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!

Planning for Incapacity

Planning for IncapacityWhat would happen if you were mentally or physically unable to take care of yourself or your day-to-day affairs? You might not be able to make sound decisions about your health or finances. You could lose the ability to pay bills, write checks, make deposits, sell assets, or otherwise conduct your affairs. Unless you’re prepared, incapacity could devastate your family, exhaust your savings, and undermine your financial, tax, and estate planning strategies. Planning ahead can ensure that your health-care wishes will be carried out, and that your finances will continue to be competently managed.

Should you become incapacitated without the proper plans and documentation in place, a relative or friend will have to ask the court to appoint a guardian for you.


It could happen to you

Incapacity can strike anyone at any time. Advancing age can bring senility, Alzheimer’s disease, or other ailments, and a serious illness or accident can happen suddenly at any age. Even with today’s medical miracles, it’s a real possibility that you or your spouse could become incapable of handling your own medical or financial affairs.

What if you’re not prepared?

Should you become incapacitated without the proper plans and documentation in place, a relative or friend will have to ask the court to appoint a guardian for you. Petitioning the court for guardianship is a public procedure that can be emotionally draining, time consuming, and expensive. More importantly, without instructions from you, a guardian might not make the decisions you would have made.

Advanced medical directives

Without legal documents that express your wishes, medical care providers must prolong your life using artificial means, if necessary. With today’s modern technology, physicians can sustain you for days and weeks (if not months or even years). To avoid the possibility of this happening to you, you must have an advanced medical directive.

There are three types of advanced medical directives: a living will, a durable power of attorney for health care (or health-care proxy), and a Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR). Each type has its own purpose, benefits, and drawbacks, and may not be effective in some states. You may find that one, two, or all three types of advanced medical directives are necessary to carry out all of your wishes for medical treatment. Be sure to have an attorney prepare your medical directives to make sure that you have the ones you’ll need and that all documents are consistent.

Living will

A living will allows you to approve or decline certain types of medical care, even if you will die as a result of the choice. However, in most states, living wills take effect only under certain circumstances, such as terminal injury or illness. Generally, a living will can be used only to decline medical treatment that “serves only to postpone the moment of death.” Even if your state does not allow living wills, you may still want to have one to serve as an expression of your wishes.

Durable power of attorney for health care

A durable power of attorney for health care (known as a health-care proxy in some states) allows you to appoint a representative to make medical decisions for you. You decide how much power your representative will have.

Do Not Resuscitate order (DNR)

A DNR is a doctor’s order that tells all other medical personnel not to perform CPR if you go into cardiac arrest. There are two types of DNRs. One is effective only while you are hospitalized. The other is used while you are outside the hospital.

Protecting your property

Without someone to look after your financial affairs when you can’t, your property could be wasted, abused, or lost. To protect against these possibilities, consider putting in place a revocable living trust, durable power of attorney (DPOA), or joint ownership arrangement (or a combination of any or all options).

Revocable living trust

You can transfer ownership of your property to a revocable living trust. You name yourself as trustee and retain complete control over your affairs. If you become incapacitated, your successor trustee (the person you named to run the trust if you can’t) automatically steps in and takes over the management of your property. A living trust can survive your death. There are, of course, costs associated with creating and maintaining a trust.

Without someone to look after your financial affairs when you can’t, your property could be wasted, abused, or lost.


Durable power of attorney (DPOA)

A DPOA allows you to authorize someone else to act on your behalf. There are two types of DPOA: an immediate DPOA, which is effective immediately, and a springing DPOA, which is not effective until you have become incapacitated. Both types of DPOA end at your death.

A DPOA should be fairly simple and inexpensive to implement. However, a springing DPOA is not permitted in some states, so you’ll want to check with an attorney.

Joint ownership

A joint ownership arrangement allows someone else to have immediate access to property and to use it to meet your needs. Joint ownership is simple and inexpensive to implement. However, there are some disadvantages to the joint ownership arrangement. Some examples include: (1) your co-owner has immediate access to your property regardless of incapacity, (2) you lack the ability to direct the co-owner to use the property for your benefit, (3) naming someone who is not your spouse as co-owner may trigger gift tax consequences, and (4) if you die before the other joint owner, your property interests will pass to the other owner without regard to your own intentions, which may be different.

How is incapacity determined?

Incapacity can be determined in one of two ways:

  • Physician certification – You can include a provision in a durable power of attorney designating one or more physicians who will make the determination. Or, you can state that your incapacity will be determined by your attending physician at the relevant time, whomever that might be.
  • Judicial finding – The court may be petitioned to determine incapacity. After a proceeding where medical and other testimony will be heard, a judge will decide whether you are incapacitated according to the legal standards in your state.


Contact our Peoples Investment Services, Inc. representative at 828-464-5620 or 

This information, developed by an independent third party, has been obtained from sources considered to be reliable, but Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not guarantee that the foregoing material is accurate or complete. This information is not a complete summary or statement of all available data necessary for making an investment decision and does not constitute a recommendation. The information contained in this report does not purport to be a complete description of the securities, markets, or developments referred to in this material. This information is not intended as a solicitation or an offer to buy or sell any security referred to herein. Investments mentioned may not be suitable for all investors. The material is general in nature. Past performance may not be indicative of future results. Raymond James Financial Services, Inc. does not provide advice on tax, legal or mortgage issues. These matters should be discussed with the appropriate professional.

Securities offered through Raymond James Financial Services, Inc., member FINRA/SIPC, an independent broker/dealer, and are not insured by FDIC, NCUA or any other government agency, are not deposits or obligations of the financial institution, are not guaranteed by the financial institution, and are subject to risks, including the possible loss of principal.

Prepared by Broadridge Investor Communication Solutions, Inc. Copyright 2015