Friday, September 25, 2015

How are YOU making a hacker's life easy?

The Internet is a powerful tool. Connect with family and friends, run a small business, save time running errands. But, take precautions. We'll be sharing some in this post. 

You could accidentally be making it super easy for a hacker to take your information. Who wants their money and/or identity stolen? Not us! You will be able to better protect yourself and your information.

Hackers are always on the lookout for information they can use to clean out your bank account. Let's work together to stop them. 

Here is how you might be making it easy for someone to hack you:

Using public networks
Enjoying a latte in your favorite coffee shop while doing your banking sounds nice. Sending personal financial information over an unsecured and shared wi-fi network isn't.  By using public networks, you are basically inviting a hacker to take your information.

Stick to your private home wi-fi or data. Even logging onto a social media site can give a hacker useful information - such as answers to your security questions. 

If you are using a private network, be sure you're using a secure browser. Before entering personal or financial information, look for the "https" at the beginning of the web address. The padlock icon in the corner of the browser also signals that the website is encrypted and safe. 
Tossing devices without removing info
Dumpster diving doesn't just apply to paper statements and discarded credit cards anymore. If you recycle/donate old cellphones or computers without removing personal and financial information, someone could easily take your information.

For computers, use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

Mobile devices vary. Check the owner's manual, service provider website, or device manufacturer's website for information. Follow the steps given, then, remove the SIM card from the device.
Forgetting to watch your accounts
If you don't watch your accounts for strange or unauthorized activity, a hacker might take small amounts from your account and you won't even notice. Purchases you didn't make or transfers you never authorized are a red flag. 

If you notice something out of place, contact your financial institution immediately. This lessens the damage caused and prevents further misuse of your information.
By following these tips, you are protecting yourself against hackers and identity theft. Be proactive!

Thursday, September 17, 2015

How to Create a Secure Future for Yourself and Your Family

A Jump$tart Coalition study found that most Americans don't know enough about finances to create a secure future for their family. Only 40 percent of adults keep a budget and track their spending. Nearly three-quarters of American families live paycheck to paycheck. More than 25 percent have no emergency savings fund. Knowing where you're at and how to improve can turn your situation around and take you out of the vicious cycle. 

Know Where You Stand Now 

The first step in getting a handle on your personal finances is to know your current situation. How can you make a plan to improve your situation if you don't know where you're at right now? So, make a budget that only tracks the money coming in and going out, along with where it goes. Don't try to change how you spend money for the first month or two -just watch how your finances currently work. Use that as your basis for building a better budget moving forward.

The Impact of Today's Choices 

Saving and investing work best if you start early. Because of compound interest and long-term market trends, you will make more money. Understand that concept and start saving for retirement or college now. Don't put it off for ten years to buy a new car. Each month, put money into investments instead of a more expensive cable package. This really will make a BIG difference down the road. If you want to change your situation, you'll need to sacrifice a little bit first. 

Apply What You Know

Most Americans understand basic financial topics; they just don't know how and when to apply that knowledge in the real world. 

The best way to apply what you've learned is to start with one action at a time and turn it into a habit. For example, "pay yourself first,". Meaning, save before you start spending rather than saving  the leftovers at the end of the month.  Talk to your bank about automatically moving funds from your checking to savings account. This will make saving much easier.

Where do you want to be in 10 years? 5 years? By learning to apply the concepts you already know, you'll set yourself up for less stress and greater success.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Improve Your Financial Situation as a Military Family

Service members and their families make many sacrifices to protect our nation. If you are in the military, were in the military, or have a family member who is in the military, THANK YOU! We appreciate everything you go through and risk for us. To make your life easier, the American Bankers Association has highlighted these seven financial tips.

Military members and their families will have stressful lives inherently. Financial stress shouldn’t be part of it. The following tips will move service members toward a strong financial future:

·          Contribute to a Thrift Savings Plan. Military members have access to the Federal Thrift Savings Program. It offers the lowest-cost retirement-savings plan available. Have automatic contributions withdrawn from your paycheck. 

·         Plan for deployment. Before deploying, have a conversation with your family about managing the household budget. Consider granting power of attorney to your spouse. What if they need to make an urgent financial decisions while you are gone? Check with your bank to see if they have pre-printed forms you can use for bank accounts. Military personnel also receive additional funds while deployed. Decide on the best use for that extra cash. Paying off debt or more Thrift Savings Plan contributions?

·         Meet with your banker before active duty.  The Service member Civil Relief Act offers all military personnel entering active duty a variety of financial protections. The SCRA covers issues ranging from interest rate reductions to limits on debt accrual. Ask your banker about the key provisions of this law and how they can help you.  

·         Consider housing options. With mortgage rates at notably low levels, home ownership can seem like a no-brainer. But, service members should consider their options. Frequent relocations and deployments can make owning a home challenging and expensive. Renting may be a smart option for short-term assignments. Decide what’s best for your family and your finances. 

·         Consult a financial adviser. Schedule a visit at a Personal Financial Management Program (PFMP) office, located in your military and family support centers. They offer free one-on-one counseling, as well as other financial education resources. 

·         Budget for a single-income household. Frequent moves are an inevitable part of military life. This can make it difficult for spouses to establish stable careers.   As a precaution, make plans to operate on a single-income household budget. That way, should your spouse’s employment status change; your family is prepared. 

·         Set up automatic bill pay. Whether you’re stationed state-side or overseas, automatic bill pay gives you and your family one less thing to worry about each month.  During deployments in regions where internet access is unreliable and mobile banking isn’t an option, it can be helpful.

Do you have anything to add? Let us know in the comments!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Smart Phone Safety

By 2017, the number of smartphone users in the U.S. is expected to surpass 200 million, maybe even higher.  

With all the different apps and information stored on your smartphone, the thought of it being stolen or compromised probably worries you. How do you make sure your phone stays secure? By understanding the risks and taking steps to reduce them. Below are some key actions you can take to help minimize the likelihood of a successful cyber attack.

Regularly update your device.

Mobile malware increased 75%  from 2013 to 2014, and this percent is expected to increase in 2015, particularly in mobile ransomware. Updated operating systems and security software are critical in protecting against emerging threats.

Enable encryption.

Enabling encryption on your smartphone is one of the best ways to safeguard information stored on the device, thwarting unauthorized access.

Use a passcode. 

In case your phone ever does fall into the wrong hands, don’t make it easy for someone to access all your important information! Use strong password protection on your device and include a timeout requiring authentication after  inactivity. Secure the smartphone with a unique password - not the default one it came with. Do not share your password with others.

Do not use public Wi-Fi.

Do not log into accounts and do not conduct any sensitive transactions, such as shopping or banking, while using public Wi-Fi. Disable the “automatically connect to Wi-Fi” setting on your device.

Install applications from trusted sources.

Last fall, Gartner issued a prediction that more than 75% of mobile applications will fail basic security tests through 2015. When downloading apps, be proactive and make sure that you read the privacy statement, review permissions, check the app reviews and look online to see if any security company has identified the app as malicious.

Install a phone locator/remote erase app.

Misplacing your device doesn’t have to be a catastrophe if it has a locator app. Many such apps allow you to log on to another computer and see on a map exactly where the device is. Remote erase apps allow you to remotely wipe data from your device, helping minimize unauthorized access to your information in case you cannot find your phone.  


Disable unwanted services when not in use. 

Bluetooth and Near Field Capabilities (NFC) can provide an easy way for an unauthorized user near by to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.



Carefully dispose of mobile devices.

With the constant changes in the smartphone market, many users frequently upgrade to new devices. Make sure you wipe the information from your smartphone before disposal. For information on how to do this, check the website of your mobile provider or the manufacturer. 

Using apps on your smartphone is a great way to save time and be more efficient throughout your day, just make sure you take a few steps to keep your phone secure and safe!