Author Archives: Shalina

New Branch Coming Soon!

We are pleased to announce that we will be opening a new branch in the Pittsburg Century Plaza Summer 2018. Please be informed that we will be closing the branch at 160 East 10th Street in Pittsburg effective April 16, 2018.

In the interim, please feel free to visit our branch at 1870 A Street in Antioch, or any of our other branch locations.

These necessary changes will help us in fulfilling our commitment to providing the best member service experience.

We thank you for your understanding.

If you have any questions, please contact us at 925-293-1785.

Tips for Teens – Spring Email Cleaning

Bunny on laptopBack in November, I received a newsletter in my email inbox. I probably signed up to receive these emails back when I thought 0.05% off $500 dollars was a good deal, so I read and deleted it, thinking that would be it for a while. Later that same week, another newsletter from the same store came in for a different set of deals. This time, I deleted it again but was both a little annoyed and a little surprised that they had sent two emails in the same week after a six month hiatus. That next weekend, I received a third email for a different set of deals! At this point, I was fairly annoyed for two reasons: one, I remember signing up the year before for that measly discount but only for the once a month frequency and two, it made me realize just how many unopened emails I had in my inbox. On top of the junk mail, there was last week’s actual news still to be read, some satire news still needing to be laughed at, a couple of order confirmations and tracking numbers for items that I already received, and many more.

Email, as outdated as the concept may seem, is still the backbone of modern communication. Chances are, email is not your go-to method for daily communication, making it even easier for companies to use it as a data dump. But at the same time, things like password reset links, eStatements, or acceptance letters most likely won’t be sent by text message. The fact of the matter is that email is still one of the more secure methods of communication. It’s our digital key to reset just about everything else.

With that said, email shouldn’t be a place where advertisers have a direct link to your pocket. It should be a place where only the services you’ve signed up for get to you and the advertisements are filtered in an unobtrusive manner. I made some changes to my email settings and since then, the number of companies sending me ads and distracting me from my important emails has dropped to basically nothing, while the ones I care about are filtered into a particular folder for whenever I have time to take a peak.

In the end, nothing is more important than privacy, which was a lesson hard-learned. To this day, the Prince of Nigeria is still asking me for help with transferring funds. As annoying as these emails are, there is nothing I can do to stop receiving them. For these reasons, take a moment and reflect on whether adding your email address to that mailing list is really necessary, because you don’t know where it could end up.

Luis Dominguez
Student Social Media Intern
1st Nor Cal Credit Union

President’s Corner – The Moment’s Over

After Ebby Calvin (“Nuke”) LaLoosh (played by Tim Robbins) pitched a perfect inning for the minor league Durham Bulls baseball team in 1988’s Bull Durham, he sat next to his catcher, Crash Davis (played by Kevin Costner), and they had the following conversation:

Nuke : That was great, huh?

Crash : Your fastball’s up, your curveball’s hanging. In the Show, they would’ve ripped you.

Nuke : Can’t you even let me enjoy the moment?

Crash : The moment’s over.

“The moment’s over” is the way many investors feel about now. After an unprecedented bull market following the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression of 1929, the stock market came crashing down faster than an old Las Vegas hotel. During one February week, almost $1 trillion of market value was wiped away.

The usual self-described stock market gurus showed up on every news and business channel to give their reasons for the “market correction.” Some of the reasons given included major shareholder selling, negative economic news, high profile corporations failing to meet unofficial estimates (referred to as “whisper numbers”), declining Gross Domestic Product, revised tax policy, a new administration in the White House, and impending armed conflicts around the world.

There have always been short-term spurts of wild variances in the market, but at no time have we seen more of these wild highs and lows in the history of stock trading. The biggest factor that few talk about is automated trading systems. These systems allow mostly institutional traders to establish specific rules for buying the selling stock automatically executed via a computer. When a stock price gets to a certain price or a technical indicator reaches a specific level, the automated system will simultaneously trigger a trade.

The main advantage to such a system is that it minimizes emotions so that the trader cannot hesitate or question the trade. Secondly, the systems are consistent because the computer is executing the programmed trades. Thirdly, the order entry is made at the same time trade criteria are met, minimizing possible trading losses. Finally, the automated systems can spread risk over various investment instruments while creating a hedge against losing positions. This would be incredibly challenging for a human to accomplish this level of efficiency in a matter of milliseconds.

The biggest disadvantage, other than mechanical failures, is the oversubscription of programmed trades. In other words, if too many trades are automated, it creates larger and potentially more volatile swings in the market as we have recently experienced. According to Wikipedia, as of 2014, more than 75% of stock shares traded on U.S. exchanges originate from high-frequency programmed trading system orders.

That seems like a very big, to the point of being unwieldy, number. For those 25% who trade the old-fashioned way, well, the moment’s over. By the time those trades are made, the market will have significantly shifted. That shift could mean the difference between trading at a profit or at a large loss.

The Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), which regulates stockbrokers, and the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), which regulates publicly held companies, have instituted some restrictions of automated trading to minimize market fragility and volatility, but more needs to be done to keep up with the advancing technology in this area.

One simple thing average investors can do to minimize their downside risk is rather than invest in individual stocks, they can invest in mutual funds that already utilize programmed trading and automated portfolio rebalancing which is simple and effective. These steps can help reduce the “The moment’s over” time by at least a few moments.

David M. Green
(925) 335-3802

Tax Identity Theft – Part 2

This month’s scam comes directly from the U.S. Department of the Treasury. The IRS has identified an existing scam in which cybercriminals have stolen client data from tax professionals and have filed fraudulent refunds using real taxpayer information, including bank account and routing information for direct deposit.

What is new is that the fraudster then contacts the taxpayer posing as an employee of a debt collection agency working on behalf of the IRS. They ask the taxpayer to take certain steps to return the refund, which actually goes to the criminals.

The IRS is advising taxpayers to contact their financial institution where the direct deposit was received and have them return the refund to the IRS. Taxpayers can contact the agency at their main number (800) 829-1040 for individual returns and (800) 829-4933 for business returns.

The IRS will never contact taxpayers by phone or by e-mail. Any such contact should be considered a scam and immediately purged.

Tips for Teens – College Textbooks: The Cheapskate Way

Stick man reading books with graduation hat onCollege. It’s like handing over an ounce of gold at the bookstore for a years’ worth of supplies. Seriously though, according to the College Board, the “yearly books-and-supplies in-state estimate for the average full-time undergraduate student at a four-year public college is about $1,298″* and gold is currently trading at about $1,300 per oz. Thankfully, there are some ways to minimize the impact to the point where FASFA might actually be enough!

Don’t forget to check the public library!
Let’s face it, it’s probably been a long time since you last set foot in a public library. They’re still there and they often have the books you need to check out for free! For example, suppose the books your professor asks for are George Orwell’s 1984, John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, and F. Scott Fitzgerald’s The Great Gatsby. One option would be to cough up $25 dollars for three books that realistically will never be read again and just take up room on your bookshelf. Option two is to check to see if these books are old enough to be in the public domain. Books in the public domain are free and are usually uploaded in a PDF format by a reputable source, like a .edu, .org, or 3rd party eBook distributor like the Google Play Bookstore or the Amazon Kindle store. Unlike PDFs that you find on Google after searching for The Great Gatsby Free PDF, these PDFs and legal to use, redistribute, and print since their copyright expired. The former PDFs are infringing on the books’ copyright and you might run into legal trouble if caught using one. However, the third and fail safe route is to use the public library. Just go back in, renew or apply for a library card, then go to the website to place holds on the books that are needed that semester. Just remember to return them after you’re done using them to avoid late fees.

What about textbooks?
Glad you asked about that. Certain textbooks can also be checked out through the public library. I personally haven’t had any luck with my public library system carrying any of the textbooks that I need, but it is one of the 71 library systems that participate in Link+, a library cooperative available from participating libraries in California and Nevada. There, almost any textbook that is needed for the semester is available since some of the participating libraries are colleges and universities. There’s no cost to use or enroll in Link+ and as long as your library card is in good standing, you’re in! Check with your local public library to see if it’s one of the library systems that participate in Link+ (Contra Costa, Solano, or Alameda County Libraries all participate in Link+) or check for yourself here:

Alternatively, check your school’s library and ask to checkout a textbook on reserve. Usually these books are only available to you for 3 hours and can only be used inside of the library. The advantage of this is that it forces you to do your homework during that time rather than procrastinating.

Okay, and the supplies?
Scantrons and Bluebooks are the unfortunate monopoly that hovers over school supplies. Thankfully, Scantrons can sometimes be obtained for free by attending orientation events at the start of the semester and during finals week. As for pens, pencils, highlighters, and notecards, use your supplies from last year. If you’re all out of those too, remember to pick some up next semester from an orientation event. You can also save on transportation by checking your public transit system to see if they offer any discounts for students such as free bus fare for UC Berkeley students and BOGO tickets offered by the County Connection.

Whatever you do, remember that the financial office at your college or university might also offer bonus financial aid based on your FASFA, which as a reminder, has a deadline to file by March 2nd!

Luis Dominguez
Student Social Media Intern
1st Nor Cal Credit Union

President’s Corner – Necessary Change

Jake Blues (played by John Belushi in the 1980 classic movie “The Blues Brothers”) was covered in mud after a burst of gunfire from his former fiancée (played by the late Carrie Fisher) while he was trying to explain to her why he left her at the altar.

“I ran out of gas. I got a flat tire. I didn’t have change for cab fare. I lost my tux at the cleaners. I locked my keys in the car. An old friend came in from out of town. Someone stole my car. There was an earthquake. A terrible flood! Locusts! IT WASN’T MY FAULT!…”

Sometimes, we look for excuses or scapegoats when things do not go our way. Since our charter conversion and name change two years ago, a few of our members would say after not getting the answer they wanted, “Service was better before 1st Nor Cal took over our Credit Union.”

As we explained in numerous communications to our members before, during, and after the conversion that we were not taken over by a larger credit union or some out of town corporate entity in which we know neither their names nor faces. If that were the case, the Board of Directors would have been replaced, and I certainly would no longer be here. Most of the staff would have been paid a small incentive to leave or laid off altogether.

Nevertheless, here we are, two years later. The Board is intact, and I am still the President and CEO. All of our staff stayed, save a few subsequent terminations, which is normal for any business. In fact, I am very proud of the fact that even in my 26th year at Contra Costa/1st Nor Cal, there are still eight staff members who have more seniority than I. That is highly unusual and almost unheard of for an organization of our size. The low turnover rate is a testament to the high quality and loyalty of our staff. It also means members are being serviced by the same people as before the name change.

We made it a point to keep everything as much the same as possible, but change, which few people like, is necessary. We changed our name to be attractive to our members’ neighbors and local companies they do business with in Solano and Alameda Counties. Later this year, we will be closing our Pittsburg branch, which we inherited after acquiring the Pittsburg Employees Federal Credit Union, because members complained the lobby was too small and our Antioch branch because the members complained the surrounding neighborhood has changed for the worse. In its place, we are constructing a larger branch at the Century Plaza Shopping Center right next to Target on the Pittsburg/Antioch border that will more than accommodate members visiting the two current offices.

There will be other changes as well. We are looking at an office in Brentwood that is slated to be our first “1st Nor Cal Express” that will have most of the same services as the other branches. These smaller outlets will allow us to build more physical presence in the three-county East Bay Area.

One thing that has not changed since the Credit Union was founded in 1949 is our superior member service. We do everything we can to give members the financial services they need but admit we do not make every member happy all of the time. However, we promise to try to find a suitable solution to enhance our members’ financial lives. We also promise no locusts.

David M. Green
(925) 335-3802

Tax Identity Theft

Tax identity theft is still on the rise. Last year, the IRS identified 14,000 fraudulent tax returns with $900 million claimed in fraudulent refunds, according to an audit report from the U.S. Treasury Inspector for Tax Administration. The IRS uses your Social Security Number (SSN) to make sure your filing is accurate and complete, and that you get any refund you are due. Identity theft can affect how your tax return is processed. An unexpected notice or letter from the IRS could alert you that someone else is using your SSN. The IRS does not start contact with a taxpayer by sending an email, text or social media message that asks for personal or financial information. If you get an email that claims to be from the IRS, do not reply or click on any links. Instead, forward it to .

If someone uses your SSN to file for a tax refund before you do, the IRS might think you already filed and got your refund. When you file your return later, IRS records will show the first filing and refund, and you will get a notice or letter from the IRS saying more than one return was filed for you.

  1. Get an Identity Protection PIN (IP PIN) from the IRS.
    An IP PIN is a six-digit number assigned to eligible taxpayers that helps prevent the misuse of your Social Security number on fraudulent federal income tax returns. You cannot use the IP PIN as your e-file signature PIN.
  2. Check your mail and credit union account statements every month.
    If you discover an account you did not open, balance discrepancy, or a purchase you did not make, contact the financial institution or creditor immediately to report the activity.
  3. Monitor your credit reports on a regular basis.
    The federal government has set up for all Americans to receive a free, no-obligation credit report from the three major credit bureaus every twelve months. Read the reports carefully to see if the information is correct. Contact the credit reporting company if there are any mistakes or signs of fraud.

If you think someone used your SSN for a tax refund or a job — or the IRS sends you a notice or letter indicating a problem — contact the IRS immediately. Specialists will work with you to get your tax return filed, get you any refund you are due, and protect your IRS account from identity thieves in the future.

Warning: Lottery Scam Using a CFPB Employee’s Name

Message from CFPB's Stacy Canan: Beward of lottery scams using my name.

I’m Stacy Canan, I lead the Office for Older Americans at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and I’m never going to call you to confirm that you have won a lottery or sweepstakes.

I just found out that my name is being used in an elaborate imposter scam. An imposter scam happens when a criminal tricks you by claiming to be someone you trust. In this case, the scammers are claiming to be me in order to take advantage of you—and steal your money.

This scam has four basic parts:

  • You receive a call notifying you that you’ve won a lottery or sweepstakes prize. Several other calls will follow.
  • One of these calls may come from an imposter claiming to be Stacy Canan, or another CFPB or U.S. government agency official who confirms that you’ve won the prize.
  • Later, you’re told that in order to collect the prize, you must pay the taxes upfront.
  • You send the money to pay the taxes and never hear from any of the callers again.

Signs of an imposter scam

Scams like the above can happen on the phone, through the mail, e-mail, or over the internet. They can occur in person, at home, or at a business. Here are some common signs:

  • You are told you won a sweepstakes or drawing that you did not enter.
  • You’re asked to pay upfront taxes or fees.
  • You’re being pressured to act now. Scammers don’t want you to take the time to do research or to think too carefully before parting with your money.
  • A person claiming to be a government official contacts you to confirm your winnings—the CFPB does not contact consumers about sweepstakes winnings.

Learn more about protecting yourself from financial scams or check the FTC’s website to stay up-to-date on the most recent types of fraud.

Suspect you are being scammed? Report it!

If you suspect a scam, there are a few important steps you should take right away:

  • Report imposter scams to your law enforcement’s non-emergency number. If you think someone’s safety may be at risk, call 911.
  • If you suspect that someone is a victim of elder abuse or financial exploitation, report it to Adult Protective Services (APS). Find your local APS at .
  • Report imposter scams and financial abuse to your state attorney general and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). Visit the National Association of Attorneys General website for the contact information of your state attorney general. Report scams to the FTC at .

While it’s true that I lead the CFPB’s Office for Older Americans, I do not have access to lists or records of sweepstakes winners, nor do my colleagues. I’m angry that a scammer is using my name and taking advantage of trusting people to con them out of money.

If someone calls you and claims to be a CFPB official confirming a sweepstakes prize for you, this is a scam. CFPB staff do not collect information about lottery or sweepstakes winnings, nor do we call people to confirm winnings. Help prevent this scam and others like it from spreading. Share the tips above with your friends, family, and community.

Originally posted on CFPB site here.

Tips for Teens – It’s Beginning to Look Like a Bunch of Holiwaste!

Cartoon dinosaur holding a gift.The holidays have come and gone. The songs have been sung, decorations put away, food long ago eaten. Now comes the age old question, where did I put the gift receipts? It’s understandable if you need a different size or if Pantone 448C really isn’t your color, and you’re not alone. According to CNN Money, 7% of Millennials do return their holiday gifts and another 15% to 30% of all online gifts will be returned, accounting for $32 billion dollars in refunds. My point being, you probably opened that box that had the *fill in the blank* inside and decided on returning it. The store will most likely take it back, but will think twice about putting it back on the shelf. That’s because it’s often less expensive for the retailer to dispose of a good than it is to sell it again. For example, let’s say you were planning on returning that $80 Pantone 448C sweater your sweet, dear, twice-removed relative gifted you. The retailer will give you back your $80 but since it doesn’t look exactly fresh off the press, they’ll either put it back on the shelf for 75% off, bringing the price down to $20 dollars, which would be a hypothetical loss of $10 dollars, or they could use the space they would have used for the sweater to sell something more eye appealing.

So in the end, where does the sweater end up? Sadly, it might end up in a landfill. Think this is bad? Online returns are slightly worse because of the carbon dioxide shipping the item both ways releases, contributing to climate change and air pollution. What can you do?
Well, many stores will gladly give you a refund for an online order at a brick-and-mortar location. Do you have an item from Amazon that needs returning? Stop by your local Kohl’s and they’ll gladly help you out through a partnership they signed last summer. This won’t solve the issue of the possibility of your returns ending in a landfill, but you’ll reduce your carbon footprint.

However, if your mind is set on preventing your gift from ending up in a landfill, why not donate it? A local thrift store will be more than happy to accept it. You could also re-gift the item to someone who might appreciate it more than you.

No matter what you decide to do with your gifts, don’t forget to thank the people who gifted them to you for thinking of you over the holidays!

Luis Dominguez
Student Social Media Intern
1st Nor Cal Credit Union

President’s Corner – New Tax Plan and Non-Profits

The year 2017 had no shortage of drama and debate in business, politics, or pop culture. My favorite moment last year happened at the very end of the year and was predictably sports-related. In the last game of the NFL regular season, Andy Dalton, the oft-maligned quarterback of the perennially woeful Cincinnati Bengals threw a touchdown pass to beat the Baltimore Ravens. Neither team made the playoffs, but the Bengals’ win sent the Buffalo Bills to the playoffs for the first time since 1999.

Usually, that does not elicit much of a response among fans or players. But in this case, Bills fans took their joy to another level. To show their appreciation, 15,000 Buffalonians flooded the Andy & Jordan Dalton Foundation with more than $350,000 in donations, many of which in $17 increments representing every year of the Bills’ postseason drought. The morning of the Bills playoff game against the Jacksonville Jaguars, the foundation received donations at a rate of 25 per minute. The money was supplemented by 1,440 chicken wings and nine gallons of wing sauce donated by Buffalo-based Duff’s Famous Wings and delivered to Autism Services at the Children’s Home of Cincinnati.

I bring this up because of the new federal tax plan beginning in 2018. The standard deduction has doubled which will effectively eliminate the charitable donation deduction on most of our tax returns. According to the IRS, only about 30% of taxpayers itemize their deductions. Some tax experts estimate that fewer than 10% will continue to itemize under the new law. Americans are by far the most generous people in the world, but the possibility exists that the tax rules going into effect will put a damper on charitable donations. In a high tax state such as California, the loss of the charitable contribution deduction will leave middle-income taxpayers less to donate.

As discretionary government services are being cut to the bone, the roles of nonprofits and foundations are filling holes in the social safety net. Charities have stepped up to provide emergency relief and long-term aid to victims of the California wildfires, the Gulf Coast and Puerto Rican floods and hurricanes, and the Las Vegas and Texas mass shootings. Routinely, these agencies work with immigrants, homeless people, abused women, hungry children, and disabled individuals.

I was on the board of directors of a social service nonprofit and experienced first-hand how difficult it is for those entities to maintain their funding or receive grants from other foundations. It will be more difficult to provide necessary services as the less successful nonprofits disappear because of lack of funding.

I have pledged to donate to charities at a greater rate than last year. I will not receive a tax deduction, but in return, I hope I can make my little corner of the world a little bit better place to live.

Many of the Bills fans’ donations to Andy Dalton’s foundation were most likely non-tax deductible. However, what is encouraging is that at that moment in time those fans/citizens/taxpayers did not care about how much taxes they may have to pay this year and in future years. They were changing lives, $17 at a time.

David M. Green
(925) 335-3802