Michelle, a Bank of American Fork employee, received a text alert about a zero dollar amount transaction on her debit card from retailer Amazon. Since Michelle only uses her credit card on Amazon, she knew right away it was a fraud attempt. She quickly had her card blocked to protect against any additional fraud attempts and filed a claim for the fraud against her.
Even though Michelle checks her transaction history regularly and feels she would have noticed the fraudulent transaction soon after it took place, she was glad she had signed up for smsGuardian™, a text alert service through Bank of American Fork that alerts customers to certain types of transactions. In her case, smsGuardian picked up on the zero dollar amount.
Here’s how you can help protect yourself with smsGuardian. When you sign up, you will receive text alerts that will alert you to certain transactions being conducted using your Bank of American Fork VISA® debit card via alerts to your mobile phone. Once enrolled, you will receive a text message each time your debit card is used for: international or out-of-state debit card transactions, purchase authorizations greater than $200, five or more transactions within a 24-hour period, card purchases where the card is not present and many other types of irregular transaction behavior. You can enroll by visiting www.bankaf.com >Products >Personal >Bank cards. On that page you will find a link to sign up for smsGuardian alerts.
After hearing Michelle’s story, I signed up for smsGuardian. It took me less than five minutes.
*Amazon, Kindle, Fire and all related logos are trademarks of Amazon.com, Inc. or its affiliates.
smsGuardian is a trademark of JHA Payment Processing Solutions, Inc.
Recently, Christopher shared his experience paying for unexpected expenses without stress, because he previously set up accounts and automatic transfers to save for these types of bills. Here’s his story:
I recently had two big expenses—a medical bill and a surprise car repair. In the past when these kinds of bills came up, it caused a lot of stress because I had to figure out where to get the money, or it triggered austerity measures for the next month or two. This time, paying the bills was a totally different experience because I had money set aside.
A few years ago, I set up accounts for specific uses—sort of an electronic version of the old envelope method, where one divides up their cash into separate envelopes for separate spending categories. I have an HSA that I allot pre-tax funds for medical expenses, an account for car insurance and repair and a dining out and entertainment fund. I set up automatic transfers in online banking to put a little money in each account every two weeks when I get paid. Over time, the money adds up. Then, when these unusually large bills come up, I have the money. I paid my car repair bill from my regular account and then transferred the amount of bill from my car insurance and repair account into my regular account. That way, I still had the money I needed for groceries and other regular expenses all month.
It felt so good to be prepared and to have the money when it was needed.
You can do the same thing, or something similar. Why, though?
In a study by the Brookings Institution, findings showed that Americans are largely living paycheck-to-paycheck. Sixty-six percent of Americans who are living paycheck-to-paycheck are considered middle class, which the study authors and economists found surprising.
“Those living paycheck to paycheck have a tougher time weathering income shocks, such as illnesses or bouts of unemployment,” CNN reporter. “The study found that they have to cut back their spending far more than those with a reserve they can tap more readily.”
Consider a way you can cut back on your expenses so you can set up an automatic transfer to save a little each month for unexpected expenses. For example, if eating out costs your family $40, and eating in costs your family $20, you can eat out one less time per month, saving $20. You may be more likely to save the money if you set up an automatic transfer out of your main account into your medical expense, car repair or house repair fund before the money comes in. If you are paid twice a month, set up two $10 transfers to come out the day after each of your paychecks come in. You might be less tempted to eat out if you already moved the money to cover your future expenses. In just five months you’ll have $100 in your account, which might relieve a little stress when your car battery dies.
If you want to avoid some stress when you have unexpected expenses, or large expenses that come up a few times a year, like car insurance, try what Christopher did.
Have you already done this? Does it help you? Do you have another method that works for you?
Guest post by Quincy Fowler
You have probably read recent news about security breaches. Passwords are stolen and online accounts compromised. Online safety is a top priority for everyone who uses the internet for financial transactions. A strong password can help protect you online. Many people are under the impression that a strong password will be difficult to remember. There are effective techniques for creating a strong and memorable password that is difficult to guess by those close to you and by strangers who would want to either figure out your password through social engineering or various decryption methods.
One of the hallmarks of a strong password is the inclusion of special characters to prevent a person from creating a program to guess using standard dictionary words or letters in a random order. The old advice of using a pet’s name or birthdate is simply outdated and dangerous in this age of advanced computing power. In order to create a strong password, you should consider making up a sentence that is easily remembered, but long and complex enough to make it challenging to guess. After you create the sentence, use the first letter of each word to write your password. Include numbers in the sentence and incorporate them with digits. Finally, use any punctuation that may appear in the sentence. In addition, use some special characters such as the ampersand (&) or the “at” symbol (@) in place of letters or entire words as appropriate.
For example, if I chose my sentence to be “The quick brown fox jumped over the 2 lazy dogs”, my password would wind up being Tqbfjot2ld. Most people would be unable to remember this password without context, but I, the rightful owner of the password, would have context to help me figure it out if I forget. Think of your password as the key to the vault door of your online bank account. You want it sufficiently complex that a skeleton key won’t allow unauthorized access.
Quincy Fowler is one of our customers who has years of IT experience—and even more years of creating, forgetting and learning to remember passwords!
Teachers, there are some new resources available to you to help you teach your students about money and making smart choices. Free lesson plans for pre-K through age 20 are available through the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation’s Money Smart for Young People.
The FDIC and CFPB worked together to develop lesson plans that could be tailored to students of different age groups and abilities throughout the nation. There are four curricula in the Money Smart program: Grades Pre-K-2, 3-5, 6-8 and 9-12. Each curriculum consists of multiple lessons that offer instructors ideas on how to weave financial education into subjects like math, English and social studies.
You can access the curriculum here: www.fdic.gov/teachers.
Here, you can also access three short videos developed to show teachers how these lessons can be used in your classroom: www.fdic.gov/consumers/education/torc/videos.html.
To learn more about the FDIC’s Money Smart curriculum, please visit us at www.fdic.gov/consumers/consumer/moneysmart/.
If you’re interested in having a banker visit your classroom next year and talk to your students about money and saving, or scheduling a tour of a bank with your class, please contact us at 800-815-BANK or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Guest post by Katie Bryan, America Saves Communications Manager
The numbers are shocking.
• In 2012, the average credit card debt among adults aged 65+ was $9,283 (Demos: The State of Young America).
• One-third of senior households have no money left over each month or are in debt after meeting essential expenses (Institute on Assets and Social Policy).
• The share of Americans 65 and older in the labor force went from 12.1% in 1990 to 16.1% in 2010 (Census).
• 60% of women over 65 across the country lack the incomes to meet basic expenses (Wider Opportunities for Women).
With Americans, especially women, living longer – the reality is that we need to save more money for retirement or plan to work longer.
Tips to Prepare to Live Debt Free in Retirement
1. Start saving, keep saving and stick to your goals.
3. Save at work and/or through a Roth IRA.
4. Find places to cut back so you can save more.
Already Retired and Need Help: You Gave, Now Save
Millions of low-income seniors continue to miss out on nearly $1.2 billion in benefits that can help them pay for their health care, prescriptions, food, utilities and more. These aren’t handouts—by working hard their whole lives, older adults have paid into the programs that can now provide them support needed to remain healthy and independent.
• BenefitsCheckUp ® is the National Council on Aging’s (NCOA) web-based service offering information on benefits programs, specifically programs for people with Medicare and limited income and resources.
• The Eldercare Locator, a public, nationwide service that connects older adults and their caregivers with information on senior services. The Locator is available both online http://eldercare.gov and as a toll-free hotline at 1-800-677-1116.
• “Navigating Your Rights” is a legal guide to help those 55 and older to know their rights. Find the Utah-specific version or the national version in any Bank of American Fork branch or the full PDF at www.LegalGuide55.utah.gov.
It’s World Elder Abuse Awareness Day. Something you can do? Share this graphic to spread the word about an effective way to help combat fraud against seniors.
If you’re thinking about fraud against seniors (up to $1 million a day here in Utah!) but aren’t sure how to protect yourself or your loved ones, start with some simple, but effective ways to put checks in place and combat different types of fraud. Seniors can maintain independence and still have a helper looking out for fraud with all or part of the account structure suggested in this infographic. Share the graphic online or, for a printed version, call 800-815-BANK.
You probably worry about whether or not your kids will be well-equipped for their futures. Here is some good news:
There are new resources available to help you teach your Pre-K through 20-year-old children about money and making smart choices. A new website compiles videos, games, lessons and subjects ranging from Don’t Buy It, a site with games to teach kids about how tricky ads can be, to Understanding Taxes, a resource to help young-adult students become familiar with taxes.
Money Smart for Young People was designed by the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation and the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau to improve financial education and decision-making skills among young people. It can be difficult to know where to begin or how to teach different aspects of smart money skills to children, but there are curricula for different ages and abilities that offer exercises, activities, and conversation-starters on different financial topics, such as saving, setting financial goals, prioritizing spending decisions, and staying safe online.
You can find the site here: www.consumerfinance.gov/parents.
“It is important that financial education begin at a young age so that children can build long-term, positive financial habits,” FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg said. “The new tools released today build on FDIC’s long track record in financial education by involving parents and teachers in a way that helps children build financial capability and take advantage of the opportunities in the banking system to reach their financial goals.”
If you want to do even more to help your kids learn the value of saving or understand how to make smart money decisions, consider helping them open a savings account designed for kids, bring them into a branch for a visit or get their classroom involved in Teach the Children to Save Day by contacting email@example.com.
This summer, Bank of American Fork is celebrating Utah’s cities and the wonderful people that live in them. Join us for Community Appreciation Day at your local Bank of American Fork branch for free food, prizes, games and fun. And don’t forget to wave to us as we float through your city parade!
The extra fun this summer is that we’re also celebrating Seymour the Piggy Bank’s Sweet 16, so look for him when you see hot-air balloons and on our float, and use #SeymoursSweet16 when you post your photos!
See you around this summer!
|CITY/BRANCH||PARADE INFO||COMMUNITY APPRECIATION DAY|
|Alpine||August 8, 10 a.m.||August 7, noon-2 p.m.|
|Bluffdale||August 15, 9 a.m.||N/A|
|American Fork||July 11, 9:30 a.m.||July 10, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.|
|Draper||July 18, 9 a.m.||July 17, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.|
|Eagle Mountain||June 6, 10 a.m.||N/A|
|Highland||August 1, 10 a.m.||July 31, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.|
|Lehi||June 27, 10 a.m.||June 26, noon-2 p.m.|
|Murray||July 4, 9 a.m.||TBD|
|Orem||June 13, 7 p.m.||June 12, noon-2 p.m.|
|Pleasant Grove||June 20, 10 a.m.||June 19, noon-2 p.m.|
|Riverton||July 3, 6:30 p.m.||July 2, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.|
|Sandy||July 4, 6 p.m.||July 3, noon -2 p.m.|
|Saratoga Springs||June 13, 10 a.m.||June 12, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.|
|Spanish Fork||July 24, 9 a.m.||July 22 & 23, 9 a.m.-5 p.m.|
|St. George||September 19, 5 p.m.||TBD|
How Jan helped protect our customer’s money
Learn about what you can do to reduce the risk of fraud.
The other day Jan told me about a recent fraud attempt that she dealt with in the customer service center. The fraudster was targeting a senior’s primary account and Jan was able to keep the fraudster away from the customer’s money until the customer and his son could close the account and open a new one. Later, the customer and his son learned a few things they could do to keep the customer’s money a little safer in the future. Here’s what happened, in Jan’s words.
I received a phone call soon after the customer-service center opened on a Thursday at around 7:30 in the morning. The man on the line requested to set up his account for online banking. I asked for some account information and he said he could provide each piece—which did I want? Since any of the options would do, he gave me the information I needed. Since I needed to verify his identity in order to set him up with online banking, he also gave me some identifying information. He had the right answers, but I just felt like something was off. I had this feeling that something was wrong.
I looked at his account at some information and notes—I felt sure that I wasn’t speaking with the real customer. A few details tipped me off that something wasn’t right. As I talked with him, I could tell it was not our customer. I decided to ask for a few more identifiers, just to be sure. Over the course of talking through more questions and answers, he answered most correctly, but one wrong. It was a mistake that the customer wouldn’t make, but a fraudster could.
I didn’t tell him which question he answered wrong, but I let the man on the phone know he needed to come in to the branch and show his ID so we could help him. In his friendly way, he said he was nearby and would be in when we opened.
After I put an alert and pending close on the account, I left a message for the branch manager near the customer to call me. Only a few minutes later, the customer and his son contacted us. We discovered that a fraudster told the customer that he won something and they needed information from him to put the money into his account. He gave his information to the friendly fraudster, who was the Las Vegas man I spoke with on the phone. The customer told his son about his “winnings”, who urged him to call the bank, as he suspected it was fraud. As soon as the branch opened, the customer and his son were there to close the account and open a new one.
Thanks to Jan’s years of experience and care for her customers, she knew not to just wait for the right answers and move forward with the fraudster’s request—she listened to her feeling and looked for some signs. If the fraudster—who had a lot of information about our customer—had been able to set up online banking, he could have easily wiped out our customer’s account in a few minutes, probably before our customer’s son would have heard about and suspected what was happening.
One advantage of keeping your money in a bank versus other places is that the bank will protect its customers in circumstances like these. Assuming that the real customer was not an accomplice to the fraud, and assuming that the customer notified the bank promptly, the bank would have reimbursed the customer the amount that was stolen. However, it’s better for everyone to prevent the fraud from happening so that no reimbursement is necessary. Even with reimbursement from a bank, fraud is a terrible inconvenience for our customers and an invasion of their privacy.
We can help you put a few extra checks and balances in place to reduce the risk of fraud. If you don’t need help managing your finances, but could use an extra set of eyes to watch for fraud, we can help you set up a helper with view-only access. They will be able to see what’s going on with your account, but can’t make any changes or transactions. They can watch for unusual transactions in real time and you can even set up alerts for types of transactions you don’t usually do.
Here’s one type of structure we often recommend:
If you need a little more help, you may want to consider opening a smaller, secondary account with an automatic transfer from your primary account each month that will cover your groceries or bills or whatever aspect of your finances you need help with. You can then add a trusted helper only to that smaller account. You can add a second helper with view-only access to watch over both accounts—to protect you and your first helper from fraud, suspected fraud or accusations. There are more ways we can help you set up the help you need—just talk to one of us and we can walk you through some of the options.
If you’re looking for a way to reduce your taxable income for your 2014 taxes, consider the advantages of an IRA—you have about a week to make contributions to an IRA for last year. Contributions to IRAs can be made as late as the first due date of a tax return, and can be considered retroactive to the previous tax year, so you can still make a qualifying IRA contribution and get the tax benefit if you qualify for your 2014 tax filing. For 2014 the dollar limits for IRA contributions are $5,500 if you are age 49 and younger, $6,500 if you are 50 and older. If you don’t have an IRA, Bank of American Fork can help.
Bank of American Fork’s IRAs are held in CDs, not in the stock market, so you are guaranteed a safe return and you are covered by FDIC insurance. Unlike some banks, we don’t charge you holding fees or an annual fee. Depending on the type of IRA you choose and subject to IRS rules, you can earn tax-free or tax-deferred income. When you are eligible, you can receive distributions from the money in your IRA.
Here are the types of IRAs we offer:
• Traditional IRA: Allows contributions of pre-tax income. Taxes are paid upon distribution.
• Roth IRA: Allows contributions of after-tax income, if qualified. Qualified distributions of principal and interest are tax-free. After retirement, distributions are not required.
• SEP IRA: SEP stands for Simplified Employee Pension. It allows a business to make contributions toward its employees’ retirement using IRAs. These are especially popular with sole proprietors, where the business owner and the employee are the same person. SEPs allow a higher maximum contribution than a Traditional or ROTH IRA. (See IRS for eligibility requirements)
At Bank of American Fork, variable-rate IRAs require only $10 to open, while fixed-rate IRAs can be opened with either a $500 or a $5,000 minimum opening deposit.
Don’t wait any longer to start your retirement savings and save on your taxes. Open an IRA today! At Bank of American Fork, our friendly staff can meet with you and show you firsthand how we can help you secure a strong financial future. Call 1-800-BANK to set an appointment. We look forward to speaking with you.
Consult your tax advisor for details.