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The Latest Way Fraudsters Are Abusing Personal Information

According to a 2016 report from the security firm ThreatMetrix, identity thieves are working a new seam in the identity theft gold mine: online lending. There is an increase in attacks against providers of alternative lending products.

The reason online lenders have attracted this unwanted attention has to do with the niche they occupy. First, they typically offer smaller loans in the $2,000 to $5,000 range. They differentiate themselves in a crowded market by providing faster turnaround than traditional lenders. It is that speed that makes it an ideal transaction type for the commission of identity theft: Thieves use fake or stolen personal information to apply for funds they can get quickly — before the lenders or potential victims know what’s happened.

I know what you’re thinking: Really? And yes, I am sorry to say it — but very much so: Really. We’re talking about THIS again, because last year fraudsters were able to scam $16 billion from consumers. This is yet another example of how identity thieves abuse people’s personally identifiable information to the detriment of both consumers and businesses. That tells me that we need to keep talking about how to stop being such an easy target.

The New Normal?

There’s a question mark up there because unfortunately curiosity and disbelief are still the most common reactions consumers have when the conversation turns to identity-related crime. Personally, I would add that it boggles the mind people still question the prevalence of the identity theft scourge.

Here’s the deal: Your chances of getting “got” have never been better, whether it’s in a simple credit card fraud scam, a mind-rackingly complex attack on every available crumb of value to be had through the exploitation of your financial reach in the world, or this latest trend where identity thieves target online lenders.

Is it really the new normal? The answer: No, it is not.

There is, in fact, nothing new about it. It’s the plain old vanilla, 100% normal now. The trend began well over a decade ago. If I were being a stickler, the heading would say, “the mind-numbingly old but still not totally understood normal” or “the how can this still be something I have to write about normal.”

When it comes to identity theft, it’s all about your personally identifiable information being in the wrong hands and not so much about what you do to protect yourself. But before you throw your hands in the air and start singing like Madam Butterfly, keep reading.

What You Can Do

With tongue firmly in cheek, one thing you can do is read Swiped: How to Protect Yourself in a World Full of Scammers, Phishers and Identity Thieves (full and shameless disclosure: I wrote it, and it is now available in paperback).

Since the book came out last year, the problem has gotten much worse. In fact, 2016 brought a new all-time high, with an estimated 15.4 million U.S. consumers becoming victims in one stripe of identity-related crime or another. That’s up from 13.1 million the year before.

You can keep your information from being used by scammers by placing a freeze on your credit. This will make it impossible for anyone to utilize your credit without the authentication to thaw it (including you). In addition, you need to practice what I call in my book, The Three Ms:

• Minimize your exposure. Don’t authenticate yourself to anyone unless you are in control of the interaction, don’t overshare on social media, be a good steward of your passwords, safeguard any documents that can be used to hijack your identity.

• Monitor your accounts. Check your credit report religiously, keep track of your credit score, review major accounts daily if possible. (You can check two of your credit scores for free every two weeks on Credit.com.) If you prefer a more laid-back approach, sign up for free transaction alerts from financial services institutions and credit card companies or purchase a sophisticated credit and identity monitoring program.

• Manage the damage. Make sure you get on top of any incursion into your identity quickly and/or enroll in a program where professionals help you navigate and resolve identity compromises — oftentimes available for free or at minimal cost through insurance companies, financial services institutions and HR departments.

It says somewhere in the Bible that the fastest runner doesn’t always win the race, and the strongest warrior doesn’t always win the battle. We learn in the same verse that the wise can go hungry and even the most talented among us can be dirt poor. If the scribes had lived today, they would have added that even the most careful among us can become victims of an identity-related crime.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

SodaStream recalls 51K bottles over explosion risk

The Consumer Product Safety Commission announced Tuesday a recall of SodaStream bottles, because they can burst under pressure.The CPSC recall states that no injuries have been reported, but notes that bursting bottles could injure the user or bystanders. Consumers should immediately stop using the bottles and contact SodaStream via phone at 866-272-9417 between 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. ET Monday through Friday or online at sodastream.com for a refund. 

>> Read more trending stories

According to the CPSC, 51,000 bottles sold in the U.S. are included in the recall. The CPSC states that the recalled bottles are one liter in size and blue tinted, with a blue cap and blue bottom base. “SodaStream” and “dishwasher safe” are printed on the bottles. The recall only includes bottles with an expiration date of “4/2020” printed on the warning label. The recalled bottles were sold at Bed Bath & Beyond, Target, Walmart and online retailers such as Amazon from February 2016 through January 2017 for approximately $15.  

Video: Why Your Credit Score Matters

MoneyTips

If you think, "I'm not buying a home, so I don't need to worry about my credit score," think again. Millennial Money Expert Stefanie O'Connell, author of The Broke and Beautiful Life, explains in this video why you need to think about your credit score, even when you're simply getting a cell phone. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.

Originally Posted at: https://www.moneytips.com/video-why-your-credit-score-matters

Building Credit in Young Adulthood

Video: The Many Ways Your Credit Score Matters

Video: When To Build Credit For Your Kids

Video: Why Your Credit Score Matters

MoneyTips

If you think, "I'm not buying a home, so I don't need to worry about my credit score," think again. Millennial Money Expert Stefanie O'Connell, author of The Broke and Beautiful Life, explains in this video why you need to think about your credit score, even when you're simply getting a cell phone. You can check your credit score and read your credit report for free within minutes using Credit Manager by MoneyTips.

How to Make Sure Someone Doesn't Steal Your Tax Refund

Americans taxpayers are too lax about identity theft, according to a poll from CyberScout.

A survey conducted by the data security and identity protection firm found more than half of Americans aren’t worried about tax fraud, despite federal reports showing identity thieves filed 787,000 fraudulent returns in 2016, which adds up to more than $4 billion in fraud.

The survey also found that only 35% of taxpayers ask their preparers to use two-factor authentication (which is stronger than a single password) to protect their information. On top of that, only 18% use an encrypted USB drive to save tax documents that contain sensitive information. When it comes to choosing a tax preparer, 50% of respondents said they chose their tax preparers online, didn’t screen them beforehand or weren’t sure how to evaluate a tax preparer at all. CyberScout said this puts consumers at risk of getting scammed. Finally, more than half (51%) of taxpayers expecting refund checks in the mail don’t use a locked mailbox.

These findings come from a nationally representative survey of more than 1,500 Americans aged 18 and over commissioned by CyberScout, using Google Consumer Survey.

“In tax season, it is crucial that everyone remain vigilant and on high alert to avoid tax-related identity theft or phishing schemes,” said Adam Levin, founder and chairman of CyberScout and author of “Swiped.” Levin is also the co-founder of Credit.com.

How Taxpayers Can Protect Themselves

Tax season is one of the busiest times for identity thieves, but there are steps taxpayers can take to protect themselves. Here’s what CyberScout recommends:

  • Use a password-protected Wi-Fi connection when filing your taxes. Use a long and complex password — not just for your Wi-Fi but also for any accounts you’re using during the tax-filing process.
  • Get your return via direct deposit. If you must receive a return check via mail, have it sent to a locked mailbox.
  • Ask your tax preparer to use two-factor authentication to protect your documents and personal information.
  • Use an encrypted USB drive to save sensitive tax documents.
  • Never give information to anyone who contacts you by phone or online claiming to be from the IRS. The IRS will never contact you this way.
  • Monitor your accounts and online identity for any signs that your identity has been stolen. For example, if you see a sudden, unexpected change in your credit scores, it could indicate your identity has been stolen. You can easily get a look at your credit by using our free credit report snapshot, which is updated every 14 days.

The IRS also keeps taxpayers updated on the latest scams on its website. In most cases, if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can find some more tips for avoiding common tax scams here.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Tax Benefits of Caring for an Aging Relative

MoneyTips

Caring for an elderly relative can be rewarding, but incredibly difficult – as well as expensive. However, it may be possible to recoup some of the costs through income tax savings. There are three general approaches to tax savings on elder care costs – declaring your elderly relative as a dependent to receive an exemption, taking medical deductions that can be itemized, and claiming a dependent care credit that can be subtracted directly from the taxes you owe. First, you must determine if your elderly relative qualifies as a dependent. Full details are listed in IRS Publication 501, "Exemptions, Standard Deductions, and Filing Information," but the p...

Shattered Your New iPhone? Your Credit Card Might Have You Covered

At some point in your life, you’ve probably dropped your smartphone. If it happened to be on the ground, you may have even shattered the glass. If you didn’t have insurance through your carrier, you probably thought you were out of luck. But if you purchased that phone with a credit card, you could have taken advantage of an underused benefit: purchase protection.

What Is Purchase Protection?

Purchase protection is a benefit that comes with select credit cards. It will protect your purchases against accidental damage or theft for a select amount of time. Some cards also include a benefit called extended warranty protection. This is different from purchase protection. Extended Warranty protection extends the life of the manufacturer’s warranty on your items.

Be aware that purchase protection isn’t an indefinite benefit. It typically only lasts for the first 90 to 120 days of owning an item. The exact length of time depends on the card itself. But if you purchase a new smartphone and break it before you can get a protective case, you can rest easy knowing that you’re protected.

So what makes a great purchase protection policy? One of the biggest things to look at is the amount of coverage you have. What if you purchased something much more expensive and it was damaged soon after? You’ll want to make sure you’re covered for that. Some policies actually cover up to $10,000 per claim.

Something else to be mindful of is the length of the benefit. As we mentioned before, most last for 90 to 120 days. You will also want to pay special attention to the items excluded from each card’s policy.

Let’s take a look at five cards that offer purchase protection policies for cardholders.

1. Chase Sapphire Reserve

The Chase Sapphire Reserve (we’ve got a full review here) made a big splash last year when it was released. It quickly became one of the best available cards for travelers. However, it also has some great shopping benefits. With this card, you will receive purchase protection, up to $10,000 per claim and up to $50,000 per year. It will cover theft or accidental damage for the first 120 days.

When you sign up for the Chase Sapphire Reserve card, you will receive 50,000 Chase Ultimate Reward points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. You will then receive three points on restaurants and travel expenses. Any other purchase will receive one point. This card has a $450 annual fee, but you will receive a $300 travel credit each year. You will also receive up to $100 to cover Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check.

The card carries a variable purchase annual percentage rate between 16.49% and 23.49%, based on creditworthiness. (You can get an idea of yours by viewing two of your credit scores, updated every 14 days, for free on Credit.com.)

2. Platinum Card From American Express

The Platinum Card from American Express offers its cardholders purchase protection on items for the first 90 days. The benefit limits are $10,000 per claim, at a maximum of $50,000 per year.

When you sign up for this card, you will receive 40,000 Membership Reward points after spending $3,000 in the first three months. You will also receive five points for flights booked directly through airlines or with American Express Travel. All other purchases will earn one point. This card comes with an annual fee of $450, but it offers a $200 airline fee credit. There are no interest charges since it is a charge card, meaning you’ll have to pay your balance in full each month or face a steep penalty APR.

3. Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard

The Citi/AAdvantage Executive World Elite MasterCard offers purchase protection benefits for the first 120 days (90 days for New York residents). You’re covered for up to $10,000 per item, up to $50,000 per year, a spokesperson from Citi said. To get the coverage, you must pay at least partially for the item with your Citi credit card.

You will receive 50,000 AAdvantage miles after signing up for this card and spending $5,000 within the first three months. You will then receive two miles for every dollar spent on American Airlines purchases. Plus, you will receive one mile for every dollar spent on everything else. If you spend $40,000 in a calendar year, you will receive 10,000 Elite Qualifying Miles. This card has a $450 annual fee, but you will receive a $100 statement credit for Global Entry or TSA Pre-Check. You will also receive complimentary Admirals Club membership. The card carries a variable purchase APR of 15.74%.

4. United MileagePlus Explorer Card

If big annual fees aren’t something you can comfortably afford, you might want to consider the United MileagePlus Explorer card. Not only does it have a lower annual fee of $95, it offers a purchase protection benefit of $10,000 per claim and is valid for 120 days.

When you sign up for this card, you will receive 50,000 United miles after spending $3,000 in the first three months. In addition, you will receive two miles on all United purchases and one mile for every dollar spent on everything else. Each calendar year you spend $25,000, you will be awarded a 10,000-mile bonus. As a cardholder, you will also receive two free United Club one-time passes each year, a free first checked bag and priority boarding. The card carries a variable purchase APR of 16.49% to 23.49%, depending on creditworthiness.

5. Citi Prestige

The Citi Prestige is another premium credit card that offers stellar purchase protection. With this card, you will have protection for 120 days and the limits are $10,000 per claim and $50,000 per calendar year.

With the Citi Prestige, you will earn 40,000 bonus ThankYou points after spending $4,000 in the first three months. You will receive three points on airfare and hotel purchases, two points on dining and entertainment, and one point on everything else. The card comes with a $450 annual fee, but it includes a $250 air travel credit and access to hundreds of VIP lounges through Priority Pass Select. The card carries a variable purchase APR of 15.74%

Purchase protection isn’t the only extra premium plastic has to offer. Here are 8 other major credit card perks you probably aren’t taking advantage of.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

How to Save on Home Security With a DIY System

A security system is an important investment to make for your home, keeping your family and valuables safe and sound. Many homeowners hesitate to install an alarm system, however, because of the cost — which can be upwards of $1,000. Luckily, you can avoid paying hundreds of dollars for a wired security system with all…

Are Fast Cars More Expensive to Insure?

Even just a decade ago, cars weren’t nearly as fast as they are today. In fact, 300 horsepower was expected only from V-8 engines, writes Forbes. But because of “direct fuel injection, turbocharging and other advances in engine technology and design, power and speed can be bought in a range of body styles, vehicle sizes and powertrain configurations.”

Speed — as measured by quickness of acceleration and pure engine power, and not top speed, which only matters on race tracks — is now more accessible than ever, and as Tesla just proved, as cars move to electric power, we might see faster and faster cars on the road. Tesla’s Model S is now the third fastest car in the world, writes The Verge (behind just the Ferrari LaFerrari and the Porsche 918 Spyder — both million-dollar hypercars). Upgrades to the battery allow the Model S to go from 0 to 60 mph in 2.5 seconds, making us wonder: Do the fastest cars cost more to insure?

We looked at cars people might actually drive (we’ll save concept cars and supercars for another list and another day) and calculated insurance premiums based on a standard profile: a 30-year-old single man living in Austin, Texas (ZIP: 78702), who rents his home, owns his car, has a good driving history, a good credit score, and has had consistent insurance coverage for a basic level of insurance with a national carrier. (You can view two of your credit scores, with helpful updates every two weeks, for free on Credit.com.)

Keep in mind, the time it takes for a car to accelerate from 0 to 60 mph can vary widely based on each driver’s skill, so results may vary. In no particular order (because their specs and model years differ), here are 10 of the fastest cars on the road and their stats.

1. 2017 Chevrolet Camaro MSRP: $37,900 Engine Details: 6.2-liter V8, 455 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 4.0 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium for a Chevy Camaro: $1,620

2. 2016 Jaguar XJR MSRP: $118,000 Engine Details: 5.0 Liter V8 550 HP Supercharged Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 4.4 seconds Average Insurance Premium: $2,148

3. 2017 Cadillac CTS-V MSRP: $85,995 Engine Details: 6.2-liter V, 640 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60, 3.7 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $2,112

4. 2016 BMW M5 MSRP: $94,100 Engine Details: 4.4-liter V8 TwinPower Turbo, 560 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 4.2 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $2,112

5. 2016 Dodge Charger SRT Hellcat MSRP: $67,645 Engine Details: 6.2-liter supercharged Hemi V8, 707 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 3.7 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,512

6. 2017 Audi RS 7 Engine Details: 4.0-liter V8 with two turbochargers, 560 horsepower MSRP: $110,700 Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 3.7 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $2,268

7. 2017 Volkswagen Golf R MSRP: $39,375 Engine Details: 4-cylinder turbo, 292 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 4.5 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,560

8. 2017 Ford Mustang GT Fastback MSRP: $33,195 Engine Details: 5.0-liter V8, 435 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in the mid-4 second range Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,512

9. 2016 Dodge Challenger R/T Scat Pack MSRP: $39,995 Engine Details: 6.4-liter V8, 485 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in the low-4 second range Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,608

10) 2017 Volvo S60 Polestar MSRP: $60,000 Engine Details: 3.0-liter Turbocharged inline 6-cylinder 345 horsepower Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 4.7 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,428

Compare these insurance prices with the prices of the five most popular sedans for 2017, based on our new State of Auto Insurance Report, for the same insurance customer profile.

Chevrolet Cruze MSRP: $16,975 Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 7.6 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,056

Honda Accord MSRP: $22,455 Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 6.1 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,176

Hyundai Elantra SE MSRP: $17,150 Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 8 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,344

Nissan Altima MSRP: $22,500 Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 7.7 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,260

Toyota Camry MSRP: $23,070 Acceleration Speed: 0-60 in 8 seconds Average Yearly Insurance Premium: $1,236

Final Word: Do Fast Cars Cost More to Insure?

Our assessment: We can’t say for sure whether or not all cars with more powerful engines that can accelerate faster always cost more to insure than their slower counterparts, but all of the faster cars above come with more expensive insurance premiums than all of the slower cars we looked at.

Another potential insurance price factor: All of the faster cars also cost more (in some cases, a lot more) than all of the slower cars. We know that price has something – though not everything – to do with insurance pricing (which is still somewhat of a mystery, even to us).

As we’ve seen, equating insurance rates with one definable feature is tough: Insurance rates weren’t strictly correlated with safety rating, either. But while we might not be able to say with absolute certainty that faster cars will mean more on your monthly premium, we do have proof that using that speed illegally is practically guaranteed to cost you.

The Insurance Consequences of Speeding Convictions

If you drive a certifiably fast car, always remember to follow the rules of the road, not only because it’s safer for you and everyone driving near you, but because beyond any traffic citations you might receive for speeding, speeding also has some pretty detrimental effects on insurance rates.

In 2016, if you were convicted of speeding, your insurance rates went up by the following percentages (national U.S. averages from The Zebra’s State of Auto Insurance Report):

  • Speeding in a School Zone: 18%
  • Speeding 6-10 MPH over the limit: 17%
  • Speeding 11-15 MPH over the limit: 18%
  • Speeding 16-20 MPH over the limit: 19%
  • Speeding 21-25 MPH over the limit: 20%
  • Speeding In 65 MPH Zone: 23%

That means if we’re looking at the national average premium of $1,323, a single speeding ticket could raise your rates from $225 to $304. (And that continues for three years after the violation occurs.)

Fast cars with great handling make for excellent driving – but stay safe (and under the speed limit!) – or you could pay in more ways than one.

 

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This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

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