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Avoiding Text Message Scams - May 24, 2012 by WWFCU

Text Messaging ScamsThe invention of text messaging – and particularly, the widespread adoption of cellular data plans that allow for unlimited texting – has been a real boon for the honest and law-abiding citizen. Text messages, also known as Short Message Service (SMS), provide a tremendous convenience for today’s busy people. They let us alert loved ones that we’ll be a few minutes late, gossip with friends in quiet places, and send key information to coworkers or friends. Unfortunately, this same convenience and ease of use makes text messaging an area that is ripe for exploitation by the unscrupulous and criminal element.

If you text, you’ve probably received “spam” marketing text messages uninvited in your inbox; if you weren’t on an unlimited plan, you may have expressed a few choice words at having to pay an extra charge for the privilege of seeing an unwanted advertisement. But text spam is an irritant at worst; the real threat comes from “smishers,” identity thieves using the SMS system to try to trick or extort personal identity from unwary consumers.

These scammers will usually send a faked message that pretends to be an official communication from your financial institution. The fake text will ask you to contact someone in the office at a provided phone number or to click on a link embedded in the text message to visit a web site from your cell phone’s browser. The phone number leads to a boiler-room crime ring, and the web site is a fake, designed to look like the real site, but it is, in fact, completely in the control of the identity thieves. Once they have you on the phone or on the web site, a smooth talking operator will attempt to get your identity information, such as your account number(s), your social security number, your home address, etc.

Sometimes spotting smishing attempts can be very simple, as when there are obvious misspellings in the message, the name of the financial institution is slightly wrong, or the request for information is blatantly obvious. Unfortunately, many smishers have grown much more sophisticated; their dummy sites look and work just like the official site, and the people working the phones or the online chat system at the website are very knowledgeable and skilled at emulating real financial industry professionals.

There are four key defensive techniques.

One, be suspicious to the point of paranoia about your passwords and account information. No reputable financial institution will ask you to provide, to verify, or to confirm such information over an unsecured phone or Internet chat line, and they will NEVER call you or text you to ask you to provide or confirm such information in order to avoid an account closure or other dire consequence.

Two, you can further protect this information by ensuring that you always have strong passwords for your accounts at financial sites, using a different password for each account so that one lucky guess doesn’t open up your entire portfolio to these hackers.

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Understanding Your Credit Score - May 16, 2012 by WWFCU

Understanding Your Credit ScoreFew things in an American consumer’s life are as critical to their financial environment as their credit score – yet relatively few of us understand how the scores work, how the credit agencies calculate the scores, or even what number constitutes a “good” score. Let’s examine the credit score system and shine some light onto this murky and poorly understood aspect of your personal credit.

There are three major credit bureaus, but for the consumer’s purposes all three are functionally identical. The credit score is expressed as a single number, ranging from 550 or so at the bottom (any score below this point is considered extremely bad creditworthiness) to the low 800s at the top. (Each system has a different maximum, but they all peak in the low 800s.)

Many people think that the credit score reflects how rich a person is: if you have a higher income, you have a higher score. However, income is not considered as a factor in your credit score! In fact, the score measures, not your wealth, but how statistically likely the credit bureaus think you are to repay your existing or future debts. A poor man who pays every bill on time every month and never overextends his credit, will have a score far higher than a wealthy individual who is chronically skipping payments and is maxed out on every card.

In general, a score of 730 or higher is excellent, a score of 600-729 is adequate or good, and a score under 600 is bad credit. So how do the bureaus calculate these scores? The answer: nobody knows for sure (except the bureaus) because their algorithms are proprietary secrets. However, credit analysts have worked out the basic system by trial and error, and it looks something like this:

About 35% of your score is related directly to your payment history on credit card and other bills such as mortgage and utility payments. Recent payment history is weighed more heavily than past history, so paying your bills promptly for a few months can boost your score considerably. Defaults (such as bankruptcy), late payments, or write-offs (the creditor gives up on collecting the debt) are all poison to this category of the score.

Another 30% of your score comes from your available credit capacity. That is, if you have available credit, but have not used it, you are considered to be more responsible and thus more likely to pay your bills. This is why credit analysts recommend against closing credit cards when you revamp your personal finances.  Pay off the card, then keep it with a zero balance, to maximize your score.

15% or so of your score comes from the length of your credit history, bad or good. Someone with a long track record of participation in the credit system is considered more trustworthy, even if they have been a poor risk in the past. 10% of the score comes from the amount of debt, or requests for new credit, in the last year or two. Filling out that “free” credit card application at the mall can actually ding your score by a few points; make 20 applications, or just buy a few big ticket-items on credit and don’t pay them back immediately, and your score can plummet by 70 or 80 points.

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Share Pledge Loans - May 7, 2012 by WWFCU

Share Pledge LoansIf you have money in your savings account or on deposit in a share certificate with your Credit Union, you may qualify for a share pledge loan. These loans are beautifully simple: you use the money on deposit in your account as collateral for the loan you wish to take out from the Credit Union. The money stays in your account and continues to accrue dividends; your access to the funds are restricted, of course, since they are being held as collateral for your loan, but it is still your money. As you repay the loan month by month, your available balance will be adjusted upwards to reflect the release of the collateral.

There are generally no restrictions on what you can use a share pledge loan for. Buy a home, add on to your existing property, take a vacation, pay for a child’s education, buy a boat, or just refinance high-interest credit. … the only limit is what you’ve managed to save. Since share pledge loans are an extremely secure loan for the Credit Union, the interest rates can be as low as 1.5% APR. (APR = Annual Percentage Rate)

Share pledge loans are also very easy to apply for. Since they are available only from your Credit Union, the financial institution already has almost all the information they need to process the loan request. Since the loan is 100% collateralized with your savings, the approval process is a breeze. At most Credit Unions all you will need to do is make sure that the institution’s information on the account holders (name, contact information, etc.) is up to date, and sign the note. There has never been a simpler way to take out a loan.

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How Financial Guidance can be Beneficial - April 24, 2012 by WWFCU

How Financial Guidance can be BeneficialCreating a plan for managing finances is important at every stage of life. It is not always easy to implement and follow because unexpected expenses can crop up at any time, and job situations can change, especially when the economy takes a downturn. Financial guidance can assist you in changing your habits by offering various strategies that can help you save money.

Wayne Westland Federal Credit Union (WWFCU) is that alternative to banks. Financial counseling is a first step, and it will come form someone who understands the principles behind dealing with finances.

Budgeting properly can be easier by receiving guidance and understanding how a personal credit report works. Financial troubles can be addressed, and it is often possible to avoid bankruptcy, repossession of assets, and even home foreclosure.

Professional advice is just one benefit to joining a Credit Union.  It could very well save you from financial troubles down the road.

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Smart Tips on Planning for Retirement - April 17, 2012 by WWFCU

Planning for RetirementMany people have set goals for their retirement. Others don’t even want to think about it. It is important to consider what sources of income and savings will be available when planning for retirement.

Building a money reserve is one of the most important aspects of this planning process. Experts advise people to start as soon as they can. Many financial institutions, including Credit Unions, offer programs and assistance for people who need to manage their savings in order to improve their chances to live comfortably in the future.

Retirement planning is easier if you set goals. When you know what kind of lifestyle you want, it becomes easier to plan because there is an idea of how much it will cost.  No matter what or how many sources of income you may have, planning with an expert is good advice.

Living expenses can always be adjusted, mortgage options are often available, even part-time work can be considered and enjoyed. By making smart choices beforehand and along the way, you can live comfortably and enjoy life, hobbies, and some luxuries throughout your retirement.

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Ways to Protect Your Identity from Fraud - April 10, 2012 by WWFCU

Identity TheftEvery year millions of people in the United States are affected by identity theft. Credit cards, social security numbers, and bank account numbers are the most commonly compromised forms of personal information. Thieves can change the billing address on a credit card account, make charges to it, and run up bills which they will not pay. The credit card company then reports the unpaid account under the original card owner’s name.

Identity theft can also occur when criminals write checks, authorize electronic transfers to a bank account, or file for bankruptcy under the person’s name. They can also get a driver’s license and other forms of identification in someone else’s name, buy a car, or file fraudulent tax returns. To be protected from these actions, one must be aware of their surroundings at all times – thieves can steal personal information at home, from the mail, on the street by stealing a wallet, or even at work. Employee records and personal information can be accessed in the office. Employees can sometimes be tricked into revealing such details.

Protect your identity by putting things in a safe place at home, making sure wallets are not easily accessible, and by being aware of the signs of identity theft. If something has been stolen or there is evidence that someone has unauthorized access to an account, close the bank or credit card account as soon as possible.

Complaints can be also be filed with the Federal Trade Commission by phone or online. Always keep an eye on your credit report to make sure it’s accurate.

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Top 10 Reasons to Finance Your Next Vehicle with Wayne Westland Federal Credit Union - March 28, 2012 by WWFCU

Finance with WWFCUObtaining a loan is often one of the most important steps in purchasing a vehicle. The main issues can be navigating the process of getting the loan and finding one that can be paid off with manageable interest rates. Finance a vehicle with Wayne Westland Federal Credit Union, and you’ll find at least 10 reasons that the exchange is worthwhile.

The first reason is that you’ll be supporting a community-based Credit Union which is employed by local residents and is structured to provide the best individualized service available. Residing in the area since 1954, the Credit Union originated in Wayne, Michigan and moved permanently to Westland in 2001. Second, the business offers the advantage of low interest rates on loans for various time periods, expanding the choice of options for the traditional consumer.

Applying for a loan is easy as well; most applicants get an answer in 10 minutes, another reason to consider this community Credit Union. Most of the time, members also qualify for an interest rate discount, which translates to additional savings, and GAP insurance is also offered, so you get to protect the vehicle at yet another low rate.

Financial savings is expanded with the inclusion of a CARFAX report, worth $19.95, when one finances with the company. Another reason to finance a vehicle with the Credit Union is its low cost life and disability insurance. Loan rates are discounted by .50% when this insurance is purchased.

Additional reasons for financing vehicles with the Credit Union include no pre-payment penalty, for any type of loan, and automatic payments. You can have a separate account with the Credit Union and have funds transferred out without having to do anything; in fact, a .5% discount is offered when this option is selected. Finally, options such as a loan deferral and skip-a-pay offer members flexibility in managing their loan payoff. The Credit Union employs a friendly and knowledgeable staff to help you learn about and take advantage of these 10 reasons to finance your next vehicle there.

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Look for a Smarter Way to Manage Your Money - March 20, 2012 by WWFCU

Manage Your MoneyIf you fall into a typical income bracket, then most likely you have a limited amount of money to spend. Budgeting can be a challenge, and unanticipated expenses can regularly come up, tacking onto rent, car payments, and other financial obligations most people have. What you have left of your income for spending can be managed smartly; it just takes planning and an analysis of how some purchases can affect your budget.

It has long been suggested that writing out your monthly budget can help. Most people have a tendency to spend to spend as much as 10% more than their total earnings, so a more sophisticated means of planning should be considered. There are several types of financial software designed for use, not by corporate expense departments, but by the average person. Such programs can help you decide on ways to spend income, track spending, and point out where overspending occurs so adjustments can be made.

Financial software can also be used to calculate the effects of a major purchase on the budget. Changes in income can also be factored in to see how they alter overall budgetary needs. The advantage of such software is that you’re not limited to mind-boggling numbers. For many people, numerical analysis is confusing, but a program that can put all the information onto visual graphs and charts can help make sense of things. It is therefore easier to track spending and set up a budget in a short amount of time.

Overspending does not mean you are financially irresponsible. It often occurs because money can be difficult to track. With the right software, you can be smart in managing your budget because it is easier to track spending and even take advantage of professional tips built into the program. These can also guide you in building and managing a savings account. These functions can be aided by wizards and financial calculators designed for managing and even customizing a budget based on your lifestyle and financial needs, so managing your money in a smart way becomes simple.

Click this link to Get Started Today with BudgetSmart!

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The Environmental Impacts of Paper – Go Green - March 10, 2012 by WWFCU

credit union online servicesJust about every aspect of financial affairs involves some form of a paper document. From monthly statements to contracts and agreements to paper checks, vast amounts of paper need to be manufactured, transported, and disposed of. All of this paper has a significant impact on the environment. The volume of paper produced does mean more trees need to be cut down and more waste paper in landfills. Also, more gasoline needs to be burned to transport it, and more waste water is produced during production, transportation, and disposal processes.

Many financial companies offer the option of receiving statements and bills electronically. It is even possible to make payments online. For each household, experts have predicted an estimated 6.6 pounds of paper can be saved each year by participating in electronic billing and receiving statements via the Internet.

In addition to paper saved and managing financial affairs online, there is a large reduction in greenhouse gas emissions. About 171 pounds of greenhouse gases can be prevented from entering the air just from one household not getting financial statements and bills via paper mail. The emissions are kept at bay because gasoline is not being consumed either. In addition, about 8.8 gallons of gasoline are saved each year by paying bills online and receiving electronic statements. Even more gas is saved because mail deliveries are not necessary.

Experts recommend that everyone switch to electronic billing and statements. In the United States, it has been estimated that if just 20% of the population did this, nearly 151,000,000 pounds of paper and over 1.8 million trees would be saved each year. This would also avoid up to 2 million tons of greenhouse gas emissions and 100 million gallons of gas consumed. Going electronic with financial paperwork is not only convenient, but it also protects an already fragile environment.

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The Convenient Benefits of E-Statements - February 27, 2012 by WWFCU

There are many benefits to a Credit Union. One of these is e-statements. Instead of waiting for a statement to come in the mail every month, you can log in to a website any time to see an electronic copy of your statement, to easily track and manage your account.

This is usually a service that you need to sign up for with the Credit Union, a short process. Information can be found much faster and less money goes into paper, printing, and mailing.

 When e-statements are stored online, finding a place to file them is no problem. The Credit Union stores everything in a secure database; you’ll be the only one to have access because each account requires a login name and password to access. There is no chance of the statements getting lost in the mail or stolen en route.

The simplicity of e-statements alone makes life easier. There is little effort involved in signing up, and viewing the statements is just like logging on to any other secure website. Moreover, the opportunity provides a way to save paper, meaning more trees can be saved. So using e-statements has a combination of personal, corporate, and environmental advantages.

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