Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Protecting yourself against Fraud this Holiday Season

Interesting article that was sent to me by our Equifax Partners.

In an effort to find the perfect holiday gifts, you are likely hitting the shops and the Web to source your favorite things. While it is extremely convenient to use debit cards, credit cards and websites to make purchases, it is important to safeguard your personal information.

Tara Zecevic, vice-president, Technology Solutions encourages you to get educated and offers this advice, "Be familiar with the various types of online and offline scams out there. Fraudsters prey on people's vulnerabilities and lack of understanding. Be diligent." To help you prevent fraud, she recommends the following:

  • Create strong passwords
  • Use different passwords for accounts containing your personal, banking and credit card information
  • Delete spam
  • Check your statements and credit report regularly
  • Follow up on unrecognized transactions and undelivered bills or statements, since this could be a sign of identity theft

In the case of payment for gift purchases, Zecevic recommends the use of credit or debit cards. She says, "Choosing to use credit or debit cards is preferred since banks and credit card companies are automatically set up to monitor purchase activity and will alert you to unusual transactions. No matter the card you decide to use, always remember to take the following precautions:

  • Memorize your PIN and never give it out!
  • Always cover your PIN and card at automated bank machines and in stores
  • Be prudent -- use an ATM from a trusted source
  • Watch for cameras, cell phones, mirrors and other devices that can be used to view and/or record your information
  • Never turn a blind eye to people who may be watching
  • Don't let cashiers and servers take your card out of sight -- take it for payment processing yourself
  • Avoid providing personal information such as address, postal code, phone, date of birth unless absolutely necessary

When shopping online, ensure your computer is secure with updated protection and avoid making your purchases on public computers at internet cafes and libraries. Once you're confident that your computer is safe, be aware of the following scams to protect yourself against online fraud:

  • Don't trust emails and website links to offers that "look too good to be true"
  • Limit the information you post on social networking sites and only accept 'friend' requests from people you trust. Clicking on bogus email 'friend' requests can download malicious software designed to steal your personal or financial information
  • Do not respond to or click on links or attachments from unsolicited emails to guard against malicious and password stealing software
    • Don't fall victim to phishing emails from reputable credit card companies or financial institutions requesting that you confirm account or login information -- these are scams! If you receive this type of email, notify the company immediately.
    • Ignore charity emails and make a donation via their official website.
    • Be wary of employment scams requesting start-up fees or information of a personal or financial nature
    • Ignore phony delivery emails requesting charges to release package
  • Always be careful when opening holiday e-cards -- make sure you recognize and trust the sender and website

To help protect yourself against fraud this holiday season, staying informed and putting into practice what you know is the first line of defense.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Christmas Budget

Like most people, Christmas demands soon start to knock on your door and before you know it, the wallet becomes a revolving door. The introduction of Credit to our society now allows purchasing while removing some logical decision making. The cash in hand purchase method is substituted by credit limits which simply means the measure of affordability is the credit remaining on the credit card and not on the hard earned cash saved. The solution is a Christmas budget that details your Christmas list and the dollar value attached to each person your shopping for. The purpose is to avoid those last minute shopping urges to add icing on the cake gift to that special someone that could suddenly leave you hundreds of dollars in debt. In January the last thing anyone wants is to pry open their credit card statement and review pages of unnecessary purchases simply because of available credit. In a recent survey from ING direct, 71% of Canadians revealed they were using the savings this year for Holiday purchases, as opposed to adding debt. That's admirable however according to Equifax Canada; total outstanding credit card debt hit $78 billion in September 2009 -- up from $76 billion in September 2008. Canadian debt is growing at a rapid pace and in most cases at high rates of Interest.

So what to do, you might ask? Consider saving for Christmas 2011, and start a pre-authorized withdrawal from your bank account into a special account. Leading Edge Credit Union offers a SSC product that provides this simple savings option . It also pays a premium interest rate on your deposit each month. In January, consider consolidating your credit card balances in a loan with a lower rate and a structured payment. This will allow you some comfort of knowing exactly when you will have this credit paid off. Pay particular attention now to credit card statements that indicate the time it will take for you to pay off your credit card debt. New legislation requires that all credit cards must disclose this information. A loan could cut your interest rate in half and ensure you pay off your debt in the shortest time frame saving you thousands of dollars in unnecessary interest. So in summary, plan, plan, plan and next year's Christmas will hopefully be less stress on you and your wallet.


Tuesday, October 26, 2010

The IPAD is it for you?

I was asked to test the functionality of the IPAD by Apple to identify if it could be used for business applications within our organization. First, I am not an avid Apple product user so I had to learn all the basics which oddly enough my 10 year old daughter knew quite extensively. Quite simply, the Apple IPAD is a large IPOD, if you're familiar with that tool. It functions as a large media center with the ability to surf the net using its bright screen and touch capabilities.

OK, so the findings, in a nut shell, I'm not a fan. I worked hard to break the paradigm of using a PC and move to this platform, but in my opinion the IPAD is not a business tool. Besides the learning curve of working in the Apple platform, there are numerous functionality issues that I have with the machine. The touch screen usually produces web content in the small screen provided so that you have to touch the screen to navigate. Well, it becomes difficult unless you enlarge the screen to make the links easier to touch. In my case I just found I wasted so much time hitting the wrong links due to pressing in the wrong spot. Touch screens for me are not my cup of tea. No web cam, enough said! I even asked the folks at Apple about the potential of hooking up an external one as we need that capability for doing web conference meetings, and they advised no go.

The ports; well there are only two, and do not try and fool the IPAD by adding an attachment that turns the main port into a USB port. It will quickly tell you that there is not enough power to run a web cam, camera, or alternate device you want to run. If you want to browse fliers or sites that require flash, you are out of luck. Apple and Adobe are not on good terms, and Apple will not adopt the Adobe products.  So, viewing these types of sites online becomes trouble. Although I like the fact you can get cool APPS by downloading them through Itunes, the good ones come with a cost, and of course this is Apples way of making the real money.

Conclusion:  Although the IPAD is sleek and a great travel companion, that is where it ends for me. If you like the IPOD and you are looking for a larger version, then the IPAD is your answer. If you are more focused on using your computer for word processing and business applications, stick with a laptop. The keyboard and use of mouse for me personally is something that I need to maintain because it provides the best practical method for the applications I use.

Hope you find this post worthwhile,

Thursday, October 7, 2010

Good run

I went for a run last night for the first time since my injury. It is amazing how fast the body can change. It was a struggle to get going and what normally was an easy run became quite a challenge. My goal is to be able to run 5km without having to stop. The tendon is swollen quite a bit, but overall I felt comfortable. Will try again tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 6, 2010


Just a quick update on an interesting campaign that we are offering right now. If you don't have a credit union MasterCard, now is the time to consider applying for one. For a limited time only all entries will have the opportunity to win a grand prize of a $5000 dream vacation! Applying is easy, simply call your credit union branch today.

What's in my wallet? Well, I have chosen our Platinum MasterCard product for several reasons.
  1. I travel frequently for work. This card has numerous insurance provisions that protect me while I am traveling.
  2. I rent vehicles when I travel so the cost savings of not having to buy alternate insurance for a rent-a-car is instant savings.
  3. Purchase protection provides me two years of additional warranty on items that I purchase using my card.
  4. The travel rewards. Every $5000 I spend on my credit card I earn $100 travel credit.
How easy is it book travel? You can simply call the 1-800 number or go online and book with ease. So far, since I've owned this card I have booked trips to Mexico and Florida, all on travel rewards. Accumulation of points is very simple.  Here are some tips that I use:
  1. I have my phone and satellite bill paid by my MasterCard automatically.
  2. I purchase everything with my credit card:  gas, groceries, and all other expenses.
  3. I have informed my parents and others that if they are making large purchases to let me know and I will purchase it on my card to accumulate the rewards.
Start today!

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Financial Woes

Consider this, only 51% of Canadians indicate they had a household budget. Household debt reached a new all time high reaching $1.41 trillion in December 2009, if spread evenly across all Canadians this would equate to each Canadian having about $41,740 in debt. Borrowing through personal lines of credit has increased 25 fold between 1989 and 2009. What does all this mean?

Consumers, despite the economy we are currently living in, are continuing to practice poor financial management. There is a disconnect between understanding the action of spending and the consequences. With access to credit in everyones' face, can you blame them? When 60% of consumer credit is issued by personal lines of credit, consumers are not getting or seeking sound advice. Traditionally a person would go in to see their personal loans officer to identfy if they qualified for a loan. The loans officer would ask a series of questions, review the debt load and income, and make the decision. It seems that once a person was granted revolving credit this excercise was removed and decisions to utilize the credit went astray.

While savings in Atlantic Canada dropped an additional 0.8% again in 2009, consumers continue to spend what they don't have and not plan for the future or rainy day. The looming statistic is the rate at which fellow Newfoundlanders are going insolvent. Total insolvencies in Newfoundland and Labrador increased by 20.5% from February 2009 to Feburary 2010. Many have no idea on how this impacts them personally until it is to late. THAT IS ANOTHER BLOG coming soon!!

So, what to do???

Now is the time to go into your credit union branch and meet with a representative to work out a plan. We are not here to just provide the loan of the day, or cash your cheque; we want to provide you wise financial guidance. We have the tools to show you how we can save you money and build some savings so that we can hopefully bring the grim statistics mentioned above, down. Call today; you will be glad you did, and share your stories with us on this blog!!