Detecting counterfeit money Sep 29, 2014, 11:02 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Recently, a customer came into one of our branches to deposit money from a very small, retail business. One of the $50 bills was counterfeit and we quickly realized that the counterfeiter took advantage of the fact that the receiving end of the bill was a young, inexperienced teenager, working his first summer job.

Another way a counterfeiter might scam people is with a stack of mixed bills for a KSL or Craigslist sale. A counterfeiter might buy your item from a re-sale site like KSL, and hand you a stack of $20 bills. Knowing you’ll likely notice if they’re all counterfeit, the counterfeiter will mix in fake bills in the middle, which you might skim by when you’re counting the money.

How can you avoid being scammed by counterfeit bills? Below are a few tips to help you.

Hold each bill up to the light. You should be able to see fibers, or threads, in the bills. Make sure you hold each one up, since some may be real and some may be counterfeit. You might feel silly at first, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

What does the bill feel like? When you have a stack of bills, feel each one. Do any feel different than the others? Checking what the money feels like is one of the easiest ways to spot a counterfeit bill.

Think like a counterfeiter. Counterfeiters know better than to try and pass off fake bills at a bank. Counterfeiters typically try to launder counterfeit bills through fast-food restaurants, mall shops or other places where inexperienced teenagers won’t detect fake bills. If you’re a business owner, make sure all of your employees are trained on detecting counterfeit bills. Sometimes it helps to make sure they’ve seen and handled bills of different denominations. If you’re selling something on KSL or Craigslist or similar, make sure you’re wary of counterfeit bills.

Ask your banker. If you suspect something might be counterfeit, bring it to your banker’s attention. They likely have machines that help to detect fake bills and can check for you. Don’t try and hide it in a stack of bills.

Know your money. Visit the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and check out the different security features on each of the old and new bills. The more familiar you are with these, the more difficult it will be for a counterfeiter to fool you.

Check out other resources. The Secret Service provides background information about currency security you might be interested in checking out.

As always, be wary and don’t be afraid to question a bill you receive. If you have questions, come talk to a banker in any of our 14 branches or call us at 800-815-BANK.

What Big Eyes You Have Sep 26, 2014, 6:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Be on the watch to prevent senior exploitation.

Family Caregivers: The Invisible Army Sep 25, 2014, 2:09 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Ways to lighten the loan when helping with your loved one’s finances.

 

How to Build a $1,000 Emergency Fund in 10 Months Sep 23, 2014, 10:07 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Guest post by Katie Bryan, America Saves

Do you have $1,000 set aside for emergencies? If you already do, you could probably use another $1,000 in that account. Experts recommend keeping at least three months expenses in a reliable, liquid account – though even an extra $1,000 can be a life-saver. But finding $1,000 to save isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this four-step plan on how to save $1,000 in 10 months.

Get Started with These 4 Steps

  1. 1.       Find a Safe Place to Save Your Money – You will want to save your money in an account that you can access easily in case of an emergency. That means you should probably not keep this savings in a U.S. Savings Bond or in mutual funds. Choose a traditional savings account or a short-term certificate-of-deposit (CD), currently the most attractive accounts. (Early withdrawal penalties on a CD rarely lower the yield below that of a savings account.) Consider opening a new account or sub-account for this money so you’re not tempted to spend it. Most importantly, do not keep savings in a checking account, which pays no or low interest and is too easy to access.

 

  1. 2.       Save $100 a month – If you are already saving $100 a month, great! Skip to step 3. If not, you need to either earn $100 more a month or cut back in order to find that $100 to save. America Saves has a list of 54 ways to save money to get you started. It can also help to pay yourself first and save the $100 at the beginning of the month instead of waiting to see if you have money left over to save at the end of the month.

 

  1. 3.       Automate Your Savings – Setting up an automatic way to save is one of the best ways to save. Once you set it up, then it happens without having to think about it. Here are two ways to automate your savings. 1. Every pay period, ask your employer to deduct $100 from your paycheck and transfer it to a savings account. Ask your HR representative for more details and to set this up.  2.  Ask your bank or credit union to transfer $100 from your checking account to a savings account every month.  Talk to your local bank or credit union to set this up. Learn more about how automating your savings or bills can help your relationships.

 

  1. 4.       Watch Your Savings Grow for 10 Months – The final step is to sit back and watch your savings grow. How often do you look at the calendar and think it’s half way through 2014 already? The same will apply to your savings; Before you know it you will have that $1,000. They key is not to touch the money unless you have an emergency – that’s what the money is there for after all.  

Once you have at least $1,000 in your emergency account, continue your savings success and continue to build your emergency savings or apply that money to a new savings goal. Perhaps you have debt you need to pay down or want to save for a car or home.

No matter what you are saving for, America Saves can support you with tips and advice through emails and text messages. Sign up for these by taking the America Saves Pledge Today.

Katie Bryan works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at americasaves.org.

Automating bills and savings can support marriage and relationships Sep 04, 2014, 9:48 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Couples cite financial problems as a common cause of divorce. At Bank of American Fork, we believe one way some financial stress contributing to separation or divorce can be avoided is with smart banking, including utilizing available technology and automating payments.

In the past, paying bills was simpler. People paid in cash or by check and there may have been fewer bills to be paid. Now, more bills means more complexity: mortgage or rent, food, utilities, student debt, credit card debt, phone bills, Internet and cable, and car payments can easily be a part of nearly every household.

All these bills can result in confusion and disagreement in the absence of a budget, enough money to pay them, and differences in spending habits. Making a budget is hard enough, but trying to stick to it can really cause rifts.

Budgeting and planning are vital components to maintaining a peaceful relationship when it comes to financial stability. Studies show that couples who fight regularly about finances are 30 percent more likely to separate. Couples who budget for individual spending, automate spending to help them stick to their budgets and communicate where money is going and how much there is will have less financial stress in the relationship.

“Automating some of your bill payments may reduce stress,” said Joshua Everton, eBanking manager for Bank of American Fork’s holding company People’s Utah Bancorp. “It works like this: you and your partner make the decision once about what your budget should look like, set up automatic bill payments to go out first thing after paychecks come in. Then you don’t get to the end of the month without enough to pay bills, angry at someone else for spending too much on the wrong things.”

Consider doing the same thing with savings. If you and your partner decide to save for a house, car, vacation, retirement or something else, decide how much you can afford to save each month. Then, set up an automatic transfer to go into a separate savings account—when you set up that transfer, you’re making the decision once to save every month. You may even want to use an online-only savings account, which often have higher rates.

Financial stress doesn’t have to be a reason for a relationship to flounder. Use the technology available to you to make it easier to stick to your goals.

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Retirement confidence rises Sep 02, 2014, 8:40 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

For the first time in years, more Americans anticipate a comfortable retirement. What can you do to make sure you’re ready for retirement?

With the average life span increasing, many Americans have struggled in retirement. Their parents and grandparents typically only planned for a decade of expenses following retirement—now, many people are realizing they will be working longer than they anticipated and/or need to prepare for several decades of expenses. With this changing landscape, Americans have been anticipating a less-than-comfortable retirement consistently since 2007.

This year, according to a Gallup survey, there are more Americans who think they will have a comfortable retirement than those who think they won’t. Fifty percent reported expecting to have enough money to retire comfortably, with 45 percent who said they would not.

Confidence is highest among younger Americans. Fifty-two percent in the 18-29 age group and 51 percent in the 30-49 age group are positive about having enough money. In contrast, 48 percent of those closest to retirement, ages 50-64, say they will not have enough money.

What are you doing to prepare for retirement? Despite a changing environment, there are ways to prepare that can help you feel confident about retirement. It takes planning and some self-control, but if you make the decision now and automate some of the steps, it gets easier.

Here are some resources, and be sure to come back for upcoming articles about how you can prepare for retirement!

Make your money work for you with a Roth IRA.

Different types of IRAs.

Using online money manager to track your savings goals.

• Browse our archives for more retirement tips.

Bank of American Fork to match up to $20k for Westlake Marching Band trip

Bank of American Fork is, once again, reaching out to its community by opening an account in behalf of the Westlake Marching Band to get students to the Pearl Harbor Memorial Day parade in Pearl Harbor, Hawaii on December 7. The bank will match up to $20,000 in donations made to the account, making a potential $40,000 contribution towards the student fees to participate in the parade.

Executives at Bank of American Fork felt this opportunity for the Westlake Marching Band to participate in the Pearl Harbor Memorial Day parade should not be missed and are calling on the community to help.

“The Westlake Marching Band has been chosen to participate in a historical event because of their exceptional talent and hard work,” said Richard Beard, president of Bank of American Fork. “To think that they would have to miss out on such an opportunity is unfortunate, and we couldn’t let that happen. At Bank of American Fork, we know it’s important to support the communities that support us.”

Though each of the 140 students has committed almost $1000, they are seeking sources for the additional funds.  Bank of American Fork is asking community members to step up and donate so the bank can make the maximum $20,000 matching contribution.

Bank of American Fork is proud to sponsor its communities and proud to be a part of a community willing to help. Earlier this year, the community stepped up and raised funds for drug-sniffing canines for the American Fork Police Department, through a similar donation-matching program.

Donations can be made at any of the bank’s 14 branch locations through September 30. Donations are tax-deductible.

Bank of American Fork is serious about offering safe financial products designed to help you do the things you need to do. We don’t design our products to be predatory or to contribute to unhealthy financial habits, and we’re constantly evaluating the products we have to make sure we’re offering is valuable to customers.

Recently, the Brigham Young University statistics department did a study on the use of one of our products, Bounce Protection. They found that our lower-income customers are using this product less frequently than our middle- and upper-income customers.

Bounce Protection is an overdraft-protection product. Many of our customers like Bounce Protection because it helps them avoid embarrassing situations when their purchases would be declined, and it provides a safety net for unexpected financial situations and emergencies.

However, overdraft products can be known for their potentially predatory nature, so Bank of American Fork commissioned a study. Using a product like this excessively could be expensive for customers, and although we rarely receive complaints about Bounce Protection, we wanted to understand how our customers are using it. If our lower-income customers were using it more frequently, we would be concerned about the way we’re educating them about how to use Bounce Protection or about their overdraft options.

We like to see our customers make financially healthy decisions. If you’re ever unsure about whether your use of a product is helping or hurting your financial goals, feel free to reach out to us via social media, our website or our call center.

We want to make sure we’re offering potentially valuable products like Bounce Protection, but with education and information to help you use those products responsibly. We’re doing our best to do our part to help you make good financial decisions, including:

• Educating new checking account customers on Bounce Protection and less-expensive alternatives.

• Offering information about using Bounce Protection.

• Sending monthly statements that show year-to-date use of the product.

• Allowing customers who can’t pay the negative balance within the first month to repay it over time, without additional interest or fees.

This recent BYU study results are consistent with our policy of not offering predatory products or services, and we’ll always keep evaluating our products to that end. So what can you do to make sure you use this product responsibly? Start here for a great article about using Bounce Protection healthfully.

Fiscal fitness is all about using the right products and services for you in a responsible way. For example, the type of overdraft protection you use may be dependent on your current financial and credit situation, as well as your financial goals. Remember to talk to your banker (or call us at 800-815-BANK) about the goals you’re trying to achieve, besides the products you’re thinking about, because there may be a better option for you.

Mortgage basics with Ike Dietz Jul 31, 2014, 8:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Did you see this Fresh Living segment with Mortgage Loan Officer Ike Dietz (NMLS 447506) about the first step to prepare for getting a mortgage loan?

Mortgage basics with Ike Dietz on Fresh Living

Ike is a mortgage loan officer at Bank of American Fork because he loves seeing people in the same community that he lives and works in getting into homes. When someone asks about the first steps to getting a mortgage, Ike says he always suggests people look at their budgets. As mentioned in the clip, what you qualify for and what fits your budget are not always the same.

Rates are low, according to Freddie Mac, so get your income information together, and like Ike mentioned, make the call. If you call 800-815-BANK, Ike or another experienced mortgage officer can walk you through the process and may be able to help you find the mortgage that fits you.

Buying a new home is something most people do only a few times in a lifetime, so it’s to be expected that a borrower will have many questions. Don’t be afraid to ask questions so you feel confident about the process, the exact loan terms and the costs associated with a mortgage.

Stay fiscally fit: Measure goal progress with online money manager Jul 14, 2014, 8:10 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

This year, we’ve spent some time focusing on making sure you know about and have access to the tools that will help you be fiscally fit when used responsibly. Chances are you’ve made some changes in your money management this year, since interest in saving money, effort towards saving money and effectiveness in saving money all rose for Americans in the first four months of this year, according to the America Saves Personal Savings Index. Now you’re thinking about evaluating your goals so you can adjust where needed. When it comes to goal-setting, sometimes measurement and evaluation are the hardest part! However, without measuring and evaluating, it’s nearly impossible to know whether the steps we’re taking to reach goals are working.

Enter online money manager. This online aggregator service allows you to automatically pull all of your financial accounts together in one place, set budgeting goals and then automatically track your progress towards those goals! This makes budgeting simple (and cheap, since it’s a free tool).

Here’s how online money manager works and how you might be able to use it to help you get or stay fiscally fit (even when you’re traveling and having fun all summer).

Our online money manager works for our customers. This smart and sleek financial management and budgeting tool allows you to get a complete picture of all your finances in one place. Link all of your bank accounts, retirement accounts, credit cards, mortgage loans, investments and other financial online accounts—whether at Bank of American Fork or thousands of other institutions—to the online money manager within your Bank of American Fork online banking account. You can budget and manage your money with more clarity because all of your transactions and balances are in one place.

Here’s an overview of how you can use online money manager:

Get a complete financial picture – view all accounts (checking, savings, retirement, mortgage, credit card, investments and more), including those from other financial institutions, in one place

Track expenses – automated and manual categorization of expenses

Create a budget – the budget wizard helps create a budget based on actual income and expense or using national averages

Track savings goals – budget for and track savings goals, making it easier to create a realistic savings plan

Set alerts – choose user-defined spending limits, balance, deposit or transaction alerts to be sent via email or text message

To use the Online Money Manager, just log into your online banking and click on the “Money Manager” tab. To enroll in online banking, visit any Bank of American Fork branch, use our live chat feature at www.bankaf.com or contact us at 1-800-815-BANK.

 
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