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Your Complete Year-End Financial Checklist

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As 2021 draws to a close and we prepare to usher in 2022, take a moment to go through this year-end financial checklist for ensuring your finances are in order before the start of the New Year.

  1. Review your budget

Is your monthly budget still working well for you? Are you stretching some spending categories or finishing each month in the red? Take some time to review your budget and make any necessary changes.

  1. Top off your retirement plan

If you have a 401(k), check to see that you are taking full advantage of your employer’s matching contributions. If you haven’t contributed as much as you can, you have until the end of the year (Dec. 31, 2021) to catch up; to a limit of $19,500.  If you turned 50 this year, you are eligible for an additional catch-up contribution of $6,500. If you anticipate getting a holiday bonus, consider putting this money toward your debt.

Likewise, if you have an IRA, you have until April 15 to scrape together the maximum contribution of  $6,000, with an additional $1,000 if you are age 50 years or older.

  1. Check your progress on paying down debt

Give your debt an annual checkup by reviewing your outstanding debts from one year ago and holding up the amounts against what you now owe. Have you shed debt from one year ago, or is your debt growing? If you’ve made no progress, or your debt has grown, consider taking bigger steps toward paying it down in 2022, such as consolidating your debt with a [personal/unsecured] loan from .

  1. Get a free copy of your annual credit report

The end of the year is a great time for an annual credit checkup. It’s a good idea to review your statements each month to check for fraudulent charges, but you can also request a free copy of your credit report from all three credit agencies once a year. Get your free annual credit reports here, and take a close look at each report. Look for accurate, updated information and any errors, like charges you don’t remember making, or other signs of possible identity theft. If you find any wrongful charges, be sure to dispute them immediately.

  1. Review your investments and asset allocation

Take some time at year’s end to rebalance your portfolio and to see if your asset allocation is still serving you well. You may need to make some changes to your mix of stocks, bonds, cash and other investments to better reflect the current state of the market.

  1. Review your beneficiaries

Has your family situation changed in the past year? If it has, be sure to switch the beneficiaries on your accounts and life insurance policies to accommodate these changes.

  1. Complete open enrollment and select your employer benefits

The end of the year coincides with open enrollment for health insurance policies. This is your chance to select the employer benefits you want for the coming year. If you miss this window, you will be stuck with the benefits you chose last year or with no benefits at all.

  1. Review your tax withholdings

It’s a good idea to review your W-4 annually and see if the amount of tax being withheld from each paycheck needs to be adjusted. If you’re not a numbers person, ask your accountant for help. Changing up the numbers just a bit can make a significant difference in your tax bill at the end of the year. Or, if you usually get a large refund, adjusting the amount withheld can mean enjoying a larger paycheck throughout the year instead of giving the government an interest-free loan to be paid back in one lump sum at year’s end.

The doors are closing on 2021 and it’s time to give your finances a full checkup. Use this checklist to make sure your money matters are in order before the start of 2022.

Your Turn: What’s on your financial checklist for the end of the year? Tell us about it in the comments.

Watch Out for Holiday Shopping Scams

5 Steps to Take After a Data Breach

Data breaches show up in the news almost as often as celebrity couple breakups. According to Risk Based Security’s Mid-Year Data BreachReport, there were 1,767 publicly reported breaches in the first half of 2021, exposing 18.8 billion records. One of the most far-reaching of these breaches was the T-Mobile data breach in August, which has impacted more than 50 million people.

A data breach exposes confidential information of its victims, which can include Social Security numbers, account information, credit card numbers, passwords and more. If your personal information has been compromised by the T-Mobile data breach or another exposure, take these five steps to mitigate the damage.

Step 1: Read all alerts and notifications from the compromised company

The business whose data has been compromised in the breach will generally reach out to all potential victims to notify them about the exposure. They may instruct all recipients of this missive to check for signs that their information has been exposed and/or direct them toward their next step. If you believe your information may have been compromised in a breach, it’s important to read every message you receive from the exposed company.

Step 2: Alert your financial institution 

Next, let know your account may have been compromised. This way, we’ll know to keep an eye out for signs of fraud and place an alert on your account. We’ll be watchful of requests to approve any large transaction or withdrawal, and we’ll contact you if we notice any suspicious activity.

Step 3: Change any exposed passwords

A data breach generally means passwords of all kinds have been compromised. It’s best to change as many as possible after a breach to keep information and money safe. The quickest way to do this is by using a password manager, which allows you to store unique, complex passwords for each account. Although it’s important to have a different password for each account, it’s best to start by changing passwords you know were a part of the data breach.

Step 4: Consider a credit freeze

A credit freeze alerts lenders and credit companies to the fact that you may have been a victim of fraud. This added layer of protection will make it difficult, or impossible, for hackers to open a new credit line or loan in your name.

You can freeze your credit at no cost with all three of the major credit bureaus, Equifax, Transunion and Experian. You’ll need to provide some basic information and you’ll receive a PIN for the freeze. Use this number to lift the freeze when you believe it is safe to do so.

Step 5: File an identity theft report

If your accounts have been compromised and you believe your identity has been stolen, file an identity theft report with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) immediately. This will assist the feds in tracking down the scammers responsible for the data breach. It will also help you return your finances to their usual state as quickly as possible.

Take these precautionary measures to protect your information from future data breaches of any kind:

  • Monitor your credit. It’s a good idea to check your credit accounts for suspicious activity on a regular basis. You may also want to sign up for credit monitoring, a service that will cost you $10-40 a month for the promise of notifying you immediately about any suspicious activity on your accounts.
  • Use strong, unique passwords. Use a different password for each account, and choose codes that are at least eight characters long. Use a variety of numbers, letters and symbols–and vary your capitalization use as well. Choose two-factor authentication when possible, and non-password authentication, such as face recognition or fingerprint sign-in, for stronger protection.
  • Browse safely. Never share sensitive information online and always keep your security and spam settings at their strongest levels.

Should I Trade in my Car Now?

Q: I’ve heard that used cars can currently fetch a pretty penny from dealers because of a nationwide vehicle shortage. Should I trade in my car?

A: The auto market has been red-hot for months as manufacturers scramble to catch up on pandemic-induced supply shortages. While circumstances vary, this can be a great time to get top dollar on a used car.

Here’s what you need to know about the current auto market for sellers.

How high did prices go?

According to online automotive resource Edmunds, the average transaction price for a used car in the second quarter of 2021 was $25,410, which is up 21% year-over-year. This was the first time the average list price for used cars in the U.S topped $25K. Also, fewer than 1% of used cars on dealership lots were priced below $15,000 during this quarter, compared to 18% offered below this mark the previous year.

Why have prices of used cars increased so sharply? 

Several interconnecting factors have led to the increase in auto prices.

First, the pandemic put a freeze on the production of new vehicles for nearly a full business quarter. Factory output at the time of the nationwide lockdowns was reduced by 3.3 million vehicles and sales dried up, which also reduced the volume of trade-ins. This led to a decrease in the available supply of used cars and led to a driving up of prices.

With production on pause, chipmakers focused on the electronics industry instead of creating semiconductor chips for automakers. When production resumed, manufacturers faced a worldwide shortage of these chips, which experts predict will last well into 2022. Consequently, manufacturers have been limited in the number of new cars they can make. This, too, means there are fewer trade-ins and fewer used cars available for buyers, leading to an increase in prices.

A third factor that has influenced the fall in the supply of used cars is the months-long shutdown of business and leisure travel during the lockdowns. Car rentals were virtually unused at this time, prompting the agencies to hold onto the cars in their lots instead of selling them to used car dealerships. This, of course, led to a reduction in the number of used cars available for sale and contributed to the spike in prices.

Finally, the single factor unrelated to the pandemic that has decreased the supply of used cars is the fact that today’s used cars were manufactured during the Great Recession. During this time, automakers faced severe financial challenges and the number of cars sold during that time was far lower than average. Today’s dearth in used cars, then, is also a trickle-down effect of the Great Recession and now directly impacting the current auto market.

Will the market settle down soon?

Auto prices are already showing signs of leveling off, with some used car prices dropping by as much as $2,000 over the month of July. Many drivers are eager to sell their cars at top dollar now, adding more used cars to the available supply. Car rental agencies are also recovering from their business freeze during the pandemic, adding their own vehicles to the available pool of used cars. While it will take some time for the market to recover completely, it does seem to be cooling off from its post-pandemic sizzle.

Should I trade in my car now? 

If you plan on trading in your car sometime in the near future, you may want to do so sooner rather than later. With inventory still low, dealers are eager to get their hands on as many used cars as possible and will offer you more than you’d typically expect. Be sure to check what price you can get from several dealers before you sell. It’s equally important to note that those same inflated prices will work against you if you plan on buying a new car now.

Used cars can fetch a pretty penny in today’s hot auto market, but it’s crucial to weigh all factors carefully before deciding if trading in your car now can work in your favor.

If you’re looking to finance a new car, look no further than Arkansas Best Federal Credit Union. Our fast and convenient auto loan application is available for members within online banking!

Your Guide to Secure Mobile Banking

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In response to the rise of mobile banking scams, the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) recently published new guidance on unauthorized electronic funds transfers, or EFTs. With more people using electronic banking as a holdover from pandemic times, it’s important for consumers to be aware of its vulnerabilities and how to protect themselves from scams. Here’s what you need to know about the risks of mobile banking and how to stay safe.

What are the risks of mobile banking? 

Banking through your mobile device is quick, convenient and efficient. There’s no longer a need to stop by the credit union on your way home from work to deposit checks, make a transfer or review your recent account history. Most banks and credit unions now allow you to do all that and more at any time, and from anywhere, using your phone and a mobile banking app.

Unfortunately, though, like all transactions that take place over the internet, mobile banking has some inherent risks. First, hackers can break into a phone and an account to steal money and information. Also, phishing scams that target people over the phone can trick them into sharing login information with scammers who may then hack into the account. Finally, bogus emails and messages appearing to be from your credit union can lead you to unknowingly install malware on your device.

Mobile banking scams can be difficult to spot and are frighteningly prevalent. In fact, according to a report by data science company Feedzai, the first quarter of 2021 saw a 159% increase in banking scams over the last quarter of 2020. This is likely due to the fact that the volume of banking transactions are returning to their pre-pandemic norm and many of them are happening online.

How to bank safely online

Instances of online fraud may be mounting, but that doesn’t mean you need to give up the convenience of mobile banking. Follow these protocols for online safety and bank with high confidence:

  • Use a VPN to hide your IP address. A VPN (virtual private network) will give you a private network, even when you’re using public Wi-Fi, thus preventing scammers from tracking and hacking your mobile device. It’s important to note that some VPNs can work so well that your own credit union won’t recognize you, so be sure to choose one that provides each user with a designated proxy IP. This enables select accounts to recognize the user while providing protection from hackers. 
  • Always choose multi-factor authentication. Most money apps will require this, but if your chosen app allows you to make this choice, be sure to say yes to multi-factor authentication. 
  • Never share your password or save it to your device. All of your passwords should be confidential, but the password you choose for an online banking app must be top secret. Don’t share your password with anyone. Follow suggested guidelines for choosing a strong password, including alternating between uppercase letters, lowercase letters, numbers and symbols; and choosing a unique password you don’t use elsewhere. Also, choose a security question that cannot be answered by searching through the personal information you post on your social media platforms. 
  • Brush up on your knowledge of scams. It’s important to keep yourself updated on the latest banking scams and to know how to recognize a scam if you’re targeted. Never answer a text or email that asks for your account details, even if it appears to be from your credit union.
  • Protect your phone. With the wealth of sensitive information it holds, a smartphone should be protected just like a desktop and laptop computer. Consider installing an antivirus app on your phone as well as a location-tracking app so you can find your phone if it gets lost. Be sure to lock your phone after using it, log out of the mobile banking app when you are done and always keep your phone in a safe place.

Mobile banking scams are on the rise, but by simply following the tips shared above, you can use your phone to bank with confidence, knowing your money and your information are safe.

What to Buy and What to Skip in August

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Q: I’d love to pick up some great bargains as the summer winds down, but I’m not sure what I should be buying this season. Which products typically go on sale in August and which should be pushed off for another time?

A: As host to the second-biggest shopping season of the year, the tail end of summer brings some fantastic finds, but some overpriced products as well. Here’s what to buy and what to skip in August.

Buy: Outdoor toys 

Outdoor toys, like sandboxes, bikes, inflatable pools and more, typically get big discounts in August. Check out sites like Overstock, Wayfair and look for markdowns on playground sets at retailers like Lowe’s and Home Depot.

Skip: Major household appliances and mattresses

If you’re in the market for a new oven, mattress or another major household purchase, you’re best off waiting until September. Retailers tend to slash the prices on these items by 30% or more during Labor Day weekend sale events. Plan ahead by checking out upcoming sales in the weeks leading up to Labor Day. Doing so will help you land the best prices on your purchases.

Buy: Swimwear

Stores and online retailers need to clear out their summer stock to make room for the autumn and winter line, which gives you the perfect opportunity to snag a super swimsuit deal! You can walk away with great finds at ridiculously low prices you won’t find next spring. Stash your treasures for next year’s beach season, or keep them for a winter getaway to warmer climates with sunny shorelines.

Skip: iPhones

If you’re looking to update your iPhone, you’re best off waiting it out a month or two. The new iPhone 13 is expected to be released in mid-September. Older models typically see a price cut when new models hit the market. So, whether you want to score the best price on an older phone or you’re willing to pay anything for the latest and greatest in iPhones, put the brakes on that purchase until September.

Buy: School supplies and kids’ clothing

With back-to-school shopping seemingly starting almost as soon as school is out for the summer, August is already late in the season. It’s also when school supplies and kids’ clothing tend to see generous markdowns. Stock up on supplies to last all year long and get your kids outfitted for the coming season at rock-bottom prices in August.

Skip: TVs

Don’t run out and buy a new TV just yet. If you need a new flat screen, you’re best off waiting for Black Friday to get the best deal.

Buy: Office supplies and furniture

Back-to-school sales means you can also cash in on office supplies and furniture. If you’re one of the many Americans working from home, you may need to restock your home office with basic supplies or to upgrade your office chair or desk. Why not save on these purchases by paying for them in August?

Skip: Fall clothing

Fall apparel will just be hitting the stores in August, so you likely won’t be seeing any steep discounts on fall wear until October at the earliest. It’s best to buy just a few autumn basics during the Labor Day sales and fill out the rest of your wardrobe later on in the season.

Buy: Patio furniture 

Those wicker table-and-umbrella sets can get pricey! Pick up a sweet deal on patio furniture by buying your sets and single pieces at the end of the season. While you’re giving your patio a facelift, you’ll also find grills, outdoor décor and more on sale in August.

The final dog days of summer bring a flurry of marked-down products and end-of-season sales, but there are some items that are best purchased during another time of year. Stay ahead of the retail game by using this guide to learn what to buy and what to skip in August.

Scam Alert: Beware Child Tax Credit Scams

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The Child Tax Credit, a part of the American Rescue Plan Act of 2021 that takes effect in July, is already drawing the attention of scammers. The newly expanded Child Tax Credit (CTC) will provide monthly payments of up to $300 per child for approximately 40 million households across the country. Payments will be issued via direct deposit, paper check, or debit cards, providing a plethora of opportunities for scammers to get in on the action.

Here’s what you need to know about Child Tax Credit scams and how to avoid them.

How the scams play out

There are several variations of the Child Tax Credit scam, each ultimately designed to trick parents and guardians out of their rightful CTC funds.

In one variation of the scam, victims receive phone calls, emails or social media messages appearing to be from the IRS and asking them to authenticate their personal details or share sensitive information in order to receive their CTC funds. In lieu of pretending to represent the IRS, the scammer may also claim to be in the position of “helping” the victim receive their funds. Unfortunately, in either scenario, if the victim follows the instructions of the contact, they will be playing right into the hands of a scammer.

In another variation of the scam, victims land on a spoofed government website where they are prompted to input their personal information. This scam is especially common, as the IRS has announced that it will be launching two web-based portals for families who’d like to update their information for the CTC: one for taxpayers who file annual returns and would like to share their banking details or a change in the number of dependents they have in their household, and one for taxpayers whose income level falls below the threshold for filing returns. While the two separate sites will make the application process smoother for the IRS, they also open the door for more bogus sites to spring up and snag unsuspecting victims in their trap.

What you need to know about the Child Tax Credit

As always, knowledge is your best protection against potential scams. Here’s what you need to know about the CTC and the way the IRS operates:

  • The IRS does not make unsolicited calls or emails. All official communications from the IRS are sent via standard USPS mail. The IRS will never call, email, text, or DM you asking you to share sensitive information.
  • You do not need to take any action or share personal information to receive the Child Tax Credit. If you’ve filed taxes in 2020, or even in 2019, and you’re eligible to receive the CTC funds, they will arrive via paper check, debit card or direct deposit without any action on your part. You only need to update information on one of the upcoming IRS portals if you’ve had a change in income, the number of dependents in your household or you’d like to share your banking information with the IRS.
  • Only the IRS will be issuing the Child Tax Credits. Anyone else claiming to “help” you receive the payments is a scammer.

If you’ve been targeted

As the date of the first advanced CTC approaches, scams are exploding everywhere. If you believe you’ve been targeted by a CTC scam, follow the cardinal rule of personal safety by never sharing sensitive data with an unverified source. Triple-check the URL on any IRS webpage you visit, as these are easily spoofed. Note that all authentic government sites will end in .gov. Finally, report all suspicious activity to the IRS and the FTC immediately.

For additional information on the upcoming Child Tax Credits, to check if you qualify or to update your dependent or banking information, visit the IRS’s CTC webpage directly at IRS.gov.

The advanced Child Tax Credits will help millions of families struggling with the economic fallout of the pandemic, but scammers can ruin it all. Follow the tips outlined above and stay safe!

Six Reasons to Switch to eStatements

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Are you constantly dealing with a barrage of junk mail that clogs up your mailbox? Drowning in papers needing sifted through? Are you always afraid to throw out any paper from your financial institution, fearful that you’ll be throwing sensitive material into the trash and making it an easy steal for would-be scammers?

If this sounds familiar, you may benefit from switching to electronic account statements.

Electronic statements (eStatements) are similar to paper statements, except for the fact that they’re delivered electronically. At the end of each statement period, which is generally monthly for checking accounts and quarterly for basic savings accounts, you’ll receive a notification from the credit union informing you that your statement is ready to view through the online banking portal, app, or by downloading from a secure site. Once you access the eStatement, you’ll find it has all the information you’re used to receiving in your paper statements. You can also access your eStatement by logging into your online banking site or app at any time throughout the month.

Quick, convenient and clutter-free, eStatements are the way of the future. Here are six reasons to consider switching to eStatements.

 1. Check your accounts at a glance

With eStatements, there’s no need to wait for your monthly statement to arrive in the mail. Just a few clicks and you get your account statement at any time, from anywhere, using the mobile device of your choice. Some financial institutions also offer members the option of signing up for financial alerts, such as a warning when your account is running low and in danger of being overdrawn. With eStatements, managing your accounts is easy.

2. Clear out the clutter

Why bother with piles of paperwork when you can access your accounts online? It’s neater, cleaner, and helps cut down on the correspondence you have flooding your mailbox. You’ll also save time sorting through papers when you can find your last account cycle balance with just a few quick swipes.

3. Keep your information safer

No matter how careful you are with papers containing sensitive data, there’s always a chance you can miss something and it’ll end up in the wrong hands. It can also be a pain to keep track of every incoming piece of snail mail and to dispose of it properly. With eStatements, you’ll never have to worry about losing a paper that contains confidential banking information, or mistakenly tossing it into the trash where it can be easily accessed by identity thieves.

Some people are wary about sending sensitive information online and are fearful that an eStatement can easily be hacked. However, you can access your account balance online with confidence, knowing that uses several layers of protection to keep your information absolutely safe.

4. Monitor your accounts frequently for fraud

When you have instant access to your accounts throughout the month, it’s a lot easier to check for signs of fraud. Plus, when you spot the fraud sooner, you can take steps to mitigate the damage earlier and have a better chance of a full recovery.

5. Eco-friendly

When you choose to receive your monthly account statements electronically, you’ll be doing the environment a favor. Less paper statements means less paper waste and fewer trees getting felled for something that will ultimately be tossed. Go green for the environment with eStatements!

6. Safe and secure storage

Filing cabinets are so last century. With eStatements, you’ll never stress about misplacing your account statements again. Your online banking portal or app acts as a convenient and secure filing cabinet, storing your account statements for you to access as needed.

Ready to make the switch to eStatements? Signing up is easy! Just register here to get started. Hello, convenience!

The Promises and the Perils of Buy Now Pay Later

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Buy now, pay later (BNPL) programs almost seem too good to be true. You can actually walk away with that overpriced exercise bike, entertainment system, sectional sofa or anything else that caught your eye without having the money to pay for it now. And there are almost no eligibility requirements to qualify.

However, upon closer inspection, BNPL isn’t really as great as it may appear. Let’s take a look at these programs, how they work and what to be aware of before you sign up.

How BNPL works

Gotta have it but don’t have the cash right now? You’re not alone. It’s the reason you’ll find a buy now, pay later button when checking out at most online retailers. Usually, the option will link you to a BNPL app, such as AfterpayAffirm or Quadpay. Similarly, a brick-and-mortar store may offer you this option at checkout as well. Here, too, you’ll pay up through an affiliated app.

If you choose to go with a BNPL option, you’ll first need to get approved. Eligibility is easy; apps will usually run just a soft credit check to confirm your information. Once approved, you can choose to link your debit card, checking account or credit card so the app can collect the payments when they’re due. Next, you’ll generally make a 25% deposit on the purchase, and the item is yours! Most BNPL plans require you to pay off the rest in three fixed installments, but payment schedules can vary.

On the surface, BNPL is a win-win: By spreading out the cost of an expensive item, the consumer can purchase what they can’t afford at the moment, while retailers can make more sales by getting these expensive items into the hands of more consumers, often regardless of income levels.

It’s important to note, though, that BNPL programs don’t work like credit cards. There are no interest charges for paying via BNPL, no fees for using the service and no credit checks to qualify.

When to choose BNPL

The primary advantage of paying for a purchase through a BNPL service is also its most obvious: You can purchase an expensive item even if you don’t have the cash on-hand at the time. This can be convenient when the item is on sale now, but will be full-priced by the time you’ve saved up for the purchase.

BNPL programs can also be a good choice to use for items you urgently need, but can’t afford right now. For example, you may be in need of medical equipment that is not covered by your insurance.

Finally, spreading out the cost of a purchase can be ideal for workers with an uneven income flow, such as independent contractors and freelancers, who may have lean times of year, but know that better times are coming.

Why BNPL can be a bad idea 

Before you click on the BNPL option when making your next purchase, it’s important to be aware of the many pitfalls:

  • It encourages overspending. Perhaps the biggest danger of embracing the BNPL life is that it makes it too easy to overspend. After all, if you’ll only be paying a small part of the purchase price today, why not buy it now?
  • Missed payments are penalized. If you miss a BNPL payment, the honeymoon is over. Some services will slap an interest charge on your outstanding balance, with rates as high as 40%. Other programs will charge a one-time late fee, which can be as high as $39. Still, others will tack on an extra fixed fee to all subsequent payments.
  • It can kill responsible financial habits. For many people, falling into the trap of BNPL, can mean the beginning of the end of their financial responsibility. For one, if a consumer has purchased multiple items through BNPL programs, the monthly payments will not be so minimal. The payments will need to be factored into a budget and can eat into other categories, like savings. In contrast, when a consumer saves up for a purchase, the money generally comes out of their monthly budget for short-term savings and does not affect other categories.

Buy now, pay later programs can be super-convenient, but they also present risks for the uninformed or distracted buyer. Use with caution!

 

Beware the USPS Smishing Text Scam

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Your phone pings with an incoming text. You swipe it open to find a message from the USPS. They’re texting to let you know that the scheduled delivery time for your package has been changed. Unfortunately, though, the message is not from the USPS and you’ve just been targeted by a scam.

Here’s what you need to know about the USPS smishing text scam.

How the scam plays out

In the USPS smishing text ruse, a target will receive a text like the one described above. The message prompts the victim to click on a link to reschedule the delivery. However, if the victim follows the instructions, they’ll be falling victim to a smishing text scam.

The United States Postal Inspection Service (USPIS) is warning of an uptick in smishing scams that use the USPS as a cover, conning unsuspecting victims into downloading malware onto their phones or sharing personal information with scammers they assume is the USPS. The scammer will then go on to empty the victim’s accounts or steal their identity.

Individuals who’ve recently made online purchases and are expecting a package delivery within the next few days are especially vulnerable to this scam. To the uninformed, the text looks legitimate, and with just one careless click, the scammer has access to the victim’s device and personal information.

However, with one crucial bit of information, you can protect yourself from falling victim to the USPS smishing scam: The USPS never sends out unsolicited text messages about a package. The company will only send a message when a consumer has signed up for alerts about a package’s delivery. If you have not signed up for messages from the USPS, and you receive a text like the one described above, you know you’re being targeted by a scam.

What to do if you’re targeted

If you’re targeted by a smishing text scam, the USPIS recommends taking the following steps:

  • Verify the sender. Confirm the identity of the message sender by checking with the USPS if you actually have a delivery schedule change. Don’t call the number on the text. Instead, reach out to your local USPS office directly.
  • Don’t reply or click on links. Replying to the message or downloading an embedded link can install malware onto your phone.
  • Delete. Save a screenshot of the text to share with law enforcement agencies and then delete the message.
    Block the number and update the security on your device. Prevent a recurrence of the scam by putting the number on your “Do Not Call” list and beefing up the security settings on your phone.
  • Keep personal information personal. Never share sensitive information, like your Social Security number or financial account details, with an unverified contact.

Report the scam

Do your part to stop the scammers by reporting it to the proper authorities.

First, you can report smishing scams that impersonate the USPS to the Inspection Service Cybercrime Team at the USPIS by email. Take a screenshot of the text and send it to spam@uspis.gov. Make sure your screenshot shows the number of the sender as well as the date it was sent. You’ll also need to include your name in the email so the team can reach you, along with any other relevant details about the scam, such as money you may have lost, links you may have downloaded, and personal information you may have shared. The USPIS will contact you if it needs any additional information to help nab the scammers.

You can also report the scam to the Federal Trade Commission at FTC.gov and let your friends and family know about the circulating scam.

Stay alert and stay safe!