Fake Check Scams on the Rise

In early September, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a report warning about a spike in fake check scams across the country. While these scams are not new, their occurrence rate has doubled over the last three years and is up 12% from 2017. 

The BBB further announced that billions of dollars in fake checks circulate each year, and that the number of victims this scam traps annually is close to 500,000. The amount of money lost from these scams is just as staggering: The FTC reported losses of approximately $40 million from fake check scams in just one year. 

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this scam is the fact that the largest pool of its victims falls between the ages of 20 and 29 – a segment of the population that is far more familiar with electronic payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo, than with a simple paper check. This makes them easy victims for the scam.

Aside from ordinary paper checks, this scam can also be pulled off with cashier’s checks and money orders. Regardless of the medium, each of these scams involves a scammer “overpaying” a victim and requesting the check be cashed with the difference being deposited into a designated account belonging to the scammer.

Here are the most common variations of the fake check scam:

  • “Buyers” send sellers a check written out for more than the asking price of an object sold on an online marketplace, such as Craigslist.

  • Lottery “winners” are rewarded with an inflated prize and given instructions to pay back a part of the check to cover taxes or fees.

  • “Employees” are granted checks for supplies, with instructions to wire back a part of it to the “company.”

In each case, the fake check or money order seems to clear in the financial institution. The scam becomes clear a few days later when the victim’s payout to the scammer is deposited and the account does not have sufficient funds to cover it.

Wondering if a check is a fake? Hold it up to this checklist:

  • Is the check’s paper stock weak and flimsy?

  • Check the company’s name and address. Are they spelled correctly?

  • Every check has an identification number printed toward its top and again at the bottom. Verify that these numbers match.

  • If you’re allegedly holding a lottery-winning check in your hands, the check should be written out from a state lottery commission. If it’s made out by a random company, it’s bogus.

  • Look for the special ink required for the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code that’s at the bottom of the check.

  • The check should have a routing number from its bank. You can Google the bank to find out if the routing number is genuine.

Aside from knowing how to recognize a fake check, it’s important to know which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams. Contact the authorities or your financial institution if you come across any of the following:

  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re not familiar with.

  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.

  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.

  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Don’t hesitate to contact DoverPhila Federal Credit Union at 330-364-8874 if you have questions regarding a suspicious check, a questionable transaction, or general fraud. It is better to be safe than sorry.

Everything You Want to Know about Bitcoin (…But Were Afraid to Google)

What is Bitcoin?
Bitcoin is a form of money that is entirely digital. The U.S. has dollars, Europe has Euros and the internet has bitcoins. The fact that bitcoin is digital isn’t all that interesting – because, in reality, an estimated 92% of all money is digital. Bitcoin is fascinating because it’s decentralized. That means no single nation, bank or institution controls it. Instead, the bitcoin currency is administered and propagated by bitcoin users.

How Does Bitcoin Work?
Bitcoin works much like a regular currency. You can buy and sell digitally and you can use bitcoin to make “real life” purchases if the vendor accepts bitcoins. You can invest with bitcoin, exchange your bitcoins for other forms of currency, and transfer bitcoins. You can also create new bitcoins through a process called mining. This is where bitcoin’s decentralized system becomes super-interesting. Rather than a large financial institution printing money, anyone can mine new bitcoins.

“Miners” solve complex mathematical problems, which validate other bitcoin transactions within the bitcoin network. This system of peer-validation is the bedrock of the revolutionary blockchain technology that makes Bitcoin so secure and allows for peer-to-peer value transferring. For every “block” of transactions successfully validated, the miner is rewarded new bitcoins.

Is Bitcoin Legal?
Yes. Bitcoin has an infamous reputation due to its ability to be traded securely and anonymously without the regulation of a centralized institution. It has been associated with money-laundering and illegal purchases on the web’s black market – but it’s still legal.

Of course, as with all currencies, bitcoin is illegal when you use it to purchase illegal products.

How can I Earn Bitcoins?
There are several ways to get into the bitcoin market. The first of these is mining. As mentioned above, mining is the process of solving mathematical problems that are available to anyone in the bitcoin network. Miners provide transaction validation for the network and are rewarded with bitcoins.

In 2009, you could earn 50 BTC per “block” mined. Today, it’s considerably less, at just 12.5 BTC. Also, these mathematical problems are a lot harder than what you’ve encountered in high school calculus. Lastly, you’ll need to invest in specialized computers to tackle these problems.

You can also get bitcoins by working for them. You’ll find lots of job postings that pay in bitcoins on the internet.

There are also high-risk ways to get bitcoins, such as gambling and currency trading.

Do I Have to Pay Taxes on Bitcoin Earnings?
The IRS views your bitcoins as property rather than currency; so every transaction you make within the bitcoin network will impact your capital. In addition, if you are paid in any crypto-currency, this income will be taxed.

In many ways, bitcoins are subject to the same tax laws as regular currencies, including regulations, rules regarding reporting, and sales tax.

If you use bitcoins frequently, check with your accountant. Keep accurate records of your transactions so you can report your bitcoin income. It must be recorded in U.S. dollars at the exchange rate it was valued for at the time of the transaction.

Surviving the Holidays with Your Sanity Intact

With crowded stores and an ever-growing list of people to shop for, it’s easy to get overwhelmed and to overspend on your holiday shopping. No worries, though; we’ve got you covered! Read on for pre-and post-holiday tips and have yourself a jolly December without breaking the bank.

 6 Pre-Holidays Tips

1. Revise your gift list
Chances are, lots of the people you exchange gifts with would be relieved to be taken off your list. Talk to co-workers and acquaintances about just exchanging cards this year, or make a deal to only exchange homemade or inexpensive gifts. This way, you can focus on buying special gifts for those closest to you instead of generic gifts for everyone you’ve ever met.

2. Organize a Yankee Swap or Secret Santa
Still got a mile-long list? Try one of these creative solutions! A Yankee Swap or a Secret Santa activity saves money and stress while adding a bit of intrigue to any party. Everyone involved only needs to bring a single gift – and it’s always fun. Set a reasonable price cap on gifts so no one walks out with a candy cane while the person next to them hauls off a flat-screen TV.

3. Bake holiday treats
Reduce the financial weight of the season by whipping up your own holiday treats instead of buying gifts. It’s hard to find the perfect gift, but no one turns down a tin of homemade holiday cookies!

4. Make a budget and stick to it
We all plan to stick to a budget this holiday season – make this the year it really happens. Set an absolute limit to how much you will spend on the holidays.  This will encourage you to plan your spending rather than grabbing impulse items as you shop.

5. Make use of holiday deals….but don’t get distracted
When prices drop, we sometimes go wild, snatching up random items because we don’t want to miss out on those “crazy, low holiday prices.” Make use of these deals by buying items on your list at a discounted price – but don’t buy things you don’t need.

6. Rethink giving
Instead of running to the mall again, think of other ways you can give that will make the world a better place and truly brighten someone’s holiday. It’s the perfect time of year to volunteer at local soup kitchens, homeless shelters and charity organizations.

2 Post-Holiday Tips

1. Use those gift cards
Gift cards are a typical holiday gift, but they’re often forgotten and unused. Put your gift cards in your wallet and spend them creatively.  If you’re not a fan of on-the-go coffee, use your Starbucks gift card to pick up ground coffee beans to use at home.  Rent a movie with your iTunes card.  Whatever it might be, just use those gift cards!

2. Re-gift
You’ll probably wind up with a bunch of gifts you don’t want.  Hold onto them; many gifts can be re-gifted next year or used as birthday gifts throughout the year.

DoverPhila Partners with Area Organizations to Promote Financial Literacy

OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County, United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc., and DoverPhila Federal Credit Union are partnering to offer a financial literacy workshop for area residents. “Master Your Money – Simple Tips to Improve Cash Flow” will be held Tuesday, December 5th, 10:00AM to 12:00PM at OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County at 1260 Monroe Street in New Philadelphia. 

The workshop will offer easy and straightforward methods to reaching financial goals. Topics include tackling expenses, increasing savings and improving credit.

“Many of the customers that we serve struggle with numerous financial difficulties due to lack of employment or other employment related issues. This collaboration with United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc. and DoverPhila Federal Credit Union is a positive step in helping area residents become financially stable and achieve financial independence,” said JoAnn Breedlove, COO of OhioMeansJobs Centers in Stark and Tuscarawas Counties. 

“This collaboration is a great example of how United Way brings together organizations with common missions and goals,” said Robin Waltz, President of United Way of Tuscarawas County, Inc.

For further details contact OhioMeansJobs Tuscarawas County at 330-364-9777. Pre-registration is suggested but not required.

DoverPhila Wins Times-Reporter 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards

DoverPhila Federal Credit Union is pleased to announce that it has won first place in the Best Bank, Best Mortgage Lender, Best Financial Services, and Best Financial Institution categories for the Times-Reporter 2017 Readers’ Choice Awards.

There roughly 3,000 registered voters and over 170,000 total votes during the Readers’ Choice Awards’ voting process. DoverPhila Federal Credit Union would like to thank everyone who voted in these categories.

“We are truly grateful and excited to be a part of the Times-Reporter Readers’ Choice Awards. There are some excellent financial institutions serving this area so receiving the titles of Best Bank, Best Financial Institution, Best Mortgage Lender, and Best Financial Services of 2017 means a lot to us,” said Jack Dooling, Chief Executive Officer and President of DoverPhila Federal Credit Union.  “This credit union was formed over 60 years ago and our mission has always been to build community while providing the best financial services and products to our members. Knowing that our members believe that we are doing exactly that, gives us a sense of pride in the work we do.”

The annual Readers' Choice Awards celebrates the best businesses, organizations, people, and more through votes of area residents. The awards are put on by The Times-Reporter, a GateHouse Media Inc. publication that is published daily in New Philadelphia, Ohio. For more information, visit www.timesreporter.com.

DoverPhila has been proudly serving the financial needs of members who live, work, and attend church or school in Tuscarawas County since 1953. It has offices in Dover, New Philadelphia, Newcomerstown, and Uhrichsville.

Do You Know the Credit Union Difference?

Credit unions help consumers reach their financial dreams through its people helping people philosophy. Respondents in a 2017 Consumer Survey don by the Ohio Credit Union League were asked what they found to be the most significant difference between credit unions and other financial institutions. Here were the results:

  • 35% of respondents: lower interest rates on loans
  • 34% of respondents: fewer and lower fees compared to other financial institutions
  • 24% of respondents: credit unions are member-owned, with profits going back to benefit members

Credit unions are known for their service-centric model, and 90 percent of the respondents to the League’s survey rated the service they received from credit unions as “outstanding.” The American Customer Satisfaction Index consistently shows credit unions deliver excellent service to members. The most recent report, on its 100-point scale, ACSI said credit unions received an overall score of 82, up from 81 the previous year.

The World Council of Credit Unions data indicates there are 231.2 million credit union members worldwide who belong to 68,880 credit unions in 109 countries. According to the Credit Union National Association there were 110.6 million members of 5,812 credit unions in the United States as of June 2017.

In Ohio, the state’s 284 credit unions serve 2.9 million members. According to a CUNA’s Member Benefits Index, by choosing a credit union as their financial institution, those members received more than $206 million in direct financial benefits in the past year.

Credit unions serve a common field of membership based on characteristics such as a geographical area, employee groups, or membership in an organization. Every resident of Ohio is eligible to join a credit union, and deposits are protected by the federal government’s National Credit Union Administration insurance or the private American Share Insurance. So, if you’re trying to decide on a financial institution, keep the following in mind:

  • Do your research: Online reviews, consumer surveys, and regulatory agency reports are all good resources to find out how financial institutions treat consumers and how business is conducted. The FDIC (banks) and NCUA (credit unions) each have searchable databases on the size, financial health, and insurance status of the financial institutions they regulate
  • Compare your needs with their strengths: If you primarily conduct your financial transactions online, then you will want an institution that offers online or mobile banking. If ATM fees are an issue, then look for surcharge-free networks or institutions that reimburse you for fees. If you need advice on planning for the future, choose an institution with a strong financial wellness program. If you need a car loan or a mortgage, look for the lowest interest rates on loans
  • Choose to be involved: If you have an account with a credit union, you are both a member and an owner. This process guarantees you a voice and ensures that your credit union is looking out for your best financial interests and not that of a small group of stockholders.

Whether you are looking for your first loan, would like to start a small business, or just want to get rid of debt, a credit union can help. They offer many of the same services as other financial institutions, but are not-for-profit. They treat you like a person, not a dollar sign.

Your Life Goals, Are Our Life Goals

If there’s ever a time that "millennials" need cooperatives, it's now. 

The last ten years have been quite transformational for this generation of young adults. Younger millennials just graduating college likely saw their parents lose jobs, benefits, and pensions while bank executives lost nothing. According to a study by Filene Research Institute, millennials make about as much (rather, as little) as previous generations, but factor in the average student loan debt of $27,000 and that take home pay is quickly eaten up. 

Despite that, millennials are principled and they maintain an optimistic outlook about their financial future with life goals and financial goals are entwined. If you are looking to firm up yours, a credit union – which is a not-for-profit financial cooperative that offers the same services as a bank – is a smarter choice. 

Here are some ways DoverPhila Federal Credit Union can help you achieve your life goals. 

If you value open membership without boundaries, DoverPhila is for you. 
When you opened your first bank account, did you have to deposit some ridiculous amount of money or risk getting hit with a $5 monthly fee? At the credit union, you only have to deposit a minimum of $5. That money is a "share" in the company instead of money that is invested in high-risk securities. Anyone who works, worships, or attends school in Tuscarawas County is eligible for membership. Once you become a member, we gladly extend our credit union membership perks to any member of your immediate family.

If you value cooperation instead of competition, a credit union is for you.
Why should you have to suffer because your bank does not have ATMs everywhere? A $4 fee here and there really adds up. You should not have to spend $24 to withdraw $20 – that’s a rip-off! Instead, grab your smart phone, download the Co-Op ATM app, and find a free ATM or shared branch to conduct your business. As everyone knows, life is a little better when you work together instead of making everything a competition. 

If you value education, training and information, a credit union is DEFINITELY for you.
We exist for the financial benefit of our members and to provide a level of service that meets our members’ financial needs. At DoverPhila Federal Credit Union, our members receive valuable services the moment they need them and more!

A credit union can help you affect change in your community and life. Whether it is an auto loan, a mortgage, a personal loan, or a credit card, credit unions are simply a smarter choice. Experience the DoverPhila difference today by stopping by any of our five locations.