Credit Freeze: your ultimate deterrent against identity theft

Credit FreezeIf you are living in the US, thieves probably have some, if not all, of the information they need to steal your identity, security professionals report. The question is what to do about it.

Experts say that it is very likely that stolen information exists about all of us to one degree or another. According to Redmond Magazine, “using stolen data to legitimately bypass security procedures [means] it’s hard to get an initial accurate scope of how big a number of those affected might be.” (see IRS Data Breach Victim Number Much Higher than Originally Thought, 08/18/2015)

Freeze your credit

For most of us, the real identity theft risk is that somebody receives access to credit using your information and runs up huge debts for us — and gain for themselves.

Peoples Bank (and many other financial institutions) offer safeguards against most personal economic risks, but there is even more that you can do—freeze your credit.

What does it mean to freeze your credit?

It means that you inform the credit reporting agencies you do not authorize anyone to extend you more credit unless you explicitly and via a deliberate process indicate otherwise.

  • It is a specific process and might cost you a little to do it depending on where you live.
  • You can set up a solid protection scheme to remove the freeze when you want. Make sure you do a good job of that.

For more information about the process and learn how to set up a credit freeze, click each of the following links for each of the major credit bureaus: Equifax, Experian, Innovis and Trans Union. Equifax has a page that describes the fees and includes notes for each state.

Consult one of our bankers before your freeze

A credit freeze is not for everybody. Be sure to talk to your personal banker at Peoples Bank to make sure this is a good option for you, and don’t try to do it if you are in the process of getting a loan.

For more than 100 years, Peoples Bank has recommended a strategic approach to protecting and expanding financial assets. The Bank does this for itself both aggressively and professionally. We recommend you do so, too.

Get more information from a security expert here: Krebs on Security, June 8, 2015

Want to know “what’s in the cards?”

What's in the cards?There are three major types of banking cards: the debit card, the credit and the increasingly popular prepaid card. All can be very convenient and make your money management simpler. However, each card can have usage fees and user limitations of which you should take note.

The FDIC published a very helpful (and easy to read) “Card Guide.” If you want to know more about good card management, take a few minutes and review this article. (If you want to read it online, paste this internet address in your browser’s URL box:

Source Article:

FDIC Consumer Guide, Summer 2012

Debit, Credit and Prepaid Cards: There Are Differences

Many consumers use debit, credit and prepaid cards, often interchangeably, to purchase goods and services. However, these three types of cards are quite different. Consider the following.

Each card works differently. If you use a credit card, you are borrowing money that you must pay back, in addition to interest, if you do not pay the balance in full by the due date. But, if you use a debit card, which is issued by your bank and linked to your checking or savings account, the money taken from the account is yours and you will never incur interest charges.

With prepaid cards, you are spending the money deposited onto them, and they usually aren’t linked to your checking or savings account. Prepaid products include “general-purpose reloadable” cards, which display a network brand such as American Express, Discover, MasterCard, or Visa; gift cards for purchases at stores; and payroll cards for employer deposits of salary or government benefit payments. Be aware of the possibility of unanticipated fees and, with certain types of these cards, the potential for limited consumer protections against unauthorized transactions.

Watch for fees. You may be charged an overdraft fee if you use a debit card for a purchase but there aren’t enough funds in the account and you have given your bank written permission to charge you for allowing the transaction to go through. “You can always revoke that authorization if you don’t want to risk paying these fees, and future debit card transactions will be declined if you don’t have the funds in your account,” explained FDIC Consumer Affairs Specialist Heather St. Germain.

Similarly, a credit card issuer may decline a transaction that puts you over your credit limit unless you have explicitly agreed to pay a fee to permit over-the-limit transactions.

Prepaid cards are sometimes marketed with celebrity endorsements and promotional offers. “While some prepaid card offers seem attractive, remember that you may have to pay various fees on the card,” said Susan Boenau, Chief of the FDIC’s Consumer Affairs Section. “These costs may include monthly fees, charges for loading funds onto the card, and fees for each transaction.”

As an alternative to a traditional checking account or prepaid card, consumers who don’t plan to write checks but do want to bank electronically may want to consider opening a “checkless” transaction account that allows you to pay bills and make purchases online or with a debit card.

Your liability for an unauthorized transaction varies depending on the type of card. Federal law limits your losses to a maximum of $50 if a credit card is lost or stolen. For a debit card, your maximum liability under federal law is $50 if you notify your bank within two business days after learning of the loss or theft of your card. But, if you notify your bank after those first two days, under the law you could lose much more.

Your liability for the fraudulent use of a prepaid card currently differs depending on the type of card. Federal law treats payroll cards the same as debit cards, but currently there are no federal consumer protections limiting your losses with other general-purpose, reloadable prepaid cards and store gift cards. The Consumer Financial Protection Bureau is considering increasing the consumer protections for prepaid cards, but any action is likely to be a year or more away.

In addition, the funds you place on a prepaid card may or may not be covered by deposit insurance in the event of a bank failure, depending on how the account where the funds are held is set up and whether the bank or the card issuer’s records at the time of the bank closing identify each cardholder’s ownership interest.

For all cards, industry practices may further limit your losses, so check with your card issuer.

Also take steps to guard any cards from thieves. Never provide any numbers in response to an unsolicited phone call, e-mail, text message or other communication you didn’t originate. Immediately review your statement for unauthorized transactions.

To learn more about the three types of payment cards, paste this internet address in your browser’s URL box: There you will find a FDIC “quick guide” to understanding the differences in the cards.

Save money for more fun with these vacation money saving tips!

Save money for more fun with these vacation money saving tips!Most of us could use help finding a way to spend less on having family fun. Here’s a helpful roundup of the best vacation money saving tips we could find.

For decades, families all over the world have done two things to help save money for vacation: set aside a little each month in a special account, and collect all their pocket change in a jar during the year. You would be surprised how much you can save in just a few months or a year.

Another age-old technique is to round up a coupon book. The Visitors’ Center in most destinations offer a trove of discounts for hotels, restaurants and attractions; often you can pick up discount offers at these locations without spending a dime.

Many families visit places offering free admission such as the National Air and Space Museum and National Museum of History in Washington DC. The US National Park Service also has days of free admission; most of their parks don’t even charge admission. (Trivia fact: Only 127 of the 407 national parks usually charge admission.)

Hotel freebies can also save you money. Look for the ones with complimentary breakfast. Most hotels don’t charge for internet service, but if they do, consider finding one that doesn’t, and find out before you book. Some hotel chains offer programs that include kids stay-and-eat-free plans and complimentary refreshments for worn out parents.

How about getting rid of your excess “stuff” to fund a vacation? Yard-sales held on the 1st Saturday of the month tend to do better than those held at other times, and selling items via online sales sites can contribute nicely to a vacation fund.

The best way to save money? Regularly.

By far, the most effective way to save money is to have a plan that you can maintain. For decades Peoples Bank has been helping families save for vacation with automatic draft to savings accounts. Talk to any banker, or use our friendly online banking system to set up a funds transfer plan that works for you. (You can even apply for a savings account online to get started now!) Directing $15 every week into a savings account can add more than $780 in 12 months by the time you factor any interest. See our simple Savings Goal Calculator to get an idea of how a savings plan could work for you.

Saving money for more family fun on vacation doesn’t have to be a lot of work, and doesn’t cost a lot of money. The return on investment can be phenomenal!