What is Check Fraud and How Can You Protect Your Accounts

Check Fraud can happen to anyone. Thousands of people are affected by this type of stealing and it could happen to you. Here are some explanations to what types of check fraud are happening and how you can protect yourself and your business. Awareness is the first step.

* When it comes to check fraud, most of the fraudulent checks are computer generated through desktop publishing checks. What can you do? Make sure your blank checks are under lock and key and place passwords on computers that can generate those checks. 

* Photocopying legit checks is another form of fraud that criminals use. They can create duplicate checks by photocopying real checks stolen from an individual or business to use for their own use. What can you do? Protect your blank checks by keeping them in a safe. Notate the numbers of the checks you have that are not in use. Report immediately any missing blank checks and watch your account daily for any of those numbers that may come through your bank. 

* Chemical alteration is another form of check fraud and is often used by criminals. Simply put…the criminal uses chemicals to alter the check…usually the amount it was written for and to whom it was written to. They then use the check for their own personal use. What can you do? Not much really but watch your accounts for unusual activity like if a check with the same number comes through again. 

* Forgery is another means that criminals use in regards to check fraud and this type of crime is committed when the criminal steals a check from an individual or business and forges the person’s or company’s signature onto the check. What can you do? Protect your blank checks by keeping them in a safe place. Notate the numbers of the checks you have that are not in use. Report immediately any missing blank checks and watch your account daily for any of those numbers that may come through your bank. 

If you have computer access to your bank, make sure you start using it every couple of days to watch your account. If check fraud is a big crime in your area, it will benefit you and give you piece of mind to follow some of these steps to protect your bank information to your best ability.

5 Things You Should Know About Your Credit Score

In today’s financial market, it is imperative that you have control of your credit score. So many things are based on a strong credit score that managing your score becomes something you have add to your to-do list. Your score can affect the cost of borrowing money, for business and personal use, as well as whether you get a job in certain fields. Fiscal responsibility is important in many aspects that it will follow you for years.

Here are some things you need to know about your credit score so you can manage it properly.

5 Things You Should Know About Your Credit Score

  1. There are 3 major credit bureaus where lenders will check your credit score: Experian, TransUnion and Equifax. Your score will vary between each of those bureaus because each one uses a different scoring system.
  2. Two different scoring scales are used: FICO and/or VantageScore. All FICO scores are between 300-850 and all VantageScore scores are between 501-990 and they use corresponding letter grades A-F.
  3. You can request a free credit report from each of the 3 main bureaus once a year. If you want it more often than that, you’ll have to pay a fee to obtain it. If you notice any discrepancies on your report, you’ll want to resolve them immediately and not let them fester.
  4. Your score is based on 5 main factors:
    • Average credit age – Is it new debt or older debt? Do you have a lot of new debt?
    • Your payment history – Late payments, repossessions, loan defaults?
    • Account mix – Is it only credit cards or do you also have mortgages, car loans, personal loans?
    • Credit utilization – How well do you manage the credit? Are you maxed out with no more room?
    • How often you apply for credit.
    • Your overall debt is also taken into consideration.
  5. Your report is constantly changing as payments on debt are made, as credit requests are issued, as your debt or assets change and so forth. It might say something one month and the very next month look totally different.

Make it a habit to check your reports often for changes and inconsistencies that need to be addressed. Also work on your credit utilization and keep your cards at no more that 20-30% of maximum. Watch late payments and only apply for credit if absolutely necessary. Make sure you have some mixture in your accounts too.

Knowing everything that goes into your credit score will help you manage it better and that will allow you to use your credit in the manner that will best suit your needs.

10 Last Minute Ways to Save for a Summer Vacation

Summer is a great time to go on a vacation. If you haven’t started planning your summer vacation, here are some quick ways to save for a summer trip and tips for booking summer travel.

1. Start saving now – cut out some nonessentials.

Go through your current household expenses and cut out some non-essentials or superfluous expenses. Winnie Sun, a Financial Advisor and Forbes contributor, suggested “Make your vacation fund separate from other savings and checking accounts. This way, you’re less likely to dip into it when you need some extra cash. Plus, that’s what your emergency fund is for.”

2. Determine Your Vacation Costs Now.

Take a budget and stick to it even if you haven’t decided exactly where to go. You can get a rough
idea of where you can go. Make this a family project if you get everyone involved it will make it fun and something to look forward to. It is easier to cut down on eating out, lattes, and mindless swiping if everyone is involved.

3. Travel during the week instead of weekends.

According to ARC data, the lowest ticket prices on most domestic tickets have been seen between 50 and 100 days before departure. Briana Trulear from Gabriel Marketing Group suggested, “If costs are an important factor, flying in the middle of the week can help save hundreds of dollars. Many airlines will offer lower fares to fill empty seats during the middle of the week, so being on the lookout during this time can be a huge advantage.”

4. Always check for deals and discounts online.

Always check for deals and discounts online. A study by MyVactionPages.com found that it was the cheapest to book direct with the accommodation itself and the average difference in price between the highest and lowest was actually 49.95%. Elizabeth Avery, Founder of Solo Trekker
4 U, said “last minute deals can be attractive. However, flights usually increase at the last minute.” There are also some apps that are available that will save you time and money on your summer vacation travels.

5. Use rewards.

Redeem airline miles or hotel points. Now is the time to put your credit card reward to good use. Often times, you can turn your rewards into cash, gift cards and miles. Some credit card companies partner up with travel brands so you can use your reward towards car rental and activities.

6. Purchase indirect flights.

Briana also suggested that many indirect flights tend to be an inexpensive option for travelers looking for an affordable alternative even though there might be a layover. You can also compare the price of round-trip and one-way tickets. Round trip ticket is not always cheaper than booking two one-way tickets.

7. Consider alternative locations.

If budget is limited, plan a weekend getaway instead of a longer vacation. Two-thirds of Americans (64%) plans an average of three weekend trips according to American Express Travel.  Danielle Sorresso from MSC Cruise suggested, “If you can’t afford to go anywhere far, try something local.” “Staycation” can be a great alternative to get out and relax. You can plan a week of day trips to museums, zoos, national or theme parks. Simply taking time off to explore and nurture yourself, this can help increase your health, improve sleep, and improve your work and life satisfaction.

8. Take on extra work if possible.

“It’s spring, so get your family started on your spring cleaning and sell your unwanted stuff in a yard sale or online,” Winnie added. A garage sale is a great way to earn some vacation cash quickly. Everything you make can go right into the travel fund.

9. Explore lodging options.

Make hotel reservations at hotels that offer breakfast, free shuttle to the airport, some even offer evening snacks, and this will save on food. Hotels get filled up really fast, especially during summer and holiday. David Bakke from Money Crashers said, “Another way to save on
accommodation is to try non-traditional outlets for your lodging needs, such as the website Airbnb or rent a condo or home from a website like VRBO.” This is a great way to save money on meals while traveling. Some homeowners will even provide complimentary breakfast and snacks.

10. Consider an all-inclusive.

The right all-inclusive can be a budget-friendly vacation solution. Winnie said, “with an all-inclusive resort, you know what you are paying for. You can easily pick a trip that fits within your budget. If you love to eat and drink, you’ll get your money’s worth.”

Sources: http://blog.intracoastalbank.net/2014/04/13/last-minute-ways-to-save-for-summer-vacation/ http://www.huffingtonpost.com/smartertravel/the-2-cheapest-days-of-th_b_6971100.html https://www.budgetsimple.com/blog/8-ways-to-save-on-your-summer-vacation/ https://viewfinder.expedia.com/img/STOR-23513_White_paper.pdf http://www.cheapism.com/blog/4252/cheap-summer-travel-tips