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NEWS ALERT:  NOVEMBER 9, 2012 Expiration of the Temporary Unlimited Coverage for Noninterest-Bearing Transaction Accounts.  Beginning January 1, 2013, noninterest-bearing transaction accounts will no longer be insured separately from depositors’ other accounts at the same FDIC-insured depository institution.  Instead, noninterest-bearing transaction accounts will be added to any of a depositor’s other accounts in the applicable ownership category, and the aggregate balance insured up to at least the Standard Maximum Deposit Insurance Amount (SMDIA) of $250,000, per depositor, at each separately chartered FDIC-insured depository institution.

NEWS ALERT:  JULY 21, 2010  Basic FDIC Insurance Coverage Permanently Increased to $250,000 Per Depositor.  President Barack Obama signed the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, which, in part, permanently raises the current standard maximum deposit insurance amount to $250,000.  The standard maximum insurance amount of $100,000 had been temporarily raised to $250,000 until December 31, 2013.  The FDIC insurance coverage limit applies per depositor, per insured depository institution for each account ownership category. With this permanent increase of deposit insurance coverage to $250,000, depositors with CDs above $100,000 but below $250,000 will no longer have to worry about losing coverage on those CDs maturing beyond 2013. 

NEWS ALERT:  MAY 20, 2009 Deposits at FDIC-insured institutions are now insured up to at least $250,000 per depositor through December 31, 2013.  On January 1, 2014, the standard insurance amount will return to $100,000 per depositor for all account categories except for IRAs and other certain retirement accounts which will remain at $250,000 per depositor.  The extension announced on May 20, 2009, does not apply to the Transaction Account Guarantee Program.  The unlimited coverage under the Transaction Account Guarantee Program is only in effect for depositors at participating institutions through December 31, 2009. 

Basic FDIC Deposit Insurance Coverage Limits* 

  • Single Accounts (owned by one person)--$250,000 per owner**
  • Joint Accounts (two or more persons)--$250,000 per co-owner**
  • IRAs and certain other retirement accounts--$250,000 per owner
  • Trust Accounts--$250,000 per owner per beneficiary subject to specific limitations and requirements**

*These deposit insurance coverage limits refer to the total of all deposits that an accountholder (or accountholders) has at each FDIC-insured bank. The listing above shows only the most common ownership categories that apply to individual and family deposits, and assumes that all FDIC requirements are met.

**The legislation authorizing the increase in deposit insurance coverage limits makes the change effective October 3, 2008, through December 31, 2013.

If you have questions about FDIC coverage limits and requirements, please visit www.FDIC.gov, call toll-free 1-877-ASK-FDIC, or call BANK'34.

BANK'34 was chartered in 1934 and has a long, safe & sound history of serving our community! Member FDIC and proud member of the American Bankers Association. Get the facts. Ask us how we can help structure your money to be safe & sound.

Banks Make A Difference & Are For Everyone

These days, it seems that organizations of many types, from credit unions to savings clubs, are after your banking business. Even the company that sells you furniture or a refrigerator wants to advance you a loan!

While each of these organizations may offer services similar to a bank's, only a Full Service Bank offers all of them, plus the fundamental security of the U.S. banking system, second to none in the world. That translates into "real world" benefits for you.

Here Are The Facts:

  • Bank services are available to everyone.

They aren't restricted to a field of membership, store shoppers, or some other specialized group. Banks are in the community to serve the community, regardless of who you know or where you work.

  • Banks provide one-stop service.

You don't have to go one place for a home mortgage, another for a car loan, and a third place for competitive savings rates. Your Full Service Bank has all these other traditional bank services.

  • Banks invest in their communities.

Simply put, the business of banks is investing in people: through home mortgages, business loans, auto financing and a host of other transactions. That's why a bank's prosperity depends so much on the prosperity of the community it serves. And, through the Community Reinvestment Act, banks make loans available to those who otherwise might not have access to them. The Act's standards are strict, yet most banks go beyond the letter of the law to assure that the community's credit needs are met.

  • Banks offer unsurpassed security.

All depositors' accounts, in a federally insured bank, are fully guaranteed against loss by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and full faith and credit of the United States government. This safety net is paid for by banks and has meant that not one depositor has ever lost a penny of FDIC-insured deposits.

Banks Pay More Than Lip Service to Community Commitment

  • Banks help fuel the economy.
    They employ 1.49 million Americans, meaning jobs and economic growth in towns and cities across the country.
  • Banks pay their fair share.
    They pay $8-10 billion a year in Federal taxes plus another $12 billion in state and local taxes, which help fund needed community services.
  • Banks insure their own security.
    They pay premiums to the FDIC's Insurance Fund---$5.5-6.5 billion per year---to guarantee the safety of your insured deposits.

Accept No Substitutes

In many ways, banks are central to our lives and economy. Banks help families buy homes and send children to school. They help create jobs by supporting small businesses. And they help improve our quality of life by funding hospitals and other needed services.

So if someone says "all financial institutions are the same," don't believe it. Banks help make communities better places to live and work for everyone.

Feeling Secure About Your Savings

Your deposits in an FDIC-insured bank or savings institution couldn't be safer. These institutions are fundamentally sound, their insurance fund is well-capitalized, and a U.S. Government agency, the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC), administers the deposit insurance program. Banks and savings institutions maintain capital reserves and observe lending policies that aid in protecting those reserves. This is one reason why they continue to hold up well in periods of tight credit and financial turmoil.

Your Safety Net

Your money is only as safe as the insurance system that protects it. The fund protecting federally insured banks and savings institutions is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States Government. Congress created the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation in 1933 to restore public confidence in the nation's banking system. The FDIC insures deposits at the nation's 8,560 banks and savings associations and it promotes the safety and soundness of these institutions by identifying, monitoring and addressing risks to which they are exposed. The FDIC receives no federal tax dollars---insured financial institutions fund its operations. Consider these other facts about the Deposit Insurance Fund (DIF), which is administered by FDIC to protect federally insured banks and savings institutions:

The Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation (FDIC)is an independent agency of the United Santes government that protects against the loss of insured deposits if an FDIC-insured bank or savings association fails. FDIC deposit insurance is backed by the full faith and credit of the United States government. Since the FDIC was established, no depositor has ever lost a single penny of FDIC-insured funds.

FDIC insurance covers funds in deposit accounts, including checking and savings accounts, money market deposit accounts and certificates of deposit (CDs). FDIC insurance does not, however, cover other financial products and services that insured banks many offer, such as stocks, bonds, mutual fund shares, life insurance policies, annuities or municipal securities.

There is no need for depositors to apply for FDIC insurance or even to request it. Coverage is automatic.

To ensure funds are fully protected, depositors should understand their deposit insurance coverage limits. The FDIC provides separate insurance coverage for deposits held in different ownership categories such as single accounts, joint accounts, Individual Retirement Accounts (IRAs) and trust accounts.

The Deposit Insurance Fund is Exceptionally Strong
Capitalization of the fund is now over $50 billion in reserves. This is one good reason why not one penny of insured savings has ever been lost by a customer of a federally insured bank.

The Fund Balance is Reviewed Each Year to Ensure Continued Strength
The FDIC closely monitors the contribution levels of member institutions in order to evaluate the current viability of the fund. FDIC uses a risk-based assessment method, assuring that banks that might have a riskier profile pay more in annual premiums to help cover the risk.

Federally Insured Banks Are Fundamentally Sound
The great majority of federally insured banks and savings institutions meet or exceed capitalization adequacy goals, the leading indicator of safety and soundness for banks, and bank profitability remains strong.

For More Information From the FDIC
Start by going to the FDIC web site at www.fdic.gov to find publications. Or call toll-free 1-877-ASK-FDIC (1-877-275-3342) Monday through Friday, 8:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m., Eastern Time. For the hearing-impaired, the number is 1-800-925-4618.

 

 

Identity Theft, Financial Fraud & Scams

Identity theft,, financial fraud and scams are terms used to describe crimes in which someone wrongfully obtains and uses another person's personal data or financial information without their knowledge, typically for economic gain. Identity theft can cost you time and money. It can destroy your credit and ruin your good name. Believe it or not, there is no typical fraud victim. Scammers don't care about your age, race, income, or geographic location. They just want your money. Thousands of people are defrauded each year. Scam artists use the latest trends and sophisticated techniques.

Common ways identity theft happens:

Skilled identity thieves use a variety of methods to steal your personal information, including:

  • Dumpster Diving. They rummage through trash looking for bills or other paper with your personal information on it.
  • Skimming. They steal credit/debit card numbers by attaching a special storage device to the swiping mechanism, and/or keypad overlay, that will download your account information and possibly your PIN, so that your card can later be duplicated and used for purchases and/or withdrawals.
  • Phishing. Phishing is a scheme used by fraudsters - posting as a trusted financial institution, ATM/debit network, credit card company, online retailer or other service provider - to trick unsuspecting individuals into disclosing personal and/or financial information. Typically, you receive an unsolicited e-mail, phone text or phone call appearing to be from an organization you readily recognize asking you to verify personal and/or financial information. Many times these are organizations that may be in some way connected to your checking and/or savings account, such as your financial institution, utility company or an online payment company. To encourage immediate action, the request usually warns that an unauthorized transaction has taken place on your account, or that your service may be interrupted or shut down unless you confirm your information. If the phishing attack is in the form of an e-mail, it may use the name, logo and Web site attributes of the legitimate business. They could also send spam or pop-up messages to get you to reveal your personal information.  This is not in any way affiliated with any employee from BANK'34.  Do not release any of your personal information.  Remember, BANK'34 will never contact you by phone, by e-mail, nor by text messaging, and ask you for your personal information.
  • Smishing.  There is a new scam called "Smishing" that targets wireless devices/cell phones via text messaging in order to lure you into giving out personal information.  For example, if you a telephone call where the person identifies themselves as a BANK'34 employee and tells you that your card has been deactivated and you need to give them your card information, this is smishing.  Another example, if you receive an email request to participate in an account survey conducted by BANK'34 and asks you for your card information to process a $100 credit for participating, this is smishing.  This is not in any way affilited with any employee of BANK'34.  Do not release any of your personal information.  Remember, BANK'34 will never contact you by phone, by e-mail, nor by text messaging, and ask you for your personal information.   ï»¿  
  • Pharming. Pharming uses computer software, such as crimeware, malware or spyware, to collect personal information from your computer and deliver it back to fraudsters. In pharming, consumers who are attempting to log onto a legitimate Web site are unknowing redirected by the fraudulent software to an authentic-looking but bogus site. When the consumer enters his or her personal log-in information, the criminals capture this sensitive information and may use it for a variety of violations, including accessing your accounts and making online purchases. Since little or no participation on your part is necessary, and the redirect happens behind the scenes, pharming is extremely difficult to detect.
  • Money Mule Attacks.  Money-mule attacks are funds transfer fraud that most recently has involved exploiting the valid online banking credentials of small- and medium-sized businesses.  In a typical scenario, the targeted entity receives a "spear phishing" email which either contains an infected attachment, or directs the recipient to an infected website.  When recipients open the attachment or visit the website, malware is installed on their computer that harvests their business or corporate bank account log-in information.  The victims in this scheme are called "money mules" because they simply serve as a conduit between the business bank account and the hacker's bank account.  In most cases, the funds disappear into a foreign bank account too quickly for the cyber-theft trail to be detected.      
  • Changing Your Address. They divert your billing statements to another location by completing a "change of address" form.
  • ATM Tampering. Thieves tamper with ATM in various ways in order to steal your personal information and tap into your accounts. A perpetrator may attach a device that blocks the cash slot. When you do not receive your cash, you are likely to cancel the transaction and leave. However, the cash has already been dispensed, and the fraudster will then approach the machine and remove the device to get the money.
  • Big Prize Scam. A caller or letter states you won a big lottery prize but you must send money before you can collect. Scam artists pressure you for an answer, saying the offer will expire or go to the next person if you don't act now. Legitimate lottery and sweepstakes administrators never charge fees to deliver your prize. If you send money, you will NEVER get it back.
  • "Old-Fashioned" Stealing. They steal wallets and purses; information from your mailbox, including bank and credit card statements; pre-approved credit offers; and new checks or tax information. They steal personnel records from their employers, or bribe employees who have access.

Deter identity thieves by safeguarding your information.

  • Shred financial documents and paperwork with personal information before you discard them to foil "dumpster divers". This includes financial solicitations.
  • Protect your Social Security number. Don't carry your Social Security card in you wallet or write your Social Security number on a check. Give it out only if absolutely necessary or ask to use another identifier.
  • Don't give out personal information on the phone, through the mail, or over the Internet unless you know who you are dealing with.
  • Never click on links sent in unsolicited emails or reply directly in response to an email that asks for personal or financial information. These could be "phishing" scams. Instead, type in a web address you know. If you are concerned about your account contact the company or institution via a web site you know to be genuine. Remember your bank will never contact you "out of the blue" to ask for personal financial information. Use firewalls, anti-spyware, and anti-virus software to protect your home computer; keep them up-to-date.
  • Don't use an obvious password like your birth date, your mother's maiden name, or the last four digits of your Social Security number.
  • Keep your personal information in a secure place at home, especially if you have roommates, employ outside help, or are having work done in your house. Keep bank statements, credit card bills, tax returns and other financial records locked up where a thief is unlikely to find them.

Additional Steps for preventing identity theft:

  • The next time you order checks have only your initials (instead of first name) and last name on them. If someone takes your checkbook, they will not know if you sign your checks with just your initials or your first name, but your bank will know how you sign your checks.
  • When you are writing checks to pay your credit card accounts, DO NOT put the complete account number on the "For" or "Memo" line. Instead, just put only the last four numbers. The credit card company knows the rest of the number, and anyone who might be handling your check as it passes through all the check-processing channels will not have access to it.
  • If you have a PO Box, use that instead of your home address. Never have your Social Security number printed on your checks. You can add it if necessary. However, if you have it printed, anyone can get it.
  • Place the contents of your wallet on a photocopy machine. Do both sides of each license, credit card, etc. You will know what you had in your wallet and all of the account numbers and phone numbers to call and cancel. Keep the photocopy in a safe place. Do not forget to photocopy your passport.
  • Clean out your wallet and purse. Do not carry PIN numbers, checking account statements, Social Security card, or other confidential information with you.
  • Destroy unused credit, ATM and debit cards.
  • Remove mail promptly from your mailbox.
  • Match receipts to monthly billing statements.
  • Change your debit card PIN periodically. Although this is probably not a step you want to take frequently, it is a good idea to change PINs periodically rather than using the same PIN year after year.
  • Look closely at ATMs to detect any suspicious alterations before using them.
  • Never use your PIN as a password.
  • If you initiate an online transaction and are required to provide personal data, look for indicators that the Web site is secure, like the "https" in the URL or padlock icon. While these indicators do not ensure the security of the site or your personal data, sites without them should be avoided. You should also verify that the URL of the site you are visiting is displayed accurately in the address bar.
  • Do not store confidential financial information on your computer hard drive.

Detect suspicious activity by routinely monitoring your financial accounts and billing statements.

  • Be alert to signs that require immediate attention:
    • Bills that do not arrive as expected.
    • Unexpected credit cards or account statements
    • Denials of credit for no apparent reason
    • Calls or letters about purchases you did not make
  • Inspect/Monitor/Check:
    • Your credit report. Credit reports contain information about you, including what accounts you have and your bill paying history. Request a free credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or call (877) 322-8228.
    • Your financial statements. Review financial accounts and billing statements regularly, looking for charges you did not make.

Defend against identity theft as soon as you suspect it. Here is a checklist for victims.

  • File a police report. File a report with law enforcement officials to help you with creditors who may want proof of the crime. Keep a copy of the report.
  • Close accounts.Close any accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
    • Call the security or fraud departments of each company where an account was opened or changed without your okay. Follow up in writing, with copies of supporting documents.
    • Use the ID Theft Affidavit at ftc.gov/idtheft to support your written statement.
    • Ask for verification that the disputed account has been closed and the fraudulent debts discharged.
    • Keep copies of documents and records of your conversations about the theft.
    • Contact your bank to close accounts that have been tampered with or established fraudulently.
    • It can be difficult to get new credit while you are clearing up the confusion, therefore, you may want to keep a credit card open that has not been compromised.
  • Notify credit bureau fraud units.Place a "Fraud Alert" on your credit reports, and review the reports carefully. The alert tells creditors to follow certain procedures before they open new accounts in your name or make changes to your existing accounts. Request that credit bureaus identify accounts closed due to fraud as "closed at consumer's request". The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have toll-free numbers for placing an initial 90-day fraud alert. Placing a fraud alert entitles you to free copies of your credit reports. Look for inquiries from companies you haven't contacted, accounts you didn't open, and debts on your accounts that you can't explain.
    • Equifax: 1-800-525-6285
    • Experian: 1-888-EXPERIAN (397-3742)
    • TransUnion: 1-800-680-7289
  •  
    • Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. Your report helps law enforcement officials across the country in their investigations.
  •  
    • Online: ftc.gov/idtheft
    • By phone: 1-877-ID-THEFT (438-4338)
    • By mail: Identity Theft Clearinghouse, Federal Trade Commission, Washington, DC 20580.
  •  
    • Report check theft to check verification companies
    • Check post office for unauthorized change of address requests.
    • Follow-up telephone contacts with letters and keep copies of all correspondence.

Fake Check Scams - Special Fraud Alert!

Fake check scams can leave YOU owing money! If someone you don't know wants to pay you by check but wants you to wire some of the money back, beware! It's a scam that could cost you thousands of dollars.
How do fake check scams work? There are many variations of the scam. It usually starts with someone offering to:

  • Buy something you advertised for sale;
  • Pay you to work at home;
  • Give you an "advance" on a sweepstakes you've won; or
  • Give you the first installment on the millions you'll receive for agreeing to transfer money in a foreign country to your bank account for safekeeping.

The scammers often claim to be in other countries and say it's too difficult to pay you directly, so they'll have someone in the U.S. who owes them money send you a check or money order.

The amount of the check or money order may be more than you are owed, so you are instructed to deposit it and wire the rest to the scammer or to someone else. Or you are told to wire some of the money back to pay a fee to claim your "winnings." In some cases, the scammer promises to transfer money directly to your bank account. You provide your account information for an electronic fund transfer. Instead, the crook sends your bank a phony check or money order with instructions to deposit it in your account. When you check your balance, it looks like the funds have arrived. Whatever the set-up, the result is the same---after you've wired the money, you find out that the check or money order has bounced.

Q) Can my bank tell if the check or money order is good or not when I deposit it?
These fakes look so real that even bank tellers may be fooled. Some are counterfeit money orders, some are phony cashier's checks, and others look like they are from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has dummied up the checks without their knowledge.

Banks usually make the funds you deposit available quickly---most often within one to five business days. But just because you can withdraw the money doesn't mean the check is good, even if it looks like a cashier's check or money order from the post office. Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered.

Q) If the check or money order turns out to be fake, isn't that the bank's problem?
You are responsible for the checks and money orders you deposit. That's because you are in the best position to determine how risky the transaction is---you are the one dealing directly with the person who is arranging for the payment to be sent to you. When a check or money order bounces, you owe your bank the money you withdrew. The bank may be able to take it from your accounts or sue you to recover it. In some cases, law enforcement authorities could bring charges against the victims because it may look like they were involved in the scam and knew the check or money order was counterfeit.

Q) How do these scammers find their victims?
Fake check scammers scan newspapers and online advertisements for people listing items for sale, and check postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They place their own ads with phone numbers or email addresses for people to contact them. And they call or send emails, letters, or faxes to people randomly, knowing that some will take the bait.

Q) How can I protect myself from fake check scams?
There is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back---that's a clear sign that it's a scam. If a stranger wants to pay you for something, insist on a cashiers check for the exact amount, preferably from a local bank or one with a branch in your area.

If you think someone is trying to pull a fake check scam, don't deposit it---report it! Contact the National Consumers League's Fraud Center, www.fraud.org. For more information about fake check scams and how you can avoid them, go to www.fakechecks.org.

Your Credit Report - Protect It

Your individual credit report is one of the most important barometers of your overall financial health. This summary of your financial responsibility---prepared by credit bureaus (also called credit reporting agencies) ---tells lenders about your history of paying bills and is used by them to decide whether to loan you money and how much to charge.

The official website, annualcreditreport.com, is the ONLY authorized online source for you to get a free credit report under federal law. You can get a free credit from each of the three national credit reporting companies every 12 months. Some other sites claim to offer "free" credit reports, but may charge you for another product if you accept a "free" report.

A recent amendment to the federal Fair and Accurate Credit Transactions Act (FACT Act) requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies---Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion---to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. But there is only one online source authorized to do so: annualcreditreport.com. Beware of other sites that may look and sound similar.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the nation's consumer protection agency, advises consumers who order their free annual credit reports online to be sure to correctly spell annualcreditreport.com, or link to it from the FTC's website to avoid being misdirected to other websites that offer supposedly free reports, but only with the purchase of other products. While consumers may be offered additional products or services while on the authorized website, they are not required to make a purchase to receive their free annual credit reports.

Note: www.annualcreditreport.com will NEVER send you an email solicitation for your free annual credit report, or use pop up ads."

The FTC has received complaints from consumers who thought they were ordering their free credit reports online. Some consumers responded to TV ads, email offers, or simply searched online.

The FTC recently settled a lawsuit against Consumerinfo.com over the "free credit report" promotion it advertised on television, radio and the Internet. If you ordered a free credit report from Consumerinfo between November 1, 2000 and September 15, 2003, and were enrolled in its credit monitoring program, you may be eligible for a refund under the FTC's settlement.

File a complaint
The FTC wants to hear from you if you paid for what you thought was your free annual credit report. Go to www.ftc.gov and click "For Consumers" on the menu.

SPAM
The FTC also wants you to forward any unsolicited emails you've received offering you a free annual credit report. Send them to spam@uce.gov.

Ordering Your Free Annual Credit Report

The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free credit annual report. To order, go to annualcreditreport.com, call 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, PO Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are only providing reports through the contacts listed above.

You can also get a free credit report if:

  • A company takes adverse action against you, such as denying you credit.
  • Your report is inaccurate because of fraud.
  • You are unemployed and plan to look for a job within 60 days.
  • You are on welfare.

Note: An employer or prospective employer cannot get a copy of your report without your written consent.

What to look for, when to act

  • Timeliness---If it shows late payments, but you always pay your bills on time, correct the error immediately.
  • Accounts---Make sure all the accounts are yours. Identity thieves often open accounts in your name using stolen information, and they will often show up here.
  • Dormant Accounts---If you notice accounts you no longer use, it might be wise to close them. They could be affecting your credit score.
  • Credit Score---If the report does not include your credit score, be sure to ask for it.

If you find inaccuracies in the report:

  • Tell the credit reporting company---they must investigate right away, and must forward your data to the company that provided the inaccurate information.
  • Tell the creditor in writing that you dispute the item.

The importance of credit scores

A credit score is a number used to make a decision on a loan or other credit. Many lenders use a system developed by Fair Isaac and Company called the FICO score---a point system based on your credit history to predict creditworthiness. FICO scores analyze five types of data from your credit reports. They are payment history, amounts owed, length of credit history, types of credit used and new credit, in that order.

Late payments, a past bankruptcy, debt collections or a court judgment ordering you to pay money as a result of a lawsuit will negatively affect your credit score. Too much debt relative to your income is also a warning sign to creditors and will usually lower your score.

In general, the better your credit score, the better your chances of getting credit with an attractive interest rate. Since your credit score is highly dependent on your credit report, it is critical that your credit report is accurate.

Your score, along with an explanation of how the score was derived, is available from any of the three major credit bureaus. Each bureau may have different information about you, so your score may vary from one company to another.

Having good credit and using it wisely are more important than ever these days. Fortunately, it is also easier than ever to monitor your credit files and to correct errors that could have a negative impact on your credit rating.

Victims of Identity Theft Have Additional Rights

The FACT Act gives you specific rights when you believe that you are the victim of identity theft:

  • You can ask the nationwide credit agencies to place "fraud alerts" in your file.
  • You have the right to free copies of the information in your file.
  • You can request and obtain documents relating to fraudulent transactions made or accounts opened using your personal information.
  • You have the right to obtain information from a debt collector.
  • If you believe information in your files is the result of identity theft, you can request that the consumer reporting agency block that information from your file.
  • You may prevent businesses from reporting information about you to consumer reporting agencies if you believe the information is the result of identity theft.

Helpful Credit Report Links:

 

Money Management Skills

Managing Your Finances

The decisions you make now and about how you manage your finances and handle money and credit can affect your ability to borrow money in the future, as well as the cost of borrowing that money. They also can affect your ability to rent or buy a place to live, get auto or life insurance, or even get a job. The more you know about credit, the better prepared you will be to manage your finances and establish a solid financial foundation.

When you get credit, you are borrowing money from a lender, and you have to pay back that money---usually with interest. You can get credit in many different ways: through a credit card, a personal loan, an educational loan, an automobile loan, or a home mortgage. It's important to maintain a good credit record because it can affect how much you pay to borrow money. If you have a good record, it means that you are a good candidate for a loan---based on your history of paying bills, your job history, and your salary---and it will be easier for you to get loans at lower interest rates. That usually translates into lower monthly payments.

If you have a poor credit history, however, it can be a big problem. A poor credit history usually results from making payments late or borrowing too much money, and it can mean two things: 1) that you might have trouble getting a car loan, a credit card, a place to live and, sometimes, a job or 2) that you will pay a lot to get the loans you need.

Establishing Credit

Suppose you never financed a car, a computer, or some other major purchase. How do you begin to establish credit?

  • Consider applying for a secured credit card. It requires you to open and maintain a bank account or other account at a financial institution as security for your line of credit. Your credit line will be a percentage of your deposit, typically from 50 to 100 percent. Application and processing fees are common for secured credit cards. In addition, secured credit cards usually carry higher interest rates than traditional non-secured cards.
  • You might apply for a credit card issued by a local store; local businesses often are more willing that national chains to extend credit to someone with no credit history. Once you establish a pattern of paying these bills on time, major creditors might be more willing to extend credit to you.
  • Consider asking someone with an established credit history---perhaps a relative---to co-sign the account if you don't qualify for credit on your own. The co-signer promises to pay your debt promptly so you can build a credit history and apply for credit in the future on your own.

If your application for credit is turned down, the creditor must tell you why. It may be that you haven't been at your current address or job long enough. Or your income may not be high enough. Different credit card companies have different standards. But if several companies turn you down, it may indicate that you are not ready for the responsibilities that come with getting credit.

Using Credit Cards Responsibly

A credit card makes it easy to buy things now and pay for them later. If you're not careful, you can lose track of how much you've spent by the time the bill arrives. And if you don't pay your entire bill, you'll probably have to pay finance charges on the unpaid balance. If you continue to charge while you have an outstanding balance, your debt will grow. Before long, your minimum payment will cover only the interest. Not only could it take years to catch up, but you will have paid much more for the items than they originally cost. If you start having trouble repaying your debt, you could harm your credit record.

Debt Collection

If you've already established your credit history but are having trouble making your monthly payments---or if you're being contacted by debt collectors---you might feel overwhelmed. But there are things you can do to manage your debt.

  • Develop a Budget: Make a list of how much money you bring in and how much money you spend on a monthly basis. Start by listing your income from all sources. Then, list your "fixed" expenses---those that are the same each month---like mortgage payments or rent, car payments, and insurance premiums. Next, list the expenses that change---like entertainment, recreation, and clothing. Writing down all your expenses, even those that seem insignificant, can help you track your spending patterns, identify necessary expenses, and figure out priorities. The goal is to make sure you can make ends meet on the basics like housing, food, health care, insurance, and education.
  • Contact Your Creditors: Contact your creditors immediately if you're having trouble making your payments. Tell them why it's difficult for you, and try to work out a modified payment plan that reduces your payments to a level you can manage. Don't wait until your accounts have been turned over to a debt collector. At that point, your creditors have given up on you.
  • Dealing with Debt Collectors: The Fair Debt Collection Practices Act is the federal law that dictates how and when a debt collector may contact you. A debt collector may not call you before 8 a.m., after 9 p.m., or while you're at work if the collector knows that your employer doesn't approve of the calls. Collectors may not harass you, lie, or use unfair practices when they try to collect a debt. And they must stop contacting you if you ask them to in writing. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov and see "Fair Debt Collection."
  • Credit Counseling: If you're not disciplined enough to create a workable budget and stick to it, if you can't work out a repayment plan with your creditors, or if you can't keep track of mounting bills, consider contacting a credit counseling organization. Reputable credit counseling organizations can advise you on managing your money and debts, help you develop a budget, and offer free educational materials and workshops. They should send you free information about the services they provide without requiring you to provide any details about your situation. If a firm doesn't do that, consider it a warning sign and go elsewhere for help. For more information, visit www.ftc.gov and see "Fiscal Fitness: Choosing a Credit Counselor".
  • Consolidate Your Debt: You may be able to lower your debt payments by consolidating your debt through a second mortgage or a home equity line of credit.

Money Skills for Kids

In many families money is a taboo topic. But experts agree that the more you talk about money the better it is understood. Starting today---you can help your children and grandchildren learn financial lessons that will last a lifetime.

Look for teachable moments in your daily life that naturally bring up the topic of money. The important thing is to talk about money in an open and honest way. Here are some examples of teachable moments to help you get started.

When Depositing Your Paycheck, talk to your kids about:

  • Budgeting some of your paycheck to pay for things, like rent, food and clothing.
  • Saving a portion of your paycheck to build a nest egg for future expenses like college tuition and retirement.

When grocery shopping, talk to your kids about:

  • The difference between a need and a want---milk is a need, candy is a want.
  • Using coupons, buying in bulk and other ways that you save money on groceries.

When using your credit cards, talk to your kids about:

  • Paying for these purchases each month when the credit card statement comes in the mail.
  • How using a credit card is like taking out a small loan for each purchase.

When giving children an allowance, talk to your kids about:

  • Setting up a budget: How much to save, spend or share with others in need.
  • Setting a financial goal, such as buying a new bike, and figuring out how to achieve it.

When you pay bills each month, talk to your kids about:

  • How a check is taking money out of your account at the bank to pay the bill.
  • Keeping track of the checks you've written in the check register so that you don't spend more than you have in your account.

When using an ATM machine, talk to your kids about:

  • How the money is coming from your account at the bank.
  • Recording withdrawals in your check register so that you don't overdraw your account.

What if the questions are more personal than you're comfortable with? Your annual salary may be off limits, but you can talk about the things your paycheck pays for, like food, rent and clothing.

What if your child asks questions that you can't answer? Write them down and together research the answer on the internet, at the library or just ask your banker. We're here to help you care for your money---take advantage of our expertise.

Helpful Links

Government and other helpful links:

Community & other helpful links:

 

Look for this symbol of Federal insurance coverage at your bank.

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