Category Archives: Educational

How the Grinch Steals From the Elderly

From our friends at CUinsight.com

As many plan how to get the best holiday deals, thieves also plotting how to exploit the elderly.

According to the Better Business Bureau, seniors are the most targeted demographic for scams and fraud. They range from money transfer and cash for gift card requests, to being named a sweepstakes winner. Efforts particularly ramp up leading into the holidays.

As we head into the holidays, be on alert for a few of these BBB top senior scams. Please share this article with your parents, grandparents or a vulnerable friend or neighbor.

Free trials: Often these pop-up online with promises of a “free trial” asking consumers to provide credit card information “simply to cover shipping fees.” Unfortunately, that leads to unsuspecting victims being charged for products that are part of a program they “enrolled” in. Trying to cancel is often a nightmare.

Charity scams: With so many natural disasters in 2018, who wouldn’t want to open their wallet to help? Retirees have available savings, big hearts and it can be hard to distinguish legitimate causes. Do your research and ask as many questions as possible. Research sites like give.org to see if a charity site is real. Don’t respond to charity solicitations on the phone until you do your homework.

Fake websites: Make sure the website is secure and legit. Scammers have gotten very sophisticated in creating sites that piggyback off the reputation and name of well-known companies. If it’s the first time you are buying from a particular website, check with BBB before sharing any credit card information.

Family emergency scams:  The scammers claim to be calling on behalf of a family member who has been arrested or in an accident. They play on grandparents’ emotions to ask for money to be sent quickly. Don’t be quick to give any financial information or commitment over the phone. After hanging up, reach out to your loved ones to find out if the emergency actually happened.


We want our members to be aware of fraud schemes are out there. Stay up to date with and how to keep safe by visiting our dedicated Fraud Schemes page on our USAgencies Credit Union web page. Questions? Connect with us at 503-275-0300 Option 3 or visit us at our branch at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204.

International Credit Union Day!

October 18, 2018, will mark the 70th anniversary of International Credit Union Day. This year’s theme is “Find Your Platinum Lining.” It combines the traditional gift of platinum for 70th anniversaries with a play on the saying “every cloud has a silver lining.”

Credit unions all over the world will be celebrating the history and the success of the “People-not-Profit” philosophy. This year’s theme emphasizes the credit union movement’s loyalty to its members and its mission to provide them financial support and guidance.

The movement began in the 1840s as a democratic consumer cooperative by weavers in Rochdale, England. Frustrated by bankers who denied them loans simply because they weren’t wealthy, the weavers and workers decided to pool their incomes and loan money to each other. In time, this cooperation put each member on solid financial ground and encouraged their own businesses to flourish.

The need for equitable financial institutions grew and, in 1971, the World Council of Credit Unions, Inc. (WOCCU) was created to help establish and maintain viable credit union movements. It has become the leading voice for advocacy and governance on behalf of the international credit union community.

Today, over 235 million people are served by credit unions in 109 countries and 6 continents.


Join us at our branch at 95 SW Taylor St., Portland, OR 97204 on Thursday Oct.18 to celebrate International Union Day by enjoying some treats! Questions? Connect with us.

Make a Plan and Save on Your Energy Bills

From our friends at GreenPath Financial Wellness.

October is Financial Planning Month – and there’s nothing better than making a plan to save money. If your utility bills in winter put a crunch on your budget, these tips to reduce energy usage can help.

1. Turn down the thermostat

You can save as much as 10 percent a year on heating and cooling by simply turning your thermostat back seven to 10 degrees for eight hours a day from its normal setting. Those eight hours could be while you are away at work or school, when sunlight is warming your house, or when you’re asleep under a pile of cozy blankets. For every two degrees, you can save an average of three percent on your energy bill. Install a programmable thermostat to automatically turn your heat down so you won’t forget!

2. Seal up your house to keep cold air out, and warm air in

Caulking and weatherstripping help seal your house up, keeping the warm air in. These are affordable DIY ways to improve energy efficiency and can save you about 7.5 percent on your energy bill! About $240 can cover weather stripping all your windows and doors. Check out Energy.gov and YouTube for how-to videos and tips.

Additionally, minimize the air that escapes by closing the damper on your fireplace when it’s not in use, and use bath and kitchen fans sparingly. This can save another 10 percent on your energy bill.

3. Change your furnace filters regularly

Your furnace or heating system is responsible for about half your energy bill. Changing the filters every three months means your furnace doesn’t have to work as hard, saving you energy and money in the long run. A clean filter costs about $20 and can lower energy use by as much as 15 percent according to the U.S. Department of Energy. That means of another 7.5 percent savings on your monthly bills.

4. Get a pro to test your energy efficiency

Many utility companies offer free energy audits, which can help you figure out how much energy your home uses and take steps to increase efficiency. Start by contacting your utility company or find an auditor near you. According to Energy.gov, an energy audit can show you ways to save 5 to 30 percent on your utility bills.

5. Get free heat from the sun

Warm sunshine can heat your home, for free! The more solar heat, the less your furnace has to run. Open curtains on south- and west-facing windows during the day to warm your interior rooms and surfaces. Then close your curtains at night to help keep the heat from escaping. This could help save another one or two percent on your energy bill in colder months.

If you are having trouble keeping up with higher winter utility bills, ask your utility company about a payment plan. Many companies offer a year-round plan that spreads costs out over all 12 months.


Need help staying on track with your budget? As a member of USAgencies Credit Union, you can take advantage of GreenPath Financial Wellness, a free financial education and counseling program. GreenPath can help you understand your situation and make a plan to meet your goals. To use this service, simply call 1-877-337-3399 or visit them on the web at greenpath.usacu.org.

Car Buying Tips

Buying a new car doesn’t need to be like a game show. No choosing the right door and winning your prize – a deal on a good car! We are here to help make the car buying experience easy by outlining a few simple steps you should consider when buying a car.

Set your budget –  Decide how much you want to spend, what your monthly payment should be, and how you will finance your purchase. Don’t forget to get insurance quotes as well and include that in your numbers.

Get Pre-Approved by your Credit Union– Getting pre-approved by your credit union before sealing the deal. It takes the hassle out of guessing what you can and cannot afford, and takes out a lot of the guesswork and uncertainty. Plus, your Loan Officer will look over the purchase order prior to funding to ensure you are getting the best deal, and aren’t paying for unnecessary fees.

Choose the right car – Narrow the fields and choose the model that best serves your needs. Think about all the ways you plan to use the car, will it accommodate your family, and keep them safe.

Check reliability and ownership costs – Choose a reliable car that you can afford to own. Look into average repair costs and make sure it will fit into your budget.

Test-drive the car – Test-drive your top choices to see which car is right for you. Find a route that has a bit of everything such as hills, rough pavement, and curves to make sure it performs to your expectations.

Find the right price – Use price guides,  to see what other people are paying for the car you like. Make sure you accurately input all the options you want because in some cases all the little factors can affect the cars price.

Negotiate – When negotiating in person it can be overwhelming. But it doesn’t have to be. Just go slowly, and make sure you are understand the numbers. Ask for a breakdown of the car, and any additional fees before you agree to a deal. And don’t be afraid to walk away if you can’t come to an agreement, or don’t like the way you are being treated.

Maximize trade-in value – Find out the value of your car, and get the most out of it when trading it in. Compare the numbers you find and the numbers the dealers are giving you, and try and find a fair price.


In the market for a new car? Don’t miss out on our Enterprise Fall Car Sale going on now! Connect with one of our Loan Specialists today to get pre-approved by calling 503.275-0300 Option 2, applying online, or stopping in today!

 

Reasons to Make Home Improvements

Have you been asking yourself, “To renovate, or not to renovate?”, lately? We don’t mean quick weekend projects like painting a few walls or staining the deck. We are talking about renovating entire bathrooms and kitchens, or getting a new roof. Committing to those types of renovations are major decisions, and involve a lot of time, money, mess and often times stress, which is why it can be a tough decision making the commitment.

Which is why we have put together a few reasons to potentially help you decide if the time is now.

Reasons to make home improvements

Functionality : Something may not be broken, but, you know it could function a lot better. A more open layout might help with space for your growing family.  A deck would really add better backyard space. Even a third bathroom will make life that much easier for the household.

Efficiency: These improvements on our homes sometimes can’t be seen, but are necessary. Things like new windows, to a new furnace, or some plumbing upgrades. In the long run these improvements will end up saving you money, help conserve energy and help with the value of your home.

Safety: If there are any safety issues in or outside your home, it needs to be addressed. Whether its the roof,  mold or electrical, these are the types of projects that cannot be put off. They need to be repaired not only for the integrity  of your home, but also for the safety of your family.

So whether you are about to get that new roof, or replace your windows, with a some planning, home renovations do not have to be a major inconvenience and stressor. Do your homework, and plan financially, and before you know it you will see the projects unfold before your eyes and it will be exciting, and worth it all.


Looking for your next inspiration? Don’t miss the Portland Fall Home Show at the Portland Expo Center Oct. 4 -7. Connect with our Loan Specialists to talk about your financing options for your next project with our 24-hour Lending Center by calling 503-275-0300 Option 2.

5 Work From Home Scams

From our friends at CUinsight.com

As the gig economy grows, the promises of making it big by working from home also multiply.

Many people are already on high alert when searching jobs on Craigslist, but online job scammers have gotten more sophisticated, and some may still slip past your radar.

According to FlexJobs’ annual Super Survey, 82% of job seekers are worried they will fall for a job scam. Thirteen percent have been a victim and 22% say they know someone who has been a victim of a job scam.

Besides heeding the old adage that if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is, FlexJobs suggests job seekers consider the following questions when reviewing potential opportunities:

  • Does the job listing include the hiring company’s name and/or does the recruiter or job posting match the company’s information?
  • Are there any upfront costs required to get the job? (including supplies, a minimum investment or training fees)
  • Are there any typos on the site or in any correspondence?
  • Are you being asked to provide personal information like a social security number, credit card number, bank information or driver’s license?
  • Did they offer a job on the spot without conducting an interview?

If the answer is yes to any of the above, experts say that’s a red flag, and the “dream opportunity” might become a nightmare. Scammers can be very creative in convincing you a position or company is legitimate, so do your research. Check with sites like the BetterBusinessBureau.com, FTC.com, FlexJobs.com or scam.com to learn of the latest employment scams.

Here are FlexJobs’ 5 most common work-from-home scams.

Career advancement grant: This scam claims to come from the government, promising you a grant to pursue education or certification. Scammers ask for your account information with the promise that they will deposit the bogus grant money directly into your account.

Data entry scams: There are legitimate data entry jobs that allow you to work from home, but the scammers ask for money up front and/or promise wages that are much higher than normal.

Pyramid schemes: If the only way to make money is by others losing money or paying you as they recruit others, it’s probably a scam … and, pyramid schemes are also illegal, so you could be charged with a crime.

Online reshipping: Don’t ever repack items and forward them to customers outside the United States. What you’re doing is transporting stolen goods, and not only will you never get paid, you could be charged with a crime.

Rebate processor: This scam promises you a salary based on the number of clicks your ad receives. It charges a training fee up front for which you will never be reimbursed, and you’ll never receive that salary, either


USAgencies Credit Union is committed to keeping you and your family safe, financially and beyond. Questions about your products and services? Connect with us today!

Have questions about this article or want to check out the original post? Find it HERE.

Veterans Who Received Disability Severance Owed Refunds

USAgencies Credit Union is the only Oregon credit union open to all Oregon Veterans, and we want to ensure all eligible veterans receive this important information regarding available tax refunds brought to you by our friends at the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs.

 

The Internal Revenue Service is advising certain Veterans who received disability severance payments after Jan. 17, 1991, and included that payment as income, that they should file Form 1040X, Amended U.S. Individual Income Tax Return, to claim a credit or refund of the over payment attributable to the disability severance payment.

This is a result of the Combat-Injured Veterans Tax Fairness Act passed in 2016.

Most Veterans who received a one-time lump-sum disability severance payment when they separated from their military service will receive a letter from the Department of Defense with information explaining how to claim tax refunds they are entitled to; the letters include an explanation of a simplified method for making the claim. The IRS has worked closely with the DoD to produce these letters, explaining how Veterans should claim the related tax refunds.

Statute of Limitations

The amount of time for claiming these tax refunds is limited. However, the law grants Veterans an alternative timeframe – one year from the date of the letter from DoD. Veterans making these claims have the normal limitations period for claiming a refund or one year from the date of their letter from the DoD, whichever expires later. As taxpayers can usually only claim tax refunds within 3 years from the due date of the return, this alternative time frame is especially important since some of the claims may be for refunds of taxes paid as far back as 1991.

Amount to Claim

Veterans can submit a claim based on the actual amount of their disability severance payment by completing Form 1040X, carefully following the instructions. However, there is a simplified method. Veterans can choose instead to claim a standard refund amount based on the calendar year (an individual’s tax year) in which they received the severance payment. Write “Disability Severance Payment” on line 15 of Form 1040X and enter on lines 15 and 22 the standard refund amount listed below that applies:

  • $1,750 for tax years 1991 – 2005
  • $2,400 for tax years 2006 – 2010
  • $3,200 for tax years 2011 – 2016

Claiming the standard refund amount is the easiest way for Veterans to claim a refund, because they do not need to access the original tax return from the year of their lump-sum disability severance payment.

Special Instructions
All Veterans claiming refunds for over payments attributable to their lump-sum disability severance payments should write either “Veteran Disability Severance” or “St. Clair Claim” across the top of the front page of the Form 1040X that they file. Because all amended returns are filed on paper, Veterans should mail their completed Form 1040X, with a copy of the DoD letter, to:

Internal Revenue Service

333 W. Pershing Street, Stop 6503, P5

Kansas City, MO  64108

Veterans eligible for a refund who did not receive a letter from DoD may still file Form 1040X to claim a refund but must include both of the following to verify the disability severance payment:

  • A copy of documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for the disability severance payment, such as a letter from the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS) explaining the severance payment at the time of the payment or a Form DD-214, and
  • A copy of either the VA determination letter confirming the Veteran’s disability or a determination that the Veteran’s injury or sickness was either incurred as a direct result of armed conflict, while in extra-hazardous service, or in simulated war exercises, or was caused by an instrumentality of war.

Veterans who did not receive the DoD letter and who do not have the required documentation showing the exact amount of and reason for their disability severance payment will need to obtain the necessary proof by contacting the Defense Finance and Accounting Services (DFAS).


For additional information, or to read the original article head over to the U. S. Department of Veterans Affairs page HERE. Questions about USAgencies Credit Union? Contact us at 503.275.0300 Option 3 or stop in today!