Category Archives: Educational

How to Turn Your Backyard into an Oasis

Most of us have spent lots of time at home this spring, and it looks like summer might not be much different. With many attractions still closed and some states seeing a surge in COVID-19 cases, safe travel will be challenging. For many Americans, this means choosing to staycation at home instead of hitting the road this summer.

A stay-at-home summer doesn’t need to be boring. You can turn your own backyard into a summer oasis without breaking the budget. Here is how to cost effectively maximize your outdoor space. From entertaining in style to keeping the kids busy, we’ve got you covered!

Upgrade your outdoor furniture

Chances are, you’ll be spending lots of time out in the yard this summer, and whether that means sunning on the patio or sipping lemonade under the shade of a tree, you’ll feel more of that vacay vibe with the right furniture. It doesn’t have to be pricey; a little ingenuity will really make those dollars stretch.

Make your outdoor space seem bigger by creating different seating areas for different purposes. Think a cozy coffee nook for mornings, a lazy hammock for getting lost inside the pages of a summer thriller, a pair of lounge chairs for catching the afternoon sun and a patio table for entertaining guests. You can even go all out and designate a small area for nighttime fireside fun.

If you’ve already got a nice patio set, freshen it up by replacing the cushions and adding some summer throw pillows for a whole new look.

Don’t forget to take a look at your outdoor lighting as you spruce up your patio and yard. Brighten up your outdoor space with some sconce lights along the walls or string up some old holiday lights for a truly festive feel.

Add a splash of fun

It may be too late in the season to think of installing an in-ground pool, but you can still have your floating fun with an above-ground pool this summer. Above-ground pools can cost as little as a few hundred dollars or as much as a few thousand for a larger, upgraded model. Most take a week or less to install. And then it’s an endless splashing summer!

Make it natural

Yes, you’re already outdoor, but that doesn’t mean you’re surrounded by greenery. Even city slickers can add the natural touch to small apartment porches with some potted plants, a container garden or a trellis with climbing flowers. Stick that greenery wherever it can go for an added layer of relaxation.

If you want to go all-out to get that resort-like feel, consider building your own waterfall this summer. It may not be on your bucket list, but it’s a super-fun project with rewarding results.

Fun for the kids

Don’t forget to create a fun space for your kids in your backyard oasis. The sky’s the limit when it comes to outdoor play; just have fun and let your creativity flow freely. Here are some ideas to get you started:

Put up a rock-climbing wall. If your kids are climbing the walls from being home for too long, try a DIY rock-climbing kit for endless fun that also builds strength and coordination.

Build a swing set. Swing sets provide hours of entertainment, but they can get pricey. Save money without compromising on the fun factor by choosing to build a swing set yourself instead of purchasing it pre-made. You’ll have to buy materials and maybe the tools, but you’ll still come out way ahead. Plus, you can make the construction a family project that will keep everyone involved for days.

Install a backyard splash pad. Your favorite spraygrounds might be closed this summer, but you can have your water fun at home with a DIY splash pad kit. Splash pads promise hours of fun for kids of all ages.

Create a natural playspace. According to a natural playground study by the University of Tennessee, children who play on natural playgrounds, or playscapes, tend to stay more engaged than those playing on brightly colored equipment. Building a natural playspace is easy — think a small pile of sand, a set of logs arranged as stepping stones and some tall grass or plants to act as hiding spaces.


If you’re short on the cash you need to turn your backyard into an oasis this summer, we’re here to help. Our loan terms are flexible and our payback plans are affordable. Connect with us today at 503-275-0300 option 2 or email loans@usacu.org.

Watch Out for These Scams as the Country Moves Toward Reopening

As the coronavirus continues spreading across the country in waves and peaks, every state is making bold moves toward reopening under a strange new set of circumstances dubbed the “New Normal.” Face coverings are de rigueur. Floor markings have been slapped down exactly 6 feet apart near checkout counters in retail stores. Shoppers are weary, cautious and careful. And, as the country moves forward and adapts to the new realities, scammers aren’t far behind.

Watch out for these trending scams as the country reopens:

Account Takeovers

Even as retailers work toward reopening, shorter hours and percentage-capacity rules mean many consumers are still shopping remotely. Retailers are also busier than ever now as they comply with new rules and work to meet customers’ changing demands. This leads to an increase in online retail scams, like account takeovers, in which scammers hack a company’s database and break into a customer’s account. Using the customer’s remembered payment information, the scammer goes on to place large orders to their own address — all on the client’s dime.

Protect yourself:

Account takeovers are most commonly pulled off on dormant accounts. The scammer assumes these accountholders won’t notice this activity, but you can outsmart them by checking your retail accounts for sudden orders or deleting the remembered information from accounts you rarely use.

Business owners can spot these scams by looking out for sudden large orders from customers who haven’t purchased anything in months, or even years.

Job Scams

“Help Wanted” signs and ads are a welcome sight for the more than 40 million workers who have filed for unemployment since the pandemic hit American shores. Unfortunately, though, the flood of unemployed people looking for work has led to a rise in job scams. The FBI is warning against a surge in scams where cybercriminals pose as employers by spoofing websites and posting bogus job openings on online job boards. They may even go as far as conducting interviews with applicants. The scammers ask for personal information, and sometimes demand payment, before the “application” can be processed. Of course, there is no job waiting for the applicant, their information is now in danger of being abused and they’ll never see that money again.

In a variation of this scam, “employees” are given work to do remotely, and then paid with an inflated paycheck. They’re told they had been overpaid and instructed to cash the check and reimburse the employer for the surplus funds via money order or prepaid debit card. The check will appear to clear, but in a few days, it will bounce and the victim will never be able to reclaim the lost funds.

Protect yourself:

Beware of outrageous job claims that promise big money for little work; they’re likely bogus. As always, never share sensitive information online with an unverified source. Don’t accept a job that overpays and asks you to refund the extra money; it’s likely a scam. Finally, before agreeing to an interview, research an alleged employer and company on the BBB website.

The Contact Tracer Scam

Many states have hired armies of contact tracers to track the movements of individuals who may have been exposed to COVID-19. The FTC is warning of a new ruse in which scammers impersonate a contact tracer and reach out to people via phone call or text message. They’ll ask for the victim’s personal information, including their Social Security number, claiming they need this information for their work as a contact tracer. Of course, they’ll use this information to pull off identity theft or hack the victim’s accounts. The scammer will sometimes ask the victim to click on an embedded link, which will grant them access to the victim’s phone.

Protect yourself:

Contact tracers will always identify themselves and the department where they work. If a contact tracer reaches out to you, you can easily determine their authenticity by researching this information. The tracer will also have a basic understanding of COVID-19 and how it spreads. Most importantly, they have no need for your Social Security number nor will they ask you to share it.

As the country moves into a new period of healing and recovery, scammers are doing all they can to continue disrupting daily life. Stay aware and stay safe!


Get into the habit of checking for the latest scam alerts on a regular basis. Once an individual falls prey to a scam, full financial recovery can take years. It’s best to protect yourself from scams before they happen by educating yourself and asking USAgencies Credit Union for help.

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day

World Elder Abuse Awareness Day, June 15, 2020, recognizes the risks of elder abuse and neglect of older people. It’s a day for family and caregivers around the world to learn how to take proactive steps to protect loved ones and for older people to learn how they can protect themselves..

What is elder abuse and neglect?

Elder abuse is physical, emotional, financial or sexual harm inflicted upon an older adult, or neglect of welfare by people who are responsible for their care. In the United States alone, approximately 1 in 10 people aged 60-plus have experienced some form of elder abuse. Sadly, victims of elder abuse are often too physically frail or have a diminished mental capacity, which makes them unable to recognize abuse and, therefore, incapable of fighting it.

Elder abuse is most commonly perpetrated by family members, including adult children, spouses and partners, but it can also occur by a hired caregiver who is working in the older person’s home or in an institutional setting, such as an assisted living facility.

What are the effects of elder abuse?

According to the National Institute of Health (NIH), older people who have been abused have a 300% higher risk of death when compared to those who have not been mistreated. The exact cost of elder financial abuse and fraud to Americans is unknown, but is estimated to be as much as $36.5 billion each year.

The many forms of elder abuse

Physical elder abuse involves the intentional use of force against an elderly person, resulting in injury, physical pain or impairment. This includes physical assault, hitting, shoving and the inappropriate use of restraints and drugs.

Emotional elder abuse involves treating an older adult in a way that causes emotional or psychological pain or distress, including intimidation by threats or yelling, humiliation, habitual blaming, ignoring, isolating the older person from friends or activities and terrorizing them.

Sexual elder abuse involves any sexual contact with an older person without their consent and/or showing them pornographic material against their will. It also includes forcing the person to undress when unwarranted.

Elder neglect involves the failure to fulfill a caretaking obligation, such as ensuring the elderly person’s nutritional needs are met; dressing them in an appropriate manner; not maintaining an acceptable level of hygiene and not meeting their medical needs. Elder neglect constitutes approximately half of all reports of elder abuse.

Financial exploitation involves the unauthorized use of an elder’s funds or property, including stealing cash, using an elder’s checks or credit cards, forging their signature and/or identity theft.

Healthcare fraud and abuse involves Medicare/insurance fraud, overmedicating or under-medicating, double-billing for medical care or services, charging for healthcare services that were not rendered and recommending fraudulent remedies.

Warning signs of elder abuse

Signs of elder abuse can be difficult to recognize since they are often mistaken for symptoms of dementia or physical frailty. If you suspect abuse, look for the following warning signs:

  • Unexplained injuries, such as bruises, scars, broken bones or dislocations
  • A report of drug overdose or failure to take medication
  • Signs of being restrained, such as rope marks on wrists
  • Caregiver’s refusal to allow you to see the older person alone
  • Threatening, belittling or controlling caregiver behavior
  • Behavior that mimics dementia, such as rocking or mumbling to themselves
  • Bruises around breasts or genitals
  • Torn, stained or bloody underclothing
  • Unusual weight loss or loss of appetite
  • Untreated physical problems, such as bed sores
  • Unsanitary living conditions
  • Being left dirty or unbathed
  • Unsuitable clothing or covering for the weather
  • Unsafe living conditions
  • Unexplained withdrawals from financial accounts
  • Sudden changes in financial condition
  • Suspicious changes in wills, power of attorney, titles and policies
  • Addition of names to the senior’s signature card
  • Duplicate billings for the same medical service
  • Evidence of overmedication or under-medication

Preventing elder abuse and neglect

Caregivers who are feeling overwhelmed may be in danger of abusing or neglecting the older person. It’s important to reach out for help and support as soon as the early signs of burnout appear.

  • Take immediate steps to relieve stress. This can include mindfulness exercises, a break from work or just a nightly jog around the neighborhood.
  • Request help from friends, relatives, local respite care agencies or an adult day care program.
  • Put self-care first. An empty vessel cannot pour. Be sure to get adequate rest, eat well, tend to your own health-care needs and exercise regularly.
  • Seek help for depression from a mental health professional.

If you are not the primary caregiver of a loved one, take the following steps to prevent abuse in the hands of the person who is directly responsible for the older person’s care:

  • Call and visit as often as possible. This will enable you to frequently monitor physical condition and home environment.
  • Offer to stay with the person so the caregiver can have a break. If possible, try to do this on a regular basis.
  • Monitor medications to ensure the amounts being taken correspond with the prescription dates.
  • Watch for financial abuse by asking the older person if you can check their financial accounts and credit card statements for unauthorized transactions.

Resources and support

If you suspect elder abuse and the victim is in need of immediate assistance, dial 911. You can also call 1-800-677-1116 for support, or find local resources at the National Center on Elder Abuse.

For more information on elder abuse and neglect, see these links:


Questions in regards to your accounts? Connect with a Member Relationship Specialist at 503-275-0300. We are here to help. 

Don’t Toss That Junk Mail — It Might be Your Stimulus Payment

Four million Americans are receiving their Economic Impact Payment in the form of a prepaid debit card — and many are mistaking it for junk mail.

Last week, the U.S. Treasury Department and the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) began sending out Economic Impact Payments (EIP) as prepaid debit cards. The cards arrive in plain white envelopes that are strikingly similar to junk mail from credit card companies and scam mail. There’s no way to know that the card is from the federal government unless the recipient knows to expect it.

Reports are already pouring in from all over the country of people mistakenly tossing their EIP cards along with their junk mail. By the time they realize they’ve thrown out their long-awaited stimulus payment, it’s too late.

Here’s how to spot your EIP card, activate it and use it, in three easy steps:

Step 1: Spot your card in the mail

If you’re eligible for a stimulus payment and you haven’t yet received it via direct deposit or paper check, be on the lookout for your EIP card in the mail. The prepaid debit card will arrive in a white envelope with a return address from “Money Network Cardholder Services” of MetaBank in Omaha, Nebraska. There is no other marking on the envelope to indicate it’s been sent from the federal government.

If you think you may have mistakenly tossed your EIP card, don’t panic. You can still receive your payment by calling the toll-free customer service line at 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) to ask for a replacement. You can also check out the EIP website for additional information and assistance.

Step 2: Activate your card

Your EIP card will be accompanied by a letter with instructions for activating it. If the card has more than one name on it, only the primary cardholder — listed first on the card — may activate it.

Dial 800-240-8100 (TTY: 800-241-9100) and be prepared to share your name, address and Social Security number. You’ll also be asked to create a four-digit PIN, which you’ll use for all ATM transactions, automated assistance and to hear your balance. For security purposes, it’s best not to use personal information, such as your birth year or home address, as your PIN.

Watch out for scammers! Pay close attention when dialing the number to activate your card. Scammers have set up bogus EIP card call centers and are using numbers that are similar to the official one shared by the IRS.

Once your card is activated, you can also check out your balance information and transaction history at EIPCard.com or by calling the toll-free number listed above.

Step 3: Use your card

You can use your EIP card to make purchases anywhere Visa debit cards are accepted.
If you’d rather have your stimulus money in cash, you can get cash back with PIN debit purchases where available, or by withdrawing cash from an ATM that carries the Allpoint brand.

It won’t cost you money to use your card, except for a select few transactions. For example, if you make a balance inquiry at an ATM, you’ll need to pay $0.25. Also, you can make one free withdrawal from an out-of-network ATM, but you’ll be charged $2 for every withdrawal afterward. To find a surcharge-free ATM near you, check out EIPCard.com.

Keep your card safe; if you lose it, you’ll have to pay $7.50 to replace it. It’s also a good idea to keep track of your balance so you don’t end up at the register with a card that’s declined because of an insufficient balance.


How are you spending your stimulus check? If you need further assistance, don’t hesitate to connect with us at 503.275.0300 or info@usacu.org. We’ll be happy to help you maintain financial stability during these uncertain times.