Everything is accessible online these days – maybe even your true love. With millions of people turning to the internet, social media networks and dating websites have become increasingly popular tools for meeting and communicating.
Unfortunately, fraudsters have capitalized on this trend and often create fake profiles to lure in victims, establish romantic relationships and eventually, extort money.
According to the FBI, over $220 million was lost in 2016 to online romance scam artists. Older Americans in particular have been targeted by this type of scam.
While online dating can open doors to loving, happy relationships, there are more and more reports of criminals using these platforms to take advantage of unsuspecting users. Approach these relationships with caution so you don’t end up with a broken heart and an empty wallet.
If you’re concerned that you or a loved one are being scammed, we recommend taking the following precautions:
- Slow down – and talk to someone you trust. Don’t let a scammer rush you.
- Never wire money, put money on a gift or cash reload card, or send cash to an online love interest. You won’t get it back.
- Contact your bank right away if you think you’ve sent money to a scammer.
- Report your experience to:
- The online dating site
To learn more about online dating scams, view the ABA Foundation and FTC’s infographic.
September is Ovarian Cancer awareness month and to help raise awareness of the disease, as well as the benefits of early detection, the First County Bank team wore teal!
For more information about Ovarian Cancer visit the Ovarian Cancer National Alliance
After this past weekend’s heatwave, it’s finally starting to feel like summer. The nice weather probably also has you ready to take off for that much-needed summer vacation. Before you leave home, there are some important steps you should take to ensure a safe and relaxing journey:
- Stop mail, newspaper, and other deliveries. Nothing advertises you’re away from home better than an overstuffed mailbox or a driveway covered with newspapers. Be sure to contact the post office and other delivery companies to arrange for a vacation stoppage.
- Make arrangements for pets. If you’re leaving behind your pets, make arrangements with a pet sitter or kennel. Since summer is the busiest time for vacations, you’ll want to make your pet’s plans well in advance of your trip.
- Set lights on timers. To guard against potential burglars, be sure to set lights on timers, so others will think the home is occupied.
- Unplug electronics. Before you leave home, be sure to unplug any electronics from wall outlets, such as televisions, stereos and appliances. If you have these devices on surge protectors, switch the power off.
- Give a family member or neighbor a key. It’s always a good idea to give someone you trust a key to your home in the event that something should happen to the home while you’re away. Avoid leaving a key under the welcome mat or other obvious places.
- Call First County Bank before you leave. To ensure you receive uninterrupted debit card access, call our CustomerFirst Contact Center at 203.462.4400 to let us know your travel plans.
Once you follow these simple steps, there’s only one more thing to do – relax!
As spring cleaning season begins, the American Bankers Association is encouraging consumers to put a priority on organizing their finances. ABA has highlighted six tips for getting your financial house in order.
“With the tax season ending, spring is a great time to take a close look at your budget and bank account,” said Corey Carlisle, executive director of the ABA Foundation. “You’ll have a clear picture of your financial situation, and you can make stress-reducing moves now that will pay dividends throughout the year.”
ABA recommends these six tips to help consumers organize their finances:
- Evaluate and pay down debt. Take a look at how much you owe and what you are paying in interest. Begin paying off existing debt, whether that’s by chipping away at loans with the highest interest rates or eliminating smaller debt first.
- Review your budget. A lot can change in a year. If you’ve been promoted, had a child, or become a new homeowner or renter, be sure to update your budget. Determine what expenses demand the most money and identify areas where you can realistically cut back. Develop a strategy for spending and saving – and stick to it.
- Check your credit report. Every year, you are guaranteed one free credit report from each of the three credit bureaus. Take advantage of these free reports and check them for any possible errors. Mistakes can drag down your score and prevent you from getting a loan, or cause you to pay a higher than necessary interest rate.
- Download your bank’s mobile app. From the palm of your hand, you can make a deposit or access a record of all your recent transactions. Be sure to download the latest updates when they are available.
- Sign up for e-statements, paperless billing and text alerts. Converting to paperless billing will help keep your house—physical and financial—more clean and organized, and will help protect you from fraud.
- Set up automatic bill pay. By signing up for automatic bill pay, you’ll never have to worry about a missed payment impacting your credit score. You can set it so that money is withdrawn from your checking account on the same day each month.
April is National Financial Literacy month. Whether it’s in schools, in the community or in the workplace, the importance of educating each other on personal finance seems to have lost its importance.
We have also noticed this issue and have made great strides to improve the financial literacy and the availability of financial education to those within our community. In 2011 we began the First County Bank Money Smart Program. We’ve conducted over 150 seminars for hundreds of members of the Norwalk and Stamford communities. With an FDIC Money Smart Alliance Certificate of Membership and as an FDIC Money Smart for Young Adults Partner, this program has made an impact in our community and demonstrates our dedication to financial literacy education as a year-round effort.
Our Money Smart Program is not limited to just adults, we have held seminars in four high schools in the Norwalk and Stamford communities. Recently in 2016, we opened a limited-access high school branch at the Academy of Institute Technology and Engineering (AITE) for high school students and managed by high school students. This high school branch no only represents our commitment to financial literacy but creates an opportunity for students to ask questions and explore the challenges of personal finance.
Whether it’s in your school, your community, your workplace, or your family – use this month to start a conversation around financial literacy. More and more seminars are becoming available to educate members of the community on personal finance and its importance. Let’s not let the importance of National Financial Literacy Month slip by without action.
According to America Saves, only two out of five households are making “good” progress in achieving their savings needs. Insufficient savings is a growing trend in our society, and we want to change it. Setting a little extra cash aside for an emergency fund or stowing away money in a retirement account may seem like simple tasks, but we know the toll it can take when living from paycheck to paycheck – that being said, we also realize it’s importance.
Saving is more than just a financial task, it’s a state of mind. It doesn’t happen overnight, it’s a gradual process that is built over time. Setting aside extra cash does not mean giving up half a paycheck. Extra cash can be as much or as little as $25, which is an amount that will make a build-up and make a difference over time.
Realizing this, in 2016 we set out to develop a product that was a fun way to help our customers begin the gradual process of saving regularly. The FirstPrize $avings account was launched in October and has been a success since. Account holders are encouraged to save $25 deposits and resist the temptation to withdraw it. Customers who successfully make eligible deposits are entered in a drawing for $1,000 – which is put right into their account.
Saving isn’t always the most exciting topic of conversation. We’re hoping that through efforts like the FirstPrize $avings account, we can change the trend of setting extra cash aside in our local area and helping everyone make better progress in achieving their savings needs.
In a recent article from the Greenwich Times, First County Bank Corporator, Juanita James was profiled in an article titled, “The Bright Side.” As an established businesswoman and philanthropist, James credits this to always having a positive outlook. From early challenges at Princeton University to becoming the first in her family to graduate from college, “she never loses her smile.”
As a businesswoman, James held high-level executive positions at both Time Inc. and at Pitney-Bowes, here in Stamford. Some of her recognition include being named, Stamford’s Citizen of the Year and Most Influential Black Corporate Directors.
Noting her challenges but choosing to dwell on her positive experiences, James states, “There seems to always be periods of great dissatisfaction and usually we come out of it with great leadership, because in the end, people want to be happy. As leaders, we need to generate that. Each of us has that power.” We congratulate Juanita on her accomplishments and are proud to have her as a First County Bank Corporator.
To read the full article, click here.
Meet Dave Zamary, Senior Vice President, Residential Lending Manager.
Tell us a little about yourself.
I currently live in Milford, CT with my wife and dog Chance. I have been with First County Bank for over 30 years. In my tenure I have experience with all aspects of mortgage origination, specializing in residential purchase and refinance, lending, and construction permanent lending. When I am not helping homebuyers get into the home of their dreams, I am active in my local community as a Knights of Columbus member and volunteering at a local food pantry.
What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?
I enjoy helping home buyers get into their home. I especially enjoy helping first-time homebuyers as it is often such an exciting experience for them.
What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
Top three questions are: How long I’ve been with the Bank? How old is the Bank? Is the Bank stock or mutual? Clients are often most pleased to hear that I have been with the Bank for over 30 years and that we are a mutual community bank.
What advice would you give someone looking to buy or sell in 2017?
Go for it! Interest rates are still low and the purchase market is starting to get busy. It’s a good time to buy or sell.
America Saves Week was established in 2007 by America Saves and the American Savings Education Council in an effort to promote personal savings throughout America and to change people’s behavior when it comes to saving money. AmericaSavesWeek.org uncovered some startling statistics from the 2016 Annual America Saves Week survey:
- Just two out of every five U.S. households report good or excellent progress in meeting their savings goals
- 52 percent are saving enough for retirement at a desirable standard of living
- Only 43 percent have automatic savings outside of work
- More men (74 percent) report savings progress than women (67 percent)
- Those with a savings plan with specific goals (55 percent) are making more savings progress than those without a plan (23 percent)
At First County Bank we have many initiatives and programs to help promote savings. From our most basic savings account to comprehensive retirement strategies, we have the people in place to help you achieve the results you want when it comes to savings.
Well it’s here – 2017 is in full-swing, with a fresh financial start, defined resolutions, and a new administration in D.C. There are many questions circling what the financial industry will look like come fourth quarter. WalletHub, a consumer finance website, has released their financial predictions as we begin to wade through 2017.
- U.S. GDP growth will remain anemic, at 2.1% – Closing 2016 at approximately 1.75% WalletHub is predicting low growth, but growth is still a positive.
- Existing home sales will rise to $6M, despite higher rates – WalletHub forecasts nearly $6M in home sales for 2017, and surprisingly they attribute this to higher interest rates. “If interest rates rise slowly, we may see a nice bump in home sales and mortgage availability as buyers see low interest rates slowly fading and banks have higher rates to buffer against risk,” said Dr. Robert Eyler, director of the Center for Regional Economic Analysis at Sonoma State University.
- The Fed will raise rates twice, bringing its target to 1.125% – With only one rate hike in 2016, it is expected that we will see two in 2017. What does this mean for consumers? According to WalletHub, “each rate hike costs people with credit card debt around $1.4 billion in additional interest charges. As a result, consumers interest charges will be at least $2.8 billion higher in 2017 relative to 2016.” Not that you ever want to build debt, this is one more reason to be careful as you spend.
- Credit card debt will break all-time records, topping $1 trillion owed – As the dust settles it seems that 2016 will end up totaling around $80 billion in credit card debt. Ending 2016 at $80 billion seems to only be a starting point as early estimates project 2017 leaving the $1 trillion mark in the dust. This prediction coupled with the predicted rate hike is even more reason to be strict in your spending and to have a defined financial plan for the year.
- Consumer credit scores will peak at 675 in 2017 – The current average person’s credit score of 668 is expected to peak and plateau in 2017 around 675. Use this expected average increase as an opportunity to evaluate your score and efforts.
For more predictions on what to expect in 2017 read the full article, here. To learn how these predictions can affect you, talk with your local banker by calling or stopping by one of our branches.