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Money Matters Blog

Monday, July 25, 2011

Fraud PART 1– Recognizing Identity Theft and Common Scams

With over 9 million Americans estimated to fall victim every year, identity theft is the most common crime reported to the Federal Trade Commission.  Identity theft is the act of stealing your good name to commit fraud, and one of the most potent defenses against it is recognizing and understanding common identity theft scams so you can protect yourself.  Here are a few of the most common scams.

1.  Lottery/raffle winner or tax refund – These scams start with an email that says you won a large sum of money or are entitled to a tax refund, but in order to claim it you need to go to a website or call a toll free number.  You will be asked to enter your social security number or bank account and passwords so they can send you the money.  Instead of making a deposit-- you guessed it – they empty your account or use your ID to open credit accounts.

2.  There is something wrong with your account - These calls or emails say they are calling from your credit card company or bank and have noticed excessive activity on your account.  They ask you to provide your account number, security codes and/or passwords to verify the transactions.  By doing this you are giving them access to your credit.  Sometimes they send you to a website that looks just like your bank’s site, but the bogus site is a front to collect your personal data.
Art Beard, Information Technology 
Department Manager
3.  The Nigerian scam–This scam has been around for nearly a decade and has spawned a number of variations. You receive an email from a stranger asking for your help to get a large sum of money out of their country. In return for your assistance, the sender will share part of the money with you. The aim, of course, is to get access to either your bank account or your personal information so the thieves can open accounts in your name.
No legitimate company will ask you for your personal data – Think about it, if they are truly a company you deal with, they already have your information on file.  If a caller claims to have your credit card number and reads it back to you but it’s wrong – hang up.  The thief is trying to trick you into correcting their mistake and divulging information.

“The best thing to do is check your accounts online regularly and review your credit report for errors at least once a year,” According to Art Beard, Information Technology Department Manager at Community Financial. “Due diligence is the best way to keep your good name.”

If you have any questions don’t hesitate to contact Community Financial at (877) 937-2328. Next week we’ll discuss what to do if you fall victim to ID theft.

Posted by: Community Financial
Community Financial Members Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, full-service financial institution owned and governed by its membership.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Michigan’s Housing Market: What to know when buying a home

By: Nicolle Sherman, Mortgage Specialist

Housing prices seem to be stabilizing this spring but it is still a buyer’s market in Michigan. If you’re shopping for a home, here are some important steps to help you have a successful and enjoyable home buying experience.

Get pre-approved before you look at a house.  Many real estate agents will look for a letter of approval before helping you find a house.  Also, mortgage requirements have changed in the last three to five years.  It’s important to make sure you understand the eligibility requirements for financing at this time. 

Find a good agent.  It’s really important to have someone help guide you through the process and give you sound advice as you’re shopping for a home. You can always contact Community Financial Credit Union for a recommendation. 

Be aware of the competition.  Attractive properties move quickly in any market. The housing slump has ended and sellers of quality properties are getting their asking price.  Be prepared to come in with your best offer. 

Short sales aren’t always short.  If you’re interested in a short sale you’ll need to be patient.  The short sale process is tedious and can take about four to six months. 

At Community Financial, we’re here to help you. We offer a wide variety of mortgage options, low closing costs and competitive mortgage rates. As a local community lender, we know the Michigan housing market and are here to make home buying easier. Click here to visit the mortgage section of our website or click here to apply online. For more information, please contact Community Financial at (877) 937-2328.  We will be happy to assist you.

Posted by: Nicolle Sherman, Community Financial Mortgage Specialist
Community Financial Members Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, full-service financial institution owned and governed by its membership.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Building Good Credit: Using Credit Cards Wisely

The ability to get a loan, mortgage, insurance, even a cell phone can be impacted by your credit score.  Your approval and your interest rates will also be affected by the quality of your credit.  Using a credit card wisely can help in managing your finances and building good credit.

Essential to building good credit is paying all your bills on time. It’s also wise to pay more than the minimum balance and whenever possible, pay off the entire balance.  Limiting the number of credit cards can also help avoid accumulating excessive credit card debt.

Paying credit card bills on time and avoiding too much debt accumulation are important steps to help develop and maintain a good credit score.  Your credit score, contained in your personal credit report, is one of the main factors lenders evaluate when you apply for a loan. Credit scores can also affect the cost of other goods and services, such as auto insurance. 

Keep in mind that credit cards can be dangerous.  It’s easy to over spend now because you get to pay later. With low minimum payments, there’s a risk of forgetting to pay off debt or letting it build up until it gets too high.  

“Often when people think of a credit card, they automatically think debt,” says Christine Shilling, Branch Manager with Community Financial Credit Union. “Credit cards don’t have to lead to debt. By managing your payments carefully, you can help build good credit rather than harm your credit.”

If you are interested in applying for a credit card or want to learn more about establishing good credit, Community Financial has great options available.  Stop by one of our branches or call us today (877) 937-2328.    

Posted by: Community Financial
Community Financial Members Federal Credit Union is a not-for-profit, full-service financial institution owned and governed by its membership.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Our Personality Sings Customer Service

By: Jason Houston -- Trainer, Education & Development Department 

In the eight years that I’ve worked at Community Financial, I’ve really seen how special a credit union is both as a place to work and as a service to the community.   My name is Jason Houston and I first started with Community Financial as a front line Member Service Representative. 

As a representative, I served members at both our Canton Center & Novi Offices.  I always sang and tried to lighten the mood for everyone. 

At our 2011 annual employee kick-off service meeting I sang a song and performed a skit.  I dressed up as Corey Values, a spin on core values, and sang my own version of Justin Timberlake’s “We’re Bringing Sexy Back.”

I performed Community Financial’s “We’re Bringing Service Back”:

“I’m bringing service back
I know it’s special how you like your cash
Now take a look as I count it back                            
I’m bringing service back”

Fortunately for me, working at Community Financial is a great fit for my personality.  Working with people just comes naturally for me; I enjoy getting to know our members, and spending time learning how to help them.  We treat others as people rather than just customers. That’s what I love about working at a credit union.

Now that I work in our Training, Education and Development Department, I’m getting to know my internal team members more and understanding how we work together to deliver quality service to our members.  I am still building relationships and it’s really nice.  It’s important to find a job that fits your personality.

Community Financial’s staff makes it their job to connect with members to enhance their experience.  We’ve been voted one of the 101 Best & Brightest Places to Work in Metro Detroit five years in a row!

Stop by Community Financial Credit Union today and experience the credit union difference.

Posted by: Jason Houston, Community Financial Trainer, Education & Development Department.