Tax Tips for a Safer Tax Season

Did you know that if you haven’t filed your tax return yet, a criminal could beat you to it? This type of crime is becoming more widespread every year. But luckily, there are some tax tips you can follow to help protect your return from these unscrupulous criminals.Tax form concept

Because the Internal Revenue Service only accepts one tax return per Social Security number, the sooner you file your return, the less likely you are to have a thief snatch up your rightful refund.

In additional to filing as early as possible, it’s important to do everything you can to shield your personal information from potential criminals. If they can’t get their hands on your Social Security number, they can’t file a return in your name. Here are some general recommendations to keep in mind:

  • Ensure that your computer and mobile devices have the latest web browsers, and security software installed. This is your best line of defense in protecting the contents of your device, and the information you share online.
  • Always use a secure internet connection when you submit or transfer sensitive information online. You can tell that a website is secure by checking for a URL that begins with “https://”, and a padlock symbol alongside the URL in the address bar of your internet browser.
  • Remember to shred paper documents that contain sensitive information, instead of just tossing them in the garbage. These types of documents could include drafts of your tax returns, copies of your W-2 forms, pay stubs, medical bills, or credit card and bank account statements.
  • Don’t give out your Social Security number unless absolutely necessary. And don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet or store the number on your computer or cell phone.
  • Do your homework before hiring a tax preparer. Make sure you can trust them with your personal information. And ensure that they sign your return with their IRS Preparer Identification Number. The tax preparer identification system was developed as an added layer of protection against tax fraud.
  • Don’t use public wireless networks (such as those in coffee shops and restaurants) to work on your tax return or file it. Cyber crooks can intercept internet connections on these unsecure networks and gain access to your information.
  • Use strong, complex passwords for all of your online accounts, especially your online tax e-filing account, if you have one.
  • Consider using a USB memory stick or external hard drive to store sensitive tax data that you need to prepare your return. This will lessen the chance of cyber crooks stealing the information directly from your computer. The external drive or stick also serves as a backup should you encounter a crash or other problem with your computer.
  • Be aware that the IRS will never email or call you concerning tax issues or any back taxes you may owe. If the IRS needs to contact you regarding a tax matter, they will do so via regular postal mail. So, if you receive an email or phone call from someone who says they are from the IRS, odds are that they’re an imposter looking to steal your personal information. Never provide them with your bank account credentials, or your credit and debit card information, and never wire them money – you’ll never get it back.

It’s a shame that there are so many criminals out there looking to get their hands on your hard-earned tax refund, but armed with these tax tips, you should stand a much better chance of protecting yourself this tax season.

You Have Choices When Your CD Matures

If you have a CD reaching maturing soon, have you given thought to what you’d like to do with the funds in it? Deciding what path to take when a CD matures isn’t as easy as coming to a fork in the road. There are actually quite a few options available. It’s just a matter of weighing all those options, and then choosing the one that’s right for you.choices-when-your-cd-matures

Before exploring your choices, it’s important to note that your financial institution is required to notify you in advance before your CD matures. Once you receive that notification, you typically have only a week or two to decide what you’d like to do with your funds. If you don’t instruct your bank on what to do with your CD when it matures, they will make the decision for you. In most cases, the financial institution will automatically roll over the funds to another CD with a term length similar to your old one. But beware – the new CD may have a lower interest rate than your old CD. To prevent your money from ending up stuck in a CD with an undesirable rate, it’s a good idea to make your own informed decision about your funds when your CD matures, rather than letting your bank make the choice.

  • One option available to you is to deposit additional funds into the CD and then roll it over into a new term. Unless your CD is an “add-on” CD, your maturity period is likely your only opportunity to add funds to your existing balance. If you decide to go this route however, be sure that you know what rate you will receive for the new term before you agree to it.
  • If you have a big purchase on the horizon, it may be a good time to withdraw the funds. Typically, CD maturity is the only time you can pull your funds out of a CD without incurring an early withdrawal penalty. Taking your money out of a CD once it matures can be ideal if you have specific objective in mind, such as placing a down payment on a house or buying a new car.
  • If you think you may need the funds in the not-too-distant future, but don’t have an immediate need for them, your best bet may be to withdraw the money and place it in an interest-bearing savings or checking account. By taking the money out of your CD, it will no longer be tied up for a locked-in time period, and you’ll have the flexibility of withdrawing it without penalty whenever you’re ready.
  • Another option is to pursue a different investment vehicle, depending on your level of risk tolerance, and your financial goals. Other investment opportunities could include stocks or bonds, retirement accounts, or college savings plans. Just remember that it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax professional or an investment advisor before making any major investment decisions.
  • If you’d like to keep your money in a CD, another possibility is to choose an entirely different CD to roll your money into. You could go with a different CD at the same financial institution, or you could open a new CD at another bank or credit union. Sites like DepositAccounts.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! and Nerdwallet.comAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! can useful when comparing CDs across multiple financial institutions.
  • Depending how much money is in the maturing CD, you may want to consider splitting the funds and placing them into two or more new CDs with varying term lengths. This strategy is referred to as “CD laddering”. Generally speaking, CD laddering involves buying a series of CDs with different terms so they mature at different intervals. So over the course of the CDs’ various term lengths you’ll have access to funds on an ongoing basis, because you’ll have a CD regularly reaching maturity.

No matter where you are in your financial journey, if you have a CD reaching maturity it’s important to think proactively about your goals and immediate financial needs before determining what to do with your funds. A little planning goes a long way, and you’ll thank yourself later!

Stay Safe And Secure While Banking Online

No one likes to be taken advantage of. But in today’s world of online banking, there are plenty of cyber thieves looking to do just that to unsuspecting people.online-banking-security-tips

That’s why it’s important to always be on high alert when conducting online banking transactions and related financial activity via the internet. At Bank5 Connect, your online security is one of our highest priorities. So much so that we want to share some best practices to keep your online bank accounts safe and secure, whether they’re with Bank5 Connect or another financial institution.

  • Consider using a separate computer exclusively for online banking to protect it from malicious software, also known as malware. Malware is often contracted while browsing the web, using social networks, sending and receiving email, or playing online games.
  • Use online or mobile banking to check your accounts on a regular basis, such as once or twice a week. Frequent checks will help you identify, and act on, any suspicious activity.
  • Take advantage of email or text message alerts offered by most banks. These account notifications can alert you when your balance falls below a certain level or when there is a transaction over a certain amount. Some banks offer alerts for suspicious account activity as well.
  • Set strong, unique passwords and change them on a regular basis. You should use passwords that are at least 8 characters long and include a combination of symbols, capital and lowercase letters, and numbers. And remember to make your passwords hard to crack. It’s never a good idea to use common words, or the names of family members or pets as passwords.
  • Never use the same password for several accounts, and don’t share your passwords with anyone.
  • Always fully log out of your online banking sessions. And once you’re logged out, close your browser for additional security.
  • When you’re logged into online banking, never leave your computer or device unattended.
  • Update your device’s security software, operating system and browser on a regular basis.
  • Only conduct your online banking business from a secure internet connection. Never log into your account from a public computer, or a public Wi-Fi network. Free Wi-Fi in a hotel or coffee shop might be convenient, but it’s not worth the security risk. If you must access your online banking account on-the-go, it’s much safer to use your phone’s cellular network than a public Wi-Fi connection.
  • If you’re using a computer for online banking, ensure that it has firewall protection. A firewall creates a barrier between your computer and an external network, such as the internet. This controls incoming and outgoing network traffic and helps screen out cyber criminals, malware and other damaging intrusions.
  • Make sure you’re using an encrypted wireless connectionAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon! at home.

Being vigilant about your online security, and staying on top of your account activity can go a long way toward protecting your bank account from cyber criminals. But remember, if you do spot any suspicious transactions in your account, alert your financial institution immediately. The sooner you identify fraud and notify your bank, the greater your chance of a speedy resolution.

For more information on how to stay safe online, visit http://www.bank5connect.com/home/security/fraud-prevention.

A Convenient One-Stop Option To Pay Bills

Imagine life without having to pay bills. Talk about heavenly bliss! But the painful reality is that almost all of us have to deal with bills. Some of us are better equipped to handle the stress and inconvenience of paying bills than others. But the good news is that automatic bill pay exists to help make the chore of paying bills a little easier.AdobeStock_145451274

Automatic bill pay – sometimes referred to as “online bill pay” or just “bill pay” – takes away the juggling act of remembering which bills are due when. It allows you to schedule your recurring payments online so they come directly out of your bank account when they’re due. Many banks even offer their own automatic bill pay systems, which allow you to view your various bills and schedule their payments in one central spot.

Think about that – no need to keep track of paper bills and making sure you pay them on time. No need to write out checks or purchase stamps and envelopes to mail them. No need to second-guess whether you actually included the invoice or the check in that envelope!

Timely bill payments, incidentally, are one of the biggest factors that make up your credit score. And because automatic bill pay helps you to pay your bills on time, it can have a major, positive impact on your credit report. By having your bills set up to be paid automatically on or before their due dates, you reduce the risk of late payments and resulting late fees – you just need to make sure you have enough money in your bank account to cover your scheduled payments

For this reason, when scheduling automatic bill payments, it’s a good idea to set up electronic alerts if they’re available. These notifications can inform you via email or text message when your payment is coming due, which can help you ensure you have sufficient funds in your account. And in most cases you can also set up alerts with your bank’s Online Banking system, and have them notify you when your account balance dips to a certain threshold.

From a security standpoint, payments made through automatic bill pay are also safer than check payments sent out through the mail. When you make an online bill payment, your sensitive personal and account information is encrypted, keeping it out of the hands of criminals. The same can’t be said of check payments. If a crook intercepts the envelope containing your check payment, they not only have access to your account information, but they’ll likely have your name and address as well.

One potential drawback of automatic bill pay however, is that some consumers may rely too heavily on it to manage their finances. In other words, they “set it and forget it”. When using automatic bill pay, it’s still important to monitor your scheduled payments to ensure the correct amounts are being paid at the right times.

Automatic bill pay can also be detrimental to your budgeting goals if you lose sight of what’s going on with your finances. Even if your payments are coming out of your account automatically, it’s still important to stay organized and on top of how much money is coming in and going out of your account every month.

Another thing to keep in mind that is that automatic bill pay might not be a good fit for bills that fluctuate heavily from month to month, such as credit card or utility bills. For instance, if you end up with a higher bill than expected one month, it could cause you to overdraw your account, leaving you with overdraft or insufficient funds fees.

Overall, automatic bill pay can a great tool to help you manage your bills and achieve on-time payments. It’s just important to remember that it isn’t an excuse to get lazy with your finances.

Switching Banks Can Be Easier Than You Think

Maybe it’s overbearing fees or lousy customer service. Or maybe you just landed a new job and have to relocate across the country. Whatever the reason, you’re faced with the need to switch banks.AdobeStock_63753131

Moving from one financial institution to another is almost like a juggling act. There are plenty of balls in the air that you need to keep an eye on as you shut down your old account and open a new one. That’s why it’s a good idea to map out a strategy in advance.

Here are some steps to follow to help make switching banks as painless as possible:

  1. Do your homework. Research what financial institutions would be a good fit for you. Choices range from a traditional bank or credit union to an online-only bank.
  2. Make your choice and open an account. Once you have an idea about what type of financial institution you’d like to work with, dig deeper. Will you need to maintain a minimum balance once you open the account? What kinds of fees can you expect? What interest rate do they offer on savings or checking accounts? Do they have a lot of ATMs you can use? Do they offer Online and Mobile Banking? Contemplating these questions will help ensure that you choose an account that best suits your needs. Once your choice is made, gather all of the documentation and information you’ll need to open the account. And don’t close your old accounts just yet.
  3. Order what you’ll need. When you open your account, don’t forget to place an order for things like checks and debit cards. The sooner you can get those and start using them instead of your old ones, the quicker you can cut ties with your old bank. You should also register for Online Banking if your bank offers it, and set up any automatic account alerts you’d like to receive via text message or email. And remember to download your new bank’s mobile app if you’ll be doing your banking on-the-go.
  4. Get some money into your new account. If you plan to use direct deposit, provide your employer with your new bank account and routing numbers, and find out how long it will take for the update to happen. It’s also a good idea to transfer some money over from your old account, but be careful not to move so much money over that you’re in danger of overdrafting the account or not meeting your old bank’s minimum balance requirements.
  5. Update online payment info. If you utilize online payment services like PayPal or Stripe, you’ll want to update the bank account info that’s tied to them so any future payments will come out of your new accounts. You should also compile a list of all the electronic payments you make – automatic or otherwise – and ensure that the payment details on those accounts reflect your new financial institution. If you were using bill pay at your old bank, you should set up all of those same automatic payments through your new accounts.
  6. Double check everything. Once you’ve covered all of your bases and are ready to close your old accounts – don’t. At least not yet. It’s a good idea to double check and confirm that your direct deposits are going into your new account as intended, that all of the checks you’ve written from your old account have cleared, and that all of your electronic payments are successfully coming out of your new account.
  7. Close out your old account. Once you can confirm that everything is A-OK with your new account, it’s time to cut the cord with your old bank. Any money that you have left in your old accounts should be transferred over to your new ones, and you should inform your old bank of your decision to close out the accounts. The Consumer Finance Protection Bureau recommends getting written confirmation that your accounts have been closed.

And if you’re concerned that switching banks might have a negative impact on your credit score, there’s no need to worry. Closing a deposit account – or opening one – will have no bearing on your credit report. Keep in mind though that abusing a bank account (for example, writing bad checks, or not repaying a negative balance) could prevent you from opening another bank account in the future, as this kind of activity is tracked and reported on by agencies like ChexSystemsAs a courtesy, you will be leaving Blog.Bank5Connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of Bank5Connect.com. Come back soon!.

No matter what your reason for making the switch to a new bank, taking the time to plan ahead will help to make the move as easy and stress-free as possible.

Sweetheart Scams to Watch Out for This Valentine’s Day

Valentine’s Day is on the way. Love is in the air and it’s easy to be swept away in those feelings of affection. But it’s important to remember that not everyone is who they claim to be. Valentine’s Day is a preferred time for many cyber crooks attempting to lure in unsuspecting victims who are looking for love.Liebe und Dating mit dem Smartphone

With the ever rising popularity of social media, it’s no wonder that many people turn to online dating sites and social media networks on their quest for romance. But while these types of websites can facilitate loving relationships, they can also be prime hunting grounds for scammers armed with fake profiles. According to the FBI, over $220 million was lost to online dating scams in 2016. To avoid these types of scams, it’s important to be on the lookout for them. If your online love interest is displaying any of these common warning signs, it’s probably best to walk away:

  • They prefer to speak with you through email, text, or online messaging, rather than talk to you on the phone. Oftentimes, a phone conversation can give an online scammer away. You may notice they have a strange accent, or that the number they’re calling from doesn’t match with the area they claim to be from.
  • They tell you they’re currently overseas traveling, or out of the country on business.
  • Their feelings for you seem to be growing extremely fast. If they’re already telling you they love you after a few conversations, you should be highly suspicious.
  • They always have an excuse for not meeting you face-to-face.
  • They tell you they need money for some type of emergency.

Even if you don’t notice anything suspicious about the person you’re getting to know online, it’s still a good idea to go into any new online friendship or relationship with your guard up. If anything seems off about the photos they’ve shared with you, you can run them through a reverse image searchAs a courtesy, you will be leaving blog.bank5connect.com and going to another website. We have approved this site as a reliable partner, but you will no longer be under the security policy of bank5connect.com. Come back soon! on Google to see if they were taken from another person or website. It’s also a good idea to talk with your family and friends about your new love interest. Sometimes feelings of affection can blind us to warning signs that others can easily see. And perhaps the most important thing to remember with any new online acquaintance – never give them money. No matter what kind of story they give you regarding why they need money, it’s important to remember that you’ll likely never see your funds again if you wire money, mail cash, or give your bank account information to someone you’ve just met online.

And online dating scams aren’t the only “love scams” making the rounds this Valentine’s Day. There are flower delivery scams out there as well. One version involves an email claiming to be from a flower delivery company asking the victim to verify their credit card details before their flowers can be delivered. There’s even an in-person scam where victims receive a delivery of flowers or a package at their home, and the deliveryman tells them that there is a small delivery fee. They also tell the victim that the delivery fee can only be paid via credit card. In both of these scams, the crooks are looking to get their hands on your credit card information.

No matter what type of scam a criminal decides to use, the best way to prevent yourself from becoming a victim is to be on high alert. If you think you may have already been targeted by a scammer, there are some immediate steps you should take:

No matter what your relationship status, it’s important not to let your emotions cloud your judgement. Being watchful and vigilant can help protect your heart (and your wallet) this Valentine’s Day.

Infographic-online-dating-scams

Have You Considered an Add-On CD?

If you think you know your way around certificates of deposit (commonly referred to as CDs), here’s a twist to this savings product you may not be aware of – an add-on CD.add-on-cd

As a quick refresher, a CD is also known as a “time deposit” or a “term deposit” because it’s set for a certain period of time. The depositor can choose which term they want to go into. CDs are a great way to earn a competitive interest rate (rates for CD accounts are typically higher than traditional savings accounts or money market accounts) and know that the rate will remain in place for the entire duration of the CD term.

But what if you want to see your savings grow faster? Wouldn’t it be a shame if you came into some money and wanted to take advantage of a great CD rate you locked in 6 months ago? Well, if you opened a traditional CD, you’d be out of luck. Once you make your initial opening deposit with a traditional CD, you can’t add money to it during the CD’s term. But that’s not the case with an add-on CD. With an add-on CD, you can continue to pump money into the account throughout the locked-in time period.

As you can imagine, an add-on CD can be extremely helpful during a period of time when interest rates are expected to fall. For instance, say you opened a 24-Month Traditional CD last year, and you’d like to open another, but the interest rate has taken a nose dive. You could end up earning a much lower interest rate for those new funds compared to the money already sitting in your initial CD. If you had opened a 24-Month Add-On CD however, you could invest your additional funds there, and earn interest on them at the same higher rate you locked in at account opening.

An add-on CD can also be a good option if you don’t necessarily have a large amount of money to place in a traditional CD all at once. Maybe at the beginning you only have $1,000 to open the CD, but you know that you’ll have extra funds to devote to it in the coming months. Having one add-on CD can also be easier to manage and track than having your funds scattered across a multitude of CD products with varying expiration dates.

As is the case with traditional CDs however, it’s important to note that with an add-on CD you’ll typically be charged a penalty if you withdraw your funds before the CD matures.

At Bank5 Connect, we offer an add-on CD with a two year term, called the 24-Month Investment CD. This add-on CD requires a $500 minimum deposit, and after that you can add funds to it any time you’d like, in any amount. And all Bank5 Connect CDs, regardless of term length, are insured up to $250,000 by the FDIC, and insured past $250,000 by the Depositors Insurance Fund (also known as DIF). This means that at Bank5 Connect, your CD deposits are insured in full. To learn more about all of the CDs offered at Bank5 Connect, visit http://www.bank5connect.com/home/cds.

For many people, an add-on CD can be a great way to save, but keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to consult with a tax advisor or financial professional before making any major investment decisions.