Financial Well-Being

Financial Well-Being Tips

Tip #1: Define and prioritize realistic financial goals.

You may have a short-term savings goal for a vacation or a long-term savings goal for a child's college fund or retirement; maybe the goal is freedom from debt within a specified timeframe; or any of thousands of other financial objectives that are specific to you and your family. If they are realistically defined and prioritized, they are WAY more likely to be achieved!

Tip #2: Plan a budget to help meet your goals.

Analyze your spending to make sure that you are living within your means, and identify ways to spend wisely.

Tip #3: Hold yourself accountable.

Monitor your progress and continue to focus on attaining your overall goals.
Creating and sticking to a budget doesn't have to be painful. Give yourself a few months to fine tune your budget and track your actual spending. While you are keeping yourself focused on your financial "big picture," the regular monitoring of your finances will quickly become a valuable routine.

Tip #4: Borrow sensibly.

Remember, any money you borrow now must be repaid later. Make sure you understand what the terms of your loans are. Protect your identity and monitor your credit: ensure that your personal information is safe from identity theft. Always check your credit report annually to be sure that your information is correct and has not been compromised. You can order a free copy of your credit report once a year from each of the three national credit bureaus at www.annualcreditreport.com

Financial Phrases you should know to protect your identity:

Phishing:

Most likely you’ve seen them: email messages asking you to verify personal information over the Internet. The scam, popularly called ‘phishing,’ involves the use of replicas of existing Web pages to try to deceive you into entering personal, financial or password data.  Often suspects use urgency or scare tactics, such as threats to close accounts. We here at Asheville Savings Bank will never ask you via email to verify account information.  We will never use email to threaten account closure.  Please know this, as one defense against phishing.  Other safeguards to help protect you from phishing scams:

  • Be suspicious of any email messages that claims to be from us that use an urgent or scare-tactic tone.
  • Do not respond to email messages asking you to verify personal information.
  • Delete suspicious email messages without opening them.  If you do open a suspicious email message, do not open any attachments or click any links.
  • Install and regularly update virus protection software.
  • Keep your computer operating system and Web browser current.

If you see a suspicious-looking email message claiming to be from Asheville Savings Bank, please let us know.  We continually monitor such reports and act on them promptly. 

Consumers are advised to be on alert for a new identity theft exploit known as the “Jury Duty Scam”.  In this scam, the fraudster telephones their victim posing as a local court official who claims the victim has failed to report for jury duty, and as a result, a warrant has been issued for their arrest.  The victim will rightly claim they never received any jury duty notifications.  To “clear things up,” the fraudster then asks for confidential information (i.e., social security number, birth date) for “verification” purposes or payment information (i.e. credit card number, bank account details) for alleged fines.

This is a scam! Consumers are urged not to give any personal information over the phone! These fraudsters are attempting to commit identity theft by appealing to the victim’s sense of social conscience and fear of prosecution.

Fraudsters are very skilled in devising creative ways to gain the trust of their victims. One of the most common tactics fraudsters use to commit identity theft is called “phishing,” and is the use of social engineering or manipulation techniques to trick victims into divulging sensitive information. While phishing usually refers to e-mail scams, similar fraud schemes can take place over the telephone – this is referred to as “phishing” or voice-phishing. Although not a new concept, this scam is a classic example of a phishing scheme with a new twist, exploiting civic-minded individuals.

Fake Checks: Don’t Get Fooled

Fake check scams are on the rise. The best defense against this con is to be wary. Remember the old saying  about something being too good to be true?

While there are many variations of fake check scams, they all usually start 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 may be more than you’re owed, so you’re instructed to deposit it and wire the rest to the scammer. Or you’re told to wire some of the money back to pay a fee to claim your "winnings." Whatever the set-up, the result is the same – after you’ve wired the money, you find out that the check has bounced.

Know that fake checks can look very authentic. Some are phony cashier’s checks, others look like they’re from legitimate business accounts. The companies whose names appear may be real, but someone has dummied up the checks without their knowledge.

Under federal law, banks must make funds that consumers deposit available quickly – usually within one to five days. But just because the unwary consumer can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is good, even if it’s a cashier’s check. Forgeries can take weeks to be discovered.

Consumers are responsible for the checks they deposit. That’s because they are in the best position to determine the risk of a transaction.

The fake check scammers find their victims by scanning newspaper and online advertisements for people listing items for sale, and checking postings on online job sites from people seeking employment. They may also place their own ads with phone numbers or e-mail addresses for people to contact them. And they call or send e-mails or faxes to people randomly, knowing that some will take the bait.

How can you protect yourself 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 send you a check, 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, report it. Consumers can visit the National Consumers League’s National Fraud Information Center or call them at 1-800-876-7060. There are also more detailed tips about fake check scams in the telemarketing and Internet fraud sections of the NCL Web site.

Skimming:

Skimming devices are placed either at an ATM or cash register, and are used to “skim” your card data during a legitimate transaction.

At ATMs the devices are planted on legitimate ATMs. Some devices will allow the customer’s transaction to occur, while others interfere with the ATM operations, and simply notify the customer that the transaction had a malfunction. With both types of skimmers, the card transaction is captured to a laptop or hard drive. The thief can then use your card information to make fraudulent purchases or withdrawals. Keep a sharp eye on the ATM you are using…look for loose faceplates and readers, or a mismatched look on the ATM itself. When at all possible, use well-known institution owned ATMs, which are more likely to be regularly inspected.

Another skimming device is used at cash registers, when you make a purchase. Be aware if the clerk takes your card out of your sight when there is no need. Experts say organized crime rings are now planting skimming devices and enlisting the help of the cashier, who usually makes a small fee. Obviously certain types of businesses, such as restaurants, cannot always conduct your transaction within your sight. Just be as alert as possible, and watch your account activity closely.

Protecting Your Identity

Tips to Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft

Follow these guidelines of managing your personal information to minimize your risk of identity theft.

Review Your Information

It is good practice to order a copy of your credit report from the three credit reporting agencies every year and make sure all the information is correct.  Look for indications of fraud, such as unauthorized applications, unfamiliar credit accounts, credit inquiries and defaults and delinquencies that you did not cause.

Manage Your Mailbox

  • Remove mail promptly after it has been delivered.  If you will be traveling, have the post office hold your mail.  Deposit checks or bills in a collection box instead of your mailbox.
  • Know your billing cycles, and watch for any missing mail.  Follow up with creditors if bills or new cards do not arrive on time.  - Carefully review your monthly accounts, credit card statements and utility bills for unauthorized charges as soon as you receive them.  If you suspect unauthorized use, contact the provider immediately.
  • To 'opt out' of receiving offers of pre-approved financing or credit, call (888) 5 OPT OUT sponsored by the three credit bureaus.
  • The Direct Marketing Association offers services to help reduce the number of mail and telephone solicitations.  To join their mail preference service, mail your name, home address, and signature to: Mail Preference Service, Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008, Famingdale, NY 11735-9008.

Check Your Purse or Wallet

  • Never leave your purse or wallet unattended - even for a minute.
  • Only carry the identification information and number of cards you actually need.
  • Keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates, and the phone number and address of each company in a safe place.
  • If your state uses your Social Security number as your driver's license number, ask to substitute another number.
  • Don't carry your Social Security card.

Keep Your Personal Numbers Safe and Secure

  • When creating passwords and PINs do not use any part of your Social Security number, birth date, middle name, spouse's name, child's name, pet's name, address, consecutive numbers, or anything that a thief could easily deduce or discover, and don't carry them in your wallet or purse!
  • Shield the keypad when using ATMs, or when placing calling card calls.
  • Memorize your passwords and PINs; never keep them in your wallet, purse, Rolodex, or electronic organizer.
  • Only give out your Social Security number when necessary - for example, on tax forms and employment records, or for banking, stock and property transactions.
  • Never give out personal information over the phone, through mail, or on the Internet unless you initiated the contact or you know with whom you are dealing.

Bank, Shop, and Spend Wisely

  • Store personal information in a safe place and shred or tear up documents you don't need.  Destroy ATM and charge receipts, copies of credit applications, insurance forms, bank checks and statements, expired charge cards, credit offers, and convenience checks you get in the mail before throwing them away.
  • Cancel your unused credit cards so that their account numbers will not appear on your credit report.
  • When possible, watch your credit card as the merchant completes the transaction.
  • Sign your credit cards immediately upon receipt.
  • Before revealing personally identifiable information, find out how it will be used and whether it will be shared with others.  Can you choose to keep it confidential?  Do they restrict access to data?
  • Don't open e-mail from unknown sources.  Use virus detection software

More Tips

Tip #1: Be aware of the expiration date on your debit and credit cards.

If you do not receive a reissued card before the expiration date, notify customer service, as your mail may have been intercepted and your new card may have been stolen.

Tip #2: Closely monitor your bank account statements.

Asheville Savings Bank Online Banking makes it easy to review your transactions daily. Contact us immediately if there's a discrepancy in your records or if you notice something suspicious, such as a missing payment or an unauthorized withdrawal.

Tip #3: Use online banking to pay your bills.

The fewer personal documents sent through the mail, the less chance there is for identity theft.

Tip #4: Take extraordinary measures to destroy personal documents.

Take extraordinary measures to destroy personal documents containing personal information before placing them in the trash. The very best method is cross-cut shredding.

Tip #5: Employ anti-virus/anti-spyware software.

Equip your computer with up-to-date anti-virus/anti-spyware software to avoid intrusion into your records by unscrupulous hackers

While there are no guarantees for avoiding identity theft, the more you know how to protect your identity and what to do if a problem occurs, the harder it is for identity thieves to commit crimes. If you are a victim of identity theft you should file a police report, check your credit reports, notify creditors, and dispute any unauthorized transactions. These are just some of the steps you must take immediately to restore your good name.

Steps to Take if You are a Victim

Phishing, of course, involves the use of replicas of existing Web pages to try to deceive you into entering personal, financial or password data.  Asheville Savings Bank recommends that you never respond to email messages asking you to verify personal information.  But accidents happen, and the following information could be useful if you’ve been scammed.

If you have given out your credit, debit or ATM card information

  • Report the incident to the card issuer immediately
  • Cancel your account and open a new one
  • Review billing statements carefully after the incident
  • If the statements show unauthorized charges, send a letter to the card issuer via regular mail (keep a copy) describing each questionable charge

Credit Card Loss or Fraudulent Charges

Your maximum liability under federal law for unauthorized use of your credit card is $50 (policies vary).  If the loss involves your credit card number, but not the card itself, you have no liability for unauthorized use; in general, you may only be liable for a very small amount but always check with your individual card company for their exact policy.

Your liability depends on how quickly the loss is reported.  You risk unlimited loss by failing to report an unauthorized transfer within 60 days after your bank statement containing unauthorized use is mailed to you.

If you have given out your bank account information:

  • Report the theft to the bank as quickly as possible
  • Cancel your account and open a new one

If you have downloaded a virus or ‘Trojan Horse’

  • Some phishing attacks use viruses and/or a ‘Trojan Horse’ to install programs called 'key loggers' on your computer.  These programs capture and distribute any information you type to the phisher, including credit card numbers, usernames and passwords, Social Security Numbers, etc.
  • If this occurs, you likely may not be aware.
  • To minimize this risk, you should:
    • Install and/or update anti-virus and personal firewall software
    • Update all virus definitions and run a full scan
    • If your system still appears compromised, fix it and then change your password again.

Check your other accounts – suspects may have accessed different accounts:  eBay account, PayPal, your email ISP, online bank accounts, and other e-commerce accounts.

If you have given out your personal identification information:

Identity theft occurs when someone uses your personal information such as your name, Social Security number, credit card number or other identifying information, without your permission to commit fraud or other crimes.  If you have given this information to a phisher, you should do the following:

  • Report the theft to the three major credit reporting agencies, Experian, Equifax and TransUnion Corporation, and do the following:
  • Request that they place a fraud alert and a victim’s statement in your file
  • Request a FREE copy of your credit report to check whether any accounts were opened without your consent
  • Request that the agencies remove inquiries and/or fraudulent accounts stemming from the theft

Identify Theft Resources:

http://www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/microsites/idtheft/
http://www.justice.gov/criminal/fraud/websites/idtheft.html
http://www.ic3.gov
http://www.onguardonline.gov/phishing.html

Notify your bank(s) and ask them to flag your account and contact you regarding any unusual activity: If bank accounts were set up without your consent, close them; If your ATM card was stolen, get a new card, account number and PIN; Contact your local police department to file a criminal report; Contact the Social Security Administration’s Fraud Hotline to report the unauthorized use of your personal identification information; Notify the Department of Motor Vehicles of your identity theft; Check to see whether an unauthorized license number has been issued in your name; Notify the passport office to watch for anyone ordering a passport in your name; File a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission; Ask for a free copy of 'ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen in Your Good Name'; File a complaint with the Internet Fraud Complaint Center(IFCC) by visiting their website: http://www.ic3.gov.

For victims of Internet fraud, IFCC provides a convenient and easy reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations.

Document the names and phone numbers of everyone you speak with regarding the incident.  Follow-up your phone calls with letters.  Keep copies of all correspondence.

If you see a suspicious-looking email message claiming to be from Asheville Savings Bank please let us know.  We continually monitor such reports and act on them promptly.

Know Your Score

Do you know your score? If not, it’s time to find out.

Credit scores have come to play a critical role in today’s world. They not only help lenders determine whether to give you a loan and at what interest rate, but they also are used by potential employers, landlords and insurance companies to assess your financial health.

A recent report from the Government Accountability Office found that while many consumers are familiar with the basics of credit reports and scores, they don’t always know how their financial behavior can affect their credit score. Following are some key facts about credit scores that you should know:

  • Credit scores are calculated from a consumer’s payment history, length of credit history, new credit, types of credit used, and amounts owed.  The combination of each of these areas is what makes up the overall score, which range from 300-850.
  • The score is an objective measurement of credit risk based on information in your credit reports, so it’s important for consumers to review those reports at least annually to check for errors. 
  • A high credit score indicates strong creditworthiness, and that qualifies you for better interest rates on your loans – whether they are mortgage loans or credit card loans.
  • Maxing out on your credit lines and paying bills late will lower your credit score.
  • The impact of a credit score on a borrower’s interest rate can be significant. For instance, a borrower with a score of 760 could pay three percentage points less in interest on a mortgage than someone with a score of 560. Lower interest rates also mean lower monthly payments.

Credit Reports

It is good practice to order a copy of your credit report from different credit reporting agencies every year and make sure all the information is correct.  Look for indications of fraud, such as unauthorized applications, unfamiliar credit accounts, credit inquiries and defaults and delinquencies that you did not cause

Financial Education and Counseling Links:

www.ncforeclosurehelp.org/  - Provides information to assist homeowners concerned about foreclosure or a delinquent mortgage.

www.ontrackwnc.org/  - Western North Carolina’s trusted, non-profit source for helping people manage their money and credit better through counseling and educational sources. Call 828-255-5166 or 1-800-737-5485.

www.annualcreditreport.com – This website provide free annual access to your credit report from each of the three credit reporting agencies.

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800.222.3230  |    |  PO Box 652, Asheville, NC 28802

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