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As millennials face unprecedented financial burdens such as student debt, we would like to highlight seven money tips to help them plan for a financially sound future.
- Shop around. Be selective and choose a bank that’s best for your lifestyle. There are lots of banking options out there with different advantages – whether it’s the lowest fees, the widest range of services, the most convenient locations or the best loan rates.
- Get a head start. Banks play a major role in helping customers prepare for major life events such as buying a house and planning for retirement. Ask your banker how you can get a head start on your first major purchase by establishing credit or starting a retirement account.
- Don’t miss out on free money for your future. If your employer matches your 401(k) or other retirement contributions, contribute enough from day one to get the full match. It’s free money, and its value compounds over time.
- Save without thinking about it. Make saving a part of your lifestyle with automatic payroll deductions or automatic transfers from checking to savings. Arrange to have a specific amount transferred to your savings account every pay period.
- Tap into bank tech to make smarter decisions. By literally tapping into your bank’s mobile app, you can track your transactions and manage your finances. Some bank apps even highlight money-saving deals at nearby retailers. Be sure to download the latest app updates when they are available.
- Sign up for email or text alerts. Keeps tabs on your money by asking for an automatic alert when your balance falls below a certain level, or to confirm when certain types of transactions occur, such as online purchases or transactions of more than $20.
- Expect the unexpected – set up a rainy day fund. The last thing you want to be is stressed when life’s unexpected expenditures come knocking on your door. Set up a secondary checking or savings account for emergencies or link an existing account to your main account as an added layer of protection.
July 6, 2017 the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) issued an alert on scammers posing as FTC officials who contact individuals and claim they have won prizes from a charity contest. The scammers ask for money to cover taxes or insurance costs associated with the prize. While this is a new malicious campaign, scammers use these basic tactics time and time again with slightly different wording to take advantage of unsuspecting individuals. It may seem like a day doesn’t go by without scammers contacting you online or by phone seeking money and/or personal information. Since this is so commonplace, it is worth exploring how to identify these schemes, and how to go about reporting them in the event that scammers target you.
Identifying the scam
Two common financial schemes involve coercing individuals into paying money to prevent a negative outcome, such as a tax audit or police investigation, or asking the individual to pay a fee up front to claim a prize. A third type of scam seeks individuals’ personally identifiable information (PII), such as Social Security numbers and birthdates, to commit identity theft. Individuals providing information to scammers may suffer large financial losses, as well as negative impacts to their credit. It is important that you know how to spot these scams so you can easily ignore them.
It’s most likely a scam if you…
· have to pay money to claim a “prize” or “winnings”
· are asked for money to stop or prevent a police, FBI, or other federal investigation
· have to provide your bank account number and information
· are specifically asked to purchase any form of prepaid gift card to be used as payment
· are approached with no prior contact to give out your date of birth, social security number, password, username or other personal sensitive information online or over the phone
· are approached online or by phone in an unprovoked manner and asked for payment or personal information by someone claiming to be a government employee on official business
One final thing to be aware of is that scammers create convincing emails that may look like official communication from your bank, credit card issuer, or a retailer. These emails often include a link to a very convincing, yet fraudulent website that will ask you to log in with your username and password. If you provide your credentials, the criminal can then use them to gain access to your legitimate account. From there, they can steal your personal information or generate fraudulent transactions. If you ever receive an email asking you to click a link to log in and update your account or change your information, be safe and use your browser to directly type in the legitimate website address for that account in order to complete this request. By doing this, you will always be sure you are on the right website.
Scammers constantly target individuals by email, false advertisements, and phone calls to bring these types of scams to fruition. Being wary of any communication that meets any of the above criteria will go a long way in keeping your information and money safe!
Finally, it is very important that targets of online or phone scams report this to the proper authorities. Although it can be a bit embarrassing to have been hit by such a crime, reporting is the only way to direct investigators and regulators to pursue the criminals behind the scam or identity theft. Aside from reporting the scam to law enforcement, it is important to work with your bank, credit card issuer, or the business where your account was compromised to take the necessary steps in preventing further financial loss.
If you are the target of a financial scam, report it to the FTC at www.ftc.gov/complaint. If this scam was via email or over the Internet, also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov/complaint.
Targets of identity theft can also file a report at www.identitytheft.gov and receive a recovery plan detailing how to move forward based on the type of scam committed.
More than 70 percent of college graduates began their career owing more than $37,000 in student loans in 2016. Considering this debt load and other living expenses that lead young adults to delay major life events like getting married or buying a home, it’s critical for new college graduates to focus on their financial future as they receive their diploma. Here are six traps new college graduates should avoid to position themselves for financial success as they transition from the dorm room to the office.
- Not having a budget. Supporting yourself can be expensive, and you can quickly find yourself struggling financially if you don’t take time to create a budget and live within your means. Calculate the amount of money you’re taking home after taxes, then figure out how much money you can afford to spend each month while contributing to your savings. Be sure to factor in recurring expenses such as student loans, monthly rent, utilities, groceries, transportation expenses and car loans.
- Racking up debt. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs, and spend only what you can afford to pay back. Credit is a great tool, but only if you use it responsibly and live within your means.
- Not thinking about retirement. It may seem odd since you’re just beginning your career, but now is the best time to start planning for your retirement. Contribute to retirement accounts like a Roth IRA or your employer’s 401(k), especially if there is a company match. Invest enough to qualify for your company’s full match – it’s free money that adds up to a significant chunk of change over the years. Automatic retirement contributions quickly become part of your financial lifestyle without having to think about it.
- Thinking you’re invincible. Hardships can happen in a split second. Start an emergency fund and do your best to set aside the equivalent of three to six months worth of living expenses. Start saving immediately, no matter how small the amount. Make saving a part of your lifestyle with automatic payroll deductions or automatic transfers from checking to savings. Put your tax refund toward saving instead of an impulse buy.
- Putting off paying bills. Each missed payment can hurt your credit history for up to seven years and can affect your ability to get loans, the interest rates you pay and your ability to get a job or rent an apartment. Consider setting up automatic payments for regular expenses like student loans, car payments and phone bills. Regardless of whether you take advantage of automatic monthly payments, arranging to receive notifications about upcoming bills can be helpful. You can also contact creditors and lenders to request a different monthly due date from the one provided by default (e.g., switching from the 1st of the month to the 15th).
- Ignoring free help from your bank. Many banks offer personalized financial checkups to help you identify and meet your financial goals. You can also take advantage of their free digital banking tools that let you check balances, pay bills, deposit checks, monitor transaction history and track your budget.
5 Ways to Protect Your Small Business from Ransomware Attacks
Ransomware has become one of the fastest growing malware threats to small businesses in recent years. According to the FBI, in 2015, more than $1.6 million was lost due to ransomware attacks.
The popular malware is used by cybercriminals to freeze business networks and servers and individual laptops and computers, steal critical information and data, and demand that a “ransom” — anywhere between a couple of hundreds to thousands of dollars — be paid.
Below are some tips to help guard against ransomware attacks:
- Educate your employees. Employees can serve as a first line of defense to combat online threats and can actively help stop malware from infiltrating the organization’s system. A strong security program paired with employee education about the warning signs, safe practices, and responses aid tremendously in preventing these threats.
- Manage the use of privileged accounts. Restrict users’ ability to install and run software applications on network devices, in an effort to limit your networks exposure to malware.
- Employ a data backup and recovery plan for all critical information.E Backups are essential for lessening the impact of potential malware threats. Store the data in a separate device or offline in order to access it in the event of a ransomware attack.
- Make sure all business devices are up to date. Ensure antivirus and anti-malware solutions are set to automatically update and conduct regular scans so that your operating systems operate efficiently.
- Contact your local FBI field office immediately to report a ransomware event and request assistance. Visit https://www.fbi.gov/contact-us/field to locate the office nearest you.