Give Yourself the Gift of Identity Protection

Tuesday, December 12 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

It may not show up on many shopping lists, but identity protection could be one of the biggest gifts consumers can give themselves this holiday season. 

That’s because, according to Javelin Strategy & Research, an estimated 15.4 million consumers were victims of some type of ID theft in 2016. That number is up from 13.1 million in 2015. 

Arvest Bank understands how much people enjoy the holiday season, but we also want to remind everyone that December is Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month. Arvest also wants consumers to know it is critical to know how to help protect themselves from identity thieves because of the long-lasting effects such an attack can have on their credit and bank accounts. 

With that in mind, here are some tips created by the Federal Trade Commission that can help consumers avoid identity theft. 

  • Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.
  • Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home.
  • Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.
  • Shred receipts, credit applications and offers, insurance forms, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.
  • Take outgoing mail to post office collection boxes or the post office. Promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox. If you won’t be home for several days, request a vacation hold on your mail.
  • Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.
  • Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device.
  • Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.
  • Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.
  • If you post too much information about yourself via social media, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.
  • Install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your preference to update these protections often.
  • Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers.
  • Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.
  • Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished. 

For more information on privacy and identity protection, visit www.ftc.gov* and look for the ‘Tips & Advice’ tab. If you’re interested in the kind of identity-theft protection that includes theft-resolution and file-monitoring services, Arvest offers IDProtect®* with some of its checking accounts. Identity monitoring services can alert you if someone tries to open an account or secure a loan in your name. To learn more about Arvest Bank and IDProtect®, visit www.arvest.com and select IDProtect® under the ‘Personal’ tab.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution

Tags: Financial Education, IDProtect
 

Avoiding Identity Theft

Monday, December 05 at 09:00 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Tips for a safer shopping experience and additional ideas to help avoid identity theft.

LOWELL, Ark. – In addition to being one of the biggest shopping months of year, December is also Identity Theft Prevention and Awareness Month. 

Because an increasing number of people shop online in addition to traditional means, it is critical consumers know how to help protect themselves from identity thieves. These attacks not only can ruin the holiday shopping experience, but have disastrous and long-lasting effects on credit and bank accounts long after the holidays have passed.

The Bureau of Justice Statistics estimated that more than 17 million U.S. residents age 16 or older were victims of at least one incident of identity theft in 2014.

Below are some tips created by the Federal Trade Commission that can help consumers avoid such an unfortunate event.

- Lock your financial documents and records in a safe place at home, and lock your wallet or purse in a safe place at work.

- Limit what you carry. When you go out, take only the identification, credit, and debit cards you need. Leave your Social Security card at home.

- Before you share information at your workplace, a business, your child's school, or a doctor's office, ask why they need it, how they will safeguard it, and the consequences of not sharing.

- Shred receipts, credit applications and offers, insurance forms, physician statements, checks, bank statements, expired charge cards, and similar documents when you don’t need them any longer.

- Destroy the labels on prescription bottles before you throw them out. Don’t share your health plan information with anyone who offers free health services or products.

- Take outgoing mail to post office collection boxes or the post office. Promptly remove mail that arrives in your mailbox. If you won’t be home for several days, request a vacation hold on your mail.

- Before you dispose of a computer, get rid of all the personal information it stores. Use a wipe utility program to overwrite the entire hard drive.

- Before you dispose of a mobile device, check your owner’s manual, the service provider’s website, or the device manufacturer’s website for information on how to delete information permanently, and how to save or transfer information to a new device.

- Keep your browser secure. To guard your online transactions, use encryption software that scrambles information you send over the internet. A “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser means your information will be safe when it’s transmitted. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.

- Use strong passwords with your laptop, credit, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters. For example, “I want to see the Pacific Ocean” could become 1W2CtPo.

- If you post too much information about yourself via social media, an identity thief can find information about your life, use it to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and get access to your money and personal information. Consider limiting access to your networking page to a small group of people. Never post your full name, Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in publicly accessible sites.

- Keep a close hold on your Social Security number and ask questions before deciding to share it. If someone asks you to share your SSN or your child’s, ask: why they need it, how it will be used, how they will protect it, and what happens if you don’t share the number. 

- Install anti-virus software, anti-spyware software, and a firewall. Set your preference to update these protections often.

- Don’t open files, click on links, or download programs sent by strangers. Opening a file from someone you don’t know could expose your system to a computer virus or spyware that captures your passwords or other information you type.

- Before you send personal information over your laptop or smartphone on a public wireless network in a public place, see if your information will be protected. If you use an encrypted website, it protects only the information you send to and from that site. If you use a secure wireless network, all the information you send on that network is protected.

- Keep financial information on your laptop only when necessary. Don’t use an automatic login feature that saves your user name and password, and always log off when you’re finished.

For more extensive information on privacy and identity protection, visit www.ftc.gov* and look for the ‘Tips & Advice’ tab. If you’re interested in the kind of identity-theft protection that includes theft-resolution and file-monitoring services, Arvest offers Family IDProtect® with some of its checking accounts. To learn more about Arvest Bank and Family IDProtect®, visit www.arvest.com and select Family IDProtect® under the ‘Personal’ tab.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Consumer Protection, Financial Education, IDProtect, Press Release, Privacy and Security
 

Warning Signs of Identity Theft

Monday, December 14 at 09:40 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Unfortunately, your personal possessions aren’t the only thing people want to steal from you. Stealing the intangible – your identity – is also a popular object of prey for ill-intentioned people. 

What Do Thieves Do With Your Information?
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can apply for a loan or credit card in your name, open new utility accounts or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.

Clues That Someone Has Stolen Your Identity
  • You find unfamiliar accounts on your credit report.
  • The IRS notifies you more than one tax return was filed in your name, or you have income from an employer you don’t work for.
  • You see unauthorized transactions in your account(s).
  • You don’t get your bills or other mail.
  • Merchants refuse your checks.
  • Debt collectors call you about debts that aren’t yours.
  • Medical providers bill you for services you didn’t use.
  • Your health plan rejects your legitimate medical claim because the records show you’ve reached your benefits limit.
  • Your medical records show a condition you don’t have.
If your wallet, Social Security number, or other personal information is lost or stolen, there are steps you can take* to help protect yourself from identity theft. Arvest also offers IDProtect™, an identity theft resolution and credit monitoring service designed to protect you and your immediate family. Be proactive and alert to protect your identity. 

Information from the Federal Trade Commission’s Consumer Information was included or referenced when compiling this blog post.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Consumer Protection, IDProtect, Privacy and Security
 

Tis the Season to Prevent Identity Fraud

Tuesday, October 06 at 09:45 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Nothing can spoil the holidays like discovering that someone has stolen your credit card information, Social Security number, or other personal information. Here are 10 smart ways to protect yourself from identity theft during the upcoming holiday shopping season.

  1. Never carry your Social Security card with you unless you need it for a specific purpose. Carry your checkbook and credit cards only when you need them.
  2. Keep your credit cards in sight during in-person transactions to prevent “skimming.” This crime occurs when employees run your card through a separate device to steal its information.
  3. When entering your PIN at an ATM, stand close and block the keyboard with your body so that others can’t see your PIN.
  4. When shopping online, be sure to use only secure (password protected) networks. Never shop on public computers, such as those in libraries or classrooms.
  5. Do not save credit card information on any online shopping websites. Even companies you trust can be victims of security breaches.
  6. Beware of phishing scams. Thieves know that during the holidays, many people are distracted, making it easier to trick you into sharing private information online. Stay alert, and never provide any personal information via email.
  7. Keep mobile devices like smartphones and tablets locked with passwords, and do not store confidential information on them.
  8. Don’t leave package deliveries unattended at home. Thieves can not only steal the merchandise you’ve ordered, but any personal information that may be included in the package as well. If you can’t bring a package inside when it’s delivered, ask a friend or neighbor to help you out, or arrange to pick up the package from the delivery service’s office.
  9. Look over all bank statements, credit card statements and other bills as soon as they arrive to make sure no unauthorized charges appear. If they do, notify the bank and/or biller immediately.
  10. Activate your credit file monitoring and Total Identity Monitoring with IDProtect™. They will check your credit reports to monitor them for unauthorized activity, such as collection notices on accounts you have not used or new accounts that you did not open; as well as provide continuous monitoring of over 1,000 databases including credit, public records, property records and more.
Tags: Consumer Protection, Credit Cards, Financial Education, Fraud Alert, IDProtect, Privacy and Security
 

Annual Personal Finance Calendar

Monday, January 26 at 11:15 AM
Category: Personal Finance

Managing your personal finances is an ongoing process that requires discipline. Most people are successful at making sure the bills get paid and often saving a little on a regular basis. However, managing your finances effectively is more than just handling the daily or monthly tasks. There are other financial events that occur throughout the year that you should address.   

Here is a monthly calendar that can serve as a guide to addressing some of these other issues.  

January
  • Establish your financial goals for the year and create a plan to accomplish them. If your goal is to save on a regular basis, establish an automatic savings plan to have a certain amount transferred from your checking account to your savings account each month.
  • Review your investments to ensure your asset allocation matches your time horizon and risk tolerance.
  • Prepare a personal balance sheet.
February
  • Start to get your information organized for filing your tax return.
  • Be sure your financial information is organized. A variety of paid and free programs are available to help you record and store important financial and family records and information.
March
  • Create or update an inventory of your belongings for insurance purposes. If you have a video inventory, be sure to store a copy in a secure location away from your home.
  • Review your insurance policies to ensure you have the coverage you need, including an umbrella liability policy. Be sure to check the deductibles.
April
  • Be sure your tax returns are filed. You can file for an extension if you need more time but that does not delay when you may need to pay the amount due.
  • Dispose of tax information that is no longer needed. The IRS only has three years to begin an audit unless you do not report all your income or file a fraudulent return. You generally only need information for three years from the due date of the return when you report the information. You will probably want to keep copies of your tax returns forever.
May
  • Check your credit report to guard your financial identity. You can get a free credit report through the website www.annualcreditreport.com,* and several Arvest checking accounts come with Family IDProtect™, which offers credit reporting and monitoring.
  • Review your borrowing. If it is getting excessive, take steps to bring it under control.
  • Review your mortgage to determine if you should consider refinancing.
June
  • Review your investments to make sure your portfolio matches your goals.
  • Perform a mid-year checkup of your finances to ensure you are living up to your financial resolutions you set in January.
July
  • Use an online retirement calculator to determine if your savings plan will provide the funds needed for the retirement lifestyle you want.
  • Use some spare time to learn more about investing or handling your finances in general.  
  • There is still time to make changes that will have an impact on the current year.
August
  • As your children or grandchildren get ready to go back to school, consider how their college educations will be financed. Look into establishing custodial accounts like Coverdell Education Savings accounts or a Section 529 plan for them.
  • Review the steps you are taking to prevent identity theft and to protect your electronic records.
September
  • Review your estate plan. Recent changes to the estate tax laws have raised the threshold on what size estates are subject to tax. But estate planning is more than just taxes. Be sure you have other documents that are important – durable power of attorney, power of attorney for health care and living will. If you have moved, divorced or had new children or grandchildren, you should be sure your estate plan has been updated.
  • You should also make sure the beneficiaries on your retirement plans, IRAs and life insurance are still appropriate.
October
  • Review your charitable deductions for the year. Consider giving appreciated stock that you have held for more than a year if you wish to make a large contribution to your favorite cause.
  • If you are self-employed or have a small business, make sure your retirement plan is up to date.
November
  • Review the details of your employer’s retirement plan. If you participate in a 401(k) plan, be sure you are contributing enough to get the full employer match contribution. Review your investment allocation as well.
  • Review any insurance offered by your employer to make sure you have made choices appropriate for your situation.
December
  • Discuss your finances with your family. Keeping them informed can reduce stress and anxiety if something unfortunate happens.
  • Review your investment portfolio and your investment results for the year. If you have realized capital gains and unrealized capital losses, consider taking a loss to offset earlier gains. 
  • Spend a little time to create your financial resolutions for the next year and write them down.
The suggestions on this calendar may not match your personal financial schedule. However, it can serve as a reminder to make sure you address important issues.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.
 
Tags: Financial Education, IDProtect, Retirement, Savings

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