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romance scam money heart w cprt strahktskswIn today’s digital age, we live in an environment of convenience. From the comfort of our home, we use computers and smart phones to shop, bank, pay bills, do business and get an education. We also can find new friends and build relationships. Unfortunately, this ability has opened a door to financial crime (or fraud) that takes advantage of people’s need for companionship. These "romance scams" are becoming more common and can be devasting both emotionally and financially.  

Here’s how romance scams work. The criminals that run these frauds use social media networks or online dating sites to make contact with their targets, who are often lonely people seeking companionship. After making a connection with the victim, the fraudster attempts to form a meaningful relationship over many months to build trust. Many times the victim actually falls in love with the fraudster. Next, the  fraudster asks the victim to send them money to help with a business opportunity, medical expense or travel. Initially, the amount of money requested is small but over time the amounts increase until the victim experiences serious financial impact and emotional devastation. 

It may be hard to believe this could happen but the Internet makes it easy for a scammer to hide behind a fraudulent identity. The scammer can be anywhere in the world and still be able to target their victims with fake names, photographs and social accounts. They also tend to target people who are emotionally vulnerable. Most of the victims of romance scams tend to be women over the age of 50 although men can also fall prey. The criminals often target widows, retirees, divorcees or single women.

While it seems like an unusual occurrence, it’s actually a big problem. In 2016, the FBI’s Internet Crime Compliant Center reported close to 15,000 complaints classified as romance scams. These scams have resulted in a loss of more than $230 million. In reality, the problem may even be bigger. Some reports indicate that only 15 percent of fraud victims report the scam to law enforcement – possibly due to embarrassment. The statistics also show that Texas ranks in the top states that have the highest victim count for romance fraud. The other states in the top five are California, Florida, New York and Pennsylvania.

The good news is that investigators in the financial world are watching out for certain types of activities that can be indicators of romance scams. The activities they look for include:

  1. A large fund transfer not typical for the customer.
  2. Funds transfers to international locations.
  3. Large ATM withdrawals.
  4. Large purchases at locations that process funds transfers (big box stores, international wire processors).
  5. Customer using lines of credit or pulling from investments, which is out of character.

So how can you avoid falling prey to such a scam? The first step as a consumer is to become knowledgeable of the “tricks” used by scammers. To learn more about romance scams, visit the web sites below:

http://www.romancescams.org

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/romance-scams

http://www.rd.com/culture/online-dating-scam/

Next, be leery of any new people who reach out to have a relationship with you online. This could come in the form of a Facebook friend request from a very trustworthy looking person. Also, be careful with online dating services.

Finally, if someone starts requesting money or you think you are a target of a romance scam, don’t hesitate to call law enforcement officials as well as your bank/financial institution. 


The staff at Select Federal Credit Union are on the watch for scams and would be happy to help you with any concerns. To receive assistance, call Select FCU at (210) 223-6561.

 

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Information and Tips from the San Antonio Credit Union Select FCU

BALLROOM LUMINOSO - under bridge public art in San AntonioIf you’re serious about staying on a budget, sometimes that means cutting entertainment costs. While you might seem ok with this at first, trying to go for very long time without having some fun can take its toll and you may quickly be tempted to break the budget. To prevent this, make sure you allot a small amount to splurge if possible and then come up with a plan to have some very low-cost fun before you become discouraged. The good news is that with a little creativity and research, you can find many fun, free things to do in San Antonio and specifically East Side San Antonio. Here is a list to get you started.

Tour Public Art Displays – San Antonio is full of beautiful and historic art displays that are free to observe. To plan your trip, visit the Get Creative San Antonio website to see a list of art displays, get the addresses to plug into Google Maps and plan your expedition. 

Catch a Free Movie in the Summer - Several of the local movie theaters and museums offer free or $1 movies during the summer at non-peak times. To see a full list, visit the San Antonio Mom Blogs website.

Go Biking or Walking on Hays Street Bridge – This restored historic bridge is a relaxing spot to enjoy biking, walking or just hanging with friends or family to take pictures. To get the Google map directions, visit their Facebook page

Take a Gardening Class – Gardening can be a relaxing and fun activity for families or friends to do together. On top of that, it can provide low-cost, fresh, delicious produce to save you even more money. If you’re not sure how to do it properly or have children and want to teach them about gardening, check out the free educational programs at our local non-profit organization Gardopia. To find out more, check out their website

Attend a Free Youth Performance at the Carver Community Cultural Center – This East Side cultural center that focuses on African American art offers a variety of performances and exhibitions, some for a fee but the youth matinee performances are free. To learn more, check out their website

Participate in Free Library Events – If you think the library is just for holding books, you’re in for a real surprise. The San Antonio Public Library branches offer many wonderful programs for people of all ages including story time for little ones, tween/teen times and an adults-only coloring class. To see the event schedule at the nearby McCreless Library just south of the East Side, check out this listing on their website

Attend a Free Workshop at Home Depot – Interested in a “Do-It-Yourself” home project to save money or just want to learn how to do something new, Home Depot offers free workshops on a variety of topics for adults and children including installing a ceiling fan, building a table out of a crate and building a toy truck as a craft with your child, grandchild or one you are mentoring.

Visit the Local Pet Store – The San Antonio Zoo is awesome but if it’s not in your budget right now, a visit to see the pets at the local pet shop or the city pound can be a fun activity. Just be careful that the furry, scaly creatures don’t capture your heart and make you buy them unless your budget can handle feeding them! The Royal Pet Palace is a great place right in the East Side San Antonio. 

Sign Up for a Free Physical Fitness Program – If you are trying to entertain kids, the East Side Promise organization offers a variety of physical fitness programs and camps. To learn more, click here.

Go Bird Watching – Just 15 minutes south of downtown San Antonio, there is gem that many people are unaware of. At Mitchell Lake, you can enjoy nature, look for birds and attend workshops about native plants for your garden or porch. While it’s not completely free, it’s very low cost at $5 for adults, $2 for children 6 to 16 years gold and no charge for children under 5 years old. To read more about what they offer, click here.

We hope you find this list helpful for enjoying life while sticking to your budget. If you need assistance with setting up a budget or would like financial advice, we welcome you to give us a call at (210) 223-6561 to set up a free meeting with a professional from the Financial Empowerment Group.


 

 

 

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Money-saving tips from Select Federal Credit Union in San Antonio, Texas.


save for vacation at a San Antonio credit unionThe kids are out of school and if you’re parents of a typical family, you start thinking of the annual summer family get away. In an ideal world, we all would have fully funded vacation accounts by now but the reality is that most us have not set aside funds for that summer vacation for one reason or the other. If you’re in that boat, here are some tips to help you pay for a summer trip in a few months.  

1. Begin with an expense plan.

Make a decision how much you’ll spend on your vacation. Try to be as specific as you can. Things to consider: plane tickets, or if you’re driving, gas expenses, lodging costs, meals, souvenirs and park or museums fees. Add them up. If the total sends you into panic mode, then adjust your budget until you reach a level of spending that you feel comfortable with. If your funds are tight, then consider taking one or two long weekend trips instead of that big vacation you were dreaming about. 

2. Put off an expense now for fun later.

Look for expenses that you can eliminate now. For example, you could cancel a health club membership or subscription service you are not using or do without cable or satellite TV. If you still have a home phone land line, you could cancel that. By dropping these seldom used services, you can save money now to apply for a family vacation later.

3. Cut eating out and save big.

According to the National Restaurant Association, the typical family with kids will spend an average of $239 each month on eating out. That’s money that can easily be saved for your big trip.

If you don’t want to go totally cold turkey on eliminating eating out, then check local eateries for coupons or “kids eat free” dinners that are often offered on Monday or Tuesday nights. Watch newspaper coupon inserts for buy-one-entree, get-one-free dining deals.

If cooking at home is not possible, frozen dinners or ready-made items at the grocery store can sometimes be less expensive than a restaurant. 

When it comes time for your vacation, consider packing a cooler or picnic basket for your travels stops. While this involves a little work on the trip, it allows you to get away with a much smaller budget. 

4. Have a garage sale or sell things online.

Selling things you don’t need or use can be a great way to raise funds for a vacation very quickly. In today’s day and age, you have the choice of either having a garage sale or selling things on websites like Ebay or Craig’s List. 

To promote your garage sale, run an ad in your local newspaper and post easy-to-read signs around your neighborhood. Always check your local regulations about where you can legally post notices. Keep in mind that kids’ clothes tend to sell better than adult clothes.

For online shopping, be sure to meet people in public places to show them items for sale for safety purposes. 

5. Use your tax refund.

If you receive a tax refund from the IRS, then sock it away in a dedicated savings account that offers a higher interest rate for reduced withdrawal privileges. Select FCU has a special savings account that is designed for these types of occasions. 

6. Use credit cards that pay you back.

In the months leading up to your vacation, try using a credit card that accumulates “rewards” (points or cash rebates) for everything you can: gas, groceries, etc.  

Allow rewards to accumulate, then use them to purchase a plane ticket, hotel room, rental car or gift card for chain restaurants that you’ll visit on your trip. You can locate and compare rewards cards at Bankrate.com. The key is to pay off your balance in full every month. Having vacation debt is not the kind of souvenir or memory you want to collect. 

If you need additional tips, please feel free to reach out to us at Select FCU. We can be reached at (210) 223-6561.

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How to build you credit score in San AntonioWhether you’re struggling with poor or bad credit and can’t a get a loan or just want to get a better interest rate, taking the time to understand the credit scoring system and clean up your credit can really pay off.  

Cleaning up bad credit or building your credit may seem like daunting task but it can be done. A good starting point is to find out what your credit report looks like now. If you haven’t done so, start by getting a free credit report from Annual Credit Report.com.

All consumers are entitled to one credit report annually from each major credit bureau: Equifax, TransUnion and Experian. By staggering your orders so that you get a free report every few months from one reporting agency, you’ll be able to review how your reports change over time.

You also need to understand how your credit score is affected. In general, your credit score is determined by:

·         Whether or not you pay all of your bills on time.

·         How often you pay your bills on time as opposed to how often you pay them late.

·         How long you have had a credit history.

·         How much your credit card limits are.

·         How long it has been since you last applied for credit.

·         What types of credit you have, such as credit cards or mortgages.


Once you know your credit score, then follow the strategies below to get on the path of cleaning up your bad credit or improving your credit score.

1. Remove Errors on Your Credit Report

Once you have your reports, review them to verify that all of your personal information is accurate, such as your address and employer information. Also, review the reports regularly to make sure that your payments have been correctly reported. Be sure to compare the three reports, because a creditor might report to one bureau and skip the other two.

In the event that you discover any errors or find traces of identity fraud, you should contact the credit reporting company to take appropriate steps to correct any errors. This can help clean up your credit.


2. Obtain a Secured Credit Card

One way to rebuild a good track record with credit is to sign up for a credit card that is secured by your own cash deposit. For example, if you make a deposit of $700 with the bank who issues the credit card, then they would give you a card with a limit of $700. By using the card and making payments on it, you can show a steady payment history. To obtain a secured credit card, you will need to work with your bank or credit union. These cards can also be obtained directly from a credit card provider.


3. Take on a Reasonable Amount of Debt

Another way to build good credit is to assume a small amount of debt. For example, you may be able to sign up for a department store card or some type of installment loan. In addition to helping you establish good credit, this strategy can also help you develop your credit history.


4. Build Up Your Savings

Consider opening an emergency savings account at a bank or credit union. Having an emergency fund in a savings account can help with problems that lead to too much credit use. For instance, $1,000 in savings could pay off a medical bill and wouldn’t cost the additional15 percent interest the way a credit card would.


5. Repay Your Creditors

The most important strategy for cleaning up bad credit is simply to repay your creditors. If you get behind on payments, it is helpful to call your creditors and ask for help. They may be able to set up a payment schedule that fits your current budget. It’s critically important that you make your payments on time. Banks and credit unions pay particular attention to your “on-time” payment history. By paying on time, you are establishing that you’re responsible enough to take care of your debts.  If you can, try to pay more than the minimum. The less you pay, the longer you stay in debt.


6. Seek Credit Counseling

Establishing a budget can help you manage and repay your debts, but if you can’t stick to your budget, then you may want to consider credit counseling. Consider using the National Foundation for Credit Counseling: https://www.nfcc.org

Another option is to contact Select Federal Credit Union for guidance. 


7. Beware of Credit Repair Scams

While credit counseling can be useful, always be wary of credit repair scams. Never pay large fees upfront to a credit repair agency. Take the time to learn about your rights, what to look for when obtaining a consolidation loan in general and the specific terms of repair programs. Also, be sure to research and get references for those who offer to help.


While there are many strategies and programs to help you repair and build your credit, ultimately, you are the only one who can take charge and make it happen. If you take the steps we have listed above and diligently follow the recommended practices, you’ll make steady progress and clean up your credit over time.


To obtain a trustworthy consolidation loan or secured credit card in the San Antonio area, contact Select Federal Credit Union at (210) 223-6561. To obtain free financial counseling, contact the Financial Empowerment Center at (210) 431-4425.

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Financial tips from Select FCU, San Antonio area credit union

mom daughter debit credit card w cprt  comodigit smallerAmong the many challenges that parents face is how can a parent raise financially savvy children in the digital world we live in now. Today’s kids have access to an enormous amount of marketing information through social media and the internet that can make an impact on their financial choices. Below are several strategies that concerned parents can follow to pass on smart financial practices to your children as they grow up.


Be a Role Model

When it comes to teaching smart financial practices to your children, the best way is to practice smart finances yourself. Teach your kids the importance of spending less than you earn and working towards debt elimination. Be an example to your kids by setting financial goals and then working towards meeting them. The reality is that you can’t expect to pass on smart financial lessons if you’re not practicing sound financial behavior yourself. Walk the walk before you talk the talk.


Have a Consistent Allowance Practice

There are varying arguments that can be made in regards to giving your children an allowance or not. Some would argue that an allowance teaches your children some basic ideas of managing money. Others argue that it comes down to paying kids for household chores they would do anyway. Regardless where you stand on the notion of allowances, the key here is to be consistent in your approach. If you do decide to give your children an allowance then use the allowance as an opportunity to teach your children basic smart money management.

Teach the Importance of Saving

Whether your children receive an allowance or work to earn their money, it’s critical to teach the importance of saving some money for future use. As mentioned before, this requires that you model this behavior if you expect your child to truly learn the lessons of saving money. Putting money aside is a great opportunity to learn lessons around setting financial goals such as saving for college or perhaps saving for an expensive item such as a computer.


Look for Entrepreneurial Opportunities

Encourage your children to develop an entrepreneurial mindset. One approach is to encourage your kids to launch a micro-business such as a lemonade stand or lawn mowing business. The basic lesson here is that in order to earn money you have to invest money first. Another idea to consider is to create a “job board” that is different from the typical household chores. Children can take on jobs as they choose and earn extra money when the job is completed.

Lessons for Teenagers

As your children grow into teenagers, it’s a good idea to introduce them to the realities of adult finances one piece at a time. The main lesson here is to teach your teenager how adult finances actually work. One approach is to initially introduce them to bills that are associated with themselves such as the internet bill or the cell phone bill. Sit down with your teenager and explain to them what amount needs to be paid each month in order to have that service. Another approach is to share the monthly budget with your older teenager. This gives them a visual of how the household finances are being managed and the importance of living within the household income. This approach works to emphasize that you have to spend less than you earn in order to build a solid financial future.

Communication is Key

If you’re not talking and actively engaging with your children about financial ideas, then none of the strategies listed above will matter. The simple practice of talking with your children about money goes a long way in ensuring that your children understand the value of sound financial practices. Explain to them why you are saving money, why having a budget and sticking to it is important, and why it’s important to live within your means. Children will listen and pay attention to you if speak with them and not to them.

Passing on financial lessons to your children is one the most important responsibilities that parents need to be mindful about and consistently practice. The road to financial success for your children starts with you as responsible parents. 

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San Antonio area credit union cosigning article photo

Tips from Select FCU in San Antonio, TX

Have you ever been asked to be a cosigner on a loan or considered offering it as an option to a friend or family member? Being a cosigner on a loan has value especially when cosigning helps people obtain a first-time loan. However, there are risks to being a cosigner.


Cosigning on a Loan: Reasons Why it’s Useful

While many experts will tell you to never cosign a loan, it isn’t always a bad idea. Here are a couple of sound reasons when cosigning makes sense:

1. It Aids in Obtaining Financing.

Often times applicants for a loan are rejected for a loan because of poor credit history.

But sometimes, creditors and lenders will take a second look at an application if there’s a cosigner. By taking a chance and cosigning, it can give someone the opportunity to obtain reliable transportation, attend school or buy a large ticket item.

2. It Helps Build Credit.

The reality is that credit is needed to build credit. Unfortunately, it can be a challenge for people without a credit history to qualify for a loan. As a cosigner on a loan, you can help another person establish or build a better credit score and credit history.

When Not to Cosign a Loan.

Before agreeing to cosign a loan, you need to be aware of and understand the risks involved. While it makes sense in some situations, many times the risks greatly outweigh the benefits. Before agreeing to cosign, understand the possible risks:

1. It Increases Your Debt-to-Income Ratio.

Your debt-to-income ratio is the percentage of your debt payments in relation to your income. Calculating your debt-to-income ratio (DTI) is relatively simple. Divide your monthly debt payments by your monthly income. For example, someone who earns $6,000 a month and has debt payments of $4,500 has a debt-to-income ratio of 75 percent.

Often times people fail to realize how cosigning impacts their own debt-to-income ratio. As a cosigner, you are legally tied to the loan. You’re required to attend the loan closing and sign the loan documents. A loan that you cosign appears on your credit report, and the monthly loan payment factors into your debt-to-income ratio – even if the primary applicant makes the payment each month. You are liable for this balance in the event of default by the primary applicant. Being a cosigner can also decrease your ability to get new credit.

There are consequences of having a higher debt-to-income ratio. Cosigning a loan can lower your credit score because the amounts you owe makes up 30 percent of your FICO score. The more debt you have, the lower your credit score. Realistically, your debt-to-income ratio should be no higher than 36 percent. Your credit score will drop as your debt approaches or exceeds this percentage. As you can see, being a cosigner is a serious commitment.

2. You Can’t Remove Yourself as a Cosigner.

Once you accept the responsibility as a cosigner and sign the loan documents, you are tied to the debt until it is paid off. You cannot negotiate with the lender to take your name off the loan. In some instances, the lender may include a cosigner release clause in the loan agreement, which removes you as cosigner once the primary applicant demonstrates a history of timeliness. These clauses are common with student loans.

Otherwise, the only way to remove your name as cosigner is for the primary applicant to refinance the loan and re-qualify on his or her own.

3. You Could Ruin Your Credit.

Often times deciding to cosign on a loan is driven by a willingness to help a loved one or a friend but emotions shouldn’t guide your decision. There is a reason why this person can’t qualify for a loan on their own. If the primary applicant doesn’t have a prior credit history, then that is understandable. However, if the person requesting a cosigner has a history of defaulting on loans or paying bills late, then you need to be very cautious. If the primary applicant defaults on the loan, then your credit score will take a hit.

Keep in mind that this loan appears on your credit report. Therefore, any lateness or skipped payment will be noted on your credit report. So, while being a cosigner on a loan has some benefits you need to seriously evaluate whether cosigning is worth the financial and credit risk.

4. Your Relationships Could Become Strained.

In the beginning, most people co-sign a loan because they have a good relationship with the person they are cosigning with whether it’s a family member or good friend. However, if the person you cosign with should default on the loan and you become liable to make the payments, bad feelings can quickly follow and lead to a damaged relationship. So, be sure to prepared emotionally that you will accept this risk and happily make the payments if the other person is unable to - without holding a grudge.

When does cosigning make sense?

While there is really no valid financial reason to cosign a loan, cosigning is ultimately a personal decision. In some situations, your personal reasons for cosigning may outweigh the financial risks. For example, you might consider cosigning on a credit card application or an apartment lease for your child to help them become financially independent quicker. The bottom line: always proceed with a great deal of caution when considering cosigning on a loan.

For further information about cosigning or obtaining a loan, please feel free to contact Select FCU at (210) 223-6561.


Source: Money Crashers

 

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Select Federal Credit Union
1914 N Interstate 35
San Antonio, TX 78208

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