Posts From March, 2013

Five Ways to Protect Yourself in Five Minutes 

March 08, 2013 Categories: protect yourself tips

A recent article by Matt Brownwell on www.dailyfinance.com highlighted Five Ways Consumers Can Protect Themselves in Five Minutes. The article was part of Consumer Protection Week, when a group of nonprofits and government agencies come together to highlight critical issues ranging from identity theft to dodgy debt collector practices.

According to the article, most consumer protection tips are reactive, but there are proactive steps you can take to protect yourself as a consumer.

Here are the five things you can do in five minutes to help protect yourself:

  1. Turn on Two-Step Verification on Your Email -- Email is in many ways your most important account. When you forget a password to one of your other accounts, the password reset link will be sent to your email. If someone takes over your email, they can reset all the passwords to your other accounts and take them over. Fortunately, email providers like Gmail now offer what's known as two-step verification. Enabling this feature means that if someone tries to access your email account from a different computer than you usually use, they'll need more than just your password—they'll also need a second one-time password that's sent to your mobile phone. The article recommends putting two-step verification in place for both your email and your financial accounts.
  2. Get on the Do-Not-Call List -- You can register up to three phone numbers in less than a minute at DoNotCall.gov or by calling 888-382-1222. These three numbers include your cell phone and do not have to be renewed unless you get a new phone number. If you get an unsolicited phone call offering to add your number to the registry for a fee, it is actually a scammer. The government doesn't allow private companies to register people for the list, and registration is FREE.
  3. Get a Free Credit Report -- According to the FTC, 42 million U.S. consumers have errors on their credit reports they don't know about. Those errors can lower your score, reduce your eligibility for loans and credit cards, and cost you a good chunk of change on a home loan. You can't get rid of those errors until you know about them. Everyone is eligible for a free credit report once a year, to access your FREE credit report visit AnnualCreditReport.com. The article recommends that checking your report once a year isn't enough as you will want to dispute errors or erroneous items as quickly as possible. "We think checking your credit report once a year, an oft-recommended interval, is insufficient for most people," says Erik Larson of NextAdvisor, a site that reviews credit cards, Internet providers and other consumer services. "An identity thief can wreak havoc on your credit in a matter of days, much less an entire year." Larson recommends signing up for a credit-monitoring service, many of which provide identity theft protection and monthly updates on your credit score. As an alternative to a monitoring service, you can space out the three free credit reports you receive (one from each bureau), ordering one free report every four months. Not quite as proactive as a monitoring service, but still free.
  4. Set Up Alerts on Your Credit Union/Bank Accounts -- If there's a fraudulent charge on your bank account or credit card, you have 60 days to spot it and report it. According to the article, consumers are recommended to set up alerts on their credit union or bank accounts and credit cards to notify them of unexpected charges. Setting up custom alerts allows you to use your knowledge of your own spending habits to provide an extra layer of protection. For instance, if you never put more than $200 on your debit card, you can get a text or email in the event of any debit card charge over that amount. If you're conscientious about keeping account balances over a certain amount, you can set up an alert to trigger any time your balance falls below that level.
  5. Set Up a Google Alert for Your Name -- Credit monitoring and bank alerts can help secure you against threats to your finances, but what about threats to your reputation? Rather than Googling yourself every day looking for any incorrect (or incriminating) information about you, just take 30 seconds to set up a Google alert. Then, any time your name pops up on a blog, news site or other search result, you can get an email. If you find information about yourself that you'd rather not have floating around the Web, Google provides a basic primer on how to get it removed.

To read the full article by Brownell, please click here.

4 Signs You Should Ditch Your Bank 

SavingsAccounts.com's Jennifer Goforth Gregory Outlines How to Tell Whether You Should Take Your Banking Business Elseware
March 01, 2013 Categories: bank alternatives

Not sure if you should move your money to another (maybe better) financial institution? MSN Money featured a story today from Jennifer Goforth Gregory of SavingsAccounts.com that helps you decide whether it's time to "ditch your bank".

"4 signs you should ditch your bank" asks "Have you had the suspicion lately that your longtime bank no longer suits your needs? Or have you recently opened an account at a new bank, only to feel like it's not a good fit?"

Gregory outlines the four things that might make switching your primary financial institution a good idea. They are:

  1. Your savings account interest rate is only average.
  2. Your checking account has a monthly maintenance fee.
  3. You rarely visit your local branch.
  4. The customer service has declined at your bank.

Each topic is discussed by Gregory, and while she makes no nods to credit unions, many credit unions offer higher savings rates, 100% free checking, plenty of online services and mobile banking, and are consistently rated as the top financial institutions for customer service.

The article also mentions SavingAccount.com's Bank Switch Kit as a tool to use when switching to a new financial institution. Often your new financial institution can provide valuable tools as well.

To read the article in it's entirety, click here.

 
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