FDIC Consumer News
Consumers should be aware of "ransomware" scams that hold computers or smartphones hostage. Authorities have previously warned businesses about schemes in which criminals use malware to shut down computers or smartphones and then demand payment (sometimes via prepaid card) to unlock the devices. So far, businesses are more likely to be targeted than consumers. Still, you can help protect yourself by keeping antivirus software up to date, being cautious before opening e-mail attachments, and not following links in unsolicited or suspicious-looking e-mails. For more information, see an alert issued by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security at www.us-cert.gov/ncas/alerts/TA13-309A.
Reminder: Be careful before agreeing to promotional offers on credit cards As previously reported in FDIC Consumer News, a no-interest or low-interest deal may seem like a great way to save money but it's important to read the fine print. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in September 2014 warned consumers about some offers that can cost more in interest than expected and offered tips to avoid them. Start at www.consumerfinance.gov/blog/you-could-still-end-up-paying-interest-on-a-zero-percent-interest-credit-card-offer.
Check out our new financial education resource for Pre-K through Grade 2 students. The curriculum, unveiled in September 2014, is the first in a new series of youth education resources in the FDIC's Money Smart family. The remaining products in the series — for Grades 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12 — are scheduled to be released in early 2015 and will eventually replace older resources for young people. The curriculums are still intended for educators and bankers to present in a classroom or group setting, and they now also include a resource guide for parents and caregivers. For more information, start at www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart/youngpeople.html.
The CFPB has added to its resources for student loan borrowers. These include a consumer advisory about how certain private student loans (not federal loans) can require the borrower to immediately pay the entire balance if the co-signer dies or files for bankruptcy, plus sample letters that borrowers can use to contact their servicer asking to remove the co-signer. Regardless of what type of student loans you have, the CFPB has resources. For example, "Repay Student Debt" is a Web tool that can help borrowers navigate their repayment options when managing federal and private student loans, even when they have fallen behind on their loans. The CFPB has also developed "Paying for College," a suite of tools for students and families to use in comparing student loan options and financial aid offers before they commit to a school. To learn more from the CFPB, start at www.consumerfinance.gov/students.
What's new about benefit information from the Social Security Administration (SSA). Under a law passed last year, the SSA has resumed mailing statements to workers age 18 and older after previously phasing the mailings out in favor of online information. Most workers will receive their statement in the mail once every five years, and after age 60, people will receive a benefit statement in the mail every year. In addition, the SSA is encouraging everyone age 18 or older to create a secure "my Social Security account" online. That way, they can verify the accuracy of their reported earnings (which determine each individual's future benefit amount and is a way to help detect identity theft) and perform tasks such as updating their address or direct deposit information. To learn more and to sign up for an account, start at www.socialsecurity.gov/myaccount.
The CFPB has issued updated guidance on reverse mortgages. These are special types of home equity loans made to homeowners age 62 or older that are repaid when the borrowers sell the home, move out or die. Because there have been recent changes in how reverse mortgages work, the CFPB has updated its consumer guide, which includes issues to consider before taking a reverse mortgage as well as alternatives to consider. You can find the guide online at http://files.consumerfinance.gov/f/201409_cfpb_guide_reverse_mortgage.pdf.