Monday, October 22, 2012

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck

How to Stop Living Paycheck to Paycheck: Find yourself running out of money before payday? Here's how to spend less and save more without sacrifice.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Consumer Credit Counseling Service of Buffalo To Host


 OCTOBER 20, 2012

Identity theft affects approximately 10 million United States residents each year, with financial losses totaling upwards of $50 billion. CCCS of Buffalo will do its’ part to help people in the Buffalo community protect their identities by hosting SECURE YOUR IDENTITY DAY 2012 on October 20th and offering expert tips on how to protect your identity.

Join us on October 20th, from 10:00 am—2:00 pm. Staff of Consumer Credit Counseling Services and CINTAS will be available to accept any and all documents for shredding on the spot, and will also accept used cell phones. Certified Financial Counselors will be on hand to pull credit reports and provide one-on-one financial counseling.

SECURE YOUR IDENTITY DAY is part of National Protect Your Identity Week, held this year October 20-27th.

This year's theme is "ID Theft Protection on the Go”…Smartphone Alert!

We all love our cell phones, but with the convenience of smart phones came the opportunity for thieves to help themselves to our personal information.

A Smartphone is a mobile phone with enhanced capabilities.   Many of these new functions are similar to those found on a PC.  With the increased abilities of the Smartphone, come built-in risks for exposure of personal information. This information, carried on and transmitted through the device, is highly desired for use by identity thieves. There are steps Smartphone users can take in order to reduce the risks associated with using these handy devices.

Risks which occur when using a Smartphone:

There are many risks when you use a smartphone.

Phones are easily lost or stolen.  Think about how many times you have lost your cell phone. Enough said.

These mobile devices are associated with and linked to a particular user for billing and account purposes.  This association is taken a step further when GPS is enabled on a device.

Increased mobility means increased exposure.  

Moving in and out of Wi-Fi service areas means moving in and out of firewalls and secure hotspots. Some applications used on smartphones are unsafe.   Some can actually enable “phishing” or other malicious attacks.

Best practices to protect yourself and your personal information with Smartphones:

Password-protect your phone.  This is the simplest step you can take to prevent your information from being accessed.  Make sure it is a strong password that is not similar to or associated with any other personal information.

Install Security Software.  There are a number of companies which offer anti-virus, malware and security software designed especially for Smartphones.   Contact your carrier for details.

Be aware of what you are doing on your phone.  The same precautions you would take while on your home computer apply to your Smartphone.  Double check URLs for accuracy, don’t open suspicious links, and make sure a site is secure (https) before giving any billing or personal information.

When installing an app on any Smartphone, take the time to read the “fine print”.  Evaluate the information the app requires access to, and consider if this information is necessary for the app to run successfully. If you cannot see a reason for the app to have access to the information, you should reconsider installing the app.

Install a “phone finder” app.   These apps are designed to help you find your phone if it becomes lost or stolen.

Enroll in a backup / wiping program. You can enroll in a program that will back up the information on your Smartphone to your home computer.  Many of these services are also able to “wipe” your phone if it is lost or stolen so that no data remains on the device itself.   These services are available through your Smartphone’s manufacturer or through your wireless provider.  iPhones have a built-in “wipe” feature that can be turned on that will wipe the phone after 10 failed log-on attempts.

Limit your activities while using public Wi-Fi.   Try not to purchase things or access email while using a public Wi-Fi zone.   Public Wi-Fi hotspots are targeted by hackers since they can give the hacker direct access to your mobile device.  Using your 3G network provider connection is much more secure than using a public Wi-Fi connection.

Check URLs before making a purchase using your Smartphone.  Any page that requires credit card information should start with https://. This means it is a secured site.

If your Smartphone is lost or stolen:

If you have enrolled in a backup / wiping program:

Contact the administrator of your program and have them “wipe” your phone.

Call your service provider and have them cancel your service and report your phone missing.

If you have not enrolled in a backup / wiping program:

Treat the loss of your Smartphone as you would the loss of a wallet or purse.   You can find more information on handling these situations from the Identity Theft Resource Center Fact Sheet 104: My Wallet Purse or PDA was Lost or Stolen.

For other tips, or for information about SECURE YOUR IDENTITY DAY 2012, call 712-2060.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

How To Talk Yourself Into Getting Out of Debt

Your inner spender wants to go on a spree? Try these snappy comebacks

By Allie Johnson

If you're battling credit card debt, your own inner voice might be making things tougher, whispering "you deserve it!" and other seductive phrases as you reach for the plastic.
Next time your inner spender wants to go on a spree, try using these snappy comebacks and expert tips to make smarter money choices:
Your inner spender:"Oh, come on. You deserve it!"
How to talk yourself out of getting into debt
The talk-yourself-out-of-debt comeback: "What you really deserve is peace of mind."
What to do: Remind yourself there's nothing you can buy that will feel better than a clear conscience, says Kit Yarrow, a consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University in San Francisco. "Say, 'I'm going to give myself that by not overspending,'" Yarrow says. If you do decide you want to indulge in shopping, you should plan and budget for it, says Art Markman, professor of psychology and marketing at The University of Texas at Austin, and author of "Smart Thinking: Three Essential Keys to Innovate, Solve Problems and Get Things Done." He recommends you set a budget, pick a day and time to go shopping, and invite a friend. That makes it a social occasion and more of a treat, and also can help keep your spending in check. "If you know you're prone to overspend, let your friend know you can only spend $100," he says.
Your inner spender:"You've had a hard week. This will make you happy."
The talk-yourself-out-of-debt comeback: "Something else would, too. How about a workout?"
What to do: Find a healthy substitute for shopping. "A lot of times, when people spend money, it's kind of like Prozac -- it gives them a little lift, a little boost. It's a mood elevator," says financial consultant Denise Hughes, who has a master's degree in psychology and blogs at She recommends that people ask themselves if they're looking for a mood boost, and why. Did you clash with your boss, have a tiff with your spouse or care for a cranky child that day? To prepare for the inevitable hard days, Markman suggests finding a healthy, stress-relieving activity that you really enjoy, such as going to the gym, yoga or a walk. He says: "Make that your reward."
Your inner spender:"Everyone else has one."
The talk-yourself-out-of-debt comeback: "You can, too -- after you save up for it."
What to do: Don't beat up on yourself. It's pretty normal to want to buy that new iPhone because all your friends have one or a Lexus because all of your colleagues drive them, says Brad Klontz, a clinical psychologist and director of research at H&R Block Dollars & Sense, which provides personal finance education to teens. "It has a lot to do with the animal brain," Klontz says, noting that some parts of our brains still react as if we were in the Stone Age, when getting ousted from the tribe meant being eaten by predators. In that world, "If I see somebody in the tribe seems to have a lot of power, it's in my best interest to get close to and emulate that person," he says. People will always have these impulses, but they need to channel the powers of their prefrontal cortex -- the rational, decision-making part of the brain -- to help override them. So, make a plan to save up for something you want, Klontz says: "It's not about not getting something, it's about getting it in a way that's not going to hurt you."
Your inner spender:"It's only $50 -- what a great deal!"
The talk-yourself-out-of-debt comeback: "Not really, when you add on the cost of interest and stress of getting the bill."
It's not about not getting something, it's about getting it in a way that's not going to hurt you.
-- Brad Klonz
clinical psychologist
What to do: Look past the price tag and think about how much the item will really set you back, Hughes says. (You can plug the numbers into a credit card payment and payoff calculator.) For example, if you go to a big sale and spend $300 on a few pairs of price-slashed designer jeans and a shirt, using a credit card with an 18 percent interest rate, you could end up paying an extra $100 in interest over more than three years. You might still be working to pay for those jeans long after you've worn holes in them, Hughes says. She tells her clients who use revolving credit, "Do you realize you're borrowing time and energy from your future self in order to pay for this?"
Your inner spender: "You can always take it back later."
The talk-yourself-out-of-debt comeback: "Will you really take it back? If so, why buy it in the first place?"
What to do: Don't buy something with the idea that you can take it back later. You probably won't, experts say. Once you start to feel what it would be like to own something, it's as good as yours, Markman says. That's why car dealers eagerly hand over keys for test drives. "The same thing happens in a store. You try on this great shirt and you look in the mirror and you look good -- and that's far more important than numbers that are going to show up on a credit card bill later." Once you actually get an item home, you're unlikely to spend the time and gas or shipping money to return it, Yarrow says. As part of her consumer research, she says she gets invited to peek in homes and often sees unused items, price tags still on: "I ask people about it and they say, 'I meant to return that.'"
Your inner spender:"There's only one left. If you don't buy it now, it'll be gone."
The talk-yourself-out-of-debt comeback: "That might be true. But maybe you'll find something better when you have the money."
What to do: Step back and realize that you're experiencing fear. "The fear of missing out is huge," Yarrow says. "People hate regret. They'll go through all sorts of mental gyrations to avoid regret." Retailers capitalize on this fear with tactics such as limited-time offers. When you're feeling an intense emotion, it can cloud your decision-making skills, so Yarrow suggests taking a short timeout. "Just carry the item around with you for 20 minutes without buying it and distract yourself with something else. Or put it in your basket online and go away" from your computer. After a short cooling-off period, she says, you might decide more calmly. She also suggests doing a quick mental inventory of other times you've bought something out of fear, and how important the item ended up being in your life.
The best thing you can do to avoid overspending, however, is to try to stay out of tempting situations where you'll face an inner struggle, Markman says, noting that once your brain goes into "go" mode, such as when you move toward making a purchase, then willpower is required to hit the brakes.
He says: "Then you're not putting yourself in the best situation because you're fighting against yourself."

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