" debt to $750,000. Existing home equity lines of credit may also not be "grandfathered" into receiving the deduction. Additionally, beginning in 2018, any interest accrued on certain existing home equity loans/lines of credit may not be deductible. The suspension expires at the end of 2025. 

This article is for general information purposes, as we do not provide tax advice.  Individuals should consult their tax advisor for specific questions.


Important Update about your EMV Chip Debit Card

When you use an EMV chip-enabled debit card to make a payment, most merchants that are equipped with EMV chip card terminals give you the option of paying as either “Debit” or “Credit.” Either option may require you to enter your PIN.  Always inform the cashier "you want to choose credit.”  You might encounter the two options - US MasterCard or International MasterCard, always choose International MasterCard; and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  You may also see US MasterCard and MasterCard, choose MasterCard and your transaction will be completed as a credit transaction.  Please note, you may still be required to enter a PIN, but as long as you select credit, International MasterCard or MasterCard, the transaction will be processed as a credit transaction and not Point of Sale (POS).  If you don't see these options, the merchant you are shopping with has decided for you; and they will only route it through US MasterCard as a POS transaction.

Many members who make purchases with their debit cards at certain retailers, no longer have the option of choosing “Credit” when making their payment. Unfortunately, some stores have made the business decision to require their customers using a debit card to use the “Debit” option and enter their PIN, thus making the “Credit” option unavailable. When your purchase, if over $50, goes through as a pin-based POS debit transaction, it will incur a nominal 50 cent fee.

If a retailer does not permit you to select “credit” at the sale terminal, you have the following options:

  • Complete the transaction and pay a 50 cent fee
  • Cancel out of transaction; and pay with a First Service VISA Credit Card instead
  • Cancel out of the transaction and pay with a check or cash

Let your voice be heard!  If a retailer tells you that you no longer have an option on how to pay for your transaction – we encourage you to call or write the store. Let them know that as a consumer, you want them to bring back your choice on how you pay for your purchases.


Additional online resources:

  • MyCreditUnion.gov - Financial tools and calculators, including college savings, student loans, mortgages and retirement savings. Users also have access to a personal budgeting worksheet.
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  • Pocket Cents - A financial literacy tool for all age groups which provides personal finance lessons and tips for groups including youth, tweens, teens, young adults, families, seniors, parents, educators and service members.

Click here for additional free Consumer Protection links to protect your identity and personal information.