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.

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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.

Are You Considering an Online-Only Bank?

Believe it or not, the roots of online banking stretch back to the 1980s. According to historical records, Bank of Scotland offered a service called Homelink in 1983 that allowed people to pay bills and transfer money via the internet. At that time, you could only hook up to the ‘net by using a landline telephone or a TV.considering-an-online-only-bank

We’ve come a long way since then, to the point where online-only banks like Bank5 Connect have made noticeable inroads in the banking world. Not having to go to a physical location to conduct your banking transactions is becoming more the norm than ever before.

So what in particular has motivated millions to go this route?

Convenience and flexibility. There’s no longer a need to get dressed, drive to the nearest branch, and wait in a teller line to deposit money into your account. With an online bank, you can use a mobile app to snap a photo of your check, even if you’re lying in bed in your pajamas! Plus, you don’t have to wait until a bank branch is open to conduct transactions or to check on your account activity. You can do that, and more, practically any time of day using a laptop, desktop, smartphone or tablet. It’s banking on your terms, where and when you want to do it.

Insured deposits. Most, if not all, online-only banks are insured by the FDIC. This means that deposit accounts at FDIC member online-only banks are covered in the same manner as accounts at their brick-and-mortar counterparts. FDIC insurance protects each customer’s deposits, up to $250,000 per financial institution. However, it’s possible for you protect all of your deposits, even in excess of FDIC limitsAs 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!. One way to accomplish this is to open an account at a Massachusetts-based online bank, like Bank5 Connect, that offers DIF insurance in addition to FDIC coverage. DIF (the Depositors Insurance Fund) insures any deposits above the FDIC limit.

Lower fees, higher interest rates. Because online-only banks typically have lower costs (as in no physical branches to maintain), they can pass their savings on to their customers. Fees are generally lower and interest rates on deposits are generally higher with an online-only bank than with a brick-and-mortar institution.

Some people are hesitant to move their money from a brick-and-mortar bank to an online-only bank due to the fact that they’ll have less direct contact with the bank and its employees. There can be a concern about not being able to walk into a branch and speak with someone when something goes wrong with an account. In order to alleviate this fear, it’s important to choose an online bank that offers strong customer support like extended phone support hours or a live chat feature. It’s also a good idea to read some reviewsAs 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! from actual customers to get a sense of what call center hold times might be like, or how satisfied customers are with their overall ability to reach the bank.

Another common reservation people have about online-only banks is a fear about not being able to easily access their money. If you decide to go with an online bank that has no physical branches or dedicated ATMs, how will you make a cash withdrawal? To ensure you’ll have ample opportunity to withdraw your money as needed, you should thoroughly research the bank’s ATM policy. Some online banks are part of a national ATM network, meaning you can use any ATM in that network without incurring fees. Others will reimburse you for ATM fees. Bank5 Connect offers a mix of both. Bank5 Connect is part of the SUM ATM NetworkAs 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!, which is comprised of thousands of ATMs across the United States. In addition, Bank5 Connect will never charge its customers for using an ATM outside of the SUM Network, and will reimburse other banks’ surcharges up to $15 per statement cycle.

If the perks of online-only banking align with your lifestyle, it might be time to make the switch and find an online bank that best suits your needs. Just be prepared to spend more time in your pajamas!

What to Do With a Financial Windfall

What would you do if you won the lottery, or received a huge settlement or inheritance? It’s something most of us have happily dreamed about, but actually coming into a giant sum of money can be overwhelming and even a bit frightening. There’s the temptation to make big ticket purchases, pressure from family and friends to “share the wealth”, and fraudsters at the ready looking to scam you out of big bucks. So, what should you do with all that money? Here are some tips to consider when you find yourself faced with a financial windfall.tips-for-financial-windfall

Keep calm. Let’s face it – it’s extremely tempting to want quit your job, or trade up for a bigger house when you suddenly have big bucks in the bank. But you’d be surprised at how easily some people overestimate their newfound wealth. Many lottery winners are shocked when they find out the amount of taxes that will be taken out of their winnings. And moving into a giant house can come with super-sized utility bills, increased property taxes, and massive upkeep costs – things people can easily forget about when they’re in a rush to buy. When you receive an unexpected sum of money, it’s important to refrain from impulsive decisions you could later regret. Rather than take any immediate steps, it’s essential to start thinking through your financial options, and prioritize which ones are most important to you.

Think long-term. As you’re weighing the various things you can do with your newfound financial freedom, it’s crucial to think further down the road than just buying a new sports car or some fancy jewelry. The National Endowment for Financial Education reports that an estimated 70% of financial windfall recipients lose the money within just a few years of receiving it, and you don’t want to meet that same fate. In order to help make your money last, it’s a good idea to consider putting some of it aside for your future. That could mean setting up a retirement account, creating a college savings account for your children, or establishing an emergency fund, depending on where your savings currently stand.

Pay up. While it’s important to plan for your future financial needs, it’s equally important to assess your current financial situation and obligations. If you have a lot of credit cards to pay off, now’s the time to do it. Credit cards typically have some of the highest interest rates out there, so the longer you keep that debt, the more you’re going to end up paying in interest fees. Likewise, if you have any unpaid bills, you should pay them immediately in order to avoid additional late fees or judgements against you. You should also evaluate any loans you currently have. Depending on the terms of your loans, and your current interest rates, it may make financial sense to pay them off if you don’t have a pre-payment penalty. Doing so could end up saving you a lot of money in interest.

Get advice. It’s very important not to “go it alone”. A newfound wealth comes with a lot of considerations, including investment opportunities and tax obligations. In order to ensure that you make the wisest decisions with your new money, and understand any potential risks associated with those decisions, it’s critical to consult with financial professionals that you trust. Depending on what you’re looking to do with your money, and what questions you have, it could be a good idea to meet with a tax advisor, an accountant, an investment manager, or even a finance lawyer. Just make sure you do your homework to find advisors you can trust.

Protect your cash. Coming into significant wealth can put a target on your back, especially if your financial windfall was broadcast to the public – like in the case of a lottery winner. For this reason, it’s very important for you to be vigilant, and on high alert for any potential scammers. Stay up-to-speed on popular scamsAs 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 fraud tactics, and protect your personal and financial information when you’re online or using a mobile device.

By refraining from impulsive decisions, and thoughtfully planning out your financial objectives with the help of trusted professionals, you will have the best chance of making the riches from your financial windfall last, and providing a secure financial future for yourself.

Need Help Establishing Credit?

Wouldn’t it be great if you could snap your fingers and you instantly had a solid credit history? The reality is that it takes time and effort to establish credit. But once you have good credit, it can open doors financially for you. Having good credit can mean the difference between getting approved or denied for a mortgage or car loan. And the stronger your credit, the greater your chances of getting favorable terms and interest rates on loans and credit cards.need-help-establishing-credit

But building credit can be a bit of a catch 22. A lot of credit card companies and lenders won’t grant you credit unless you have a proven track record of handling credit responsibly. This can make it a bit challenging for those who haven’t established a credit history yet.

Luckily, there are many ways to establish a foundation of credit to build upon. Here are some credit building tips you can use:

Take out a credit-builder loan. With this type of loan, the lender places the money being “borrowed” into a savings account on your behalf. You then pay off the loan through a series of monthly payments. Once the loan is paid in full, you gain access to the money in the savings account. Credit-builder loans are usually for relatively small amounts of money, making it easier to meet your monthly loan payments. The lender reports your payment history on the loan to the three national credit reporting agencies, so as long as you make your monthly payments on time, you’ll be building a positive track record on your credit report. These types of loans can be a bit hard to find, but a good place to look for one would be at a smaller financial institution, like a community bank or credit union.

Obtain a secured credit card. These types of credit cards are intended specifically for people with little or no credit. When you take out a secured credit card, you pay a deposit to the financial institution who then grants you a credit limit, which is usually equal to the amount of your deposit. Once the account is opened, the card works just like any other credit card. The only difference is that the financial institution has your deposit as a guarantee on the credit line. In other words, if you don’t make your payments, they will take the money out of your deposit. Like a credit-builder loan, the payments you make with a secured credit card are reported to the credit bureaus, helping you to build up a solid credit history if you make them on time. The point of a secured credit card is to build your credit to the point where you can qualify for an unsecured card — one that doesn’t require a cash deposit and has better benefits.

Look into opening a store credit card. Many popular retailers offer their own, private credit cards. While these cards can typically only be used to purchase items from the store issuing them, a plus side is that they usually have more flexible underwriting standards, meaning they are easier to get than a traditional credit card. These types of credit cards can be good “entry-level” cards, allowing you to build up a credit history before applying for a regular credit card. It’s worth noting however that they do typically have lower credit limits and higher interest rates than non-store credit cards.

Take out a student credit card. Like a store credit card, a student credit card is generally easier to get than a traditional credit card; that is, if you’re a college student. Credit card companies have been known to be pretty aggressive with targeting college students, due to their future earning potential. A college student can typically be approved for a student credit card even if they don’t have any credit, as long as they can show enough income or assets to cover the minimum monthly payments.

Become an authorized user on a credit card. If your parents or someone close to you is willing to do so, you could be made an authorized user on their credit card. An authorized user will typically receive their own card in their own name that they can use to make purchases, but financial responsibility for the account remains with the primary cardholder. So, as long as the primary cardholder makes all of the monthly payments on time, the authorized user will benefit by having the positive payment history reflected on their credit report as well. Just keep in mind that being an authorized user works both ways. In other words, if the primary cardholder is irresponsible with the card and fails to make payments on time, your credit could suffer as the authorized user. For this reason, it’s important to only be an authorized user if you completely trust the primary cardholder. You should review your credit report regularly to ensure payments on the account are being made, and if you find your credit is being damaged by the relationship, you should remove yourself as an authorized userAs 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!.

Co-sign on a loan. It’s generally pretty difficult to obtain a traditional loan without a solid credit history, as lenders are hesitant to extend credit to individuals who haven’t demonstrated they can pay the loan back. However, if you co-sign for the loan with someone who already has a good credit history, your chances of being approved will be much higher. A co-signer is basically someone who agrees to share financial responsibility for the loan. In other words, if you default on the loan and stop making payments, the lender will go after the co-signer for the money. Both parties are equally responsible for the debt. Because both of your credit reports are on the line, it’s extremely important to only co-sign with someone you have complete confidence in.

Be responsible with student loan payments. No one likes having to pay back student loans, but if you’re fresh out of college with no credit history, you can at least work them to your advantage. Like other types of loans, student loan payments are reported to the credit bureaus, so paying them on time can help you establish a solid credit history. Just be sure not to miss payments, because then they’ll start to damage your credit history. If you find that your student loan payments are so high that you’re having trouble making them, you might want to consider refinancing them to help reduce the monthly payment amount.

No matter which approach you choose, once you have credit in your name the key is to be responsible with it. By making all of your monthly payments on time, every month, you can be well on your way to building a strong credit history for your future.

Deciding on a CD Term Length

If you’ve made up your mind that you’re going to invest some money this year, you might be considering a CD, or certificate of deposit. CDs are commonly viewed as a safer alternative to potentially higher-yielding investment vehicles such as stocks or mutual funds, because fixed-rate CDs have a set, guaranteed interest rate, and they’re protected by FDIC insurance. Bank5 Connect CD accounts are actually covered by both FDIC and DIF insurance. The DIF coverage at Bank5 Connect ensures that all deposits are 100% insured, even past traditional FDIC coverage limits.cd-term-length

Not surprisingly, the safety of CDs, coupled with the fact that they generally offer higher interest rates than traditional savings accounts, makes them popular choices for saving money. If you’ve chosen a CD as one of your investment tools, it’s just a matter of deciding how long you want to tie up your funds. With CDs, you have several fixed term lengths to choose from. They can range from as little as 3 months to up to 10 years. The term you select will depend on your unique financial circumstances and needs.

When considering CDs, it’s important to note that they’re intended to be held until maturity. When they mature, you have the option to withdraw the money, along with any accrued interest, but if you withdraw any money before the entire term length is up, you’ll usually be hit with an early withdrawal penalty fee. The policies regarding early withdrawals vary, so it’s always wise to check with your financial institution prior to opening an account to see what kinds of penalties you could incur.

To avoid early withdrawal penalties, it’s a good idea to choose a CD term based on how long you think you can go without needing access to the money. If you anticipate needing to tap into the funds within a few months, then a 3- or 6-month CD will probably be the way to go. Keep in mind however, that typically the shorter the term length, the lower the interest rate.

Generally, multiple year terms offer the highest CD rates. If you know you won’t need to tap into the funds for several years, a multi-year term could be a good fit, but it’s a good idea to consider current interest rate trends and predictions first. Think about it. How angry would you be if you locked in a 2.00% rate on a 5-year CD only to find that the rate on that exact CD increased to 2.50% a few weeks later? Once you’ve opened a fixed-rate CD, your rate won’t change, even if the bank starts to offer the same CD at a higher rate. To help avoid this kind of scenario, it’s a good idea to stay on top of interest rate news, so you have some kind of idea of when rates could fluctuateAs 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!.

Another consideration with CDs is how often you’ll be looking to stash away more money. Generally, once you open a CD you can’t add money to it until it matures. Therefore, if you think you’ll want to add money every few months, a shorter term length might be best. Another option is to choose an add-on CD. Add-on CDs are special fixed-term CDs that allow you to deposit additional funds throughout the entire term length. These types of CDs can be hard to find, but Bank5 Connect does offer one. Bank5 Connect’s 24-Month Investment CD allows for additional deposits at any time, in any amount. Plus, there is only a $500 minimum deposit required to open an account, and no monthly maintenance fees.

If you have enough money to open several CDs, another way to allow for ongoing deposits is to invest in multiple CDs with various term lengths. This approach is known as CD laddering. With CD laddering, you end up with a collection of CDs that will mature at regular intervals. With a CD regularly reaching maturity, you’ll regularly have an opportunity to make additional deposits, or withdraw your funds.

No matter what CD term length best suits your needs, just remember to read all of the fine print associated with the account before opening one. This will help you to understand exactly what you’re getting into, and help you to avoid costly early withdrawal penalty fees. And, 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!

Reaching Multiple Financial Goals

With the start of a new year, now’s a good time to assess your financial goals. And if you don’t have any financial goals hammered out, now’s a good time to create some!

Your financial objectives will likely vary depending on what stage you’re at in life and what you hope to accomplish. They could range from buying a new car to saving for a luxury vacation.
Expenses and orther tags on savings money jar
No matter what your goals are, the first step in reaching them is to establish a budget. Having a structured financial plan that constantly tracks your income and expenses makes it easier to attain your objectives.

One of the most beneficial things about creating a budget is that it forces you to examine your “needs” and your “wants”. Your “needs” are those expenses that are critical and non-negotiable. Examples would be your rent or mortgage payment, car insurance, utility bills, child support payments, and medical bills. Your “wants” on the other hand are things that you could live without, such as cable, daily lattes, spa treatments, and restaurant meals.

Once you determine how much money you should stash away each month toward your various financial goals, you may find that you’ll need to tweak your monthly “wants” in order to do so. This could mean canceling your cable subscription in order to free up more of your budget, or it could mean cutting back on the number of times you eat out every month.

It’s also important to determine where you’re going to stash your savings. Many people find it’s easier to stay on track with each individual goal if they have a dedicated savings account for each one. But keep in mind that a traditional savings account may not necessarily be the right fit for each of your goals.

For example, if you’re saving toward a long-term goal, it might make sense to open a Money Market account, which typically has a higher interest rate than a traditional savings account. There are also some Certificate of Deposit (CD) accounts, like Bank5 Connect’s Investment CD, that allow you to make deposits whenever you’d like. But since most CDs do have penalties for withdrawing money before the CD matures, it’s important to choose a term length that coincides with your savings goals.

There are also some specific types of accounts that are useful for particular goals. For example, two of the most popular savings vehicles for retirement goals are 401K accounts and Individual Retirement Accounts (commonly referred to as IRAs). Likewise, 529 Savings Plans and Coverdell Education Savings Accounts are popular choices when saving for college expenses.

There are also savings accounts out there with very competitive interest rates. These are typically called “high-yield” or “high-interest” savings accounts. Just be sure to read all of the fine print associated with the account before opening one, as many higher-interest accounts come with conditions such as minimum balance requirements or monthly maintenance fees. If you’re looking for a high-yield account without a lot of red tape, a Bank5 Connect High-Interest Savings Account could be good choice. This account only requires a minimum balance of $100 to earn interest, and has no monthly maintenance fee.

When choosing which account is right for your savings goals, just keep in mind that it’s always a good idea to consult a financial professional or tax advisor before making any major financial decisions.

No matter what your financial goals may be, establishing a solid game plan is the first step in achieving them. By putting together a budget and choosing the right type of account for your saving needs, you’ll be well on your way to accomplishing your multiple goals.