Avoid Calls From These Area Codes

Woman looking at phone with a frustrated expression on her faceRobocalls are the worst. Those phone calls can do a lot more than just disrupt dinner. Using sophisticated spoofing methods and dogged persistence, they can swindle unsuspecting targets out of hundreds or even thousands of dollars, using nothing but a phone. Here’s what you need to know about phone scams and how to avoid them.

Traffic pumping: According to federal law, rural carriers are allowed to charge wireless and long-distance carriers higher fees for calls to local subscribers. To earn a quick buck, rural carriers partner up with chat lines, “free” conference call service providers and other numbers that are based overseas. Their goal is to artificially inflate call volume in the home area codes of rural carriers so they can bill the wireless and long distance companies tons of money and give the chat lines a kickback, too. The bad news for private consumers is that their service provider will pass the higher costs on to them. The consumer often believes these calls are free – until the bill arrives.

Area code alert: The 712 area code and the 218 area code are infamous for traffic pumping.

The one-ring scam: In this ruse, scammers use robocalling technology to call wireless numbers and hang up after one ring. The scammers are hoping the target will be curious and careless enough to return the call. If they do, they’ll likely be calling a number in the Caribbean, which can cost them up to $30 a minute. A prevalent one-ring scam that originates in Japan brings that cost up to $50 a minute! Whenever you receive a call from an unfamiliar number, it’s best to let it go to voicemail instead of picking up.

Area code alert: The FTC warns consumers about returning one-ring calls from these area codes:

268, 284, 473, 664, 649, 767, 809, 829, 849, 876

When an unfamiliar number comes up on your phone screen, you’re better off waiting for a voicemail to determine if you have a legitimate caller before calling back. You can also Google the phone number to see if anyone has posted warnings about it being used for a scam. Stay safe!

Questions? Want more information on Freedom? Contact a Freedom Federal Credit Union representative at freedomfcu.org or 1-800-440-4120.

About Freedom Federal Credit Union
Freedom Federal Credit Union is proud to be your financial partner. 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 410-612-2135 to see how we can help.

Your Turn: How do you deal with robocallers? Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU.

Buy or Buy Out: What Should I Do When My Car’s Lease is Up?

By Penny James, Guest Blogger

 

Buy or Buy Out?

In the wake of the pandemic, the national inflation rate is at a 30-year high, and the car market has experienced extreme price surges. Now that the economy is on a path to recovery, the demand for new and used cars has picked back up.

Unfortunately, for car shoppers, the supply chain has not recovered, and the industry is facing a global shortage of microchips, an essential component in new cars.  Kelly Blue Book notes that even a basic new car, requires over a hundred microchips.  In the early days of the pandemic, the demand for new vehicles waned while so many stayed home.  Microchip suppliers repurposed their stock for personal electronics, which boomed as the world adjusted to remote work and virtual learning.

Two years into the pandemic, while demand for car purchases have returned, the microchip shortage continues to plague the industry, causing new lease contracts and traditional car prices to skyrocket.

While microchip suppliers are still focused on catering to other industries, automakers have been forced to slow down on producing new cars. Not only has this reduced the availability of new cars, but it has driven up the prices for used ones in order to accommodate the demand in the market.

If you’re leasing a car and are near the end of your lease, it may actually be better to buy out the vehicle in this current market. It would certainly be prudent to check the current market price of your car. If the buyout price is lower than the current value of your car, you could even earn a profit by selling your vehicle after purchasing it at the end of your lease. Even if you decide to keep the vehicle long-term, it may be more cost-effective than trying to buy an alternative, even a used car could be much more expensive.

Thankfully, most lease contracts have a provision that allows you to buy the car at a set price at the beginning of the lease. The leasing company can’t change the buyout price since the rate of depreciation is pre-calculated. They arrive at a pre-calculated buyout price based on past depreciation experience with your car’s model and brand. Usually, this deal favors the leasing company, but now that the prices for new and used cars are so inflated, the buyout price may translate to more vehicle equity and huge savings, particularly if you sell your car to a third party or list it on an online car retailer such as Shift or Carvana.

Buying out your leased car can seem expensive, especially if it’s only a few years old. Thankfully, there are plenty of financing options that can help you out. Your leasing company can usually arrange financing for you, but you may be better of shopping loan terms and rates. This is especially true if you don’t have excellent credit. AskMoney highlights how credit scores are factored into many of the financial decisions in your life. Because your credit score is the numerical equivalent of your “credit worthiness”, having a low score may signify to your leasing company or lender that you won’t be able to dutifully repay your loan. This could leave you with a high monthly payment that includes lots of interest.

An alternative is to get a loan from a credit union. Community chartered credit unions, like Freedom Federal Credit Union, are not-for-profit organizations that are in the service of members that work, live, or are otherwise connected to a specific locale. These organizations are controlled by their members and have a designated board that’s tasked with overseeing all functions of the credit union. Usually, a low credit score won’t automatically disqualify you from accessing a loan. While a good credit score can help you get great loan terms, credit unions will still look at your whole financial picture before finalizing their decision.

All in all, a lease buyout may make a lot of sense, especially if the value of the car in its current condition is higher than the buyout price. Be sure to weigh your options first before settling on a buyout financing option to make sure that you’re making the right decision for your financial future and lifestyle.


If you’re ready to buy out your lease, or would like to take advantage of our Refi Your Ride special, visit Freedom’s Vehicles Loans page to learn about your options. Call 800-440-4120 or email [email protected].

About Freedom Federal Credit Union

Freedom Federal Credit Union is proud to be your financial partner. 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/personal/vehicle-loans/ or call us 800-440-4120 to see how we can help. 

Beware Tax Filing Scams

ax Filing Scam

It’s tax time! Unfortunately, that means there are thousands of scammers looking to steal your information and your tax refund by posing as authentic tax preparers. Here’s all you need to know about these scams and how to keep safe.

How the scam plays out: In a tax filing scam, a victim will hire an alleged tax preparer to do their taxes. The scammer then uses the victim’s information to file a tax return in the victim’s name. They’ll change some important details on the tax form, such as a checking account number or mailing address, and then collect the victim’s refund. By the time the victim realizes what’s happened, they’ve lost the money owed to them by the IRS and are now vulnerable to deeper identity theft.

Protect yourself: The best way to stay safe from a tax filing scam is to do your research carefully before hiring a tax preparer. First, avoid pop-up ads when choosing a tax preparer, especially those that are riddled with typos. Research any preparers you consider hiring by asking for references of previous clients and by looking for a physical address on their website. Be suspicious, as well, if they promise a large return without knowing anything about your finances.
Second, before hiring an individual or an agency to do your taxes, ask to see their Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). If the “preparer” refuses to share their PTIN, you’re being scammed.
Finally, if you’ve already hired a preparer but you’re suspicious about their authenticity, look for these red flags:

• The preparer inflates numbers that affect your tax liability.
• The preparer claims ineligible individuals as your dependents.
• The preparer asks you to sign a blank form and promises to fill out the remainder after you sign.
• The preparer refuses to sign your form.

If your tax preparer follows any of the above practices, terminate your relationship with them immediately.

If you’ve been targeted: If you’ve been targeted by a tax filing scam, report it to the authorities as quickly as possible. Let the FTC know about the scam and alert the IRS. If you’ve shared personal information with the scammer, you are now vulnerable to identity theft. Check out the federal government’s page on identity theft recovery to learn what steps to take next.
Stay safe!

Questions? Want more information on Freedom? Contact a Freedom Federal Credit Union representative at freedomfcu.org or 1-800-440-4120.

About Freedom Federal Credit Union
Freedom Federal Credit Union is proud to be your financial partner. 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 410-612-2135 to see how we can help.

 

Your Turn: Have you ever been contacted by a tax-related scammer? Tell us about it on Facebook, LinkedIn,Twitter, or Instagram @FreedomFedCU.

 

About Freedom Federal Credit Union

Freedom Federal Credit Union is a community-chartered federal credit union offering consumer financial services to those who live, work, volunteer, worship, attend school, or have family in Harford and Baltimore Counties. Additionally, Freedom offers a full-line of banking services for all businesses, associations, and other organizations that are based in Harford or Baltimore County.  Freedom has been in business since 1953 and has six locations throughout Harford and Baltimore County. To learn more, visit freedomfcu.org.