MONEY Kids and Money

4 Important Lessons to Teach on Take Your Kids to Work Day

Girl on phone in medical lab office
Stanislas Merlin—Getty Images

On the fourth Thursday of April, working parents all across America take their children to work with them so they can see what Mom or Dad do for a living.

April 23, 2015 marks the 22nd year of ‘Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work’ Day.

Some companies have organized activities for their young visitors; others have little or no planning. Regardless of how things work at your office, you can use your workplace to teach kids about the value of money.

Of course, your lessons must be age-appropriate. It’s difficult, if not impossible, to teach your toddler about the stock market, and older children will be bored with simplistic discussions. With that in mind, here are a few ideas that can spur your thinking on appropriate lessons for your kids.

Salary – You can give younger children an analogy of worth and value by equating your work time to money and purchases. Give them a frame of reference by how much of your work time it takes to buy an ice cream cone or a bike.

Beware of two unintended consequences — make sure your children do not think that just because you work a certain amount of time they will get an ice cream cone or a bike, and make sure they understand that your salary is private. You do not want them relaying their newfound information to everybody they meet in the hallway or the elevator.

Profit – If you work in a manufacturing environment, you can show your children the products you make and talk about profit in general — how it takes money to make the products and how your company has to charge more to be able to pay employees and stay in business. Make the discussion age-appropriate and do not use actual company numbers unless you’ve cleared it with your manager (and even then, it’s not a good idea to be specific).

You can extend the profit discussion to retail jobs as well. It may be harder to illustrate in an office environment, but it’s not impossible to do so.

Sales – If you’re in a retail environment, you may be able to show your children how transactions take place. When ringing up a customer’s cash purchase, you can go over basic math skills with younger children by letting them “help” you make change and hand it out to the customer. You can engage your older children with discussions about credit cards and debit cards — how they work, what the difference is between the two, and pros and cons of each.

Taxes – If you can keep out your own biases (and we all have them), you can teach your kids about taxes. For example, in the retail environment, you can explain why the customer pays more than the price on the price tag because of taxes, where the tax money goes, and how it’s spent.

Take Our Daughters and Sons to Work Day isn’t for everybody. If your workplace is hostile to the idea, you don’t think you can pay sufficient attention to your child and still do your job, or you can’t keep them from disrupting the office, then don’t participate. A bad experience at the office is worse than no experience at the office.

However, you should spend extra time with your children later on and talk to them about what you do at work. You can use that time for teachable moments about money. They may not pay close attention or seem to appreciate the effort now, but as they grow up, you’re more likely to see the fruits of your efforts. Take the extra time to teach your kids about money, and they’ll reward you by staying out of trouble (and out of debt) with their good money-management habits.

MONEY credit cards

One Easy Way to Get 20% Off Your Uber Rides

Uber on mobile phone
Victor J. Blue—Bloomberg via Getty Images

A new promotion from CapitalOne and Uber could save certain cardholders big money.

CapitalOne cardholders, rejoice. Your Uber rides just got cheaper.

Starting April 21, the ridesharing giant is offering a 20% credit on all rides to CapitalOne customers who use a Quicksilver or QuicksilverOne credit card. Uber users simply need to add an eligible card to the app and select it as a payment option, and the credit will be applied on their statement automatically on every ride through April 30, 2016. Cardholders new to Uber can sign up anytime before June 30 with the code CAPITALONE and receive their first two rides (up to $30 each) free .

If you don’t already carry one of these cards and you use Uber often enough, it might make sense to apply.

Quicksilver, which was featured in the 2013 edition of MONEY’s Best Credit Cards, offers 1.5% cash back on anything you buy and a $100 bonus reward if you spend $500 in the first three months. There are more generous cash-back cards out there—the Chase Freedom card offers 5% cash back on certain categories of purchases and 1% back on everything else, and the Citi DoubleCash card gives 2% cash back on all items—but if you’re an avid Uber user, there are significant savings to be had with Quicksilver.

The same may not be true with QuickSilverOne. The card, which is targeted to buyers with “average” credit instead of the “excellent credit” the basic Quicksilver requires, offers no $100 bonus and charges an annual fee of $39. If you can’t qualify for the standard card and you’re using Uber often enough that the cash-back savings add up to a lot more than $40, then QuickSilverOne might still be for you. But Uber fans with good enough credit should stick with the Quicksilver.

 

MONEY identity theft

Why We Need to Kill the Social Security Number

Social Security card with no number
Getty Images

SSNs were never designed to be a secure key to all of our personal data.

While tax season is still producing eye twitches around the nation, it’s time to face the music about tax-related identity theft. Experts project the 2014 tax year will be a bad one. The Anthem breach alone exposed 80 million Social Security numbers, and then was quickly followed by the Premera breach that exposed yet another 11 million Americans’ SSNs. The question now: Why are we still using Social Security numbers to identify taxpayers?

From April 2011 through the fourth quarter of 2014, the IRS stopped 19 million suspicious tax returns and protected more than $63 billion in fraudulent refunds. Still, $5.8 billion in tax refunds were paid out to fraudsters. That is the equivalent of Chad’s national GDP, and it’s expected to get worse. How much worse? In 2012, the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration projected that fraudsters would net $26 billion into 2017.

While e-filing and a lackluster IRS fraud screening process are the openings that thieves exploited, and continue to exploit, the IRS has improved its thief-nabbing game. It now catches a lot more fraud before the fact. This is so much the case that many fraudsters migrated to state taxes this most recent filing season because they stood a better chance of slipping fraudulent returns through undetected. Intuit even had to temporarily shut down e-filing in several states earlier this year for this reason. While the above issues are both real and really difficult to solve, the IRS would have fewer tax fraud problems if it kicked its addiction to Social Security numbers and found a new way for taxpayers to identify themselves.

Naysayers will point to the need for better data practices. Tax-related fraud wouldn’t be a problem either if our data were more secure. Certainly this is true. But given the non-stop parade of mega-breaches, it also seems reasonable to say that ship has sailed. No one’s data is safe.

Identity thieves are so successful when it comes to stealing tax refunds (and all stripe of unclaimed cash and credit) because stolen Social Security numbers are so plentiful. Whether they are purchased on the dark web where the quarry of many a data breach is sold to all-comers or they are phished by clever email scams doesn’t really matter.

In a widely publicized 2009 study, researchers from Carnegie Mellon had an astonishingly high success rate in figuring out the first five digits for Social Security numbers, especially ones assigned after 1988, when they applied an algorithm to names from the Death Master File. (The Social Security Administration changed the way they assigned SSNs in 2011.) In smaller states where patterns were easier to discern the success rate was astonishing — 90% in Vermont. Why? Because SSNs were not designed to be secure identifiers.

That’s right: Social Security numbers were not intended for identification. They were made to track how much money people made to figure out benefit levels. That’s it. Before 1972, the cards issued by the Social Security Administration even said, “For Social Security purposes. Not for Identification.” The numbers only started being used for identification in the 1960s when the first big computers made that doable. They were first used to identify federal employees in 1961, and then a year later the IRS adopted the method. Banks and other institutions followed suit. And the rest is history.

In fact, according to a Javelin Research study last year, 80% of the top 25 banks and 96% of the top credit card issuers provide account access to a person if they give the correct Social Security number.

There are moves to fix related fraud problems elsewhere in the world, in particular India where, in 2010, there was an attempt to get all 1.2 billion of that nation’s citizens to use biometrics as a form of identification. The program was designed to reduce welfare fraud, and according to Marketwatch, 160 similar biometric ID programs have been instituted in other developing nations.

In 2011, President Obama initiated the National Strategy for Trusted Identities in Cyberspace, a program that partnered with private sector players to create an online user authentication system that would become an Internet ID that people could use to perform multiple tasks and aid interactions with the federal and state governments. There may be a solution there — but not yet.

The first Social Security card was designed in 1936 by Frederick Happel. He got $60 for it. It was good enough for what it had to do (and was clear that the card wasn’t a valid form of identification). That is no longer the case. That card is nowhere near good enough. Perhaps one solution is a new card design — one with chip-and-PIN technology. Just how something like that might work — i.e., where readers would be located, who would store the information & support authentication, etc. — would have to be a discussion for another day.

The point is, we need to do something.

This story is an Op/Ed contribution to Credit.com and does not necessarily represent the views of the company or its partners.

More from Credit.com

MONEY credit cards

3 Things Millennials Need to Know When Choosing a Credit Card

hand choosing credit cards from a fan of cards
David Malan—Getty Images

Here's what young adults should consider when they finally bite the bullet and sign up for a credit card.

Today’s young professionals have a complicated relationship with credit. A report last year found that more than three in five millennials did not own a credit card, while another survey, by Creditcards.com, found that 36% of 18-to-29 year olds have never had one.

Millennials, of course, had the distinct misfortune of entering the job market during the greatest recession in generations, which may have made the prospect of borrowing less appealing, says Creditcards.com senior industry analyst Matt Schulz. Unemployment can make the task of paying off your monthly bill rather onerous.

Nevertheless, those in Gen Y who eschew plastic endure real costs that can make borrowing later in life that much more difficult. “Credit scoring models look at the age of your credit history,” says Credit.com’s Gerri Detweiler. “Specifically they take into account the age of your oldest account, and the average age of all of your accounts.” The earlier you start, the better your score will be. And a higher credit score can save you thousands over the course of your life.

If you’re ready to take the plunge, here are three things to consider when you pick and use your plastic. (These are also good reminders for those who already carry a card.) Remember, credit cards are tools and can dramatically improve your bottom line when used correctly.

1. Make sure you reap the credit

One chief benefit of receiving a card is proving to the world that you can be responsible with credit. However, if your lender doesn’t actually report your pristine credit behavior to a credit bureau, you won’t get the benefit of a higher score. “Ensure that your card reports account activity to the three major credit bureaus—which it should if it’s issued by a major bank and is a Visa, Mastercard, or American Express card—so that this first card can help build a credit history,” says Ben Woolsey of CreditCardForum.com. You can confirm this with your lender before you sign up for the card.

2. Skip the annual fee

“Get a credit card with no annual fee, since the first card you will get will be the card you keep the rest of your life to maintain a long credit history,” says Nerdwallet.com’s Kevin Yuann. The point here is that you don’t want to be penalized for establishing credit. But when you finally get that more elite card, don’t get rid of the original. “As you start to qualify for better rewards, keep a phone bill or something recurring on automatic payment on this card to ensure it doesn’t get canceled,” Yuann advises.

3. Pay your bill

“Many millennials incorrectly focus on the potential interest rate when shopping for their first card,” says CreditSesame.com’s John Ulzheimer. “This underscores a larger problem, which is that they are thinking about the cost of carrying a balance before they’ve even used their first card.”

Instead Ulzheimer recommends you consider other factors, like potential credit limit. (Aim to spend roughly 10%-20% of your monthly limit in order to optimize your score, which is a bit easier with a higher limit.) “Using the card only to the extent that they can pay off the balance in full each month makes the interest rate irrelevant.”

Still, credit cards are useful in cases of emergency, and sometimes you may find yourself with a revolving balance. That shouldn’t stop you from contributing something to your debt, says LowCards.com’s Bill Hardekopf. “Even if you can’t pay off the entire balance, it is critical to make the payment on time every single month. If not, this will significantly damage your credit score. That is something that will haunt you on future loans,” such as for a car or house.

Need help figuring out which card is right for you? Check out MONEY’s credit card matchmaker tool.

Read next: MONEY’s Best Credit Cards

MONEY credit cards

Not Paying Your Bills on Time Just Became a More Costly Mistake

past due envelopes in mailbox
Alamy

Your credit score could now be affected by your bill payment history.

FICO, creator of some of the most widely used credit scores in the U.S., will reportedly announce a new scoring formula designed to help high-risk consumers access credit, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday. The model will incorporate consumers’ payment history on things like utility, cellphone and cable bills, in addition to how often a consumer changes addresses.

Some consumers may have already been affected by the new score, which has yet to be named. FICO says it has been working with 12 credit card issuers, which were not disclosed in the Wall Street Journal report, to test the new score in lending decisions since November. The score is expected to be offered on a national scale by the end of the year, which will give lenders the ability to reliably score an additional 15 million consumers, according to FICO.

This announcement raises many questions about how the score will be used and how it may affect consumers who already have credit scores. FICO did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Credit.com, but here’s what we know so far.

What We Know About the New FICO Score

The score will open up credit access to as many as 53 million consumers who do not have credit scores or credit reports. Such “unscoreable” people generally can’t get credit products and may have trouble securing housing, utilities or a cellphone, because companies outside of the credit industry use credit history to make business decisions. Those credit histories come from the three major credit reporting agencies: Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.

Payment history with cable, cellphone, electric and gas bills generally aren’t reported to credit bureaus and aren’t traditionally used in credit scoring models, but they are the basis for the new FICO score. The payment information comes from an Equifax database of telecommunications and utilities providers. The score will also factor in how often a consumer changes addresses, in addition to other data included in a LexisNexis database that has yet to be described. Frequent address changes suggest instability, according to the Wall Street Journal article.

What We Don’t Know

So far, 10 credit card issuers have used the score, but it’s unclear how many and what kind of creditors will adopt the new FICO score. It may be of interest to many lenders, because it presents the opportunity to grow business and, as a result, make more money.

Consumers have a legal right to access information about them collected by consumer reporting agencies and dispute inaccuracies, but it’s unknown how consumers will be able to do that with the new data. Traditional scores are based on credit reports you can get for free each year. (You can see get your credit scores for free on Credit.com to see how your reports affect your credit standing.)

Perhaps some of the biggest unanswered questions are how many cable, cellphone, electric and gas companies will report this information and whether or not it will impact people who already have scores through traditional models.

For years, experts in the credit scoring industry have talked about the value of adding things like rent payments and utility bills to credit scores as a way of giving more people access to credit, but FICO has mostly stuck to its traditional formulas (rent payments do not seem to be included in this new model). The changes reported by the Wall Street Journal represent a huge shift from FICO, but how much it will impact the credit marketplace remains to be seen.

More from Credit.com

MONEY credit cards

These “Elite” Credit Cards Are Most Likely to Get Hacked

credit card on top of computer keyboard
Getty Images

It turns out that the fanciest cards aren't the safest.

So-called elite credit cards—those pieces of plastic with words like Black, Centurion, and Infinite attached to them—turn out to be the most prone to hacking, according to a recent study by Forter. The fraud-prevention software company looked at hundreds of thousands of credit cards over the course of a year and found that elite cardholders were subject to more than twice as much fraud as consumers with a basic credit card. Fraudsters attacked other products, like gold and platinum cards, less often than elite cards as well.

“Fraudsters operate as a business,” says Forter chief executive Michael Reitblat. “They would like to buy as many expensive items as they can using the stolen cards, but they lack the financial information of the original card holder—mainly how high is the credit limit. A proven way for fraudsters to guess the available credit is by targeting elite cards. Their owners have more money and better credit scores and thus enable the fraudsters to buy more with a single stolen card.”

Keep that in mind the next time you’re overcome with schadenfreude at the sight of someone else’s American Express Centurion Card. Elite cards saw fraud rates of 1.7%, compared with 1.0% for gold, platinum, and loyalty club cards. Basic and corporate cards saw fraud only 0.8% and 0.7% of the time, respectively.

Forter also found that most fraud is committed in the middle of the night (2am – 6am).

Simple steps like tracking purchases made with the card online and contacting your issuer if you see something funny can help you prevent fraud from doing lasting damage to your credit score. You should also get a free credit check from annualcreditreport.com from each of the three credit reporting agencies once a year.

“Owners of elite cards are more likely to miss an unknown charge on their statement and not report it as stolen, which will allow the fraudster to be able to use the card for several transactions over a period of time,” says Reitblat.

Which card is right for you? Find out here.

MONEY credit cards

4 Credit Cards for the Forgetful

These are great cards for people who can't find the time or motivation to focus on monitoring their credit cards.

Do you have better things to worry about than your credit cards? Since most of us do, it’s easy to misplace a monthly statement, lose a card or even forget to make a payment. And when we forget, it would be nice to have a credit card issuer that is ready to forgive you and even help you make it better. Thankfully, there are several credit cards that offer terms to help cardholders who might make a mistake from time to time.

Keep in mind that a late payment can still affect your credit, as it will be listed on your credit report. (You can see how any late payments are affecting your credit scores for free on Credit.com.) However, there are other potential negative impacts that you can avoid if you choose a card that’s more forgiving.

Here are four credit cards for the forgetful.

1. PenFed Promise

This card consistently wins our Best Credit Card in America award for the Simplest Card because it has no fees whatsoever. This means that forgetful cardholders don’t have to worry about paying a late payment fee. And although most other cards will impose a penalty interest rate on those who make a late payment, this card will continue to offer cardholders the standard rate, regardless of their payment history. To receive this card, applicants must be a member of the Pentagon Federal Credit Union, which is open to members of a wide variety of military, government and defense industry workers, as well as members of their family or household. In addition, membership is open to those who belong to a military support group, which anyone can join for a one-time fee of $15. And since there are no fees for this card, that means that there is no annual fee, too.

2. Citi Simplicity

Like the PenFed Promise, the Citi Simplicity features no late fees or penalty interest rate. This card also boasts 18 months of interest-free financing on both new purchases and balance transfers (with a 3% balance transfer fee). Other benefits for the forgetful include automatic account alerts to remind cardholders of their balance levels, payments due or when they go over their credit limit. Account alerts can be received by email or text messages directly on their mobile phone. Cardholders can also choose their own payment due date, so they can pick the time of the month that works for them and is easiest to remember. There is no annual fee for this card.

3. Discover it Miles

The new Discover it Miles card offers several features for forgetful people. Discover will automatically waive a cardholder’s first late payment fee, and there is never any penalty interest rate. And while the standard Discover it card requires cardholders to go online and activate their bonus reward categories each quarter, the Discover it Miles card offers 1.5 miles per dollar spent on all purchases, all the time, with nothing to remember. Additionally, new cardholders receive double the miles they earned during their first year as a cardholder, automatically, so long as their account is open and in good standing.

Discover also offers email and text reminders as well as a mobile app that cardholders can use to notify them of important events such as their statement being available and their payment being due. Finally, Discover also has a great reputation for fast replacement of lost, stolen or damaged credit cards. There is no annual fee for this card.

4. Capital One Quicksilver

Capital One has a streamlined rewards system, which means that cardholders don’t have to remember all sorts of confusing terms and conditions to use the rewards that they have earned. With the Quicksilver card, customers earn 1.5 cents per dollar spent, with no bonus categories to register for or worry about. And as a Visa Signature card, customers have access to 24/7 emergency card replacement and cash disbursement, in case their card is lost, stolen or just forgotten. There is no annual fee for this card.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY credit cards

How Does Amazon’s New 5% Cash Back Card Measure Up?

Amazon Prime
Alamy

Amazon has a new store credit card that offers Amazon Prime members 5% back on qualifying purchases. But how does it compare to the competition?

Amazon and Synchrony Bank released a new credit card offer for Amazon Prime customers last week, offering 5% cash back on qualifying purchases and even promotional financing for orders over $149.

The store credit card is a credit product you may be familiar with at bricks-and-mortar retailers. Often, these cards offer a discount at sign-up, and promises of exclusive discounts or or coupons in the future. With the 5% cash-back offer on all purchases, is the new Prime card a good fit for frequent Amazon shoppers?

How This Card Works

Subscribers to Amazon’s Prime service are eligible to receive 5% cash back on qualifying Amazon.com purchases as a statement credit. Or, they can receive a variety of promotional finance offers. For example, cardholders will pay no interest on charges of $149 or more if the balance is paid in full within six months of purchase. Otherwise, the standard interest rate of 25.99% will apply. In addition, new applicants will receive an Amazon.com gift card loaded into their account instantly upon approval.

This card is offered by Synchrony Bank, and is not affiliated with any payment network, so it is only valid for purchases from Amazon. Applicants must be members of Amazon Prime, which costs $99 per year and includes free two-day shipping and access to their streaming video and music services. There is no annual fee for this card, but cardholders must be current Amazon Prime subscribers to receive the 5% discount or the promotional financing offers.

There are other store cards and credit cards that also allow you to save money on Amazon purchases. Here are a few offers so you can weigh your options.

Amazon.com Rewards Visa Card From Chase

Chase offers this card that earns 3% back for purchases from Amazon.com, 2% back at gas stations, restaurants and drugstores, and 1% back on all other purchases, and is accepted anywhere Visa is. New cardholders also receive a $30 Amazon.com gift card applied to their account at the time of approval. There is no annual fee for this card.

Sallie Mae MasterCard From Barclaycard

This card offers 5% cash back on the first $250 cardholders spend each month on gas and grocery purchases, and the first $750 spent each month on eligible book purchases. Interestingly, Amazon.com is coded as a book store, a legacy of their early origins as just a book retailer. Cardholders earn 1% cash back on all other purchases, and there is no annual fee for this card.

SimplyCash Business Card From American Express

Another strategy for getting discounts from Amazon purchases is to use Amazon gift cards, which can be purchased at some office supply stores. The SimplyCash Business Card from American Express offers 5% cash back for purchases at U.S. office supply stores and on wireless telephone services. It also features 3% cash back on a category of your choice including airlines, hotels, car rentals, gas stations, restaurants, advertising and shipping, and on all other purchases. There is no annual fee for this card.

Blue Cash Preferred Card From American Express

This card offers 6% cash back on up to $6,000 spent each year at U.S. supermarkets, which often sell gift cards for Amazon. In addition, this card offers 3% cash back for purchases from select U.S. department stores, and 1% cash back on all other purchases. There is a $75 annual fee for this card.

Before you apply for any credit card, it can be helpful to check your credit standing so you can target your search to credit cards that fall within your credit range. You can get two of your credit scores for free on Credit.com, and they’re updated every 30 days.

Note: It’s important to remember that interest rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products frequently change. As a result, rates, fees and terms for credit cards, loans and other financial products cited in these articles may have changed since the date of publication. Please be sure to verify current rates, fees and terms with credit card issuers, banks or other financial institutions directly.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY Credit

Woman Is Sent 300 Credit Reports By Accident

overstuffed mailbox
Christie & Cole Studio Inc.—iStock

A woman reportedly requested her free credit report and got 300 strangers' reports instead.

A woman in Maine came home to a funny sight earlier in March when her mailbox was stuffed with more than 300 envelopes, each containing a credit report.

Here’s what’s not so funny: None of them belonged to her.

Katie Manning contacted a local news station (WGME 13 TV in Portland, Maine) after she realized she had all of these strangers’ sensitive information, and the station put her in touch with the state Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection.

Manning had requested her credit report from Equifax earlier in the month, she told WGME, but she received others’ reports instead of hers.

“I’m not supposed to have this information, this is unbelievable, someone has messed up,” Manning told WGME.

Equifax did not immediately respond to requests for comment from Credit.com, though Equifax’s Vice President of Corporate Communications Tim Klein told WGME, “This is a high priority. Obviously this is a serious situation. I’m going to get our security and forensics teams involved.”

William Lund, superintendent for the Maine Bureau of Consumer Credit Protection, told Credit.com the bureau is sending the credit reports to Equifax attorneys so the agency can complete its investigation. Lund said his primary concern is that those affected by the breach — mostly consumers along the East Coast — are notified.

“I’ve been in touch both with in-state attorneys here and out-of-state firms for the company, and they are working hard to figure out what happened and to prevent it from happening again,” Lund said. “They have told me that they have identified the issue and that there is no evidence of an ongoing issue with this particular situation.”

Credit reports contain all the personal information someone would need to steal your identity and commit credit fraud — they include Social Security numbers, names, birth dates, addresses and employers, among various credit data.

Regularly reviewing your credit reports is one of the best ways to find out if you’ve been a victim of fraud (looking at your credit scores is another), which makes this situation a bit ironic, considering how this error could have resulted in a lot of fraud.

Despite the seriousness of what happened, it’s still important to request your free annual credit reports as part of your regular financial practices. In between those checkups, you can use your credit scores as fraud indicators, looking at the same scores periodically to see if there has been a sudden change, which may be a sign of fraud. You can see two of your credit scores for free every 30 days on Credit.com.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

MONEY cash

You Could Get $1 Million for Busting Software Pirates

CDs labeled in Sharpie marker
Jan Miks—Alamy

If you happen to know a software thief, you could earn some serious money for turning them in.

When you were a kid, you may have heard that nobody likes a tattletale. That isn’t true. BSA The Software Alliance loves tattletales.

If you report software piracy to BSA and your information directly results in a legal settlement between the alliance and the offending party, you can get a significant cut of that settlement. BSA advocates for the software industry, and some of its members include tech giants like Adobe, Apple and Microsoft. It encourages people to report companies using unlicensed versions of software, incentivizing these reports with the possibility of getting thousands of dollars in return.

No Piracy, the BSA initiative to compel reports of unlicensed software use, markets the program as a way for people to get extra cash and even pay off debt. A No Piracy post to Facebook on March 3 reads, “Looking to pay off your credit card debt? If you know a company using unlicensed business software, file a report today to be eligible for a cash reward.” In fact, most of the No Piracy Facebook posts from the past few months appeal to consumers’ need for “extra cash,” whether it be for holiday gifts, a vacation or spending money.

BSA receives about 2,500 reports in the U.S. each year, said Roger Correa, BSA’s director of program coordination for the Americas. Only about 40% of informants request a reward. Last year, BSA awarded about $250,000 total, the smallest award being about $500 and the largest about $22,000.

A report has to meet certain terms and conditions in order to be eligible for a reward. BSA defines piracy as when a company or organization “installs unlicensed software on computers that it owns or leases for its employees to use in their work.”

Because payment is contingent on BSA reaching a settlement with the company, it may take several months to receive a reward, and there’s no guarantee you’ll get anything:

“The decision to pay a reward based on your report and the amount of that award shall be within BSA’s sole discretion. A reward may be payable only if BSA pursues an investigation and, as a direct result of the information provided by you, receives a monetary settlement from the reported organization,” the No Piracy terms and conditions read. Correa said BSA needs to get at least $10,000 in settlement revenue to be able to give a reward, and it takes an average of 6 months from report to payout in the U.S.

“It’s not fast cash,” he said. “These are very thorough investigations.”

While reporting piracy may not be your ticket out of debt, it’s a strategy you can consider if you happen to know about a company using unlicensed software. The online report form says all complainant information is kept confidential.

Should your anti-piracy fight not result in a windfall (the commission is determined on a sliding scale up to $1 million, depending on the settlement amount), you’ll have to figure out how to face your debt somehow. There are many strategies, but the most important thing is to start tackling the debt as soon as possible, avoid adding to it and keep it from growing.

The lifetime cost of debt is staggering, especially if you have bad credit. You can see where your credit scores stand for free on Credit.com.

More from Credit.com

This article originally appeared on Credit.com.

Your browser is out of date. Please update your browser at http://update.microsoft.com