Remove These Eight Things from Your Wallet Immediately

Just because your purse or wallet is lost or stolen doesn’t mean your identity has to be.

Unfortunately, we live inLostWallet a world where identity theft is rampant. It is all too easy for thieves and hackers to take a small amount of vital information, and, after some phishing, turn it into a lot of hurt for the victim. However, there are ways for you to make it harder on those identity thieves who earn their living by swiping unsuspecting consumers’ wallets or handbags. By simply ensuring that you remove eight critical items from your wallet, you will be able to breathe just a little bit easier if it is lost or stolen.

Social Security card – That little nine-digit number is all a criminal needs to open up a world of hurt on your credit score. Therefore, remove that identification card as soon as possible, and then look for anything else in your wallet that has your SSN on it. This may include insurance or Medicare cards and driver’s licenses issued before December of 2005. In lieu of a retiree carrying around his or her Medicare card, photocopy both sides and black out the SSN. You can then supplement your Social Security card in the event it is needed, like for pre-scheduled appointments, for example.

For those with older photo IDs, you can request a new card prior to the expiration date for just a small fee. It might be inconvenient, but consider the alternative.

Passport – Carrying any government-issued photo ID is a risk for identity theft. With a passport, thieves could travel in your name, open bank accounts or even obtain a new copy of your Social Security card. Simply travel with your driver’s license or personal ID when traveling domestically. When visiting overseas, Emily Inverso of Kiplinger Personal Finance suggests photocopying your passport and leaving the original in a hotel safe or lockbox.

Checkbook – Inverso says, “Blank checks are an obvious risk — an easy way for thieves to quickly withdraw money from your checking account.” However, did you know that even lost checks that have already been filled out are a hazard? Anything with your routing and account numbers are ammunition for criminals. Furthermore, only carry paper checks with you when you know you will need them, and only bring the exact amount you anticipate needing at that time.

Receipts – Similarly, resourceful identity thieves can easily scrounge up credit, debit and account information from the few numbers still allowed to be printed on retail receipts by law. All it takes is the last four or five digits and some merchant information to phish for the remaining data, and most delinquents will not shy away from putting in the extra effort. To avoid this happening to you, do keep all your receipts in one spot, in case of lost or stolen packages, but clear out the stash each time you return home, and then shred the ones you do not need to keep.

PIN/password cheat sheets – Personal identification numbers are just as helpful to thieves or hackers who want to steal your identity. With just that information, these criminals can easily dig up complete account information.

Additionally, the average American uses at least seven different passwords, according to Inverso, which should each ideally be a unique combination of letters, numbers and symbols. With that in mind, it’s only human that we need a reference sheet for this information, right?

That may be true, but just be sure not to bring your password and PIN list with you in your wallet. Keep the cheat sheets in a lockbox at home, or invest in an encrypted mobile app such as SplashID or Password Safe Pro.

Multiple debit or credit cards – The logic behind this recommendation is quite simple. The fewer cards in your wallet, the fewer you will have to call and cancel if and when it gets lost or stolen. Inverso recommends carrying a single card regularly in case of emergency and maybe one more when you plan to do heavy spending — filling up on gas, buying groceries or checking items off your holiday gift list.

Also, maintain a list with the phone numbers to call for cancelation in the event of theft or loss and keep it in a safe place. The numbers are conveniently listed for you on the back of the credit/debit cards, but that doesn’t help you when your card is gone.

Birth certificate – This document in and of itself will not tell a thief too much, but when used in conjunction with other types of (potentially stolen) identification, they often have the same capabilities of a Social Security card or passport.

Spare keys – With access to your home address, which can likely be found on multiple items inside your bag, and a key, criminals can steal a lot more than just your identity. Don’t put your property and family at risk, and don’t spend hundreds of dollars to change your locks. Instead, keep spare house keys with a trusted friend or neighbor.

The same goes with spare car keys. First, an extra car key will do you no good if you are one of the many people who tend to forget their wallets inside their locked cars. Second, most key fobs these days have the alarm function built in so anyone who stumbles upon a random car key can identify the car to which it belongs, enter and drive away. Be wary of valet parking as well, as the information and property one can find in your car is a whole new story.

After reading this, and then promptly removing any of the above eight items from your wallet or purse, take a moment to photocopy both sides of everything left inside and put the copies in a safe place. As Inverso avowed, “The last thing you want to be wondering as you’re reporting a stolen wallet is, ‘What exactly did I have in there?’”

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

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Money-Saving Tips From Top Bloggers

A roundup of the best cost-cutting tips from bloggers
Who can’t useSavingMoney a little financial advice? We all want to sock away extra money; however, most of us more commonly check our bank statements, wondering where exactly the money has gone. Every cent spent — from groceries to gas — may not immediately feel hefty, but these costs do add up.

Pinching pennies doesn’t have to be difficult, however. A few simple cost-cutting tips can be incorporated into your everyday life, and make all the difference. Take a cue from these top bloggers about how to save your money, and start applying their advice to your own situation today:

Save spare change – You know those annoying coins swiveling around on the bottom of your purse or in a front-seat car compartment? It’s money that you don’t think twice about, but if you toss all of that spare change into a bucket, you may be surprised at how quickly it can add up. That’s what The Thrifty Peach blogger Robin’s husband did and the couple saved $357.

Cook – It’s that simple. Even just a few meals a week, preparing a homemade meal can save you big (and it’s healthier for you, too).

“The best way to save money on groceries is to prepare meals at home using as few convenience items as possible — this means hamburger helper, frozen dinners, and canned soups that have ridiculous amounts of sodium. Prepared foods are more expensive than staples,” according to Gary of Gajizmo.

Find a creative way to reduce energy expenses – A great example of this is curtains. These pieces of fabric are all you need to lessen the costs of heat or air conditioning.

“Look at ways to regulate the temperature in your apartment so you can use less energy on cooling it during the summer and heating it during the winter. A simple way to do this is invest in some ‘blackout’ curtains that cover windows and can reduce energy costs by up to 25%,” says Ben Feldman of ReadyForZero.

Track your net worth – “Tracking your net worth is an essential step to managing your finances,” says Rob Berger of the blog Dough Roller. “In a single number your net worth can measure your financial progress, whether you are climbing out of debt, building an investment portfolio, or both.” Your net worth is a way to measure your financial progress each year. That said, you don’t have to have a large income to have money in the bank, as long as you have a high net worth.

Use (and decode) coupons – Something you might already know is to spend time clipping coupons — they are, after all, free paper money. But what you also should know is how to make sense of them, which will save you more money in the end. Tracie Fobes of PennyPinchinmom.com explains further:

“When you look at a coupon, you should disregard the photo you see printed. Many manufacturers will run a shot of the most expensive item in the product line in hopes that you will spend the most money.”

Repurpose items – Before dumping things in the trash, consider if you can use them again.

“Look twice at things before throwing them away. Could you cut off the fronts of some of your Christmas cards to use as gift tags next year? Could you paint that old piece of furniture or spray paint a chandelier to give it a new life? Save nice glass jars for giving. You’ll never have to buy a box for shipping if you save a stash!” says Kristl Story of TheBudgetDiet.com.

Save on gifts – If each year during birthdays or around the holidays you realize you’re spending a lot of cash on gifts, you may need to slow it down. If you have a large family, consider picking a name out of a hat to find out whom to buy a gift for.

“Instead of giving gifts to each one of your siblings and their children consider drawing names. In my family, we only give gifts to the children, no longer to my siblings,” says Mercedes Levey of CommonSensewithMoney.com. Also, consider gifts that don’t cost physical money. “Offer to bring me a homemade dinner for my family, or maybe just come and visit while I get stuff done around the house. Consider doing this also with older relatives. They probably appreciate more you coming over to visit and helping with household chores or maybe doing their holiday shopping for them. Help is an often overlooked gift and it’s probably one of the most appreciated.”

There’s advice everywhere, so be sure to do what’s best for you.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Sticking to Your New Year’s Resolution

Tips for making your New Year’s Resolution last
It’s a new year, creditunionon_pic_003089780and you probably have some exciting new resolutions to make it the best year yet. If you’ve had resolutions in previous years that didn’t last that long, don’t get discouraged. There are many simple strategies you can use to help your resolutions last through the entire year.

One is the Best Number
If you’re already feeling stressed out about keeping all your resolutions, this tip will be music to your ears. Pick the resolution that is the most important to you and forget about the rest. This makes it much more likely that you will actually keep your resolution, so you won’t have to make the same one next New Year’s Eve. Don’t feel guilty about paring down your list, it is a strategy backed by science.

“One of the first mistakes people make is planning too many resolutions,” states Whitson Gordon from LifeHacker. “The fewer things your brain has to deal with, the better, and you’ll be able to focus all your motivation on one resolution, increasing the chances you’ll succeed.”

Turn Resolutions into Projects
It’s not too late to tweak your resolutions so that they work better for you. Resolutions can be hard to conquer, whereas projects with concrete goals can make the experience fun and easier to keep up with.

For example, if your resolution was to get out of a rut, turn it into a project to try one new thing a month. If you resolution was to be more social, your project can be to talk to one stranger a day. These clear projects can help you tackle your resolutions much more easily.

Visualize Your Goals
When your willpower starts to falter, make sure there are things that remind you of your goals in your environment to help you keep going. Visual cues are extremely powerful, so be sure that you are using them to their fullest extent.

“Draw on the strength of images by putting a photo of a thinner you on the fridge, or a picture of a Caribbean beach in your wallet near your credit cards to remind yourself of the vacation that you’re saving for,” states Amy Roberts from WebMD.com.

Think Achievable and Measureable
Your resolution projects must be achievable and measurable in order for you to succeed. The goal of “getting back in shape,” for example, is not measurable, because being in shape is a subjective concept. Due to the fact that it can’t be measured, you won’t be able to track your progress or ever determine if you have actually reached your goal.

Transforming this goal into something measurable such as losing one pound per week or increasing your bench press ability to a certain number helps you stay on course to succeed. Lastly, make sure you are choosing achievable goals, so you won’t be discouraged and give up when you can’t meet them.

Starting fresh with a new calendar and new goals is very exciting, so make sure that the excitement and your commitment to your resolutions doesn’t fade away in the coming weeks by putting these tips into action.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Go Green in 2015

Basic Tips for Eco-friendly Beginners453897319
If one of your New Year’s Resolutions was to take better care of the environment, there are many places from where you can start. How you eat, how you travel, how you shop and how you live in general can all impact the great planet on which we live. While that may all seem a bit overwhelming, the best tip for going green is to start small. Here are a few basic tips to become more Eco-conscious.

Practice the Three “R’s”
Recycle, reduce and reuse. Pro-green website WebEcoist.com has stated, “This classic mantra is still the most important one.”

WebEcoist suggests knowing what materials can be taken to the local recycling center, and buying products with containers made of only those resources. Moreover, reduce the amount of resources that you use in all areas of living.

Whether it’s how long you shower or how many two-liters of soda your family consumes per week, ‘reducing’ in these areas will not only help you reduce harm to the environment, but it will reduce costs for you (on the water and grocery bills).

Finally, reuse items throughout your household. “Upcycling” is a recent term meaning to make something new by reusing it for a different purpose. Furthermore, do you use disposable cups and plates very often? Maybe you should begin using (and reusing) the permanent versions to save resources and money. The bottom line is to observe your habits and begin making changes based on the three R’s.

Utilize Public Transportation
Petroleum is a non-renewable resource. That being said, every time you get in your car to go to work in the morning, you are contributing to the depletion of that energy reserve. Add in the exponential increase in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions produced by the use and manufacturing of cars, and you have the environment’s worst nightmare. And let’s not even get started on the price of fuel. Yes, mass transit may cost money and not be the most comfortable of situations, but there are other options to go green with transportation such as carpooling with friends, neighbors and co-workers and telecommuting. More advanced environmentalists may opt to look into an electric vehicle or at least a hybrid or something more fuel efficient.

Be a Savvy Shopper
As mentioned above, read labels when shopping. Buy products that have been made from recycled materials. “Eco products” have been a consumer craze for a while now, so many brands have opted to market their goods as such; therefore, it shouldn’t be too hard to find everything from greener technology, which will be a higher quality so as to last longer, to local, fair trade produce, for which the manufacturing resources used are decreased.

Eat Smart
A common misconception is that eating all organic products is the best way to be a green consumer of foods. However, that is not entirely true. In fact, WebEcoist noted that “Green food should be healthy, cheap, delicious and accessible — and it can be.”

To start, cut back on overly processed fares like fast food and unnecessarily packaged goods. Also, shop at the famers’ market as often as possible to ensure safer, healthier, cheaper and localized meat and produce.

Lose the Excess at Home
There are so many ways to go green within your house. First, and most importantly, it is better for everyone to watch your utility use. Turn down your heat or air conditioning if you are going away for more than a day or two, remember to shut off lights when exiting a room, and use a compost bucket to minimalize trash going to a landfill, among other benefits. Those are just three of the many ideas not already discussed above to minimalize your carbon footprint at home.

The above tips and hints are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to going green. Once these new suggestions soon become second nature, look even deeper into your lifestyle and habits to see where else you can help the environment. But remember, even the smallest gesture can make a huge difference to our planet.

Used with Permission. Published by IMN Bank Adviser Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.