26 Apr

Protect Your Identity by Shredding Personal Documents

Identity theft is a nationwide problem, and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) estimates as many as 9 million Americans have their identities stolen each year. The fact is anyone with a social security number is vulnerable to identity theft.

The good news is there are things you can do to reduce your risk. Shredding documents that contain personal and financial information is one of the best ways to protect your identity. Navigator Credit Union has the details on what to keep and what to shred.

Save forever
Keep documents related to major life events – birth, marriage, divorce and death. Lock securely:

  • Birth certificates or adoption papers
  • Social Security Cards
  • Citizenship papers or passports
  • Marriage or divorce decrees
  • Death certificates of family members.

Also, keep auto titles and home deeds stored safely for as long as you own the property.

Tax records
Keep tax-related records for seven years. Should you be selected for an audit by the Internal Revenue Service, these records will be needed. And while tax-related receipts, canceled check and W-2s can be shredded after seven years, the FTC suggests keeping tax returns forever.

Other records
According to the FTC, you don’t have to wait seven years before shredding many other documents. After paying personal credit card or utility bills, shred them immediately. Also shred sales receipts, unless related to warranties, taxes or insurance. After one year, shred bank statements, pay stubs and medical bills (unless you have an unresolved insurance dispute or these documents should be kept as tax records). You should also shred voided checks and any online purchase orders containing your bank account or billing information right away.

Mail
Millions of pieces of mail are delivered every day and some of those could contain sensitive personal information. Here is a list of items to shred:

  • Documents containing personal and real estate taxes
  • Mail containing information about utility accounts, cell phone and internet bills
  • Pre-authorized or pre-approved credit card offers
  • Mail from insurance companies and lenders
  • Child and school-related mail.

Free Community Shred Days
If you have documents you’d like to safely dispose of, you can take advantage of one of two upcoming free Community Shred Days being offer by Navigator in collaboration with community partners in Mobile, Ala., and D’Iberville, Miss. Both events are restricted to personal document shredding and will offer drive-up and drop-off shredding services. Shredding services first-come, first-served based on truck capacity.

The first, co-sponsored by Fox 10 News, is Saturday, May 1, 2021, from 7 a.m. to 11 a.m. at the Fox10 Studios located at 1501 Satchel Paige Drive in Mobile, Ala. The Office of Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch is teaming with Navigator for the second event, which is Saturday, May 8, 2021, from 8 a.m. to noon at Walmart Supercenter, 3615 Sangani Boulevard, D’Iberville, Miss.

Community Shred Day – Alabama
Saturday, May 1
7-11 a.m.
Fox 10 Studios
1501 Satchel Paige Drive
Mobile, Ala.

Community Shred Day – Mississippi
Saturday, May 8
8 a.m.-Noon
Walmart Supercenter
3615 Sangani Blvd
D’Iberville, Miss.

16 Mar

5 Ways to Make the Best Use of Your Stimulus Check

The pandemic is still taking a toll on the financial well-being of many Americans, and the 2021 American Rescue Plan is intended to ease some of the burdens. The third round of economic stimulus payments is expected to be sent out soon. You can learn more about who’s eligible, and the timing at IRS.gov/coronavirus.

Whether the money means help with necessities or being able to afford a few extras, it’s important to think about how you can make the best use of any relief payment.

Prioritize necessities
If the pandemic has left you in a hardship situation, the first thing to do with any stimulus check is to use those funds to cover essentials for you and your family. The intent of economic relief bills is to help those in need with necessities like housing payments, utility bills and groceries. Navigator Members who are dealing with financial difficulties as a result of COVID-19 can request a review of your situation. While automatic COVID-related payment extensions and COVID Relief Loans are no longer available, you can ask for consideration due to special circumstances by calling our Member Contact Center, 800-344-3281. Each request will be handled confidentially and on a case-by-case basis.

Start or supplement an emergency fund
Although Congress continues to consider sending additional relief checks, if, when and how much will be approved is not certain. If at all possible, consider using at least a portion of your stimulus check to create or add to a “rainy day” fund. Many financial experts recommend having three to six months’ worth of living expenses in a liquid savings account available to support you and your family during an emergency. That may have to remain a goal for the future, but any amount you can set aside gives you a cushion. Consider setting up an automatic transfer to your Navigator savings account to help make saving easy, as well as easy to access.

Pay off debt
While completely paying off debt may not be possible, it’s a good idea to pay down debt whenever you can. Every little bit helps, so focus on whittling down debt by paying more than the required minimum amount. Refinancing to a lower interest rate (such as for a personal or car loan) may also help you pay down debt faster. Talk to a Navigator Team Member to see if an auto loan refinance, a credit card balance transfer or a debt consolidation loan can help your financial situation. With auto loan rates as low as 1.99%credit card rates as low as 10.9% and an array of personal loan options, you may be able to lower your monthly payments, helping relieve some of the stress of a challenging time. You can even apply online safely and quickly.

Build great credit
Making on-time payments and handling credit responsibly will raise your credit score, a number that is considered for a large loan such as a mortgage, or even getting a job or apartment in some cases. Navigator’s online bill pay and other e-services can help you make payments on schedule. In addition to paying accounts on time, preferably for at least six months, another way to boost your credit score is with a secured credit card. No credit or poor credit isn’t an issue with a secured credit card which is backed by the cash deposit you make when you open the account. The deposit is usually equal to the credit limit available to make purchases. Account activity and payment history are reported to credit bureaus. Responsible use can help increase your credit score to be eligible for an unsecured card and the return of your initial deposit. Navigator’s Secure Credit Card has no application fee, no annual fee, no prepayment penalty and can be used anywhere Visa® is accepted. Plus the interest rate is a low fixed 12.9% APR. You can even apply online.

Save toward a long-term goal
Whether you’re looking ahead to retirement, making plans for a mortgage down payment, hoping to send your kids to college or simply dreaming of an extra special Christmas this year, Navigator offers convenient and flexible savings options designed to meet your needs. If you’re in a position to set aside a portion of your income or a portion of your stimulus check, the sooner you begin to set aside even a small amount, the quicker you’ll reach your savings goal. Benjamin Franklin coined the phrase, “A penny saved is a penny earned,” meaning to save money is as beneficial as earning the same amount. In truth, a penny saved is worth more than a penny due to earning interest over time. Even if you’re not able to contribute to a savings plan, you can begin saving money with every purchase made with your Navigator debit card if you’re enrolled in our Save’N Up Debit Card Savings Program. Rounded-up savings earn 5.5% APY, and Navigator will even match your rounded up saving up to $300 per year.

The effects of COVID-19 have left even the most experienced economists debating the long-term effects on the economy. But despite all the uncertainly, you can rely on Navigator Credit Union for more ways to save, pay off debt, manage loans and prepare for your future. We’re thankful for the trust you have placed in us, and we’re as committed as ever to providing the strength, stability and financial resources our Members need – no matter what happens on life’s journey. For details about banking with Navigator while the COVID-19 pandemic continues to affect our communities, visit navigatorcu.org/community-strong.

12 Mar

Third stimulus payment approved

On March 11, President Biden signed into law The American Rescue Plan aimed to ease some of the financial difficulties still experienced by so many Americans. The third round of economic stimulus payments will be coming soon by direct deposit, checks or a debit card to those eligible. Individual amounts may vary, and you can get the latest information about what you can expect from IRS.gov/coronavirus.

 As a reminder, Navigator Credit Union does not have advance information about individual relief payments; you can view pending deposits on the mobile app and/or set up pending deposit alerts through online banking.

While you wait for your payment, someone else is too: scammers. Navigator has some tips from the FTC on how you can spot and avoid scammers.

  • The government will never ask you to pay anything upfront to get your economic stimulus payment.
  • The government will not call, text, email or message you to ask for your Social Security, bank account, or credit card number.
  • A legitimate entity will NOT ask you to pay by gift card, cryptocurrency or wire transfer.

The new law also has some language about health insurance, temporarily increasing subsidies for newly laid-off people and many people buying their health insurance through the Affordable Care Act (ACA). The above tips apply here too! A legitimate entity will never call, text, email or message you out of the blue about getting or keeping health insurance coverage, demand payment or your account numbers. If they do, it’s a scam.

If you spot one of these scams, please tell the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov.

20 Jan

IRS delays start of tax filing season

The Internal Revenue Service has delayed the start of the tax filing season to Friday, Feb. 12, 2021. The agency normally begins tax season in late January, however this year the IRS says it needs more time after Congress passed a second COVID relief package in late December 2020.

The IRS is still urging Americans to file electronically with direct deposit as soon as they have the information they need. People can begin filing their tax returns immediately with tax software companies, including IRS Free File partners. These groups have started to accept tax returns, and the returns will be transmitted to the IRS starting February 12.

The IRS anticipates nine out of 10 taxpayers will receive their refunds within 21 days of when they file electronically with direct deposit if there are no issues with their tax return. The IRS urges taxpayers and tax professionals to file electronically to avoid delays in processing, avoiding filing paper returns wherever possible.

More than 150 million tax returns are expected to be filed this year, with the vast majority before the Thursday, April 15, deadline. For additional information about steps to speed up your tax refund during the pandemic, click here.

Source: Internal Revenue Service

31 Dec

Second round of Economic Impact Payments on the way

The Internal Revenue Service and Treasury Department have begun delivering a second round of Coronavirus relief Economic Impact Payments or stimulus checks. If you’re wondering when or if you’ll receive a payment, Navigator Credit Union has some helpful information.

When will I get my money?
Individuals who have their direct payment information on file with the IRS will see the payments first. The IRS and Treasury announced that stimulus payments started going out via direct deposit Dec. 29. The department says some may see the direct deposit payments as pending or as provisional payments before the official payment date of Jan. 4, 2021.

Paper checks were scheduled to begin being mailed Dec. 30. The IRS says paper checks or debit cards could be arriving in mailboxes as early as the first week of 2021.

The IRS is reminding taxpayers there is no action required by eligible individuals to receive this second relief payment.

You can check payment status and confirm payment type by visiting the IRS website and click Get My Payment.

How much money will I get?
The full amount of the stimulus payments and applicable income levels have yet to be defined. However, the recovery bill that President Trump signed currently includes direct payments up to $600 to eligible adults, plus $600 per dependent child.

Visit www.irs.gov/coronavirus for the latest information about the Economic Impact Payments, including answers to questions about eligibility and what to expect on payment timing and amounts.

Avoiding Coronavirus stimulus payment scams
Scammers are using stimulus payments to try to rip people off. They might try to get you to pay a fee in order to receive your stimulus payment. Or they might try to convince you to give them your Social Security number, bank account or government benefits debit card account number.

Here are four tips for avoiding a stimulus payment scam:

Only use irs.gov/coronavirus to submit information to the IRS – and never in response to a call, text or email.

The IRS won’t contact you by phone, email, text message or social media with information about your stimulus payment or to ask you for your Social Security number, bank account or government benefits debit card account number. Anyone who does is a scammer phishing for your information in order to commit fraud.

You don’t have to pay to get your stimulus money.

The IRS won’t tell you to deposit your stimulus check then send them money back because they paid you more than they owed you. That’s a fake check scam.

Navigator Credit Union’s Member Promise includes working in your best interest, helping you achieve financial success and protecting your privacy. We want to help make sure the Coronavirus relief payments benefit our Members and not scammers. If you remember these four things, you’ll cut scammers’ success rates. And, when you spot a scam, tell the FTC: ftc.gov/complaint. Together, we can help put a stop to these scams.

20 Apr

Common Fraud Schemes Related to COVID-19

Navigator Credit Union wants you to be safe during the COVID-19 pandemic, and that includes helping to keep you safe from fraudsters. We want to make you aware of some of the common fraud schemes now being reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI).

Government Impersonators
According to the FBI, one of the most prevalent schemes is government impersonators. Criminals are reaching out to people through social media, emails or phone calls pretending to be representing government agencies. In some cases, they’re even going door-to-door to try to convince people to give them money for COVID-19 testing, financial relief or medical equipment. It’s important to know the government will not reach out to you in these ways. If someone reaches out to you directly and says they’re from the government helping you with virus-related issues, it’s likely a scam.

Fraudulent Cures or Medical Equipment
The FBI says it’s most concerned about fake cures or treatments for the virus. These cures can be dangerous to your health and could even be fatal. You should never accept a medical treatment or virus test from anyone other than your doctor, pharmacist or local health department.

Work-from-Home Fraud
People who are at home and out of work are vulnerable to work-from-home scams. If someone you don’t know contacts you and wants you to urgently pay them in return for a job, there’s a good chance it is a scam. Legitimate employers will not ask you to pay them in order to get work.

Investment Fraud

One of the most lucrative schemes being encountered by the agency involves criminals offering you an opportunity to invest in a cure or treatment for the virus. The purpose of these get-rich quick schemes is simply to defraud the investor. Any offer like this should be treated with extreme skepticism.

Ways to protect yourself
Use the utmost caution in online communication. When it comes to emails, always verify who the sender is – and look closely; criminals will sometimes change just one letter in an email address to make it look like it comes from someone you know. Be very wary of attachments or links; hover your mouse over a link before clicking to see where it’s sending you.

In general, the wisest and safest approach is to be suspicious of anyone offering you something that’s “too good to be true” or is a secret investment opportunity or medical advice. Seek out legitimate sources of information on your own without relying on the claims which come from unfamiliar sources.

16 Apr

Think twice before taking social media quizzes

While they’re practicing social distancing as part of an effort to slow the spread of COVID-19, many people are turning to social media to stay connected and pass the time. Navigator Credit Union wants to warn of an old trick identity thieves are deploying to get your information.

Navigator, along with the Better Business Bureau, warns you to think twice before taking part in social media challenges and quizzes. These are those posts which ask, “What was your favorite teacher’s name? Who was your first grade teacher? Who was your childhood best friend? What was your first car?” and similar questions.

If these questions sound familiar, they should! These are the many of the same questions you are asked as security questions when setting up bank and credit card accounts. When you answer these questions and post your responses online, you may not realize you are also giving the answers needed to get past the security questions set up to protect your private information and money.

Although many of these posts are simply meant for fun, hackers are also setting up these “get to know you” posts as a way to steal your information. They then can steal your online identity, build a profile of you and use the information you inadvertenly handed them in order to hack your accounts or open lines of credit in your name.

Here are some tips to avoid social media scams:

  • Be skeptical: Before you take a quiz, see if you can figure out who created it. Is it a brand you trust? Just because something appears to be fun and innocent, doesn’t mean there isn’t an inherent risk.
  • Adjust privacy settings: Review your social media account’s privacy settings and be strict about what information you share - and be mindful of who you are sharing it with.
  • Remove personal details from your profile: Don’t share information like your phone number or home address on social media accounts.
  • Don’t share friends’ information: Many quizzes, games and apps ask for access to your friends list and information. Do not grant permissions without asking your friends first! While you are choosing to give access to your information, they aren’t – and you could be putting them at risk, too.
  • Monitor Friend Requests. Don't accept friend requests from people you don’t know. Also be wary of a second friend request from someone you are already connected with; the second profile may be an imposter trying to access your data and your Friends list.

Of course, not all of the quizzes, posts and games are scams. However it is best to remain vigilant and refrain for such activities as there is no way to tell which ones may have been created by scammers. When it comes to this seemingly innocent “fun,” it is truly better to be safe than sorry.

03 Apr

IRS warns of economic impact payment scams

Navigator Credit Union is committed to helping you protect your privacy. As the COVID-19 pandemic takes a toll on people’s pocketbooks, your finances could face other threats as well.

Experts are warning of a rise in scams. You’re advised to be on the lookout for an increase in calls and email phishing attempts. That’s not all. Tech savvy fraudsters may also use text messages, websites and social media to request money or get your personal information.

The Internal Revenue Service says scammers may:

  • Emphasize the words “Stimulus Check” or “Stimulus Payment.” The official term is economic impact payment.
  • Ask you to sign over their economic impact payment check to them.
  • Ask by phone, email, text or social media for verification of personal and/or banking information saying the information is needed to receive or speed up your economic impact payment.
  • Suggest they can work on your behalf to get a tax refund or economic impact payment faster. This scam may be conducted by social media but it could even be done in person.
  • Mail you a bogus check, perhaps in an odd amount, and then tell you to call a number or verify information online in order to cash it.

Navigator wants to remind Members it is extremely important you do not provide personal or financial information, including social security number or bank account information, to an unknown source. If you think you’ve been contacted by a scammer, you’re encouraged to report it to the Federal Trade Commission.

31 Mar

Long-established retirement account rules change

The Setting Every Community Up for Retirement Enhancement (SECURE) Act is now law. With it, comes some of the biggest changes to retirement savings law in recent years. While the new rules don’t appear to amount to a massive upheaval, the SECURE Act will require a change in strategy for many Americans. For others, it may reveal new opportunities.

Limits on Stretch IRAs.

The legislation “modifies” the required minimum distribution rules in regard to defined contribution plans and Individual Retirement Account (IRA) balances upon the death of the account owner. Under the new rules, distributions to non-spouse beneficiaries are generally required to be distributed by the end of the 10th calendar year following the year of the account owner’s death.1

It’s important to highlight that the new rule does not require the non-spouse beneficiary to take withdrawals during the 10-year period. But all the money must be withdrawn by the end of the 10th calendar year following the inheritance.

A surviving spouse of the IRA owner, disabled or chronically ill individuals, individuals who are not more than 10 years younger than the IRA owner and child of the IRA owner who has not reached the age of majority may have other minimum distribution requirements.

Let’s say that a person has a hypothetical $1 million IRA. Under the new law, your non-spouse beneficiary may want to consider taking at least $100,000 a year for 10 years regardless of their age. For example, say you are leaving your IRA to a 50-year-old child. They must take all the money from the IRA by the time they reach age 61. Prior to the rule change, a 50-year-old child could “stretch” the money over their expected lifetime, or roughly 30 more years.

IRA Contributions and Distributions.

Another major change is the removal of the age limit for traditional IRA contributions. Before the SECURE Act, you were required to stop making contributions at age 70½. Now, you can continue to make contributions as long as you meet the earned-income requirement.2

Also, as part of the Act, you are mandated to begin taking required minimum distributions (RMDs) from a traditional IRA at age 72, an increase from the prior 70½. Allowing money to remain in a tax-deferred account for an additional 18 months (before needing to take an RMD) may alter some previous projections of your retirement income.2

The SECURE Act’s rule change for RMDs only affects Americans turning 70½ in 2020. For these taxpayers, RMDs will become mandatory at age 72. If you meet this criterion, your first RMD won’t be necessary until April 1 of the year after you reach 72.2

Multiple Employer Retirement Plans for Small Business.

In terms of wide-ranging potential, the SECURE Act may offer its biggest change in the realm of multi-employer retirement plans. Previously, multiple employer plans were only open to employers within the same field or sharing some other “common characteristics.” Now, small businesses have the opportunity to buy into larger plans alongside other small businesses, without the prior limitations. This opens small businesses to a much wider field of options.1

Another big change for small business employer plans comes for part-time employees. Before the SECURE Act, these retirement plans were not offered to employees who worked fewer than 1,000 hours in a year. Now, the door is open for employees who have either worked 1,000 hours in the space of one full year or to those who have worked at least 500 hours per year for three consecutive years.2

While the SECURE Act represents some of the most significant changes we have seen to the laws governing financial saving for retirement, it’s important to remember that these changes have been anticipated for a while now. If you have questions or concerns, reach out to your trusted financial professional.

Jeff Hamm may be reached at 228-474-3427.

Learn more about NCU Wealth Management.

This material was prepared by MarketingPro, Inc., and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note – investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such. All indices are unmanaged and are not illustrative of any particular investment.

Securities sold, advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution to make securities available to members. Not NCUA/NCUSIF/FDIC insured, May Lose Value, No Financial Institution Guarantee. Not a deposit of any financial institution. 

Citations.

  1. waysandmeans.house.gov/sites/democrats.waysandmeans.house.gov/files/documents/SECURE%20Act%20section%20by%20section.pdf [12/25/19]
  2. marketwatch.com/story/with-president-trumps-signature-the-secure-act-is-passed-here-are-the-most-important-things-to-know-2019-12-21 [12/25/19]
08 Jul

Getting your vehicle road trip ready

Summer is here, and many people are looking forward to getting away. Wherever you are headed, Navigator Credit Union wants to help you get there safely.

A routine vehicle inspection is one step that can save a lot of unwanted stress down the road. The Mississippi Department of Transportation has some advice on what you can do to make sure your vehicle is vacation ready.

  • Check tires for tread wear and proper pressure
  • Check your battery
  • Make sure belts and hoses are in good shape
  • Replace your windshield wiper blades
  • Check all brake and head lights
  • Make sure your air conditioning is ready for the heat

Fluid levels, such as oil, brake, transmission, windshield, coolant and power steering, should also be inspected before hitting the road.

When traveling, it’s a good idea to keep an emergency kit on hand. The kit includes basic repair tools, jumper cables, first aid supplies, a flashlight and duct tape. Also, do not forget a spare car key, kept in a safe space.

These quick and easy steps can help you relax even more knowing your car has been prepped for this year’s road trip.