Home Improvement Hacks

Young bi-racial couple assembles assemble it yourself furniture in their modern home.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!

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thrillist.com/amphtml/home/home-improvement-hacks-under-50-diy-home-projects

https://diyjoy.com/diy-remodeling-hacks/

http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/15-smart-hacks-that-will-save-you-money-while-remodeling-your-home/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.remodelista.com/posts/apartment-rental-simple-easy-budget-hacks/amp/

4 Apps To Help You Keep Your New Year’s Resolutions

It’s a new year and a new you!

If you’re like most Americans, your New Year’s resolutions include cleaning up your finances, losing weight or getting into better shape and kicking some bad habits. It’s also likely, though, that your resolutions are almost identical every year.

Make 2019 the year those resolutions actually last by using one or all of these super-helpful apps to keep you on track.

Caoch.me blue and white logo1.) Coach.me
Do you feel like you need ongoing motivation to keep you working toward your goals? Then look no further than Coach.me! This free app is just like having an inspirational speaker, life coach and personal trainer inside your phone. Coach.me lets you set any goal and then share your progress with an entire supportive community. You’ll be encouraged to stick to your resolutions, cheered on as you reach your targets and pushed to pick yourself up when you fall. The app also lets you hire an actual life coach if you want one-on-one motivation.

Try Coach.me. It’s the perfect tool for making those resolutions stick!

Blue My Fitness Pal logo, white silhouette of woman performing plie under white interlock "UA" Under Armor logo2.) MyFitnessPal
Shed those pounds for good this year with MyFitnessPal! The weight-loss app boasts a database of nutritional stats for more than 5 million foods and allows you to scan the barcodes of packaged foods to get the information, thus making calorie-counting a breeze. You can also track your energy output with MyFitnessPal’s step-counting feature or sync it with another exercise app like Fitbit or Jawbone. The massively popular app offers a free option, or you can choose to shell out $9.99 a month to unlock additional features.

Get fit in 2019 with MyFitnessPal!

HabitBull logo consisting of a coral colored rounded square with white silhouette of a longhorn bull's head3.) HabitBull
Do you have a bad habit you need to kick? Let HabitBull help you make it happen! Whether your habit is harmless and annoying, like nail-biting, or dangerous and expensive, like smoking, the app will track your progress and celebrate your successes until you’ve shown that habit the door. If going cold turkey on a bad habit scares you, you can take it in small steps. The app isn’t limited to yes-or-no questions, and it also allows you to track data, like “number of drinks today,” so you can work at your own pace.

Download HabitBull today and get started shaking those habits for good!

Happify logo consisting of a multi-color ring around an orange, lower-case, san-serif h.4.) Happify
Have you resolved to be happier and more positive in 2019? Download this app to make it happen! Happify will help you beat the winter doldrums, and lead a more joyous and optimistic life, by giving you a daily happiness boost. After signing up, you’ll be asked to fill out a short questionnaire about your personal stressors and downers. The app will then give you a daily list of science-based activities and tasks that are guaranteed to help you lose the stress for turning that frown upside down.

Make 2019 a happy year with Happify!

Your Turn:
Are you using any apps to help you stick to your New Year’s resolutions? Share them with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/pictures/apps-to-help-you-keep-your-new-years-resolutions/

https://www.pcmag.com/feature/330773/apps-to-help-you-keep-your-new-year-s-resolutions

https://www.realsimple.com/work-life/technology/new-years-resolution-app

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Five Must-have Gadgets For College Students

You’ve already got your laptop, tablet and, of course, your smartphone. What more can you need for college?

Teen girl wearing headphones while studying in her dorm roomCheck out our list of 5 super-convenient gadgets that every college student should know about.

1. Smartpen
This is perhaps the most helpful gadget imaginable for students. Livescribe smartpens are incredible. You can use them to capture your notes digitally as you take them during lectures. You can use them in conjunction with your smartphone, laptop or tablet. Not only do these awesome pens capture your writing, but they also record beautiful digital audio that you can use to listen to your professor’s lectures again when you are getting ready to ace your midterms

2. Laptop lock
There’s nothing more terrifying than leaving your laptop on a table in the library only to come back a minute later and find it gone. Avoid this nightmare with this quick and cheap solution. Purchase a security cable for your laptop to keep it where it is. You can buy a Ruban’s notebook lock for just $8.99. The cable runs up to 6.2 feet long and will make your laptop immovable for everyone who doesn’t know your four-digit code.

3. Google Chrome extensions
All that research can give your Google Chrome quite a workout! Let it do its job swiftly and more efficiently by installing a Google Chrome extension on your laptop. You can download your choice of extension for free – and make your work a whole lot easier!

4. Dictaphone
Never miss a word of the lecture again! This is one of those gadgets most college students don’t realize they need until half the semester is over. An efficient Dictaphone can be left at the lectern during a class and serve as the perfect backup to spotty note-taking. Choose a model that is sturdy and solid with a decent battery life for the best performance.

5. Noise canceling headphones
You can control your own study habits most of the time, but there’s no way you can control your roomies’ method of dealing with schoolwork. If your roommate loves to party hearty in your room every night while you’re cramming for finals, or you just want to block out the entire world and concentrate on your notes, you need a pair of noise-canceling headphones. You can plug into your favorite tunes while you work, or even wear them without plugging into any device at all! You’ll have that quiet you’re craving and it’ll be just you and your work; you won’t even notice the distractions surrounding you. Study on and go ace that exam!

Your Turn:
What’s your favorite can’t-live-without-it gadget? Share your best pick with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.cnbc.com/2017/11/30/best-gadgets-for-college-students.html

https://www.youniversitytv.com/tech/6-apps-gadgets-improve-college-students-productivity/

https://www.google.com/amp/www.zdnet.com/google-amp/pictures/20-must-have-back-to-school-college-gadgets/

Fake Check Scams On The Rise

Married woman writing check out at homeIn early September, the Better Business Bureau (BBB) released a report warning about a spike in fake check scams across the country. While these scams are not new, their occurrence rate has doubled over the last three years and is up 12% from 2017.

The BBB further announced that billions of dollars in fake checks circulate each year, and that the number of victims this scam snares annually is close to 500,000.

The amount of money lost from these scams is just as staggering: The FTC reported losses of approximately $40 million from fake check scams in just one year.

Perhaps the most alarming aspect of this scam is the fact that the largest pool of its victims falls between the ages of 20 and 29 – a segment of the population that is far more familiar with electronic payment methods, like PayPal and Venmo, than with the archaic paper check. This makes them easy victims for the scam.

Aside from ordinary paper checks, this scam can also be pulled off with cashier’s checks and money orders. Regardless of the medium, each of these scams involves a scammer “overpaying” a victim and requesting the check be cashed with the difference being deposited into a designated account belonging to the scammer.

Steve Baker, an investigator with the BBB, cautions: “What they all have in common is that the check is counterfeit, and just because the money is credited to your account does not mean the check is good.”

Here are the most common variations of the fake check scam:

  • “Buyers” send sellers a check written out for more than the asking price of an object sold on an online marketplace, such as Craigslist.
  • Lottery “winners” are rewarded with an inflated prize and given instructions to pay back a part of the check to cover taxes or fees.
  • “Employees” are granted checks for supplies, with instructions to wire back a part of it to the “company.”

In each case, the fake check or money order seems to clear in the bank or credit union. It is only a few days later, when the victim’s payout to the scammer is deposited and the account does not have sufficient funds to cover it, that the scam becomes clear.

The BBB warns that this scam can be hard to spot, especially for millennials who may not be familiar with paper checks. To that end, learning what to look for to determine a check’s authenticity is the public’s best weapon against this scam.

Wondering if a check is a fake? Hold it up to this checklist:

  • Is the check’s paper stock weak and flimsy?
  • Check the company’s name and address. Are they spelled correctly?
    Every check will have an identification number printed toward its top and again at the bottom. Verify that these numbers match up.
  • If you’re allegedly holding a lottery-winning check in your hands, the check should be written out from a state lottery commission. If it’s made out by a random company, it’s bogus.
  • Look for the special ink required for the Magnetic Ink Character Recognition (MICR) code that’s at the bottom of the check.
  • The check should have a routing number from its bank. You can Google the bank to find out if the routing number is genuine.

Aside from knowing how to recognize a fake check, it’s important to know which kinds of transactions are likely to be scams. If you come across any of the following, run the other way and don’t look back:

  • You’re asked to wire money to a company you’re not familiar with.
  • You’re given a check by a “buyer” that is made out for more than the item’s sale price.
  • You’re given a check from a foreign bank you’ve never heard of.
  • You’re asked to pay a fee to claim a “prize.”

Now that you know how to spot a fake check and which kind of transactions to avoid at all cost, those scammers don’t stand a chance!

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a fake check scam? Share your story with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
http://www.semissourian.com/story/2549480.html

https://www.news-leader.com/story/news/local/ozarks/2018/09/05/better-business-bureau-releases-report-fake-check-scams/1202964002/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cbsnews.com/amp/news/fake-check-scams-an-exploding-epidemic-new-report-says-better-business-bureau/

Credit Card Fraud In Fives

Businessman enters credit card number on a laptopNo one wants to be the victim of credit fraud. Aside from the stolen money you may never recover, victims of fraud can be faced with an enormous hassle. That hassle involves the closing of accounts, putting a fraud alert on your credit and a huge ding on your credit history, which can be difficult to fix.

Whodunnit? When we’re talking about credit card fraud, everyone’s pointing fingers at everyone else.

Consumers tend to blame the credit card issuer, but the vulnerability usually lies with the point-of-sale terminal. Tampering with a credit card reader takes just a few minutes and can be done with an inexpensive device that’s available on Amazon. In addition, there are lots of other ways your information can be skimmed, none of which point to a security deficiency with your credit union or credit card company.

Thankfully, there are steps you can take to prevent and recognize credit card fraud before it happens. Read on for all you need to know about credit card fraud in 5 lists of fives.

5 ways your card can be frauded

  1. It’s physically lifted from your wallet.
    The old-fashioned pickpocket is still a very real threat. Invest in a secure wallet and/or purse and always keep your card inside.
  2. A restaurant or bar server skims it.
    When you hand over your card to a dishonest server at the end of a meal, you give them a few minutes to skim your card while it’s in their possession.
  3. A terminal you use is compromised.
    Payment terminals can be tampered with and rewired to transmit your information to scammers. This is especially common in pay-at-the-pump gas stations.
  4. An online breach puts your information on the black market.
    After a company you use suffers a breach, your personal information may be up for sale on the dark web.
  5. Your computer’s been hacked.

Once a scammer gets inside your computer, they have full access to all of your sensitive data.

5 signs a terminal’s been compromised

  1. The security seal has been voided.
    Many gas stations have joined the war against credit card crimes by placing a security label across the pump. When the pump is safe to use, the label has a red, blue or black background. When it’s been breached, the words “Void Open” will appear in white.
  2. The card reader is too big for the machine.
    The card reader is created to fit perfectly on top of the machine. If it protrudes past it, it’s likely been tampered with.
  3. The pin pad looks newer than the rest of the machine.
    The entire machine should be in a similar condition.
  4. The pin pad looks raised.
    If the pin pad looks abnormally high compared to the rest of the machine, the card reader may have been fitted with a new pin pad that will record your keystrokes.
  5. The credit card reader is not secured in place.
    If parts of the payment terminal are loose, it’s likely been compromised.

5 times you’re at high risk for credit card fraud

  1. You lost your card.
    If you misplaced your card – even if it was eventually returned to you – there’s a chance your information has been skimmed.
  2. You’re visiting an unfamiliar area.
    When patronizing a business in an unfamiliar neighborhood, you don’t know who you can trust.
  3. A company you use has been breached.
    If a business you frequent has been compromised, carefully monitor your credit for suspicious activity.
  4. You shared your information online with an unverifiable contact.
    If you’ve willingly or unwillingly shared sensitive information online and you’re not certain of the contact’s authenticity, you’ve likely been frauded.
  5. You downloaded something from an unrecognizable source.
    Have you accidentally downloaded an attachment from an unknown source? Then your computer has likely been compromised and you’re at risk for credit card fraud.

5 ways to protect yourself against credit card fraud

  1. Check all card readers for signs of tampering before paying.
  2. Never share your credit card information online unless you’re absolutely sure the website you’re using is authentic and the company behind it is trustworthy.
  3. Check your monthly credit card statements for suspicious activity and review your credit reports on a frequent basis.
  4. Use cash when patronizing a business that’s in an unfamiliar area.
  5. Don’t download any attachments from unknown sources.

5 steps to take if your credit card has been frauded

  1. Lock the compromised account.
    Dispute any fraudulent charges on your compromised accounts and ask to have them locked or completely shut down.
  2. Place a fraud alert on your credit reports.

  3. Consider a credit freeze.
    This will make it impossible for the scammer to open a line of credit in your name.
  4. Alert the FTC.
    Visit identitytheft.gov to report the crime.
  5. Open new accounts.
    Begin restoring your credit with new accounts and lines of credit.

At [credit union], we’ve always got your back! Call, click, or stop by today to ask about steps you can take to protect your information from getting hacked.

Your Turn:
Have you ever been a victim of credit card fraud? Share your story with us in the comments.

SOURCES:

https://www.thebalance.com/how-credit-card-skimming-works-960773

https://www.thebalance.com/more-at-risk-of-credit-card-fraud-960780

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/credit-card-fraud-works-stay-safe/

http://gizmodo.com/home-depot-was-hit-by-the-same-hack-as-target-1631865043

Why Do I Spend So Much When Shopping Online?

Man opening a package from an online retailerQ: I’m really trying to stick to a budget this holiday season, and I’m doing most of my shopping online. It should be easy to stay on track, so why am I constantly going over budget?

A: Both online and in-store shopping can tempt you to overspend, but the internet is particularly designed to help you lose track of your dollars.

More and more people are choosing to hit the web instead of the mall for holiday shopping. The internet definitely wins for convenience. Since there are no crowded malls, no long lines and no crabby cashiers, it’s much more enjoyable. Plus, you get to shop in your PJs. Can it get better than that?

Shopping the old-fashioned way, though, is not without merit. When purchasing items that need to fit right or that you may need immediately, you might want to head to the mall or local small business. You might even save money that way.

If you choose to do most of your holiday shopping on the internet, though, it’s good to understand why we tend to overspend online.

Why we spend more online
Here are 10 ways online retailers push us to overspend:

1. They push products strategically.
The first few products you’ll see when you visit a retail website aren’t necessarily the hottest-selling items; they’re just the stuff the company needs to get rid of most urgently. Most people, though, will assume the products on the site’s homepage are the most popular and will quickly drop one or two of these items into their cart.

2. They offer free shipping—with a minimum purchase.
Don’t think the retailer is being super-generous when they offer to sponsor the shipping costs if you spend $50 or more. They’re only luring you to spend more. And it works: Most people choose to fill their carts with stuff they don’t need just to avoid paying the shipping fee.

3. They make it super-easy to check out.
Websites make their checkout process ridiculously easy just to keep you buying. If your info’s been saved on the site, you can order your whole cart within minutes. The quicker you make those purchases, the less time you have to rethink them and opt out.

4. They offer spending-based discounts.
Online retailers often offer discounts after you’ve reached a certain spending threshold. Just like the free-shipping minimum, these conditional discounts manipulate you into spending more just to qualify—even if you won’t save any money at the end of the day.

5. They change their prices without rhyme or reason.
Online retailers constantly adjust their prices according to consumer and market behavior. This tactic, known as “dynamic pricing,” is designed to draw you back to the site again and again just to check the going price. It also prompts you to buy before the price rises again.

6. They use anchor pricing.
Retailers want you to believe you’re getting a great deal. They frequently employ “anchor pricing,” or placing items with inflated price tags right next to one you’re looking at now to make your desired item look less costly.

7. Their ads stalk you.
Online retailers target you with ads based on your search history. They know what you’re into and they can even determine your style.

8. They have lenient return policies.
Online retailers purposely have looser return policies than their brick-and-mortar counterparts. They know you’ll consider these policies when making your purchase and that you’re more likely to buy something online if you can easily send it back to the store.

9. They have a virtual checkout aisle.
If you think you’ll save big by shopping online because you won’t be tempted to grab all those goodies that the brick-and-mortar stores have lining their checkout aisles, here’s a reality check: Retailers are smarter than that. They’ve discovered a way to create a virtual checkout aisle, full of last minute add-ons that go well with the stuff you’re buying. It’s all designed to make you drop another item or two into your cart before you realize your total is way above your planned budget.

10. They stay in touch.
That subtle email reminder that you still have items in your cart is really just a nice way of nudging you back into. buying mode. Fact is, it works. When retailers send you emails with headlines that scream about “Today Only!” and “Free Shipping on Every Order,” they get your attention. And your money, too.

Spending less online
Should you ditch the on-the-couch shopping and camp out at the mall until the holidays?

You don’t need to be extreme and do all your shopping IRL this year. By educating yourself about the most common manipulative tactics that online retailers use, you’re already better equipped at handling them. You can also follow these tips to keep your online spending to a minimum:

1. Shop with a list
Yes, just like the one you scribble before heading to the grocery. Don’t just have a look around your favorite sites. Decide what you want and need to purchase before browsing, and do your best to stick to your list.

2. Set a time limit.
When there are no store closing hours to curtail your shopping trip, you can easily lose track of the time, which can trigger overspending. Plus, the internet is designed to keep you engaged, and one click leads to another. Give yourself a reasonable amount of time to shop, and once time’s up, snap your laptop shut.

3. Never pay full price.
Don’t check out without doing a quick search for coupons and discounts on sites like RetailMeNot.com and CouponCabin.com.

4. Don’t twist yourself into a pretzel to qualify for free shipping.
Don’t buy stuff you don’t need just to avoid a dreaded shipping fee.

5. Shop early.
You’ll find it easier to stick to your budget, and to avoid the free shipping trap, when you shop early. Plus, many e-tailers offer free shipping with no strings attached as long as you don’t mind waiting a bit for your stuff to show up.

With awareness and careful planning, you can stick to your budget this holiday season—even when shopping online.

Your Turn:
Do you spend more when shopping online or in-store? Tell us all about it in the comments below.

SOURCES:

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.cnbc.com/amp/2017/05/18/you-might-be-spending-twice-as-much-money-as-you-think-online-shopping.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.recode.net/platform/amp/2018/6/8/17441288/internet-time-spent-tv-zenith-data-media

https://apparelmag.com/holiday-trend-continues-consumers-will-do-more-shopping-online-vs-store-season

https://www.everydollar.com/blog/online-vs-in-store-shopping

https://www.google.com/amp/s/kdvr.com/2017/12/04/do-you-spend-more-when-shopping-online/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/amp.businessinsider.com/sneaky-ways-online-retailers-get-you-to-spend-more-2016-5

5 Scams To Avoid This Black Friday

Woman at home views tablet showing black friday sale adBlack Friday and Cyber Monday can be great fun – but they can also put you at great risk. Scams abound on the weekend that heralds the holiday shopping season, and you don’t want a phishing scheme or a bogus bargain to turn you into a Grinch.

Here are five scams to look out for as you brave the frenzied crowds while trying to snag the best deals after Thanksgiving.

1. Crazy deals that are actually bogus
The noisy crowds and flashy ads on Black Friday can lead you to make rash decisions and spend more than you planned. But be careful not to leave your senses at home.

An iPhone X retailing at just $12? A pair of genuine Ugg boots for just $9? These deals sound insane because that’s exactly what they are. And yet, thousands of people happily send their money to online stores that are advertising these laughable prices on Black Friday. And of course, once the scammers have your credit card information, they won’t hesitate to use it for their own shopping spree – all on your dime.

Be smarter: Don’t believe any advertised price that is ridiculously low. It’s only bait used by scammers to lure you into their trap. Black Friday deals tend to fall within the 20-30% off range or an offer of free shipping.

2. Black Friday gift cards for cheap
In the weeks leading up to Black Friday, you might see an explosion of cheap gift cards being sold at online marketplaces. The gift cards are linked to big-name retailers and are offered for a fraction of their real value.

These cards are usually stolen from their real owners. The victim of the theft will likely report the loss and the card will be disabled. And you’ll have forked over your hard-earned money for a card that’s not worth the plastic it’s made from.

Be smarter: Don’t buy any gift cards that are retailing at a heavily marked-down price.

3. Bait and switch
Want to be the lucky winner of a brand new iPhone X? Just fill out a form with your personal details and take this survey. You may just be the proud new owner of the super-expensive phone!

If you know anything about online scams, you’ll already recognize this one. Your personal details and a site whose authenticity you can’t verify are two things that should never meet. The sweepstakes is just the scammer’s bait to get at your information. And, with holiday expenses growing each year, it’s the perfect time to lure an innocent victim into thinking they’ve just saved a ton of money.

Don’t make the mistake of thinking you’re safe from this scam just because you’re doing all your Black Friday shopping at the mall. “Bait and switch” scams can happen offline, too.

The brick-and-mortar version of this scam is somewhat less nefarious. Retailers will advertise deals so amazing you’ll find yourself travelling across town and battling impossible traffic to grab these bargains. Once you finally reach the store, though, you’ll be told that those items are all sold out, but you can check out the items they do have in stock. You’ll be shown similar, but inferior, products and cheap knockoffs, or nothing you’re interested in at all. These scams are just a waste of your time and often your money, too.

Be smarter: Don’t enter any sweepstakes or believe advertisements for heavily marked-down prices on sites and stores you’re unfamiliar with.

4. Delivery problems
With so much of your shopping happening online, you probably wouldn’t be surprised to receive an email claiming there’s been a problem with the delivery of one of your purchases. But if you get an email like this asking you to click on a link or download an attachment to arrange an alternative delivery date, you’re looking at a scam. You may also receive a message asking you to pay an extra fee for delivery after you’ve completed an order. Again, this email is bogus and you’re being scammed. Ignore these emails. And, if you have a problem with the delivery of your purchase, contact the seller or company directly.

Be smarter: Never download anything or click on a link from an unverifiable source.

5. Online purchases that can only be paid for with a wire transfer
If you’re planning on going on an all-out spending spree this Black Friday, use your credit card. It offers you the most protection against purchases that don’t turn out to be what you expected.

A debit card can be a good choice, too, if you’re only shopping at stores and retailers you trust and frequent often.

Never agree to an online purchase demanding payment via money order or wire transfer. These are favorites among scammers since they are similar to paying with cash – once the money has changed hands, there’s almost no way you can get it back.

Be smarter: When frequenting unfamiliar stores and sites, use your credit card.

Be an educated shopper this Black Friday and outsmart scammers!

Your Turn:
Have you ever been targeted by a Black Friday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments below.

SOURCES:
https://www.finder.com/black-friday-scams

https://www.makeuseof.com/tag/6-scams-watch-black-friday-cyber-monday/

Rising Interest Rates

Report showing rising interest rate dataInterest rates have been steadily increasing over the last year. So, if you’re thinking of taking out a large loan in the near future, you might be waiting until those rates start going down again.

Here’s why that might not be the best idea.

Interest rates will continue to rise
Experts predict interest rates on financial products will continue increasing throughout the year. It’s not looking great for those who are taking out a short-term loan, either. Experts claim 2018 will see three interest rate hikes, each being 0.25%. If you need to borrow money, it’s best to do it sooner rather than later.

The inflation factor
Unemployment rates are down, but wage growth continues to crawl at an almost nonexistent pace. This, in turn, leads to limited price growth, which keeps the inflation rate stagnant. However, the feds are expecting wage growth to finally kick off in 2018, setting into motion an uptick in inflation and price growth.

The government wants to stay ahead of any surge in inflation. They do so by increasing their interest rates even before there is clear evidence of an inflation peak.

Financial institutions and credit card companies pattern their own interest rates after the government’s rate. Therefore, it’s best to work on aggressively paying down outstanding debt you have before you’re hit with increased interest rates.

Government deficits
Long-term interest rates have been rising since December. This is largely due to the growing government deficit that’s linked to recent tax cuts. The pending two-year budget plan will put the government even deeper into the red, likely causing those rates to climb even higher.

Mortgages
Mortgage interest rates are now at an all-time high; they are currently close to 4.6% and are up more than .20% from a year ago.

For the most part, mortgage rates are linked to bond yields. When bond yields rise, so do mortgage rates. The recent tax overhaul caused investors to favor stocks over bonds, and consequently, mortgage rates have been climbing since September.

Some experts are predicting a turnaround for mortgages in 2018, with the rates possibly dipping below 4% sometime this year. However, all agree that by year’s end, the mortgage rate will settle at 4.5%.

No one can be certain of anything, though, and waiting until the rates drop might prove to be pointless. In fact, you might even end up paying a higher rate for that delay.

The good news
Experts predict a great year for returns on savings, especially CDs. Some claim an average one-year CD will yield a 0.7% return by the end of 2018. So, if you’ve been thinking about opening a share certificate or other savings options, talk with [credit union] to get started.

Volatile economy got you stressed? Call, click or stop by the credit union. We’ll guide you through any financial turn!

Your Turn:
What steps are you taking in the current financial climate? Tell us all about it in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.kiplinger.com/article/business/T019-C000-S010-interest-rate-forecast.html

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/finance/mortgages/interest-rates-forecast.aspx/amp/

https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.bankrate.com/mortgages/analysis/amp/

How to Prepare for Your Job Interviews

Young black woman shaking hands with her new employerNothing beats the excitement and novelty of your very first real job. With your long-awaited degree in hand, the world is at your fingertips! You can do it all – and you will. But first, you need to land that perfect job. For that to happen, you’ll need to get through an interview looking poised, polished and professional.

Whether,you’re preparing for your first real job or you’re just looking for part-time work to make some headway on your student loans, we’ve got you covered. Check out our handy list of interview tips and get ready to make your best impression!

Research – Find out all you can about your prospective workplace. Showing that you’re familiar with the company, its goals and its successes will impress your interviewer and help you display a keen interest in the company.

Practice – Having an interviewer’s question leaving you tongue-tied is the stuff that interview nightmares are made of. Role-play with a friend before the meeting, having them ask you typical interview questions, like “What can you bring to the company?” and “Can you list some of your strongest skills?”

This way, you’ll be prepared for the questions the interviewer will throw at you during the real thing.

Be professional – Dress to impress. You want to look respectable and mature, so look the part. You don’t need to wear a suit unless the particular workplace calls for one, but you can look sharp and professional in a buttoned, collared shirt, or a nicer blouse and slacks.

Also, be sure to show up at least 10 minutes early. Prepare everything you’ll need the night before so you’re not frantically searching for your keys a half-hour before you’re supposed to meet with the big boss. Make sure you know how to drive to the office without getting lost. If it’s in an unfamiliar part of town, input the address into Waze or another GPS app the day before the interview and do a practice run to be sure you’ve got it down pat.

Finally, use respectable language only, keeping away from slang, vague, meaningless words like “um” or “whatever,” and, of course, all swear words.

Act confident – This is where your latent acting skills come into play. You may be quaking at the knees, but you’ll need to present yourself as a confident, assured employee. Your handshake should be firm. Look the interviewer in the eye. Answer questions in a strong, certain voice. Employers want to see strength and poise; show them you’ve got it!

Exit with grace – No matter how the interview played out, be sure to leave a good lasting impression. Smile, thank the interviewer for their time, and mention what a pleasure it was to meet them.

Follow-up – Later that day, send the interviewer a quick email thanking them again for their time, being sure to sign your name. This way, they’ll remember you from among the dozens of potential employees they may have met that day.

Now get out there and land that dream job!

Your Turn:
How do you prepare for job interviews? Share your best tips with us in the comments!

SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/search?q=preparing+for+first+interview&rlz=1CDGOYI_enUS753US753&oq=preparing+for+first+interview&aqs=chrome..69i57j0l3.7064j0j4&hl=en-US&sourceid=chrome-mobile&ie=UTF-8

https://www.monster.com/career-advice/article/first-job-interview-questions-answers

https://www.livecareer.com/career/advice/interview/practice