FINANCIAL TIPS & ALERTS

Fast Facts about Heartbleed

 April 18, 2014

HeartbleedMany of you have read about the “Heartbleed” vulnerability and what affects it has had on many websites. We would like to reassure you that the research conducted thus far by our data processing center is indicating that our online services are not susceptible to the vulnerability. This includes our personal and business online banking.

Heartbleed allows cybercriminals to retrieve usernames, passwords or banking information. It can also retrieve a website’s cryptographic keys, which are used to impersonate that website and collect more sensitive information.

For a listing of sites that were and were not affected, click on the following link: http://mashable.com/2014/04/09/heartbleed-bug-websites-affected/

If you are using any of the affected sites, change your passwords immediately. This would also be a good time to start considering the use of a password vault tools or services. There are many sites that have not been affected by Heartbleed. Even though these sites were not affected, now is a good time to change your passwords. If you would like to verify a website you use frequently that is not listed in the link above, you may also visit online checkers to check its status.

Some services will notify you directly of the changes and urge you to change your passwords. Please be careful when doing this. The current situation will surely be an opportunity for phishers looking to impersonate legitimate services and trick users into sharing their login credentials.

If you receive such an email (legitimate or not), avoid clicking on links contained within, and change your password by accessing your account via the official login page.

Elder Financial Abuse: 9 Red Flags

April 4, 2014

Many Wisconsin elders are as mentally sharp as they were 20 years ago. Others are less fortunate and at risk for elder financial abuse, which can include exploiting money, property, or other assets in a variety of ways.

There are more than one million Wisconsinites over the age of 60, and 35,000 of them are financially exploited annually. That's according to a 2010 workshop ("Elder Financial Exploitation and Prosecution") published on the website of the Wisconsin Coalition of Aging Groups.

If you have concerns about how an elderly relative or friend is handling their finances, here are a few tips to consider, beginning with these red flags:

  • Larger than normal cash withdrawals
  • Excitement over winning a sweepstakes or lottery
  • Presence in their life of a new "friend" who determines financial decisions
  • Lack of knowledge about a newly issued credit or debit card
  • Confusion about account balances or transactions
  • Missed bill payments
  • Utility shut-offs
  • Concern about giving out personal information via phone or email
  • Caregiver paid too much or too often

If you spot a red flag, ask the elder about it. Ask to see the sweepstakes win confirmation or try to learn the details about how they met that new friend. Avoid prompting; let them answer in their own words. If their explanation raises questions, you may want to ask to see their check register, online account information, invoices, or other financial documents.

You might discover a simple answer to your concern. Maybe the elder did indeed win $500 on a scratch-off Wisconsin lottery ticket. Maybe that new friend is a neighbor who is just as uneasy as you are about the elder's welfare.

On the other hand, if the answers you receive only increase your level of concern, it's likely time to seek assistance. Contact your elder's attorney for added information and counsel. Or, take the elder to visit their local community bank office to straighten out any questions about accounts, transfers, or unexplained checks.

If you believe someone you know is being financially exploited, do not hesitate to call the Elder Financial Empowerment Project at 800-488-2596 for victim assistance and guidance. You can also call your local police or your county's Aging and Disability Resource Center. You can locate your county's office and contact information on the center's website: http://www.dhs.wisconsin.gov/adrc/.

Once financial abuse has been documented, you may want to help the elder contact one of the nation's three credit bureaus if the abuse might lead to false or misleading reports. Help them request a copy of their credit report and place a fraud alert on the account. You can find contact information for the three nationwide consumer credit reporting firms (Experian, Equifax, and Trans Union) at www.annualcreditreport.com, or phone 877-322-8228 toll-free.

Source: Community Bankers of Wisconsin,Consumer Tips, April 2014

Fake feds get people to pay

But really, the people contacting you are imposters looking to scare you into sending them money.

Today the FTC announced a case against a group of third-party debt collectors for allegedly deceptive and abusive business practices. According to the FTC, Federal Check Processing and its related companies would accuse people of check fraud or other criminal behavior and threaten lawsuits, prison, and bank account seizure if people didn’t pay their supposed debts. Instead of telling people they were debt collectors, the companies would emphasize words like "federal" and "U.S." in their company name, the FTC says, or even claim they were federal or state officers. What’s more, the companies allegedly failed to give people information they’re legally entitled to, or to investigate the legitimacy of debts, even when they were told the consumers didn’t owe them.

If you get a call like this, you might be unsure of what to do. Here are some things you can be sure of:

  • Federal government agencies don’t ask people to send money for unpaid loans. If you still feel unsure, look up the official number of the agency the caller is pretending to represent so you can get the real story.
  • There’s no legitimate reason for someone to ask you to wire money or load a rechargeable money card as a way to pay back a debt.
  • Even if a debt is real, you have rights under the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act. If the debt is legitimate — but you think the collector may not be — contact your creditor about the calls. Share the information you have about the suspicious calls and find out who, if anyone, the creditor has authorized to collect the debt.
Source: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information Scam Alerts, March 2014

Are you affected by the recent Target hack?

January 2, 2014

As many of you know, a breach of credit and debit card data at retailer Target may have affected as many as 40 million shoppers who made purchases with a credit or debit card between November 27, 2013 and December 15, 2013. Ixonia Bank takes such events very seriously and will do everything possible to protect your accounts.

If you have any questions about suspicious activity to your account, please contact our Accounting Department at 920-262-6952 or 262-567-5295.

The Federal Trade Commission also has more information on the steps to take to protect your identity and accounts.

UPDATE - January 24, 2014

For updated and additional information on the Target security breach, we suggest reading this Q&A document on the steps you should take to help protect your accounts.  This is also a useful resource on how to protect yourself from phishing scams that usually accompany situations such as these.

Holiday Budgeting Tools

December 10, 2013

It's the time of year for giving gifts, entertaining, hosting holiday parties – and for many, overspending and financial stress. Setting a realistic holiday budget and making sure to stick to it are the first steps to a more affordable and less stressful season. We recommend using the Holiday Budgeting Center by Practical Money Skills For Life™ to enjoy the season without letting holiday spending get the better of you.

IRS Warns of Pervasive Telephone Scam

October 31, 2013

The Internal Revenue Service today warned consumers about a sophisticated home scam targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, throughout the country.

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. If the victim refuses to cooperate, they are then threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting.

“This scam has hit taxpayers in nearly every state in the country.  We want to educate taxpayers so they can help protect themselves.  Rest assured, we do not and will not ask for credit card numbers over the phone, nor request a pre-paid debit card or wire transfer,” says IRS Acting Commissioner Danny Werfel. “If someone unexpectedly calls claiming to be from the IRS and threatens police arrest, deportation or license revocation if you don’t pay immediately, that is a sign that it really isn’t the IRS calling.” Werfel noted that the first IRS contact with taxpayers on a tax issue is likely to occur via mail.

Other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.
  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security Number.
  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.
  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.
  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.
  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue – if there really is such an issue.
  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.
  • If you’ve been targeted by this scam, you should also contact the Federal Trade Commission and use their “FTC Complaint Assistant” at FTC.gov. Please add "IRS Telephone Scam" to the comments of your complaint.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information.  This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts.

Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

Source: IRS Newswire IR-2013-84, October 31, 2013

Don't Get Taken by Wire Transfer Scams

September 10, 2013

Using a bank or a money transfer company to "wire" funds electronically is an easy and convenient way to send cash to someone. And when consumers wire money to people they know, the transaction typically takes place without a problem. But wiring money to strangers — in the U.S. but especially in another country — is risky because often they could be scam artists.

How can you protect yourself against wire fraud?

  • Never wire money to people you don't know, regardless of how convincing or enticing their story may be. Scammers often win their victims' confidence with some "bait," such as a work-at-home offer, a great deal on a product for sale, or news that you have won some kind of lottery. Be especially careful with transactions over the Internet, where the other person's true identity can remain anonymous.

    But even if you get a request to send a wire transfer and it's supposedly from someone you do know, confirm that's the case some other way, such as through a separate phone call.
  • If you're being pressed to make a decision or send money fast, it's probably a sign of a scam. For example, crooks might frighten you with a phone call that a loved one is in trouble and needs cash sent to the caller immediately. Thieves may try to divert you away from using a more traditional means of money transfer, such as a credit card or check. To do this, they often stress the 'urgency' of the transaction to get the victim to act without thinking.
  • Walk away from any offer from a stranger who asks you to deposit a check into your bank account and instructs you to wire any of that money to someone else, perhaps in another country. Let's say you receive a check, cashier's check or money order for an item you are selling or to cover so-called processing fees, shipping costs or other expenses. But then you notice that the check is for more money — perhaps far more — than what you were expecting. The other party instructs you to deposit the check and wire a portion back to an associate in another country. Later you find out that the check was fake and you are out all of the money you wired. In this type of scam, victims may end up owing thousands of dollars to the financial institution that wired the money.

    Likewise, if you are selling something online, be wary of a request by a "buyer" to wire you the money because that may be a ruse to get your bank account information. Or, this person may plan to send you the money illegally using someone else's bank account number, and ultimately you'd be without your merchandise as well any payment. Always remember that wiring money is like sending cash, and because you voluntarily sent the money, you have fewer protections in terms of getting it back.
  • Never give out your bank account or credit card numbers in response to an advertisement or an unsolicited call, text message or e-mail. That information could enable someone to steal money out of your account by a wire transfer, before you have time to realize that the interaction was fabricated by a swindler.

Source: FDIC Consumer News, Summer 2013 edition.

Identity Theft Prevention Checklist

August 20, 2013

Identity theft can be scary, but knowing what to do can help put you in control. We recommend doing the following to minimize the threat of identity theft:

  • Check your credit report annually
  • Review your bills and statements on a regular basis
  • Guard your mail and trash from theft
  • Use caution when giving out personal information
  • Copy the contents of your wallet or purse
  • Report lost or stolen checks or credit cards immediately

To check your credit report, contact one of the following 3 major credit bureaus:

Equifax: 1-800-685-1111
Experian: 1-800-397-3742
TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289

We also recommend visiting the Federal Trade Commission's website on Identity Theft. At this website, they outline steps to be taken, as well as various resources to aid you in reclaiming your identity.

Robocall Scams Push Medical Alert Systems

July 18, 2013

The latest in unwelcome, illegal, prerecorded sales calls are from scammers pitching a safety alert system for older adults.

The callers spoof a phone number so it looks like a local call on caller ID. If you pick up, you'll hear a message saying you're eligible for an alert system, or system upgrade, or that someone bought a system for you. The message asks you to "press one" on your phone to talk to a live operator, who will quickly ask for a bank account, credit card, or Medicare number, and maybe an address, to "expedite shipping and handling."

The best response? Don't press a number, and don't speak to a live operator. People who gave their information have seen monthly charges of $35 and up for that "free" system. If you get a call with a recorded sales message and you haven't given the company your written permission to call, the call is illegal. Since the call itself is illegal, you can bet the offer is a scam. If you gave information to one of these callers, check your account statements. If you find unexpected charges, ask your bank or credit card company to remove them. Finally, contact the FTC online or at 1-888-382-1222 to report your experience.

Source: Federal Trade Commission, Consumer Information Scam Alerts, July 2013

 

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