Help Children Stay Safe Online

Help Children Stay Safe OnlinePerhaps the biggest internet threat isn’t your identity, it’s the threat to your children and grandchildren. Guardians of children are better off being proactive and preparing their defenses against online threats.

Bullies aren’t just in the school yard, they are also online. Predators are a constant threat, and now mobile devices can give them an extra “in” to vulnerable children. Knowing that, and knowing what form that threat can take is important information for responsible adults to have. It’s also important to know what parental controls are available. Here are a few tips and links from the Consumer Information section of FTC.gov.

  • Your communication link to your kids should be better than the best internet connection. So if your kids are online, make sure you protect your communication link. Talk to your kids, openly and honestly. Teach them how to use the internet without being used by it.
  • If your kids are online, they’re old enough to know about security practices, phishing, P2P file-sharing and apps. Here’s a link to help you help them avoid the dangers.
  • Do your kids use a mobile phone? Find out how to manage their risks.
  • Are your kids accessing online worlds, also known as virtual worlds, intended for adults? Find out how to find out.

The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is responsible for consumer protection and has extensive resources posted on its website. There are hundreds of pages of helpful content, but the best place to start is the Kid’s Online Safety page.

The local Catawba county school system will also have information and local resources and contacts such as Catawba Parenting.

Medical Expenses and Tax-Preferred Savings

Medical Expenses and tax preferred savingsBy now everybody knows about tax-preferred Individual Retirement Accounts (IRA), but do you know about a similar account to help pay for certain medical expenses? It’s called a Health Savings Account (HSA). Your community bank wants to help, and can provide more information. Here are the basics:

  • If you are enrolled in only one health insurance plan and it has a high deductible, you probably are eligible to open an HSA.
  • Help you avoid the shock to your finances that a sudden large medical bill can cause. Money can accumulate in the account from year to year. And, expenses related to eligible medical expenses are tax-deductible.

Like any financial instrument, you do well to inform yourself about the pros and cons of an HSA account. They may not be for you, nor may they be to your advantage. Get more information about the advantages and common pitfalls of Health Savings Accounts from the Treasury Department. Many community banks, including Peoples Bank, offer HSAs. Get information about Peoples Bank consumer accounts.

Stay Financially Healthy by Understanding Your Earnings

Stay Financially Healthy by Understanding Your EarningsJust about everybody has made the mistake of overestimating the money they think they have coming in. And then you learn the secret: there are costs that reduce your “take home pay”. Knowing what they are and when they kick-in can save you lots of headache.

To make the most of what you earn, you need to really understand your pay and benefits. It’s not enough to simply know what you get paid; you need to know about the fine print and details of your paycheck. Want to find out how to do a better job of managing your earnings? Learn what actions you can take and get tips and resources from MyMoney.gov’s “Earn” page.

Making the most of your money takes work, and it also takes good thinking. To help people know how to think about their financial health, experts have identified 5 key principles: Earn, Save & Invest, Protect, Spend, and Borrow. Each of these 5 principles are discussed in depth on MyMoney.gov.

The federal government has a vested interest in your financial health. The recent economic trouble caused many federal agencies to join forces to bulk up defenses against consumer financial instability. The result was the Congressionally-charted Federal Financial Literacy and Education Commission and its MyMoney.gov website.

Peoples Voice will be posting brief highlights from this site to help its customers and future customers learn how to make their families economically secure.

Tips to Avoid Identity Theft

Tips to Avoid Identity TheftIf you think you’re safe from identity theft, think again. The bad guys are increasingly successful at obtaining confidential information. The recent news about the Target and Neiman-Marcus security breach illustrates that even competent companies can be vulnerable and divulge personal credit card information. So what can you do to protect yourself and minimize the risk of big-time problems? Here are some tips to help.

There are some precautions that are always good for protecting your personal information: never share your password, never choose a password that anyone who knows you can easily guess (such as the initials of your children or their birth years) and always protect your internet devices (such as smart phone) with a password. Those things will keep the casual trouble-maker from having success.

But there are other more intensive efforts you can make. The US Federal Trade Commission (FTC) has provided a very good resource for Consumers on its website. One of its series on Protecting Your Identity, “How to Keep Your Personal Information Secure” lists ways to:

  • keep your personal information secure offline and online,
  • secure your Social Security Number, and
  • keep your devices (such as computer, laptop, tablet, smartphone or ‘dumb’ phone) secure.

We like the recommendation to safely dispose of personal information by using a shredder and avoid “over-sharing” on social networking sites such as Facebook. And here’s another one: destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out.

Much has been said about how critically important it is to be discrete and careful with the things that suggest access to confidential information. A passive attitude about identity theft may be your worst enemy! Take your good name seriously, and protect it by paying attention to its threats!