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6 Tips to protect consumers’ identities and financial lives

During times of uncertainty, it’s natural to seek information and answers through the internet and social media. Unfortunately, criminals will often use that to their advantage.

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During times of uncertainty, it’s natural to seek information and answers through the internet and social media.

But according to Jude Schramm, executive vice president and chief information officer of Fifth Third Bank: “Unfortunately, criminals will often use that to their advantage.”

Fifth Third, for instance, noted the occurrence of phishing – when a data thief impersonates a legitimate person or company via email to bait the recipient into reporting confidential information or gaining unauthorized access to systems, while also seeing reports of malware (malicious software) disguised as a coronavirus map.

Considering these developments, Fifth Third offers the following best practices to protect your customers’ identities and financial lives during the Coronavirus-19 outbreak:

1. Stick to credible resources.

Health-wise, for instance, stick to the likes of the Centers for Disease Control (www.cdc.gov), National Institutes of Health (www.nih.gov), World Health Organization (www.who.int) and well-known local and national news reporting agencies for information.

2. Do not click on links or attachments from senders you do not recognize.

Note that this applies not only to email, but also to text messages.

3. Keep your computer “healthy”.

This means you should apply patches and updates as soon as notified one is needed. Do not push off these updates until later.

4. Do not share sensitive personal information (like usernames and passwords) by email.

5. Watch for email senders using suspicious or misleading domain names.

6. Inspect URLs carefully (without clicking on the link) to make sure they’re legitimate and not imposter sites.

Strategies

Save money and score energy savings

Small changes around the workplace now can deliver big energy savings particularly during colder months ahead.

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The COVID-19 pandemic has greatly affected the profits of businesses; and yet expenses may remain the same – e.g. energy consumption – so that companies need to reconsider their approaches until things normalize.

Here, Georgia Power is reminding customers that small changes around the workplace now can deliver big energy savings particularly during colder months ahead.

  • Let the Sun Shine In – Keeping the blinds and shades open during the day is a no-cost way to naturally heat your workplace. Close them at night to reduce the chill you may feel from cold windows.
  • Let it Flow – Heating and cooling accounts for as much as 50% of a venue’s typical energy usage during colder seasons. Maximize the efficiency of your units ahead of cold weather by changing the filters once a month, or every three months for pleated filters.
  • Thinking Thermostats – Install a smart programmable thermostat that automatically adjusts the workplace’s temperature settings when you are away from the venue and save in energy costs.
  • Caulk & Strip – Replace cracked or peeling caulk or weather stripping around doors and windows to save up to 10% on energy use
  • It’s Great to Insulate – Keep heat where it belongs with proper insulation in attics and walls to help save energy 24/7.

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Strategies

Financial tips to help prepare for the unexpected

Over the past year, most people have noticed how truly unpredictable life can be. While it’s impossible to predict what the next few months have in store, practicing a few fundamental financial skills can help you prepare for whatever comes next.

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Over the past year, most people have noticed how truly unpredictable life can be. While it’s impossible to predict what the next few months have in store, practicing a few fundamental financial skills can help you prepare for whatever comes next.

“According to a survey by Bank of America, 42% of (people) say their top financial goal over the next three months is to increase their savings,” said April Schneider, head of consumer and small business products at Bank of America. “The pandemic has highlighted the importance of building a safety net. Whether you’re looking to improve your current financial habits or starting from scratch, the most important thing is to make a plan that fits your needs and to stick with it.”

Consider these tips from Schneider:

Track your expenses. Review your expenses, big and small, and separate them into categories like groceries, transportation, utilities and entertainment. Then total the amounts in each category to get a better picture of your monthly expenses. Knowing how much you spend each month is the first step toward finding money to save.

Make a plan and set a budget. Categorize your expenses into wants versus needs. Groceries, rent and mortgage payments are examples of needs while streaming services are a want. Compare your expenses against your total household income to figure out if you have money left over to save or if you can find money to save by reducing your spending on nonessentials. For example, keep an eye out for phantom charges – or reoccurring payments – you may no longer need and redirect that money into savings.

“If you’re already saving, that’s great,” Schneider said. “Review your behaviors and see if there’s room for improvement. It’s also not too late if you haven’t begun saving – everyone has to start somewhere.”

Also keep in mind your budget is meant to adapt with your circumstances, so make sure you’re updating your budget as your life changes.

Make savings automatic. Saving can fit seamlessly into your everyday life when you set up automatic transfers from a checking to a savings account. Saving automatically helps prepare you for the future without adding to your to-do list. You can start small by automatically transferring a few dollars each week.

Build an emergency fund. Take a look at your current expenses versus total income to identify any extra wiggle room where you can save. Next put your emergency savings in a separate, but accessible, account to avoid temptation and accidental overspending.

“When building an emergency fund, I recommend saving enough money to cover 3-6 months of expenses,” Schneider said. “Contributing to an emergency fund keeps saving a priority and ensures you have financial flexibility should the unexpected occur.”

Use spending tools for savvy savings. Being a better saver means becoming a smarter spender. While looking for deals and price shopping can be helpful, there are times when it’s better to spend a little more for quality. For example, buying a more costly refrigerator may pay off in the long run compared to buying a cheaper option that could break down after a few months.

Another way to be a smarter spender is by earning rewards on your everyday purchases. Whether you’ve seen your costs shift from in-person to delivery services, using a card that adapts and rewards your spending can be a valuable asset.

While you may not know what the future holds, planning and actively taking steps can help you feel more secure and prepared for whatever it brings.

Find more tips at bettermoneyhabits.com.

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Strategies

5 Ways to save big on everyday essentials

People are concerned about the economic impact the pandemic will have on their lives. These economic concerns are leading shoppers to seek out more ways to save. With the convenience and flexibility online shopping provides, many customers are turning to e-retailers to find those must-have items.

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With many people spending more time at home, they are also using more common household items such as cleaning supplies, pantry items and snacks, among other things.

According to a Harris Poll survey, people are concerned about the economic impact the pandemic will have on their lives. These economic concerns are leading shoppers to seek out more ways to save. With the convenience and flexibility online shopping provides, many customers are turning to e-retailers to find those must-have items.

To help busy and budget-conscious shoppers, Woot!, the Amazon-owned daily deals site, launched a grocery and household category to offer deals on everyday essentials.

Consider these five ways shoppers can save time and money when making household purchases.

1. Compare prices.

One benefit of shopping online versus in-store is you can look across different brands to compare prices in real time. By seeing available brands and pricing in one place, you can save more and make the best purchase choices for your household.  

2. Take advantage of deals.

When you shop in a store, you’re confined to the deals and selection the store is offering at the time of your trip. When you shop online, you aren’t limited to the store’s offerings, often allowing you to score better deals and browse a larger selection.

3. Save time exploring virtual aisles.

Shopping at a store can be time consuming. Consider virtual grocery and household shopping, and unlike in-person aisles, virtual aisles hide categories when selection is unavailable so you won’t waste your time and can be confident items you’re looking at are available at a discount.

4. Customize your shopping experience. 

The flexibility and convenience of shopping online can save you time. Since you aren’t shopping in-store, you don’t have to worry about store hours and locations, giving you the flexibility to shop at all hours and from any location, as long as you have Wi-Fi and access to a computer or mobile device. With the ability to shop around your schedule, you can gain precious time to spend with the people you love, doing the things you love.

5. Benefit from membership perks.

Another perk of online shopping is being able to leverage membership benefits to save more. Some retailers offer member-based programs or partner to offer members of certain programs discounts.

Between the vast selection, price options and convenience of shopping from home, there are many ways shoppers can save big on time and money as they shop for everyday essentials and household must-haves. 

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