8 Ways to Spot a Survey Scam

Scam Alert
Scam alert image

Survey scams are almost as old as the internet. Spend an hour online and there’s a chance you’ll run into an ad for a “quick” survey promising big money or prizes for a few minutes of your time. What really happens is that the scammer walks away with a free survey, or worse, your information or money. The wary consumer can spot a survey scam, but unfortunately, fraudsters are becoming more sophisticated at luring victims into their schemes. Don’t fall for it!

Here are seven ways to spot a survey scam:

1. You’re asked to pay to participate in a survey – There’s no reason to pay to take a survey. If you’re targeted by an ad asking you to take a survey and pay for the privilege of doing so, it’s not worth it – and probably designed to scam you.

2. You’re asked to share sensitive info before you can take the survey – The survey host wants you to think it’s no big deal for you to share your Social Security number with a company you’ve never heard of before. But guess what – you’re looking at potential identity theft. That IS a big deal!

3. They advertise on Craigslist and similar sites asking for your email address – “Survey companies” that advertise on sites like Craigslist asking you to share your email address are usually fronts for scam rings. Once they have this information, they’ll spam you with scammy emails, phishing schemes, malware or worse.

4. They offer too much money – If a survey is offering you $100 for a 20-question survey that shouldn’t take you more than five minutes to complete, you can be sure you’re looking at a scam. The pay for authentic survey-taking is generally on a much more modest scale.

5. You’re directed to download attachments – Any time an unknown contact asks you to download attachments to your device, be super-suspicious. More often than not, these are scams and the attachments are loaded with malware.

6. They advertise aggressively – If the same solicitation for survey participation keeps popping up across your screen, you may be looking at a scam.

7. They require an outrageous minimum before payment – Scammers sometimes require their targets to take an outrageous number of surveys before they receive their first paycheck. Often, the victim will just quit before they qualify for a payment.

Survey-taking can be a great way to earn some pocket money, but survey scams are rampant. Follow these tips to stay safe!

Should I Buy an Electric Car?

Should I buy and electric car?

Q: With gas prices soaring and expected to continue climbing into the foreseeable future, I’m wondering if this is a good time to consider purchasing an electric car. Should I buy an electric vehicle now?

A: Thousands of drivers are grappling with this question as gas prices peak. While an electric vehicle (EV) might be the right choice for many, there are lots of variables to consider before making this decision. Here’s what to know about electric cars before going this route:

What are some pros of owning an electric car?

The most obvious and prominent advantage of owning an electric vehicle is saving on fuel costs. Driving a car that runs on electricity instead of gasoline means saving money on a large expense category of your budget, month after month. Of course, the higher the cost of gas, the more you save. Right now, with most drivers experiencing pain at the pump, going electric is more popular than ever. Another budgeting bonus to consider is the fact that electricity costs tend to be far more stable than gasoline prices.

Another well-known advantage of driving an electric-powered car is the environmental benefits. Lower fuel emissions means a smaller carbon footprint on the environment, which is always a good thing.

Yet another advantage to EVs is their superior efficiency. EVs can convert more than 77% of their electric energy to power their wheels. In contrast, gas-powered cars can only convert 12-30% of the fuel stored in their gas tanks into driving power.

What are some disadvantages of owning an electric vehicle?

There are several disadvantages to owning an EV to be aware of before making a purchase.

First, it’s important to note that the battery of every EV may need replacement sometime down the line. Federal regulations require automakers to cover the battery of their vehicles for a minimum of eight years or 100,000 miles, whichever comes first. Some automakers also cover battery degradation, which is when a full charge powers fewer miles than it should. However, if the battery dies after the warranty expires, the cost of replacing it, which can run from $5,000 and $16,000, will need to be covered by the owner. The good news is that, as EVs become increasingly more popular, they are also becoming less expensive to manufacture and the prices of their parts are decreasing as well. In addition, automakers are working to manufacture EVs with batteries that last longer than most drivers will own the vehicle.

Another disadvantage to owning an EV is being limited in the number of miles you can drive before you will need to recharge your vehicle. The number of miles you can drive on a full charge, also known as the vehicle’s range, will vary with each car. Most EVs will average 250 miles of range. While this will cover most people’s daily commute, road-tripping in an EV will take some planning. Luckily, as electric cars become more commonplace, finding a charging station on a major highway is becoming a non-issue. However, if you plan to take many road trips with your EV, you may want to purchase a car that is capable of fast charging so you don’t have to spend hours at a charging station every few hundred miles on your trips.

Can I charge my electric vehicle at home? 

Yes, you can charge your EV at home. Plug it in at night, and it’ll be ready to go in the morning. How’s that for convenience?

However, before ordering a Tesla, it’s good to be aware that the standard 110-volt wall outlet (Level 1 charging) is relatively slow, adding approximately four miles of range per hour. If you depleted a full 250 miles of range, it can take several days to fully recharge your vehicle. If you’ll be charging your car outside, be sure to verify your charging cord is designed for outdoor use.

Most EV owners hire an electrician to install a 240-volt outlet in their garage. This allows for Level 2 charging, which can add 25 miles of range per charging hour. Be sure to get a reliable quote to know the cost of such work.

How much does electricity cost?

Electricity, though much cheaper than gas, typically isn’t free. The exact price will vary by state, so check how much electricity will cost in your own home state before purchasing an EV.

To save more on charging your EV, consider these points: Charging an EV at home is typically less expensive than charging it at a public charging station – unless, of course, you find one of those rare cost-free public charging stations. In addition, charging your EV overnight, or on the weekend will cost less than charging it at peak times, such as weekday afternoons and evenings. You may want to reach out to your utility company to learn exactly what it’ll cost you to charge your vehicle. Some companies offer special plans for EV owners, so be sure to inquire about that as well.

What kind of maintenance will my electric vehicle need?

A big bonus of owning an EV is having lower maintenance costs. Electric motors have fewer moving parts than gasoline engines. This makes EVs far easier to maintain than their gas-powered counterparts. In addition, many car parts, which generally need replacing after a while – like spark plugs, filters and oil – are irrelevant to EVs. This means fewer trips to the mechanic and significantly lower maintenance costs.

How much will an electric vehicle cost?

All the convenience and long-term savings of an EV comes at a high price, and most of them have a higher starting cost than gas-powered cars. Of course, there’s a large range, starting with the Nissan Leaf at just $27,400 and going all the way up to the Tesla Model 3 at $58,990.

Fortunately, there are many government-sponsored incentives for purchasing an electric car. These incentives are offered on the federal, state and local government levels, so be sure to see what’s available before completing your purchase. It’s important to note, though, that many of these incentives are not open to every buyer and every kind of EV. For example, the most well-known incentive, the Federal Qualified PEV Tax Credit, which offers up to $7,500 off the MSRP of qualified EVs, is only available for the first 100,000 EVs an automaker manufacturers and is no longer available for the purchase of any Teslas.

If you’re looking to finance an auto loan for your new electric car, look no further than Freedom FCU! Our auto loans offer low interest rates, easy payback terms and a quick approval process. Call, click, or stop by to discuss available options!

Your Turn: Have you recently purchased an electric car, or made the decision to hold onto your gasoline-powered vehicle? Tell us what drove your decision on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! @FreedomFedCU

I know I don’t know

Long ago I reconciled with myself the fact that I don’t know everything.  When we’re younger a lot of us believe we do, but at some point reality comes crashing in and the light of truth shines right in your face.

That’s ok. 

Conversely, there is a lot I do know and what I know, I know well.  And that’s ok.  I know you know a lot and you know some things that I don’t know.  And that’s ok too.  Then there are times when nobody knows anything and we’re all looking around at each other trying to figure things out.  And ya know what?  That’s ok too, because we all know stuff, we’ve all had different experiences that created that knowledge, and that means we can all help one another at some point.

We can all be patient with one another as we learn, exchange ideas, think things through and work together on a common goal or purpose.  They say knowledge is power and while that may be true, I think the sharing of whatever knowledge we have or can gain is the real power.

That’s why I talk about teamwork so much.  That’s why I talk about collaboration and ideas coming from everywhere and anyone.  The free flow of ideas, the exchange of varying opinions, the sharing of experiences all create a stronger bond and greater success.  Finally, I also know that knowing doesn’t mean being right.  We may know something and learn what we know wasn’t correct or that our idea isn’t the best one at a given moment.  That does not mean the input was unimportant.  Even in those instances, there is knowledge to be gained and cultivated.

7 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day at Home

Earth Day

  1. Plant a garden. Earth Day, April 22, is the perfect time to plant that garden you’ve always wanted. Garden centers and home improvement stores are still open around the country, with many offering curbside pickup. Add a burst of color to your property with a row of flowers, try your hand at planting a vegetable garden, or plant a tree!
  2. Learn about recycling. Celebrate Earth Day by learning about local recycling rules and refreshing your knowledge about what happens to the things we recycle. Share this information with your children as they are learning from home.
  3. Use the My Disney Experience app to explore the world of nature from home. Check out the “Wilderness Explorers at Home” feature on the app for a virtual tour of nature’s wonders.
  4. Learn about the plants in your neighborhood. Bring your daily walk around the neighborhood up a notch on Earth Day by looking out for plants in your area. You can use the Native Plant Finder website to find out which plants are native to your zip code. See how many of these plants you can find on your walk!
  5. Watch a documentary about our planet. Celebrate Earth Day by watching a fascinating documentary about the Earth. Netflix is now running “Our Planet,” an incredible docuseries hosted by David Attenborough that features beautiful footage from around the world. You can also check out Disney+ for DisneyNature’s “Elephant” and “Dolphin Reef,” which conveniently offer downloadable activity packets for kids.
  6. Watch the NASA Science Live webcast. The space agency website will host a special online events on Earth Day, April 22. To participate: https://go.nasa.gov/EarthDayEvent2022
  7. Join the Earthfest. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is airing an all-day “Earthfest” on Friday. The live-streamed event will feature a full day of activities and education, check out the day’s activities at https://www.amnh.org/calendar/earthfest.

Your Turn: Tell us how you’re celebrating Earth Day on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! @FreedomFedCU

Should I Offer Financial Support to my Adult Child?

Parenting Adult Children

Q: My adult child is going through some financial difficulties. I’d love to help them out of this tight spot, but I’m wondering if this is a wise choice. Should I offer financial support to my adult child?

A: In recent years, newly minted adults have become more dependent on their parents. According to a report by Merrill, more than three-quarters of parents in the U.S. provide financial support to their adult children. This includes allowing their kids to live at home, covering student loan bills, paying for their phone/data plans and more. This development is likely due to high amounts of student loan debt, low starting salaries and the increasing cost of housing. All of these factors, and more, make finances especially challenging for many young adults. Of course, parents will naturally want what’s best for their children, so they are often quick to offer financial assistance. However, as you mention, all this begs the question: Is offering financial assistance to adult children really in their best interest? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to this loaded question. In fact, the answer will depend on several factors, as well as your relationship with your child.

Before saying yes to a request for financial support from an adult child, ask yourself these questions:

Is my own financial situation stable right now? 
Before offering substantial support to another person, even if that person is your child, you need to make sure your own needs are being met and that your future is secure. Are you finishing the month with money to spare, or barely making it to the next payday? Are you financially prepared for retirement? Do you have any outstanding debt? If you are comfortable enough to offer support without feeling pinched, dipping into savings or scrimping on the money you’d dedicate toward your own future security, you can afford to offer this assistance. However, if you stand to lose your own financial wellness by covering your child’s bills or student loan payments, you won’t be doing anyone a favor by offering to support your child.

Is my child’s situation by default temporary? 
Life is dynamic, which means your child’s need for assistance today can change tomorrow by way of a fantastic job offer or another great opportunity. Or can it? At times, your adult kid might find themselves in a tight spot that is inherently temporary. For example, they may be completing a necessary, but unpaid, internship. Or, they may have gone back to school for additional training so they can increase their earning potential. Perhaps they’re currently undergoing medical treatment and have high medical bills to pay. Under these circumstances, you may want to consider offering a bit of support until the temporary tight spot is over. If, however, your child is asking for financial support because they are living a lifestyle that is beyond their means, you may want to think twice before acquiescing to their request.

Will offering financial support hinder my child’s financial independence?
One of the biggest drawbacks of offering monetary assistance to a grown child is the possibility that your child will come to depend on that money. If your child has not yet learned to manage their finances responsibly and continues to make poor money choices, offering financial assistance is likely not in their best interest. You won’t be around forever, and it’s best to let your child learn how to spend within their budget, save for the future and in general, to live responsibly.

How will my financial support affect my relationship with this child?
Giving breeds positive feelings, and many people believe that offering monetary support to their child will improve their relationship with him or her. However, it’s important to note that this is not always the case. First, the child may come to equate the relationship with the exchange of funds. Also, when you decide to stop offering support, this can create a point of tension between you and your child. Finally, if you can afford to give, but you know this giving will be accompanied by resentment on your part, it’s not fair to yourself, or to your child, to provide financial support.

How will I structure my financial support?
If you decide to go ahead and offer financial support to your child, it’s important to set clear guidelines for how you will be providing this assistance. Will you offer a set monthly amount, or adopt a give-as-needed approach? Will you expect your child to pay you back, even partially, when their financial situation improves? Finally, is there a date you plan to stop offering assistance or to reevaluate whether your child still needs this support? Setting clear parameters before offering support can help you avoid hurt feelings and uncomfortable situations down the line.

Offering financial support to an adult child can be a lifeline–or it can be a way to enable detrimental habits. Be sure to ask yourself the questions listed above and to make an informed decision before offering monetary assistance to a grown child.

About Freedom Federal Credit Union
Freedom serves and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school, volunteers, or has family in Harford or Baltimore County, MD. As a credit union, we are committed to putting you first, not shareholders, and helping you achieve your financial goals.  Learn more at freedomfcu.org or call 800-440-4120 to see how we can help.

Your Turn: Do you (or would you) offer financial support to your adult child(ren)?  Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU. #parentingadultchildren

How Do We Thrive?

You may wonder why we are so committed to our philanthropic endeavors.  Why we focus on outreach and the good we can do for our members and in the community.  Why our strategic focus is about experience and doing what’s right.  Why our goals are set to generate the financial stability and income necessary to support our philosophy of people helping people.  Well, I was recently watching a program on Netflix called, David Attenborough: A Life on Our Planet.  In it was a quote I found quite poignant and an applicable answer to those very questions.

“A species can only thrive when everything else around it thrives too. We can solve the problems we now face by embracing this reality.  If we take care of nature, nature will take care of us. It’s now time for our species to stop simply growing, to establish a life on our planet in balance with nature.  To start to thrive.” – Sir David Attenborough

Change a few words and…

We can only thrive when everyone else around us thrives too. We can solve the problems we now face by embracing this reality.  If we take care of others, others will take care of us. It’s now time for us to stop simply growing, to be something bigger not just something big, to establish a balance with our community and start to thrive.

What Seems Unimportant

I made the most important mistake at the most unimportant time.  That was the phrase I uttered in a dream a few weeks ago.  I was apologizing for something and said, “I’m sorry I made the most important mistake at the most unimportant time.”  It’s a phrase I have not been able to shake.  I kept thinking about it over and over trying to gain some insight as to what it might mean.  I think I figured it out.

There are no unimportant times and there are no unimportant actions.  Everything we say and do matters, on some level, in every moment.  Even if it seems a trivial or mundane act, even the simplest thing, can have a major impact.  What I think my subconscious mind was trying to tell me is that you can’t take anything for granted; a smile at a passerby, the door you don’t hold, the stranger you help, the person you judge, you never know what that will mean or do to someone else.  We all have a responsibility to think about the messages we send, the values we convey and the world we help influence because too many today place personal desire or want above the greater good.

I know nobody’s perfect.  We just need to remember that actions/words have consequences and, even when you think something is unimportant, it could be the most important mistake you make.

Benjamin Franklin offered a poetic perspective:

For want of a nail the shoe was lost,
For want of a shoe the horse was lost,
For want of a horse the rider was lost,
For want of a rider the battle was lost,
For want of a battle the kingdom was lost,
And all for the want of a horseshoe nail.

How Does War Affect My Finances?

War and Finances

Q: Now that Russia has invaded Ukraine, and the fighting does not seem to be ending anytime soon, I’m worried about the U.S. entering the war. It really has me wondering; How does war impact the economy and how can I protect my money in case of war?

A: While we all hope the war taking place between Russia and Ukraine won’t spread further, when major countries are at war it does impact the global economy. Here’s how the war in Ukraine is influencing the U.S. economy and American banking, additional fallouts we may be facing soon and steps you can take to protect your assets in case of war.

How does war affect American banking? 

The U.S. Treasury Department has banned all financial institutions in the U.S. from opening or maintaining correspondent banking accounts for Russia’s largest bank (Sberbank) and its subsidiaries. By March 26, Sberbank will be effectively cut off from the U.S. financial system. This directive is part of a group of sanctions the Biden administration has placed on the Russian state-owned VTB Bank, and new debt and equity restrictions on more than a dozen Russian entities. All assets held by the blacklisted companies and institutions are now frozen, and U.S.-based individuals and companies can only conduct business with them if they receive exclusive permission from the U.S. Treasury Department.

However, despite these sanctions, most U.S. banks and credit unions will continue to operate in a regular capacity throughout this time. Financial institutions have compliance officers on staff to ensure all federal laws, including wartime sanctions like these, are followed completely and without interrupting ongoing service. In addition, the financial service industry has experience dealing with similar sanctions from Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014, and more recently, sanctions related to China and Venezuela. [At Freedom FCU we will continue to provide the high level of personalized and professional service you’ve come to expect despite an ongoing wave of sanctions.]

Some U.S. banks are also fearful that there may be a wave of retaliatory cyberattacks from Russia in response to the sanctions placed against the country by the U.S. and other Western countries. While there is no way to predict what will happen, it’s a good idea to be extra alert for possible banking hacks.

How does war affect the economy? 

Various wars in our country’s history have had an inflationary effect on the economy. During the Civil War, this was caused by the Confederacy printing money to pay its soldiers. During WWII, the U.S. economy was running at almost full capacity with high levels of government spending. These factors, along with a shortage of workers, led to wartime inflation. In addition, the shortage of goods and services, which is common during war, as well as a shortage on raw materials like crude oil, also trigger inflation.

Unfortunately, we have already begun feeling the effects of war on a challenged economy. You may surely have experienced a spike in prices at the pump. In some areas of the country, like San Francisco, prices had already hit an all-time high of $5 in the beginning of March. This increase is a direct result of the many severe sanctions that have been placed on Russia by the U.S. and the European Union, which impact Russia’s ability to sell crude oil. The price for this crucial component of gas has consequently skyrocketed.

Beyond the pump, prices on goods, like grains and metals, are also rising due to increased fuel costs as well as worries about possible future shortages. Russia and Ukraine are also major exporters of wheat and corn, as well as essential metals like palladium, aluminum and nickel, which are used in a wide range of products from mobile phones to automobiles. An interruption in the supply of these goods due to war automatically leads to an increase in prices.

Yet another factor causing prices to soar is air transport. As of March 7, 2022, Russia has closed its airspace to 36 countries. This means each of these countries must divert shipping planes to routes that are lengthier and more expensive. The extra cost of shipping, of course, gets passed on to consumers.

How can consumers protect their money in case of war?

The stock market has already taken a hit from the war, and many Americans are fearful that the war may spread and/or further impact the economy. Here’s what you can do to protect your assets:

  • Diversify your portfolio.
  • Take advantage of Treasury Inflation-Protected Securities (TIPS).
  • Follow the news, but don’t make any hasty decisions about your investments.
  • Diversify your currency holdings.

It’s important to learn all about the ways a war can impact the economy and how you can protect your assets during wartime. This brief overview of wartime impacts on the economy, along with some actions you can take, is a great start. We at Freedom FCU encourage you to learn more from other sources and, if you’d like to discuss more, feel free to call, click or stop in.

About Freedom Federal Credit Union
Freedom serves and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, attends school, volunteers, or has family in Harford or Baltimore County, MD. As a credit union, we are committed to putting you first, not shareholders, and helping you achieve your financial goals.  Learn more at freedomfcu.org or call 800-440-4120 to see how we can help.

Your Turn: Have you taken any steps to protect your money in case of war?  Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU. #warandfinances