Teens are Falling Prey to Online Scams

Did you know that teens are now falling prey to online scams even faster than seniors? Last year, there were over 23,000 online scam complaints from individuals under 21 years old. This suggests that no matter how well-versed you are in technology and the internet, you can still be a victim of online scams. Learn more about these scams and how you can avoid them by reading below.

Common Online Scams Targeting Teens

Reports of online scams have increased by 156% among members of Generation Z. Born in the digital age, teens are more comfortable sharing their whereabouts on various online platforms. However, this can also make you vulnerable to the scams listed below.

Romance Scams

While using various dating apps, you might encounter a romance scammer. They’ll try to build an intimate online relationship with you, but their real goal is to make a hole in your wallet. Usually stationed abroad, they will often refuse meet-ups and video calls. Be on the lookout for these types of scammers and do not send them any money, gift cards, prepaid cards, or the like. If something feels off – it most likely is.

Fake Online Stores

While online shopping can be fun and even therapeutic, you might come across fake e-commerce stores that copy the logos and sites of legitimate businesses. These scammers will usually offer your favorite items at unreasonably low prices. In the end, you’ll get substandard products — or nothing at all.

Employment Scams

There may be various job opportunities online, but not all of them are real. Scammers have been known to post fake, poorly written ads. They’ll also make you pay up front fees for training, which no legitimate employer would ever do. Don’t fall into this trap!

Bogus Online Contests

While you may follow some online influencers, scammers are busy copying these public figures through fraudulent social media accounts. They’ll conduct online contests and giveaways. Once you’re declared a “winner,” they’ll solicit your bank account details or require you to pay a nominal fee to claim the prize. In reality, you won’t get anything — other than a stolen identity.

Avoiding Online Scams: Tips for Teens and Parents

Whether you’re still trying to familiarize yourself with online accounts or already tech-savvy, remember the following tips to avoid online scams:

  • Check various reviews online before purchasing items from a specific store.
  • Choose a strong and unique password for each of your online accounts. Avoid using your nickname, birthdate, or your pet’s name because these can be found easily on other platforms.
  • Never give out your personal and financial details, especially during unexpected calls.
  • Look for misspellings and grammatical mistakes in ads, websites, or emails.
  • Monitor what you or your child share on social media. Scammers may find some information in an online profile which they can then use to commit identity theft.
  • Before making a decision, share it with someone you trust, like parents, friends, and other family members. Doing so will help you figure out if you’re being scammed.
  • Be suspicious of people asking you to pay advance fees through P2P payment apps such as Venmo, Cash App, and Zelle, or through wire transfers and gift or prepaid cards.
  • When using a person-to-person payment app, only send money to someone who you actually know and trust.
  • If possible, don’t use public WiFi because scammers can usually find ways to access sensitive information.

Final Thoughts

Whether you’re a teen or a senior, you’re not free from the hands of scammers. Be extra careful and combat scammers by following the tips above. Always reach out to us if you suspect any of your First Financial accounts have been compromised due to a scam.

T.H.I.N.K First because There’s Harm In Not Knowing!

 

How to Tip in Different Scenarios: Updated for 2021

A few years ago, we published a blog post about tipping in various situations. Since it’s been a little bit, and the world has changed a lot over the past 18 months – here is an update on how and what is considered an ideal tip for service in 2021.

Tipping does not only let you show your appreciation to a delivery person or server’s hard work – you’re likely also helping them pay their monthly bills or pay for tuition. Keep scrolling!

Server at a Restaurant

Many servers earn only about $2 per hour. Tipping them 20% makes a huge difference. Did their service exceed your expectations? Tip them 25%! The restaurant industry has particularly suffered a great deal over the past year and a half. Many servers were either out of work as restaurants were closed, or once they reopened – many had trouble and are still having trouble finding enough employees. Your server may be doing double or triple the amount of work than in normal times lately, so if they went above and beyond – it makes a difference to show your gratitude for excellent service.

Buffet Restaurant

At buffet restaurants, you choose and get your own food. However, remember that servers still refill your drinks. They also prepare new clean plates, silverware, and cups for you. Consider tipping them at least 10%. If they showed superb service, don’t hesitate to be a little bit more generous with your tip!

Takeout

The fact that your food was prepared for you, and you now don’t have to worry about what to cook for dinner tonight is something to be grateful for. Tip at least 10% and make the server or cashier’s day a little brighter.

Delivery

Thanks to hardworking delivery drivers, your cravings for some fresh, hot pizza have been satisfied! Tip them at least $2 to $4. If they deliver your food in bad weather or are driving a further distance to get to you, try tipping them some more.

Coffee Barista

While you’re not required to tip coffee baristas, a small act of kindness can go a long way. Place a dollar in that tip jar, enjoy your coffee, and make your favorite barista feel appreciated for their hard work. After all, that first cup of morning coffee is definitely something to get your day started off on the right foot!

Bartender

Wondering if you still need to tip a bartender? Of course you do! Preparing your favorite drinks requires art, expertise, and speed – so honor their craft by giving at least $1 or $2 per drink order.

Hairstylist or Barber

Getting a new haircut , color, or hairstyle is one of the best ways to pamper yourself. Give your favorite hairstylist or barber a 20% to 25% tip. After all, they help you look your best!

Tattoo Artist

Not everyone can draw a permanent, beautiful, and unique piece of art on your body. Given this, tattoo artists should receive at least a 20% tip. If you love how your tattoo turned out, why not tip more?

Manicurist

Apart from getting a new haircut, getting a manicure or pedicure may be another one of your favorite forms of self-care. Tip like you would to a hairstylist. Manicurists also typically deserve a larger tip for keeping your nails clean and colorful – especially if you visit the same one every two to three weeks.

Uber/Lyft/Taxi Driver

Not sure how much to tip an Uber, Lyft, or taxi driver? Around 15% to 20% will do. If you had a great ride and your destination’s a bit far, feel free to raise your tip.

Conclusion

While tipping allows you to applaud good service, it can also mean so much to servers, baristas, delivery drivers, hairstylists, and other passionate workers. Therefore, a general rule of thumb is to tip from 10% to 25% depending upon the situation. When in doubt, always try to be more generous if you can!

Tips for Buying Your First Car

Purchasing your first car is one of the most exciting experiences in life. However, it can also be overwhelming and costly if you don’t know what to do. Fortunately, we’ve prepared a short guide to help you with the process.

Do Your Research and Be Prepared

A car buyer’s best friend is information. There are many websites today that can give consumers data on the features and pricing of every vehicle available. Before stepping into a car dealership, you should know the vehicle you want to purchase and the price you’re willing to pay.

What you don’t want to do is to go to a dealership without having a financing offer. Many car dealers make much of their profit via their financing offices. This means they get a cut of any auto loan they get when their buyers accept. That’s why before visiting dealerships, you should get a pre-approved financing offer from a credit union. This way, your dealer will have to come up with a better offer if they want to make a sale.

Compare Prices from Different Dealerships

The various auto dealerships out there are not the same, even if they display the same exact makes and models. Most people start and end their car shopping experiences at the dealer that is most convenient to them, which can be an expensive mistake.

According to COX Automotive, 41% of car buyers only go to a single dealership when buying a new car. When you shop with just one dealer, you can’t make comparisons to know if a better deal is available to you. Just like any purchase, you should compare the prices of the same vehicle from different dealerships. Letting another dealer know that they have competition is often enough to make them strive to earn your business.

Don’t Be Pressured into Getting Costly Add-Ons

Apart from financing, dealers also make money by selling add-on products. Although some may be valuable, many of them have high markups and can be purchased at lower prices outside the dealership. Avoid being tempted to purchase these products since they’ll only add cost to your monthly payment. A good trick to get the real price of any add-on is to multiply the extra cost by the length of your auto loan.

Close the Deal the Right Way

If the pricing and financing look right to you, then it’s time to close the deal. Be sure that you review the contract carefully. Check to ensure that the numbers match what you have agreed upon and make sure there are no extra fees or charges. After signing the contract, the vehicle is now yours to drive.

Conclusion

Purchasing your first car is truly an exciting process. By following the above tips, you can get the car that you want without overspending. Also, be sure to ask your local credit union if they have a First Time Car Buyer’s Program. Here at First Financial, we absolutely do! This program allows our first time member car buyers to finance their first vehicle without a co-signer, as well as we offer terms up to 84 months.*

Learn more and apply online today!

*Not all applicants will qualify, subject to credit approval. No credit required, however no derogatory credit allowed. Rates are fixed and will be based on model year of vehicle & term. Maximum loan amount is $12,000 and minimum is $6,000. Not all applicants qualify for 84 month term, term will be based on model year of vehicle. No co-signer is required, but other terms and conditions apply to qualify for loan. Must meet all of the following underwriting guidelines for approval: Minimum 15% down payment, no previous auto loans, must be ages 18-30, minimum 12 months employment or employment contract, and debt to income ratio no more than 40%. Must provide 2 references, 2 most recent paystubs, and proof of insurance prior to funding. Enrollment in automatic payments is required. Applicants who close on a First Time Auto Loan, and post a selfie with their new car using hash tag #FirstFiFirstCar on Instagram, will be entered to win a $50 Visa gift card. Drawings are bi-annual (June 30th & December 31st). One winner per drawing. Winners will be contacted within 1 week of drawing. A First Financial membership is required to obtain an Auto Loan and is available to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers, or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for membership. Other terms and conditions may apply, see credit union for details.

Source:

Cox Automotive 2019 Car Buyer Journey Study: https://www.coxautoinc.com/learning-center/2019-car-buyer-journey-study/

References:

http://info.academyforddealer.com/4-steps-to-buying-a-new-car

https://www.investopedia.com/articles/pf/09/best-price-on-a-new-car.asp

https://www.autolist.com/guides/cheapest-way-to-buy-a-car

4 Financial Tips for College Students

Many U.S. colleges and universities are already back in session, as we approach the Labor Day holiday. If you’re back in school or just beginning college as a freshman, you already know you have a lot more freedom – but there’s also more responsibility. The financial decisions you make now, can often determine whether you can live comfortably in your financial future. Having some guidelines at this stage in your life can help cut down on unnecessary spending, and can also help you save more for your future.

Here are some tips to consider as you are making your own financial decisions:

1. Save for an Emergency Fund – Always have extra finances set aside in case you encounter a sudden emergency. This will help you to avoid debt and can save you from a sudden financial restriction. A good rule of thumb is to save around 10% of the money you get. One easy way to do this is to have another bank account for your emergency funds. That way, your normal expenses will come from your main account and your emergency savings will be kept separate so as to not be tempted to use it.

2. Take Care of Your Credit – Being in college will likely be the first time you will encounter a credit card. Even if you manage to get a card with a high limit, you should never maximize your limit. A good rule here is to keep your credit usage at around 30%. If you end up owing too much, you could incur high-interest charges that can send you into a debt problem.

Another strategy you could follow is to only use the card if you have money to pay for the purchase right away. Save that money for when the payment is due. That way, you don’t overspend and can work toward building a good credit score. Having a high credit score can help you land better loan rates in the future.

3. Start Investing & Saving for Retirement – Starting to invest and save for your future retirement early can make a difference when it comes to your future income. You may consider working on an IRA (Individual Retirement Account), or investing in the stock market – especially once you start working. Whatever your decision, be sure that you are making your money work for you. It is also a good idea to meet with a financial advisor to help you manage any investment or retirement accounts you may have, once you do start your first full-time job.

4. Budget Your Food Expenses – Food can take up most of your budget if you’re not careful. From fast food to splurging on snacks, this can empty your wallet fast. By setting a budget for your food, you’ll think about ways to make the most out of it. You’ll begin looking for cheaper yet more filling options. Another way to approach this is to plan your groceries ahead of time. By knowing exactly what you’re going to buy, you can control the amount you spend on food. Even a bit of research online can give you access to inexpensive yet satisfying meals.

Don’t Fear Mistakes

Part of learning how to be better with money is making a few mistakes along the way. Don’t put yourself down if you made a mistake with the money you spent. Simply take note of the mistake, and try to prevent it from happening again. As long as you keep improving and developing good financial habits, you’ll be setting yourself up for your future financial success.

Article Sources:

https://www.debt.org/students/financial-tips-college-students/

https://www.meratas.com/blog/how-to-manage-money-as-a-college-student

https://www.moneyunder30.com/financial-tips-for-new-college-students

Summer 2021 Newsletter

As Summer comes to a close, we hope all our members are staying safe and healthy as we get ready for back-to-school.

In a continued effort to go green, we’re publishing our newsletter electronically – it can also be found on our website and social media sites. Paper copies will be available in our branches.

The Summer Newsletter features the following articles:

To view a copy of the newsletter, click here.

Wishing all of our student and educator members a successful new upcoming school year!

What is a Payday Loan and How does it work?

A payday loan also called a “cash advance” or “check advance” loan, is a type of unsecured personal loan based on how much you earn in your paycheck. These loans charge borrowers with high interest and have short-term repayment demands.

Due to their extremely high-interest rates, payday loans can keep you in a cycle of debt. Payday loan lenders usually don’t consider the borrower’s ability to repay and often charge added fees through hidden provisions. Read on to learn why payday loans are not typically an ideal option and to see some better loan alternatives.

How Payday Loans Work

Amount Borrowed

There is a limit on how much you can borrow in most cases. The amount can range from $300 to $1,000, with $500 typically being the most common amount.

High Interest

Payday lenders charge all borrowers the same interest rate. It can be as high as 780% annual percentage rate (APR), with an average payday loan running as high as nearly 400% APR.

Short-Term Repayment

Payday loans must be paid back once you get your next paycheck. The loan term usually goes from two weeks to a month.

No Installments

A regular personal loan allows you to pay back the money borrowed in installments. With payday loans however, you will most likely have to pay back the interest and principal all at once. This amount is usually more than what your budget can handle.

Automatic Repayment

When taking out a payday loan, you sign a check or document that permits the lender to take money out of your bank account. If you fail to repay the loan as scheduled, the lender will either cash the check or withdraw the money from your account.

Alternatives to Payday Loans

If you need to borrow money, consider the following alternatives instead of taking out a payday loan.

Create a Budget

Evaluate all your expenses, including rent, utilities, and food, and create a budget. Know how much money is coming in and how much you can afford to spend on your expenses. Then, find ways to cut down on unnecessary expenses to be more in line with your income.

Get Credit Counseling

If you need help dealing with your debt, you may need to get credit counseling. There are non-profit agencies that can offer credit advice at little to no cost. They can also help you set up a debt management plan (DMP).

Better Loan Options

Getting a personal unsecured installment loan from your local credit union is probably a better option over a payday loan. With lower interest rates and fees, they are most especially beneficial for borrowers on a tight budget. When you make on time payments, it will even help build your credit and help you qualify for lower loan rates in the future! Learn more about our Fast Cash Payday Alternative Loan here.*

*Loans of $200 to $1,000 available for terms of one to six months. An application fee of up to $20 will be charged; other fees and charges may apply. At least one month of First Financial Federal Credit Union membership is required to obtain a Payday Alternative Loan, and is open to anyone who lives, works, worships, volunteers or attends school in Monmouth or Ocean Counties. A $5 deposit in a base savings account is required for credit union membership prior to opening any other account/loan. Not all applicants qualify, subject to credit approval. Rates vary based on creditworthiness, but will not exceed 28%. Terms and conditions of this offer may be subject to change at any time.

References:

https://www.investopedia.com/terms/p/payday-loans.asp

https://www.debt.org/credit/payday-lenders/

https://www.moneycrashers.com/how-do-payday-loans-work-dangers-payday-loan-alternatives/

https://www.investopedia.com/credit-unions-vs-banks-4590218