Category Archives: First Californian Blog

social-media-billboard

Identity Theft via Social Media

Are you inviting thieves to your social media networking websites?

Identity theft via social media networking websites is very common, as websites such as Facebook, Instagram, YouTube, Pinterest, Flikr, LinkedIn and Twitter are growing more rapidly than ever. According to Nielsen Online, people are now using social media more than email as a way to keep up with friends and family.

Although social networking websites are a convenient way to keep up with friends and family, remember that everything you post becomes open to the public. Of course, you would never post your banking information or social security number. But did you consider the fact that posting your pets name, hometown, kids’ names, hobbies, and other ‘harmless’ information gives anyone who wants it the answer to many typical questions that are often used to reset your banking accounts and other sensitive passwords?

Is your home address or phone number posted? How about your birthday? With enough information, a thief can set up a personal profile and reset passwords so they can access your financial accounts, credit cards, or investments.

“Most often, identity thieves need look no further than your own social network home page to find personal information that can help them steal your identity or reset banking and other sensitive passwords,” said Howard Schwartz, a spokesman for the Connecticut Better Business Bureau in Wallingford, CT.

Take a few minutes to review your social networking profile on any site you participate. While you want to give friends enough information, make sure it is not too much that people you do not know can use it against you.

Contact American United as soon as possible at 801.359.9600, if you feel you are victim of identity theft. In the meantime, we will continue to do everything to ensure our members are protected. As an additional benefit to our members, we have negotiated a better rate to protect your identity through IdentitySecure®. The first month is free, while all other months are $14.95 per month. More information can be found on our website: Member Services

Tabs on Credit Score

Keep Tabs on Your Credit

How to Keep Tabs on Your Credit

At some point, you’ll likely want to borrow for a big ticket purchase – a home, a car, a college education – something big for you or your family. Preparing for that day means staying on top of your credit score now.

Part of being a smart consumer is managing your credit history and credit score. Your efforts will be rewarded – a good credit score gets you lower interest rates, thus saving you money. Generally, if your score lands above 740 (on the traditional score range of 300 to 850) you’re in great shape.

So how do you keep on top of things? By getting and going over your credit report regularly. Luckily, it’s free. Several years ago, the three major credit bureaus came together to create and host a website, annualcreditreport.com, which allows you to pull one copy of your credit report from each bureau every year. Pulling your credit report every four months allows you have a better likelihood to stay on top of your account and quickly spot any suspicious or inaccurate activity.

Once you have your report in hand, start with your personal data. Are there any mistakes? You are looking for red flags like names you have never gone by, addresses you have never occupied, or errors in your Social Security Number. If that information is correct, move on to your accounts. Make sure accounts listed are yours and that the information is accurate, right down to the credit limit, account status, balance, and payment history. Finally, look at your inquiries. Every time you apply for credit, whether it’s a new credit card, an increase in your credit limit, or a loan, the lender looks into your credit file. Make sure that the inquiries listed on your report are ones that you are aware of – in other words, you applied for that loan or credit card, and no one was trying to apply in your name without your knowledge.

If you find an error, it’s up to you to dispute it. All three credit bureaus, Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion, allow you to dispute information online, but where you can, you should also send a written letter. List all mistakes with a description of why the information is inaccurate and how it should be updated. Include any back up information, such as your account records, for proof, as well as your phone number and Social Security Number. Give the bureau 30 days to investigate. If you do not hear back (you should receive a letter detailing what was updated on your credit report, or an email if you submitted your dispute online), follow up and keep a paper trail.

American United also offers identity theft protection through a partnership with IdentitySecure®. Enjoy the security and peace of mind with comprehensive identity protection. The first month is free. Afterward, it only costs $14.95 per month. IdentitySecure® provides the advanced protection of fraud alerts and more, so you can lock down your identity and maintain control of your life. Find out more at IdentitySecure.com

As always, if we can be of any assistance, contact an American United member service representative at 801.359.9600 or accounts@amucu.org

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What is International Credit Union Day?

International Credit Union Day Explained.

International Credit Union (ICU) Day has been celebrated on the third Thursday of October since 1948. The day is recognized to reflect upon the credit union movement’s history and to promote its achievements. It is a day to honor those who have dedicated their lives to the movement, recognize the hard work of those working in the credit union industry and show members our appreciation.

This year’s ICU Day will take place on Oct. 16, 2014. Its theme, “Local Service. Global Good.,” emphasizes credit unions’ positive impact in their communities and around the world. “ICU Day was established to acknowledge credit unions’ strong base in their communities, both local and global,” said Brian Branch, World Council President and CEO. “This year’s theme champions the credit union model by shining light on the industry’s support of charity causes at the local, national and international levels.”

The ultimate goal is to raise awareness about the great work that credit unions are doing around the world and give members the opportunity to get more involved. For more information, go to woccu.org/events/icuday

All of us at American Untied certainly appreciate our members, whether you have been with the credit union for most of your life, or if you are a new member. We are constantly trying to improve the products and services we offer to our members, and hope you are utilizing our newest technologies, such as online banking, mobile banking, mobile deposit, online bill pay, eStatements, and MoneyDesktop, to maximize your membership with American United. Stay tuned for additional products in the works, that will further enhance your membership.

Once again, thank you from all of us at American United.

Shellshock

Latest Round of Cyber Security Threats

Shellshock: What You Need To Know About The Latest Round Of Cyber Security Threats

If you’re trying to navigate the news concerning Shellshock, you can be forgiven for thinking the coverage is written in another language. The official name for the exploit, CVE-2014-6271, sounds like it should come from a “Star Trek” character. It’s not easy to explain and it’s even harder to figure out what to do about it. Let’s first see what the exploit is and then see what you need to do to keep yourself safe.

Shellshock is an exploitable security gap in Bash, one of the most popular operating environments for Internet backbone computers. Bash support is rare for home computers and is disabled by default on OSX and Windows devices. It’s extremely common, though, on email and website hosting servers, which usually run Linux-based operating systems. Shellshock allows hackers to operate servers remotely, installing and operating software, accessing data and executing operations.

It might seem like Shellshock is a problem for other people, but it’s a serious security concern for everyone. From hotels to credit card companies, Bash-operated computers are everywhere in e-commerce, and unless they’re using a patch that was released on Sept. 29, they’re vulnerable to remote manipulation. This could put sensitive data at risk. More seriously, hackers can use remote servers to distribute malware and engage in further acts of cyber crime.

How many computers were affected by the bug? It’s difficult to say. The flaw was discovered on Sept. 26 and exists on devices other than computers. Automated engineering equipment, database maintenance computers and even facilities management machines run variants of Linux that rely on Bash. Many of these devices were set up with the expectation they would never need software maintenance, so getting an accurate count of devices is impossible. Early estimates by security experts at HP suggest that the loophole could affect a half-billion computers in America.

Worse yet, the exploit has been embedded in the system for as much as 22 years. Linux archivists charged with tracing the flaw claim that the bug may have been allowing limited access to online machines since 1992. This means the scope of the problem could be far greater than Heartbleed.

We at American United update our systems regularly and your data security is the highest priority. Our systems were updated immediately upon announcement of the threat’s discovery and we will always keep our members informed of any threats to their privacy. There are steps you can take to protect your privacy online, as well.

1. Do not install any software that claims to fix this patch unless it comes from the manufacturer of your operating system. There are two ways cybersecurity problems cause damage: first, the damage of the actual attack, and second, the collateral damage from the panic and insecurity in the wake of the crisis. Many opportunistic criminals will use the confusion surrounding the bug to distribute malware and other harmful programs. Unless you have specifically enabled Bash on your PC, Mac, or mobile device, you do not need to install any new programs to stop the bug.

2. Change your passwords. One of the common commands hackers run with Shellshock is to download a list of passwords and account names. If you’ve used a password somewhere, assume that password is no longer secure. Choose a new, strong password. If you’re struggling, try using the four random words strategy pioneered by cryptologist Randall Munroe. Put four random words together, capitalize the first letter of each word, and put a number and a piece of punctuation on the end – like FootballAnarchyMondayCamden4! – to create an easy-to-remember but hard-to-guess password.

3. Keep a careful eye on your account and card statements. Watch for small, recurring charges. For many hackers, the easiest way to make a living is to steal a dollar a month from a thousand people. The odds of getting caught are lower than trying to steal a thousand dollars from one person and the profits are the same. If you see suspicious activity, call your issuing institution immediately to put a hold order on the account.

4. Avoid storing your credit card information with online retailers. Not only can this expose you to identity theft, but it can also make it easier to impulse spend. Shellshock is not the last security bug we will see. It is smartest to begin expecting this level of insecurity and keeping your personal information in as few places online as possible.

5. For more information, check out these sources:
www.zdnet.com
www.pcworld.com
www.pcworld.com
www.smh.com.au
www.zdnet.com
www.informationweek.com

free-checking

Paying Checking Account Fees?

Are you paying fees for a checking account?

If your financial institution is charging you fees for a checking account, you’re not alone. Free checking accounts used to be easy to find just a few years ago; every bank and credit union offered them, and those that didn’t, lost their competitive edge. Nowadays, most either do not offer free checking or require you to meet multiple stringent qualifications to open a free checking. Economic conditions, combined with financial industry regulations, have caused this trend; especially among the big banks.

You will find there are still many credit unions that offer free checking, including American United. Don’t let the big banks, e.g., Bank of America, Citibank, Wells Fargo, Chase, and Capital One, lead you to believe that free checking is a thing of the past. You can still have free access to your money through your local credit union.

Click Here to find a checking account option that is best for your individual needs, or the needs of your family.

Security concept: Lock on digital screen

Home Depot Data Breach

The Latest Data Breach

On September 2, 2014, American United became aware of an investigation into a data breach at Home depot locations in the U.S. and Canada from April 2014 forward. It is not believed that stores in Mexico or online shopping accounts were breached.

If you made any purchases at Home Depot, please call us at 877-992-8663 to report any suspicious activity. You may also order new cards even you do not see any suspicious activity.

Home Depot is also offering free identity protection services, including credit monitoring. You can sign up for these services at: homedepot.allclearid.com.

Even though this breach is not related to American United, and we do not believe our members have been compromised, we take cardholder breaches very seriously. Your security is our priority and we will act accordingly to protect member accounts.


FICO

What is a FICO Score?

Your FICO Score.

Your FICO score is one of the most important numbers of your life. It is a key factor in determining the interest rate on your next mortgage, auto loan or credit card. It may even determine whether or not you get an apartment or a job. For these reasons, it’s important to monitor your credit score, and understand how it works. This quick Q&A will walk you through some FICO score basics.

Is there a difference between a FICO score and a credit score?
No, they are the same. The Fair Isaac Corporation (FICO) issues credit scores based on a predetermined range. You will be assigned a number between 300 (worst) and 850 (best).

How is my FICO score calculated?
Fair Isaac takes a number of factors into consideration to calculate your credit score. These include your payment history, how long you have had lines of credit open, and your payment timeliness.

Here is a quick breakdown of what is factored in, by percentage:
•35%: Your payment history: all timely, tardy and missed payments. Recent history has the greatest impact.
•30%: How much you owe versus your overall credit limit (often called the debt utilization ratio). Debt hurts your score, but installment loans that create a regular (and timely) payment record can help your score.
•15%: The age of your accounts. Old accounts are trustworthy. New accounts are met with some suspicion.
•10%: New credit: inquiries into your account, new accounts, any effort put into turning around bad credit around. Too many new inquiries look bad.
•10%: Types of credit: credit card debt, student loan debt, etc. The best way to raise this part of the score is to diversify your credit sources.

How can I find out my credit score?
You are entitled to one free credit report each year from any (or all) of the three major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion. You are entitled to another one if you are denied credit.

AnnualCreditReport.com is the only government-endorsed website for obtaining your credit report. Getting your actual credit score may cost a bit of money. Check out the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau’s article here for more details.

What do the score ranges mean?
Here’s a quick breakdown of each score range and its significance.
Bad Credit: 300-579
Poor Credit: 580-629
If you have bad credit or poor credit, you will probably know it. You will have missed a lot of payments, declared bankruptcy, or perhaps you’re just new to the world of credit. You may have a hard time getting a card, or you’ll have to pay the highest interest fees if you do. If this is you, it is time to rebuild your credit by getting a secured card, or taking out a small loan, and establishing some sort of solid payment history.

Fair Credit: 630-689
If this is you, you will qualify for a number of cards, but you may not get the lowest interest rate or the best rewards. To keep raising your score, keep your debt utilization low. Borrow conservatively and make regular payments. Don’t close old accounts unless you are paying too many fees. Older accounts count more toward your score than younger ones.

Good Credit: 690-749
Excellent Credit: 750-850
With a good credit score, you will qualify for most credit cards. With excellent credit, you will get the lowest interest rates, the highest credit limits and the best rewards. Take full advantage of your benefits and keep making your payments on time to stay on top.

Above all else, be smart! Make your payments on time, and stay under your limit. It’s also good to avoid financial products with crazy-high interest rates, like cash advances. If you have bad credit and need to start from scratch, get a secured credit card and use it responsibly.

Courtesy of NerdWallet.com, an unbiased personal finance website dedicated to promoting financial literacy.