Creating a password that’s secure—and memorable Jul 06, 2015, 8:01 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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 The old advice of using a pet’s name or birthdate is simply outdated and dangerous in this age of advanced computing power.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!

Free lesson plans about money for teachers Jun 29, 2015, 8:11 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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 newsletter@bankaf.com.

The State of Older Americans and Savings Jun 22, 2015, 8:01 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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.

2. Know how much you will need for retirement.

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.

How to help protect your money and get the support you need as you age Jun 15, 2015, 8:51 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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.

How to teach your kids about money Jun 09, 2015, 8:03 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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 newsletter@bankaf.com.

Summer fun in Utah! Jun 01, 2015, 8:44 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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 Apr 06, 2015, 9:16 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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.

We care about you. Call us at 800-815-BANK or visit one of our locations to put some checks and balances in places. Visit here for more resources on seniors and fraud.

Take advantage of $5K tax deduction Apr 02, 2015, 5:29 pm By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

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.


Electronic payments to speed up this year and next Mar 16, 2015, 9:26 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Consumers will see a change in how quickly funds are available.

Stella calls her dad, Christopher, and asks him to send money for her housing payment, which she needs, like, yesterday. And yes, now, in 2015, Christopher drives over to the nearest branch of the national bank he uses and deposits a paper check that will go into her account so the funds are available to Stella the next day. Christopher isn’t afraid of sending electronic payments or unfamiliar with his bank’s person-to-person payment service, it’s just that sending an electronic payment could mean that it will be three days before Stella can use the funds Christopher sends.

The good news for Christopher and Stella? Electronic payments should speed up, nationally, this year and next.

The Federal Reserve System just released its next steps in developing an infrastructure to speed up electronic payments and settlements.

When you make a person-to-person payment or send an electronic payment for a utility bill, the time it takes for your payment to process is affected by the Federal Reserve’s system on the back end. For consumers, the coming change means faster and more secure payments.

The Fed is launching a task force to find practical approaches to speeding up the system and to get feedback from industries involved in payments systems to find additional ways to offer greater speed, security, efficiency and cross-border options.

This year and the beginning of 2016, the Fed is laying out a policy framework for the new system and with the feedback from the task force, will begin implementing the practical solutions. The Fed has already identified a couple of ways it will change to speed up payments and make it safer. To improve security, the Fed will also expand its anti-fraud and payments risk management offerings. Its longer-term goal is weekend or 24-hour service, and added that it would promote greater use of same-day ACH and expand its international payment services.

As the Federal Reserve successfully implements policy to speed up its end of the electronic payments process, Bank of American Fork customers can expect to see any electronic payments they make through online banking speed up, including electronic bill pay, person-to-person payments and transfers between accounts. We’re always looking for ways to offer you better service so we monitor national financial news with you in mind—this is a story we’re excited about.

Since Stella lives less than a few hours away from Christopher while she’s attending college, Christopher has even considered driving to where she lives to drop off cash. Soon, electronic payments will be faster than sending the money by Pony Express, and Stella and Christopher won’t have to worry about being robbed on the trail by outlaw Jesse James.

Make Your Tax Refund Work for You! Mar 09, 2015, 8:50 am By Heidi Carmack Pfaffroth

Have you done your taxes? The article below can help you get started and is encouraging if you’re considering paying down debt and saving your refund this year. This year, I decided to save my entire refund as a nice chunk of cash to put towards a down payment on a house. To make it easier to stick to my decision and not tap into my refund, I set up a high-interest account, separate from my regular checking account, and had my refund directly deposited into that account. The article below has some interesting stats about Americans and savings if you’re thinking about doing something similar.

Guest post by Tammy Greynolds, America Saves                                                                                                       

It’s easy for us to think of this year’s tax refund as free money coming to us courtesy of Uncle Sam. However, the truth of the matter is that the check you receive is a return of your own hard earned money. And since you’re going to get your own money back, why not use it to get ahead of your financial goals?

In 2014, sixty-nine percent of those polled by American Consumer Credit Counseling indicated that they had used their tax refund to pay down debt and get ahead on monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, and car payments. In 2013, twenty-six percent indicated they would put their refund into savings, while forty-five percent said they would use it to pay down credit card debt. The National Retail Federation saw that forty-six percent of its 2014 survey respondents intended to cushion their emergency savings with their refunds, with nearly six in 10 young adults between 18 and 24 putting their refunds into savings.

The results of these surveys are indicative of a growing, budget-friendly and money-savvy trend: Americans are opting out of tax-time splurging and are focusing on getting ahead. Consider a few easy ways to help get yourself set up for success as tax season approaches:

Take advantage of a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA programs offer free tax help to those who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers. Qualified individuals can receive basic income tax return preparation assistance from IRS-certified volunteers

Form 8888 to split your refund.  Why rack up more debt on your credit card in an emergency when you can set aside savings to cover it interest-free? The IRS provides taxpayers with multiple avenues to receive and save their refunds. Take advantage of direct deposit to your checking account to pay off debts and automatically deposit a portion of your refund to your savings account.

We know that making smart financial decisions isn’t always easy. So whether you’re just starting to look at ways to get ahead in 2015 or are already planning to put your refund towards your goals, remember that your tax refund doesn’t have to go to one place. When you get your hard earned money back, consider putting a piece of it towards paying down debts AND save some for a rainy day. It really is that easy.

If you’re wondering what type of account to deposit your refund into or have other questions, get the conversation going below!

Tammy Greynolds 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.

Consult your tax advisor for details.

 
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