July 2021 Newsletter
For scammers, stealing other people’s money or data is like a job, and, in the same way people learn new skills or try new things to be more efficient at their work, con artists are constantly trying to improve their job performance. Which means that they evolve their messaging and approach to match the times.
And we certainly saw that during the pandemic, when fraudsters used fear and uncertainty to their advantage. Scams reported to the FBI more than doubled in 2020 versus 2019, moving the department to label the time a “pandemic-fueled crime spree.” For example, con artists tried phishing ploys like these:
- Asking people to verify personal information to be able to receive a stimulus check.
- Impersonating FEMA employees to ask people to “register” for government help with funeral expenses.
- Pretending to be authorities from one of the vaccine producers to get people to verify their personal information by suggesting something had gone wrong with their vaccine dose or asking people to fill out a “short survey” about their experience in exchange for a small reward.
- And recently posing as State officials offering the million-dollar lottery reward if the victim turns over their identification or pays a "small processing fee."
All of this is to say that we all need to maintain our vigilance as cybercriminals redouble their efforts to defraud us of our money or personal data. Here are some clues that an email you received might be a trick:
- Requests for sensitive information. The government, legitimate businesses, and banking institutions will never ask for passwords, tax information, credit card information, or other personal data over email. Any unsolicited email requesting that you send personal info is suspect
- Using a vague address. Credible emails from legitimate companies will use your actual name, not “valued customer” or “account holder.” If the email’s intro is open-ended, be wary.
- Fake domain addresses. Check the sender’s email address—if it doesn’t match the company name, if it’s misspelled, if there are extra characters or digits in it, or if it’s from a personal domain (such as Gmail, Yahoo!, or Hotmail), be suspicious.
- Bad grammar or misspelled words. If the message seems a little “off,” it’s probably not from a legitimate company.
- Unsolicited attachment. If you didn’t ask the company to send you a file, odds are you shouldn’t be receiving a file.
No matter the case, it’s always best to err on the side of caution. If you have any question about the authenticity of a message, contact the institution directly to see if it’s credible—never click any links, download any files, or send any information unless you know the sender is legit. And if you find that you’ve been the victim of one of these scams, be sure to contact the Federal Trade Commission or your local authorities as soon as possible.
By GreenPath Financial Wellness
When considering a significant purchase such as new car or a new home, there are five financial steps you should consider before making that big purchase.
1. Look at Your Financial Picture
- Start by considering what you can afford given your current income, expenses, and other debt obligations. Get a handle on how much money comes into your household each month, and where the money goes.
- If purchasing a home, a common rule of thumb is to spend about 30% of your monthly gross income on housing. That includes costs like mortgage principal and interest, property taxes, insurance, and maintenance. If purchasing a vehicle, try and keep total monthly car costs at about 20% of monthly take-home pay.
2. Check Your Credit Reports and Score
Pull your credit reports from all three credit reporting agencies through AnnualCreditReport.com to check them for accuracy. Resolving errors or incorrect information often helps increase your credit score, giving you more attractive financing options.
- AnnualCreditReport.com also allows you to check your credit score—the higher your score, the lower your interest rate and overall cost of borrowing should be if you plan to finance your purchase. There may be a fee associated with checking your credit score this way, however, some financial institutions such as Bellco, will provide your credit score for free.
3. Figure Out Financing
If purchasing a home, give yourself enough time to explore mortgage options including types of mortgages, terms, fees, interest rates and other information. Consider getting a preapproval or prequalification letter from a lender, especially in a competitive market with low housing inventory.
- When looking to finance a car, take inventory of the most competitive loans offered by the dealership, credit union, bank, or other lender. Make sure to use trusted, unbiased information sources, rather than depending upon advice from someone who might benefit from your choice. And check the fine print—is there a pre-payment penalty if you pay your loan off earlier than expected?
4. Plan the Purchase
Build your team. Have you taken the time to find a real estate professional you can trust to look out for your best interests? Ask friends or family for referrals.
- For a car purchase, do you feel the dealership is able to provide advice and guidance? Have you taken the time to research vehicle make and model from a reputable source of information?
5. Make the Deposit
Be prepared to make an earnest money deposit in the case of a home purchase, which indicates you are a serious buyer. Generally, earnest money deposits range from 1% to 2% of a home's purchase price and are only refundable under specific circumstances.
For a new car purchase, deposits typically total about $500 once you agree to the vehicle price in writing. Understand whether the deposit is refundable if you change your mind about the purchase.
While not an exhaustive list, these steps can help prepare you for that next big purchase. For more helpful information, including financial coaching, debt management services, and more, visit GreenPath Financial Wellness.
As a not-for-profit, Colorado-based financial cooperative, Bellco is committed to providing tools and resources to help our members and the community feel financially empowered. One way we've done this is by collaborating with Denver 7 to provide communities across Colorado with helpful financial tips.
In a recent Denver 7 newscast, reporter Eric Lupher provided tips on how you can spruce up your deck or patio and add value to your home without using a high interest credit card. You can view the segment below:
For more tips and strategies on a range of financial topics, visit our MoneySmarts page.
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