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How to protect your finances through COVID-19

During uncertain times, many feel anxious about how they will cope with unanticipated changes or hardships. Here are top tips to protect your finances during Covid-19.

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Communities around the world are feeling the impact of temporary closures of businesses, schools and public facilities. During uncertain times, many feel anxious about how they will cope with unanticipated changes or hardships.

“COVID-19 is an unprecedented… emergency and we must all work together to reduce its overall impacts to allow families to recover once it has passed,” said OnPoint Community Credit Union CEO/president Rob Stuart.

Below are OnPoint Community Credit Union’s top tips for protecting finances amid COVID-19:

Your first actions  

  • Prioritize expenses and review your budget. If you’re concerned about a loss of income or unplanned expenses and don’t have emergency savings, you may need to prioritize which expenses you cover first and update your budget accordingly.
  • Deal with creditors proactively. If you face challenges in paying your monthly obligations, you have a better chance of working out an agreeable payment plan with creditors when you contact them early.
  • Know your options. Look into options that may be available for any loans you have – e.g. Home Equity Lines of Credit, Small Business Loans, and more.
  • Secure access to digital banking. If you aren’t able to physically visit your financial institution’s branch or call wait times are longer than expected, be prepared by downloading the most recent version with their app and test your login.

Protect yourself from scams
Scammers can be more active during uncertain times. To protect yourself and your family:

  • Be aware. Stay up to date on current scams and how to take action if you think you’ve been a victim. There are already national reports of email phishing scams targeting remote workers, offering economic stimulus checks and selling health insurance. OnPoint’s data security team has seen more debit and credit card fraud than average, and believes fraudsters are using the distraction of COVID-19 to get information.
  • Be vigilant. Scrutinize emails, texts, calls and social media posts that offer financial relief or promote the sale of cure-all products or limited-time special offers. Scam tactics can include masquerading as a delivery company such as UPS, claiming to offer advice from the World Health Organization (WHO) and fake lending emails related to the interest rate drop. These messages often contain links to malicious sites that closely mirror the legitimate sites. Ensure that you hover over the link to validate the site before clicking.
  • Be cautious. Never disclose your online banking credentials or PINs. Scammers often claim to be from your financial institution calling about a fraudulent card charge. They will then ask you to confirm information like card number, PIN, online banking credentials, etc. Also, beware of those striking up long distance relationships online. Sweetheart scammers often fake an emergency that necessitates money. Victims then willingly act on the fraudster’s instructions to “help” through mobile deposit, external transfers and wires.

Know your resources for job loss
With mandatory and recommended closures of businesses and large numbers of people staying home, the crisis is bound to impact the income of workers and business owners. During this time, it’s important to understand what options are available from financial institutions, utility companies, and governments that may be offering new programs, special considerations, or grace periods.

The coronavirus relief bill, which was signed into law last week, significantly expands unemployment insurance for out-of-work Americans, including larger checks, a longer eligibility period, and an extension to previously ineligible workers.

Address investment concerns
Your investment strategy should match where you are in your retirement planning and for some, that may mean your portfolio will move to lower risk options as you near or enter retirement.This can help protect you from market fluctuations.

If your retirement is still a ways off, it’s likely best for you to take a long-term approach to financial planning and try not to fixate on the day-to-day valuations of your 401k or other assets. If you are feeling uneasy or want to ensure that your retirement plan is still on track with your goals, seek the guidance of a Financial Advisor with a reputable affiliation.

Engage the family
Children may sense your stress but not understand how your financial situation has been affected, causing them to feel uneasy. When appropriate, explain the need to cut back temporarily and discuss the news calmly and simply. Making time to discuss what changes you are anticipating and how everyone can contribute toward the family, including:

  • For older family members, sharing the responsibility for paying the bills or deciding which expenses to reduce.
  • Designating financial chores, such as having small children count out the penny jar and having older children sit alongside you to read through the utility bills.
  • Taking 20 minutes to ask each family member how they could contribute to the family next week via finances or chores.
  • Writing down everyone’s commitments and pop it up on the fridge or door; getting everyone involved may reduce stress and create a feeling of unity.

Strategies

Tips to achieve healthy headspaces for a productive workplace

Eastern Communications, one of the premier telecommunications companies in the Philippines, believes that enterprises need to support their employees to help ensure productivity while mitigating the effects of isolation and uncertainty.

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The world’s response to COVID-19 has resulted in the most rapid transformation of the workplace. Working remotely is a challenging setup in the quarantine economy, as employees struggle to balance work and personal life. Moreover, uncertainty and isolation during the pandemic have caused various physical and mental health problems among employees. 

Eastern Communications, one of the premier telecommunications companies in the Philippines, believes that enterprises need to support their employees to help ensure productivity while mitigating the effects of isolation and uncertainty. In a recent webinar entitled “Leap Forward” hosted by Eastern Communications, key opinion leaders gathered to discuss ways on how productivity can be boosted in today’s work from home setup. 

Prioritize employee well-being

Cat Trivino, MindNation Chief Marketing Officer, shared that companies that make the well-being of their employees a top priority not only create a healthier workplace but also produce a happier and more productive workforce.

According to Premier Value Provider’s Employee Mental Health survey in 2020, the highest levels of critical stress (31%), anxiety (47%), and depression (46%) were recorded during May 2020 and this was most prevalent among the younger workforce. 

“Normalize conversations around mental health and overall wellbeing, as well as advocate self-care. Seeking help during this time is important because we get to put to practice that empathy that the world so badly needs, and you need to practice that with your team. Make sure that they feel that openness and that trust to talk about these things,” she added.

A mentally healthy workforce in general will not only improve productivity but also boost employee morale and retention. 

Utilize digital tools for seamless and easy collaboration

Part of helping employees when it comes to their well-being is also giving them convenient yet efficient ways to collaborate while working from home. According to Diana Montes, Eastern Communications’ Strategic Manager, facilitating seamless communication and easy collaboration in the workplace can decrease stress levels.

Based on her experience, integrated tools like cloud-based solutions help in the effectiveness and well-being of a workforce. They also maximize the use of these collaboration apps by staying connected even for non-work-related activities.

“Here at Eastern, we’re quite grateful that even before the pandemic hit, our systems for productivity and collaboration were readily in place. So essentially, we just transferred physical meetings, discussions, and consultations virtually,” she said.

Montes also recommends using a project management tool or planner app to monitor the progress and overall productivity of the entire team on a certain project. Everyone involved has visibility and this way they can prioritize projects that need more assistance.  

“I also receive reports about the amount of time I spend using these collaboration tools and it gives me a notion of when to take on more work or slow down. This helps very much since like I said, sometimes we just lose sight of how much work we’ve already been doing at a particular period,” she added. 

The pandemic has highlighted the importance of developing an overall strategy that puts employees’ well-being first. Through Eastern Communications’ Leap Forward series, businesses are able to learn digital solutions and strategies from experts that will ensure business continuity while supporting the health and morale of the team.

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Strategies

In a negotiation, how tough should your first offer be?

New research shows the first offer can have a significant impact on the eventual outcome, and if you try to drive too hard a bargain, it could backfire.

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In a negotiation, how tough should your first offer be? New research shows the first offer can have a significant impact on the eventual outcome, and if you try to drive too hard a bargain, it could backfire.

Whether you’re buying a house, a car, or second-hand furniture, it’s likely you will need to negotiate the price, so being able to negotiate effectively could save you significant cash.

Behavioral economist Professor Lionel Page from the University of Technology Sydney (UTS) said opening offers in real-world negotiations are sometimes intended to signal the “toughness” of the buyer – but whether this strategy actually works was not known.

“This experiment allowed us to study whether and how the level of the opening offer influences the beliefs of buyers and sellers, their actions and the final bargaining outcome,” said Professor Page.

The researchers conducted the experiment using a bargaining game where players exchanged offers for a split of $10. The aim was to mimic the start of a typical negotiation process.

They found that the success or failure of a negotiation depended not only on the final offer on the table but also on the emerging dynamics of the bargaining process.

“The intermediary offers made during a negotiation can be interpreted as suggesting either kind and compromising intentions, or unkind and uncompromising ones,” said Professor Page.

“And the perception of these intentions can, in turn, influence the final outcome. Low offers are perceived as disrespectful, so players react negatively and can be spiteful in their counter-offers.

“In a substantial number of cases, the responder chose a ‘‘punishing’’ counter-offer that was lower than what he believed was the buyer’s minimum acceptable amount,” he said.

This means it is not the best strategy to always be as tough as possible in a negotiation.

Previously there has been two conflicting views on first offers in negotiations, said Professor Page.

One view is that a low opening offer works as an “anchor” that moves the final offer in the direction of the first offer.

The second is that a more reasonable initial offer achieves a better outcome because it doesn’t sour the atmosphere and endanger the agreement.

Professor Page said their study showed support for both these ideas.

“We found that there is a small window where an offer is lower than an equal split, but not so low that it triggers negative emotions. It was viewed as ‘fair game’ to start the negotiation at this point.”

So in summary to strike a good bargain your opening offer needs to be not too hard, or you risk a spiteful counter-offer, but not too soft either, or you might be taken for a ride.

The study: Driving a hard bargain is a balancing act: how social preferences constrain the negotiation process, by Professor Lionel Page and Dr Yola Engler was recently published in the journal Theory and Decision.

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Strategies

5 Practical ways to keep your finances safer online

Kaspersky’s fresh data for Q2 2021 showed a 60% increase in mobile banking Trojan attacks blocked in the region versus same period last year.

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Photo by Blake Wisz from Unsplash.com

Kaspersky reveals its Q2 2021 mobile threat report for Southeast Asia (SEA) where it has monitored a 60% uptick in the number of attacks using malicious mobile bankers detected and blocked in the region. 

Mobile banking Trojans – or bankers – are used by cybercriminals to steal funds directly from mobile bank accounts. These malicious programs typically look like legitimate financial apps, but when a victim enters their security credentials to try to access their bank account, the attackers gain access to that private information.

Overall, since the beginning of 2021, Kaspersky products have foiled 708 incidents across six countries in SEA. This is already 50% of the total number of mobile bankers blocked in 2020 which was 1,408.

Indonesia and Vietnam logged the most number of incidents during the first half of the year. However, globally, the two countries are not among the top 10 countries affected by this threat. Vietnam is only 27th and Indonesia is 31st as of June this year.

The five countries with the most number of mobile banking Trojan detections in Q2 2021 are Russia, Japan, Turkey, Germany, and France.

*Mobile banking Trojans attacks detected from users of Kaspersky mobile security solutions in the country

While the number of mobile banking Trojan attacks in SEA remains low, 367 incidents from April to June 2021 versus 230 detections during the same period last year, the continuing pandemic continues to force users to start using mobile payment systems.

“We are almost at the second year of the pandemic which has fast tracked the mobile payment adoption in the region at a breakneck speed. During the beginning of this health crisis, our survey already showed that the majority of internet users here have shifted finance-related activities online, like shopping (64%) and banking (47%),” comments Yeo Siang Tiong, General Manager for Southeast Asia at Kaspersky.

The same survey revealed that seven in 10 (69%) are worried about conducting financial transactions online and 42% of the respondents admitted to being afraid about someone accessing their financial details through their devices.

In addition, another Kaspersky report titled “Making Sense of Our Place in the Digital Reputation Economy” discovered that the majority (76%) of 861 respondents from SEA confirmed their intent to keep their money-related data away from the internet. The sentiment is highest among Baby Boomers (85%), followed by Gen X (81%), and Millennials (75%).

“Clearly, there is an awareness about the threats present when we do banking and payment transactions through our mobile phones. But there is still a gap between knowing and acting on it. So to help users from SEA embrace the power of their smartphone and also keep their finances safe, we suggest some practical tips but also encourage everyone to please look into using security solutions as a safety net in case they accidentally clicked a malicious link or downloaded a rogue mobile banking application,” adds Yeo.

Here are some practical tips from Kaspersky which you can do to beef up your money’s safety online:

1. Get a temporary credit card

Cyber criminals have developed incredibly sophisticated techniques and malware that can sometimes thwart your best efforts for safe online shopping. As another level of security for safe online shopping, you can use a temporary credit card to make online purchases, in lieu of your regular credit card. Ask your credit card company if you can be issued a temporary credit card number.

Just remember to avoid using these types of credit cards for any purchases that require auto-renewal or regular payments.

If a temporary credit card is not possible, an alternative is to use a credit card with a low credit limit.

2. Dedicate a computer to online banking and shopping

If you have more than one computer, it may be wise to dedicate one for online banking and shopping only. By avoiding using the computer for any other Internet browsing, downloading, checking email, social networking, and other online activities, you effectively create a ‘clean’ computer that is totally free of computer viruses and any other infections. For added security for safe online shopping, install Google Chrome, with forced HTTPS. This ensures you are visiting only secure websites.

3. Use a dedicated email address

Create an email address that you will use only for online shopping. This will severely limit the amount of spam messages you receive and significantly reduce the risk of opening potentially malicious emails that are disguised as sales promotions or other notifications.

4. Manage and protect your online passwords

Using strong passwords and using a different password for each online account is one of the most important things you can do for safe online shopping. We know it can be difficult to remember so many different passwords, especially when they are composed of numerous letters, numbers, and special characters. But you can use a password manager to aid you in keeping strong passwords for multiple accounts.

5. Use a VPN

If you absolutely must shop online while using public Wi-Fi, first install a VPN (virtual private network). A VPN will encrypt all data that is transferred between your computer or mobile device and the VPN server, preventing hackers from hijacking and viewing any sensitive data you input.

In the Philippines, Kaspersky endpoint solutions like Kaspersky Total Security (KTS) that have a password manager and  VPN features is currently included in its 9.9 promos in Shopee and Lazada.  Filipino customers can enjoy up to 50% discount.

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