Impulse Control

Impulse purchases can wreak havoc on the most carefully constructed budgets. By teaching your kids how to recognize them, you will be giving them the tools for overcoming that overpowering impulse to buy, buy, buy. 

woman shopping with child in cart

This month’s goal: Show your kids how retailers manipulate our emotions and spending habits and how to shop without dropping more money than planned.

Pointers to cover: 

  • The definition of an impulse purchase.
  • Manipulative tactics employed by retailers to make us spend more than planned.
  • Why planning out every shopping trip is crucial.
  • How impulse buys can add up to a ton of money.
  • How “just browsing” almost always translates into money spent.

Conversation starters 

For kids under age 9: 

  • Why do you think grocery stores put all those candy bars near the registers?
  • If you planned on spending $20 in a store and don’t want to spend any extra money, how can you make sure that happens? (Ask your child to provide two answers to this question, i.e. shop with a list, pay with cash, don’t enter a store hungry, etc.).
  • How can lots of impulse purchases ruin a budget?

For kids over age 9:

  • Can you think of some things that retailers do to get you to spend more money than you intended?
  • Have you ever gone into a store “just to look” and walked out with a bunch of items? Why does this happen?
  • Are impulse buys always a bad thing? Explain your answer.

Your Turn: After your “impulse education,” did you notice a decrease in whining near the cash register? Share your experience with us in the comments!

Book Review: What Color Is Your Parachute?

Your One-Stop Career Panic Source Book

Pop quiz! What would you do if you lost your job tomorrow? Don’t say it couldn’t happen; that’s what everyone says until it happens to them. How would you start to put your career back together after a setback like that?

In 1972, Richard Bolles published the original version of “What Color Is Your Parachute?” and envisioned it as a guide for people displaced by a changing economy. The book has been updated occasionally, with the most recent version released in July 2016. While much has changed over that time, the core message of the book has remained the same.

Book Review branded graphic

Bolles argues that the job search process is set up to fail job seekers. Innumerable barriers are placed between workers and work, and inefficiencies abound at every level. While many end up discouraged by the process, a creative nucleus of people have found nontraditional ways to advance their careers despite the ridiculousness of the job search process. While the exact ways in which these people circumvent traditional job seeking varies, there are several commonalities.

First, these people know what they want to do. Rather than looking through jobs for the least worst option, they seek out positions that match their objectives. Second, they have an idea of where they want to do it. Finally, they are active in their search. They don’t wait for jobs to be posted; they go to companies they wish to work for and campaign for a position. They do this by recognizing the problems facing that company and positioning themselves as the ideal person to solve them.

what color is your parachute 2017

To extend the metaphor offered by the title, these people do not wait to be handed a parachute to stop their careers from slipping away. They build one that’s designed to solve the specific problem they wish to tackle. Not only do they pick the color, but they also choose the material, the shape and the size to suit the niche in which they want to work.

The process for doing so has changed considerably since the book’s first 1972 edition, and large portions of the updated version are devoted to those changes. Inevitably, a book like this must offer advice to job seekers about how to create a social media presence, online personality and a following that would make them invaluable to a company. While Bolles talks about this in theoretical terms, there’s little in the way of concrete action described in the text. Perhaps there is no specific roadmap to performing this kind of work, but the text can come off as preachy in places.

Still, “What Color Is Your Parachute?” can be the kickstart that many people feeling left behind by the economy may need. It is inspirational and personal, encouraging personal introspection and soul searching before making it rain resumes on potential employers. It’s not a typical job search guide, and that may make it all the more valuable.

Your Turn: What non-traditional job-seeking advice would you offer to others? Did you get your job in a strange or weird way? Let us know!

Beware Social Media Scams!

Over the last few years, social media scams have exploded, with fake Twitter and Facebook profiles increasing by 100% in just one year. That also means there are several types of social media scams, most which involve a phishing scheme component.

cell phone social media icons

Here’s how it happens: Scammers try to “friend” you by creating a bogus profile or cloning the profile of someone you know. Then, they’ll get you to share personal information by asking you random questions. Meanwhile, you’re unknowingly giving away the security questions for your personal passwords. By the time you realize what’s happened, it’s too late.

Other social media scams involve fake offers and promotions. To get your hands on the goods, though, you’ll first need to share your personal information.

In another scam, fraudsters reach out to you while impersonating [credit union]. They’ll claim to have incredible rates on loans. And, if you apply for this “loan,” the scammers might empty your accounts or trick you into making upfront payments to qualify.

Here’s how to spot, prevent and react to social media scams:

How to spot a scam

Watch for these red flags:

  • The posted offer sounds too good to be true.
  • You’re asked to make an upfront payment for a loan application.
  • You’re urged to act immediately or risk missing the offer.
  • The scammer claims to represent True North, but when you call us to discuss the offer, no one knows what you’re talking about.
  • You’re asked to share sensitive information in the initial stages of the application.
  • A social media “friend” keeps asking you random questions.

Preventing social media scams

Preventing social media scams isn’t difficult. All it takes is some common sense and practical steps.

  • Think before you click. Ignore anything suspicious or intrusive.
  • If a lender has contacted you, check their legitimacy with the BBB at bbb.org.
  • If you need to take out a personal loan, contact us directly at (907) 523-4700.
  • Never share personal information online with someone you don’t know.
  • Look for a publicly listed phone number that corresponds with the name of any “company” that has contacted you.
  • Never agree to pay for a product upfront without being certain of its legitimacy.
  • Check your social media privacy settings on a regular basis.
  • Never post anything that can be used to steal your identity.

If you are a victim

If you’ve been victimized, here’s how to minimize the damage:

  • Shut your computer and use another device to change your passwords.
  • Put a fraud alert on your credit.
  • Let True North know. We’ll watch your accounts. Also, if the scammer used our name, we’ll do all we can to take them down.
  • Alert the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
  • Tell your friends to be aware of any random requests that may come from you.

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a social media scam? Tell us all about it in the comments! 

15 Incredible Grilling Hacks

Nothing says “summer coming” like the mouthwatering smell of a flaming barbecue blowing through the neighborhood. Whether you churn out the best burgers on the block from a modest charcoal grill or your Weber’s been squatting on your deck all winter, we’ve got you covered!

family bbq with elder parents

Here’s 15 genius grilling hacks that will take your  ‘cue to the next level. 

1. Use a muffin tray for condiments

This grilling season, skip the condiment chaos by keeping all your barbecue trimmings in one neat place: a muffin tray! The 12 sections are perfectly suited for housing your ketchup, mustard, relish, BBQ sauces, pickles, tomatoes and any other toppings to douse your hot dogs.  This also works great if you have several different basting sauces in use. Your guests will know exactly where to find anything they need, and best of all, you’ve only got one condiment serving dish to wash!

2. Clean with an onion

Isn’t it annoying when you’re ready to start grilling only to find that your grate is covered with caked-on gook? Grill cleanup is finally hassle-free with this hack!

The next time you use your grill, clean it while it’s still hot. Slice an onion in half, and use it to scrub the drippings and other gunk off your grill. It should come off easily. As a bonus, you’ll be giving your grill a tasty seasoning for your next barbecue.

3. Layer your grate for veggies

Grilled greens are delicious, but fishing out those slippery peppers and zucchini slices from the bottom of your grill isn’t all that fun. Have your grilled veggies and eat them too with this genius hack.

Use an old barbecue grate or purchase a spare one and place it across your existing grate before grilling vegetables. The grid should keep your veggies from slipping, while still giving you the flame-licked taste you savor.

Be sure to let this extra grate heat along with your grill grate so you get those awesome grill marks.

4. Vegetable parcels

If you like chunkier vegetables, try this hack. Wrap spiced sweet potato, potato or zucchini squares in foil and place it on the grill while you work on your entrees. After 10 minutes or so, you’ll have a delicious, healthful side dish! Tip: You can do this with any veggie.

5.  Use two skewers

Kebabs are fun to eat, but turning them can be tricky. Make it easier with this hack! Double your skewers per kebab so individual pieces of meat or chicken don’t rotate on their own as you flip the entire kebab.  Also, don’t forget to soak the skewers in water for 30 minutes before you start grilling!

6. Add a smoker to an electric grill

You don’t have to spend hundreds of dollars for that sensational smoky flavor. Turn your electric grill into a smoker by wrapping some wood chips in foil, poking some holes in the parcel and tossing it on top of the grill’s burner and underneath the grate. Now get on with your grilling, being sure to keep the heat on medium-low. Your small parcel of wood chips will lend your food a hint of delicious smokiness!  

7. Check how much propane you have left before you start

You don’t want to run out of propane when you’ve still got food on the grill. Check the level in your tank with this hack: Tilt your tank a bit and pour boiling water on its side – but not on its top. Now feel your tank. The area where there is propane inside the tank will feel cool to the touch.

8. Smoke lemons

For an easy burst of flavor, halve some lemons and grill them on low heat for a few minutes, peel-side down. Your grate will pick up a terrific, citrusy flavor!

9. Spiral your hot dogs

Give your hot dogs a gourmet touch by cutting them into spirals. It’s easy to do: Skewer a hot dog and rotate it slowly as you cut it along its length. Spiraled hot dogs cook more evenly, give you lots of places for holding condiments, and most importantly, look super cool!

10. Out of time? Nuke it!

If you’ve got a craving for BBQ fare but you don’t have the time or patience to stand over the flames, cook your chicken in the microwave until it’s nearly ready, then throw it on the grill to give it a flaming finish!

11. Use a foil tent

To help your cooked meat retain its moisture and to distribute its juices evenly, let it rest under a loose foil tent for 10 minutes before serving.

12. Get your grill flaming fast

To get the heat going, use a chimney starter with your charcoal grill. You’ll be rewarded with a flaming hot fire – and fast!

13. Try some grilled cheese – literally

A BBQ is hardly the setting for grilled cheese, but just wait until your guests taste this! Throw a wheel of cheese directly on the grill and let it partially melt. Scoop it off the flames before it completely liquefies and then serve up the most delicious, gooey spread!

14. One long tong

Don’t bother with an assortment of grilling tools. All you need is one extra-long pair of tongs. They’ll allow you to flip your food without poking holes in it (which also dries it out). You can also use an old pair of tongs to shift your coals around and/or lift your grates.

15. Use all the heat!

Your grill will usually stay warm for a while after you’re done cooking. Don’t let that heat go to waste! Instead, pile your grate with any foods that need to stay warm, toast your buns over the fire, or even throw on some foil-wrapped s’mores for a delectable dessert! 

Your Turn: Got your own grilling hack? Share it with us in the comments!

6 Ways To Turn Your Dream Vacation Into A Reality

Everyone has their own version of a dream vacation. But, for most of us, it never becomes a reality. Read on for six ways to make that dream vacation come true.

vacation beach

1.) Start saving 

Give your getaway a jumpstart by planning for it all year long. 

  • Set up a “Trip jar.” Whenever you’ve got loose change, plunk it in a jar earmarked for your vacation. Use the money you’ve saved to fund one part of your vacation.
  • Brown-bag it. The average American buys lunch twice a week. By brown-bagging it just one more day a week, you can save hundreds of dollars a year for your vacation.
  • Open a vacation club account. Here at [credit union], we’re all about making dreams come true. Call, click or stop by today to learn how to painlessly save for vacation all year.

2.) Time it right 

Choosing the perfect date for your vacation can save you thousands of dollars. Consider taking your trip just after peak season ends. You’ll still enjoy beautiful weather, but your airfare and lodging costs will see a significant drop. 

Experts also recommend booking your flight 54 days before your departure date to get the best prices. 

3.) Make the most of your dollar 

When researching vacation destinations, check the local exchange rates. Choose a place that will allow your dollar to go farther, and you’ll have more to spend with the same amount of cash! 

4.) Let your loyalty pay off 

Don’t book a flight, hotel stay or car rental without checking your credit card points first. You might have enough miles to pay for a large chunk of your trip.

When booking hotel stays, do a quick search to determine if they offer a loyalty program for return customers. You might land yourself a good discount just for using the same hotel chain twice!

5.) Research, research, research

Don’t make any vacation decisions without first doing careful research. If you found a resort you love, check out their online presence to see if they offer airline discounts or credits. See if you can find a local who’d be willing to swap houses with you while you’re on vacation. Check Groupon for instant discounts on attractions and restaurants in the area.  

6.) Live in the moment 

Don’t forget to enjoy your vacation! If something doesn’t go according to plan, let it slide. Leave the everyday pressure at home and just fully relax. 

It’s also important to unplug. Stop snapping pictures and take the earbuds out. Let go of the compulsive need to capture every moment on camera and take the time to just be. 

You deserve to enjoy every bit of your vacation!

 Your Turn: How do you save big on vacation without compromising on the fun factor or on your comfort? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

Beware Tech Support Scams!

You’re always putting yourself out on a limb when you call tech support. You dial the number the company gives you, and perhaps after a while of waiting, you’re connected to someone who may be working on the other side of the world in a completely different time zone. Then you’re asked to give this anonymous person identifying details about your phone or computer and the technical problems you’re experiencing.

Of course, you’re fairly certain the speaker works for your device’s company and you believe it’s perfectly safe to share this information. At the very least, they have contracted with this individual and are tracking their service.

access granted binary code.pngAll of that gets a little riskier when you’re asked to allow the tech support agent to have remote access to your device. This step is sometimes necessary to fix the glitch, but it can also be unnerving. Suddenly, it’s as if an invisible person has taken over your screen. Letters you haven’t typed are showing up on the display and the cursor is flying all over the screen, even though you haven’t touched the mouse.

You’re essentially letting someone have free access to a device that houses some of your most personal information. Yikes!

And that’s exactly what tech support scammers are looking for with their nefarious hacks. It’s truly as awful as it sounds: In these scams, fraudsters contact victims and trick them into granting the scammer access to their computers. The crooks may reach out to people through a phone call, insisting the victims have a virus or another problem they’ve somehow detected from the company’s headquarters. Alternatively, they’ll send a popup to the victim’s computer which will flash dire warnings about an impending or existing virus that can be “fixed” by clicking on a link.

There are several outcomes of such tech support scams, none of them good. Sometimes, a scammer will trick you into installing malware on your computer, claiming you have to click on a link in order to heal your computer of its ills. Other times, they might sell you expensive “software” by making the same false claims. Still other times, they’ll direct you to a bogus tech support website where you’ll be asked to input your credit card information. And they’ll oftentimes simply help themselves to the sensitive data they find on your computer and then wreak havoc on your financial life.

Federal Trade Commission (FTC) Scams

Tech support scams are nothing new, but a recent wave of these scams has taken on an ironic twist. The very organization that leads the battle in taking down scammers is being exploited for a particularly heinous hack.

Scammers posing as FTC employees are calling victims, asking for remote access to their computers. They assure victims they can help restore any affected devices to their previous working conditions. Many of them are claiming to represent the FTC’s Advanced Tech Support Refund program.

This program was created to help victims of previous scams collect their refund money from the FTC. The scammers will convince the victims that they are moments away from seeing their money – they just need to provide the alleged FTC employee with remote access to their computer. They may also ask for an upfront payment before the refund can be issued or for checking account information, claiming it’s necessary for the refund to clear.

Of course, none of this is true and the caller has never worked for the FTC. In fact, the FTC will never request remote access to your device or ask you to pay to receive a refund. Also, their refunds are sent in check form via snail mail, and do not require any checking account information at all.

The FTC has alerted the public that the only genuine number to call for information about the Advanced Tech Support Refund program is 877-793-0908. If someone calls you on their own, assume it’s a scam. End the call immediately and report the incident to the FTC.

Recognizing Tech Support Scams

As mentioned, the wave of tech support scams in which fraudsters impersonate the FTC are easy to spot if you know this basic information about the FTC: They will never request remote access to your computer, ask for payment in exchange for a refund, or reach out to you on the phone.

Here’s how to prevent other variations of tech support scams:

  • Never click on a pop-up box that claims your computer has a virus and offers to clean it. This will only infect your computer or grant a scammer remote access to your device.
  • Always call tech support on your own; if they call you, especially if you’re not aware of any problem with your computer, hang up as quickly as you can.
  • Never agree to purchase expensive software online to fix an alleged virus.

If you think you’ve been scammed, tell everyone you know about it and be sure to alert the FTC.  Let’s do our part to put those crooks out of business for good!

Your Turn: Have you ever been targeted by a tech support scam? Share your experience with us in the comments!

Recipe Apps

The days of messy recipe clippings are so last century. In the high-tech kitchens of 2018, all you need is a screen and an app to look up any recipe you might need.

Here’s the goods on some of the apps that will be your new BFFs in the kitchen.

ChefTap 

ChefTapChefTap is one of the most popular recipe apps for good reason. The free app allows you to easily clip and save recipes without cutting and pasting or using any hidden third-party sites. Once clipped, a recipe is saved in the app’s permanent archive so you never misplace it again.

Best features

ChefTap offers multitasking in its best form by blending recipe accumulation with grocery-list writing. The app helps users create lists based on the ingredients used in their favorite archived recipes. ChefTap will combine similar items on the list, let you know which part of the store you’ll need to visit to find an item and will even sort the list by aisle to save you precious time!

Another fantastic feature is the way ChefTap displays its recipes. When you’re ready to roll, the app will bring up your selected recipe in a clear, easy-to-read format and will even let you adjust the yield and measurements for any recipe without breaking out your calculator.

Glaring glitches

ChefTap shines at saving your clipped recipes and making your grocery trips easier, but the app will not help you create meal plans or find those recipes for you. You’ll need to do that work on your own.

Mealime

MealimeMealime offers the ultimate in an all-in-one kitchen tool. The free app will help you create a personalized meal plan, give you recipes that work with the plan and then draw up a grocery list so you can stock your kitchen with everything you need to bring those meals to the table.

Best Features

Hands down, Mealime’s best feature is its ability to help you create a weekly meal plan that suits your personal preferences. Customization options go way beyond diet choices, allowing users to stick in their allergies, food dislikes, the amount of people they are preparing food for and the number of meals they eat each day. The app will also work with nearly any diet, from gluten-free and vegan to paleo and low-sodium.

The app also includes a built-in nutritional information tool. Plug in any recipe and the app will pull up the all its nutritional content for you. No more excuses for ditching the diet!

Glaring Glitches

Some users claim the app makes editing a shopping list too complicated, with three steps required for every change. Others complain that Mealime doesn’t let users seamlessly import their own recipes.  

BigOven

BigOvenBigOven’s beauty is in its sheer scope; the app boasts more than 12 million users and has a record 350,000+ recipes in its database. Like many recipe apps, BigOven also helps users organize their grocery list, create meal plans and share recipes with others.

Can’t wait to get cooking? You can use BigOven to search for recipes filtered by season, holiday, course or lifestyle. Alternatively, you can upload your own scribbled family recipes with just a snap of a picture.

With many thousands of recipes at your fingertips, you’ll never want to order takeout again.

Best Features

The feature that sets BigOven above the rest of the pack is its sociability factor. In an age where Foodstagramming is a thing, users love being able to share their favorite recipes and pictures of their most awesome kitchen creations with friends and family.  

For the eco-friendly cooks out there, BigOven also offers a feature to help you use up every last bit of your meal. Just tell the app your remaining ingredients and it’ll spit out a list of curated recipes with those foods. That means Tuesday’s leftovers aren’t staring at your every time you open your fridge any longer.

Glaring Glitches

BigOven offers an upgraded version for a price. BigOven Pro will give you access to thousands more recipes. The downside is that users of the free version find it annoying when lots of the recipes the app pulls up are labeled “Pro” and they are unable to be opened without the upgrade.

How they stack up

APP

Meal Planning

Sociability

Recipe Finding

Nutrition Facts

ChefTap

No

No

No

No

Mealime

Yes

No

Yes

Yes

BigOven

Yes

Yes

Yes

No

Your Turn: What’s your favorite recipe app? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Website Review: Modest Money

Personal finance blogs are a dime a dozen. Anyone who’s escaped the cycle of debt, or even saved a few pennies by shopping the sales, can now be a self-anointed financial expert in the blogosphere. The variety is wonderful, but it isn’t easy to sift through the tremendous load of content to find the sites that will really teach you something you don’t already know.

piggy bank on 100s

ModestMoney is different. The site was launched as an ordinary personal finance blog back in 2012, but it has since morphed into a comprehensive source of invaluable investing advice. As the site founder Jeremy Biberdorf claims, people are looking for more than just tips on how to gain control of their finances; they want a site where they can learn the ins and outs of investing in plain, simple language. And ModestMoney is committed to giving the public exactly what it needs.

On ModestMoney.com, you’ll find all you need to know on the latest investment news, stock market developments and currency trading reports. You can read spot-on analyses of the most recent investing trends and the hottest stocks. You’ll learn about common investing pitfalls and how to avoid them, while browsing posts that give you the latest scoop on cutting-edge investment opportunities.

ModestMoney prides itself on offering site users a range of investing perspectives and styles through its diverse contributors. Whatever your personal investing style, you’ll find it on ModestMoney.

The site’s homepage showcases an array of fascinating articles on all the latest news in the world of investing.

Some recent posts include the following:

  1. FTE Networks (FTNW) Stock: Positioned For Significant Share Price Appreciation In 2018
  2. Do You Know the Secret Costs Of Mutual Funds?
  3. Genprex (GNPX) Stock: May Offer Significant Growth Opportunity
  4. Jerrick Media (JMDA) Stock: “Vocal” Is Becoming Social Publishing’s Favorite Platform
  5. You can also search the site for archived posts or browse sections like the following:
  • Breaking Investment News
  • All Investing News
  • Commodities News
  • Currencies News
  • Stock Market News
  • Real Estate
  • Investing
  • Hot Investing Tips
  • How to Find Underpriced Stocks Using The Graham Formula
  • And a whole lot more!

In each section, you’ll find a plethora of information written up in an engaging yet simple-to-understand style to help you learn how to harness the power of investing for the ultimate in financial success.  

Once you’ve read up on investing and you’re ready to take that first step, stop by True North; we’d love to help you get started! 

Your Turn: What’s your favorite source for investing news? Tell us all about it in the comments!

Money Tips For Overseas Travel

Before you travel out of the country, here are some tips for handling funds abroad.

Before you leave:

  • If you plan to use your True North Mastercard debit or credit card, check the expiration date before you leave. Cards expire on the last day of the month indicated. If your card will expire while you’re away, call the credit union and ask for a replacement card early so you’ll receive it before you leave. Your new card may require activation by calling a toll-free number; a debit card may require an ATM transaction, or both. These must be done while you’re still in the U.S.
  • Traveler’s checks can be purchased in euros and in other foreign currencies, which eliminates the need for merchants to calculate the conversion rate and may increase acceptance.
  • Carry enough foreign currency in cash to get you out of the airport. Airport exchange rates are high.
  • Create a list of the contents of your wallet: debit, ATM and credit card numbers, and anything else you might need to replace if your wallet is lost or stolen. Include the overseas lost or stolen numbers. Toll-free 800 numbers are not accessible from overseas.
  • If you’re relying on an ATM card for cash withdrawals while traveling, it must be connected to your checking account. Foreign ATMs cannot access your savings account.

suitcase abroad stickers

While you’re traveling:

  • Have a variety of payment methods available, such as credit cards, debit card, local currency and traveler’s checks, so that something unforeseen, such as an ATM attendant strike or a network interruption, doesn’t leave you in a pinch.
  • Contact your financial institution to see if your credit or debit card needs to be activated for foreign use.
  • Take advantage of local ATMs – they withdraw from your checking account and dispense funds in local currency. A small exchange fee may apply, but it is usually less than at a bank.
  • Most ATMs offer a choice of languages; the British flag is used to represent English.
  • ATMs may offer the option of entering a six-digit PIN. If six digits are required, add two zeros to the end of your four-digit PIN.
  • Keep your list of plastic card numbers and their lost or stolen reporting numbers in a separate location from the cards. Don’t photocopy your cards; this could give thieves all the information they need to transact on your account.
  • Inform the credit union and any other financial institutions to note on your account that you anticipate transactions from outside the country. If they have a fraud monitoring system, atypical transactions could trigger a fraud alert. If that happens and a financial institution is unable to contact you, you could find yourself in a foreign country with your True North Mastercard debit or credit card frozen. However, it is unwise to give anyone your specific dates of travel in order to protect against home break-ins.

With a little planning and forethought, you can save your vacation from becoming a nightmare. Have a safe and happy trip!

Cryptocurrency Hacks

Cryptocurrency is all the rage. Money you can’t see? Online accounts that aren’t regulated by big banks or even the feds? It has a futuristic feel, and anyone and everyone seems to be buying into the trend. 

Lots of those folks who are buying up bitcoins by the hundreds claim cryptocurrency investment is the ticket to a richer tomorrow. But security experts think otherwise. They’ve repeatedly warned that all cryptocurrency is extremely vulnerable and at risk of being hacked – and that includes yours. 

Is cryptocurrency the wave of the financial future, or is it really as risky as experts would have you think? 

Before making your decision, read on to arm yourself with all the information you’ll need about cryptocurrency hacks. 

bitcoin with cash in back

How it works 

Cryptocurrencies are decentralized and unregulated. That means there is no single country or institution controlling bitcoin, Ethereum or Litecoin. These currencies are, consequently, extremely volatile and vulnerable to risk. Since all cryptocurrency transactions are processed online, a hacker can simply break into crypto exchanges, drain people’s wallets and disappear without a trace. 

As you may expect, hackers have been following the meteoric rise of cryptocurrency and are eager to cash in on the prize. They’ve been systematically frauding the system for years, and have only gotten bolder over time. In the most recent major heist, hackers made off with an incredible $530 million in cryptocurrency from Coincheck, the leading Asian bitcoin exchange, this past January. 

And experts predict that it will get worse. 

An Ernst & Young report studied 372 preliminary coin offerings between 2015 and 2017 and found that more than 10% of the funds were stolen, amounting to as much as $1.5 million a month. 

It’s not only individuals who’ve been defrauded; the report shares that huge companies have lost several million dollars on hacked cryptocurrency. 

According to Chainalysis, a risk management software company for virtual currencies, more than 50% of these hacks occurred through phishing. 

In other instances, hackers have modified malware to redirect bitcoins to their own wallets during a trade or purchase. This scam is particularly nefarious because the hackers snag the victim’s exchange credentials and login information so they can gain complete control of the mark’s bitcoin wallets. 

By extension, this means the hackers have also accessed the victim’s credit card information and can do untold damage to their credit score while racking up huge bills in the victim’s name. 

Any way you slice it, cryptocurrency hacks pose a major risk to all investors and users. 

Who’s paying? 

Nearly 20% of bitcoin investors purchase their cryptocurrency using a credit card – and almost 25% of them cannot pay off their credit card balance after making this purchase. 

Some credit card companies are ready to throw in the towel on cryptocurrency. They’ve had their fair share of headaches caused by cryptocurrency hacks aimed at their cardholders, including disputed charges, fraudulent transactions and the inability to pay for large purchases. 

Earlier this year, many major credit card companies, including Discover and Capital One, announced they will no longer allow cardholders to purchase cryptocurrencies using their credit cards due to the high level of risk and potential fraud associated with such transactions. 

Lots of financial institutions have followed suit with similar announcements, claiming the increased volatility poses a loss to the institution, which may be forced to pick up the pieces for their member if a cryptocurrency investment or purchase is hacked. 

Are cryptocurrency exchanges government-regulated? 

The short answer is no. The very attraction of bitcoins and Ethereum is that they are decentralized, answering to no institution or government. 

A little digging reveals that some foreign countries, like China, are actually taking stronger approaches toward protecting their citizens from cryptocurrency fraud and are coming down hard on all scammers and hackers. 

For the average U.S. citizen, though, when it comes to cryptocurrency, you’re on your own. 

Protecting yourself 

Cryptocurrency transactions pose an extra risk by being absolutely final. There’s no way to cancel a cryptocurrency payment, back out on a purchase or secure an anti-fraud guarantee from a reputable financial institution. In case of fraud, you may be able to trace the computer that was used for robbing you, but it’s nearly impossible to identify the scammers that took off with your money. 

In other words, by using cryptocurrency, you’re putting yourself at significant risk. There’s no one protecting you and no way to undo the damage once you’ve made a payment that’s been hacked. 

The only thing you can do is take proactive steps to be as careful as possible when engaging in crypto-payments: 

1.) Stick to established, recognized exchanges, like Coinbase. 

Only use exchanges you’ve heard of, and only those that utilize two-factor authentication. 

2.) Don’t store too much digital currency online. 

It’s best to store your money as actual greenbacks in a brick-and-mortar financial institution. You can keep some cash in your wallet or even hoard it in a home safe, but be careful not to put too much in an online digital exchange. 

3.) Keep your OS and security software up-to-date. 

Always accept and install the most recent patches and updates when they become available. To ensure your system doesn’t fall behind, elect to have it update automatically.  

4.) Be wary of suspicious emails and links. 

Never share sensitive information over the internet, no matter how sincere or urgent an email or link may appear to be. Don’t download anything from an unverifiable source, and keep your spam settings working at their strongest capacity. 

Cryptocurrency may be the dollar bill of the future, but don’t fall prey to the many criminals who are counting on consumer naivety to make a quick buck. Use caution and be on guard to keep your money safe! 

Your Turn: Do you use or invest in cryptocurrencies? What precautions do you take against hacks? Share your own tips with us in the comments!