How to protect yourself from a cyber attack

Here in Wyoming, most of us are familiar with snowy weather and can handle it without much thought.  

However, the cyber storm that started forming just before Russia’s invasion of Ukraine—and then exploded after—is unfamiliar to most, and possibly more devastating.

The attacks on Russia’s computer and communications networks by the western computer/technology community, from Microsoft to individual hackers, have shown how effective cyberwarfare can be. 

There are also signs of how effective a counterattack could be.  

It is easy to think that we, meaning individuals in the middle of America and small institutions like First Education, will not be impacted. Odds are, that will be true.  

However, it is not guaranteed. This is a new game, and we don’t know what the odds are. 

We do know there aren’t any rules.

The sanctions placed on Russia, its citizens, and allies by the U.S. and other western countries have been effective. Now, they are not only looking for a way to get money but also revenge. They do not care how large or small a business is or how much money an individual has; if they see a weakness, they will seize it.  

What you can do to protect yourself from a cyber attack

  1. Be extra careful about clicking on links or downloading files in your email. If you have any doubt (at all) about an email or website, ask someone. Google the subject or sender.  If you don’t know that person or have no reason to have gotten the email in question, just delete it.  
  2. If you have any suspicion your computer has been infected or compromised in any way, immediately unplug it from the network.  To this, look for the cord that looks like a fat phone line. Unplug that cord from either your computer or the wall, whichever is easier, but DO NOT turn off your computer or unplug the power. If you use Wi-Fi, turn off your modem.

We must also remember that, no matter how devastating ID theft and fraud can be, the issues the people of Ukraine are now facing are inconceivable. The events there have shown us there are people willing to fight for freedom and that politicians can be heroes.  

If you’re looking for a way to support relief efforts in Ukraine, I recommend visiting doglobalgood.org or texting CUS4UKRAINE to 44-321.

Glory to Ukraine.  Glory to Heroes. Слава Україні!   Героям Слава!

Jim Yates

First Education President

Your 2022 financial checklist is here!

If you’re making a (financial end-of-year) list, and checking it twice, you’re well on your way to making the next year nice.

Here are 9 things to do for better finances in 2022.

1. Check your credit at annualcreditreport.com  

  • Report any errors you find 
  • Pay off any negative things you see, or ask for settlements

2. Review all of your accounts.  

  • Go online, or get out those paper statements
  • Make note of all automatic withdrawals (memberships, subscriptions, streaming services, etc.) and any fees; you’ll need these for step 3 and step 4 

3. Review your subscriptions.

  • Review the information you gathered about memberships/subscriptions/automatic withdrawals in step 2
  • Cancel any you haven’t used in the last 30 days

4. Contact all financial institutions.

  • Using the statements you gathered in step 2, review the joint owners and beneficiaries on all accounts
  • Notice any fees? Ask if they can be avoided. If not, consider moving the account.

5. Talk to your HR department at work.

  • Review your 401(k) and other retirement plans to ensure you’re contributing as much as you can afford
  • Verify your beneficiaries, emergency contacts, and other information is up to date
  • Review your FSA/HSA contributions and spend any that’s left over from this plan year
  • Recalculate your payroll withholding amount

6. Contact your insurance agent.

  • Review your coverage and beneficiaries for auto, life, and homeowners or renters insurance policies
  • Ask if there are any discounts available

7. Check on your emergency fund.

  • Ideally, you’ll want at least three months of living expenses in an easily accessible account
  • Don’t have an emergency fund yet? Set up an automatic transfer or use payroll deduction to get started today!

8. Make sure you have copies of important documents.

  • This is one time when paper is better than electronic! Ensure they’re in a secure, fireproof location
  • Let someone in your family (or a close friend) know where these documents are and be able to get to them, if needed 

9. Make sure your will is up to date.  

  • If you don’t have a will, commit to having one in six months.
  • If either you or your significant other travel often, ensure you have an up-to-date power of attorney. 

If there’s a lot you weren’t able to check off, that’s okay!

Break it down by committing to two steps each month, and by summer, you’ll be in great shape.

10 ways to improve your financial wellness in 10 seconds

Ten seconds out of your day could lead to hundreds of dollars in savings this year! 

If you’ve got 10 seconds, why not…

  1. Unsubscribe from promo emails as soon as you receive them. 
  2. Unfollow your favorite brands and influencers that sell to you.
  3. Reflect on your goals any time you’re about to make an impulse buy.
  4. Check your credit score as one measure of your financial health.
  5. Start using your debit card as a debt-avoidance tactic.
  6. Get comfortable saying “no” to invitations to expensive engagements.
  7. Choose non-brand-name items at the store.
  8. Use the library or start a book exchange.
  9. Remember that numbers, like your income and debt, don’t define you! 
  10. Whether in the store or online, shop with a list and your budget in mind.

Knowing the future starts today, we use our financial knowledge to educate and encourage our members to make smart, well-informed choices about their finances—and about their financial future, too!

If you’d like to learn more about setting up a savings account that supports your goals, we’d love to help. Stop by our branch any time, or give us a call at (307) 432-7400 to get started.

Don’t let impulse buys ruin your holidays

Supply chain snarls mean everyone is on the hunt for the things they want — maybe even need. 

Plus, many people have extra cash from the stimulus payments and being stuck at home and they are shopping online more than ever.  Nearly 90% of Americans say they will do some of their holiday shopping online. 

This means this holiday season could be especially lucrative for fraudsters.  It is very easy and cheap to set up fake online stores and they can promise to sell you anything.  They get card, name, address, and phone information on hundreds of consumers and then disappear.  Not only do you not get that perfect gift, but you also get hundreds or thousands of dollars charged to your account that went to make a criminal’s holiday very bright.

Don’t let the “it’s available, so I have to buy it now” mindset make you a victim.  The best way to avoid this is to shop local (when you can) and when you do shop online only go to retailers you know and trust.  

Additionally, do not click on links in emails or texts to go to a store’s website. This may take you to a fake site that only steals your information.  Type the business’ URL in the address bar.  If there is a discount attached to a specific link, there is always a way to enter the discount manually at check-out.

Above all, remember that the holidays are not about gifts or how much money you spent.  They are about family, peace, and caring for others.  Do not start your New Year with the stress of trying to prove you were ripped off.  Start if off by knowing you did everything you could to make this a happy, safe, and stress-free season for everyone in your life.

One thing to never forget: If something seems too good to be true, it probably is too good to be true. Rather than take a chance, take a break.  Have some eggnog and call someone you love.

Why it matters to #BeCyberSmart

Woman and daughter on couch looking at tablet together.

October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month: A great reminder to “Do Your Part. #BeCyberSmart.”

“At First Education Federal Credit Union, we take cybersecurity very seriously,” said First Education President Jim Yates. “We believe protecting our members’ personal information is just as important, if not more important, than protecting their money.”

What is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?

Held every October, Cybersecurity Awareness Month raises awareness about the practice of protecting systems, networks, and programs from digital attacks. 

This united effort (of which First Education is proud to be a 2021 Champion) helps maintain a safe, resilient cyberspace for everyone to use. 

Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a great time to: 

  • Update your online account passwords to long, unique phrases 
  • Enable multi-factor authentication wherever possible
  • Perform any overdue software updates on your computer or phone 
  • Make backup copies of your data, both on and offsite
  • Hold a family “tech talk” and discuss how each family member can protect their devices and personal information
Be Cyber Smart Graphic : October is Cybersecurity Awareness Month

We’ll also be sharing weekly cybersecurity tips on Facebook!

Be sure to check in every week through October to see what’s new.

First Education: Supporting Cheyenne Teachers, Students, and Schools!

Along with providing sound financial services, “People Helping People” is what First Education is all about. 

We try to promote this in every aspect of life, including providing sponsorships for the local events and programs listed below.

“Student of the Week” program

Recently, First Education was recognized by the Laramie County School District 1 (LCSD1) Board of Trustees for supporting the Student of the Week Program.  

This is a program we are proud to sponsor. It not only highlights the people that are going to be our leaders, but also shows the results of the hard work our teachers and parents do every day. We thank the Trustees for the recognition, and thank the Administration for the opportunity to sponsor it for the 2021-2022 school year.

The students recognized in the program are not only successful academically, but they are also good people.  A theme in all of their profiles is a willingness to help others. 

If you want to read more about these amazing kids, just Google “LCSD1 student of the week.”

Cheyenne Schools Foundation

Speaking of people helping people and our schools— First Education is also a primary sponsor of the Cheyenne Schools Foundation. This organization provides grants to teachers and other special funding for LCSD1. 

 
We invite you to join us in supporting two upcoming funding events for the Cheyenne Schools Foundation: Cruise the Legend on July 17th,  and their annual Run for Number 1 on August 28th. For more information on each event, visit https://cheyennechoolsfoundation.org. Alternatively, if your business would like to be a sponsor, please contact me at the credit union.

Wyoming Hunger Initiative

Another organization First Education and the Mountain West Credit Union Association is proud to sponsor is the Wyoming Hunger Initiative. This program, started by Wyoming First Lady Jeanie Gordon, has a goal of ending childhood hunger in Wyoming. This is important for education because a child cannot learn if they are hungry. To learn more about the program, visit nohungerwyo.org for more information. 

“Work hard at learning, and be willing to help others.”

In closing, I ask that you all please follow the example of the students of the week: 
Work hard at learning, and be willing to help others.

Jim Yates, President

First Education Federal Credit Union

COVID-19 Guidelines Update

Effective 6/1/2021, individuals entering the credit union will no longer be required to wear face coverings. However, we strongly recommend anyone who is not fully vaccinated to wear a face covering whenever you cannot maintain at least 6′ distancing from others.

Please continue to practice good personal hygiene including washing your hands often and if you are not feeling well or think they may have been in contact with someone who has COVID-19 or other contagious disease stay home and contact a healthcare provider.

Thank you for your support in our continuing effort to keep everyone healthy.

A Short Comment on Bitcoin

In its inception, Bitcoin was a good idea; a medium of exchange that could be used across the internet with an understood value independent of national authority. 

It was meant to be isolated from the economic, social, and political forces that cause fluctuations in national currencies and avoid the messiness of exchange rates.

This is not what it is today. 

Bitcoin is not a currency because it is not a medium of exchange. 

Many have tried to make it so but even Tesla recently stopped accepting Bitcoin for vehicle purchases.  It is now only discussed in relation to it value in “real” currencies, most often the US dollar.

At best, Bitcoin is an asset; an asset with a highly volatile value.  The price being impacted by the very forces it was meant to be isolated from.  Even comments made over social media can cause significant fluctuation in its value.

At worst, Bitcoin is a gamble.  No better than the gamble on tulip bulbs in the 1630’s or beanie babies at the turn of this century. 

In essence, you are buying part of a cloud. A cloud many want to own a part of, for now. 

However, there is no substance, no intrinsic value except its “rarity*.”  As much as it is worth today, it could be valueless tomorrow and once it is valueless, it will never recover.

If you think Bitcoin or other cryptocurrencies are a good investment or an acceptable gamble, buy them but understand, they are not currency, they are a piece of the cloud. 

You may make millions, but others will lose millions.  Millions of dollars, euros, pounds, yen…  The very things Bitcoin was meant to replace.

Jim Yates
President, First Education Federal Credit Union

* Rare only because there is a B21,000,000 supply limit, although this could be programmatically changed.

2021 Paycheck Protection Program Lending

As with the first round, First Education will be participating as a lender for both First Draw and Second Draw PPP lending. Most of the rules and qualifications remain the same for the first round. There are some important changes and businesses that received a PPP loan in 2020 can apply for a Second Draw loan. More information and the applications are available here. Please send any questions to ppp@firstedfcu.com.