5 SCAMS TO WATCH FOR AFTER THE HOLIDAYS

The mad holiday rush may be over, but scammers aren’t slowing down. The post-holiday weeks bring an increase in scams that, unfortunately, are quite believable during this time of year. HOLIDAY SCAM ALERT

Don’t be the victim of a post-holiday scam! Read on to learn about five common ways fraudsters seek to dupe consumers after the holidays: 

1.) Gift-picking 

With the holidays behind us, many people are enjoying new, and often expensive, gifts. These can be top-of-the-line electronic devices, luxury entertainment systems or phones with four-digit price tags. If you’re the lucky recipient of such an expensive gift, you may be targeted by old-fashioned thieves who are looking for a good picking. 

Protect yourself by keeping your gift under wraps. Dismantle all packaging that contained your gift. Discard them in a covered trash or recycling bin instead of leaving them at the curb where potential thieves can spot them and peg you as an easy target. For extra precaution, consider hauling your boxes off to a communal dumpster or the local recycling station. 

2.) Charity scams 

The last two days of December see more charity donations nationwide than the rest of the year. While this may speak well of our goodwill, it also offers scammers another opportunity to help themselves to other people’s money. 

Be wary when giving charity this time of year. Don’t donate to any organization without first checking it out on a charity vetting website, like CharityNavigator.com. If you have a favorite cause you like to give to, contact them yourself instead of clicking on an ad or calling a number that appears to represent them. 

3.) Underpriced gifts for sale 

You may think you just found a real steal of a deal on Craigslist from a seller who is eager to get rid of a gift because “My wife didn’t like it.” But, be suspicious of any prices that seem too good to be true; they are likely to be scams. 

If an item for sale appears authentic, proceed, but with caution. Don’t rely on email communication. Instead, get the seller’s phone number and street address. If possible, ask for references and pictures of the item. If everything appears to check out, arrange to meet the seller in a well-lit, populated area, preferably one with ample security-camera coverage. Finally, never wire money online to any seller—let the cash and item change hands at the same time. 

4.) Belated holiday e-cards 

Don’t assume every e-card that lands in your inbox with a heading like “Oops! I’m late!” is legitimate. Too often, e-cards are ridden with malware and will infect your device as soon as you click on an embedded link. The e-cards may even bear the name of your friend, but don’t be fooled; scammers can easily pick these names off the internet. Authentic e-cards will include a confirmation code for you to copy and paste at the issuing website, so only open e-cards that are accompanied by a code. 

5.) Post-holiday ‘sales’ 

The holiday shopping frenzy is over and retailers are eager to drum up more business. This makes the post-holiday sale scam seem especially believable. Your social media platforms may be exploding with ads that are offering exclusive deals and deeply discounted prices at your favorite stores. While some of these ads may be legit, lots of them are scams. 

Here’s how to spot the fake ads and differentiate them from the real ones: 

  • The URL is off by one letter. Carefully check each landing page as you make a purchase.
  • The site is not secure. Always look for the “s” after the “http.”
  • The words “deals” or “discounts” are part of the URL. Authentic retailers sell from their home site and will rarely create a new website just to sell sale items.
  • The store’s logo is missing from the website. Look for a genuine store logo on every landing page.

Post-holiday scams are everywhere, but by knowing how to spot a scam, you’re already one step ahead of the criminals. Stay alert and stay safe! 

Your Turn: Have you been targeted by a post-holiday scam? Share your experience with us in the comments.

 

SOURCES:

https://blog.aarp.org/2017/12/30/protect-yourself-from-post-holiday-scams/

https://www.google.com/amp/amp.fox5atlanta.com/news/i-team/beware-post-holiday-loan-scams

https://dayair.atomicdevbox.com/blog/post-holiday-scams-to-know-about/

6 MISTAKES PEOPLE MAKE IN THEIR 20S AND HOW TO FIX THEM

Like many people, you may have blown through your 20s making financial decisions that served you well in the moment, but may not have been particularly responsible. 20s and 30s Dinner out several times a week, credit card bills you barely looked at and luxury cars way beyond your budget—life was practically a party!   

But now, the party’s over. You’ve woken up in your 30s and realized that all that overspending is going to cost you big—and it’s going to cost for years to come. 

Luckily, there’s hope. It’s not too late to fix the financial mistakes we all make when we’re young and blissfully ignorant. 

Here are six of the most common mistakes people make in their 20s and how to fix them: 

1.) The mistake: Racking up credit card debt 

Maybe you were broke while in college, but desperate for a good time, so you swiped your way through vacations and nights out on the town. Or maybe you knew you were falling into the debt trap to cover student-related needs on a shoestring budget. Unfortunately, it didn’t just go away like you’d hoped. 

The fix: Stop using your credit cards 

It’s time to be an adult and own up to your mistakes. Learn how to say no to impulsive purchases and to live within your means. Create a budget to help monitor and track your discretionary spending instead of mindlessly plowing through your paycheck each month. Stop swiping your credit cards and stick to debit or cash only. Don’t let those credit card bills get any higher! 

2.) The mistake: Ignoring your credit score 

Aside from being the gateway to endless spending, aggressive credit card balances have probably handicapped your credit score, making it difficult or impossible to obtain a personal loan. A poor score will also burden you with an unfavorable interest rate for the loans you do qualify for. And that means you’ll be paying off the mistakes of your 20s for years to come. 

The fix: Know your score and pay down your credit card debt 

It’s never too late to fix a credit score. Begin by monitoring your score. You can order a complimentary credit report once a year from each of the three major credit agencies at annualcreditreport.com. You can also check out your score on sites like CreditKarma.com and Bankrate.com. This will give you an idea of what you’re working with as you work on climbing out of financial hardship. 

Next, work on paying off credit card debt instead of only making the minimum payments each month. Look through your credit card bills and crunch some numbers until you know exactly how high your credit card debt really is. Then, choose one bill to pay down first and begin making the maximum payment your budget will allow. Once you’ve paid it off, divert all those funds onto the next bill until it’s gone and repeat until you have no more debt. Paying down your debt and minimizing the utilization rate on your credit cards will greatly improve your score. 

3.) The mistake: Skipping student loan bills

When you’re facing a debt in the tens of thousands of dollars while earning an entry-level salary, it’s tempting to just pretend it doesn’t exist. Unfortunately, though, that’s the worst thing you can do for your loan and your credit.

The fix: Work it into your budget

Call your lender to work out a more feasible payment plan. You can also check if you qualify for a student loan forgiveness program. Most importantly, make your student loan payments a part of your debt payment plan so you never miss a payment.

4.) The mistake: Neglecting your retirement

Planning for your decades-away retirement may be one of the last things on your list. However, starting to fund your retirement later in the game means missing out on years of compound interest gains.

The fix: Think of it as a fixed expense

Don’t think of retirement savings as an extra; think of it as a necessary, fixed expense that belongs in your budget like your rent and phone bill. Work with the most you can afford and max out your contributions to an IRA or your company’s 401(k) plan.

5.) The mistake: Not having an emergency fund

Life’s great—who needs to think about emergencies? Unfortunately, you do. Scrambling for funds to pay for a large medical expense or to live off of during an unexpected layoff can be a nightmare. Turning toward credit cards to help you get through a rough time can also be the beginning of a debt cycle whose effects are felt for years to come.

The fix: Start small

Experts recommend socking away 3-6 months’ worth of living expenses, but if that’s just not possible for you, start small. Work with whatever you can to make monthly contributions to an emergency fund. Set up an automatic monthly transfer so you never forget. It’s best to keep your emergency money in an account that offers an attractive earnings rate but allows you to withdraw funds without paying a penalty. [Credit union’s Flex Certificates and Savings Accounts are both good choices. Call, click or stop by to speak to a MSRP about setting yours up today.]

6.) The mistake: Not creating financial goals

It’s understandable not to have your entire life planned out yet, but it’s important to set some financial goals.

The fix: Create goals now

Take some time to set some financial goals. Do you want to buy a house within the next decade? Do you dream of opening a business? Are you hoping to retire at 55? Having a concrete goal in mind will help you stick to your budget and manage your money responsibly.

Messed up while in your 20s? It’s not too late to get your finances on track! Follow our tips for a financially sound future.

Your Turn: How did you fix the financial mistakes of your 20s? Let us know in the comments!

 

SOURCES:

https://money.usnews.com/money/blogs/my-money/articles/2018-10-25/how-to-recover-from-financial-mistakes-made-in-your-20s

https://www.thebalance.com/how-to-fix-money-mistakes-in-your-twenties-2385529

https://www.mybanktracker.com/news/fix-financial-mistakes

Volunteer At A Soup Kitchen

This holiday season, take a break from frenzied consumerism by thinking about those who are truly less fortunate than you.Soup Kitchen Choose one block of time this month to volunteer at a local soup kitchen. When the colder weather draws larger than normal crowds, they can certainly use all the help you can offer. 

Once you’ve been given your job, roll up your sleeves and get to work – but be sure to keep your eyes open. Offer a smile to those who look especially downtrodden, a helping hand to the infirm and some warm words to anyone who can use it. Serve up lunch with an extra dose of kindness and brighten people’s day. 

When your shift is complete, you’ll find that you haven’t only given of your energy and time, you’ve also gained a new perspective in life by rubbing shoulders with the needy. When you dive back into your holiday prep, you’ll remember to appreciate all you have. 

Turn the holidays into a happy time for others! 

Ways to Serve or Donate in our Local Community:

United Way Holiday needs     United Way Holiday Ideas

Making The Holidays Count

Don’t spend your holidays sleeping in until noon and letting the time slip through your fingers with nothing to show for it.college break with laptop

Check out our handy list of ways you can make the holidays count while still getting some of that much-needed rest and relaxation you’ve been craving all semester. You can still get your beauty rest and sleep in, only not until noon – well, at least not every day.

1. Apply for scholarships and internships

During the semester, you’re so bogged down with schoolwork and other obligations that finding the time to pursue scholarships and internships can be daunting. Put your looser holiday schedule to good use by getting a leg up on your applications. Devote one afternoon – or more if you can swing it – to researching and applying for those scholarships and internships. One great resource can be found at careeronestop.org –  Scholarship Finder. Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Labor, this search provides great tools to find those scholarships that match up with you best. Don’t Delay! Many deadlines are December 31, 2018 at midnight! 

2. Catch up with old friends

Don’t let your childhood friendships die because of neglect! Take the time this season to call up your old neighborhood pals and high school friends and have fun hanging out with those who know you best.

3. Plan next semester

Get a head start on planning next semester’s schedule by taking the time to do it now. You’ll be able to think more clearly when you’re not pressured and you can make your decisions at leisure. You might also want to give a thought to creating a daily, weekly and/or monthly study schedule to help you give school work your best shot.

4.   Workout

Don’t go back to school with that telltale holiday bulge! Fit a regular workout routine into your more relaxed vacation schedule and skip the binge-eating this season. You’ll look and feel a whole lot better! Many gyms offer a visitors plan or a trial price to try out their facility. This would be a great way to workout on a budget!

5.   Perfect your resume, cover letter and personal essays

It’s always a good idea to review, update and improve these documents every few months or so. Why not do it now? All it takes is an hour or two to make sure your resume, cover letter and personal essays show you in the best possible light. Be sure to tweak with any changes you’ve had in your work experience and education level and, of course, triple check for those pesky typos!

6.   Spend quality time with family

This might sound obvious, but don’t forget to spend some relaxed time just catching up with your family and creating new memories to take back with you to the dorm. It’s more than just sharing meals; give them your undivided attention, away from your phone.

7.   Volunteer

You might not have much opportunity to give back to the community during the semester, but when you’re on holiday break, why not offer your time and energy to a local cause? To partner with local agencies, consider contacting the United Way of West Central Mississippi at 601-636-1733 to match your time and skills with serving others. Volunteer to be a part of the Salvation Army’s Red Kettle Campaign or identify a need near to your home.

Your Turn: How do you make your holidays count? Share your best tips and techniques in the comments!

SOURCES:

https://www.fastweb.com/student-life/articles/the-10-things-you-should-do-over-holiday-break

https://www.usnews.com/education/blogs/the-college-experience/2011/11/23/holiday-survival-guide-for-college-students-and-parents

Do Your Kids Have Virtual Shopping Smarts?

Did you know that 73% of millennials questioned in a Bazaar Voice survey do all their Online shopping tips for youthshopping on their smartphones? It’s not surprising. The world of commerce is constantly becoming more digitized as retailers focus on improving their online presence to cater to cyberspace shoppers.

Online shopping has its downsides, though, mainly in the form of surprises when the item arrives, costly shipping expenses and impulse buys that are made too easily. Fortunately, it has its upsides, too.

Comparing prices between stores is a lot simpler when all it takes is clicking through a few sites instead of traipsing all over town. Couponing is now also just a matter of seconds, with no need for tedious clipping and saving.

Teach your kids to make the best of online shopping with this fun, educational activity. All you need is a computer!

Step One

First, sit down with your child to brief them on the ups and downs of online shopping. Talk about comparing prices, checking for discount codes and being wary of overspending or buying items of inferior quality. Teach them about reading reviews and looking for reputable companies. Mention comparison-shopping engines like Google, and others they may have never used, like Nextag, Price Grabber, Shopping.com and Shopzilla.

Step Two

When they have the information down pat, tell them they will now be tasked with buying an item online! The item should be something popular and one they’re interested in.

Step Three

Give your child a debit or credit card, a fixed budget for the item and the following instructions:

The goal is to purchase the lowest-priced, yet best-made product. This will earn a minimum of 100 points. They will earn points for each part of the process, using the following guidelines:

Guidelines

1. The purchase must be of decent quality. They can earn 25 points for this category.
2. Shipping costs should not constitute more than 10% of the object’s price. The lower the
shipping costs, the more they earn for this category, with free shipping earning the full 15 points.
3. They must search for discount codes and coupons before making the purchase. This
can be done by checking coupon sites like Retailmenot and Couponcabin, or by signing
up for a store’s emails and earning a promotional discount. 5 points will be rewarded for
every discount search/website visited in search of a coupon code. Actually finding and
using a discount can earn them 15 points.
4. If your child is ordering from eBay or another site with multiple sellers, they should be
careful to only make purchases from sellers with excellent ratings. Buying from a badly
rated seller can cost them 5 points and using a high-rated seller can earn them 5 points.
5. Price is of utmost importance. If their object is of decent quality and very well-priced,
they can earn up to 40 points. 5 points will be given for every search for a cheaper
product.
6. Points will be taken off for any random ad-clicks, failure to do substantial price-checks
and comparisons, and for ignoring discount offers.
7. Sit back and watch, being careful not to offer any advice as your child makes a
purchase.
8. Tally up the score and explain the points you gave, congratulating your child on their
online shopping skills.

Your child is now cyberspace-savvy!

Your Turn: Are there any online shopping tips or tools that you have shared with your child or just a tip you yourself follow when shopping online? Share in the comments.

Source: www.cucontent.com