Chapter 5

Gift Cards Scams

new data analysis by the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) shows that gift cards continue to be the most common form of payment when Americans report losing money to most scammers.

Since 2018, the data analysis shows American consumers have reported spending nearly $245 million on gift cards that they used to pay scammers for a wide variety of scams.   Scammers most likely to rely on gift cards as a payment method  were government imposters, family imposters, business imposters, and tech support scams.

In these scams, the scammers convince consumers that they must pay using gift cards. The reasons scammers present vary, but they always tell you that you must go to a retail outlet, purchase physical gift cards, and then provide the PIN numbers on the cards to the scammer. Reports suggest scammers favor certain brands of gift cards, such as, eBay or Amazon, however, their brand preferences change over time.

Because of the rapid increase in scams, the FTC has started a new campaign to partner with retailers around the country to help prevent consumers avoid a gift card payment scam.

The FTC has created warning signs that retailers can place directly at the point of sale for gift cards—both on the racks where they are displayed and at cash registers. The signs are designed to stop consumers who may be ready to buy gift cards to pay a scammer, raising key questions and reminding them that “gift cards are for gifts, not payments.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • How many students have purchased gift cards and how did they use these cards? For personal use?  For gifts? For scammers?
  • What can you do to protect yourself and your family against gift card scams?
  • What will you do if someone calls you from tech support and asks you to pay them with a gift card to fix your computer?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why gift cards continue to be the most common form of payment for most scammers?
  2. Why do so many Americans get scammed by imposters?
  3. What can consumers do to avoid such scams?
  4. Discuss the statement, “Gift cards are for gifts, not payments”.
Categories: Chapter 5, Frauds and Scams | Tags: | Leave a comment

What to Do When Information Is Lost or Exposed

What to Do When Information Is Lost or Exposed

Did you recently get a notice informing you that your personal information was exposed in a data breach? Did you lose your wallet? Or learn that an online account was hacked? Depending on what information was lost, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft

What information was lost or exposed?

  1. Social Security number
  • If a company responsible for exposing your information offers you free credit monitoring, take advantage of it.
  • Get your free credit reports from annualcreditreport.com. Check for any accounts or charges you don’t recognize.
  • Consider placing a free credit freeze. A credit freeze makes it harder for someone to open a new account in your name.
  • Try to file your taxes early — before a scammer can. Tax identity theft happens when someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund or a job.
  • Respond right away to letters from the IRS.  Don’t believe anyone who calls and says you’ll be arrested unless you pay for taxes or debt.
  • Continue to check your credit reports at annualcreditreport.com.  You can order a free report from each of the three credit reporting companies once a year.
  1. Online login or password
  • Log in to that account and change your password. If possible, also change your user name. If you can’t log in, contact the company. Ask them how you can recover or shut down the account.

3. Debit or credit card number

  • Contact your bank or credit card company to cancel your card and request a new one.
  • Review your transactions regularly. Make sure no one misused your card. If you find fraudulent charges, call the fraud department and get them removed.
  • If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new card number.
  • Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

4. Bank account information

  • Contact your bank to close the account and open a new one.
  • Review your transactions regularly to make sure no one misused your account. If you find fraudulent charges or withdrawals, call the fraud department and get them removed.
  • If you have automatic payments set up, update them with your new bank account information.
  1. Driver’s license information
  • Contact your nearest motor vehicles branch to report a lost or stolen driver’s license. The state might flag your license number in case someone else tries to use it, or they might suggest that you apply for a duplicate.
  • Check your credit report at annualcreditreport.com.

 

For More Information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask how many students check their credit report at least once a year. What is the importance of checking your credit report regularly?
  • Ask if any student has placed a credit freeze. If so, what was their experience?

Discussion Questions:

  1. What is the difference between a credit freeze and a fraud alert?
  2. What must you do if someone uses your Social Security number to get a tax refund?
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Warning Signs of Identity Theft

What Do Thieves Do With Your Information?

 Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.

Here are clues that someone has stolen your information:

  • You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail.
  • Merchants refuse your checks.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  • A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
  • The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  • You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they, their family members or friends have been victims of an identity theft. What was their experience and how did they resolve the problem?
  • Ask students if they mail bills from their home mail box, especially if it is out by the street. What might be some dangers of this method of mailing bills?

Discussion Questions

  1. Should you put your Social Security and driver’s license numbers on your checks?   Why or why not?
  2. Why is it important to check your credit report each year? Should you consider credit monitoring, identity monitoring service, or identity theft insurance?  Why or why not?
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 8, Credit Scores, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Beware of scams related to the coronavirus

Scammers are taking advantage of the corona virus (COVID-19) pandemic to con people into giving up their money. Though the reason behind their fraud is new, their tactics are familiar. It can be even harder to prevent scams right now because people aren’t interacting with as many friends, neighbors, and senior service providers due to efforts to slow the spread of disease.

Those who are ill or don’t feel comfortable potentially exposing themselves may need someone to help with errands. Be cautious when accepting offers of help and use trusted delivery services for supplies and food. During this time of uncertainty, knowing about possible scams is a good first step toward preventing them.

  1. Scams offering COVID-19 vaccine, cure, air filters, testing

There is an increasing number of scams related to vaccines, test kits, cures or treatments, and air filter systems designed to remove COVID-19 from the air in your home. At the time of this writing, there is neither a vaccine nor a cure for this virus. If you receive a phone call, email, text message, or letter with claims to sell you any of these items–it’s a scam.

  1. Fake corona virus-related charity scams

A thief poses as a real charity or makes up the name of a charity that sounds real to get money from you. Be careful about any charity calling you asking for donations. If you are able to help financially, visit the website of the organization of your choice to make sure your money is going to the right place. And be wary if you get a call following up on a donation pledge that you don’t remember making–it could be a scam.

  1. “Person in need” scams

Scammers use the circumstances of the corona virus to pose as a grandchild, relative or friend who claims to be ill, stranded in another state or foreign country, or otherwise in trouble, and asks you to send money. The scammer may ask you to send cash by mail or buy gift cards. These scammers often beg you to keep it a secret and act fast before you ask questions. Don’t panic!  Don’t send money unless you’re sure it’s the real person who contacted you. Hang up and call your grandchild or friend’s phone number to see if the story checks out. You could also call a different friend or relative to check the caller’s story.

  1. Scams targeting your Social Security benefits

Local Social Security Administration (SSA) offices are closed to the public due to COVID-19 concerns, SSA will not suspend or decrease  Social Security benefit payments or Supplemental Security Income payments due to the current COVID-19 pandemic. Scammers may mislead people into believing they need to provide personal information or pay by gift card, wire transfer, internet currency, or by mailing cash to maintain regular benefit payments during this period. Any communication that says SSA will suspend or decrease your benefits due to COVID-19 is a scam, whether you receive it by letter, text, email, or phone call. Report Social Security scams to the SSA Inspector General online at oig.ssa.gov .

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they, their friends, or relatives have been victims of coronavirus- related scams? If so, what was their experience?
  • Someone you don’t know contacts you asking for any personally identifiable information by phone, in person, by text message, or email. What will be your response?

Discussion Questions

  1. Someone you don’t know sends you a check, maybe prize-winnings or the sale of goods and asks you to send a portion of the money back. What will you do and why?
  2. Discuss the statement: “The federal. State, and local consumer protection agencies are doing everything possible to protect consumers from fraudsters”.
Categories: Chapter 4, Chapter 5, Chapter 8, Frauds and Scams, Identity Theft | Tags: , | Leave a comment

Coping With the Corona Virus-Related Financial Stressors

KEY POINTS

  • Nearly half of U.S. adults have reported that their mental health has been negatively impacted due to worry and stress over the virus, according to a Kaiser Family Foundation poll.
  • A new NFCC survey finds situations that immensely exacerbate financial worries include not having enough savings, losing a job and the inability to pay debts.
  • Many large health insurance companies as well as Medicare have increased their capacity and coverage for telehealth visits with mental health providers.

Here are some tips from the mental health and financial experts on how best to cope with these common money stressors.

1. Not enough savings

If you find yourself struggling financially and have a limited emergency fund — or none at all — focus instead on what you can control. “First, carefully examine your expenses and reprioritize your spending. Cut out everything but the essentials , such as,  mortgage or rent, food, utilities and insurance,” said author and certified financial planner Carrie Schwab-Pomerantz, who is also president of the Charles Schwab Foundation. “If you’re unable to pay a bill, contact your creditors right away. They may be willing to negotiate a payment schedule or waive late fees.

2. Job loss

If you haven’t already, file for unemployment benefits immediately through your state’s programThere will likely be a lag time until you receive your first check.

  • Make sure you still have health insurance. You could switch to COBRA to receive the same coverage you had under your employer for the next 18 months, but you have to pay for it yourself at a considerably higher cost than you were paying as an employee. “Do some comparison-shopping.”
  • Consider other jobs that you may be able to pursue. Use your down time to learn a new skill or start that side-hustle. Education, health care, and technology companies are among some of the industries hiring remote workers right now.

3. Inability to pay your debts

Nearly half of U.S. adults currently have credit card debt and 13% of them are not paying anything at all or don’t have a plan on how to pay, according to a report by CreditCards.com. 

Consider temporarily paying only the minimum on mortgage/rent, car loans and student loans as well, said Schwab-Pomerantz, whose Schwab MoneyWise website has a list of resources to help during the Covid-19 crisis. More help could be available. You may be able to lower or suspend your mortgage payments for up to one year in some cases. Contact your lender.  If you’re having trouble paying your rent, talk to your landlord about your situation and your options. Some states and municipalities are providing eviction restrictions for impacted individuals. Many utilities and phone companies have stopped cutting off services for nonpayment. Call them.

For more information, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students how the corona virus has affected them, their relatives, or friends. What steps have they taken to minimize the effects of the corona virus?
  • List the steps to take if you don’t have enough emergency funds to get through this financial difficult period.

Discussion Questions

  1. How are millions of Americans coping with stress and anxiety as they deal with the fear and reality of death and disease due to the corona virus pandemic?
  2. Discuss the economic and emotional worries that are keeping American awake at night.
Categories: Budget, Chapter 2, Chapter 5, Debt | Tags: , , | Leave a comment

Managing your bills during COVID-19

COVID-19 has thrown the economy into a tailspin. Many people have been laid off, furloughed, or are working fewer hours. And as wages dry up, bills can pile up.

Debt can be tricky. Here are some ideas about how you can manage your debts and start regaining your financial well being.

  • Gather your bills: Make a list of your monthly bills: rent/mortgage, car payment, utilities, student loans, medical bills, and anything else. Consider how much you need for food, medicine, and other necessities.
  • Ask for help: Many companies have special programs to help people right now. Contact the companies you owe money to and try to work out a new payment plan with lower payments or delayed due dates. Make sure to get any changes in writing.
    • Find out if your state or local government offers programs that will allow you to hold off on paying some bills right now.
    • Trouble paying your mortgage? Here’s some advice on how to manage that problem. If you have a government-backed mortgage, you may be able to delay payment by contacting your servicer.
    • Need additional help? Check out ftc.gov/creditcounselor for tips on how to choose a counselor who really helps you out.
  • Prioritize if you need to: If you still can’t pay everything on time, look at what would happen if you couldn’t pay each bill and decide which bills to pay first. Would you lose your home? Would your car be repossessed? Would your debt go into collection and affect your credit report?
  • Study up: Check out the FTC’s advice on how to cope with debt in the short term, and how to get out of debt when you are able.
  • Watch out for scams: In stressful times, scammers are everywhere. Beware of any company that guarantees that creditors will forgive your debts, or makes you pay up front for help. If you are looking for debt relief, make sure to find help you can trust.

For more information, go to: click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students to develop a plan to manage their debts, especially during the coronavirus pandemic.
  • Ask students if they should turn to a company that claims to offer assistance in solving debt problems? Why or why not?

Discussion Questions

  1. Why should you avoid waiting until your account is turned over to a debt collector?
  2. What is a constant worry for a debtor who is behind in payments of bills?
Categories: Chapter 5, Debt | Tags: | Leave a comment

Protecting your credit during the coronavirus pandemic

Your credit reports and scores play an important role in your future financial opportunities. You can use the steps below to manage and protect your credit during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic.

Get a copy of your credit report

If you haven’t requested your free annual credit reports, you can get copies at AnnualCreditReport.com. Each of the three nationwide credit reporting agencies (also known as credit reporting companies) – Equifax, TransUnion, and Experian – allow you to get your report for free once every twelve months. You can request additional reports for a small fee if you’ve already received your free report. Be sure to check your reports for errors and dispute any inaccurate information.

If you can’t make payments, contact your lenders

Many lenders have announced proactive measures to help borrowers impacted by COVID-19. As with other natural disasters and emergencies, they may be willing to provide forbearance, loan extensions, a reduction in interest rates, and/or other flexibilities for repayment. Some lenders are also saying they will not report late payments to credit reporting agencies or waiving late fees for borrowers in forbearance due to this pandemic. If you feel you cannot make payments, contact your lenders to explain your situation and be sure to get confirmation of any agreements in writing.

Credit reporting under the CARES Act

The recently passed Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act places special requirements on companies that report your payment information to credit reporting companies. These requirements apply if you are affected by the coronavirus disease pandemic and if your creditor makes an agreement (called an “accommodation” in the Act) with you to defer a payment, make partial payments, forbear a delinquency, modify a loan, or other relief.

How your creditors report your account to credit reporting companies under the CARES Act depends on whether you are current or already delinquent when this agreement is made.

  • If your account is currentand you make an agreement to make a partial payment, skip a payment, or other accommodation, then the creditor is to report to credit reporting companies that you are current on your loan or account.
  • If your account is already delinquentand you make an agreement, then your account will maintain that status during the agreement until you bring the account current.
  • If your account is already delinquent and you make an agreement, and you bring your account current, the creditor must report that you are current on your loan or account.

For more information, go to: click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Ask students if they have requested their free credit reports from Equifax, Experian, and Trans Union. If so, did they find any errors?  What did they learn from the credit reports?
  • Encourage students to request their credit reports if they have never obtained one from the credit reporting agencies.

Discussion Questions

  1. Why is it important to contact your creditors as soon as possible if you can’t make payments on time? What are the consequences if you don’t?
  2. What are the special requirements that the CARE Act places on companies that report your payment information to credit reporting agencies? Under what circumstances these special requirements apply?
Categories: Chapter 5, Credit Scores | Tags: | Leave a comment

Want a retail store credit card?

Retail store cards are credit cards that can be used only in a single store or at an affiliated group of stores. Like other credit cards, a store card will show as a line of credit on your credit report.

The advantage of these cards is that they tend to be easier to get, even if you have a poor or limited credit history. If you’re able to make consistent and on-time payments, a retail store card can be one way to help you build or improve your credit .

The disadvantage is that retail store cards may carry higher interest rates than traditional credit cards.  Also, if the card has a deferred-interest promotion, you could end up paying even more in interest if your balance isn’t fully paid off by the end of the promotional period.

Six rules for using your store credit card wisely 

  1. Watch your overall spending during the holidays
  2. Pay your bill on time
  3. Understand the differences between zero-interest and deferred-interest promotions
  4. Limit the number of cards you apply for
  5. Don’t get close to your credit limit
  6. Act fast if you can’t pay your bills

For more information, go to

https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/six-tips-when-offered-retail-store-credit-card/

Teaching Suggestions:

  • Ask students if they have any retail store credit cards. If so, what has been their experience?  Share the information with classmates.
  • Ask students to make a list of possible advantages or disadvantages of retail store credit cards. Share the list with the class.

Discussion Questions:

  1. If there is a deferred-interest promotion, why is it important to pay off deferred balance in full before the end of the promotion period?
  2. If you already have several other credit cards, will you be able to manage one more card?
  3. What is the difference between zero-interest and deferred-interest promotions?
Categories: Chapter 5, Credit Cards | Tags: | Leave a comment

Neobanks

Banking options continue to expand. Neobanks refer to financial services providers that appeal to information-hungry consumers comfortable with technology. Many are FinTech start-ups that offer checking and savings accounts, debit cards, loans, and budgeting guidance through digital channels and mobile apps.

Neobanks typically do not have physical bank locations, although some partner with existing banks or credit unions. Some consider PayPal an early neobank example as a result of being linked to bank accounts and payment cards. More recent examples of neobanks include GoBank (a brand of Green Dot Bank), SoFi Money, Varo Money, Wells Fargo’s Greenhouse, and Chase’s Finn.

Commonly viewed benefits of neobanks are:

  • lower costs than most traditional financial institutions; access to large ATM networks with no fees.
  • attractive to underbanked and unbanked consumers who use prepaid cards, check-cashing services, and consumer credit companies.
  • clear communication of fees and charges; usually no overdraft penalties since you can only spend what is in your account,
  • enhanced technology for basic banking activities as well as algorithms for budgeting, money management, and wise spending.
  • ease of loan approval with technology-based methods for obtaining credit, along with access to loans by smaller enterprises.

Some concerns associated with neobanks include:

  • a lack of physical bank branches.
  • may not be chartered as financial institutions with government regulators, also lacking deposit insurance.
  • no recourse may be available when malfunctions occur with an app or mobile connection.
  • not appropriate for individuals who make cash payments and deposits.

As banking alternatives evolve, neobanks will likely become more numerous expanding into new products and services. At the same time, traditional financial institutions will seek ways to offer FinTech products to serve an expanding technology-oriented customer segment.

For additional information on neobanks:

Link #1

Link #2

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students propose services that might be offered by neobanks to enhance financial literacy and improve money management skills.
  • Have students create a video or in-class presentation that communicates the positive and negative aspects of neobanks.

Discussion Questions 

  1. What actions would you recommend to others before using a neobank?
  2. Describe possible actions that might be taken by traditional financial institutions to counter the potential loss of customers to neobanks.
Categories: Bank Fees, Chapter 5, Financial Planning | Tags: | Leave a comment

Financial Literacy for Children

A lifetime of skillful financial decisions starts with experiential learning at a young age. To increase financial literacy for the next generation, consider these actions:

  • Give children a payday. Instead of a weekly allowance with simply giving money, create a system of earning these funds. Connect their household chores to earned amounts with a weekly payday. This practice can teach a child that people are paid for work to earn money for their living expenses.
  • Create awareness of opportunity cost. Every financial decision has trade-offs. Once money is spent, that money is not available for other uses. Keeping money in a clear jar allows the young person to visually see what funds are available, and when the money is gone.
  • Allow children to experience borrowing. If a child wants to buy something but does not have the money, set up a signed loan agreement with repayment terms. Also create a plan for the amount owed to be taken from future household earnings. Have the young person physically pay the money to better understand how credit works.
  • Connect them in the budgeting process. Include children in the discussion of family finances and the household budget to help them understand where money is spent. Consider creating a chart with spending amounts, or use slips of paper representing money that are used to pay the bills each month.
  • Teach wants vs. needs. Shoes or a clothing item may be a need but not a high-fashion version. To cover the cost of the higher-priced item, young people should be required to earn the amount for the additional expense.
  • Use money games. These activities can help children understand earning, saving, wise spending and other basics of money management for a financially sound future.

For additional information on financial literacy for children, click here.

Teaching Suggestions

  • Have students conduct online research to locate other actions used by parents to teach their children smart spending and wise money management.
  • Have students talk to parents to obtain suggestions that might be used to teach wise money management to children.

 Discussion Questions 

  1. What are the financial, social, and relational benefits of children learning smart spending and wise money management early in life?
  2. Describe possible money management learning activities for children that involve creative use of technology.
Categories: Chapter 1, Chapter 2, Chapter 5, Credit Cards, Financial Planning | Tags: , | Leave a comment

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