Memorial Day Hacks and Hamburgers

Memorial Day Hacks and Hamburgers

Memorial Day is a special time of year to honor the men and women who have died while serving in the U. S. military. Originally known as Decoration Day, Memorial Day originated in the years following the Civil War and became an official federal holiday in 1971. Visit History.com for more information.

Always the last Monday in May, this holiday also marks the unofficial beginning of summer fun … pool season, popsicles, and plenty of barbeques. Americans have traditionally observed Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or memorials, holding family gatherings, and participating in parades. This year the weekend activities will likely look a bit different while social distancing, but we will continue to reflect on the sacrifices our soldiers made for us while lighting up our grills. Speaking of, take a visit to Chowhound.com for some amazing tips for the most perfect hamburger ever (80/20 lean to fat ratio ground chuck always!) and clever grilling hacks. Did you know you can use a spare a cooler as an insulated warmer to keep food hot and juicy right off the grill? One tip you won’t see there is a favorite of mine … folding a dollop of mayo into each burger patty for optimal juiciness before they even go on the grill. Try it. You’ll love it!

Sadly, with the holiday, come the crooks that feed on our gratitude. Watch out for Memorial Day scams where hackers use a patriotic or military approach when contacting service members for money. The Better Business Bureau (BBB) suggests to be on the lookout for five specific scams during this time of remembrance:

Fake military charities. Scammers will send out emails, phone calls, direct mailers and send texts using the same outreach practices as well-known legitimate nonprofits. Be wary of messages that contain words like “disabled,” “heroes,” and “warriors” and always double-check the exact name and spelling of the charity.

Fake rental properties. Scammers take out classified ads and will use photos from legitimate rental properties that promise military discounts or other incentives.

High-priced military loans. No legitimate lender will guarantee a loan as being instantly approved. Watch for ads that may also say no credit check is required. If this is the case, the loan will likely come with hidden fees as well as outrageously high interest rates.

Veterans’ benefits buyout plans. These plans offer an attractive cash payment in exchange for a disabled veteran’s future benefits or pension payments. The cash payment is typically only 30-40% of what the veteran is entitled to receive.

Misleading car sales. Some websites post ads that contain false discounts for those in the military. There is also an increase of ads that claim to be from soldiers who need to sell their autos quickly due to deployment.

Stay safe this weekend and please reach out to us if needed. Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family and your employees from the damages of identity theft. We are available for you 24/7/365 at 888.966.GUARD (4827) and [email protected].

Photo courtesy Justin Casey via unsplash.com

 

Financial Tips for 2024 Grads

Financial Tips for 2024 Grads

It’s that exciting time of year! Cap and gowns are coming in and Pomp and Circumstance is running through your head as you prepare for the big event. If you’re a parent of a soon-to-be high school graduate, dollar signs may be running through your head as well, along with advice … and lots of it!

If you’re a grad, get ready to hear life experience stories from your graduation speaker and many others. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has some advice for you as well. Learn how to recognize financial scams. Younger people report losing money to fraud more often than older generations. According to Colleen Tressler, Consumer Education Specialist, FTC, 43% of those who reported fraud were in their 20s, while only 15% were in their 70s. During the first six months of 2023, social media was the point of contact in 38% of fraud losses for people in their 20s. For those 18-19 years old, the figure was 47%.

What can you do to help avoid financial fraud?

Never give out money or any personal identifying information (PII) in response to an unexpected request. Be wary of texts, phone calls and emails. Scammers commonly pretend to be someone you trust.

Do your research. Be smart with your online searches and use terms like “complaint,” “scam” or “alert” along with the company name when you search.

Understand that there’s no such thing as truthful caller ID anymore.

Don’t wire money. Government and legitimate companies will not require you to pay for products or services with a re-loadable gift card. Even using cards like iTunes and Google Play are risky.

Recognize that robocalls are illegal and should be reported to the FTC. If you mistakenly answer one of these calls, hang up immediately.

Looking for a job after graduation can be quite stressful especially if you’re supporting yourself for the first time.

Check out job placement firms closely. These companies should not be charging high fees in advance for any type of service without a guarantee of placement.

Keep in mind that the promise of a job isn’t the same thing as job. If you have to pay for that promise, it’s likely a scam. Read More

Realize that there are many fake jobs listed on social media. Google the company name and visit their website along with the search term “career.” If jobs are not listed on their website and nothing comes up on Google, those are red flags.

Don’t give out any credit or bank account information over the phone to a company unless they have hired you and have agreed to pay you something.

Get job details in writing and take time to go over the small print. A legitimate company won’t pressure you into making an on-the-spot decision regarding your career.

CNN recently reported some smart money moves for graduates, such as aiming to live within your means and knowing what your means actually are. Check out their tips HERE.

Congratulations and make sure you enjoy your special day. We wish you the best of luck in your future endeavors!

For more information, visit https://www.consumer.ftc.gov.

Photo courtesy Jonathon Daniels via unsplash.com.

ALERT: Toll Smishing Text Scam – Do Not Click!

ALERT: Toll Smishing Text Scam – Do Not Click!

The Ohio Turnpike and Infrastructure Commission, the FBI and SunPass are warning drivers of a text message smishing scam that requests payment for unpaid tolls. The FBI is recommending that if you receive a message like the one shown below, to take the following actions:

– Do not click the link in the text.

– Contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center, also known as IC3, at www.ic3.gov, and include the phone number the text came from and the website listed within the text.

– If you have an EZ-Pass or SunPass account, check it via their legitimate website and let them know about the text.

– Delete the smishing text you received.

– If for any reason you accidentally clicked the link in the text and made a payment, contact your financial institution immediately to help secure your personal information and financial accounts. Contact our Member Services team at 1.888.966.4827 (GUARD) or email [email protected].

Screenshot image of a sample scam on an iphone

Being informed of what steps you may need to take before a slip up happens can help ease the potential damage (and your stress level) if it does occur. Guard Well Identity Theft Solutions exists to provide you, your family and your employees from the damages of identity theft. Please don’t hesitate to reach out if you need help or have any questions or concerns. We are available for you 24/7/365 at 1.888.966.4827 (GUARD) and [email protected].

Tips to Lower Your Fraud Risk this Tax Season

Tips to Lower Your Fraud Risk this Tax Season

It’s tax season! For some, preparing and filing taxes is an hour or two-long process; for others, it’s a week or more. By year-end, the majority of us know if we will owe or if we are due to receive a refund … it’s just a matter of how much … and we are happy that everything is completed once tax season is over. Things don’t typically go awry, but tax-related fraud does happen. Knowing how to lower your risk and knowing what to do if it does occur to you, will help prevent the lasting damages to your wallet and credit score.

 

Let’s say for this example that you will be receiving a refund. Imagine looking forward to getting that money so you can pay off those holiday bills or plan that special vacation you’ve been day-dreaming of (or perhaps both if you’re lucky). After preparing your taxes, you happily press “send.” But then WHAM! … your return is rejected by the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) because they already received one for you. How could that happen and what do you do if it does?

 

Tax identity theft is when someone uses a stolen Social Security number (SSN) to file a tax return. You may be wondering, “Why would someone want to do this if I will actually owe taxes?” Even if you aren’t expecting a refund, you are still at risk. Thieves can enter fake income using your SSN in order to trick the IRS into giving a refund but, instead of that money going to you, it is actually wired to the criminal’s account. Even though the IRS has made significant efforts to help stop fraud cases in their tracks in recent years, it still happens.

 

Is tax fraud preventable? No. Are there steps you can take to help reduce your risk? Yes.

 

– Time is of the essence. Prepare and file your return as quickly as possible before someone else does it for you.

 

– Protect your personal identifying information (PII) by: 1) shredding documents that you do not need for tax preparation; 2) keeping your SSN card in a safe deposit box; 3) taking any outgoing mail to your local post office (do not put any mail with PII in your own mailbox – even though federal mail theft is a felony, it still happens); 4) getting your mail as soon as possible after it is delivered; 5) not responding to a phone call asking for or requesting that you confirm any PII (the IRS and legitimate companies will not initiate contact with you for this information unless you have reached out to them first); 6) not opening email attachments or clicking on any links that are not familiar to you; and 7) keeping your personal devices on lockdown unless you are using them (utilize firewalls and keep your anti-virus protection software up-to-date).

 

– If you think your PII has already been compromised, consider putting a free fraud alert on your credit file. There are two options: 1) an initial fraud alert, which is free and will last 90 days or 2) an extended fraud alert, which can be $10 or more but can last up to seven years.

 

– Be aware of the latest scams. Read our blogs on the topic: New Year Scam 2020 Style and Scams, Scams and More Darn Scams

 

– Actively monitor your accounts. You can access your tax account history (and see if someone has already filed for you) at https://www.irs.gov/.

 

– Get a trustworthy tax preparer. There are people who pose as tax preparers as well as online filing services that may promise you a bigger refund and/or may make questionable deductions for you in order to increase their fee. If you are seeking professional help, make sure it is from a certified tax professional or certified public accountant.

 

If your tax return is rejected due to being a ‘duplicate,’ an Identity Theft Affidavit (IRS Form 14039) should be filed as soon as possible to let the IRS know that someone else is using your identity. Contact Guard Well’s Member Services at 1.888.966.GUARD (4827) immediately if needed. A team member is always available 24/7/365. You can also email us at [email protected]. Happy filing!