Six Rules for Managing Credit Card Debt

If you want to be the master of your credit card debt load, follow these key rules:

1. Take inventory. How many credit cards do you have? What’s the balance and minimum monthly payment on each? What’s the total balance? If it’s more than you thought or can afford, it’s time to pare down.

2. Check out the cost of your credit cards. What’s the interest rate on each card? What’s the annual fee? Does your card offer a grace period? If the card doesn’t have a grace period, or if you carry over a balance, or take a cash advance, you’re usually charged interest right away.

3. Get one low-fee or lower-interest card and use it wisely. Make Hopewell Federal Credit Union your first stop when starting your search. Check to see if you can transfer existing debt from your various credit cards to your new lower-interest credit card.

4. Make the largest monthly payment you can afford. Even though you may not be able to pay your balance in full, paying the monthly minimum may do little more than cover the accrued interest.

5. Watch out for “teaser rates.” Your mailbox may be brimming with unsolicited credit card offers that promise attractive low-interest rates. But if you read the fine print, you’ll see that after six months or so the issuer may double the low introductory rate.

6. If you get in over your head, don’t bury it in the sand. If you’re having trouble making your monthly payments, contact your creditors before they contact you. If you’re already screening calls from bill collectors, or refusing to open your mail, you need help.

Contact Hopewell Federal at 740.522.8311. We’re here to help you get your finances back in order.

Copyright 2017 Credit Union National Association Inc. Information subject to change without notice. For use with members of a single credit union. All other rights reserved.

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Lock Down Your Data After Equifax Breach — Right Now

Chances are good that the Equifax data breach affects you. What do you do next? The short answers: Consider a credit freeze. Scrutinize your credit statements. And check your credit reports from all three credit bureaus.

Equifax says hackers used a website application vulnerability to access the personal information of about 143 million U.S. consumers, or more than half of the country’s adult population. Credit bureaus such as Equifax are an especially sensitive target because they handle detailed financial records, and it’s nearly impossible for consumers to avoid credit reporting. Every time you apply for credit, the personal data — including your name, birthdate and Social Security number — you share can be stored by a reporting bureau.

Most credit card issuers and lenders report consumer activity to all three major U.S. credit bureaus, and your data is likely duplicated at Experian and TransUnion. There’s no reassurance in the fact that only one bureau was hacked.

“On a scale of 1 to 10, this is a 10, and that’s because of the quality of the data … your Social Security number is the skeleton key for your identity,” said Adam Levin, founder of CyberScout, a company offering identity theft and data breach defense services.

Freeze your credit for the best protection

Credit freezes prevent stolen information from being used to open new accounts in your name by restricting access to your records. Without access to your credit history, most creditors won’t open a new account.

“We have to assume that our personal information is exposed and act accordingly,” Levin said. He said a credit freeze has become “a critical thing to do.”

Credit expert Barry Paperno, who blogs at Speaking of Credit, agreed: “That’s the most extreme method, but it’s also the most effective.”

But this most effective method will cost you in money and inconvenience.

A freeze might cost you a small fee, which varies from state to state, but it’s better than a credit monitoring service. A freeze can prevent fraud, while monitoring alerts you fraud might have happened. It’s the difference between using a deadbolt to keep thieves out rather than a security camera to catch them after the fact.

You’ll also have to pay to lift the freeze each time you apply for credit or need to allow a potential landlord or employer to check your credit. You’ll receive a PIN to “thaw” your credit. Keep it in a safe place.

Here’s how to request a freeze:

Even with your credit frozen, you’ll still have access to your credit records and scores. If you don’t already have a way to regularly monitor your score and report information, consider signing up before you place a freeze. Some credit card issuers and many personal finance websites offer them for free. Watching for a big, unexplained change can alert you to potential fraud.

Place fraud alerts if a freeze is too much

If you don’t want to lock out all creditors — perhaps you’re in the middle of mortgage shopping or refinancing — you can place a 90-day fraud alert on your credit. This tells potential creditors to verify your identity before issuing credit in your name.

Contact one of the three bureaus, and it will notify the others.

Monitor your own credit

You’re entitled to at least one free credit report from each credit bureau every 12 months via AnnualCreditReport.com. If you haven’t accessed your credit reports within the past 12 months, do it now. If you’ve reviewed them recently, placing a fraud alert on your credit files allows renewed access.

Use your reports from the bureaus, and any free score and report services you have, to watch for:

  • New accounts that you didn’t open
  • Credit inquiries that don’t match when you applied for credit
  • Balances that don’t match your statements

Deal with your credit cards

Freezing keeps new accounts from being opened, but doesn’t stop fraudulent charges on an existing account. Take these steps to protect yourself:

  • Check your email and regular mail. Some consumers whose account numbers were compromised are being notified by credit card issuers that they’ll be sent a new card and the old one will be deactivated.
  • Even if you’re not notified by your issuer and you think your data wasn’t in this breach, don’t relax. Stay vigilant by checking your credit card statements for changes you don’t recognize. If something looks fishy, dig further. Often there’s a phone number listed with the merchant name for the transaction.
  • Consider signing up for text or email alerts about credit transactions. Many issuers let you set them for charges above a certain amount.

If you see a charge you think isn’t yours, call your issuer right away to dispute it. Your card issuer can’t charge interest or fees on the transaction while it’s being investigated.

What was exposed? Is my data out there?

The data accessed includes:

  • Information such as names and addresses, birthdates, Social Security numbers and some driver’s license numbers
  • Credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers
  • Some documents from about 182,000 consumers’ credit report disputes, including personal identifying information

Consumers can check whether their information is affected at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. However, the “Check potential impact” process asks you to input the final 6 digits of your Social Security number, which gives security experts pause.

Equifax also opened a call center that you can reach at 866-447-7559. It will notify the subset of consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents were affected by mail.

Should I sign up for the free Equifax monitoring?

Equifax is offering all U.S. consumers free credit and identity theft monitoring for one year. But the risk doesn’t disappear after a year. Someone who has your Social Security number has it — and might try to use it — forever.

The service is through TrustedID, an Equifax company. The terms of service include waiving your right to participate in a class-action lawsuit or class arbitration and agreeing to use individual arbitration. The National Consumer Law Center has called upon Equifax to strike that clause. Failing that, the NCLC advises consumers they can opt out of the forced individual arbitration by notifying Equifax in writing within 30 days.

Learn more:

The article Lock Down Your Data After Equifax Breach — Right Now originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Carelessness Can Cost You

Many Americans are concerned about someone stealing their credit card, check, or debit card numbers, but they may be ignoring one easy way thieves can access financial accounts: receipts.

Disregarding receipts that have valuable information greatly increases the risk of credit and debit card fraud. Thieves easily can find receipts with valid account numbers in trash cans. Some easy steps you can take to prevent thieves from stealing your financial information:

* Shred all preapproved credit offers, credit and debit card receipts, insurance forms, financial statements, and other paperwork containing personal and financial information;

* Check credit union statements and other financial statements monthly for discrepancies and order a credit report once a year to make sure no one else is using your personal information to obtain credit cards or services;

* Don’t print your Social Security number on your checks and don’t carry your Social Security card in your wallet; and

* Be hesitant about giving personal or financial information over the telephone–make sure you know the caller and know how the information will be used.

Yes, You Can Be a Member

If you thought you couldn’t join Hopewell Federal Credit Union, think again. Our credit union has a community charter, which means anyone living, worshiping or working in this community can join our credit union.   The even better news, HFCU has recently expanded is charter area to include Licking, Franklin and Delaware counties.

You might already know that there are many benefits to being a credit union member–such as low fees and loan rates, excellent member service, and democratic control.

Community-chartered credit unions offer those benefits and more: greater membership diversity, a wider variety of services, and larger pools of qualified volunteers.

We also offer encouragement and education about saving, and help in making sound personal financial decisions and habits. As a member-owner you’ll also have the opportunity for your opinion to be heard.

If you’re interested in joining, stop in or call Hopewell Federal Credit Union at 740.522.8311.

Think Twice Before You Meme

Earlier this year, a Facebook meme went around called “10 Bands I’ve Seen, And One Is a Lie.” Posters then listed the names of nine bands they’d seen and one that they hadn’t, and their friends had to guess which was the lie.

The person sharing the list often included a note about the first band he or she had seen play live. Sharing that information, security experts pointed out, is a risk, because the first-band question is a common one used to verify a person’s identity when he or she is accessing online accounts.

According to an April 2017 New York Times story about the 10 bands trend, security experts warned that memes which encourage you to share personal details can be used to unlock your accounts. Even if your Facebook account is set to private, it’s not impossible for bad actors to access it. Think about the number of times your friends have notified you their account was hacked and warned you not to accept a friend request.

So what can you do? It’s still possible to participate in fun trends on Facebook, just be cautious—especially when it comes to quizzes and other activities encouraging you to reveal information about yourself.

Here are some tips:
• Think twice about what you share. If you’re concerned about privacy, sharing any kind of personal information on Facebook—or in a public space online—means offering valuable data to marketers who can use it to advertise to you.

• Don’t share information that answers common security questions. Things like the name of your first pet, the street where you grew up, or your mother’s maiden name should never be shared online.

• Consider making up answers to your security question. Questions like “where you went to high school?” are too easy. Change your answer to something random (but memorable) for additional security.

Hopewell Federal Presents Donation to the Licking County Humane Society

Proceeds from Recent Car Show Given to LCHS  

Hopewell Federal Credit Union (HFCU) recently held its seventh annual Car Show in Newark, Ohio on Saturday, July 15th, 2017.  Today, August 3rd, 2017, proceeds from the event totaling $2,250.00 were presented to Lori Carlson, Executive Director of the Licking County Humane Society (LCHS).

The event was sponsored by Courtesy Ambulance, Webb Financial Group, Grayson Graphics, Kool 101.7, AT&T, Alphalink, National Safe & Security Systems, Inc., Cummins-Allison, Crif Lending Solutions, Sedona Grace Foundation, Cooperative Business Services, Home Instead Senior Care, Poppy’s Roadside Diner and Bob Romine Roofing.  Jim Matheny of Kar Shoz coordinated the show which brought in fifty-two cars featuring a variety of years, makes and models.

Attendees of the event enjoyed free admission, DJ music provided by Jim Matheny of Kar Shoz, food from Poppy’s Roadside Diner, 50/50 raffle, and door prize drawings.  The Licking County Humane Society was on hand with some of their adoptable pets.

Another Successful Car Show

Proceeds Benefit Licking County Humane Society 

Hopewell Federal Credit Union recently held its seventh annual Car Show in Newark, Ohio on Saturday, July 15th, 2017.  Proceeds from the event totalled $2250.00 and will be presented to Lori Carlson, Executive Director of the Licking County Humane Society (LCHS).

The event was sponsored by Courtesy Ambulance, Webb Financial Group, Grayson Graphics, Kool 101.7, AT&T, Alphalink, National Safe & Security Systems, Inc., Cummins-Allison, Crif Lending Solutions, Sedona Grace Foundation, Cooperative Business Services, Home Instead Senior Care, Poppy’s Roadside Diner and Bob Romine Roofing.  Jim Matheny of Kar Shoz coordinated the show which brought in fifty-two cars featuring a variety of years, makes and models.

Attendees of the event enjoyed free admission, DJ music, food from Poppy’s Roadside Diner, 50/50 raffle, and door prize drawings.  The Licking County Humane Society was on hand with some of their adoptable pets.