Online Shopping Tips to Prevent Fraud this Holiday Season

Xmas timeCyber Thieves are officially out these days to steal your credit card information or any other private personal information they can intercept as you shop online during the holiday season. Ongoing awareness of these scams is critical so that you are cautious and informed in order to protect your personal and financial information.

Take a few moments to read over these tips to ensure your financial and personal security:

  1. Be extremely careful when using free Wi-Fi hotspots to shop online, as you may be watched by data sniffers.
  2. Only shop on secure, reputable Websites that: A. You know via other means (the press; you shop at their store) B. Look for “https” in the URL, C. The Website has a small padlock icon in the bottom right corner of your browser or the URL turns green, signaling a “safe” site.
  3. Never offer more personal information to online stores than absolutely necessary (e.g., Social Security numbers, bank account numbers, passwords, PINs).
  4. Never use the same password across multiple Websites, and do not use your name, pet’s name, birthdate, dictionary word or other easily guessed attribute as a password. Use a combination of letters, symbols and numbers and vary upper and lower case.
  5. Leave suspicious Websites immediately (that ask for more information than normal or require you to double enter information).
  6. Do not respond to emails, text messages, and phone calls that advertise the sale of gift cards, holiday gifts, promotions, contests and jobs – unless it’s a reputable company or store you frequently shop at and you know it’s a legitimate advertisement.
  7. Log out of your online accounts when you are not actively shopping, and password protect your smartphone, tablet and laptop in case they do go missing.
  8. You should ensure your home computers are secured with a firewall and antivirus software before performing any online transactions. Operating system patches should be downloaded when made available by software vendors. Make sure you also protect mobile devices (mobile phones, tablets, etc.) used to conduct online transactions by installing anti-virus software.
  9. Use automated account alerts and frequently monitor your credit card charges and bank balances, allowing you to catch fraud immediately.
  10. Only cyber shop on a non-public (e.g., not in a library) computer with a secure Internet connection, updated anti-virus software and up-to-date operating system.
  11. Try to avoid tempting holiday offers, such as free downloadable applications for smartphones, anti-virus software, screen savers, ring tones and electronic greeting cards, which may be infected with viruses and/or malware.
  12. Only donate to known charities and only when you have initiated the gift. Never send money (via check, cash or electronically) based solely on a wall post, email or phone call. Respond to such correspondence by contacting the charity on a reputable phone number or Website.
  13. If you shop on auction sites like Craigslist or eBay you unfortunately you might purchase merchandise that will never be delivered. Be sure to follow the best practices published by Craigslist and other public auction websites to avoid scams.
  14. Fraudsters often place bogus advertisements for free prizes on social media like Facebook and Twitter. We urge you to not respond to these advertisements.

If you take these tips to heart, you will not only save yourself the stress of shopping in person, you won’t have to think twice about doing your holiday buying online. It is crucial that you immediately report any unauthorized transactions to First Financial if you notice any fraudulent activity on your accounts. You can contact us by calling 732.312.1500, e-mailing or stopping into any one of our branches. You can also report scams to the Federal Trade Commission or call toll-free 1.877.FTC.HELP (1.877.382.4357).

Four Credit Card Mistakes You’re Already Making

stock_money_credit-resized-600Using credit cards responsibly may not sound appealing at first, but being plagued with too much credit card debt is an ugly mess that can develop quickly and linger for years.

Making smart decisions about credit, on the other hand, isn’t difficult and can improve your credit score, help you when landing a job, and be welcome relief in the event of an emergency. Avoiding the following mistakes when using credit cards can leave you sitting pretty:

4 credit card mistakes that can cost you…

  1. Not keeping track of purchases: Sometimes when using a credit card it can seem like you have access to “free” money — you are not limited by the amount of money in your pocket and can go on making purchases without feeling any pain to your wallet. But although it may feel like you aren’t really spending much money, not keeping track of receipts can wreak havoc on your finances. Use a small notebook to write down credit card purchases when you make them so you won’t be surprised later when you get your monthly statement.
  2. Not shopping around for the best credit card deals: Don’t make the mistake of signing up for the first credit card offer that arrives in your mailbox. Go online and look for the best possible credit card terms you can find. Credit card rates can vary significantly depending upon the type of promotions that may be offered.
  3. Not paying credit card bills on time: Late credit card payments result in late fees and higher interest rates. Read through your credit card statement carefully so you know when the payment is due. Most credit card statements list the date and time that payments must be received to be credited on time. If you think a mailed payment won’t reach the company in time, consider making a payment online or by phone to get it processed faster.
  4. Running up too high of a balance: Credit card companies get concerned when you use up too much of your credit line — and so should you. Try not to use more than 30% of your credit line to keep your credit score from being affected. Keeping a low balance or paying it off each month also means you won’t run up a lot of credit card debt.

Credit cards can be useful financial tools when used responsibly. And with it being so important to protect your credit score these days, avoiding these costly mistakes can help keep your finances in good shape – and that can make for a beautiful financial future.

Article Source:

*First Financial is not responsible for the content listed on any external websites.



Credit Management Seminar Summary

Recently we held a seminar filled with information on the importance of credit, what makes up your credit score, rates and fees and ways to improve your credit score.

Taking the information below and applying it will strengthen and increase your credit score and we promise it will make your life that much easier.

  • Importance of credit: Good credit helps you build personal financial wealth, allows you to secure goods and services now but pay for them later and also increases the confidence of lenders and creditors. Your score even affects interest rates and the fees you pay and helps you achieve short and long term goals.
  • What makes up your credit score: Your credit score is actually a mathematical equation that evaluates different information that is on your credit report in order to identify your future credit risk. Your credit report does not contain information about your income. Visit this site for additional credit score information. If you would like to see your credit report, you can go to EquifaxExperian or Trans Union Corp.
  • Ways to improve your credit score: Make sure you pay your bills on time and try to keep your credit card balances low and pay them off when possible. You want to get your bills current and stay current. You also don’t want to close unused credit cards to try and boost your score. It will actually raise your balance to limit ratio and can lower your score. So try to not open unnecessary credit card accounts if you can avoid it.

How long does information remain on your credit report?

  • Bankruptcy: 10 years
  • Judgment, Suit: 7 years
  • Tax Lien: 7 years
  • Collection, Charge-off: 7 years
  • Inquires/Late Payments: 2 years

In order to obtain loans after a derogatory credit, you will first need time. You will then need to write a letter to accompany your request to explain the discrepancies. It’s very important to be honest and provide documentation that supports settlements or credit correction.

If you still have questions, please call us at 732.312.1500 or email

What You Should Save By 35, 45, and 55 To Be On Target

Getting started is half the battle when it comes to building retirement security. Setting near term goals are important too. Here’s how to do both.

Financial rules of thumb are just that. If you follow them, you have the satisfaction of knowing that you’ve taken action — but they do not guarantee you’ll get the results you desire. Still, in the savings game guideposts can be especially useful. A near-term target will help you get started, and that’s half the battle.

Here is a recently put together, age-based savings guideline with a range of savings goals that can be applicable to anyone.

Here are the guideposts:

  • At age 35, you should have saved an amount equal to your annual salary.
  • At age 45, you should have saved three times your annual salary.
  • At 55, you should have five times your salary.
  • When you retire at age 67, you should have eight times your annual pay.

There are benchmarks to hit along the way. Having near-term targets helps you stay on track—and take the necessary steps to catch up while time is on your side. But there is nothing easy about hitting these targets. It is assumed that:

  • You begin saving in a workplace retirement plan, such as a 401(k), at age 25. You save continuously and without interruption until age 67.
  • You start by making an annual salary contribution equal to 6% of pay, and raise the figure by one percentage point each year until you are saving 12% of your pay.
  • Your employer matches you at 50 cents on the dollar up to 6% of your pay and your portfolio grows 5.5% a year.
  • Social Security is factored in.
  • Your income grows 1.5 percentage points faster than inflation each year.


These assumptions are reasonable in terms of building an illustrative savings model. But consider that almost no one starts saving at 25 and millions suffer some sort of job interruption over an approximate 42-year career. This model also has you saving 12% of your pay by age 32. A common rule of thumb is 10% and again, most folks don’t get serious about saving until they are in their 40s and 50s.

Meanwhile, you will need a healthy slug of stocks to earn 5.5% a year. Yet individuals have been net sellers of stock mutual funds for at least half a decade. Whether Social Security will be available when you retire is an open question. In some cases many people are not earning as much as they used to earn, and not keeping up with the rate of inflation.

Of course, it would be a mistake to extrapolate the experience of the crisis years indefinitely into the future. Still, this exercise points up the difficulty of reaching retirement security without an early start, or hyper-aggressive saving at midlife. No matter your age, at least now you can see where you stand – and what to do about it.

Contact the First Financial’s Investment and Retirement Center if you would like to set up a no-cost consultation at 732.312.1500 or visit our website for more information.

Representatives are registered, securities are sold, and investment advisory services offered through CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc. (CBSI), member FINRA/SIPC, a registered broker/dealer and investment advisor, 2000 Heritage Way, Waverly, Iowa 50677, toll-free 800-369-2862. Nondeposit investment and insurance products are not federally insured, involve investment risk, may lose value and are not obligations of or guaranteed by the financial institution. CBSI is under contract with the financial institution, through the financial services program, to make securities available to members. CUNA Brokerage Services, Inc., is a registered broker/dealer in all fifty states of the United States of America.

Article Source:

Pay Other People with Online Bill Pay


Did you know you can pay another person through First Financial’s Online Bill Pay service?  With Popmoney, it’s easy!  Plus, it’s fast and secure, and even allows you to interact socially with the recipient and pay them without having to deal with sending checks or cash.

How does it work? 

Simply login to your First Financial Online Banking Account, and then proceed to login to your Bill Pay Account.  If you do not have a First Financial Online Banking or Bill Pay Account, you will need to enroll before you can use Popmoney. Click here or call our Member Service Center at 732.312.1500 to enroll or if you have questions. *Please note that while Online Banking is free and you can enroll in Bill Pay separately, you must pay at least 3 bills per month using Bill Pay or a $6 monthly fee applies.

Once you are a Bill Pay user and you are logged into Bill Pay – click on the Popmoney tab at the top right.  You’ll see a section for Payment Information:


  • You will select the First Financial account you’d like the payment to be deducted from first, and then either an email address or mobile phone number of the individual you are paying.  You must enter either an email or mobile number, or this service will not work.
  • Then enter your payment amount and send date.
  • You can also make your payment a recurring one (say you want to pay monthly rent to your landlord on the 1st of every month), and one of the popular features of Popmoney – adding a note to your transaction.  On a regular check you might be able to write “Happy Birthday!” in the memo portion, but Popmoney’s personalized note feature allows the recipient to read the note like a social media comment, and then respond back and thank the sender if he or she wanted to.  The personalized notes allow the sender to choose a variety of categories for the purpose of the payment: allowance, entertainment, gifts, rent, travel, and so on.  Or – if the category you’d like isn’t listed, the program allows you to customize by adding your own.
  • Once you have entered all the payment details, you’ll be directed to another page to confirm and send your payment.

Easy enough, right?

How does the recipient know when they have a payment?

Now you know why you had to enter an email or mobile phone number – based on the method you entered, the recipient would receive either an email or text letting them know they have a payment from you (your first and last name are viewable by the recipient only – and your personal message if you left one), or vice versa if someone were sending you a payment.

If the recipient’s financial institution also offers the Popmoney service, they’ll be able to accept the payment upon logging into their Bill Pay and clicking on their Popmoney tab to direct the funds to their account.  If not, the recipient can provide their account information at and the funds will be sent to the account entered.  If account information is not provided, the payment will be returned to the sender.

The sender cannot see the recipient’s account information, and vice versa – the service is completely secure.  There are also several other frequently asked questions available within the Popmoney tab for further inquiries regarding the service.

Ready to get started?  Login to your First Financial Bill Pay Account today, or contact us to enroll!



Marketing & Sales for Business Seminar Summary

In a recent Marketing and Sales Business Seminar, counselors from SCORE spoke about the importance of marketing and sales at First Financial.

Marketing is about building trust and a relationship with clients. 70-80% of your time will be spent in marketing your business.

You want to ask yourself:

  1. What is the uniqueness my business offers?
  2. What problem will I solve for my client?
  3. How can I get my message out?

Some different types marketing outlets to consider using include:

  • Family and friends
  • Past Business Acquaintances
  • Cold Calling: telephone or door to door
  • Direct Mail
  • Advertising: Print and Media
  • Networking (something you want to constantly work at)

Social Media

When considering the use of social media here are five commandments to consider:

  1. Thou shalt understand the reach and power of the social Web – Facebook, LinkedIn, and other social networks give you cost effective access to more prospects than even before. It also gives you a chance to share information without sending out email blasts or cold calling.
  2. Thou shalt not become a Satan of Spam – offer members helpful ideas or links.  Never spam members or use automatic friend-adding software.
  3. Thou shalt not mix business and pleasure – to avoid confusion, use a professional identity for your business.  For example, when using Facebook, set up a page that is strictly for your business, not your personal account.
  4. Thou shalt be 100 percent transparent – when using social media programs always be upfront about who you are and what you do.  Never leave a positive comment or testimonial about yourself.
  5. Thou shalt be kind to others – online communities can be vicious at times, with people feuding and spreading rumors and innuendos.  While using online sites, remember the Golden Rule, treat others, including your competitors, as you want to be treated.

Selling a product or service is 70-80% listening.  You need to understand the right questions to ask and when you should ask them.  When trying to make a sale – be yourself, be natural, be confident, and be positive.

Sales are generally lost due to neglect of listening, lack of a trustful relationship, the client wasn’t educated enough, or you didn’t ask for the sale.

SCORE is a nonprofit organization that helps small businesses. It offers free counseling sessions, workshops, and more. To learn more about how you can get free help with your small business or to set up an appointment, visit SCORE’s website, give them a call at 732.224.2573, or find them at library counseling locations at Shrewsbury, Manalapan, Wall, and Middletown; main office at Brookdale Community College. They are also available through EMACC, SMCC, and GMCC Chambers of Commerce.