Main Blog Category
Holiday Meals for Mainers
One in nine Mainers are food insecure. This means they live without reliable access to a sustainable quantity of nutritious food.
In the spirit of People Helping People, our credit union hopes to raise funds to fill the plates of those in need within our communities during the holiday season. Will you help us?
Please consider a donation to Maine Credit Unions’ Campaign for Ending Hunger and support the Holiday Meals for Mainers initiative. For only $5 you can put food on the plate of one person in need.
Together, we can make the season brighter for our neighbors!
Prize scams are scams where fraudsters attempt to gain personal information or money by saying that you have won a fake prize or by tempting you to give up your personal information to enter a contest. We have listed a few tips below to help you avoid becoming a victim of a prize scam:
- Never pay a fee or give out account information to receive your prize.
- Don't give out sensitive personal information to enter a contest or sweepstakes.
- Research the organization that has sent you a prize or contest information. Contact the organization to verify if the prize or contest is legitimate.
- Notify a postal inspector if you have received the prize scam in the mail.
- Check the postage on your prize notice. If it was sent bulk rate, then chances are it is a scam.
We’re Here for You!
If you do become a victim of a prize scam, notify Connected Credit Union immediately. Call the Augusta Branch at (207) 623-3857 or the Winslow Branch at (207) 872-2636 during business hours. Monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity and ask us to provide heightened scrutiny of your accounts. You can also temporarily, freeze your credit through each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It won’t impact your score, but it will prevent new credit from being taken out in your name. There is no fee and you can unfreeze it at any time. This is a very important step in protecting yourself and your good credit.
Maine Children's Home Giving Tree
This holiday season, our Augusta and Winslow branches are hosting giving trees to benefit the Maine Children's Home Christmas Program. The Christmas Program provides boxes of brand-new toys, books, games, warm clothing, and winter essentials to nearly 1,200 Maine children whose families face financial hardship.
Visit a branch lobby and choose a tag from one of our giving trees. Please return the item unwrapped by Friday, December 9.
You can also shop online via the Amazon Wishlist and have the items shipped directly to the Maine Children's Home in Waterville.
4 Reasons to Refinance during our Fall Refi Promo
1. Lower Your Interest Rate
Do you have a high interest rate at another financial institution? Refinance your auto or recreational loan with Connected Credit Union and lower your current rate!
2. Make Your Monthly Payment More Affordable
When you refinance with Connected Credit Union, you can work with our friendly loan officers to find an affordable payment option that works for your budget!
3. Change Your Loan Term
Work with our loan team to find the perfect loan term for your needs. Connected Credit Union offers auto loan terms up to 84 months and recreational vehicle loan terms up to 120 months.
4. Earn Cash Back
When you refinance your auto or recreational loan from another financial institution with Connected Credit Union, you can earn up to $300 cash back! The amount of the cash rebate is based on the balance of the refinanced loan amount.
*Annual Percentage Rate. Offer ends November 15, 2022. Loans subject to credit approval. Consult with a loan officer for more information. Loans currently financed with Connected Credit Union are not eligible for this offer. Membership eligibility required.
Now you can Pay with Rewards when you check out with PayPal
uChoose Rewards is now better than ever with the ability to Pay with Rewards when you check out with PayPal. Just add your uChoose Rewards-enrolled debit card to your PayPal wallet to start using points wherever PayPal is accepted. Once you add your debit card to your PayPal wallet, you will receive a confirmation both on-screen and through email.
This benefit is automatically available to all members now, and there is no fee to use it! There are no minimum point balances to meet. You can choose how many points to apply to each purchase. And, if you don't have enough points, or prefer not to use them at all, the balance can be paid with your uChoose Rewards-enrolled debit card. It's that simple!
New Scam Targeting Members
Don’t Be the Next Victim!
Connected Credit Union has seen an increase in scams targeting our members over the past month. The newest scam is a phone scam where members are told that Connected Credit Union is being investigated by a federal agency.
Members are called by the scammers and told that their financial institution is under investigation and that they will need to sign into their online banking account. A third person then joins the call and pretends to be a federal agent who mentions that there have been numerous complaints about Connected Credit Union. The member is instructed to go immediately to the credit union and take out all of their money. The scammers stress that the member cannot say why they are taking their money out, because the teller they are speaking to may be the person under investigation. The member is then instructed to use a bitcoin machine or wire the money to the scammers to "keep it safe."
How to Protect Yourself:
- Hang up immediately on any phone call that is suspicious.
- Be cautious of spoofing or the process of scammers manipulating the caller ID to be someone else.
- Never provide your personal information such as credit union account information or online banking login credentials to someone you do not know or trust.
- Do not send money to someone you do not know and trust, especially if told to wire money, use a bitcoin machine, or purchase prepaid cards.
- Never log in to your online banking with someone else accessing your computer.
- Say no to scammers asking for remote access to your computer.
We’re Here for You!
Brute Force Attacks
A brute force attack occurs when fraudsters use trial and error to gain your card information after infiltrating a merchant's payment system. The goal is to perform fraudulent card not present transactions by combining the correct card number, expiration date, and verification number.
Protect yourself from Brute Force Attacks with these tips:
- Create strong passwords and update them regularly. We've compiled 4 Tips for Creating Strong Passwords to help you avoid choosing simple passwords that can be easily guessed by hackers.
- Enable and use Multi-Factor Authentication on your accounts which adds another layer of protection. Multi-Factor Authentication requires both your password and a special time-sensitive code sent to your cellphone or email prior to logging in. This extra step may help prevent scammers from accessing your online accounts.
- Make sure you keep your smartphone and other electronic devices up to date with the latest software and security updates.
- Do not click on any suspicious links sent from unknown sources because they may be a phishing scam. For more information, check out our blog Don't Fall Victim to Phishing Scams.
We’re Here for You!
If you do become a victim of a brute force attack, notify Connected Credit Union immediately. Call the Augusta Branch at (207) 623-3857 or the Winslow Branch at (207) 872-2636 during business hours. Monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity and ask us to provide heightened scrutiny of your accounts.
Top 5 Financial Tips for College Freshman
1. Avoid High Bookstore Prices
- Buy or borrow books used from upperclassmen who have already taken the class.
- Check prices from book resellers such as Amazon and eBay for the best prices.
- Consider renting your books for the semester instead of buying.
2. Use Credit Responsibility
- Read the fine print on too good to be true credit card offers.
- Since you are beginning to build your credit, you should start with a credit card with a low interest rate with no annual fee.
- Avoid acquiring multiple credit cards and racking up debt that you cannot pay off.
3. Minimize Student Debt
- Remember that student loans should be used for tuition, books, housing, and meal plans – not spent on an extravagant social life.
- Get a part-time job or a work-study position to earn extra money.
- Even though student loans aren’t due until after graduation, start paying them off as soon as you can to minimize the total amount due upon graduation.
4. Set a Spending Limit
- Costs from unnecessary purchases can add up fast, especially when you are living on a budget.
- Set a limit of your non-essential spending in your budget, such as $50 or $100 per month.
- If you come in under your spending limit at the end of the month, save the extra money.
5. Utilize Connected Credit Union's Services
- If you are moving away for college, you can still do your normal banking via Shared Branching. With over 5,400 locations across the nation, chances are you’ll be close to a CO-OP Shared Branching location. Find a location
- Earn rewards through your Connected Debit Card on everyday purchases! With our UChoose rewards program, you'll earn rewards to redeem for cash, travel or gift cards when you sign for your purchases instead of using your PIN. Remember: Sign, don't PIN, it's a win/win. Learn More
- Download the Connected CU mobile app for convenient banking anywhere, anytime. Check your account balance, mobile deposit a check, transfer funds and more! It is available in the App Store and on Google Play.
5 Reasons to Switch to E-statements
1. Cut Down on Clutter
Is your mailbox overflowing? Cut down on the clutter by eliminating the need to search through your mail for your statement. Instead, access your statements easily through online banking.
2. See Statements Faster
Don't wait for snail mail to arrive in order to access your newest monthly statement. With e-statements, you can view the newest monthly statement as soon as it is ready in online banking.
3. Reduce Risk of Identity Theft
You won't have to worry about fraudsters stealing your personal information on your statements, especially if you are going away for a while and will not be around to monitor your mailbox. Our online banking platform is safe and secure. Only you will have access to log in and view statements.
4. Secure Storage and Organization
Have no secure place to store and organize your statements? With e-statements, you won't have to worry about tracking down that misplaced statement. The last year's worth of e-statements will be available for you to view and print whenever you need. You'll be able to find the exact statement you need, without the hassle.
5. Save Paper
Going paperless is also better for the environment! You can lower your carbon footprint by choosing to access your statements online instead of being sent via the mail. Save trees and cut down on emissions from transportation. It's all-around a win for our planet!
ENROLL IN E-STATEMENTS TODAY!
Step 1: Log in to online banking
Step 2: Click the documents tab
Step 3: Type YES and click activate
Benefits of Shared Branching
As a credit union member, with Shared Branching you are able to access your Connected Credit Union account at any participating credit union like it is one of our branches. Wherever you are, you can find a credit union near you!
- With nearly 170 shared branch locations, Maine’s credit unions have almost three times more locations than any single bank in Maine by “sharing their branches.” That’s the fourth largest branch network in the country with live teller service.
- Getting cash is quick and convenient at more than 250 SURF ATMs – the largest surcharge-free ATM network in Maine!
- There are more than 5,000 Shared Branching locations across the nation and globally. Find a Shared Branching location near you online or text your zip code to 91989 to find nearby ATM and Shared Branch Locations.
- When you visit a Shared Branching location, you can access your accounts, deposit checks, and make loan payments just like you can at your home credit union. Whether you’re traveling out of town or moving away to college, you can keep your money right where it is.
- Shared Branching is free! It's all about giving you the best service at no cost to you!
Telephone scams include phone calls, robocalls, and text messages aimed at stealing your personal information or asking you to send large amounts of money. We have listed a few tips below to help you avoid falling victim to a telephone scam:
- Hang up immediately on any phone call and do not respond to any text message that is suspicious.
- Be cautious of spoofing or the process of scammers manipulating the caller ID to be someone else.
- Never provide your personal information such as credit card number, social security number, or credit union account information to someone you do not know or trust.
- Do not send money to someone you do not know and trust, especially if told to wire money or purchase prepaid cards.
- Research any travel package or business opportunity that is offered to you over the phone before taking action.
We’re Here for You!
If you do become a victim of a telephone scam, notify Connected Credit Union immediately. Call the Augusta Branch at (207) 623-3857 or the Winslow Branch at (207) 872-2636 during business hours. Monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity and ask us to provide heightened scrutiny of your accounts. You can also temporarily, freeze your credit through each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It won’t impact your score, but it will prevent new credit from being taken out in your name. There is no fee and you can unfreeze at any time. This is a very important step in protecting yourself and your good credit.
5 Steps to Take After a Data Breach
Step 1: Identify what information was breached
A data breach occurs when a business or organization is hacked and a scammer steals a customer's personal data, such as credit and debit card numbers. When you are notified of a data breach, make sure to verify if your information has been stolen and what sensitive information the scammers might have taken. Companies are required to inform you if you may have been impacted by a data breach and what information of yours may be at risk.
Step 2: Change your impacted passwords
To prevent the fraudsters from gaining unauthorized access to your accounts through your stolen passwords from the breach, you should immediately change the password on every site where you use it. When choosing a new password, avoid simple passwords that can be easily guessed. For example, your password shouldn't include birthdays, family members' names, phone numbers, etc. Longer passwords are more secure than shorter passwords. Ideally, your password should be between 8 and 20 characters, including a mix of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Read our blog on creating strong passwords for more tips!
Step 3: Freeze your credit
You can temporarily, freeze your credit through each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It won’t impact your score, but it will prevent new credit from being taken out in your name. This will prevent your personal information that was compromised in a breach from being used by fraudsters to take out loans or open up credit cards in your name. There is no fee and you can unfreeze at any time.
Step 4: File an identity theft report
Identity theft happens when a scammer has stolen your personal information and pretends to be you to apply for credit or make purchases. If you fall victim to identity theft, you can File a Report online with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) which will help provide you with a recovery plan and help walk you through each of the steps you will need to take.
Step 5: Monitor your accounts
If you do become a victim of a data breach that compromises your account, card information, or online banking passwords notify Connected Credit Union immediately. Monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity and ask us to provide heightened scrutiny of your accounts. Call the Augusta Branch at (207) 623-3857 or the Winslow Branch at (207) 872-2636 during business hours.
Check Fraud: Scams to Watch Out For
Recently, many consumers have become victims of scams involving fraudulent checks. Lately, checks have become an attractive vehicle for fraud when used for payments to consumers. Although the amount of a check quickly becomes “available” for withdrawal by the member after being deposited, these funds do not belong to the member if the check proves to be fraudulent. In the meantime, the member may have irrevocably wired the funds to a scam artist or otherwise used the funds – only to find out later, when the fraud is detected – that the member owes the full amount of the check that had been deposited.
Scams to Watch Out For:
Selling Goods Online
Exercise caution when selling goods online. If a buyer sends you a check for the price that you have agreed on, make sure that the check is not fraudulent before you ship the goods to the buyer. Otherwise, you could end up without your goods or payment.
Checks for Excess Funds
This scenario is similar to the one described above. However, the buyer sends you a check for more than the purchase price and asks you to wire some or all of the excess funds to a third party, often in a foreign country. The buyer may explain that this procedure allows them to satisfy their obligations to you and the third party with a single check. When the check turns out to be fraudulent, you are now out the money that you thought was "excess."
You receive a letter informing you that you have the right to receive a substantial sum of money. For example, the letter may state that you have won a foreign lottery or are the beneficiary of someone’s estate. The letter will state that you have to pay a processing/transfer tax or fee before you receive the money, but a check will be enclosed to cover that fee. The letter will ask you to deposit the check into your account and wire the fee to a third party, often in a foreign country. When the check turns out to be fraudulent, you are now out that money.
You receive a letter informing you that you have been chosen to act as a mystery shopper. The letter includes a check, and you are told to deposit the check into your account. You are told to use a portion of the funds to purchase gift cards at designated stores and then report back the gift card information. When the check turns out to be fraudulent and the scammers have already emptied the gift cards, you are then out that money.
Reminder When Depositing Checks:
- When you sign the back of a check and deposit it, you become responsible for that check. The risk of the check bouncing or being bad is on you. Federal law (Regulation CC) requires that all financial institutions make at least part of the amount you deposited available within a few days. However, you can run into trouble if you spend the money before the check is fully cleared. If you spend the funds from a bad check, you are responsible for paying the money back to the financial institution.
- In addition to being responsible for the dollar amount of the check, you may also be subject to processing fees assessed by your financial institution for checks which have been returned for NSF (Non-Sufficient Funds).
- Check holds are a temporary delay in making the funds in your checking account available after you deposit a check. Check holds can be placed for various reasons including checks for over $5,000, new account checks, redeposited checks, and suspicion of fraudulent checks.
- Always exhibit caution when dealing with checks, and stop in or call the Augusta Branch at (207) 623-3857 or the Winslow Branch at (207) 872-2636 if you have any questions or concerns.
Don't Fall Victim to Phishing Scams
Phishing scams are emails sent by scammers that attempt to steal your personal information or download malware onto your computer or device. Phishing emails will often have a sense of urgency, encouraging you to take an action immediately without stopping to think, such as clicking a link or downloading an attachment. We have listed a few tips below to help you avoid becoming a victim of a phishing scam:
- Check the email address to verify the email was sent from a credible source; fake emails can be off by as little as one character.
- Do not click on any suspicious links asking you to verify your account information or respond to any emails asking for your personal information such as your social security number, debit card number, or online banking login information.
- Enable and use Multi-Factor Authentication on your accounts to add another level of security in the event that your login credentials were stolen.
- Immediately delete any suspicious emails and block the sender.
We’re Here for You!
If you do become a victim of a phishing scam, notify Connected Credit Union immediately. Call the Augusta Branch at (207) 623-3857 or the Winslow Branch at (207) 872-2636 during business hours. Monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity and ask us to provide heightened scrutiny of your accounts. You can also temporarily, freeze your credit through each of the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. It won’t impact your score, but it will prevent new credit from being taken out in your name. There is no fee and you can unfreeze at any time. This is a very important step in protecting yourself and your good credit.
Beneficiary vs. Joint Owner
Do you know the difference between having a joint owner and a beneficiary on all of your accounts?
We break it down for you in simple terms here:
A joint owner on your account is someone with whom all funds are shared during your lifetime. This is a great option for two people who want to share an account and funds. For example, a couple could have a joint account to save together for a common goal or to pay household bills.
A beneficiary named on your account allows you to choose who will have access to your funds after your passing. This is a great option for providing your loved ones with your clear intentions after you are gone.
Naming a joint owner or beneficiary is easy, contact the credit union today for details.
Tips to Save at the Pump
1. Research the lowest price in your area
Before heading out on the road, research the prices of gas in your area to make sure you are getting the best deal when you need to fill up. Apps like Gas Buddy and Gas Guru are helpful in letting you compare local gas prices.
2. Improve your fuel efficiency
There are a few ways you can easily improve your fuel efficiency and get the most out of each fill-up. Keep up to date on your car's routine maintenance, make sure your tires are properly inflated, and remove any extra cargo or weight you are carrying. When driving, try to gradually accelerate, avoid hard braking, and slow down on the highway.
3. Change your driving habits
Carpool with a friend and split the travel costs if you are going to the same place. Plan ahead to get all your errands done in one trip out instead of multiple little trips. Turn off your car to reduce idling as much as possible.
4. Enroll in loyalty/rewards programs
Different gas stations offer different loyalty programs that could help you save on the cost per gallon. Do your research into these fuel rewards programs and enroll if you determine they could help you save at the pump.
5. Use your Scorecard Rewards on your Connected VISA Credit Card
You could redeem your ScoreCard Rewards points for up to $0.50 off per gallon (up to 20 gallons) at participating stations! Learn more here.
Don't have a Connected Credit Union VISA with Scorecard Rewards? You can apply for one today online or on our mobile app.
4 Reasons to Join CC The Owl's Youth Savings Program
April is Youth Savings Month! This year's theme is “It’s Never Too Early,” because the earlier kids can learn about money management and fiscal responsibility, the better! Below is a list of great reasons why you should consider opening a youth account for your child.
1. Matching Deposits
Choosing Connected Credit Union as a place to save is a smart choice because of our deposit matching program! Each time your child fills their $5.00 coin book and brings it to the credit union to deposit, we will match their $5.00 deposit up to three times.
2. Birthday Messages
Each year for your child's birthday, they will receive a special message in the mail from our youth savings mascot, CC the Owl!
3. Earn Prizes
CC the Owl loves rewarding youth members for saving! When your child makes a deposit, they are able to choose a brand new book from CC the Owl's Treasure Nest. CC keeps the nest filled with books for all reading levels from ages 0-13. In addition, for each deposit made they are entered into a monthly drawing for $25.00!
4. Saving Money
CC the Owl's Youth Savings Program teaches children the value of saving money. Learning and practicing money saving habits at a young age, will help them to build a financial relationship with the credit union and a strong financial future. Let’s set them on the path to financial success together!
How to Link Your Account to Payment Platforms!
How to link to PayPal
2. Click the Wallet tab at the top of the page.
3. Click Link a bank on the side of the screen.
4. Search for Connected Credit Union in the list of financial institutions.
5. Click Link your bank another way towards the bottom of the screen.
6. Enter your account information including the routing number: 211287353.
7. In 1-2 days confirm the two small deposits sent to your account via PayPal.
How to link to Venmo
1. Log in to your Venmo app or download from your app store.
2. Tap the tab at the bottom right of your screen.
3. Tap the settings gear in the top right corner.
4. Tap Payment Methods.
5. Tap Add a bank or card then select Bank.
6. Select Manual Verification.
7. Enter your account information including the routing number: 211287353.
8. In 1-3 days confirm the two small deposits sent to your account via Venmo.
Avoid Becoming a Victim of Identity Theft
Identity theft happens when a scammer has stolen your personal information and pretends to be you to apply for credit or make purchases. We have listed a few tips below to help you avoid becoming a victim of identity theft.
- Shred credit offers, account statements, expired credit cards, and anything else with your personal information to keep those documents from falling into the wrong hands.
- Do not forget to collect your mail every day and place a hold on your mail if you are away for several days.
- Review your credit report once a year and report any discrepancies you find.
- Do not keep your Social Security card in your wallet and only give out your Social Security number when absolutely necessary.
We’re Here for You!
If you do become a victim of Identity Theft, notify Connected Credit Union immediately. Monitor your accounts for any unauthorized activity and ask us to provide heightened scrutiny of your accounts. You can also freeze your credit score. It won’t impact your score, but it will prevent new credit from being taken out in your name. There is no fee and you can unfreeze at any time.
When Your Dream College Isn't Affordable
College financial aid letters force many students into making hard decisions. If your dream college or university isn’t offering enough financial aid, should you take on more debt to pay for your education there, or fall back to a more affordable school?
Unfortunately, there’s no easy answer. Before making your choice, consider these tips:
1. Compare Financial Aid Packages
Write down the amount of financial aid each school has offered (scholarships, grants, etc.), then preferred loans (federal Perkins loans and subsidized Stafford loans, whose interest is paid by the government while you are in school), and finally other loans. Compare this data with the school’s cost of attendance (tuition and fees, room and board, books and supplies, etc.). Which aid package will really save you the most out of pocket?
2. Review Your FAFSA
Are there reasons why you need more aid since filing your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), such as a job loss? If so, ask the school’s financial aid office if they will review the package they’ve offered. It is also important that you do not borrow more than you need. It is worth reviewing your budget to see if you can decrease your spending/expenses instead of borrowing more money.
3. Apply For Our Scholarship
Connected Credit Union is granting two $1,000 scholarships to qualified students looking to pursue post-secondary education or graduate degree. The applicant must be a member, must have been accepted to an accredited college, university or technical school and must demonstrate passing grades in all subjects. Please submit your scholarship application and accompanying materials to firstname.lastname@example.org no later than May 15.
4. Reach Out To Us
If there’s still a funding gap after you’ve maxed out government and school financial aid, give us a call. An option many credit union members have used is a loan or credit line secured by home equity – a relatively low-cost way to borrow that is usually tax-deductible. Working together, there’s a good chance we can find a path to higher education that’s right for you.
5 Reasons to Enroll in Online and Mobile Banking
1. Access your account 24/7 from anywhere!
My CU Connection is a safe, online banking service with multiple levels of security. Real-time information offers you the convenience of performing many personal banking functions whether you’re at home or on the road. Experience the convenience of banking anywhere!
2. Transfer Funds
Quickly and easily transfer funds between your Connected Credit Union accounts with online banking. You can even schedule transfers to occur between accounts on specific dates. Save yourself a trip to one of our branches and manage your money all from the ease of your computer.
3. Schedule Bill Payments
Payment Connection is a free bill pay service available on our online banking platform. Why write out the same checks month after month, when you can use Payment Connection? Schedule one-time payments or recurring payments and avoid late payments and late fees. Paying your regular monthly payments has never been easier.
4. Set Up e-Alerts
Don't be caught unprepared! Our customizable e-alerts, available through online banking, can alert you to a low balance in your account, overdrafts, loan payment due dates, and more! e-Alerts are a great way to manage your accounts. Set it and forget it, we'll do the rest!
5. Mobile Deposit
Deposit checks from the comfort of your own home using Mobile Deposit. After enrolling in Online Banking, download our mobile app. Select Mobile Deposit, choose an account for your deposit and enter the amount on your check. Make sure to include your signature, the date, and “For Mobile Deposit Only CCU” on the back of your check. Finally, take clear photos of the front and back of your check and submit your deposit!
IRS Scams To Watch Out For
Scammers may contact you via phone, email, or even US mail delivery, pretending to be the IRS. E-mails will often ask you to click on a link, while phone calls typically claim that you owe taxes and they ask you to verify personal information. These scammers have been known to use scare tactics and create a sense of urgency to get people to comply. The IRS won't contact you by phone or email. If you are contacted please do not engage. Below are some tips for how to proceed:
What You Should Do:
- Verify the number of the letter, form, or notice by going to the IRS website.
- Know that the IRS will contact you by mail instead of calling about unpaid taxes.
- Understand that the IRS will not threaten to have the police arrest you.
What You Shouldn't Do:
- Do not trust the caller ID. Scammers often use spoofing to manipulate the caller ID you see.
- Avoid clicking on any links claiming to be from the IRS in an email or text message.
- Never pay money immediately. Do your research to make sure that it is actually the IRS contacting you.
Four Reasons to File Your Taxes Early
1. Get Your Refund Faster
Since many people tend to procrastinate, you can get your refund much sooner. The fastest method to receive your refund is to file electronically and have your refund deposited directly into your Connected Credit Union account with direct deposit. Working with Connected CU, the IRS will transmit your refund directly to your desired account. Our routing and transit number 211287353 and your account number are all you need. It can take several weeks longer if you opt for a paper return.
2. More Time to Pay
If you end up owing a balance to the IRS, you will have more time to save money for your payment by filing early. This allows three to four months of extra time that you wouldn’t have had if you had filed later. Filing early will let you know exactly how much you owe to the IRS.
3. Easier Scheduling a Tax Preparer
Accountants and tax professionals are also first come, first serve. Their schedules can fill up by the time you reach out to them if you wait too long. If you aren’t completely confident when filing your taxes, hiring someone can help you accurately complete your form.
4. Prevent Identity Theft
As soon as a criminal gets access to your Social Security Number, they can do a lot of damage. If they file with your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will decline your return since their records show you’ve already been paid. You haven’t, but the criminal has been. It can take months to clear this up with the IRS. If you can, file your taxes early and prevent the fraudsters from successfully filing a fraudulent return.
Tax Scams to Watch Out For
Suspended/Cancelled Social Security Number
A new social security scam is based around a robocall that claims your social security number is going to be suspended or cancelled because of owed taxes. The scam uses fear tactics to trick recipients into calling the number back and giving away personal information. However, your social security number will never be suspended and the IRS will only contact you through the mail or in person.
Another scam is fraudsters pretending to be the IRS by sending you an email or text message reminding you to file your taxes or claiming to have information about your refund. However, if you click the link in the message to file your taxes you will be brought to a spoofed site. A spoofed site is a site that is almost identical to the original site but is run by scammers. The site will send scammers any information you input making it easy for them to steal your identity. The message may also contain malware that would infect your computer and allow fraudsters to steal your data, such as passwords and PINs. The IRS will not send unsolicited emails or any other type of digital messages such as a text or social media message.
Since the IRS typically only sends letters, fraudsters have begun to send out letters claiming to be from the Bureau of Tax Enforcement. However, the Bureau of Tax Enforcement does not actually exist. Official IRS letters will also have a notice (CP) or letter (LTR) number on the top or bottom right-hand corner of the letter. You can verify this number by going to the IRS website.
Ghost Tax Preparers
Ghost Tax Preparers are fraudsters claiming that they are professional tax preparers. However, they may charge for a percentage of your refund, claim fake deductions to boost refunds, and/or direct the refund into their own account instead of yours. Ghost Tax Preparers also refuse to sign a return, making you responsible for their errors. Before you hire someone to help you file your taxes, make sure they have a valid 2022 Preparer Tax Identification Number (PTIN). If you are looking for a certified tax preparer, you can search through the IRS Directory of Federal Tax Preparers with Credentials and Select Qualifications.
We’re Here to Help!
From answering your questions about fraud prevention to helping you take the proper steps in the event you are the victim of a scam, our member service team is ready to help you.
Credit Score: Soft Pull vs. Hard Pull
A soft pull of your credit is when an inquiry is made of your credit score but does not affect your score in a negative way.
Soft pulls are typically made when:
- You check your credit score through Experian, Equifax, or TransUnion.
- A background check is run on your behalf
- You receive a pre-qualification offer from a credit card company
- You open up a utility account
- You get a new insurance policy
A hard pull of your credit is when the inquiry of your credit score does affect your credit. A hard credit pull might impact your score negatively by a few points. Too many hard pulls within close range of each other can be bad for your credit. It is recommended to space out hard pulls by at least six months as hard pulls will stay on your credit report for at least two years.
Hard pulls are typically made when:
- You apply for a credit card
- You apply for a loan, such as an auto loan or student loan
- You apply for a car lease
- You apply for a mortgage
- You apply to rent an apartment
Learn more about your credit score in our blog: What is a FICO® Credit Score & How is it Calculated?
Four Financial New Year's Resolutions for 2022
1. Start an Emergency Fund
Life can be unpredictable, which is why having an emergency fund is so important. It’s often recommended that you have three to six months' worth of expenses saved away in the event of an emergency.
2. Check Your Credit Score
Check your score from each of the three main credit bureaus in 2022 – Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You can check your score from each bureau for free once a year. Checking your score can tell you where your credit stands, ensure that your credit information is accurate, allow you to respond to changes quickly, and give insight on how it can be improved.
3. Try the 52-Week Money Challenge
If you often give up on financial resolutions because you’re not seeing immediate results, try the 52-week money challenge. You start by saving away $1.00 during the first week of the year, gradually increasing your savings by a dollar each week throughout 2022. You’ll save away $2.00 during the second week, $3.00 in the third week, and ultimately saving away $52.00 in the last week of the year. By the end of the year, if you complete the challenge, you’ll have saved $1,378.00.
4. Do Your Taxes Early
If you traditionally wait until the last minute to file your taxes, make it a goal to do so earlier. As many people tend to procrastinate, you can get your refund much sooner. Also, filing early can help prevent identity theft. As soon as a criminal gets access to your Social Security Number, they can do a lot of damage. If they file with your Social Security number before you do, the IRS will decline your return since their records show you’ve already been paid. It can take months to clear this up with the IRS. If you can, file your taxes early and prevent the fraudsters from successfully filing a fraudulent return.
Protect Yourself From Skimming
What is skimming?
Skimming is the practice of fraudsters placing a popular tool called a skimmer over a legitimate card reader to steal your credit and debit card information. Scammers often put skimmers on public and easily accessible card readers at places such as gas stations or ATMs. When you swipe your card through the skimmer, the scammer gains access to your credit and debit card information.
How can I protect myself?
There are many ways that you can protect yourself from card skimmers.
- Mobile Pay - use Google Pay, Samsung Pay, or Apple Pay to pay with your phone instead of swiping your card.
- Pay Inside - when paying at the pump, it is safer to pay inside where the card reader is less likely to have been compromised.
- Insert Your Chip - EMV chip readers typically make it more difficult for scammers to skim your card data.
- Pay With Cash - the best way to avoid having your card compromised is to pay with cash when you are warry of the card reader.
What happens if I fall victim to skimming?
Debit Card FAQs
What are my daily limits on my Connected Credit Union Debit Card?
Connected Credit Union has a daily Point of Sale (POS) limit of up to $1,200 per day and a daily ATM withdrawal limit of up to $510 per day.
What if I need to make a large purchase that is more than my debit card limit?
Will my debit card work if I am traveling?
Please notify the credit union of where you are traveling and how long you will be gone.
What account does my debit card pull funds from?
Your Connected Credit Union debit card will automatically pull funds from the checking account it is attached to during a POS transaction. When you are using your Connected Credit Union debit card at an ATM, you have a choice of which account to pull funds from.
What happens if my debit card is lost or stolen?
To report a debit card lost or stolen, please call 1-800-472-3272 (during non-business hours). Otherwise, please contact the credit union (during regular business hours) at 1-800-464-3773. Reporting promptly may limit your liability.
How do I receive Fraud Alert texts?
Connected Credit Union will send a Fraud Alert activation text when you first receive your debit card. Reply YES to the text message in order to receive alerts when there is possible fraud associated with your Debit Card. It is important that you respond to any Fraud Alert texts in a timely manner by following the instructions in the alert. Inform us of any changes to your cell phone number.
How do I earn debit card rewards?
Your Credit Report and Tradelines
What is a Tradeline?
Tradelines are the types of credit accounts that will show up on your credit report from the three major credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. Tradelines consist of loans, credit cards, lines of credit, and other credit accounts.
What are the types of Tradelines?
There are two different types of tradelines that can be listed on your credit report: revolving and installment.
- Revolving Tradelines: a credit limit with flexible payment options such as a minimum monthly payment on the borrowed amount, such as a credit card or a home equity line of credit.
- Installment Tradelines: a loan that is paid in installments until the balance is paid off, such as an auto loan or mortgage.
How do Tradelines affect my credit?
Tradelines come into play in your credit mix. Your FICO® credit score will take into consideration your tradelines when calculating your score. Typically your credit mix accounts for about 10% of your score. The longer you have active tradelines and the more responsible you are paying down your debt, the better your credit score will be.
A FICO® score is a type of credit score created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Lenders use borrowers’ FICO scores along with other details on borrowers’ credit reports to assess credit risk and determine whether to extend credit.
Running Debit as Credit
Should I run my Debit Card as Credit?
When using your Connected Debit Card at a store, you are probably asked the question "Debit or Credit?" You may think that because you are using your Debit Card, you can only run it as debit. This is not the case. In fact, there are many benefits to choosing to run your debit card as credit.
Is there added Protection & Security?
If you use your Connected Debit Card at a store and enter your PIN number, you may be more susceptible to fraud and may become liable for any fraudulent charges. May card processors offer zero-liability policies when running your debit card as credit. If your Connected Debit Card and/or PIN number becomes lost or stolen, report it immediately. Call the Main Office (207) 623-3857 or the Winslow Branch (207) 872-2636 during business hours or 1-800-472-3272 during non-business hours.
Will I be charged an interest rate?
Unlike traditional credit cards, running your debit card as credit does not add to your credit balance. Instead, the money comes out of your checking account like normal. However, instead of pulling the funds immediately, you will typically have to wait a few days.
Does this affect my credit score?
No running your debit card as credit does not impact your credit score. Since you are not actually borrowing any money, your credit score will not be affected. For tips on how to boost your credit score, check out our blog: What is a FICO® Credit Score & How is it Calculated?
Can I Earn Debit Card Rewards?
The biggest perk of running your Connected Debit Card as credit is earning rewards points for your qualifying purchases. With our uChoose Rewards program, you can earn points when you sign for your purchases instead of entering your PIN to earn points. Remember, Sign, don't PIN - It's a WIN/WIN! To learn more about our Debit Card Rewards program, read our blog: Earn Debit Card Rewards
Earn Debit Card Rewards
Did you know you can earn rewards with your debit card?
With our uChoose Rewards program, you can earn points on qualifying purchases when you use your Connected Credit Union Debit Card!
Do I automatically earn rewards?
To start earning rewards when using your Connected Credit Union Debit Card, you must enroll online at uchooserewards.com.
How do I earn points?
When using your Connected Credit Union Debit Card, sign for your purchases instead of entering your PIN to earn points. Remember, Sign, don't PIN - It's a WIN/WIN! For every $2.00 spent with your Connected Credit Union debit card, you will earn 1 point through uChoose Rewards. Sometimes merchants periodically offer more points per dollar spent when shopping with them.
How do I redeem my points?
Log in to your uChoose Rewards account to redeem your rewards! You must have a total of 2500 points to be eligible to redeem for cash, merchandise, travel, gift cards, and more! There are thousands of vendors offering merchandise through uChoose Rewards. Redeeming for cash is not immediate, and will take a couple of business days to enter your account.
To see how to redeem your uChoose Rewards Points, check out our YouTube video!
Becoming a Member is Easier Than Ever
Who can become a Connected Credit Union member?
Connected Credit Union’s field of membership is for anyone who lives, works, worships, or attends school in Kennebec, Somerset, Lincoln, and Waldo Counties as well as all those who are eligible to become members of the Maine Education Association, employees of the Maine Education Association, the Maine Education Association and any of its governance affiliates, employees of the credit union, employees of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, employees of Employment Specialists of Maine; also eligible are immediate family members including:
- Spouses, children, siblings, parents, grandparents, and grandchildren, including step and adoptive relationships of persons eligible for membership.
- Persons living in the same residence maintaining a single economic unit with persons within the credit union's field of membership.
Can I apply online?
Yes! You can fill out our membership application online at your own convenience. The online membership application takes 5-10 minutes to complete. Once you submit your application, a member service representative reach out to you as soon as possible to finalize your membership!
Credit and Debit Card Scams
Scam #1: Skimming
Skimmers are a popular tool used by scammers to steal your credit and debit card information. The scammer places the skimmer device over a legitimate card reader in places such as a gas station or an ATM. Then when you swipe your card through the skimmer, the scammer has access to your credit and debit card information. When using gas station terminals and ATMs, be cautious of your surroundings and examine the card reader. Another way to avoid skimmers would be to make sure to use your EMV chip and insert your Connected Credit Union credit or debit card. Chip readers typically make it more difficult for scammers to skim your card data.
Scam #2: Account Takeover
Account takeovers are when scammers are able to hack into your account via phishing scams, physically stealing your card information or other types of fraud. The scammer then uses your account information by pretending to be you to make purchases or commit identity theft. By using Online Banking or Mobile Banking for your debit card transactions and eZCard Info for your credit card transactions, you can monitor your accounts for any suspicious activity. Alert the credit union as soon as possible if you notice anything that might be fraudulent.
To report a debit card lost or stolen, please call 1-800-472-3272 (during non-business hours). Otherwise, please contact the credit union (during regular business hours) at (207) 623-3857 for Augusta or (207) 872-2636 for Winslow. Reporting promptly may limit your liability. To report a lost or stolen credit card, please call 1-800-991-4961.
Scam #3: Data Breaches
A data breach occurs when a business or organization is hacked and a scammer steals a customer's personal data, such as credit and debit card numbers. When you are notified of a data breach, make sure to verify if your information has been stolen and what sensitive information the scammers might have taken. Make sure to change any passwords that have been compromised immediately and monitor your accounts for any signs of fraud.
We’re Here to Help!
From answering your questions about fraud prevention to helping you take the proper steps in the event you are the victim of a scam, our Member Service Representatives are ready to help you.
4 Tips for Creating Strong Passwords
1. Avoid Simple Passwords
When choosing a password, avoid simple passwords that can be easily guessed by hackers. For example, your password shouldn't include birthdays, family member's names, phone numbers, etc. Your passwords should be more creative than just Password123.
2. Use Long Passphrases
Longer passwords are more secure than shorter passwords. Ideally, your password should be between 8 and 20 characters, including a mix of upper case letters, lower case letters, numbers, and special characters. Using a passphrase is a great way to create a long, secure password. A passphrase is normally a phrase or group of unique words used as a phrase such as "Playing+baseball+with+the+cat". Adding characters within the passphrase helps to increase the security. When choosing a passphrase, avoid well-known and common phrases such as popular quotes or song lyrics.
3. Regularly Update Your Passwords
You should update your passwords at least every three months. Regularly updating your passwords limits your chances of hackers gaining unauthorized access to your accounts. Changing your passwords immediately is very important after you have been notified of a security breach or a phishing attempt.
4. Enable Two-Factor Authentication
As an added level of security and protection, opt in for two-factor authentication when it's available. Two-factor authentication often requires both your password and a special time-sensitive code sent to your cellphone or email prior to logging in. This extra step may help prevent scammers from accessing your online accounts.
Popular Social Media Scams
Popular Scam #1 - Quizzes, Polls, and Games
A popular way for scammers to collect information about you is through social media. The increase of fun quizzes, polls, and games that require you to give away seemingly harmless information (such as the type of your first car or the name of your first pet) provide scammers with personal information as these are very common answers to security questions meant to provide an extra layer of security to your accounts. By searching your public social media account, a scammer could easily find the answers to your security questions and gain access to your personal accounts.
Popular Scam #2 - Clickbait Articles
Many posts on social media include links to articles. Some of these links are harmless, but others can be links to malware. The scammers will use clickbait article titles hoping you will open the link, where you will be sent to a malicious website that could attempt to download a virus to your computer. Be extra cautious when clicking any links connected to posts on social media. Shopping through social media can also be highly suspect. Always go directly to the website using a web browser if you are shopping online.
Popular Scam #3 - Hacked Messages
With a hacked message, a scammer will impersonate a friend and send you a suspicious message. The message will often include a malware link asking you to click on something or the message may ask you to send or wire money to help a friend. If you receive a message that seems out of character, reach out to your friend personally to verify the validity of the message.
Protect yourself from these social media scams with these tips:
- Review your privacy settings on your social media sites.
- Do your research before buying a product from a post or ad on social media.
- Avoid "friending" people you do not know or trust.
- Do not use the same password for multiple sites.
- Change your password regularly.
- Don't provide personal information to strangers on social media.
Should You Lease or Buy Your Next Vehicle?
Important things to consider when Buying your next vehicle:
- Are you content with driving the same vehicle for many years?
- Are you a high-mileage driver?
- Do you want to take ownership of a vehicle?
- Do you want the freedom to sell or trade your vehicle at any time?
- Can you afford a downpayment to keep your payments affordable?
Important things to consider when Leasing your next vehicle:
- Would you prefer driving a newer vehicle every few years?
- Are you a low mileage driver?
- Will the lease provide you with a considerably "lower payment" than a purchase and is it worth the fees involved to lease?
- Is a downpayment required?
- Do you always want a warranty on your vehicle?
Test Out Our Lease vs. Buy Calculator
With Connected Credit Union's Lease vs. Buy Calculator, we will calculate your estimated monthly payments and your total net cost. By comparing these amounts, you can determine whether leasing or buying is the better option for you.
Tips for Financing Your Next Vehicle
1. Review your credit score
Before you begin car shopping, look over your credit report from one of the three credit bureaus: Experian, Equifax, and TransUnion. You are entitled to receive one free credit report from each of the credit bureaus per year. Make sure that all the information on your credit report is correct. If there are any mistakes, you will want to get them corrected before you start your car shopping process.
2. Get pre-approved
Take the stress out of car shopping when you get pre-approved for your auto loan with Connected Credit Union. Contact our friendly loan team by calling (207) 623-3857 for the Augusta Office and (207) 872-2636 for the Winslow Office.
3. Do your research
Visit the NADA site to determine the value of your trade-in, as well as the value of your next purchase. This easy proactive approach can help to prevent you from paying too much for your next vehicle while ensuring you get a fair price for your trade. When you've found the perfect vehicle you can also use Carfax to learn the vehicle history before making your purchase.
4. Find the best deal
There's more to buying a car than just getting a low interest rate. You need options and we have several, including dealer partnership lending with our local auto dealerships! Find your vehicle at the dealer, be sure and tell them you are a Connected Credit Union member. Our partnership with them provides you with peace of mind, knowing your auto loan is at your local credit union, financed with people you know and trust.
5. Rate vs Rebate
In some cases, the lowest interest rate is not always the best deal. It may be to your advantage to opt for an available rebate and finance with your credit union. Check out this rate vs rebate calculator, you may be surprised with the results!
How to Get Started with Mobile Pay
What is a mobile wallet?
A mobile wallet is an app on your smartphone that stores your credit card and/or debit card information to make purchases instead of using your physical card. The three mobile wallets are Apple Pay, Google Pay, and Samsung Pay. Click on the logo below to learn more information about each of the three mobile wallets.
How do I use a mobile wallet?
You can use your mobile wallet to make purchases anywhere you see the symbol below. Simply open your mobile wallet app, select the card you would like to pay with, and either click when prompted on your phone or tap your phone on the payment terminal. Leave your wallet at home and pay with your phone! It's easy, safe, and convenient.
How do I add my Connected Credit Union debit or credit card?
Open up the mobile wallet app of your choice. In Apple Pay, you will tap the + sign to add your card information. In Samsung Pay, you will tap Menu, then Cards, then Add card, and finally Add credit/debit card. In Google Pay, you will tap Payment, then Add +, then Credit or debit card. After you have added your card information to your mobile wallet, you will need to follow the mobile wallet's instructions to finalize the verification process.
Financial Tips for College Graduates
1. Make a plan for your student loans
Student loans can be one of the scariest parts of graduating from college. The first step is to plan how you will repay your loans. Start by looking at how much you owe, the interest rates on each loan, and the repayment terms. Make sure you chose a payment plan that you can manage and always make your payments on time. If you can afford to, paying a little extra on the principle of your loans can help you pay off your student debt faster.
2. Create a budget you can stick to
Creating a budget can be very beneficial for managing your finances, especially if you are becoming financially independent for the first time. Start making your budget by listing your income and expenses, determining your savings goals, and allocating your funds to balance your budget. See our blog 3 POPULAR BUDGETS YOU CAN STICK TO for more ideas on how to create a budget that will work for you.
3. Start saving for retirement
Even though retirement seems so far away, the sooner you start saving, the better off you'll be in the long run. If your employer offers a 401(k) plan, you should take advantage of it and begin to save a percentage of your income for retirement. Some employers offer matching contributions to your 401(k), which you should max out if you are able. If your employer doesn't offer a 401(k), you should look into opening an IRA account to start your retirement savings instead. Learn more about IRA accounts at Connected Credit Union.
4. Build up your credit score
Building a strong credit score can also be very beneficial in the long run. To improve your credit score, focus on making on-time payments and paying down credit card balances. Avoid utilizing your credit cards at their capacity and opening too many new accounts within a short period of time. Remember that building a strong credit score can take time, but the sooner you start, the better off you will be. Having one major card is a better credit builder than having store cards. Again, keeping in mind credit cards should be used for emergency situations and paid in full every month if at all possible.
How to Safely Use Personal Finance Apps
If you use a personal finance app, such as RobinHood, CashApp, Venmo, Paypal, and more, there are some important steps you can take to protect your personal data.
1. Examine the terms of service for apps you are using.
- Before agreeing to download, review the app’s data retention policies.
- Determine whether the app resells your information.
2. Find out what security features the app offers.
- Take advantage of any features that ensure your personal information remains safe.
- If you can, opt in to two-factor authentication for an extra level of protection.
3. Always confirm the validity of the app.
- Make sure you are downloading the correct app from your app store.
- Don't provide any personal or financial information unless you trust the organization.
4. Change your passwords regularly and avoid repeating passwords.
- Highly secure passwords often contain letters, numbers, and special characters.
- Don’t store passwords on your phone or in a location where others might be able to access them.
Contact us right away if you feel your information has been compromised!
Popular Online Banking Scams
Popular Scam #1 - Requesting Access
The scammer will request access to your online banking account to deposit money. However, once you have granted the scammer access, they transfer money from another one of your accounts instead of depositing funds. The scammer will then claim they "deposited" too much money in your account and you need to send the money back.
Popular Scam #2 - Computer Virus
The scammer will contact you claiming your computer has a virus affecting your online banking account. In order to fix it, they need to gain remote access to your computer. However, once you grant the scammer remote access into your computer and online banking account, they are able to steal your personal information and funds.
Protect yourself from these online banking scams trying to access your account with these tips:
- Avoid using the same password for multiple sites.
- Change your password regularly.
- Use security questions that scammers can't easily find the answer to online.
- Don't provide personal information to someone you don't know or trust.
- Be cautious of the caller ID. Scammers can manipulate the caller ID through spoofing.
- Say no to scammers asking for remote access into your computer.
- Never log in to your online banking with someone else accessing your computer.
- It's always better to play it safe, which means if something doesn't feel right, hang up the phone or end the communication.
It's best not to engage if you are skeptical for any reason.
Contact us right away if you feel your information has been compromised!
Debunking 4 Credit Card Myths
Myth #1: Having a credit card will hurt your credit score
This is not true. When used responsibly, a credit card can really help your credit score. 10% of your FICO credit score is calculated from your credit mix in use. Your credit mix is made up of credit cards, mortgages, auto loans, student loans, etc. Having a credit card can help to diversify your credit mix and be beneficial to your credit score.
Myth #2: Carrying a balance on your credit card will help to boost your credit score
Carrying a balance on a high-interest credit card can be very expensive in the long run. If you are looking to boost your credit score, you should aim to pay off your balance every month. 30% of your FICO credit score is calculated from your utilization rate, or how much your available credit limit has been used. If you carry a balance it may damage your credit score as this can indicate that you are overextended, and are more likely to miss or make late payments.
Myth #3: You should close that credit card you don't use very often
As mentioned above, 30% of your FICO credit score is calculated from your utilization rate. If you close down one of your credit cards, your overall credit limit goes down. Therefore, your utilization rate will increase and may negatively affect your credit score. However, it may be a good idea to close credit cards you are not using regularly, especially if they have a high annual fee.
Myth #4: You shouldn't apply for the Connected Credit Union VISA Rewards Credit Card
You deserve a better credit card and now is the time. It's the easiest way to manage your lifestyle and you'll earn rewards simply by using it for your everyday purchases like travel, fuel, groceries, and other items. A low interest rate and 24/7 fraud protection, as well as no transfer fees when switching from a higher interest rate card, are just a few of the perks that go along with being a Connected Credit Union cardholder. Go ahead, reward yourself today!
New Scam Alert: Amazon Calls
There is a new popular scam circulating involving scammers pretending to be representatives from Amazon. The scammers will claim there is a problem with your Amazon account because you have a fraudulent charge or a lost/damaged package. The scammers will attempt to get your personal information by requesting remote access in to your computer in order to steal your online banking information.
How to Stay Safe:
- Never allow someone who contacts you to have access to your computer remotely.
- Never give out your account number or personal information.
- Know that Amazon will never call you to solicit your personal information.
- Know that Amazon will never request payment outside of their website (i.e. through gift cards, mobile payment apps, wiring funds, etc.)
- If you receive a suspicious phone call or email, do not engage.
- Report suspicious activity to Amazon here.
CC The Owl's Tips for Saving
April is Youth Savings Month! This year's theme is "Be a Credit Union Saver and Your Savings Will Never Go Extinct." Teaching children the importance of saving money will instill good financial habits in them for a lifetime! CC the Owl has great tips to help our young members get started on their savings journey.
1. Pick a Place to Save
Help your child pick a place to start saving their money. Some great choices are a piggy bank, CC The Owl's coin savers, or a clear jar that can be decorated! Having a specific location to store savings helps children visualize their money growing. Choosing Connected Credit Union as a place to save is a smart choice because of our deposit matching program! Each time you fill your $5.00 coin book and bring it to the credit union to deposit your money, we will match your $5.00 deposit up to three times. This gets our young savers off to a great start! We also have a prize basket to choose from when deposits are made. Our young members love coming to the credit union!
2. Set a Goal
Setting a savings goal can be helpful to motivate your child to start saving their money. Your child can determine how much money they want to save and then you can create a timeline to help get them there. For example, the goal could be saving $8 in a month, by saving $2 per week.
3. Track Spending
A good part of being a saver is understanding how you use your money. Have your child write down their allowance/income for the week as well as their spending habits. Your child can see the value of saving and learn how to adjust their habits to save more and reach their goal faster.
4. Open a Youth Account
CC the Owl's Youth Savings Program teaches children the value of saving money by rewarding them with deposit matching and fun prizes! Learning and practicing money saving habits at a young age, will help them to build a financial relationship with the credit union and a strong financial future. Watch what happens when your child receives their first deposit match! They are immediately drawn to watching their balance grow and realizing that it pays to save. Let’s set them on the path to financial success together!
Online Credit Card Shopping Tips
Using your credit card online can be scary, especially with so many different types of scams and phishing attempts online trying to steal your information. We’ve got some tips and tricks to help you use your credit card to shop safely, online.
1. Don't shop on public devices
You shouldn’t do your online shopping on public devices, such as a computer at your workplace or school. Websites often save login information. Therefore, the next person to use that device may be able to access your account and credit card information. Even if you do log out and clear your browsing history, hackers may have been monitoring the keystrokes you used in order to steal your personal information.
2. Check for the 's'
When it is time to enter your credit card information online, take a look at the URL. Make sure it starts with https:// rather than http://. The ‘s’ stands for secure, confirming that your information is encrypted. The ‘s’ is not a guarantee that the transaction is 100% safe, but it is an added layer of protection.
3. Don't click on suspicious links
If you receive a suspicious email with a link, do not go shopping by directly clicking the link. Even if it is a well-known company, do not click the link. It could be fraudulent and a phishing attempt to get your information. Instead, navigate to the website yourself to do your online shopping. This way you know you are going to the correct website.
4. Print your receipts
After you’ve used your credit card to make the purchase, print off a copy of your receipt or confirmation. Make sure to compare the amount on your receipt to your billing statement and verify that they match.
5. Reward yourself
Connected Credit Union's VISA credit card is the easiest way to manage your lifestyle and you'll earn rewards simply by using it for your everyday purchases - even when shopping online. A low interest rate and 24/7 fraud protection, as well as no transfer fees when switching from a higher interest rate card, are just a few of the perks that go along with being a Connected Credit Union cardholder. Go ahead, reward yourself today!
Debit Card Holds
What is a debit card hold?
When you use a debit card, the store clerk usually contacts the financial institution that issued your card to get authorization. When the approval is given, the balance in your checking account is reduced or “blocked” by the amount of the purchase. This is known as a pre-authorization hold. The merchant determines the amount of the hold. Typically the hold stays on your account until the funds are transferred to the merchant from your financial institution, often 3-4 days. If you look at your account online it may show as a pending transaction.
How can a debit card hold create problems?
In a few situations, the dollar amount of the transaction is unknown when approval is given. This may happen when you check into a hotel room, pay for gas at the pump, or use your debit card to pay for your meal at a restaurant. In each of these transactions, the merchant may get approval for a higher (estimated) amount– allowing for a tip, room service, additional or higher purchase amounts.
Let’s say you have $60 in your account when you use your debit card to pay for gas at the pump. Since the purchase amount is unknown when you insert your card, the merchant requests authorization for $50. The authorization causes a hold to be placed on your account for $50 and your available balance is reduced to $10. If you only purchased $20 in gas you may believe you have $40 available in your account. Unless you understand how a hold affects your account, your debit card could be declined in future transactions. If checks or other transactions are processed before the hold is released you may overdraw your account and incur overdraft fees.
How can you avoid these problems?
When a business asks for your card in advance of service – ask if the company will request a pre-authorization hold, the amount of the hold, and how the amount is determined. Be sure the hold won’t exceed your account balance.
Pay the charges with the same card you used at the beginning of the transaction. Ask the clerk when the hold will be removed.
Prior to making a purchase that will involve payment with a different card, by cash, or by check, inform the clerk of the different form of payment and inquire about their policy on reversing holds.
Protect yourself from overdrafts with Member Privilege it requires no action on your part - unless you would like to have access for ATM and everyday debit card transactions. The paid item fee is $29.00 for each item created by check, in-person withdrawals, recurring debit card transactions, or other electronic means. You may request to "Opt In" for coverage that includes access at the ATM and for everyday debit card purchases.
When paying for gas, pay inside or consider using another method of payment (cash, check or credit card).
What is a FICO® Credit Score & How is it Calculated?
A FICO® score is a type of credit score created by the Fair Isaac Corporation. Lenders use borrowers’ FICO scores along with other details on borrowers’ credit reports to assess credit risk and determine whether to extend credit. Here is how a FICO score is calculated:
35% Payment History: The first thing any lender wants to know is whether you’ve paid past credit accounts on time.
30% Amounts Owed: When a high percentage of a person’s available credit has been used, this can indicate that a person is overextended, and is more likely to miss or make late payments.
15% Length of Credit History: In general, a longer credit history will increase your score.
10% Credit Mix In Use: FICO Scores will consider your mix of credit cards, retail accounts, installment loans, finance company accounts and mortgage loans.
10% New Credit: Research shows that opening several credit accounts in a short period of time represents a greater risk – especially for people who don’t have a long credit history.
3 POPULAR BUDGETS YOU CAN STICK TO
Creating your budget can be hard, and following it can seem even harder. With so many different types of budgets you can use, choosing one that will work for you may seem impossible. We’ve got three popular and helpful budgets that suit different types of financial goals and personalities.
Pay Yourself First Budget
Best For: Savers
- Start with your monthly income
- Pay yourself first, by subtracting money for your savings goals
- Pay Regular Bills
- Decide what to do with the surplus, you’ve already met your savings goals so it’s up to you!
Best For: Spenders
- Start with your monthly income
- 50% of your income goes to housing, transportation, utilities, and groceries
- 20% of your income goes to savings, retirement, and debt repayment
- 30% of your income goes to lifestyle expenses, such as entertainment and childcare
Best For: Regular Monthly Income
- Start with your monthly income
- Subtract out your monthly expenses, such as rent and food expenses
- Subtract out your variable expenses, such as entertainment and clothing expenses
- Account for your savings goals, such as an emergency fund
- Have a bottom line of $0 – every dollar should be accounted for