6 Ways To Turn Your Dream Vacation Into A Reality

View of hotels across the street from a palm tree lined beachEveryone has their own version of a dream vacation. But, for most of us, it never becomes a reality. Read on for six ways to make that dream vacation come true.

1.) Start saving
Give your getaway a jumpstart by planning for it all year long.

Set up a “Trip jar” – Whenever you’ve got loose change, plunk it in a jar earmarked for your vacation. Use the money you’ve saved to fund one part of your vacation.

Brown-bag it – The average American buys lunch twice a week. By brown-bagging it just one more day a week, you can save hundreds of dollars a year for your vacation.

Open a vacation account – Here at AOCU, we’re all about making dreams come true. Call, click or stop by today to learn how to painlessly save for vacation all year.

2.) Time it right
Choosing the perfect date for your vacation can save you thousands of dollars. Consider taking your trip just after peak season ends. You’ll still enjoy beautiful weather, but your airfare and lodging costs will see a significant drop.

Experts also recommend booking your flight 54 days before your departure date to get the best prices.

3.) Make the most of your dollar
When researching vacation destinations, check the local exchange rates. Choose a place that will allow your dollar to go farther, and you’ll have more to spend with the same amount of cash!

4.) Let your loyalty pay off
Don’t book a flight, hotel stay or car rental without checking your credit card points first. You might have enough miles to pay for a large chunk of your trip.

When booking hotel stays, do a quick search to determine if they offer a loyalty program for return customers. You might land yourself a good discount just for using the same hotel chain twice!

5.) Research, research, research
Don’t make any vacation decisions without first doing careful research. If you found a resort you love, check out their online presence to see if they offer airline discounts or credits. See if you can find a local who’d be willing to swap houses with you while you’re on vacation. Check Groupon for instant discounts on attractions and restaurants in the area.

6.) Live in the moment
Don’t forget to enjoy your vacation! If something doesn’t go according to plan, let it slide. Leave the everyday pressure at home and just fully relax.

It’s also important to unplug. Stop snapping pictures and take the earbuds out. Let go of the compulsive need to capture every moment on camera and take the time to just be.

You deserve to enjoy every bit of your vacation!

Your Turn:
How do you save big on vacation without compromising on the fun factor or on your comfort? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.today.com/amp/money/5-easy-ways-turn-your-dream-vacation-reality-1D80108194

https://notablelife.com/11-things-you-can-do-to-make-your-dream-vacation-a-reality/

http://www.finehomesandliving.com/Ways-to-Make-Your-Dream-Vacation-a-Reality/

http://www.momtastic.com/life/483527-making-your-dream-vacation-a-reality/

https://www.google.com/amp/www.twosmallfries.com/off-we-go/4-ways-to-save%3Fformat%3Damp

https://makingcents.navyfederal.org/knowledge-center/financial-literacy/articles/save-to-make-your-dream-vacation-a-reality.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.wral.com/11-steps-to-plan-the-perfect-vacation-in-2017/16383454/%3Fversion%3Damp

Advertisements

All You Need To Know About Smishing Scams

person using smartphone to send text messageText messaging has come under attack as one of the most vulnerable mediums for identity theft and more. Here’s what you need to know about an SMS message-based scam called “smishing.”

How it works
Smishing scams use text messages to establish contact with the intended victim to later access their personal information.

The scam begins with a supposedly urgent text appearing to be from the victim’s financial institution. The text may claim that the victim’s checking account is locked, or that there has been an unauthorized purchase charged to the victim’s account. The scammer will warn that immediate action must be taken.

The victim is then instructed to call a specified number and, upon doing so, will be asked to share their financial information. Once they’ve got their hands on this info, the scammer is free to steal the victim’s identity, empty their accounts or go on a shopping spree on the victim’s dime.

Who are the victims?
Smishing scams primarily target people who do their banking online, but fraudsters will use any cellphone number they can find. If you own a checking account and a cellphone, you are a candidate for a smishing scam.

Recognizing smishing scams
Your credit union will not alert you of a possible fraud or account lockdown via text; we prefer more personal means to help you know it’s us.

Also, the phone number the smishing text instructs you to call is not ours. You can reach us at 734-676-7000. If you’re told to contact us at a different number, it’s not us you’re calling!

You can also spot the smishing scam just by looking at the phone number. The text will often appear to come from a number that is obviously fake.

If you’ve been targeted
If you receive a suspicious-looking text, do not engage the texter! Jot down the scammer’s number and delete the message. Let us know about the smishing attempt, tell all your friends and alert the FTC.

If you’ve fallen for the scam and your accounts have been compromised, alert your credit card companies and be sure to let us know, too.

Protecting yourself
Always use two-factor authentication for banking app and sites.
Use strong and different passwords across your accounts and apps.
Ignore all text messages from unknown numbers.

Don’t let those crooks get their hands on your money!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a smishing scam? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/columnist/saltzman/2017/07/03/delete-suspicious-text-messages-on-your-smartphone/439647001/

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.timeinc.net/fortune/2017/07/07/smishing-scam

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/2015/01/23/5-scams-that-target-your-bank-account

https://www.cnbc.com/2017/05/12/this-growing-fraud-will-drain-your-bank-account.html

Jury Duty Scams

Image of a diverse group of jury members in a jury boxNobody likes being called in for jury duty. But a recently revived scam has painted the entire experience in a more sinister hue.

Here’s how it plays out: The scammer calls a victim, claiming to work for the local court. The scammer tells the victim they’ve missed their call to jury duty and that there is a warrant out for the victim’s arrest.

The victim, of course, denies ever having received a summons to jury duty. The scammer then asks the victim for some identifying information to verify if the notification was indeed sent out. The victim, eager to clear up the alleged misunderstanding, willingly shares their Social Security number, date of birth or even credit card information. Obviously, all the scammer wants to do with this information is steal it — and benefit from the victim’s identity.

Once this information changes hands and the caller has “verified” that the victim has received jury duty notification, the scammer may then demand a payment to the tune of $1,000 or more. The scammer stresses that the fine must be paid immediately to help the victim avoid an arrest. This is when the hapless victim starts seeing visions of SWAT teams in full protective gear bursting into their home and dragging them out the door in handcuffs. By now, they’re shaking from fear and will pay any price to buy their freedom.

Unluckily for the victim, the fun is just beginning. Once they’ve agreed to pay the fine, they will be sent on a wild goose chase around town, purchasing reloadable money cards in several different stores as per the scammer’s directive. All this time, the victim is certain the entire police force is already on their tail and they are frantically rushing to do the scammer’s bidding. When the chase is finally over and all the cards have been purchased, the victim is then instructed to send their money to the “courthouse” so they can be free from the threat of arrest.

At this point, the victim may be heaving a sigh of relief, but it’s the crooked scammer who is gleefully rubbing their hands together and laughing maniacally. Not only did they milk this oblivious victim for a cool thousand bucks, they also have the victim’s personal details, making a full identity theft the next scandalous step in this scam.

Jury duty scams like these are popping up all over the U.S. They’ve already been reported in Michigan, Ohio, Texas, Arizona, Illinois, Pennsylvania, Minnesota, Oregon and Washington state.

Sadly, this scam often works. The victim tends to get flustered and anxious about their alleged pending arrest, so their fear drives them to drop their guard and mindlessly comply with whatever the caller tells them to do.

Don’t be the next victim! Read on to learn how to spot these scams for what they are.

Red flags
If you’re a vigilant citizen who is always up on the latest scams, you will probably know enough to recognize the one major flaw in this scam: It is executed over the phone. Government workers rarely reach out to people by phone; they prefer to use snail mail. When a courthouse worker does call a private juror, they most definitely won’t ask for private information over the phone! Also, there is no reason for a federal court to request your Social Security number at all. And finally, skipping out on jury duty never leads to an arrest!

While this scam is almost always played out over the phone, there have been some instances of jury duty scams being pulled via email. The script is nearly identical, save for the medium of communication between scammer and victim – the victim is pressured into sharing sensitive information and/or paying a fine, or risk being jailed for skipping out on jury duty. The same red flags apply as above: A government worker won’t contact you through email and they won’t demand that you share sensitive information via unsecured means.

Protect yourself
If one of these goofballs tries pulling the wool over your eyes with this scam, make sure you know what to do.

First, don’t engage with the scammer. Often, the scammers are skilled enough to use a fake Caller ID to fool victims. If it looks like the local courthouse is calling you, don’t pick up the phone. Remember, it’s highly unlikely that a courthouse worker is on the other end of the line.

If you already picked up and the caller starts reading you the riot act about missed jury duty, penalties and your pending arrest, hang up as quickly as you can. They may try to scare you or threaten you, but don’t be afraid. If you refuse to cooperate, they will have no power over you.

Finally, if you’ve gotten hooked and find yourself being asked to share sensitive information, remember the golden rule: NEVER share your identifying details over an unsafe medium.

Stop the scam
Jury duty may not be your idea of a fun way to pass the time, but it is an integral part of our court system and deserves our respect. The scammers in this con are impersonating members of the federal court and have therefore committed a serious crime. If you are targeted by a jury duty scam, notify the Clerk of Court’s office of the U.S. District Court in your area. It’s also a good idea to let the FTC know at ftc.gov.

Don’t let these crooks get away with their crime!

Your Turn:
Have you been targeted by a jury duty scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.wmar2news.com/2537797668/the-jury-duty-scam-that-nearly-tricked-a-law-professor.html

https://www.google.com/amp/www.buckscountycouriertimes.com/news/20180329/troubleshooter-beware-jury-duty-scam%3Ftemplate%3Dampart

http://www.uscourts.gov/services-forms/jury-service/juror-scams

https://www.scambusters.org/juryduty.html

https://www.aarp.org/podcasts/the-perfect-scam/info-2018/jury-duty-scam.html

Debt Consolidation: Not A Silver Bullet, But Still A Good Idea

cartoon of a person buried under a pile of billsUsing a personal loan to refinance your existing debt can make your debt more manageable. You’ll have one monthly payment at one interest rate instead of many smaller bills due on different days of the month.

Will personal loans work for you?

1.) Have I fixed the debt problem?
Think about why you’re in debt. If a medical bill, job loss or some other temporary hardship describes your situation, the fact that you have a job or have paid the medical bill means you’ve solved the problem that caused the debt in the first place.

If, on the other hand, you accumulated debt by overspending on credit cards, a debt consolidation loan may not be the answer just yet. First make a budget you can stick to, learn how to save and gain responsibility in your use of credit. Getting a debt consolidation loan without doing those things first is a temporary solution that can make matters worse.

2.) Can I commit to a repayment plan?
If you’re struggling to make minimum monthly payments on bills, a debt consolidation loan can only do so much. It’s possible that the lower interest rate will make repayment easier, but bundling all of that debt together could result in a higher monthly payment over a shorter period of time. Before you speak to a loan officer, figure out how much you can afford to put toward getting out of debt. Your loan officer can work backward from there to figure out terms, interest rate and total amount borrowed.

If you’re relying on a fluctuating stream of income to repay debt, it may be difficult to commit to a strict repayment plan that’s as aggressive as you like. You can still make extra principal payments on a personal loan, so your strategy of making intermittent payments will still help. You just can’t figure them into your monthly payment calculation.

3.) Is my interest rate the problem?
For some people, the biggest chunk of their debt is a student loan. These loans receive fairly generous terms, since a college degree should generally result in a higher-paying job. Debt consolidation for student loans, especially subsidized PLUS loans, may not make a great deal of sense. You’re better off negotiating the repayment structure with your lender if the monthly payments are unrealistic.

On the other hand, if you’re dealing with credit card debt, interest rate is definitely part of the problem. Credit card debt interest regularly runs in the 20% range, more than twice the average rate of personal loans. Refinancing this debt with a personal loan can save you plenty over making minimum credit card payments.

4.) Will a personal loan cover all my debts?
The average American household has nearly $15,000 in credit card debt.

If you have more than $50,000 in credit card debt, it’s going to be difficult to put together a personal loan that can finance the entire amount. It’s worth prioritizing the highest interest cards and consolidating those instead of trying to divide your refinancing evenly between accounts. Get the biggest problems out of the way, so you can focus your efforts on picking up the pieces.

Debt consolidation doesn’t work for everyone, but it can do wonders for many people. The ability to eliminate high-interest debt and simplify monthly expenses into one payment for debt servicing can change a family’s whole financial picture. Gather your account statements and your paycheck stubs, and head to [CREDIT UNION] today!

Your Turn:
What’s your secret weapon in the battle against debt? Any tips and tricks that helped you get a handle on what you owe? Let us know!

Sources:

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/credit-card-data/average-credit-card-debt-household/

http://lifehacker.com/5973715/should-i-get-a-debt-consolidation-loan-to-pay-off-my-credit-cards

https://www.credible.com/blog/what-are-average-student-loan-interest-rates/

https://www.debt.org/consolidation/

https://www.nerdwallet.com/blog/loans/debt-consolidation-loans/

http://www.daveramsey.com/blog/debt-consolidation-truth/

From Summer Job To Just Plain Job: How To Turn Your Internship Into A Promising Career

cartoon of woman juggling three balss, labeled internship, job & careerSummer internships are a rite of passage for college students, but how can you turn yours into your dream job? Read on for the next steps you’ll need to transition it into an actual job.

Here’s the good news: You’re in the door, because most companies prefer hiring from within.

Unfortunately, it’s not automatic; the company won’t necessarily find a position for you. That said, it’s not impossible. It only takes a combination of accomplishment, luck and know-how to land your dream position.

If you’re struggling with converting your internship into a full-time position, remember these five pointers:

1.) Ask for a specific position
A common mistake made by job-seekers is asking the broad question, “Are you hiring?” The answer may be yes, but it’s unlikely that anyone knows about every open position. An advantage of being an intern is learning about potential openings.

Keep an ear out for new projects, teams or promotions, as these will likely have new positions. Your immediate supervisor may not be able to hire you, but he can connect you with someone who can and recommend you for a position.

2.) Time your ask
Don’t ask about future employment on the last day of your internship; it makes you look like a procrastinator.

Ideally, ask after a big win. When you’ve just completed a major project, you’ve got the limelight. It doesn’t have to be a vital-to-the-life-of-the-company project, but should be a significant success showcasing your skills.

When referencing this accomplishment, use a humble-brag. Ask your immediate supervisor if the task was done to their satisfaction. Getting them to sing your praises makes them more likely to recommend you for another position.

3.) Be everywhere
Part of the benefit of an internship is the chance to see the inner workings of a company. You can learn about different aspects of the business – but not through keeping your head down. Instead, take every opportunity to visit and work with other departments and people. The more people who know your name, the more likely it is you’ll get to stay.

4.) Become indispensable
Lack of experience can be an asset in your internship as it provides you with tremendous flexibility in how you tackle tasks. Find a piece of technology or a set of procedures you can master, either through training or observing others. Your objective is to become an expert in something the company needs. It can even be running the copier – anything goes, if it gets you in the door.

5.) Be professional
The best attribute to display in your internship is follow-through. Be on time to work and take on every task with enthusiasm and dedication. Demonstrate to your employer that you’re someone they’d want to hire.

The summer internship can be a great start to a great career – if you want it to be. With a lot of work and a little luck, it can be the first in a series of career successes.

Sources:

https://www.themuse.com/advice/from-intern-to-colleague-3-secrets-for-landing-a-fulltime-gig

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jacquelynsmith/2013/05/20/turn-your-internship-into-a-full-time-job/#1d0f3bf5483c

http://finance.yahoo.com/news/college-summer-internships-dream-job-networking-165310981.html

Beware Tech Support Scams!

Reflection of man over program code pressing "access granted" buttonYou’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 scammers 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.

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.
  • If you think you’ve been scammed, tell everyone you know about it and be sure to alert the FTC. 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!

SOURCES:
https://www.ftc.gov/news-events/press-releases/2018/03/ftc-begin-mailing-checks-victims-tech-support-scam

https://www.idtheftcenter.org/Current-Scam-Alerts/ftc-tech-support-scam.html

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2018/04/ftc-asking-access-your-computer-its-scam

Rising Interest Rates

Report showing rising interest rate dataInterest rates have been steadily increasing over the last year. So, if you’re thinking of taking out a large loan in the near future, you might be waiting until those rates start going down again.

Here’s why that might not be the best idea.

Interest rates will continue to rise
Experts predict interest rates on financial products will continue increasing throughout the year. It’s not looking great for those who are taking out a short-term loan, either. Experts claim 2018 will see three interest rate hikes, each being 0.25%. If you need to borrow money, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later.

The inflation factor
Unemployment rates are down, but wage growth continues to crawl at an almost nonexistent pace. This, in turn, leads to limited price growth, which keeps the inflation rate stagnant. However, the feds are expecting wage growth to finally kick off in 2018, setting into motion an uptick in inflation and price growth.

The government wants to stay ahead of any surge in inflation. They do so by increasing their interest rates even before there is clear evidence of an inflation peak.

Financial institutions and credit card companies pattern their own interest rates after the government’s rate. Therefore, it’s best to work on aggressively paying down outstanding debt you have before you’re hit with increased interest rates.

Government deficits
Long-term interest rates have been rising since December. This is largely due to the growing government deficit that’s linked to recent tax cuts. The pending two-year budget plan will put the government even deeper into the red, likely causing those rates to climb even higher.

Mortgages
Mortgage interest rates are now at an all-time high; they are currently close to 4.6% and are up more than .20% from a year ago.

For the most part, mortgage rates are linked to bond yields. When bond yields rise, so do mortgage rates. The recent tax overhaul caused investors to favor stocks over bonds, and consequently, mortgage rates have been climbing since September.

Some experts are predicting a turnaround for mortgages in 2018, with the rates possibly dipping below 4% sometime this year. However, all agree that by year’s end, the mortgage rate will settle at 4.5%.

No one can be certain of anything, though, and waiting until the rates drop might prove to be pointless. In fact, you might even end up paying a higher rate for that delay.

The good news
Experts predict a great year for returns on savings, especially CDs. Some claim an average one-year CD will yield a 0.7% return by the end of 2018. So, if you’ve been thinking about opening a share certificate or other savings options, talk with [credit union] to get started.

Volatile economy got you stressed? Call, click or stop by the credit union. We’ll guide you through any financial turn!

Your Turn:
What steps are you taking in the current financial climate? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/interest-rates-forecast.aspx/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/amp/