Your Credit – It’s Important I

Why It’s Important

Good credit is necessary if you plan to use credit to make a major purchase, such as a car or a home, or want to be able to take advantage of the convenience credit can provide. The importance of good credit also extends beyond purchases, in that it may be used by potential employers and landlords as part of the selection process.  Experian (one of the three national credit reporting companies)

Most people understand that good credit is important but often they do not know how lenders determine their credit rating or how to protect their credit. This article is the first of two addressing these two important issues:

  1. How is your credit rating determined and how can you secure a good credit rating? (this article)

  2. How can you protect your credit and your identity from mistakes, fraudulent use and theft? (click here to view)

How is Your Credit Rating Determined?

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) offers a free 12 page document How Credit Scores Affect the Price of Credit and Insurance that explains the credit reporting and scoring process, and how you can maintain a good rating. That will give you a good understanding of credit reporting and the key factors that go into the process.

Here are some of the important points from the document:

Continue reading

It’s That Time of Year: Let’s Talk Flood Insurance

We all know the storms that clobbered the Northeast the last couple of years caused widespread damage, much of it by flooding.  But it doesn’t take a hurricane like Sandy to cause flood damage to homes and businesses. Here are a few facts from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP):

In the past 5 years, all 50 states have experienced floods or flash floods

Most homeowners insurance does not cover flood damage.

Just a few inches of water from a flood can cause tens of thousands of dollars in damage.

Hurricanes, winter storms and snowmelt are common (but often overlooked) causes of flooding.

Nearly 20% of flood insurance claims come from moderate-to-low risk areas.

So three thoughts jump out upon reading this:

  1. More people are at risk for flood damage than know they are!

  2. The cost from even minor flooding can staggering!

  3. For many, it’s likely that their homeowners insurance will not cover flood damage!

That just isn’t a good spot to be in. So, what should a homeowner do?

Get Flood Insurance
Flood insurance is available to homeowners, renters, condo owners/renters, and commercial owners/renters. Costs vary depending on how much insurance is purchased, what it covers and the property’s flood risk. Information about flood insurance is available on the internet. Continue to learn more.

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Protect Yourself – Practice Safe Internet Banking: Part II

This is the second of two posts on safe internet banking. To view Part I, click here.

As use of the Internet continues to expand, more banks, credit unions, and thrifts are using the Web to offer products and services or otherwise enhance communications with consumers. It’s very important, however, for consumers to check and confirm that any company they might do their banking with is legitimate and that their deposits are insured.

For good advice on how to protect yourself, visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at Practice Safe Internet Banking . It’s the FDIC that provides insurance for depositors at banks and thrifts.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) provides similar insurance for depositors at credit unions, such as Tri-Town Teachers FCU. Visit mycreditunion.gov for more information about credit unions.

In  Part I we covered this critical advice from the FDIC web site:

  • Confirm that an online bank is legitimate and that your deposits are insured

In today’s post we will cover other important points from that web site:

  • Keep your personal information private and secure

  • Understand your rights as a consumer

  • Learn where to go for more assistance from banking regulator

Safe Internet Banking – Protect Your Privacy

Consumers have a right to know how their personal information is used by their bank and whether it is shared with affiliates of the bank or other parties.

Banks are required to give you a copy of their privacy policy once you become their customer, regardless of whether you are conducting business online or offline. You may also see a copy of it posted at the bank’s Web site. By reviewing this policy you can learn what information the bank keeps about you, and what information, if any, it shares with other companies.

 

Continue reading

Protect Yourself – Practice Safe Internet Banking: Part I

The first of two posts on safe internet banking.

As use of the Internet continues to expand, more banks, credit unions, and thrifts are using the Web to offer products and services or otherwise enhance communications with consumers. It’s very important, however, for consumers to check and confirm that any company they might do their banking with is legitimate and that their deposits are insured.

For good advice on how to protect yourself, visit the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC) at Practice Safe Internet Banking . It’s the that FDIC provides insurance for depositors at banks and thrifts.

The National Credit Union Administration (NCUA) provides similar insurance for depositors at credit unions, such as Tri-Town Teachers FCU. Visit mycreditunion.gov for more information about credit unions.

In today’s post we will cover this critical advice from the FDIC web site:

  • Confirm that an online bank is legitimate and that your deposits are insured

In our next post we will cover other important points from that web site:

  • Keep your personal information private and secure

  • Understand your rights as a consumer

  • Learn where to go for more assistance from banking regulator

Tips for Safe Banking Over the Internet:

The Internet offers the potential for safe, convenient new ways to shop for financial services and conduct banking business, any day, any time. However, safe banking online involves making good choices – decisions that will help you avoid costly surprises or even scams.

Continue reading

Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

Identity theft continues to top the Federal Trade Commission’s national ranking of consumer complaints, and American consumers reported losing over $1.6 billion to fraud overall in 2013, according to the FTC’s annual report on consumer complaints released today.

“Americans of all ages are vulnerable to identity theft, and it remains the most common consumer complaint to the Commission,” said Jessica Rich, director, Bureau of Consumer Protection. “We urge consumers to visit FTC.gov/idtheft for tips to prevent and mitigate the damage from identity theft.”

The Commission received more than two million complaints overall, as reported in the agency’s Consumer Sentinel Network Data Book 2013, of which 290,056, or 14 percent, were identity theft related. Thirty percent of these incidents were tax- or wage-related, which continues to be the largest category within identity theft complaints.

(FTC Press Release – February 27, 2014)

Identity theft happens. It’s an unfortunate fact of modern life. And YES, it can happen to you!

But there are certain steps you can take to help keep your personal information from falling into the wrong hands.

Watch this short video from the Federal Trade Commission (1:20) for some sound tips on how to protect yourself. Simply click on the link. below.

It could be the smartest one minute twenty seconds you’ll spend today!

How to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft

How’s Your Credit?

It almost goes without saying, good credit is vital to enjoying many of the important things in life. Our homes, our children’s higher education, automobiles and many other purchases are quite often financed based on our credit.

So it is important to have and maintain good credit.  Of course, as part of that, you need to:

  • Buy only what you can afford
  • Borrow wisely
  • Pay bills on time

But there is something else you can, and should do… Continue reading

Don’t Be Hooked By a Phishing Scam

Evidently the business of sending phishing emails is profitable. How else can one explain the many pieces of email we receive that, one way or another, are trying to get us to do something that won’t be good for us. Since it’s unlikely this flood of subterfuge will stop, it’s prudent to on guard and recognize a phishing email before we make a mistake.

On a recent TechRepublic 10 Things blog post, Brien Posey presents ten good tips to protect yourself from falling for a phishing scam. To view this blog, and the other useful posts on 10 Things, go here. to see other posts by Brien Posey, go here.

“Every day countless phishing emails are sent to unsuspecting victims all over the world. While some of these messages are so outlandish that they are obvious frauds, others can be a bit more convincing. So how do you tell the difference between a phishing message and a legitimate message? Unfortunately, there is no one single technique that works in every situation, but there are a number of different things that you can look for. This article lists ten.

1. The message contains a mismatched URL

One of the first things that I recommend checking in a suspicious email message is the integrity of any embedded URLs. Often times the URL in a phishing message will appear to be perfectly valid. However, if you hover your mouse over top of the URL, you will see the actual hyperlinked address (at least that’s how it works in Outlook). If the hyperlinked address is different from the address that is displayed. then the message is probably fraudulent or malicious.

2. URLs contain a misleading domain name

Often times people that launch phishing scams depend on their victims not knowing how the DNS naming structure for domains works. It is the last part of a domain name that is the most telling. For example, the domain name info.brienposey.com would be a child domain of brienposey.com because brienposey.com appears at the end of the full domain name (on the right hand side). Conversely, brienposey.com.maliciousdomai.com would clearly not have originated from brienposey.com because the reference to brienposey.com is on the left side of the domain name, not the right.

I have seen this trick used countless times by phishing artists as a way of trying to convince victims that a message came from a company like Microsoft or Apple. The phishing artist simply creates a child domain bearing the name Microsoft, Apple, or whatever. The resulting domain name looks something like this: Microsoft.maliciousdomainname.com.

3. The message contains poor spelling and grammar

Whenever a large company sends out a message on behalf of the company as a whole, the message is usually reviewed for spelling, grammar, legality, and a number of other things. As such, if a message is filled with poor grammar or spelling mistakes it probably didn’t come from a major corporation’s legal department.

To give you a rather amusing example, I received an email message a few weeks ago that was supposedly from one of the large real estate companies. However, the body of the email merely said, “Me buy house fast”. Obviously, that email was not legit.

I’ll concede that this particular message was more of a spam than a phishing message, but the same basic principle applies to phishing emails as well.

4. The message asks for personal information

No matter how official an email message might look, it is always a bad sign if the message asks for personal information. Your bank doesn’t need you to send them your account number. They already know what it is. Similarly, a reputable company should never send an email asking for your password, credit card number, or the answer to a security question.

5. The offer seems too good to be true

There is an old saying that if something seems too good to be true, it probably is. That saying holds especially true for email messages. If you receive a message from someone unknown to you who is making big promises, then the message is probably a scam. After all, why would a Nigerian prince that you have never heard of contact you to help him smuggle money out of his country?

6. You didn’t initiate the action

Just yesterday I received an email message informing me that I had won the lottery!!!! The only problem is that I never bought a lottery ticket. If you get a message informing you that you have won a contest that you did not enter then you can bet that the message is a scam.

7. You are asked to send money to cover expenses

One telltale sign of a phishing E-mail is that you will eventually be asked for money. You might not get hit up for cash in the initial message, but sooner or later a phishing artist will likely ask for money to cover expenses, taxes, fees, or something like that. If that happens, then you can bet that it’s a scam.

8. The message makes unrealistic threats

Although most of the phishing scams seem to try to trick people into giving up cash or sensitive information by promising the victim instant riches, other phishing artists try to use intimidation to scare the victim into giving up information. If a message makes unrealistic threats then the message is probably a scam. Let me give you an example.

About ten years ago, I received a very official looking letter that was allegedly from US Bank. Everything in the letter seemed completely legit except for one thing. The letter said that my account had been compromised and that if I did not submit a form (which asked for my account number) along with two forms of picture ID then my account would be canceled and my assets seized.

I’m not a lawyer, but I’m pretty sure that it’s illegal for a bank to close your account and seize your assets simply because you didn’t respond to an email message.

The amusing part however, was that the only account that I had with US Bank was a car lease. There were no deposits to seize because I did not have a checking or savings account with the bank.

9. The message appears to be from a government agency

Phishing artists who want to use intimidation don’t always pose as a bank. Sometimes phishing artists will send messages claiming to have come from a law enforcement agency, the IRS, the FBI, or just about anything else that could scare the average law abiding citizen.

I can’t tell you how government agencies work outside of the United States. In America however, government agencies do not normally use email as the initial point of contact. That isn’t to say that law enforcement and other government agencies do not use email – they do. However, law enforcement agencies follow certain protocols. They do not engage in email-based extortion (at least that hasn’t been my experience).

10. Something just doesn’t look right

In Las Vegas casino security teams are taught to look for anything that JDLR (as they call it). The idea is that if something just doesn’t look right, then there is probably a good reason why. This same principle almost always applies to email messages. If you receive a message that seems suspicious then it is usually in your best interest to avoid acting on the message.”

To view this blog, and the other useful posts on 10 Things, go here. to see other posts by Brien Posey, go here.

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