News & Education
STICKING TO A HOLIDAY BUDGET
Tips to staying on budget this holiday season
- Set a spending limit – Calculate how much money you can easily find in your budget to spend this season and limit the need for creating new debt.
- Make a gift list – Make an extensive list of all family members, friends, teachers and more that you need to purchase gifts for so you can accurately define your budget, then set a specific amount you want to spend for each category of recipients.
- Shop the deals – Pay close attention to sales ads and take advantage of big sale days such as Black Friday and Cyber Monday.
- Get creative – Homemade gifts are often the most meaningful. Search online for creative DIY gift ideas for teachers and more.
- Watch spending – As you shop, keep a budget sheet and your list on your phone so you can track your progress and limit overspending. You might also stick to cash only to avoid overspending.
- Pay wisely – Try to pay cash for all purchases so you can avoid running up large credit card bills. If you need to use a card, choose one with the lowest interest rate.
- Set deadlines for new debt – If you do produce debt over the holidays, manage it wisely by setting a deadline in the New Year to pay it off.
- Start saving earlier next year – In January, open a Holiday Club Account at your credit union. This will let you easily set aside money each pay period throughout the year so you’ll be ready to shop more efficiently next season.
‘Tis the season for SAFE online shopping – 10 Tips to remember!
Don’t fall victim to online fraudulent activity during the busy shopping season. Stay safe by keeping these online shopping tips in mind!
- Research all websites and retailers you’re purchasing from to ensure legitimacy.
- Take care when entering personal information online and only complete those fields necessary to make the purchase.
- Always make sure the site you are on is security enabled with a web address that begins with https://.
- Review retailers’ return and other policies to understand what happens if the product doesn’t arrive or isn’t right.
- Use a safe payment option – Credit cards are typically the safest as they allow buyers to seek a credit from the issuer if the product isn’t delivered or isn’t what was ordered.
- Be smart about purchases you conduct over public Wi-Fi connections and adjust any security settings on your device to limit who can access your phone.
- Run the most current version of software and apps to keep all your web-connected devices free from malware and infections.
- Turn on two-step authentication where possible for added security.
- Use a strong password that is a sentence and at least 12 characters long where possible.
- Create a unique password for every account.
For more tips on safe cyber shopping, visit Staysafeonline.org.
Warning Signs of Identity Theft
If you discover that someone is misusing your personal information, visit IdentityTheft.gov to report and recover from identity theft.
What Do Thieves Do With Your Information?
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.
Clues That Someone Has Stolen Your Information
- You see withdrawals from your bank account that you can’t explain.
- You don’t get your bills or other mail.
- Merchants refuse your checks.
- Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
- You find unfamiliar accounts or charges on your credit report.
- Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
- Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
- A health plan won’t cover you because your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
- The IRS notifies you that more than one tax return was filed in your name, or that you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
- You get notice that your information was compromised by a data breach at a company where you do business or have an account.
If your wallet, Social Security number, or other personal information is lost or stolen, there are steps you can take to help protect yourself from identity theft.
Place a Fraud Alert
Ask 1 of the 3 credit reporting companies to put a fraud alert on your credit report. They must tell the other 2 companies. An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. The alert lasts 90 days but you can renew it.
Why Place an Initial Fraud Alert
Three national credit reporting companies keep records of your credit history. If someone has misused your personal or financial information, call 1 of the companies and ask for an initial fraud alert on your credit report. A fraud alert is free. You must provide proof of your identity. The company you call must tell the other companies about your alert.
An initial fraud alert can make it harder for an identity thief to open more accounts in your name. When you have an alert on your report, a business must verify your identity before it issues credit, so it may try to contact you. The initial alert stays on your report for at least 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days. It allows you to order one free copy of your credit report from each of the three credit reporting companies. Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you.
How to Place an Initial Fraud Alert
- Contact 1 credit reporting company.
Update your files.
- Report that you are an identity theft victim.
- Ask the company to put a fraud alert on your credit file.
- Confirm that the company you call will contact the other 2 companies.
- Placing a fraud alert is free. The initial fraud alert stays on your credit report for 90 days.
- Be sure the credit reporting companies have your current contact information so they can get in touch with you.
Mark your calendar.
- The credit reporting company will explain that you can get a free credit report, and other rights you have.
Update your files.
- The initial fraud alert stays on your report for 90 days. You can renew it after 90 days.
- Record the dates you made calls or sent letters.
- Keep copies of letters in your files.
Contact Information for the Credit Reporting Companies