Why Should You Prepare to File Your Taxes?

Tax planning is an integral part of every adult’s financial responsibility. However, submitting a return can be complicated and confusing, depending on what you do. Taking the proper steps when filing will help reduce the risk of error and potential fraud, which you can learn more about in the guide below.

Ideally, you should be preparing to file throughout the year. By keeping organized records, you can provide a more complete and accurate tax return when submitting it. This approach also ensures that you have all the appropriate documents ready for a financial advisor to examine, helping you avoid accidental acts of tax fraud. If you haven’t been preparing throughout the year, you can still set yourself up for success with a few steps. 

What Steps Should You Take?

The first step in preparing to file is to check your account information through the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). They offer information on recent tax returns, any credits you received, key data, payment plan information, and payment history.

Next, gather the necessary income documents. Depending on your employment status, you may have W-2 forms or different variations of 1099 records. You will also need several other documents to show your taxable income and the receipts of any business-related expenses. 

What Are the Different Filing Options?

Working with an authorized tax professional will ensure you have everything you need. Begin the process as soon as possible to avoid missing the filing deadline and gain plenty of time to gather necessary documents. 

You can also file directly with the IRS or use tax filing software. When preparing, remember that the filing deadline for every year is April 15. Therefore, you must get everything done by this time to avoid fines or potential fraud issues with your taxes. 

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. Learn more about our broad array of services online, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for news and updates, or call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with any questions.

What Should You Do After Losing Your Credit Card?

No one wants to think about losing their credit card, but it can happen. You can prepare for the incident by devising a reaction plan to prevent fraudulent charges and ensure you promptly get a replacement. If you’ve recently noticed your card is missing from your wallet, here’s how to handle the situation.

Steps to Take

If you’ve misplaced your card but believe it’s at home, freeze its activity by calling the issuer, using their website, or visiting their mobile app. This step will lock the card, preventing anyone from using it to purchase items. If you find it again, you can log in to their online banking portal to unfreeze it. 

The process will differ if you suspect a credit card got lost or stolen. In this case, call the issuer as soon as you notice it’s missing and have them deactivate it. Tell them when you lost it so they can track recent charges and look for any fraudulent purchases. This measure will ensure you won’t be held liable for them and have to pay. 

After canceling the missing card, you will receive a new one featuring different numbers. Typically, it takes about three to seven business days for the replacement to arrive. You should also file a police report for a stolen card, allowing authorities to work on apprehending the thief.

How to Avoid Losing It Again

Misplacing a credit card can be a stressful and inconvenient experience, but you can take measures to ensure it doesn’t happen again. Some common strategies to prevent loss include: 

  • Carrying your credit card inside a wallet or purse because it’s easier for it to fall out of a pocket.
  • Making a habit of double-checking your cards after use, such as after paying at a restaurant.
  • Keeping the card in sight before, during, and after a transaction.
  • Creating a list of all current cards and adding their respective 24-hour customer service phone numbers.
  • Prioritizing which credit cards to carry rather than holding all of them in your wallet.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.

Start Protecting A Child’s Personal Information at an Early Age

Your child’s personal information could be a target of identity thieves, and it might be years before you know if there is a problem.

That’s why you should start protecting that data at an early age.

Things such as a child’s Social Security number could be used by thieves to apply for loans, get a bank account or credit card, or even to apply for government benefits. So it’s important that you guard that information as closely as possible.

Where do you start?

At home, be sure to keep things like Social Security cards or electronic records safe from theft or prying eyes. The same holds true of any financial account or medical information you might have in their name. Lock up or password-protect this data.

Don’t carry a child’s birth certificate or Social Security card unless it’s absolutely necessary, so you can minimize the chances of those items being lost or stolen. 

Shred all documents that might contain personal information about your child before throwing it away, and that includes labels on prescription bottles. If you have their personal information on an electronic device, make sure it is password protected, and you wipe the device’s drive before giving or throwing it away.

If you need to fill out forms for your child, such as at school or a medical office, ask if all the information is required and why it’s necessary. If there’s no reason a Social Security number is needed, leave that part of the form blank. Ask how their information will be used and how it will be protected.

Stolen personal information can be used to commit fraud and you might not be aware of that until the child applies for a loan and it shows up on a credit report.

The Federal Trade Commission recommends that you check to see if your child has a credit report about the time they turn 16. If there is one and there are problems, you should start working to correct those right away so they don’t cause issues when your child becomes an adult. You can check for a credit report for free at each of the three main credit-reporting bureaus by visiting annualcreditreport.com and following the instructions. If you suspect identity theft, file a report at identitytheft.gov.

Starting to protect a child’s personal information early can save them from big headaches later.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.

Don’t Fall for Tech Support Scams

You’re browsing the web when a window pops up: Warning! Your computer may be infected!
 
Or the phone rings, telling you there’s a problem with your computer and you need to take care of it right away. What do you do?
 
The good news is, there’s no need for alarm. You don’t have to be a computer expert to recognize a tech support scam when you see one.
 
How can you tell it’s a scam?
 
First, reputable tech support companies will never make unsolicited phone calls to you or scan your computer without your permission. If you get one of these calls, hang up. Don’t let them talk you into anything, especially sharing passwords or financial information.
 
Second, if your antivirus software really has detected a problem, it will never prompt you to call a phone number to get help. 
 
While popup windows might imitate your computer’s operating system and warn of danger if you try to close the window or shut down the computer, don’t fall for it. Get rid of the popup by shutting down your browser or doing a hard restart of your computer if necessary. Whatever you do, don’t click it. Doing so could download malware which could compromise your computer.
 
If there is a problem with your computer, you’ll need to find a reputable repair company. However, a simple web search is not your best option, as many scammers have created online businesses and even created ads to lure people in. Ask a friend for recommendations, read reviews, or search locally, as many stores that sell computer equipment often offer technical support.
 
By knowing the signs, you can protect yourself from tech support scams. And if you’re ever contacted by a scammer, report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ReportFraud.ftc.gov. The FTC uses this information to track down scammers and put them out of business for good.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.

Be on the Alert for ‘Update Account Information’ Scams

Part of your daily routine probably includes checking email or catching up on texts – all pretty normal stuff until you see something about an urgent account problem or an update that needs to be made NOW.

What should you do? Start by being skeptical. It could very well be a scam to steal your money or your personal information.

‘Update account’ scams are common and can look frighteningly real. The message might mention problems with an order or a payment. It might say the company is updating all customer information. Or it will say your card on file is no longer working. And it all looks real because the scammers are using official identifying logos and domain names that are similar to the company’s actual name.

These kinds of phishing emails target human nature to fix problems. They want you to panic and send the information being requested. So how do you know if it’s a scam?

If an email or text asks for usernames, passwords, a Social Security number, financial account numbers or other detailed data, there’s a good chance it’s a scam. If the message contains misspellings or bad grammar, it could be a scam. And if there is some threat involved – such as fines or closing your account – it’s very likely a hoax.

Experts recommend the following things if you happen to get one of these unsolicited ‘update account information’ messages:

  • Don’t click any links or download attachments to verify anything. They probably want you to go to a fake website to fill out forms so they can collect information that can be used to steal your money or ID, or they might place malware on your device if you download an attachment.
  • Don’t call phone numbers listed in the email or texts.
  • If you think there’s a chance the request could be valid – such as updating a payment card expiration date – contact a company’s customer service staff by looking up and dialing an official telephone number or by typing in an official web address. Identify yourself and explain why you’re contacting them.
  • Make sure you are on an official website before updating account information, such as changing a password or modifying payment information.

While there might be times that you’ll need to update account information, make sure you’re not giving valuable personal information to the wrong people.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.

What is Phishing and Smishing?

Phishing and Smishing are methods criminals use to trick you into giving them personal financial information.

The criminals are after details like credit card numbers, bank account numbers, social security numbers, passwords, and other sensitive information. They use that information to steal your money or use your good name to open new loans or credit cards.

Phishing uses an email message to gather that information. Smishing uses an SMS text message to your phone.


HOW YOUR INFORMATION IS STOLEN


Both Phishing email messages and Smishing text messages are designed to fool you into giving your personal information voluntarily by pretending to be your financial institution or another company you trust. Usually, they will tell you that your bank account, your credit card account, or other electronic payment account, needs to be “updated” or “validated.”

The message will say there are dire consequences if you don’t take the action – for example, the account will be closed or frozen.

The message typically gives you a link or a phone number. You are told that if you follow the link, or make the call, the account can be updated or validated to fix the problem.

It is your response that allows the criminals steal your information.

The web site is a fake, set up to look legitimate; but, any information you enter is captured directly by the thieves.

HOW CAN I PROTECT MYSELF?
 

The Justice Department suggests three simple steps that will help you avoid being a victim of Phishing or Smishing fraud and theft.

First, STOP.

The message is designed to get an immediate reaction from you by making it seem like an emergency.

Do not click any link or call any number included in the message.

Instead…LOOK.

Think about the message.

Does it make sense that your account would be closed if you don’t respond immediately to a link in an unexpected message?

A safer choice would be to log in to your account normally. Don’t use the link or phone number inside the message. Just log into your account the way you typically would.

If you don’t see any problems or alerts when you log in normally, you know it’s not a legitimate message.

Finally…CALL.

Use the toll free number on your card…or a telephone number listed in the phone directory.

Tell the company or financial institution that you received a suspicious message.

If there is a real problem, and chances are everything will be fine, you’ll know it was a scam. However, by calling the financial institution or company, the legitimate contact can put your mind at ease, and also warn other customers.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.

What You Should Do if Your Computer has Malware

What should you do if malware hits your computer?

If you could travel back in time, the best answer would be ‘Do everything you can to protect against it.’

Malware prevention methods include things like:

  • Not opening unsolicited email, clicking on questionable links in email, or downloading files you’re not sure of.
  • Installing operating system, browser and software updates so security upgrades are implemented.
  • Avoiding websites you’re unsure of.
  • Using a proven antivirus program.
  • Being on guard against tech-support phone scams.

If your computer does become infected – which can expose you to identity theft and fraud – you’re going to have to deal with it. And the final answer might be painful.

Signs your computer or device might be infected include:

  • Constant slowness when opening software or browsers.
  • Pop-up ads that warn of problems or won’t close.
  • Inability to access anything on your computer, or a demand to pay a ransom to get access to your files again.
  • The inability to open your antivirus software.

If malware does hit you, you might be able to destroy it with an antivirus program, but that’s not always a guarantee, since new viruses are being created and released all the time.

If that doesn’t work, you might want to consider taking your device to a trusted computer expert to have it worked on and hopefully fixed.

But there’s a chance nothing will work except wiping your hard drive and re-installing your operating system and programs.

With that in mind experts say your best plan of attack is prevention, and you should regularly back up your files so if you need to start over you have the building blocks to restoring your system and getting your files back.

Even then, they suggest running an antivirus program right away to catch anything that might have been contained in the backup.

So while you can try to fight malware once you get it, learning how to prevent it is your best bet.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.

Are You Protecting Your E-mail Accounts?

How safe is my email account?

That’s a question we should all ask ourselves because we use email for so many things.

And a hacked email account can open you up to a number of risks, from identity theft to important financial accounts being exposed.

So it’s important to think about guarding your email account from both the outside and the inside.

In order to guard your account from the outside you need to create a strong password and change it on occasion.

Experts say a strong password should contain at least 8 characters. And creating a password with a combination of letters, numbers and special characters makes your account harder to hack.

For example, instead of using your pet’s name because it’s easy to remember, try coming up with a phrase you remember and then using each of the first letters in that phrase – replacing some with numbers and special characters.

So a phrase such as ‘I can’t see the bird in the tall tree’ could become !C$tb!tTt.

Experts also recommend that you use a different strong password for each of your important accounts – such as email and financial – so if one account gets hacked your others will be safe.

Guarding from the inside of your account means being careful about what email you open and the type of information you store.

Never click on links or downloads from an unsolicited email. That’s how fraudsters try to gain access to your computer or personal information.

It’s also important to know that financial institutions, utility companies and government entities will never send you an email asking for your password or other vital information. They also won’t make threats demanding immediate payments via money transfers or prepaid cards.

You should never store vital personal information in your email. That includes information such as financial account numbers, your Social Security number, or account passwords.

Besides keeping your email account safe on both the outside and the inside, experts recommend that you have more than one email account.

You may want to consider having one email account for items like newsletters and contests you might sign up for.

Have another email account for your more official correspondence, such as financial and medical. Make sure this account has its own unique password, different from your other accounts.

And be sure to check your email settings and be aware of what your options are if you lose your password or get hacked so you can recover your account.

Following these recommendations will help keep you and your email protected – inside and out.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.

Scholarships, Grants, and Student Loans – What’s the Difference?

College students and their parents often seek easier ways to afford the cost of higher education. Three of the most common solutions are scholarships, grants, and student loans. They all provide financial relief, but they are fundamentally different instruments. Below is a look at each and a discussion of how they differ. 

Scholarships

 A scholarship is a payment made by any of various sources to support a student’s education. It is often—although not always—based on previous academic success. Other scholarships are awarded for athletic achievement or to students interested in pursuing a particular course of study, such as music, medicine, language, or engineering. However, others are awarded on the basis of financial hardship. Many non-profit organizations, student aid societies, and industries fund scholarships to ensure the country has a steady stream of qualified graduates. Whatever the source, a scholarship is a gift, and repayment is not required. You can use it to pay for tuition and education-related expenses.

Grants

Grants are similar to scholarships in that they do not need to be repaid. They are available through federal or state governments, universities, non-profits, and businesses. Unlike scholarships, they are typically awarded only on the basis of need and not on academic or athletic achievements. Recipients can spend grant money on room and board, books, academic equipment, such as a computer, and even clothing and food. 

Student Loans

Unlike the other two, student loans are borrowedmoney and must be repaid. They are typically available through banks, online lenders, colleges and universities, or state and federal governments. Repayment normally takes place over many years, at a very low interest rate. Some lenders require a parent or someone else with established credit to co-sign the loan. To be eligible, the student must be enrolled at least part-time in an eligible degree-granting school and maintain satisfactory academic progress by showing passing grades.

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. Learn more about our broad array of services online, follow us on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram for news and updates, or call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with any questions.

Are You Prepared for a Cyberattack?

Anytime the US finds itself in the midst of escalating international tensions, the threat of a cyberattack is at its peak. While it’s unlikely that individual citizens will be targeted, it is possible that you may be affected by attacks against other organizations or infrastructure.

The best way to prepare, according to experts, is to follow safe online practices or good “cyber hygiene.”

When available, make use of multifactor authentication, especially for financial services, but also for email and social media. Multifactor authentication makes use of a secondary round of ID checks like Face ID, fingerprint, or a security code sent to your phone.

Keep your software up to date, including your antivirus and antimalware programs. Do this for all your devices, not just a desktop or laptop computer. You should also backup your files occasionally, so if something does happen to your computer or device, your information won’t be lost.

Use strong, unique passwords, and don’t reuse them on multiple sites. If one password gets exposed in a data breach, you don’t want all your accounts to be vulnerable!

Think before you click on any link or attachment, either in your email or while browsing. Most cyberattacks start with a phishing email which, if clicked, leads to your personal information being stolen. Phishing emails often look legitimate, so look closely. Check the sender’s email. If it looks suspicious, report it, delete it, and go through the actual website to log in to your account to see if there’s actually an issue.

Following these guidelines will help protect you in the event of a cyberattack, whether it comes from criminals abroad or closer to home. Practice good cyber hygiene, and stay safe online!

With hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and over 60,000 members across Hawaii, Hawaiian Financial Federal Credit Union is one of the leading financial institutions in the state, with a reputation for combining personalized service with technologically advanced personal banking solutions. To learn more about our mortgage loans and other services, follow us online or on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram for news and updates. You can also call (808) 832-8700 on Oahu or toll-free at (800) 272-5255 with your questions.