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

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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

Mobile Banking – 4 Ways To Stay On Top Of Your Finances While On The Go

Closeup of person's thumb over mobile banking app displayed on mobile deviceMost people have a checklist they go through before they leave the house. Is the stove turned off? Are the doors locked? Do I have my wallet, my keys and my cellphone? The only thing that has changed about that process in the last few years has been the addition of that last item on the list.

Today, 92% of Americans have cellphones and 68% of them have smartphones. This is a remarkable change from just a few years ago. More than half of the people you see every day are carrying a computer that dwarfs the most powerful computing technology that was available a decade ago. It’s also connected to all of the world’s information, literally at our fingertips. What do we use it for? Drawing mustaches on our selfies and tossing wingless birds at shoddily made pig housing.

If you’d like to use your smartphone for more sophisticated purposes, plus add a ton of convenience and peace of mind to your life, consider mobile banking. With a couple of taps, you can access a whole suite of financial information. Let’s look at four scenarios where mobile banking can save you some time … and even some money.

1.) Say goodbye to security woes
Despite all of the data breaches that have been in the public eye over the past few years, no one has figured out how to compromise mobile devices as a platform. Security leaks have affected PCs, Macs and point of sale terminals, but no widespread security vulnerability has compromised mobile banking. Despite the fear, mobile banking is actually a fundamentally secure platform.

The first reason for this is the plurality of platforms. You and your neighbor may not be able to share cellphone chargers, much less apps or other experiences. This diversity makes it difficult for a single vulnerability to affect many users. Since there’s less possibility of large scale attacks, hackers have very little incentive to dedicate time toward trying to compromise mobile platforms.

The second reason for this is the tight control placed on mobile devices. Because these devices have to send regular usage information back to your mobile provider, they tend to be far less prone to modification. There’s just not as much you can do to an iPhone or an Android as you can to a PC. While some users might override those protections, such modifications are not widespread enough to justify attempted infiltration.

Mobile banking is secure and safe. Data transmitted from your cellphone to your provider is heavily encrypted. If you lose your phone, it can be remotely deactivated and passwords usually aren’t stored on the device.

2.) You can check your balance any time
Rather than waiting for your statement every month or booting up that slow PC for checking your account balances online, you can view transactions while waiting for a bus or in line at a restaurant. You can stay vigilant against illegal account access any time you’ve got your phone and a spare few seconds.

The convenience of mobile banking can also keep you from making costly mistakes. If you know funds may be running tight, check your account balance while in the checkout line to make sure you can cover the cost of your purchases. You can see if your monthly rent check has been withdrawn from your account to avoid the costly fees associated with overdrafting. It’s easier than ever to keep track of your finances.

You can also help to prevent errors with mobile banking. Accidental overpayment, duplicate payments and other errors are a regrettable reality of the modern high-speed economy. By regularly checking your account statement, you can catch these pesky problems before they turn into big issues.

3.) It’s where you’ll find the next big thing
Mobile payments and mobile check depositing are becoming more widely available and are already being used in many places. As technology gets better, these functions will become cheaper, faster and even more widespread. Getting involved in mobile banking on the ground floor will help you stay up to speed with this rapidly evolving world.

Imagine getting turn-by-turn walking directions to your nearest ATM. You could get alerts when new houses are listed for sale along your daily commute. You might pay for your breakfast by signing a receipt on your phone. These and other changes are coming and they are only the beginning. If mobile banking doesn’t do something you need, wait six months. Someone will probably find an app for that.

4.) 24-hour-a-day instant access
Do you ever wake up in the middle of the night in a panic because you can’t remember if you paid your electric bill? Ever have a tiny freakout on the bus because you suspect someone may have accessed your account? Are money worries preventing you from enjoying your vacation? If you have these concerns and are nowhere near your computer, you could just suffer through them.

As an alternative, though, you could use a mobile app to check your balance and transaction history. See if your monthly bills have cleared. Make sure your balance is safe. You can do all of this any time you’ve got your phone, day or night.

Mobile banking won’t replace traditional, face-to-face interaction. There will always be a place in the credit union service standards for the human interaction. What mobile banking apps offer is a wonderful supplement to those high-quality services. Space-age convenience, top-level security, and blissful peace of mind are all available from your pocket, anywhere in the world.

Sources:

http://mauconline.net/2013/03/07/advantages-and-disadvantages-of-mobile-banking/

http://marketingland.com/pew-61-percent-in-us-now-have-smartphones-46966

http://www.bankrate.com/finance/savings/5-reasons-to-use-mobile-banking-1.aspx

Five Things That Will Help Your Future

Group of multi-gender, multi-ethnic students studying together.Your primary reason for attending college is to jump start your career, of course. But, did you know there are many other things you can do now to help secure your future?

Here are just 5 things you can do today that will improve your after-college life:

1. Be careful with your internet presence
You aren’t thinking about terms like “personal brand” just yet, but you’ll be applying for that first after-college job in just a few short years. In our digital age, employers tend to check out prospective employees’ internet presences to get a feel for what kind of person they might be hiring. Be careful to cultivate the online image you’d be comfortable sharing with your future boss.

2. Master the art of negotiating
Whether you’re a skilled debater or love to keep a low profile, you need to learn how to negotiate to earn your true worth. And you’ll need to know how to do that as soon as you’re applying for your very first real job.

Master the art of negotiating now by practicing on your friends whenever you disagree on something. You can find lots of tips and techniques online; research and then try them. See what works and what will never fly. By the time you graduate, you’ll be equipped to politely and firmly negotiate for a better salary, an improved benefits package and more!

3. Stick to a budget
Sure, you’ve got a mountain of student debt to pay off, but that doesn’t mean you should let your budget go to pot. Learn how to stick to a spending plan now, while life is still relatively cheap. Better yet, see if you can cut down on your monthly spending and start paying back your student loan before you’ve graduated!

If you need help managing your money, be sure to call, click, or stop by [credit union] today for free financial advice.

4. Sign up for a class that’s not related to your major
Take the time to explore educational pursuits that are not directly related to your chosen major. It’s always a good idea to broaden your knowledge base, and you never know which class or area of study can be super-handy at a later time. Consider subjects like finances, computer science and accounting, all of which will likely be useful to you one day.

5. Develop healthy habits
Now that you’re living on your own and responsible for your daily schedule, take the time and effort to establish healthy habits on every level. Find a healthful diet that you can stick to, adapt a responsible sleeping pattern and establish a study and work routine that shows maturity, perseverance and forethought. It might be more fun to let loose for another few years, but developing healthy habits now shows that you’re growing up and ready to join the world of adults.

Remember: The choices you make today will help to ensure your brighter tomorrow.

Your Turn:
How do you plan for your future today? Share your own best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/best-advice-college-students-never-hear-2017-5

https://bigfuture.collegeboard.org/get-started/know-yourself/5-ways-to-find-career-ideas

How to Prepare for Your Job Interviews

Young black woman shaking hands with her new employerNothing beats the excitement and novelty of your very first real job. With your long-awaited degree in hand, the world is at your fingertips! You can do it all – and you will. But first, you need to land that perfect job. For that to happen, you’ll need to get through an interview looking poised, polished and professional.

Whether,you’re preparing for your first real job or you’re just looking for part-time work to make some headway on your student loans, we’ve got you covered. Check out our handy list of interview tips and get ready to make your best impression!

Research – Find out all you can about your prospective workplace. Showing that you’re familiar with the company, its goals and its successes will impress your interviewer and help you display a keen interest in the company.

Practice – Having an interviewer’s question leaving you tongue-tied is the stuff that interview nightmares are made of. Role-play with a friend before the meeting, having them ask you typical interview questions, like “What can you bring to the company?” and “Can you list some of your strongest skills?”

This way, you’ll be prepared for the questions the interviewer will throw at you during the real thing.

Be professional – Dress to impress. You want to look respectable and mature, so look the part. You don’t need to wear a suit unless the particular workplace calls for one, but you can look sharp and professional in a buttoned, collared shirt, or a nicer blouse and slacks.

Also, be sure to show up at least 10 minutes early. Prepare everything you’ll need the night before so you’re not frantically searching for your keys a half-hour before you’re supposed to meet with the big boss. Make sure you know how to drive to the office without getting lost. If it’s in an unfamiliar part of town, input the address into Waze or another GPS app the day before the interview and do a practice run to be sure you’ve got it down pat.

Finally, use respectable language only, keeping away from slang, vague, meaningless words like “um” or “whatever,” and, of course, all swear words.

Act confident – This is where your latent acting skills come into play. You may be quaking at the knees, but you’ll need to present yourself as a confident, assured employee. Your handshake should be firm. Look the interviewer in the eye. Answer questions in a strong, certain voice. Employers want to see strength and poise; show them you’ve got it!

Exit with grace – No matter how the interview played out, be sure to leave a good lasting impression. Smile, thank the interviewer for their time, and mention what a pleasure it was to meet them.

Follow-up – Later that day, send the interviewer a quick email thanking them again for their time, being sure to sign your name. This way, they’ll remember you from among the dozens of potential employees they may have met that day.

Now get out there and land that dream job!

Your Turn:
How do you prepare for job interviews? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/search?q=preparing+for+first+interview&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=preparing+for+first+interview&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.7064j0j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/first-job-interview-questions-answers

https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/interview/practice

Ransomware And Mobile Devices

Three bad guys planning ransom demandsOne moment, you’re surfing the internet. A minute later, a pop-up shows your files have been taken hostage and that you’re required to pay a $300 ransom to have them released back to you. You stare at the screen in disbelief. How is this possible, especially considering you are on your mobile device?

Ransomware – malware that accesses your computer system and blocks access to your files until a ransom is paid to restore access all while stealing your payment information – has been becoming more prevalent among PC users. While these attacks typically focused solely on PCs, they are now adapting to include mobile devices. That’s right, the very same mobile devices you use to access your credit union accounts for checking balances, transfer funds and make payments.

An example of a Russian-based mobile device ransomware is called “Svpeng.” It focuses on tactics for infecting mobile phones and mobile banking applications. It infects the device with a phishing window when the application is opened. This overlay attack is used to steal online banking information as the malware pretends to be the application’s login screen. The user enters login and password information, which is then stolen by the hackers. Once they have access to the account, they can control the account. Svpeng also phishes through Google Play if that is on the mobile device.

This tactic also involves SMS messages being sent to two Russian banks to determine if the phone number of the device is connected to any payment cards. If a card is indeed connected to a number, the hackers use commands through the device to transfer the victim’s money into their own accounts. While Svpeng has currently been seen only in Russia, it is expected to expand into other countries; one of the features of the ransomware checks the mobile device’s language settings to determine the appropriate language to use for the attack.

As time goes on, other PC-based ransomware programs may also be adapted for mobile devices, or more ransomware programs that are specifically designed for mobile devices may be created. Hackers are always looking for ways to evolve their tactics in hopes of stealing more information and making immediate profits. Svpeng, for example, had 50 modifications to its malware within a three-month period.

How does this type of malware get onto a PC or a mobile device? It could be through a “drive-by download” where malicious software is downloaded without the user even knowing about it. This happens as the user surfs the internet without a care, yet comes across a compromised webpage or clicks to a website through an HTML-based email. It could have been downloaded through a phishing email, which appears to be from a credit union, yet is a fake email linking to a compromised webpage. The ransomware could also come through an email attachment that is malicious.

After the infection occurs on the mobile device or PC, the overlay or ransomware tactics are used as was described with Svpeng. That way the hackers can either directly steal the login and password information when the credit union account is accessed, or the user is blackmailed by a direct ransomware attack to send money to unlock the mobile device.

Many of the ways ransomware can be prevented from infecting a PC are the same for prevention on a mobile device. Make sure data on a mobile device is regularly backed up. This will help with recovering information if the device is hijacked. Make sure an antivirus program is running on the mobile device. Follow safe web browsing habits. Block suspicious emails.

Don’t download data or apps from questionable sources. Don’t “jailbreak” a device where built-in controls and security features are overridden; this removes an additional layer of protection against ransomware attacks.

If you think your mobile device has become a victim of ransomware, you can try to remove it by running a virus scan through mobile antivirus software. Don’t pay any ransom because it won’t guarantee the release of your data and you are giving additional payment information to the hackers. If none of these work, talk with your mobile device or cellular provider or their tech support. Of course, notify your credit union to monitor your accounts for any potentially fraudulent activity.