Trends & Tips

Black Friday Shopping: Credit Cards or Debit Cards?

creditcardsDuring 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, you have potential vulnerability there.  Also included in the category are phone orders.
  • 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.

For more fraud protection tips, click here.

First County Bank Profile

#FrontlineFridays: Meet Perry Mihaleas

perry-ffMeet Perry Mihaleas, Customer Service Representative at the First County Bank New Canaan Branch located at 95 Park Street in this edition of #FrontlineFridays.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I grew up and live in Stamford.  I have been with First County Bank for about 7 years, and work at the New Canaan Branch.  I am a UCONN Alumnus and a UCONN Athletics fan.  I have 3 kids, and have enjoyed coaching youth teams:  Stamford Girls Softball, Volleyball and Basketball.  Probably one of the most rewarding experiences I have had was coaching a Challenger Baseball Team.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?
My favorite part of my role at First County Bank is my interaction with our customers, helping them with their banking needs and financial questions, but also having a personal interaction with them.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
The most frequent question I receive from customers is usually about a transaction they may have forgotten or a question about online banking.

What is your favorite part of the holidays?
My favorite holiday is Thanksgiving.  We get together with family and friends, and I am very happy to enjoy each other’s company.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
I am not sure I have one favorite moment.  I find it rewarding when I can answer a customer’s question about a loan or some various financial options that we have that may benefit them; or when a customer calls and asks for you and you are able to assist them, and they tell you at the end of the call, “Thank You for your help. That’s why I do business here, because I am able to speak to a person on the phone.”

AITE Branch, First County Bank Profile

Alexander Graf, AITE Branch Student-Employee, Commended Student in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program

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In September 2016, First County Bank opened a limited-access bank branch at The Academy of Information Technology and Engineering (AITE) high school in Stamford, CT. During the first year of the program, we have had the pleasure of working with many motivated AITE students.

In October, student-employee Alexander Graf was named a Commended Student in the 2018 National Merit Scholarship Program. Alex is a graduating senior at AITE and took time out of his busy schedule to talk to us about his experience working for First County Bank’s AITE Branch.

What were your initial thoughts about being a First County Bank, AITE Branch student-employee?
I initially heard about the opportunity from a couple different teachers of mine who suggested that it would be a good experience. I ended up applying and we began the training in August of last year. I was unsure, but once I met Sheila (AITE Branch Manager) and the training got underway, it was a great experience.

The experience I’ve had overall working at the Branch has been second-to-none. Unlike learning in the classroom it was great to have first-hand experience on how things actually work behind the scenes at a bank. Additionally, I learned about the different types of accounts that are offered and how they are beneficial. I learned a lot of things that they don’t teach in school – how credit cards work, 401(k)’s, IRAs and just the different types of accounts in general.

What surprised you the most about your experience in the financial industry?
As someone who is interested in finance, I thought I had a good handle on what I might experience. However what surprised me the most was how friendly everyone was. There’s a stigma of how the business world is tough and no one is really there to help you – at the Bank you’re not just thrown into a situation, the peer-to-peer customer service was not what I had expected.

I also enjoyed the opportunity to work at the drive-through window at Summer St. It was that experience that really surprised me, and showed the willingness of everyone to help and mentor you.

What’s a key educational takeaway from your experience?
That’s an easy question, “how to know what to do.” The most important thing I learned really comes down to how to manage money. I think that that’s really something important for us to learn, especially before going to college. Many of us will be taking out loans whether it’s through the government or privately-funded and if we don’t know how to manage money and save, we’re going to have a really tough time coming out of it.

How will you use the skills you’ve learned in college?
My next goal is to get an internship at a financial services firm in college. First County Bank is the primary experience I will use when applying for an internship. Furthermore, what I’ve learned about money management and the industry overall is irreplaceable. I look forward to also using this experience to help future classmates and friends when it comes to classwork or personal finances/money management.

What financial tip or lesson would you share with a friend or family member based on your experience?
“Know how to make your money work for you.” Make sure you save in a reliable way, don’t just put your money in a savings account and let it sit there. It takes self-control to be smart about your money but it’s important that you make your money work for you. Most people just aren’t aware or start too late when it comes to saving for retirement; it’s important that we start now and educate ourselves on things like compounding interest.

Alex is in the process of applying to college. He’d like to major in Economics with certifications in Finance and Business. Alex also has a passion for music, which he’d like to minor in wherever he attends school.

In Our Community, Sponsorships & Events

Stamford Downtown Parade Spectacular

atlanticJoin us for this fun filled event as First County Bank volunteers navigate the streets of downtown Stamford handling the Paddington Bear helium balloon. Come out with the whole family and cheer us on as we hand out spin signs.

One of the largest helium balloon parades in the country, this event features everyone’s favorite giant balloon characters, award winning marching bands and fabulous floats. Fun for the whole family!

For event details or contact information, click here.

First County Bank Profile

#FrontlineFridays: Meet Giselle Herrera

IMG_7881Tell us a little about yourself.
I’ve been working at First County Bank since April 2017. I am Peruvian, and came to this country 11 years ago. I currently study Finance at UCONN and I love cooking and reading.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?
I love the ability to help customers with their transactions and questions. Every day I try my best to make customers happy. I believe that we should always treat people the way we want to be treated.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
Customers frequently ask for their balance history

What is your favorite fall/autumn activity?
I really enjoy long walks during autumn, this is my favorite season of the year; I love the color of the trees.

What is your favorite part of the holidays?
During the holidays I really enjoy spending time with my family. I usually cook for the holidays. Having my loved ones at my dinner table is priceless. My favorite holiday is Christmas, I feel like a kid again!

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
My favorite First County Bank moment was when I opened an account for a customer for the first time. I was a little nervous but everything went very well.

Bank News

Dave Zamary of First County Bank Named to New England Mortgage Bankers Conference 2017 Hall of Fame

We are pleased to announce that Dave Zamary, senior vice president, Residential Mortgage Origination, was inducted into the New England Mortgage Bankers Conference (NEMBC) 2017 Hall of Fame at the September 14 awards celebration, held at Gurney’s of Newport, Newport, RI.

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Dave Zamary, senior vice president, Residential Mortgage Originations, First County Bank was awarded the NEMBC Hall of Fame 2017 Award by Kevin Moran, president of the Connecticut Mortgage Banker’s Association and senior vice president, division sales manager, Retail Mortgage Lending at Webster Bank.

“I am so privileged to become an NEMBC Hall of Famer. Getting recognition from my peers in the mortgage banking industry is such an honor,” said Dave Zamary. “I truly enjoy recommending the best solutions for borrowers and guiding them through the loan process to get the home of their dreams. It’s such a pleasure to be recognized for something I am passionate about.”

The NEMBC Hall of Fame is the highest peer-to-peer honor for New England mortgage professionals. Individuals are recognized based on their outstanding contributions to mortgage banking in New England and their spirit of excellence in their profession. Dave Zamary is one of 13 inductees in 2017. He was recognized for his contribution to the mortgage industry and for his active membership in the Connecticut Mortgage Bankers Association (CMBA), where he served as president from 2013-2016.

“We are delighted Dave was recognized by the NEMBC for his accomplishments in the mortgage banking industry and service to our community,” said Reyno A. Giallongo, Jr., Chairman and CEO of First County Bank. “It is especially an honor for him to be recognized by his peers. Dave is a valued member of our Residential Mortgage Originations team and has been with the Bank for the past 30 years.”

Trends & Tips

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Internet of Things

shutterstock_418009015 [Converted]As consumers buy more smart watches, activity trackers, holographic headsets, and other Internet of Things (IoT) devices, the need for improved security on these devices will become more pressing. Online criminals could exploit these new devices to conduct data breaches, corporate or government espionage, and damage critical infrastructure like electrical grids.

  1. Don’t connect your devices unless you need to.   The first step is to consider what functionality you need from the device. Just because your TV or fridge can connect to the internet, doesn’t mean you definitely want to hook it up. Take a good look at the features it offers and learn exactly what internet connectivity brings before you connect.
  2. Create a separate network.  Many Wi-Fi routers support guest networking so that visitors can connect to your network without gaining access to shared files or networked devices. This kind of separation also works well for IoT devices that have questionable security.
  3. Pick good passwords and a different password for every device.  It’s very important to pick strong passwords, but you must also make sure that you pick a different password for every device. If a hacker manages to get one of your passwords, they will typically try it with other services and devices. Reusing passwords is not a good idea. Use a password manager to keep track of all your passwords.
  4. Turn off Universal Plug and Play (UPnP). Sadly, UPnP can make routers, printers, cameras and other devices vulnerable to attack. It’s designed to make it easier to network devices without configuration by helping them automatically discover each other. The problem is that hackers can also potentially discover them from beyond your local network because of vulnerabilities in the UPnP protocol. Is best to turn UPnP off completely.
  5. Make sure you have the latest firmware.  If you want to make sure you have the latest security patches and reduce the chances of a successful attack, then you need to keep your firmware fully updated. Vulnerabilities and exploits will be fixed as they emerge, so your IoT devices and your router need to be regularly updated. Automate this wherever possible or set a schedule to check for updates every three months or so.
  6. Be wary of cloud services.  A lot of IoT devices rely on cloud services, but the requirement for an internet connection in order for something to function can be a real problem. Not only will it not work when the network is down, but it may also be syncing sensitive data or offering another potential route into your home. Make sure you read up on the provider’s privacy policy and look for reassurances about encryption and data protection.
  7. Keep personal devices out of the workplace.  Don’t take your personal IoT devices to work. There are lots of potential security concerns for wearables. Every enterprise should have a clear BYOD policy, and it’s often a good idea to prohibit personal IoT devices from connecting to the network, or at least limit them to a guest network.
  8. Track and assess devices.  Businesses need to track everything connected to the network and monitor the flow of traffic. Devices need to be assessed to determine the level of access they should have, to keep them fully patched and up to date, and to protect data end-to-end to preserve its integrity. Unknown devices should flag an alert. Understanding which devices are connected and what they’re doing is a prerequisite for proper security.

If you enjoyed these tips and want to learn more about Fraud Prevention & Safety visit our website by clicking here or visit: http://firstcountybank.com/efraud-protection.

First County Bank Profile

#FrontlineFridays: Meet Ricky Arriaga

IMG_7761Meet Ricky Arriaga, Teller at the First County Bank West Main Street, Stamford Branch located at 1980 West Main Street in this edition of #FrontlineFridays.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I have been working for First County Bank for 2 years now. I grew up and currently live in Stamford. I enjoy watching sports mostly football and basketball, I also love listening to music and traveling to new places when I go on vacation.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?
My favorite part about my role with the Bank is meeting new customers and helping people with their banking needs and learning and growing every day.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
The most frequent question I receive from the customers is if I can help them get set up with our online banking.

What is your favorite fall/autumn activity?
My favorite fall activity would have to be playing pickup football with friends and catching up with people I haven’t seen in a long time. My favorite holiday is Halloween, going out and dressing up in crazy costumes is a lot of fun.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
My favorite First County Bank moment was when I made my very first credit card sale; the customer was approved for $3,000.00 line of credit. It was my favorite moment because it was exciting and motivating, and it encouraged me to keep working harder.

 

Trends & Tips

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month: Mobile Banking Precautions

cybersecurity-mobileMobile banking offers account access with the same tight security measures as the full desktop websites counterpart. By following these steps, it is possible to make things much harder for criminals and to significantly lower your safety risks:

  1. Always use a pin or gesture code to lock mobile devices. If a physical device falls into the hands of a criminal, the first thing they should be faced with is security, particularly where access to finances and other data is concerned.
  2. Only use official routes to communicate with financial institutions.   Ensuring users stick to the official ways of contacting and receiving information from their banks is key. Mobile banking shouldn’t dramatically change the way banks communicate, so ignoring links to sites in emails requesting details, unusual texts or other messages, is advice worth noting when using a smartphone as it is when using a desktop PC, tablet or  laptop.
  3. Be aware of connection services.  Public Wi-Fi is far easier to ‘sniff’ for data than mobile data connections provided by a network operator. Unless the user is 100% sure of the security, or trust the connection on offer, think twice about dealing with personal finances over it.  Installing trusted security software, like Norton Mobile Security or Norton Tablet Security, will help prevent malware – the cybercriminal’s number one tool – from logging keystrokes or gaining access to a device. It can also scan emails to provide support in avoiding phishing attacks seeking bank account information.
  4. Be careful what you download.  It’s possible that mobile banking sessions could come under threat from code carried by other applications downloaded. While security software can scan for threats on a device, be aware of information entered onto a device and try to stick to well -regarded or official sources of applications or content.
  5. Read the fine print. Does your financial institution’s app allow you to delete all banking-related messages, pictures and other data saved on the phone? Can you disable the feature that automatically signs you in to your online bank account the minute your phone is turned on? Once connected to your account, will the app automatically disconnect after a certain period of inactivity?
  6. Set up your phone to encrypt data. Make sure your phone has an application to encrypt all stored data. Then, use it to protect sensitive messages from your financial institution and pictures of valid checks.  Photos of checks and other sensitive banking data may be stored on your phone’s memory expansion card. Even if the phone itself is secured with encryption, the card probably is not. Note that older phones may not have enough power to run encryption software.
  7. Download anti-virus software and enable firewall protection for your cell phone. Make sure to update it regularly.
  8. Never respond to email messages from your bank that request personal information. Banks or Credit Unions never ask for this information by email. Mark it as spam, and delete it. Next, delete all your cached content (sent messages, received messages, etc.) on a regular basis. Finally, check your browser security settings to help filter out phishing emails.
  9. Be skeptical about text messages. Before opening a text that appears to be from your bank, and especially before hitting “reply,” call your financial institution first to make sure the message is actually from them.

If you enjoyed these tips and want to learn more about Fraud Prevention & Safety visit our website by clicking here or visit: http://firstcountybank.com/efraud-protection.

First County Bank Profile

#FrontlineFridays: Meet Lily Alvarez Angeles

IMG_7740Meet Lily Alvarez Angeles, Teller at the First County Bank Prospect Street Branch located at 117 Prospect Street in this edition of #FrontlineFridays.

Tell us a little about yourself.
I am a simple person, who believes in God. I am fully convinced that God is good and that He acts every day in my family’s life. I am a wife and a mom who takes care of her family as best as possible. I have two children, Gerardo, 20, who is a junior at UCONN Stamford and Analily, 9, who just started 3rd grade at a school in Stamford.

What is your favorite part of your role at First County Bank?
What I like most about my job at First County Bank is helping customers, treating them with joy and a smile, and listening and motivating them to have a beautiful day. I love to meet customers from different places around the world. The Bank is perfect to meet a lot of people who think and act differently; as we have a diverse community.

What is the most frequent question you receive from customers?
The most frequent question I get from customers is “what is the balance in my checking account?”

What is your favorite thing to do during the fall?
My favorite activity in autumn is to go to the park with my children.

What is your favorite First County Bank moment?
My favorite First County Bank moment was when I was preparing a speech about my experience as a woman, new to this wonderful country, for the Women’s Mentoring Network.  The speech was read last year at a celebration for First County Bank Foundation’s 15th Anniversary. The best part was having the Prospect Street Branch help me perfect my speech. Our branch manager, Edens, was so over joyed with the collaboration of the speech that he bought us all lunch.