Members Advantage E-Newsletter
Stay up to date with the latest special offers from our IEA Member Benefits.
From fake gift cards to stealthy skimmers, thievery thrives this time of year. Learn to stay safe and keep your privacy intact.
By the Editors of Kiplinger’s Personal Finance Magazine
It’s the most wonderful time of the year—for scam artists and other would-be thieves. Every time you swipe your credit card at the register or enter your personal information on a Web site, you risk having your sensitive data fall into the wrong hands. And as you count down the remaining shopping days in the season, you may let down your guard in a mad dash to check everything off your list. “The holiday season is a busy time for consumers, when we do the majority of our shopping for the year, and hackers are priming themselves for the wave of data coming in,” says Yaron Samid, founder of personal finance app BillGuard (which was acquired by lending site Prosper in October 2015). “This is the Super Bowl of scam season.
To keep your holidays happy and your identity safe, be wary of these six common scams.
1. The Scam: Phishing
You get an email luring you to a fake deal site promising unbelievable savings on your Christmas gifts—often popular electronics and gadgets. But it’s really just a ruse to get your credit card information and other personal data.
The Fix: You can easily avoid this threat by not clicking on links in emails from unknown sources. Even if the email seems to be from a legitimate retailer, you should type its Web address directly into your browser rather than clicking on an email link, to be on the safe side.
Also, shop only at sites you are familiar with or that are recommended by a reliable source. You can check with install the Better Business Bureau. (Although to verify that the merchant is legitimate. And make sure that wherever you shop online is secure: The url on any checkout page should begin with https:// and have a lock symbol next to it in the browser.
2. The Scam: Empty Gift Cards
The gift card you buy from a discount site might actually have no value. Criminals can spend the funds and replace the scratch-off material that covers the card’s PIN, so the card seems unused when sold for a percentage of its face value.
3. The Scam: Skimming
You innocently withdraw money from your checking account at the local drive-through ATM. Unfortunately, bad guys have attached a stealthy device to the machine’s scanner that lifts your account information when you swipe.
The Fix: Samid recommends using only indoor ATMs because they offer additional security that is likely to deter scammers. Gas stations are also prime targets for this particular threat, so he suggests paying inside instead of at the pump. It may be less convenient, but it’s not as troublesome as dealing with the repercussions of identity theft.
4. The Scam: A Fake Charity
You get an email, a phone call or even an in-person request asking you to contribute to some seemingly worthy cause. But the solicitor turns out to be a fraudster who plans to take your credit card information and profit from the kindness of strangers like you. “Scammers are leveraging the fact that people are feeling particularly generous around the holidays and are more susceptible to charity requests and helping other people out,” says Samid.
The Fix: Check on the legitimacy of any charity before you give. Sites such as Charity Navigator, Charity Watch and the Better Business Bureau’s Wise Giving Alliance can help you verify the quality of a charity and decide whether it’s worthy of your largesse.
5. The Scam: Nonstandard Payments
You go to make a purchase on Ebay or Craigslist, but the seller asks you to pay by money order or some other random way. “Any nonstandard forms of payment like these are almost always a scam,” says Joe Siegrist, cofounder of password management site LastPass.
The Fix: Stick to the more usual ways to pay. Credit cards are a particularly safe method of payment because they come with fraud protection. You can easily dispute any unfamiliar charges.
6. The Scam: Fake Tech Support
You get an unsolicited call from someone saying he’s providing assistance from the maker of your computer. Then he walks you through how to yield control over your machine. Once he has taken over, he’s free to swipe any sensitive data you have stored there.
The Fix: Just say no. “Microsoft and Apple will never call you and ask you to take these types of steps, and they’ll never email you with these requests either,” says Siegrist. “Be wary of anyone who contacts you with these requests.”
Other ways you can protect yourself: Take advantage of your free annual credit report to make sure no fraudulent activity has been going on in your name. And keep a close eye on all your account statements. If any charge, big or small, seems odd or unfamiliar, be vigilant and check whether you need to dispute it. “There is no substitute for your checking your own card statements during the holiday season,” says Samid. “You are the frontline of defense.”
Check out the most popular discount program for NEA members and their families. This exclusive shopping service offers savings on brand name merchandise from hundreds of top retailers, online stores, and local merchants. Save on clothing, electronics, restaurants, jewelry, movie tickets and more! Plus WOW points can be earned with every Click and Save (C&S) purchase that will allow you to save even more on future purchases (or even get something FREE!) For details about how to use this great benefit follow these examples.
- HomeClick.com: Save on selected kitchen and bath products, including small electrics, tableware, and cookware, plus outdoor items such as grills, fountains, fireplaces and mailboxes. Earn 1X the WOWPoints on all orders.
- BedBath&Beyond: Spruce up your home for the holidays with daily deals and 2X the WOWPoints. Get free shipping on orders of $29 or more.
- OmahaSteaks.com: Not just steaks! Find great prices on seafood, deli-style meats, desserts, and appetizers. Earn 5X the WOWPoints on your order.
- ThePopcornFactory.com: Celebrate any occasion with a festive gift of gourmet popcorn or other special treats.
- MovieTickets.com: Save on tickets to the latest blockbuster movies and Broadway shows such as The Lion King, Wicked, The Book of Mormon, and Hello Dolly!
- eBags.com: eBags is the world’s largest online retailer of bags and accessories for all lifestyles. Get free shipping on orders of $49 or more.
- C&S Apparel Store: Check out fall new arrivals and holiday picks from such retailers as Macy’s, Columbia, Nordstrom Rack, and UnderArmour. Earn up to 6X the WOWPoints on your purchase!
Be sure to check C&S often for unadvertised, limited time offers, including discount dining certificates from Restaurant.com. Join the 429,100 NEA members already registered for NEA Click & Save. Go to www.neamb.com/clickandsave or http://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/nea-click-and-save-retail-discounts.htm and start saving today!
Spending a little time now can save you money at home and on the road over the cold winter months.
Winter is right around the corner. Now’s the time to start winterizing your home to help curb high utility bills and your car to help prevent unexpected car repairs. Here are 5 quick tips to get you started
1. Have a pro inspect your HVAC system. Heating your home is a large chunk of your energy bill, so it’s important to have your home heating system checked regularly to make sure it’s running at peak efficiency. If it’s struggling due to old, dirty filters or failing components, your energy costs can go up.
EnergyStar.gov recommends having your system tuned up once per year. Contact a qualified HVAC contractor to inspect your system. For more home tips, read “15 Simple Ways to Winterize Your Home.”
2. Install a programmable thermostat. One of the easiest ways to manage your energy use is to install a programmable thermostat. (Although there are special considerations if you have a heat pump.) These thermostats can automatically adjust the temperature in your home at certain times of the day.
Dialing back your thermostat about 7-10 degrees for 8 hours a day can cut your home heating costs by about 10%, depending on the severity of your climate. Also, you can lower your home’s temperature even further while the house is empty during the day, and then turn it up about the time you come home. You’ll find plenty of programmable thermostats at different prices and with different features.
3. Use curtains strategically. It sounds almost too simple, but use the sun to your advantage! Open the curtains of south-facing windows to let the sun heat your home. Close them at night to keep out the cold. For a boost, try lined, insulated curtains; they can help prevent heat loss, block drafts and keep out some of the cold.
4. Switch to LED lights, inside and out. Love to light up your house for the holidays? Do you put up decorations for Halloween and keep your house brightly lit with cheery colors through St. Patrick’s Day? Save on electricity costs by switching to LED lights. Most decorations now have LED counterparts.
While LEDs can be a more expensive initial investment, they can last much longer than traditional bulbs, so your long-term replacement cost can be less—and less frustrating thanks to fewer burned out bulbs! LEDs also produce less heat and use less electricity, so over the long haul you’ll see savings.
5. Be proactive about winter car maintenance. Change your battery if it’s old, check and replace worn belts and top off important fluids. Taking care of the small things now can help you avoid a costly break-down and expensive towing charges later.
And as the temperature drops, so can your tires’ air pressure. Inflating them to the correct pressure can save you money on gas. For more information about winterizing your car read “Get Ready for Winter With Our Car-care Checklist.”
Bonus tip: Use your NEA member benefits! Save on a programmable thermostat, insulated curtains or even LED holiday lights when you shop at stores such as The Home Depot, Kohl’s, Best Buy and more through NEA Click & Save.
Looking to save money on everything from electronics to home furniture to movie tickets and everything in between? As an NEA member, you have exclusive access to our NEW, member-only shopping newsletter, the NEA Member Shopper’s Guide.
As a subscriber to the NEA Member Shopper’s Guide, you will receive tips and advice on how to save on products you love and services you need, delivered right to your inbox!
Ready to start saving? Click Here to subscribe now or visit:
Crooks send texts that may trick you into allowing access to your phone’s info.
By Rivan V. Stinson
Thomas Martin is president of Martin Investigative Services Inc., based in Newport Beach, Calif., and author of the newly released book Seeing Life Through Private Eyes: Secrets From America’s Top Investigator to Living Safer, Smarter, and Saner
Why are cell-phone numbers popular with criminals? In the mid ’80s, when the cell phone came out, it was used to make phone calls, just like the regular phone in your house. Now our whole lives are on our smartphones. Once criminals get your number, they can get your e-mail, texts, photos, purchases you made online and the credit card information that you used to make those online purchases.
How can crooks get cell-phone numbers, and what happens when they do? They can hack the cell-phone providers, such as Verizon or T-Mobile, and get batches of cell-phone numbers, which can have from 500 to 5,000 numbers in a single loop. Then they send out a text, such as “Here’s $20 off tickets to the local theater,” or “Here’s a $10 gift certificate to In-N-Out,” that contains so-called Trojan-horse malware. Once you click on the link, they have verified your number and have access to your cell data, such as your photos and other information that they can use to try to blackmail you. Or they can capture your date of birth and Social Security number to sell to identity thieves.
You’ve said that crooks can get cell-phone numbers from databases, too. Who compiles those databases? The databases that are out there are compiled by all kinds of people. Some online companies sell customers’ data, including cell numbers, and other information about what products people are buying that can be used for marketing purposes. The problem is that cell-phone numbers aren’t regulated in the U.S., so there are no rules requiring companies to keep the numbers private.
What can people do to protect themselves? One way is to have more than one mobile phone. Use one phone only for calls—that’s the number you give out. Don’t put any photos on it, don’t text with it, and don’t e-mail on it; save that for the other phone. If having two phones isn’t practical, just be a little more cautious about who you give your cell number to. If you have a landline or work number, it’s better to give those out. If it were up to me, the order would be landline number first, then office number and then cell-phone number at the very end.
© 2017 The Kiplinger Washington Editors
Brought to you by NEA Member Benefits.
Content provided by:
Here are some related links on the NEA Member Benefits website you may want to investigate:
- NEA Identity Theft Protection Program powered by LifeLock: https://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/nea-identity-theft-protection-program.htm
- How to Protect Yourself From the Latest ID Theft Scams: https://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/you-need-to-know-about-the-latest-id-theft-scams.htm
The NEA Personal Loan can help you pay for things that may seem a little out of reach. These include paying off credit cards and other loans, home remodeling projects, weddings, baby expenses and more.1 And with low Fixed APRs, you can wrap up a variety of expenses into one monthly payment.
· Fixed APR rates of 7.99% to 15.99%2
· Loan amounts from $5,000 to $25,000
· Terms from 36 to 72 months3
· No application fees
· No annual fee
· No prepayment penalties
· 0.25% interest rate discount with AutoPay enrollment
If you have questions about the NEA Personal Loan Program, please contact us at 1-800-637-4636.
Even people who hold cars forever should pay attention to this metric.
By Miriam Cross
When you’re shopping for a new car, dickering with the dealer to lower the sticker price may be your main concern. But even if you drive the car until the wheels fall off, overlooking resale value could be a costly mistake. “Depreciation is the largest cost in owning a car, more so than fuel and repairs,” says Tim Fleming, an analyst for Kelley Blue Book (KBB). Even if you don’t plan to sell it anytime soon—or ever—how your vehicle retains its value is important. For example, if your car is totaled in an accident, insurers will cut you a check for the value of the car at the time of the incident.
Midsize pickup trucks and midsize and large SUVs hold their value best, according to KBB. That’s because cheaper gas and improved fuel economy have boosted their appeal. Electric vehicles and subcompact and luxury cars depreciate the most over time. (Porsches are an exception because low volume fuels demand from status-conscious buyers.) Sleek “performance” vehicles, such as the Volkswagen Golf R and Subaru WRX, fare best after the bulky SUVs and trucks.
Resale values can vary widely among models within the same brand. For example, the Toyota Tacoma truck was named KBB’s resale winner for 2017, holding 67.5% of its value after three years and 57.5% of its value after five years. The 4Runner SUV came next, with a resale value of 62.2% after three years and 52.5% after five. But the tiny Prius C and Yaris models held only about 30% of their value after three years and 20% after five.
KBB and Edmunds.com both offer “cost to own” tools, which allow you to enter a make and model and calculate additional costs of vehicle ownership—including depreciation—over the course of five years. The higher the depreciation figure, the more value it loses over time.
One way to make depreciation work to your advantage is to buy a used car instead of a new one. Thanks to a glut of off-lease vehicles, prices for used cars have declined. Fleming says he expects the bargains in used cars to last another two years.
© 2017 The Kiplinger Washington Editors
Brought to you by NEA Member Benefits.
Content provided by
As you consider purchasing a car, here are some related links on the NEA Member Benefits website you may want to check out:
- NEA® Auto Buying Program: https://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/nea-auto-buying-program.htm
- NEA Auto Buying Research Center: https://www.neamb.com/automotive-buying-research.htm
- Calculator: What vehicle can I afford?: https://www.neamb.com/shopping-discounts/vehicle-loan-calculator.htm
Is your vehicle protected? Well, NEA Member Benefits can assist in providing bumper to bumper coverage:
The NEA Vehicle Protection Program offers you the peace-of-mind that comes from not having to worry about the high cost of unexpected auto repairs. Backed by CARCHEX, an A+ Rated BBB Business and nationwide leader in automotive extended warranty protection, the NEA Vehicle Protection Program provides you with the highest level of extended auto warranty coverage at the lowest possible price. By extending warranty coverage beyond the term of your original manufacturer’s warranty, the NEA Vehicle Protection Program lets you steer clear of the high cost of major auto repairs.
Purchasing and Using Extended Vehicle Protection is Easy
- Choose the coverage option and pricing plan that best meets your needs
- You choose the repair facility—you can use any licensed repair facility in the US or Canada
- After satisfying any applicable deductible, the repair facility will submit your claim
- Your claim is paid directly to the repair facility
NEA Members are eligible for a $100 discount on any extended vehicle protection policy and also receive the following benefits:
- We Pay Your Vehicle Repair Bills
- 0% Easy Payment Plans
- 24/7 Roadside Assistance
- Car Rental Coverage
- Hotel and Lodging Coverage
- Lock-Out Service
- Emergency Fuel Delivery
- Flat Tire Change Service
- Battery Jump Service
Equifax has announced that cyber criminals have exploited a vulnerability in their website, allowing them to gain access to certain files. The data breach appears to have taken place from mid-May through July 2017. The company discovered the unauthorized access on July 29 of this year.
Cyber criminals stole names, Social Security numbers, birth dates and addresses. In some cases, driver’s license numbers and even credit card numbers were accessed. During the company’s investigation of this breach, it was also found that there was access to some personal information for some UK and Canadian residents.
How do you know if you have been involved in a data breach?
Usually, data breaches are disclosed via the company’s press release, which reaches news outlets in no time. If you hear about a breach involving an institution you do business with, contact the organization in question to check whether your data has been compromised. You can visit the organization’s website to see if there is a statement about the breach with any instructions about what to do next, or you can call the company’s customer service phone number.
Helping protect yourself in the event of a data breach
You may not know if you have been affected by a breach, so your best action is to be proactive. You can use the tips below to stay ahead of the bad guys and know what to look out for.
- Routinely monitor all of your financial accounts for suspicious activities, such as transactions you did not make. If your institution offers account activity alerts via text or email, sign up for them.
- Cyber criminals can now use these data to access other online accounts you may have via password reset questions. These questions usually ask your personal information about yourself such as a parent’s maiden name, previous addresses and other details. If you have used any of these data in those security questions, you should change those questions immediately.
- If the information that was leaked in the breach was a Social Security number or other personally identifiable information, you may want to consider putting a security freeze on your credit report. This will prevent other institutions from accessing your report entirely, which will prevent opening any new credit lines or credit extensions under your name. Also, be sure to contact the Social Security Administration about next steps if you’re dealing with a data breach that involves your SSN.
- If you do encounter suspicious activity on your account, contact your bank immediately and inform them of the activity as well as the fact that your information was exposed in a breach. Secondly, contact the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) and file a report.
- If a password was involved in the breach, change it.
These are just a few of the precautions one can take to help protect against identity theft.
Breaches are more common these days, and the payoff for cyber criminals may be lucrative. As a result, it can be helpful if you add another layer of protection to your digital life by using an identity theft protection service. Such services can help protect your personal information by sending you alerts if suspicious activity is identified within their network, or if new accounts are opened with your Social Security number†.
As an IEA/NEA member, you have access to the NEA Identity Theft Protection Program powered by LifeLock®. NEA members receive 30 days of LifeLock identity theft protection at no-cost and 10% off* LifeLock membership.
This article is authored by an employee of Norton by Symantec.
No one can prevent all identity theft.
† LifeLock does not monitor all transactions at all businesses.
* Credit card required at enrollment. At the end of the no-cost 30-day trial period, if you do not cancel, your card will be billed automatically on a monthly or annual basis depending on what you elect at the time of enrollment. Offer is for new LifeLock members only. Offer is available for LifeLock Standard™, LifeLock Advantage™ and LifeLock Ultimate Plus™ memberships only. Not combinable with other offers.
Symantec, the Symantec Logo, the Checkmark Logo, Norton, Norton by Symantec, LifeLock, and the LockMan Logo are trademarks or registered trademarks of Symantec Corporation or its affiliates in the U.S. and other countries. Other names may be trademarks of their respective owners.
Copyright © 2017 Symantec Corp. All rights reserved.
Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Year’s will be here before you know it. Heed NEA Member Benefits’ advice for flight reservations, day-of-travel tips and tactics that will help you plan a low-stress holiday trip.
The holiday season may be, as the song says, “the most wonderful time of the year.” But everyone who travels knows that it brings added stresses because of winter weather, heavy traffic and flight delays. Planning ahead is the key, and using a travel checklist can keep things calm. The following list offers tips and strategies to help you save time and money as well as conquer seasonal travel-related hassles. So make your list and check it twice—you’ll increase the number of holiday smiles, including your own.
Plane and Train Tips
- Research and book flights early. For Christmas, the year’s busiest period for air travel, book about 80 days ahead to avoid rising fares. For Thanksgiving, you’ll get the best price by buying 5 to 6 weeks ahead.
- Travel early or late. Flying early in the morning or late in the day can mean better on-time performance.
- Score holiday savings. Check alternate airports, connecting flights rather than a nonstop and traveling at different times of day. If you can do it, flying on Thanksgiving or Christmas Day may save you money. Check flight prices at NEA Vacations.
- Book holiday trains early. Reserve a month ahead, especially for Thanksgiving, the busiest time for train travel; some trains sell out. Prices increase substantially closer to the travel date at any time of year. Amtrak’s booking tool is handy, and you should look at the site’s Deals section.
- Study car rentals. Book about 6 weeks ahead to avoid a limited choice of vehicles during the holidays. To save money, use your NEA member discount at 1 of 5 rental car companies or check general travel sites as well as car-rental agencies. You can even call to ask about discounts. The number of days counts, too: It may be cheaper to pay for a weekly rate rather than rent for a few days.
Road Trip Strategies
- Think safety first. Get your car checked (brakes, tires, oil, etc.) before you head out. Be sure to pack an emergency kit that includes a flashlight, blanket and small shovel.
- Pack your trunk. Plan ahead for how you will transport holiday gifts and any winter sports gear.
- Gas up. Start with a full tank to avoid lines and higher prices on the highway.
- Make smart stops. Save time and money on mid-travel stops by downloading iExit interstate highway guide to locate gas stations (with prices); it also has restaurants (with ratings) and ATMs.
- Book city parking. An app such as ParkingPanda saves time and money on spaces in city lots. Parking on Thanksgiving Day or Christmas? Call the lot even if you have a reservation—to be sure it’s actually open.
Keeping the Kids Happy
- Get kids involved. It’s always best to talk with your kids about your travel plans and what to expect well in advance. First-time fliers will benefit from a step-by-step rundown. Ask for kids’ vacation suggestions, and keep a countdown to the big day.
- Take favorite stuff. A few toys and snacks are essential, and don’t forget the video game or tablet to keep kids occupied. Take earbuds and headphones. Books and audiobooks make great travel companions, too.
- Consider childproofing. If you have small children, check with your hosts about specific concerns, or speak with your hotel. Take along any childproofing items (outlet covers, for example) as needed.
Gift Guide for Travelers
- Keep gifts unwrapped. TSA rules mean gifts go through security screening, so plan to wrap items after you arrive at your destination. It’s a good idea even if gifts are in your checked luggage.
- Consider shipping gifts. The holidays challenge the lightest packers, so check luggage weight restrictions. An extra checked bag may cost you $35 or $40; shipping can be more convenient.
- Bring an extra bag. An easily foldable bag may be useful for gifts you want to carry back.
Ready, Set, Go: Advice for Your Travel Day
- Check in. Confirm your flight’s status; you can check in online up to 24 hours before you fly. Print your boarding pass or keep it on your phone.
- Keep travel documents handy. Be sure any boarding passes, identification and other material are in a convenient place.
- Leave early. Whether you’re driving or taking a plane or train, allowing plenty of extra time will keep everyone less stressed. If you’re parking at the airport, factor in time in for that.
- Charge your devices. Be sure your phone is fully charged, and keep chargers handy during travel.
California Casualty has been a business partner with IEA since 1988 and provides auto and home insurance to IEA/NEA members. California Casualty is awarding Syringa Middle School in Caldwell a $650 check due to IEA’s nomination of member Melyssa Ferro for the 2018 NEA Foundation Awards for Teaching Excellence. IEA Member Melyssa Ferro’s good work has triggered this award for her school.
The California Casualty Award for Teaching Excellence (CCATE) $650 award stems from the NEA Foundation award and is to recognize instructional expertise, advocacy for the teaching profession, community engagement, attention to diversity, and leadership in professional development. Recognizing that Melyssa’s success is due in part to supportive colleagues and the school environment, this particular CCATE award will go directly to the school in Melyssa’s name.
The free NEA Works4Me e-newsletter has been a staple of teachers’ professional lives for years, providing ideas and tips for student success across all subjects and grade levels. Every other week, you’ll receive a sampling of the best tips, along with best ideas on classroom management, teaching techniques, curriculum content, peer & student relationships and more. These tips are all archived and are searchable on the NEA Works4Me section of nea.org. The web site contains more than 2,000 tips searchable by topic.
Where do our tips originate? From you and from NEA edCommunities members – expert practitioners in the field who choose to share best practices with other educators.
NEA edCommunities is a place where teachers, school support professionals, and community members share ideas and resources to improve student success. It is free and open to all!
For more information on NEA Works4Me or NEA edCommunities, go to www.nea.org/tools/Works4Me.html.