Get Fiscally Fit for 2016

Fiscally fitIt seems like everybody is getting into a fitness routine. Maybe you know some who are spending a lot of money, as well as time, on their physical health. We think that financial health is just as important and provide some helpful tips to get (and stay) fiscally fit.

Perhaps the greatest way to improve your financial health is to develop a good plan, have the right tools and make both of those things work together for a time. Financial experts have always recommended a budget. But even before you create a budget, there steps to take first.

Setting aside time to talk to your significant other and family members about financial matters is a hugely important thing to do first. People do better with decisions when they hear the context; they behave better when they know the boundaries and limits of their activities, and cooperate when know what the goals are. So, talk about the money and what it needs to do, specifically. If done in a calm, clear way, it should reduce friction, perhaps deliver helpful collaboration and, most importantly, help to make the budget successful. We just love the idea of a family enjoying financial harmony.

There are hundreds of budget tools available and you don’t have to pay money to make them work. Most have access to Microsoft’s Excel software that offers lots of templates to help you get started. Mint is a popular free online service. It’s free, and can only show you what you have spent money on, so projecting future expenses is left up to some other tool.

However there is one budget tool that costs money, and we like how it works. It’s called, appropriately, You Need a Budget (YNAB). The one-time $60 charge delivers software needed for tracking and projecting financial transactions, but for most people it uses the method needed for imposing fiscal discipline. YNAB’s most appealing feature is its ability to project personal cash flow by including future expenses—very helpful to avoid cash flow crises. The website has free videos to help you even if you don’t buy the software and offers a free trial of their software. There are even free online classes.

Once you have a good budget and are committed to making it work, stick to it! Focus on the small steps of paying down debt, living simply for a time, and enjoy the happiness of watching your savings grow.

Want some more information about the tips here? Read 7 Tips for a Financially Fit 2016 from the Future of Business and Tech website, and check out the free tips and videos on YouNeedABudget.com.

Peoples Bank cares for the community, and is doing its part to help improve your financial fitness. Good health to you all!

Your password needs a password

Your password needs a passwordYour bank and your email provider know a thing or two about passwords so they know that to really protect you, your password needs a password.

Cyber criminals have developed the tools they need to crack just about any password. In fact, the question isn’t whether they can crack it, but how long it will take them to do so. That’s why Peoples Bank recommends that a password be “long and strong”, the longer and stronger the password, the more time it will take to crack, and the more time you have to protect your account when the attempts to hack it are being made.

But, there is a great way to introduce complications for the bad guys bent on cracking your password. The technology is called “two-factor” or “multi-factor authentication.” It is essentially a password for your password. Here’s how it works.

Multi-factor or 2-factor authentication processes require multiple assurances that you are the one trying to access the protected area. It asks for information only you are supposed to know and relying on something that only you can have. In most cases, those 2 things (what you know, what you have) are the 2 factors of authentication used at the time the account was setup and confirmed via mobile device.

Peoples Bank installed this multi-factor security system years ago for its online banking customers. When you are at the bank’s website and want to log in, you need a user id and password, the 1st factor, what you have to know in order to access the site. The system will send a message to the device you have (the 2nd factor), and if it’s in your possession, you can enter that bit of information to the site. With that action, the site has received reasonable assurance of 2 different types of input asserting that it is really you—so it will let you in.

Most of the big name email providers such as Microsoft’s Outlook.com (formerly Hotmail), Google’s Gmail and Yahoo! Mail provide 2-factor authentication systems to protect their customers’ email from being hacked. If your email provider offers it, we strongly suggest you enroll in that program; if it doesn’t, we suggest you get an email from a provider that does and use that new email account to access your online financial accounts.

In most 2-factor systems, the 2nd factor is a random number or set of characters sent as a text message to your phone. Other times it is a special message sent to an app that received certification when it was installed on your device.

Many businesses focused on security have replaced their vulnerable VPN systems with such multi-factor systems to protect their business. (If it has not, it should.)

The assumption is that a cyber criminal is unlikely to have your phone when trying to access your account. More advanced multi-factor authentication systems for business customers even take this scenario into consideration and remove the threat of a criminal having stolen your phone to access secure information.

Microsoft has developed a new technology released in Windows 10 to use facial recognition rather than a password. Called “Windows Hello”, it is hoped that such technology (and similar offerings from other vendors) will eventually establish true personal identity security.

How do you know if you have been hacked?

How do you know if you have been hacked?All this talk about how everybody is vulnerable to being hacked; how do I find out if it happened to me?

The Director of the FBI famously said that all the big companies in the country have been hacked, some just don’t know it yet. Strong words. With such widespread criminal behavior, against heavily protected organizations, it makes sense that every person with a computer should know how to figure out if he or she have been hacked.

You may have been hacked if:

  • There are posts on Facebook, Twitter or other social media from your account that you didn’t write.
  • A friend or family member says they received an email from you that you didn’t send.
  • Someone calls your mobile phone saying they are returning a call you didn’t make.

If you believe your account has been hacked, first diagnose the problem by determining which accounts are affected and the specific action performed on those accounts. Change your passwords to “long and strong” new ones, or in the case of your mobile phone, request a new SIM card. Then notify your friends and family that your account may have been hacked and to be on guard against a fraud. If you believe your computer or device has been hacked, run a malware checker or other detection tool to get it cleaned up.

If you suspect that your banking accounts (including debit or credit cards) have been hacked, notify the bank immediately to block those accounts from further fraudulent activity.

What to do if your account is taken over and you can’t change the password

Skilled hackers will try to take over your account and change the controlling email account so you can’t change your password on your own. (This is why we recommend you use a 2-factor email provider and that passwords are not shared by other online accounts.) If this happens, then your only recourse is to contact the support desk from the account(s) affected.

All the major web sites have people on staff to help with these problems. You can search for the particular support desk for your problem, or simply call their support number.