Monday, June 24, 2019

How To Enjoy A Busy Wedding Season Without Going Broke

                                      
It's the season of gauzy canopies, lacy gowns and stiff penguin suits. That being the case, and with wedding invitations flooding your mailbox, you might already be booking your weekends with weddings through the end of August.

 

Celebrating a new marriage together with your friends is great fun, but all those wedding invites can put a real strain on your budget. Between wedding attire, travel costs and gifts, each wedding can add up to a pretty penny. In fact, according to the most recent research by Express Spending & Saving Tracker, the average wedding guest is out $673 for each wedding they attend. That's enough to make you go broke by the time wedding season is through!

 

If these numbers are scaring you, take a deep breath and relax. You don't need to go into debt just to attend your friends' weddings. Just follow these hacks for simple ways to celebrate in style-and within budget.

 

1.) Save on airfare

 

Get the best deal on your flight with these hacks:

  • Clear your browser cache before searching for a flight so airlines don't target you with high-priced flights.
  • Get the lowest prices by booking your ticket for mid-week and/or taking a red-eye flight.
  • Shop on a Tuesday about six weeks before you're needing to fly out to score the best deals.
  • Use apps like Kayak, Hipmunk and Hopper to help you find the best-priced tickets. Some apps will even send you alerts when tickets on a flight you've looked at go down in price.

If your destination is within driving distance, you can also choose to hop on a train, board a bus or rent a car with some friends and turn the drive into a fun road trip.  

 

2.) Think outside the registry

 

Jump off the registry bandwagon and get creative instead! You can gift the couple with a more personalized gift, like a themed breakfast basket for the morning after, tickets and reservations for a dream date night or a customized kitchen package complete with quirky mugs and whimsical gadgets. No one has to know how much (or how little) you spent. But, your gift is sure to be memorable and treasured by the couple.

 

If you're part of a bunch of friends who are attending the wedding together, you can also choose to purchase a group gift. Do some detective work to find out the couple's secret luxury gift wish, like a top-of-the-line grill or a leather sectional sofa, and then let each friend contribute to a pot until you have the full amount. You'll save on your gift costs and you'll know you've given your friends a wedding present they'll be thrilled to receive.

 

3.) Don't buy a gown

 

Don't feel pressured to spend hundreds of dollars on the dress you'll wear to your friends' weddings. Chances are, you won't want to wear the same gown twice in a season. Also, the dress that perfectly matches one wedding color can horribly clash with the décor at next weekend's wedding. Instead of dropping a ton of money on a dress you might wear once, rent a gown for a fraction of the price from rental services like Rent the Runway. You can also borrow from a friend or purchase a gently used gown on sites like OnceWed.com or PreOwnedWeddingDresses.com.  

 

4.) Invest in a good suit

 

Tux rentals can run you up to $150, so if you're looking at several weekends of weddings over the next few months, it might be worthwhile to invest in a staple suit or tux you can wear again and again. Make sure the suit is of decent quality and will make it through hours on the dance floor with its seams and buttons intact. Once you've got your suit in the closet, you can change up the outfit to match different wedding colors and themes by swapping the shirt and tie or the cummerbund and bowtie.

 

5.) Use AirBNB instead of booking a hotel

 

You don't have to spend hundreds of dollars on a hotel stay for every destination wedding you attend. Instead, check out AirBNB for affordable lodgings in the area. You can save even more by booking a full apartment or an entire house with a couple of friends and splitting the cost.

 

6.) Don't be afraid to say no

 

Members of the wedding party inevitably end up outspending everyone else thanks to the wedding attire, shoes and the pre-wedding parties they're required to attend. Most of these costs are dictated by the bride and groom. If you're asked to be a bridesmaid or an usher and you know you can't afford the associated costs, don't be afraid to explain your position to your soon-to-be-married friends. They'll likely understand, and either accept your declination or make some adjustment to their plans so you can be part of the wedding party.  

 

Here's to a season of affordable and joyous wedding celebrations from all of us here at [credit union]!

 

Your Turn: How do you save money on wedding expenses? Share your best ideas with us!

Monday, June 10, 2019

7 Money Myths You Need To Stop Believing Now




7 Money Myths You Need To Stop Believing Now                                                  
 


We all grow up hearing the same financial advice: Spend less, save more and invest early. While most of these words of wisdom ring true, there are lots of widespread money management tips that are actually false.

                                                                                               

Read on for 7 money myths that might be causing you more financial stress than benefit.  

 

Myth #1: Debit is always better than credit.

 

Do you automatically reach for your debit card when making a purchase? While it's true that paying for your expenses with money you already have in your account is often the best choice, there is a time and a place for credit cards as well.  

 

The real deal: Credit cards get a bad rap for the debt trap they represent, but they shouldbe your payment method of choice on occasion. First, many credit cards offer rewards in the form of travel miles, cash-back systems and other bonuses. Second, building and maintaining a strong credit history is crucial for your financial wellness; the only way to achieve this is by using your credit cards and paying your bills on time. Finally, lots of credit cards offer purchase protection, which makes them the smarter payment method for big-ticket items.

 

Myth #2: Buy a home at all costs.

 

It's part of the American Dream: Go to college, land the perfect job, get married and buy a house, complete with white picket fence and two cars in the driveway.

 

Unfortunately, though, too many people are fixed on that dream without realizing that owning a home might not be in their best financial interests.

 

The real deal: For many people, including those who are not yet ready to put down roots or who anticipate a career change that necessitates moving across state lines, renting a home or apartment might be the better choice. It can also be a financially expedient option if you live in a super-expensive area.

 

Myth #3: Investing is only for rich people.

 

Investing is for people who drive luxury vehicles and have homes in three different states.

 

Or is it?

 

The real deal: Anyone with a small pile of money squirreled away can get a foothold in the stock market. A smart investment strategy can be the best way to let your money grow and put you on the track to financial independence. If you're a beginning investor, look into passively managed index funds for an easy way to start building your wealth.

 

Myth #4: My partner manages our finances, so I don't need to think about money at all.

 

Are you living in blissful financial oblivion, confident that your partner is managing your money?

 

The real deal: Every adult should have a handle on their family's finances, regardless of their partner's involvement. While it is fine for one partner to actively manage their money, it is crucial for both partners to be aware of the state of the family finances and to be capable of managing the household expenses and investments if something happens to their partner.

 

Myth #5: Credit cards will get me through any financial crisis.

 

Why would I need an emergency fund? I have credit cards!

 

The real deal: Depending on credit cards to get you through a financial emergency is the perfect way to dig yourself into a deep pit of debt. Thanks to interest, you'll be paying back a lot more than you spend. You're also more likely to overspend when you pay with plastic.

 

Credit cards should not be relied upon for a real financial emergency, such as a job loss, divorce or illness. It's best to build an emergency fund consisting of three to six months' worth of living expenses so you're completely covered for the unexpected.

 

Myth #6: I'm so young; I don't need to think about retirement.

 

Who can think about retirement when it's so far down the road because they're just starting a career? Besides, who can afford to save for retirement when they're bogged down with more pressing expenses, like saving for a house and putting kids through college?

 

The real deal: There's no better time to start planning and saving for your retirement than right now. The younger you start building your retirement fund, the less you'll have to put away each month, and the more you'll save by the time you're ready to retire. Gift yourself with a comfortable, stress-free retirement by maxing out your 401K contributions, and/or opening an IRA or another retirement fund. Start today and let compound interest work its magic!

 

Myth #7: I have enough in my account to cover my expenses so I don't need to budget.

 

Budgeting is for people who are barely squeaking through the month. I have enough money; so why budget?

 

The real deal: Budgeting is for everyone. Without a realistic budget in place, someone pulling in a salary in the high six digits can easily spend their way into debt. A budget will force you to make responsible money choices and to be fully aware of the state of your finances at all times.

 

Your Turn: Which money myths have you bought into in the past? Tell us all about it in the comments.
 
 
Tags:  money myths, money, finances, personal finances, money mistakes

Monday, May 20, 2019

What To Buy And What To Skip On Memorial Day



What To Buy And What To Skip On Memorial Day                                             

 

Since 1971, Memorial Day has been celebrated as an extended weekend away from work--and the unofficial start of summer. It's time to get that grill going, dust off your patio set, and break out the white jeans you've had stashed away all winter.

 

More recently, Memorial Day has also turned into a second Black Friday for retailers, each offering loads of sale events in stores and online,and each promising to save you heaps of money. Lots of these sales will run for a full two weeks, starting a week before Memorial Day, which falls on May 27 this year, and continuing until the end of the month.

 

As always, though, not every marked-down product is actually a bargain. In fact, you can sometimes get the same product a lot cheaper by waiting a few months-or even just a few weeks. And of course, if the for-sale item is not one you need, you're better off leaving it in the store. But, if you know what to shop for and you're careful to stick to what you need and can afford, you can find some great deals.

 

Let's take a look at what to buy and what to skip this Memorial Day weekend.

 

Buy: Outdoor essentials

 

Get ready to welcome summer with outdoor gear like grills, lawn mowers, mulch, ladders, and more, which may be marked down as much as 50% at stores like Lowe's and Home Depot. Online retailers, like Wayfair and Overstock, host similar events and may offer free two-day shipping in honor of the summer season kickoff.

 

Skip: Electronics

 

You're going to see lots of crazy-low deals on gaming consoles, laptops, and tablets around Memorial Day weekend. But, unless you need one now, it's better to wait it out. You'll find even better deals on electronics during Black Friday season, when retailers are looking to clear out last year's models to make room for the newer inventory. If you need your electronics sooner than November, you may consider waiting until July, when many retailers host "Black Friday in July" events that feature steep discounts on electronics.

 

Buy: Furniture

 

Memorial Day weekend is the perfect time to spruce up both the inside and outside of your home with new furniture. You can snag a great deal on a fully-loaded patio set, pick up a comfortable sofa, and even swap your old mattresses for new ones, all at great prices. You may need to use a coupon code to qualify for the reduced price, so be sure to check out a retailer's website before hitting the store.

 

Skip: TVs

 

Don't make the mistake of picking up a new TV in May just because you found one at an excellent price. Most marked-down TVs you'll find around Memorial Day are older models with outdated features. You can find much better deals on newer models in November or January.  

 

Buy: Wedding registry gifts

 

Department stores, like Macy's and JC Penney, offer discounts on household essentials, like coffee makers and blenders, in advance of the wedding season. You'll also find markdowns on these items at specialty stores, like Bed Bath & Beyond. If you've got any weddings to attend this summer, pick out a registry gift now to save big.

 

Skip: Cars

 

If you're looking for a new set of wheels, wait until after June. You'll find the hottest deals on cars between July and October, when dealerships are trying to move old inventory and make room for the newer models.

 

Buy: Tires

 

Preparing the family car for a summer road trip? You'll find the year's best prices on tires around Memorial Day weekend.

 

Skip: Swimwear

 

Don't splurge on swimwear and other summer apparel just yet. Wait until June, or even mid-summer if you can swing it, for the steepest discounts.

 

Buy: Spring apparel

 

Retailers have been displaying their warmer-weather line for months now. That makes the end of May a perfect time to stock up on spring wear.

 

Skip: Power tools

 

You'll only have to wait a few weeks for the hottest deals on power tools. Father's Day sales usually start at the beginning of June, and they offer deep discounts on power tools and other outdoor power equipment.

 

Buy: Appliances and home décor

 

Retailers and manufacturers alike offer markdowns on large household appliances, like refrigerators, dishwashers, and ovens, at the end of May. Hold onto your receipts, as you may need to mail them to the manufacturer for a cash-back rebate. You can also score a deal on home décor products, like light fixtures, flooring, and kitchen essentials, at Memorial Day sale events.

 

Skip: Jewelry

 

All that glam won't glow so brightly if you have to drain your wallet to pay for it. Skip the diamonds this month and wait until late summer, when the jewelry business is at its slowest and retailers put some of their products on sale. If you can wait even longer, push off your purchase until the end of February, when jewelry prices are at their lowest.

 

Now that you know what to buy and what to skip this Memorial Day, you can kick off the season of poolside barbecues and aimless road trips by snagging some great deals!

 

Your Turn: What was your best Memorial Day find ever? Tell us all about it in the comments!

 

 

Tags:  Memorial Day, Memorial Day weekend, Memorial Day savings, savings, sale, bargain

 

 
 

Friday, April 26, 2019

When Should I Put My House On The Market?


 
When Should I Put My House On The Market?                                             

  

 

If you're thinking of selling your home, think spring. That's because the season of blossoming flowers and gentle breezes has traditionally held the designation as the best time of year to sell a home.

 

Before you start prepping your home for a photo shoot that shows it off in the best light, take a moment to consider your particular circumstances and needs. What makes spring so well-suited for house-hunting? Does the seller benefit from this arrangement, or is it only advantageous to the buyer?

 

Let's take a deeper look at the sell-in-the-spring rule so you can make an informed decision about when to put your house on the market.

 

Why spring?

 

There are two primary factors making spring an excellent season for selling a home: The weather and the time of year.

 

The beautiful, mild weather of spring showcases the exterior of your home in all its glory. Your yard will be alive with healthy, green grass, your flowers and bushes will be in full bloom, and your property will be free of unsightly piles of leaves or mounds of melting snow. If you have an in-ground pool, there's a world of difference between presenting it to a prospective buyer when it's sparkling under a brilliant sun, or pointing to a dark, covered shadow at the edge of your yard surrounded by windswept branches and ice puddles.

 

The pleasant weather that typically heralds the arrival of spring also makes it easier for you to tend to repairs and upgrades on your property. The cold and the dark tend to lead to neglect. Plus, it's a lot easier to paint the picket fence, stain the deck, and power-wash the siding when the weather is mild and sunny.

 

Aside from delightful weather, springtime also brings the end of the school year. House-hunting in the spring often makes the most sense for families that include school-age children. This way, they can be settled into their new homes and schools before the new school year. By listing your home for sale in early spring, you're making it available for this entire group of house-hunters.

 

Finally, spring means longer daytime hours. This can be advantageous for shoppers who work full-time and can only spare time for home viewings in the evenings. You can schedule a viewing as late as 7 p.m. and still enjoy the benefits of a daylight showing.

 

Do homes listed in the spring really sell quicker and at higher prices?

 

It's not just hype. There are actually studies proving that houses sold in late spring to early summer are on the market a shorter amount of time than houses listed the rest of the year. Also, they tend to close at higher price points.

 

Here is a sampling of studies proving this theory:

  • An ATTOM Data Solutions analysis of 14.7 million homes sold over a span of 6 years proved the best month to sell a home is May. Most homes sold during this month closed at 5.9% above their estimated market value when compared with other months.
  • A Zillow study showed that homes sold during the first two weeks of May tend to be on the market less time than homes sold any other time of year.
  • According to Realtor.com, homes listed during the spring are 1% less likely to sell with a price cut than homes listed during the rest of the year.

Does this rule hold true for everyone?

 

"Springtime to market" might be a good rule of thumb for most home-sellers to follow, but it does not apply in every case. Here are some factors to consider:

  • The local market. If your neighborhood is full of for-sale signs and your home does not have any distinguishing features, you may put yourself at a severe disadvantage by listing your home in the spring. Consider waiting until the market cools off in mid-summer, or even in the early fall months.

  On the flipside, if your home has one or more features that set it apart, you'll want to list it when the neighborhood is full of house

  hunters, to give it optimal exposure.  

  • Your preferred time to move. When is the ideal time for your family to move to another town? Pick a date and work backward to decide when to list your home. There's no way to determine exactly when you'll close on a listed home, but Realtor.com estimates the average home sale takes 50 days to close after going under contract. Add a month for preparing your home for the market, choosing a selling agent, making any necessary repairs or upgrades, and finding a buyer.

  • Local climate. Springtime might mean beautiful weather for much of the country, but in some areas, like Southern California, pleasant, mild weather is an all-year-round delight. Conversely, in many northern states, the warmer weather doesn't set in until early summer, and you'll want to wait a bit before putting your home up for sale.

Whether you choose to put your house on the market in spring, or you decide you'd be better off waiting until summer or fall, we wish you a smooth sale at the best possible price. Don't forget to stop by First City to ask about our fantastic home loan options when you're ready to start searching for a new place to call home.

 

Your Turn: Have you sold a home in the spring or summer? Tell us all about it in the comments.

 

Tags:  best time to put a house on the market, housing market

 

 

Thursday, April 25, 2019

Spring Cleaning Hacks


 
 
Spring Cleaning Hacks                                       

                    

Tags:  spring cleaning, spring cleaning hacks, cleaning hacks

 

The sun is shining, the birds are chirping, the flowers are blooming-and your cluttered closets are calling. Time to roll up your sleeves and whip your home into shape. And yes, this means you! It's been a long winter and you've let the clutter grow, all over your garage, across your basement and up into your attic crawl space. And your bedroom closets? We're not even going there.

 

As always, First City is here to help! Use this handy list of creative cleaning hacks to banish those dust bunnies without spending a fortune on organizers and cleaning solutions. Plus, you'll be doing your part to help keep the planet green by skipping over those toxic cleansers this year.

 

Let's get cleaning!

 

 
Schedule smart

 

Before you get started, create a master list of every part of your home that you plan on attacking. It's best to make this an old-fashioned physical list so you can post it somewhere you'll see often-like the door of your fridge.

 

Once you have every area listed, divide the chores according to the amount of time you estimate it will take to clean them. Make smaller sub-lists of 3-hour jobs, 1-hour jobs and 15-minute jobs. This way, when you have large chunks of time, you can find a larger job to do at a glance. And when you have smaller pockets of time, like those 10 minutes in the kitchen when you're waiting for the water to boil, you can quickly tackle a smaller job, like straightening out the catch-all drawer in your kitchen.

 

Once you've got it all written out, it's time to roll up those sleeves and get to work!

 

DIY cleansers

 

Why blow your budget on pricey, toxic cleansers when you can make your own for so much less at home? Try these DIY solutions and hacks for all those hard-to-clean places around your home:

  • Use a lemon for cleaning stainless steel sinks and faucets.

Slice a lemon in half, and rub the fruit against hard water stains and rust spots in your kitchen and bathroom. You can also sprinkle on some baking soda for the really stubborn marks. The stains should now lift easily. Plus, instead of chemical fumes that make you gag, you'll leave behind that springy, lemony scent.

  • Steam-clean your microwave.

Is your microwave plastered with hardened food stains? It's time to make your appliance shine! Grab a microwave-safe bowl, fill it with 1-2 cups of water, 2 tablespoons of white vinegar, plus a few drops of your favorite essential oil. Nuke it for five minutes and then wipe those stains right off!

  • Wash your windows with 1 teaspoon of mild dishwashing soap added to several gallons of water.

Pour your homemade solution into an empty spray bottle and use old newspapers to wipe away the grime. Leave this job for a rainy day-literally. Sunshine can make your windows dry too quickly and leave unsightly streaks behind.

  • Use coffee filters for your monitors and screens.

Get rid of those fingerprints and itty-bitty dust mites on your computer monitors and TV screens. Let the gentle fibers in coffee filters leave your screens squeaky-clean!

  • Clean your shower heads with white vinegar.

Fill a sandwich bag with white vinegar, and then use a rubber band to secure it around your showerhead. Let it soak overnight. The water stains and calcium buildup should wash right off in the morning.

Tips and tricks

 

Cleaning is easy with these helpful hacks!

  • Use a lint roller to dust.

Instead of sticking brushes and feather dusters into every little corner and cranny in your home, use a lint roller. Run the roller over your light fixtures, mantels and shelves. It'll pick up all those tiny dust mites and leave you with clean surfaces in just minutes! For corners that are super-dirty, use a strip of duct tape for stronger pickup power.

  • Use your dishwasher for more than just dishes.

Stop scrubbing those teeny-tiny pieces of Lego and load up your dishwasher instead. You can also throw in your hair brushes, pet dishes, refrigerator shelves, soap dishes, tweezers and drawer knobs. When the cycle is through, it's best to clean your dishwasher by placing a cup of white vinegar on the top shelf and running it through its hottest cycle.

  • Use a window squeegee to scrape pet hair off your carpet.

The rubber edge of the squeegee is perfect for gripping and removing pet hair from your rugs and carpet.

  • Use a hair dryer to get rid of water rings.

Is someone forgetting to use coasters? Let your coffee table look beautiful again by blasting a hair dryer over the water rings until they start to fade and disappear. You can also rub olive oil over the area to return the wood to its original shine.

Let's get organized!

 

Banish the clutter for good with these tips.

  • Create a space for clutter.

When you're deep in the throes of spring cleaning, you're convinced your home will never see clutter again. But all it takes is one art project, a stack of unread mail and one lone toy truck to give your home that cluttered look again. Be proactive and create a place for every bit of clutter that passes through your door. You can pick up perfectly functional organizers and storage bins at the dollar store. Consider investing in a storage ottoman for favorite toys and hanging a shoe organizer in your foyer closet for unsorted mail, keys and gloves.

  • Use Velcro to keep drawer organizers in place.

Those adorable organizers are no use if they're slipping and sliding all over your drawers. Fasten strips of Velcro to the bottom of your organizers to keep them in place.

Happy cleaning from all of us here at First City!

 

Your Turn: What's your favorite spring cleaning hack? Share it with us in the comments!

 

Tags:  spring cleaning, spring cleaning hacks, cleaning hacks

 

Tuesday, April 16, 2019

Home Improvement Hacks


 
 
Home Improvement Hacks                                           

 

                    

Tags:  home improvement hacks, home improvement, DIY home improvement

 

You've finally finished scrubbing and purging your home from top to bottom in honor of spring. And now, with every surface, closet, and room sparkling clean, you're starting to see all the areas that could use a facelift. Maybe you're hankering after a complete kitchen makeover. You might be dreaming of a fresh coat of paint for your bedrooms. Or maybe your window treatments are in desperate need of an overhaul.

 

The only thing standing between you and your dream home is finding piles of cash for funding it, right?

 

Maybe not. Lucky for you, you don't need to spend a fortune this spring to give your house a new look. Read on for our list of home improvement hacks and learn how to upgrade your home on a budget.

 

1. Cabinet makeover

 

Instead of dropping a ton of money on replacing your kitchen cabinets, you can give a tired kitchen a fresh new look by replacing just the cabinet fronts. You'll pay a fraction of the price and no one will know it's your old, shabby cabinets hiding behind those beautiful new doors.

 

Want to go even lower-cost? Consider painting the front of your cabinet to upgrade the look without spending much money or time. You can also replace those dated cabinet pulls with something nicer and trendier for a more modern look.

 

2. Cover your countertops with contact paper

 

Granite countertops can be gorgeous, but they're also incredibly pricey. Instead of taking out a second mortgage for beautiful counters, try covering them with pretty, patterned contact paper. You'll find loads of granite lookalikes at home improvement stores and you can learn how to apply your knockoff covers neatly from DIY tutorials on YouTube. You might even fool your friends and family into thinking it's the real thing. But don't worry: We won't tell anyone it's fake!

 

3. Use PVC pipes for curtain rods

 

Pretty curtains and drapes add a splash of color and personality to any room. You can make your own inexpensive curtains by picking up some fabric from a sewing supply store. The only issue? You'll need rods to hang up those curtains-and if you need specific measurements and colors, that can get pricey.

 

Make it happen with this hack: Use PVC pipes instead of curtain rods. You can paint your pipes to match the décor of the room and hang them with inexpensive hooks that fit well. Curtains, done!

 

4. Create a mirrored backsplash

 

All you need for this fantastic hack is a pack of self-adhesive mirror tiles. These retail for about $15 per 20-tile pack and you can find them online or at a home improvement store. Use your snazzy tiles to create a mirrored backsplash in your kitchen. Decorate with inexpensive decals to up the glam or just leave it bare. The mirrors will give the illusion of greater space and you won't have to deal with grout and caulking. It's a super-cheap way to make your kitchen sparkle!

 

5. Slipcover your sofa

 

If your sofa is hopelessly stained and you'd love to update it, but can't spare the cash, try covering it in a slipcover. You can find a leather-look slipcover to match the shape of your sofa for $100 or less. They're not just for protection; the right slipcover will give you an (almost) brand new couch! Make sure you read reviews before purchasing, because quality really makes a difference here.

 

6. Let the light in

 

Light fixtures can really make or break an area in your home, and you don't have to spend a fortune to get it right. Walk through your home and take note of the light fixtures that are relics from a past life, paying close attention to highly visible areas. Then, take a trip to a home improvement store or check out sites like Wayfair and Hayneedle for trendy, striking light fixtures. For less than $100, you can give your house an entire new look!

 

7. DIY paint

 

If the walls in your home desperately need fresh coats of paint, look no further than your local home improvement store. No, you don't have to be a genuine DIYer to get this right; it's fairly simple. You'll find loads of painting tutorials on YouTube, and you'll only have to spring for the actual paint plus a few supplies. Best of all, when you're in charge, you can get as creative as possible. Using painter's tape and your imagination, you can paint funky designs on your walls, like diamond contrasts, vertical and horizontal stripes, or, if you're feeling really artsy, go for a full-blown mural!

 

These hacks will make your home beautiful this spring for just a bit of money. If you need more major home improvements that require serious cash, though, we can help. Call, click or stop by [credit union] today to ask us about opening a HELOC or taking out a home equity loan. We can make that happen, too!

 

Your Turn: Are you making home improvements on a budget? Share your best tips and tricks with us in the comments!

 

 

Tuesday, April 9, 2019

SCAM ALERT! Beware Tech Support Scams


 
 
 
Scam Alert!

Beware Tech Support Scams                                          

   

Computer on the brink? Careful who you contact to fix it! That's because the FTC is warning of a surge in tech support scams, many of which can be difficult to spot.

 

In a recent widespread scam, a company that called itself Elite IT Partners, Inc., purchased keywords on Google so they showed up in searches for password recovery assistance. Victims contacted the bogus company, which asked the assistance seekers to complete an online form to provide their contact information.

 

Scammers then reached out to the victims, asking for remote access to their computers. Once inside, they were able to scrape sensitive information off the victims' computers. But they didn't stop there; they also used phony evidence to convince many victims that their computers were in desperate need of repair that required pricey software. The scammers gladly accepted payment for this software, which of course they never provided. Many victims lost thousands of dollars to these scammers and had their information compromised as well.

 

Tech support scams don't always follow the above script. Here are two other ways they may go down:

 

1. Phone calls

 

In this variation, scammers spoof the numbers of well-known companies and call people randomly, claiming they've found a problem with the victim's computer. They'll ask for remote access to the computer, run a "diagnostic test" and then plant bogus problems in the computer. They'll ask the victim to pay an exorbitant amount of money to get the issue fixed. They may even demand an ongoing subscription payment to prevent the "problem" from returning.

 

Red flag: Legitimate tech-support companies will never initiate contact by phone. If you ever receive a call as described above, don't engage with the caller. Hang up immediately and report the call to the FTC at FTC.gov. You can also let the spoofed company know about the scam (using their actual contact info) so they can do their part in taking down the scammer.

 

2. Pop-up warnings

 

Sometimes, a tech-support scammer will try to lure you into their scheme by using an alarming pop-up warning. The pop-up might look like a legitimate error from your system or antivirus software. It may even have a realistic-looking logo from a company or website you know and trust. The message will warn you about a major security issue with your computer and instruct you to call a listed number. Once you make that phone call, you'll be asked to allow the person on the other end of the line to have remote access into your computer. The scam will then proceed similar to the one outlined above.

 

Red flag: Legitimate security pop-up warnings from tech companies do exist. However, they will never ask you to call a phone number. If you get this kind of warning on your computer, ignore it. If you have reason to suspect a security vulnerability, run a scan and update your security software.

 

If you've been scammed

 

Are you a victim of a tech-support scam? It's not too late to reclaim your money.

 

If you paid via credit or debit card, you may be able to stop the transaction. Contact your Credit Card Company or First City about contesting the charge as soon as possible.

 

If you used a gift card to pay the scammers, it might be more difficult to recoup your losses, but it's still worth a try. Call the company that issued the gift card and explain what happened. Many companies will be happy to assist you if you've been targeted by a scam.

 

Aside from trying to reclaim your lost money, you'll want to strengthen your computer's security. If you've given a scammer remote access to your computer or shared your username and/or passwords, you are now vulnerable to identity theft. If you haven't yet done so, update your computer's security software and run a scan. Delete any files or data your computer legitimately identifies as a security issue. You'll also want to change your usernames and passwords. If you use identical passwords across multiple sites and accounts, be sure to change those, too.

 

Finally, don't forget to report your scam to the FTC as soon as possible. If the scammer spoofed Microsoft, report it to the software giant as well.

 

Always stay alert when online and proceed with caution. Remember: When in doubt, opt out.

 

Don't be the next victim!

 

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a tech-support scam? Tell us about it in the comments.

 

Tags:  scams, tech support scams, phishing scams, malware