A boost for non-profits available through Community Investment Fund

 

Investment Funds 2016 (FCU&I)
2016 marks the third annual Community Investment Fund initiative presented by First Credit Union and Insurance. This program provides one-time financial support to non-profit organizations who contribute to the long-term social, health, economic, and collective well-being of the communities we serve.

Being able to provide a financial boost to a non-profit project or program is an opportunity for First to support vulnerable members of the community we may not otherwise connect with. Each year we are humbled by the tremendous work being done by non-profits and their ability to elevate the lives of those who need it most.

Past recipients of the fund include: Bowen Island Snug Cove House  (affordable senior care), Comox Valley Family Services Association (helping youth with anxiety), Cumberland Community School Society (providing support for new mothers), Powell River Hospice Society (providing end of life care and compassion) and Texada Health Services Society (supporting those living with Cancer).

This year we are proud to announce $11,350 in funds are available. Below is a breakdown by region:
• Bowen Island $1,000
• Comox Valley $2,700
• Cumberland $1,400
• Powell River $4,400
• Texada $650

Non-profit organizations in the Bowen Island, Comox Valley, Cumberland, Powell River and Texada Island area can apply for the Community Investment Funds via the ‘community page’ of either the First Credit Union or First Insurance websites. The deadline to apply for the 2016 funds is Friday, March 18th, 2016. The successful applicants will be announced at the First Credit Union AGM in Powell River this May.

For information about the Westview Agencies Community Investment Fund, visit the website ‘community page’.

5 Identity Theft Jackpots (and How You Can Safeguard Against Them)

Identity theft is nothing new, and yet it still manages to cost its victims billions of dollars (yes, that’s billions with a “b”) globally each year—not to mention the time and hassle involved in recovering a stolen identity.

The good news is that there are tons of things you can do to deter identity thieves. The bad news is that many of us do little beyond choosing a decent password—and some people don’t even bother doing that! Here are the top 5 information jackpots for identity thieves, along with helpful tips on what you can do right now to protect yourself.

Your Trash Can

  1.  Your Trash Can

Even if you’re really careful about the information you put online, your trash bags and recycling bin can still be an easy target for identity thieves. Dumpster diving may sound old school, but it’s still an easy way for identity thieves to get access to your personal information.

  •  Get a shredder (a basic model will run you $20 to $30 at a big-box store) and use it!
  • Get into the habit of shredding things before throwing them out, especially things like bank statements, expired credit cards, utility bills, cellphone bills, paycheque stubs, old boarding passes and travel itineraries, and ATM receipts.
  • Don’t forget to check your envelopes! Anything with your name and address on it needs to be shredded, too.

Your Phone

  1. Your Phone

Odds are that you’re carrying a lot more in your phone than just your contact list. With smartphone theft on the rise, protect yourself:

  • Have a password-protected lock on your home screen. This is a standard feature on all smartphones for a reason, so take advantage of it! Bonus points if your smartphone also has location tracking (also known as the “find my phone” feature).
  • Public Wi-Fi networks are not secure, so avoid checking your bank accounts or doing your online shopping from the local coffee shop or during your layover at the airport.
  • Do not store sensitive information on your phone—storing passwords or login information in a note-taking app is bad news.

The Pin Pad

  1. The PIN Pad

It seems like every few months a new point-of-purchase scheme emerges—skimming devices, keystroke loggers, ATM hacking… the list goes on! Here are some good practices for when you’re out and about:

  • When making a purchase, keep your debit or credit card in sight at all times.
  • Use your hand to block the buttons when entering your PIN number, even if there’s no one immediately behind you—a camera can always be watching.
  • Choose a good PIN. Avoid PINs derived from your personal information, like your telephone number, address or birthday. Avoid an easy-to-guess PIN, like the dreaded “1234”.
  • Change up your PIN, especially if you use the same combination for your debit card and for unlocking your cellphone.

Your Mailbox

  1. Your Mailbox

Like the trash-picker approach mentioned above, mail tampering is a low-tech but relatively easy way for identity thieves to compromise your personal information. Here’s what you can do:

  • Familiarize yourself with your billing cycles. A late credit card statement or a bill that never shows up could be a sign of mail tampering.
  • Identity thieves will sometimes request a change of address to illegally reroute your mail to a different location. If you suddenly stop receiving mail, check with the post office to make sure this isn’t the case.
  • Use a mailbox with a locking system to deter thieves.

Your Computer

  1. Your Computer

You would think that this one would be common knowledge by now, but every so often a virus or scam comes along that trips us up. Stay one step ahead of scammers:

  • Keep your firewall, anti-virus and operating system software up-to-date. No matter how new and fast your laptop is, it still needs protection.
  • Enable spam filters on your email accounts.
  • Look out for sketchy links and emails. Ignore any suspicious password reset requests, unexpected tracking numbers or anything that asks for your personal information via email.
  • Don’t overshare on social media. Do your Facebook friends really need to know what year you were born? Can people tell when no one is home based on your Instagram feed? Keep your accounts private and make sure you’re not accidentally broadcasting sensitive information.

By being aware of the top 5 information jackpots and by implementing these simple strategies, you can keep identity thieves at bay.

Some Choices Matter

Some choices matter – including where you choose to bank. You will probably do more business with your financial institution than any other corporation in your lifetime. So why not take the profits your financial institution makes, and put them to work for you and your community?

Credit score breakdown: what you need to know

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You’ve likely heard about credit scores before (thanks to all those commercials with terrible jingles), but what do you actually know about them? How long have they been around? And what’s the deal with checking them?

A credit score is a number (usually between 350 and 800) that represents your creditworthiness. It’s a standardized measurement that financial institutions and credit card companies use to determine risk level when considering issuing you a loan or a credit card. Basically, it provides a snapshot of how likely you are to repay your debts on time. Widespread use of credit scores has made credit more widely available and less expensive for many consumers.

The credit scoring system that we’re familiar with today has been around since the 1980s. Before then, there was no standardized way to measure creditworthiness, so it was up to individual lenders to make judgment calls on whether or not to loan money to someone. The old system was time-consuming, inconsistent and quite biased, so a credit scoring system was introduced.

The FICO score is the best known and most widely used credit score model in North America. It was first introduced in 1989 by FICO, then called Fair, Isaac and Company. It’s also known as the Beacon score in Canada. The FICO model is used by the vast majority of banks and credit grantors, and is based on consumer credit files from the two national credit bureaus: Equifax Canada and TransUnion Canada. Because a consumer’s credit file may contain different information at each of the bureaus, FICO scores can vary, depending on which bureau provides the information to FICO to generate the score.

When credit scores were first introduced, they were used primarily for loaning money. Today, credit scores have much more pull, and that’s why it’s important to understand how they’re calculated. Your monthly car payments, your ability to snag that sweet apartment and even the hiring manager’s decision on that new job you applied for can all be influenced by your credit score.

A credit score of 720 or more is considered prime—this means you’re in good shape. Scores under 625 mean you could be turned down for a loan. Scores in the good-not-great range (625 to 720) might get you loan approval, but your interest rates will be higher than if you had a prime credit score. Nobody likes the idea of paying more money for no reason, so it makes sense to adopt credit habits that will boost your overall score.

Taking the time to familiarize yourself with how credit scores are calculated is the first step in getting a strong score. Each credit bureau uses a slightly different calculation, but the basic breakdown goes like this:

  • 35% is based on payment history. Making payments on time boosts your score.
  • 30% is based on capacity. This is one of the areas where the less you use of your total available credit, the better. If you get close to maxing out all your credit cards or lines of credit, it tanks your score, even if you’re making your payments on time.
  • 15% is based on length of credit. Good credit habits over a long period of time raise your score.
  • 10% is based on new credit. Opening new credit cards (this includes retail credit cards) has a short-term negative effect on your score, so don’t open a whole bunch at once!
  • 10% is based on mix of credit. Having a combination of different types of credit (like revolving credit and installment loans) boosts this part of your score. Credit cards are considered revolving credit, and things like car loans and mortgages are installment loans.

Curious about your credit report? You are entitled to one free credit report per year by mail from Equifax and TransUnion. Spacing out your credit report requests allows you to check on your credit every six months or so. If you can’t wait for a free report by mail, you can always get an instant credit report online from Equifax or TransUnion for approximately $15.

When you receive your credit report, you’ll notice that it does not list your three-digit credit score. Despite this, it’s still a helpful reference because it serves as the basis of your credit score. If you know how a credit score is calculated, then you know how to look for factors on your credit report that might be influencing your score for better or for worse. It’s also an easy way to look at account openings, account closings and what your repayment history looks like.

You can get access to your actual credit score from either Equifax or TransUnion for an additional fee ($20 to $25).

Some commercials make it seem like credit scores are big, mysterious, randomly assigned numbers. But with a little research, a little patience and some good habits, you can influence your credit score in a positive way and not be caught off guard by a denied loan or an outrageous interest rate.