Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Trends & Tips

10 Safe Shopping Tips for Cyber Monday

During your online shopping on Cyber Monday, you will likely land on one or more online retail shopping sites.  Here are some tips for shopping safely online.

  1. Monitor your bank accounts frequently:  Turn on notifications to be alerted when purchases are made. Many banking apps allow users to set mobile notifications for all account activity.
  2. Type the URL into the address bar. Instead of just clicking a link to take you to your chosen retailer’s website, it’s safer to type the retailer’s URL into the address bar on your web browser. It may take a little more effort, but this simple action can help to prevent you from visiting a fake or malicious website.
  3. Get email savvy – Be aware of the emails coming in and going out of your inbox, especially opening any attachments. Be sure to verify that the email is coming from a trusted source before clicking or applying for any item.
  4. Use a credit card rather than a debit card – Fraudulent charges are no fun whether it’s a charge to your credit card or debit card. Know that complications may be more severe for a debit card because it is usually linked directly to your checking account.
  5. Practice “good password hygiene” – Be mindful to create new passwords rather than simply reusing passwords. Use a strong password of 8 characters or more, the longer, the better.
  6. Beware of phantom sites – If the deal looks too good to be true, it probably is! Comparison shopping is great for finding the best deals, but stick to sites you are familiar with. And trust your instincts. If you don’t feel comfortable buying or bidding on an item over the web, or if you feel pressured to place your order immediately, maybe you shouldn’t.
  7. Keep your browser up to date – Not only is keeping your browser up to date effective for shopping purposes, but the older your browser is, the weaker it is when defending against viruses and malware.
  8. Make sure the Internet connection is secure. Don’t trust a site just because it claims to be secure.  Before you give your payment information, check for indicators that security software is in place.
  9. Don’t shop on public WiFi: Hackers can gain access to personal, confidential information, including bank account information. Don’t let yourself fall victim by giving them access to your personal information. Always use a secure network.
  10. Set up two-step authentication: This second layer of security is a great way to ensure that you are the only person who signs into your account.

For more tips on how to shop safely, click here.

In Our Community, Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Small Business Profile

Support Local Businesses on Small Business Saturday

Small Business Saturday is back! Saturday, November 24, 2018 is a day dedicated to supporting small businesses across the country. By shopping at small businesses, the mom-and-pop stores that are staples in our community, you are doing your part to help them thrive.

In 2010, American Express launched the first Small Business Saturday, encouraging shoppers nationwide to support local commerce. Since then, billions of dollars are spent on this Saturday at small and local businesses by tens of millions of people. We encourage you to do the same! Don’t do all your shopping at big retailers today, plan to spend some time shopping local. For every $100 spent at local merchants, $68 stays within the community, according to IndependentWeStand.org.

Small Business Saturday is one of the biggest day of sales for the 23 million small businesses in the U.S. who represent about 54 percent of all U.S . retail sales, according to the Small Business Administration (SBA). Spending money locally helps boost small businesses, which helps them create jobs, which in turn powers the economy and revitalizes our community. Shop small, spread the word and know that you’re doing your part by giving back to the community you live in!  It’s a win win for all.

Wishing you all happy small business shopping day!

 

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Black Friday Safe Shopping Tips

During the Thanksgiving holiday, many prepare for the madness of the following morning, Black Friday.

While debit cards are a popular form of payment they may not be the best choice. Credit cards have become one of, if not the safest way to pay for purchases. Using a credit card is safer than a debit card because it is not directly linked to a checking account and you can often dispute charges if something is wrong.

Here are a few situations on Black Friday where you may be better suited to use a credit card:

  • Online. Since the debit card links directly to a checking account, don’t use a debit card online or for phone orders– you are potentially vulnerabile.
  • Big-Ticket Items. With a big ticket item, a credit card is safer. A credit card offers dispute rights if something goes wrong with the merchandise or the purchase. With a debit card, you have fewer protections.  In addition, some credit cards will also offer extended warranties. And in some situations, such as buying electronics or renting a car, some credit cards also offer additional property insurance to cover the item.
  • If You’re a New Customer. Online or in the real world, if you’re a first-time customer in a store, skip the debit card the first couple of times you buy.  That way, you get a feel for how the business is run, how you’re treated and the quality of the merchandise before you hand over a card that links to your checking account.
  • Buy Now, Take Delivery Later. Buying now but taking delivery days or weeks from now? A credit card offers dispute rights that a debit card typically does not.  But be aware that some cards will limit the protection to a specific time period. So settle any problems as soon as possible.

Here are some tips to help make your holiday shopping season safe and joyous:

  • Shop during the day when possible. If you have to shop at night, bring along a friend and park in well-lighted areas.
  • Avoid parking next to vans, trailers, and other vehicles with tinted windows.
  • Never leave valuable items in your car where they are visible to thieves.
  • If you carry a purse or backpack, guard it carefully. Never leave it on the roof of your car while you’re attempting to open or lock your car.
  • Be aware of your surroundings. It’s easy to get distracted by the bright lights and shopping specials, but it’s important to be vigilant about any hidden dangers.
  • Locate your keys before you get to your car.
  • Try not to carry large sums of cash on you.
  • Be suspicious of any strangers that may approach you, particularly in parking garages and parking lots.
  • Keep a record of all your credit card numbers at home in case your cards get lost or stolen.
  • Trust your instincts. If something doesn’t feel right, proceed with caution.

For more fraud protection or security tips, click here.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Thanksgiving Travel Tips

The Thanksgiving holiday is upon us – that treasured time for football, feasts, and family gatherings. It’s also the time when individuals and families flood airports around the country to fly during what has long-been known as the busiest travel time of the year.

If you’re among the thousands of Americans who will hit the airport this Thanksgiving, there are some steps you can take to ensure you have a safe and comfortable journey.

  1. Arrive early. Due to added traffic, it’s a good idea to arrive to the airport at least two hours before your flight. If you are flying out of an exceptionally busy airport, you may want to arrive even earlier.
  2. Carry on medications and valuables with you. This will ensure you have them with you at all times.
  3. Become familiar with TSA guidelines. The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has very strict guidelines on the size of carry-on luggage and what you are allowed to bring. Be sure to familiarize yourself with these rules beforehand to eliminate hassle at the security checkpoint.
  4. Have your photo ID and ticket handy at all times. Due to increased volume and heightened security, you may be asked to show your ID and ticket more frequently than usual.
  5. Ensure your luggage is tagged. Be sure to include your name, address, and phone number in the event your luggage gets lost or misplaced.

Traveling by car instead? According to the American Automobile Association (AAA), 54.3 million Americans will travel 50 miles or more away from home this Thanksgiving, a 4.8 percent increase over last year. The 2018 holiday weekend will see the highest Thanksgiving travel volume in more than a dozen years since 2005, with 2.5 million more people taking to the nation’s roads, skies, rails and waterways compared with last year.

To ensure you arrive safely to your destination, be sure to practice these safe driving tips:

  • Rest up. Before taking a long car journey, it’s critical that you rest and get a good night’s sleep beforehand. For help staying alert during a long journey, consider bringing along a thermos with coffee or other caffeinated drinks.
  • Buckle up. Seat belts are a great way to limit injuries and save lives.
  • Fill ‘er up. Be sure to leave with a full gas tank and to check fluids and tire pressure before you set off on your journey.
  • Follow speed limits. Speeding is a leading cause of accidents. Also, to avoid costly fines and dangers, be sure to obey speed limit signs in construction zones.
  • Pay attention. Avoid electronic distractions by putting away your cellphone.
  • Share the road. If you have a long journey, consider sharing the driving with another licensed driver and switching off every few hours.
  • Take a break. Stop at rest areas to stretch your legs.
  • Pack healthy snacks. Bring along water, fruit, and protein snacks, such as peanuts. Try to avoid sugary treats, which will only make you tired later.
  • Map out your route beforehand. If you have a GPS, be sure to also bring along printed directions in the event that your GPS breaks down.
  • Bring along a safety kit. Your kit should include essentials, such as flashlights, flares, batteries, blankets, and first-aid supplies.

Best wishes for a safe and healthy Thanksgiving!

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Miscellaneous, The CEO's Posts

The Dog Days of Summer

August is known as the “Dog Days of Summer.” To celebrate this and to have a little fun, First County Bank showcased our furry, four-legged friends with their loyal human companions. Our Chairman and CEO, Rey Giallongo, even joined in the fun by sharing a photo of his pals Powell and his brother, Joe. Rey said Powell and Joe are special because they were service dogs with Puppies Behind Bars. Powell and Joe think Rey is special too because he takes them for walks and gives them treats. Check out our photo gallery to see our employees with their top dogs!

 

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

7 Hot Tips for Summer Travel

Planning 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Set lights on timers. To guard against potential burglars, be sure to set lights on timers, so others will think the home is occupied.
  4. Turn off the main water supply. The last thing you want to do is come home to a swimming pool inside your home. This simple step will minimize the risk of that happening.
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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!

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

Don’t let someone break your heart or wallet this Valentine’s Day

datingscamEverything 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
    • FTC
    • FBI

To learn more about online dating scams, view the ABA Foundation and FTC’s infographic.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

First County Bank Goes Teal for Ovarian Cancer Awareness

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.

Lifestyle Trends & Tips

6 Tips for Safe Summer Travel

FCB_WorldPlaneAfter 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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. Set lights on timers. To guard against potential burglars, be sure to set lights on timers, so others will think the home is occupied.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. 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!

Lifestyle Trends & Tips, Trends & Tips

6 Tips for Spring Cleaning Your Finances

FCB_ICONS_ClockAs 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.