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Published: Thursday, September 28, 2017 @ 2:11 PM
As evidenced by the Equifax data breach, the credit industry is having quite a time keeping people’s personal information safe.
Sonic Drive-In acknowledged just this week that its credit card customers may have been affected by a security incident after the company was alerted to “unusual activity” by one of its card processors.
One of the problems with the industry is that criminals have been able to access credit card numbers by exploiting vulnerabilities in the computer systems of merchants. In the case of Equifax, criminals hacked into a website application and gained access to “certain files,” such as Social Security numbers, addresses and names.
So what’s a consumer to do? When you swipe your card (or insert its chip) at an establishment you’d like to think that it’s protected with the full might and protections of the law. But what we’re seeing now is that, unfortunately, that’s not always the case. It may be time to think about putting away that physical credit card.
More merchants these days are doing transactions involving virtual credit cards, in a clear sign that the industry is trying to be proactive about the dangers of identity fraud.
Here’s how a virtual credit card works:
Consumer sign up for and receive a virtual credit card online. The card features a 16-digit number ,just like your physical card. The difference is the virtual number will expire on a date of your (or the issuing company’s) choosing. You can also elect to have a virtual card for a specific merchant or store, eliminating the risk that it could be used at other businesses.
A new report on Credit.com says that consumers who use virtual cards are generally protected from the same dangers and responsible for the same liabilities of a physical card holder. Purchases done via virtual credit cards may appear on your billing statement right alongside charges you made with your physical card. In other cases, the charges may appear separately, depending on the bank.
Citibank has a service that provides virtual 16-digit account numbers. The company says that when shopping online or by mail order, you can use a randomly generated Citi card “Virtual Account Number” instead of your real account number. Click Enroll in/Get to sign up to use a Virtual Account Number.
Bank of America
Through its SafeShop brand, Bank of America allows customers to generate a temporary credit card number that links to your real credit card account number. Throughout the process, your card number remains private and protected, the company says.
To access the ShopSafe service, sign in to Online Banking and enter your spending limits and the ShopSafe service will automatically generate a temporary 16-digit account number, with a security code and expiration date.
Although major banking institutions have fiddled with the concept for years, in 2016 a tech start-up called Privacy introduced a virtual debit card that produces a 16-digit “burner” number for online purchases. The free service is designed to buoy consumer confidence because it never allows the chance for your real credit card number to get out there on the web.
Privacy has agreements with several big banking institutions, including Bank of America, Citibank, Chase and Wells Fargo. It is also available as an IOS app and via Google Chrome browser extension.
What makes Privacy pretty cool is that it works with subscriptions. And at a time when companies require you to jump through hoops to unsubscribe, including calling customer service and waiting long periods in many cases, with Privacy all you have to do is cancel the virtual card and – boom – payments stop.
Consumers can use any billing address, so there’s no way to trace the card back to your residence. Of course, the virtual card will be connected to your bank account to withdraw funds that you purchase.
There are also smaller companies that also offer virtual cards. One of them is called Final. The company says on its website: “With Final, you can generate virtual cards from your phone with the push of a button. Those virtual cards can be turned on or off in real time.”
Final CEO Aaron Frank told TechCrunch last year during the company’s public inception: “We chose to do the hard thing — build a consumer brand and behind it, a full-stack issuing company, from scratch.”
Another company is GlobalVCard, which is headquartered in Bonita Springs, Fla., but has offices in New York, Dallas and Toronto. The company offers virtual and electronic card payments catering to business travelers.
Of course, no matter how many safeguards you put in place, it’s always a good practice to monitor your credit card statements for fraudulent activity.
All of that being said, money expert Clark Howard says there are two things you need to do right now to protect your credit: First, sign up for free credit monitoring at CreditKarma.com and, secondly, freeze your credit. Clark advises that this two-step process, in that order, be followed in the aftermath of the Equifax data breach.
In addition to free credit monitoring, Credit Karma offers a number of financial services aimed at protecting your data and making you a more informed user of credit. Another plus for users is that Credit Karma allows consumers to check their credit free of charge as many times as they would like. Other companies generally require a fee and/or block you from more than one inquiry a year.
Published: Thursday, February 22, 2018 @ 6:13 PM
— ‘Tis the season for taxpayers to get a nice chunk of change back from the IRS.
It’s tempting to spend it all, but financial experts say there are steps you should take to shore up your financial future.
Some who usually pay off debt will splurge this year.
“I’m going to Japan in April so I’m actually going to add that to my travel fund, so I’m really excited about it,” said Olivia Morris from Centerville.
Those who used to spend their return?
“I just plan to save it. We are about to start a family, so I plan on saving it for the baby,” said Toska Ivory of Dayton.
It’s important to have a plan for tax return funds or any financial windfall, said Lisa Roberts, Graceworks certified housing and credit counselor.
Pay urgent bills first then save.
“If it’s something that is urgent -- a bill that’s going to be a roof over your head, utilities, pay them,” said Roberts, “after that you definitely want to put it into savings.”
WalletHub has these additional tax refund spending recommendations:
As for splurging?
Published: Thursday, January 04, 2018 @ 11:05 AM
— Many companies have announced they will provide first quarter cash bonuses to employees following last month’s passage of the tax reform bill.
» RELATED: What to expect from the new tax legislation
While some may see this as money to spend immediately, PNC offered five things to think about for how to use the funds:
FIVE FAST BUSINESS READS
Published: Thursday, December 28, 2017 @ 9:12 AM
— With the recent tax changes, the usual end-of-year assortment of tax moves is likely more complicated in 2017.
These changes affect everyone from single mothers to millionaires to most sports fans who buy event tickets.
“I’d love to tell you that everyone has a handle on this,” said Mark Bradstreet, founder of the Bradstreet & Co. Inc. accounting firm, which has offices in Centerville and Xenia. “I’m not sure anyone does. I would be suspicious if someone said they did.”
Prominent among the changes: The 1,000-page legislation recently passed by Congress and signed by President Donald Trump caps at $10,000 the amount of state and municipal taxes that taxpayers can deduct from their federal tax bill.
Some filers — those with high property tax bills who aren’t using the standard deduction — are scrambling to pre-pay property taxes for the coming year before the cap takes effect, according to national reports. In 2017, that deduction has no ceiling.
While the new tax bill lets local municipalities decide whether to allow taxpayers to pre-pay property taxes, it blocked filers from pre-paying local sales and income taxes.
Bradstreet said it’s OK to pre-pay real estate taxes for most taxpayers. Montgomery, Greene and Warren counties will allow filers to pay property taxes early, he said.
“They’re all more than happy to take your money,” he quipped.
If you fall under the alternative minimum tax (AMT) — and if you don’t itemize your deductions — paying property property taxes early won’t help, Bradstreet said.
“For most people, though, it’s ‘no harm, no foul’ pre-paying it this year,” he said.
But an IRS announcement was triggering more confusion early Thursday.
In a notice, the IRS said pre-paying property taxes may work, but only under certain conditions. Real estate taxes may be paid in 2017, but the taxes must also be assessed in 2017.
William Duncan, a certified public accountant with Dayton firm Thorn, Lewis & Duncan, said taxpayers should check with accountants to see if they will fall under the AMT in 2017.
Duncan called the tax changes “wild.” With newly lowered tax brackets and higher standard deductions, he said he has clients with seven-figure incomes who will opt to take the standard deduction this year instead of itemizing.
That’s the first time in his career he has seen that, Duncan said.
The standard deduction for married individuals filing jointly is $24,000, noted John Venturella, a Dayton shareholder with Clark Schaefer Hackett.
“I think you are just going to see a lot of people using the standard deduction,” Venturella said.
The new law introduces some wrinkles for University of Dayton Flyers or other college and professional sports fans, too.
If you buy University of Dayton basketball tickets in the lower arena and pay for a seat license, current law lets you deduct 80 percent of that as a charitable deduction. That benefit is going away in 2018, Duncan said.
The university is inviting ticket-holders to pre-pay for seat licenses in 2017, Duncan said, which Adam Tschuor, associate athletics director for revenue and partnerships at UD, confirmed.
“It may be to your advantage to pay for next season’s ASP (Arena Seating Program) donation or beyond before Jan. 1, 2018,” the university said in a letter sent to ticket-holders just last week. “These payments would still be tax deductible under existing tax law.”
Tschuor said the university has always allowed fans to prepay their “ASP donation in all the way up to the conclusion of the announced ASP cycle.”
Another change: Your tickets for UD, Wright State, Ohio State or Cincinnati Reds or Bengals games will no longer be tax-deductible as a business entertainment expense.
“If you’re a businessperson and you want to take clients to the UD game next year, you’re not going to be allowed to take a tax deduction for the entertainment value of those tickets,” Duncan said.
For businesses, Duncan said it’s important this year to try to defer whatever income you can, push it to 2018, and pay the expenses you can in 2017.
Most accountants scoff at the notion, pushed by the bill’s proponents, that it has simplified the tax code. For higher-income earners in particular, as well as many small businesses, tax law remains at least as complex as ever. And the bill has injected a new layer of uncertainty because so many changes are temporary and could be reversed in a few years.
Donating to charities
December is a critical fundraising month for charities. Many people make year-end gifts for tax reasons, or to extend the spirit of Thanksgiving and generosity to those less fortunate. Here are a few dos and don’ts when it comes to charitable giving.
DON’T succumb to high-pressure, emotional pitches. Giving on the spot is never necessary, no matter how hard a telemarketer or door-to-door solicitor pushes it. The charity that needs your money today will welcome it just as much tomorrow – after you’ve had time to do your homework.
DO think before you give. If you are solicited at the mall or on the street, take a minute or two to “think.” Ask for the charity’s name and address. Get full identification from the solicitor and review it carefully. If you decide to donate, don’t give cash. Write a check made payable to the charitable organization, not an individual.
DO check out the charity carefully. Make sure you feel comfortable with how your money will be spent. Don’t just take the word of someone else; even good friends may not have fully researched the charities they endorse. Go to www.give.org to verify that a charity meets BBB Wise Giving Alliance’s 20 Standards for Charity Accountability.
DON’T assume that only “low overhead” matters. How much money a charity spends on the actual cause – as compared to how much goes toward fundraising and administration – is an important factor, but it’s not the whole story. A charity with impressive financial ratios could have other significant problems such as insufficient transparency, inadequate board activity and inaccurate appeals.
SOURCE: Better Business Bureau
Published: Wednesday, December 13, 2017 @ 10:32 AM
— It's that time of year again when parents and college or college-bound students fill out the FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid).
The idea of wading through a form – especially one that requires financial information – is definitely not an appealing idea, but the FAFSA could be a tremendous help in getting your student money to attend college.
The following points are what you need to know, as well as common mistakes to avoid when filling out the FAFSA.
Fill it out – you have nothing to lose.
You may think that you don't need to fill out the FAFSA, especially if you believe you might not qualify for need-based aid. But there's no income cut-off point with federal student aid, according to the U.S. Department of Education. In addition, the FAFSA can help you qualify for all kinds of grants, loans and scholarships, including those offered by your state, school or private organizations.
By investing a few minutes of time, you could reap thousands of dollars in potential rewards.
Submit it ASAP.
The sooner you submit your FAFSA, the better, according to consumer adviser Clark Howard. Although the federal deadline isn't until June 30, 2018, you should check with the financial aid administrator at colleges you're interested in to make sure their deadlines aren't earlier.
Submitting earlier will help you plan how you'll pay for college. You'll also have a better chance of getting as much aid or scholarship money as possible since some colleges distribute their available money on a first-come, first-serve basis, Howard says.
Gather the information you'll need.
The FAFSA asks questions about the student as well as his or her parents if the student is a dependent.
You'll need the following information on hand as you fill out the FAFSA:
Watch out for common mistakes.
The National Association of Student Financial Aid Administrators points out some common mistakes that can delay your form's submission or cause you to not get the aid and scholarships you might qualify for. They include the following:
Keep an eye out for requests for more information.
Your FAFSA may be selected for verification, which means you'll have to provide some additional or supporting information, U.S. News & World Report explains. This process doesn't necessarily mean you've done anything wrong. You may have a discrepancy or mistake on your form, but some FAFSAs are just randomly selected for verification (lucky you!).