7 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day at Home

Earth Day

  1. Plant a garden. Earth Day, April 22, 2020, 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 the 50th anniversary of 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 edition of the webcast on Earth Day, April 22, at 3 p.m. EDT, featuring agency chief Jim Bridenstine.
  7. Join the Earthfest. The American Museum of Natural History (AMNH) in New York City is airing an all-day “Earthfest” on Wednesday. The live-streamed event will feature a full day of activities and education, including a “watch party” at 6 p.m. EDT, where participants can “hop aboard” a live flight to explore our neighboring planets.

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

Stimulus Payment Scam

Coronavirus CARES Act

Millions of Americans have received or are awaiting a gift from Uncle Sam to help them get through the coronavirus pandemic. As part of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act passed on March 27, the federal government is sending out $290 billion in Economic Impact Payments (EIPs) via stimulus checks or ACH deposits over the next half a year.

The first round of checks and deposits made its way to millions of checking accounts across the country during the second week of April and the next round is expected to be sent within a few weeks. The remainder will be mailed out or deposited via ACH over the following 20 weeks.

Unfortunately, scammers are doing all they can to get their hands on this money before they reach the rightful recipients. The best way to keep your money safe from scammers is to arm yourself with information about the stimulus payments and to learn how to spot the scams.

To help you keep every dollar that’s coming to you and avoid falling victim to these scams, Freedom FCU has compiled this important information on the stimulus payment process and the connected scams. For additional answers to Frequently Asked Questions, visit our Coronavirus Support page‘s Economic Impact Payment (EIP) section.

Important information about the stimulus checks

Many Americans aren’t aware of this crucial fact: You do not need to take any action to receive your stimulus payment. There is no form to fill out, no number to call, and no information to share. Every eligible citizen should receive the check without having to take any action.

The feds are using the most recent tax filing information they have from each eligible citizen to send out the checks. They will use information from 2019 tax returns to determine the payment amount and get recipients their money. Those who haven’t yet filed taxes this year (the tax deadline has been extended to July 15), will have the information from their  2018 taxes used. Social Security recipients, and anyone else not required to file taxes, do not need to take action either; the government already has their information on file.

There is no need to share information, such as a Social Security number, checking account number or home address, with anyone. There is no need to “sign up” for your payment either. All you need to do is wait for your check to land in your mailbox or in your account. Remember the simple rule: There is no need to take any action to receive your check.

When you may need to take action

The only exception to the above rule applies to those who have not yet filed taxes for 2018. These citizens may need to submit a simple tax return to receive their check.

Also, the government has shared that it can only deposit the money directly into checking accounts if it has this information on file for the recipient. This criterion includes nearly all citizens who’ve received a tax refund for the taxes they filed in 2018 or 2019. Individuals receiving their payments via direct deposit will likely have their money sooner. Consequently, many people want to share this information with the IRS before the payments are sent out. It can be done via this link, which can also be used to look up the status of your check. Unfortunately, though, many people have reported that the IRS site has not been working properly recently, which is likely due to heavy traffic.

How the scams play out

The scammers trying to nab stimulus money count on victims thinking they need to take action to get their payments. They use a variety of means, including phone calls, emails, text messages and social media posts, to ask victims to share information that will allegedly enable them to receive their funds. They may ask for the victim’s Social Security number, date of birth, PayPal account information, checking account details, home address or other personal information, claiming it is a necessary “sign up” step in the stimulus payment distribution.

Alternatively, they may claim they can help you receive your payment earlier through their website if you share certain information with them. They’ll often use sophisticated spoofing methods to make it appear as if they are legitimate government representatives. Once they have this information, though, they will reach out to the IRS to change your information so your check goes directly into their own accounts. Or, they may hack your account to withdraw the stimulus money as soon as it arrives.

If you receive any phone calls or messages asking for your personal information so you can receive your payment, you are looking at a scam. Do not respond. Report the scam to the FTC at ftc.gov. The federal government has made it clear it will not be reaching out to citizens and asking for information before sending out payments. It has also shared that there is no way for anyone to gain early access to the stimulus payment money.

Stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a stimulus payment scam? Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! @FreedomFedCU

Coronavirus Text Scam

COVIID-19 Texting Scam

The coronavirus pandemic has been raging on American shores for several months, but scammers are still finding new ways to exploit the panic, fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus to con people out of their money. The latest in a string of coronavirus scams involves a simple text message with criminal intent.

Here’s all you need to know about the coronavirus text scam.

The scam starts out with the victim receiving an alarming text message informing them that someone they’ve recently been in contact with is infected with COVID-19. They are then told to self-quarantine and to get tested for the virus.

Here is the actual text from one of these scams:

“Someone who came in contact with you tested positive or has shown symptoms for COVID-19 & recommends you self-isolate/get tested.”

The text also includes a link for the recipient to click for more information. Many unsuspecting people who read these messages innocently click on the link and play right into the scammers’ hands. The link provides the scammer with access to the victim’s device. The scammer can then scrape the victim’s personal information off the phone and use it to empty the victim’s accounts, open lines of credit in their name or even steal their identity.

If you receive a text message like the one described above, do not respond or click on any embedded links. Report the text to local law enforcement agencies, place the number associated with the message on your phone’s “block number” list and delete the message. You can also warn your friends about the circulating scam to keep them from falling victim.

Stay vigilant and stay safe!

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a coronavirus texting scam? Tell us about it on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram! @FreedomFedCU