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Protect Yourself from Apps that Steal

We all knew this would happen. Mobile data theft is on the rise and likely to become more common, but that doesn’t mean you have to stop using Apps on your Smartphone. Just be smart about it.

Most harmful Apps are downloaded from unofficial app stores or websites. To protect yourself from Apps that contain Malware or Trojan viruses stick with official app stores like Apple’s App Store or Google’s Play Store. If you stay on the official app channels you’ll have a better chance of avoiding exposure.

Before downloading an App, see if there are any user reviews on the app and if any of them experienced problems with the app. If all of them picture the app to be perfect, they could be fake reviews, put up by the developers. You can go further and do a Google search on the App developer to see if they are reputable.

Don’t grant permission freely to Apps. Malicious developers and counting on you to click “OK” to permissions for push/pull data or Facebook access. Doing so will help them sneak apps on to your devices before you know it. Before you click, take the time to at least look at exactly what permissions the App is asking for. But, an app that does that only rotates your wallpaper doesn’t need access to your Facebook account or your contact book.

Antivirus software for mobile devices is available through reliable companies like Webroot and MacAfee. Staying ahead of malicious software is always difficult, however, a little time spent taking precautions can save you from a great deal of hassle.

10 Ways to Reduce Holiday Stress on you and your Wallet.

1. Budget—It may sound cliché, but many people don’t set holiday spending budgets or only use budgets as rough spending guidelines. Staying with your budget is the best thing you can do to minimize stress.

2. Use Rewards—The holidays are a perfect time to cash in your credit card rewards to purchase gifts or travel.

3. Don’t Cram—You know that cramming for tests never works, same goes for holiday shopping. If you wait until the last minute, or even if you shop early, trying to do it all in one day creates stress.

4. Make a List—Take a tip from that guy who lives up north and wears a red suit and white beard. Know what you’re looking for and make a prioritized list, then like your budget—stick to it.

5. Take Cash—Leave the card at home and withdraw a predetermined amount of cash for holiday spending.

6. Start a Holiday—This is probably something you think about every December, but by the time January rolls around, you’ve forgotten. So this year start your 2013 Holiday Fund before the end of 2012.

7. Teacher Gifts—Suggest families contribute to a collective class gift. Each family only needs to gives about $5 for the teacher who will receive a sizable and practical gift. Remember many teachers cannot accept gifts over $25, but you could split up the collection into several gift cards.

8. Extended Family–Instead of buying a gift for each person, suggest a gift exchange. Rather than spending $5 to $10 on 15 different people ($75-$150), you can spend $50 on a nice gift for one person.

9. Friends—If you exchange gifts among friends, suggest you skip the gifts and instead get together for lunch or dessert.

10. Coupon Codes—If you buy anything online, always do a search for current coupon codes that can knock down your price. When in doubt, a popular online website that you can look at is RetailMeNot, which claims to have coupon codes for over 40,000 online retailers.

Should You Put A Ring On It Before Buying A Home?

Is it any riskier for unmarried couples to buy a house together than married couples? Umm, maybe, maybe not.

Laws governing property rights of unmarried partners can vary from state-to-state. However, in general the law isn’t as well-defined as it is for married couples. Real Estate lawyers admit that there are more complications for unmarried property owners than there are for married property owners, but that’s more about when the relationship ends.

Although it’s not a blissful subject unmarried partners should take extra precautions before they purchase a home by discussing the points below. It is advisable to consult your lawyer and/or financial adviser before purchasing a home. To be safe you may want to draw up a document that clearly states what will happen should you split for any reason.


• How will the title to the property be held — joint tenants, tenants in common or living trust?

• Should both names be on the mortgage?

• Should you enter into a legal “partnership agreement” before buying the property?

• How does domestic partner registration in our state affect property ownership?

• Should each person keep records of individual payments — and their proportion of the total — toward the mortgage, utilities, taxes and other expenses related to the property?

• If there is a break-up, how easily could the property be divided?

• If one partner died, how easily could the property be distributed?

There are some title types that come with consequences from a tax perspective.  Some states have restrictions on holding title, however, and one of those is that married couples only can hold community property, like a home.  Other ways to hold a title together without marriage include tenants–in–common, joint tenancy, and sole and separate ownership.

You will also need to discuss making a down payment together, and paying closing costs.  In these situations, most people make a fifty/fifty split of the costs.

Many people buy homes together and live happily ever after. If this is your dream, you can make it happen by thinking it through.

For more information on home buying and mortgages visit a Home Loan Consultant at Coors Credit Union. Also look into our RedSide First-Time Homebuyer Loan.


Protecting Yourself and Your Children from Divorce Related Identity Theft

A man in Pennsylvania used his ex-wife’s identity to purchase six cars within eight months. Crazy, right?! How in the world did he get away with it? Well, he didn’t exactly, he got two years in jail.

Sadly, it’s a fact that identity theft is most often carried out by family members. It’s not that surprising though. Couples know lots of things about their partners. They also have access to bank accounts, passwords, and social security numbers. When there are kids involved, they have their information too. But, when relationships sour, it can bring out the worst in people and unfortunately ex-spouses and children can become victims in many different ways.

No matter how friendly your divorce may seem, you should till take all precautions. Separate all of your finances. Close your shared accounts. Refinance your mortgage. Open new accounts. Even consider closing non-shared accounts and starting fresh.

Too bad you can’t erase your ex’s memory of things like social security numbers. What you need to do is get into the habit of monitory you and your children’s accounts. You should also check your credit report frequently. Although minor children should not have credit reports, if their identity has been compromised there could be a report in their name. And so, you should contact the reporting agencies to find out if a report exists for your minor children.

Look for these warning signs that your child’s personal data may have been compromised:

  • They receive preapproved credit account offers.
  • They receive calls or billing statements from collection agencies, creditors or government agencies (including the IRS).
  • You are unable to open a bank account in their name because one already exists with the same  SSN.
  • They are denied credit, employment, a driver’s license or college enrollment for unknown or credit-related reasons.

If you or your child has been a victim of identity theft:

  • File a police report and keep a copy as proof of the crime.
  • Contact the fraud units at the three major credit bureaus for instructions:
    Equifax(800-525-6285), Experian (888-397-3742) and TransUnion(800-680-7289).
  • Notify the Federal Trade Commission (877-438-4338), whose Ide
    ntity Theft
     site contains information on fraud alerts, credit freezes, how to work with police and much more.
  • File a complaint with the government-sponsored Internet Crime Complaint Center, which forwards cybercrime complaints to appropriate law-enforcement and regulatory agencies.
  • Contact Social Security (800-772-1213) to inquire whether anyone has reported income using your child’s SSN. You may  request a new SSN, but this can be a complicated process.
  • Contact the IRS’ Identity Protection Unit (800-980-4490).

Where to Stash Your Emergency Cash

In the world of personal finance advice, there is a lot of harping on the importance of having an emergency fund, so hopefully you’ve been working on yours. Once you’ve got a decent amount of cash (wondering how much you should have? click here) spend some time considering where you’ll keep your funds.

The obvious choice might be a savings account, but there your money will earn dismal interest rates. The three  features you want from an emergency account are:

1) Liquidity-Emergency aren’t usually scheduled, you’ll need your funds to be available when you need them.

2) Highest Return—You want your money to work as hard as possible, but higher returns generally mean higher risks. Try to find the highest return possible with an account that is…

3) Federally Insured. You might get higher returns by investing your emergency fund in stocks, but your losses could also be bigger and then you’re taking a risk that defeats the purpose of your emergency fund.

Meeting these requirements significantly narrows your choices. For insured accounts you are mainly looking at Money Market Accounts (not to be confused with money market mutual funds that may earn more but are not insured), Certificates and bonds.

Money Market Accounts earn just a little more than regular savings, but are the most liquid choice.

Certificates earn a fair return, but you’ll need to use your noggin to keep your accounts liquid. People are often afraid to put their money into certificates because they don’t like tying up their funds. To get around this issue, you could try a laddering strategy.

Using the laddering strategy you’ll spread the funds over accounts ranging from one to five years. Break up the funds into smaller certificates with varying maturities. The laddering strategy helps with liquidity and lets you take advantage of rising interest rates.

A quick visit with a financial advisor may be your best bet if you want your emergency fund to earn the highest rate while remaining secure and available. The financial consultants with our Investment and Retirement Center offer a no-cost, no-obligation assessment of your goals and can give you more ideas on how to get the most out of your emergency fund.

Scams that Target Students

College students have always been like ripe fruit to marketers and scammers because they are often fresh from the cocoon of their parents watch and out on their own for the first time. This usually means they’re making decisions without Mom or Dad giving advice. Unfortunately, this can lead to some costly mistakes.

Some common scams to watch for are:

Surprise Scholarships:  This one works like any number of phishing scams. The student might receive an email or text message, perhaps even a Facebook message that congratulates them on winning a scholarship for a substantial amount of cash. To have the money directly deposited all they need to do is give their bank account number and password.

That last sentence should send out the red flags, but you might be amazed that many students fall for this promise of easy money.  Of course, if they do fall for it the scammer gets access to the student’s bank account.

Used Textbooks for Sale: College books are crazy expensive and so, resourceful students will look for ways to save or make some money.  This scam can go two ways:

1) The student seller gets a request from a buyer. The buyer sends a check for more than the asking price. The buyer asks the seller to just return the extra cash (along with some story about why the check is written for more). The seller does as requested. About a week later the buyer discovers that the check is fraudulent and has bounced, leaving the seller out the price of the book and more. The buyer cannot get in touch with the seller.

or 2) A seller posts books for sale and instructs the buyer of where to send money to receive the books. The seller never receives the goods and can no longer find the seller.

Apartment Scam: This has three scenarios:

1) This is a popular variation on the Nigerian wire scam. The student sees a listing for a great apartment at a great price. He/she emails the contact, who happens to be a missionary working in Africa (or something like that). They ask for a deposit via wire transfer and promise to send the keys. But the keys never come.

2) The student finds a nice apartment, signs a lease, and hands over a deposit and the first months’ rent. The student receives the keys and moves in — only to find out that the person they rented from has no connection to the home. Worse yet, they’re long gone.

3) The student rents a home directly from the homeowner. A few months later, the bank comes knocking on the door. The homeowner defaulted and is in foreclosure, leaving the student facing eviction.

Unfortunately these housing scams are less obvious than other types of scams. In these situations the student needs to trust their gut. They could also try talking to neighbors to get a feel for whether or not the situation is legitimate.

The best thing parents can do is educate their children and teach them how to protect their personal finances and identity. Making mistakes is part of growing up, but hopefully they won’t be mistakes that have long-lasting effects.

The Secret to Managing Money for Couples

Money issues still rank among the top 10 reasons couples divorce, but finances are really no different than any other challenge you’ll face in marriage. And, like all other issues, the only way to overcome the problem is to bring it out in the open and discuss it. Even better, make a plan with your partner to discuss finances before it becomes a problem. If you think that you don’t have money problems and can skip the discussion, put that thought out of your mind. Not openly discussing your budget, financial goals and future money plans can only hurt your relationship.

Here are the keys to successful money talks:

Set a Meeting
Select a regularly scheduled time for meeting and put it on both your calendar and your partner’s. Be sure it is at a mutually agreeable time. Avoid times when you’ll be tired such as after work, or after the kids are in bed.

Make it Enjoyable
Your financial meeting should become something that you look forward to. Brew some good coffee or a relaxing tea. Have some snacks or maybe end your meeting by sharing a decadent dessert. Hold your meeting in a place that is comfortable and where you can talk about issues without worrying if anyone is listening.

Do Your Homework
Both you and your partner should come to the meeting prepared. Don’t rely on the other person to remember all of your financial obligations or plans. Bring any supporting documents that might be needed.

Follow the Rules of Meeting
The same rules that apply for formal meetings apply to your couple meetings.

  • Don’t interrupt the speaker.
  • Don’t be little ideas or people.
  • Don’t blame.
  • Be flexible, every idea is valid.

When You Disagree
This is not an “if”, there will be times when you disagree with how the other person handles the money.  Here’s how you get beyond arguing.

  • Stop the conversation—once blaming, or name calling or just a difference of opinion becomes apparent, stop the conversation and use one or all of the following tactics:
  • Turn Taking: This is exactly what it sounds like. Each person takes a turn to state his or her point of view. During that time the other person must listen respectfully—no eye rolling, no groaning, no making faces or other displays of disagreement.  After you’ve both stated your position you must pick out the good parts of what the other said, then you should be able to find a compromise.
  • Time Out: If you cannot come to an agreement, then agree to end the meeting and come back to the topic at a later scheduled date/time. This gives you both a chance to cool down and the perspective to see solutions.
  • Tell the Truth: Usually we become angry because things aren’t going our way. The problems come when we don’t say what we really want or what we really feel. If the rules of the meeting are followed, you should be able to say it like it is.

Set Goals
Couples can get so caught up in the grind of the budget that they forget how to dream, but setting goals is fun and gives you something to work toward together. Your goals will change and adjust during your marriage, but that’s what meeting discussions are for. Happy couples are working toward shared goals.


If you’ve got kids, bring them in on the conversations. They don’t need to part of all your meetings, but showing your kids that you and your partner discuss money is a great lesson. Share with them your financial goals and let them see the progress.

Oh, and here’s a bonus: openly discussing money management can lead to a happier and more mutually satisfying relationship.

Same Story Different Day: Banks Fees on the Rise—AGAIN

Has this ever happened to you? I was in not-to-be-named small town Colorado and was in need of cash. There were two ATMs on the main drag, but sadly no credit union ATMs (which by the way is highly unusual—more on that later in this paragraph). I went to ATM one on the left side of the street and began my transaction knowing I would have to suck it up and pay a fee. Then I saw that the fee was $3.50. I immediately hit the CANCEL button and walked over to the other side of the street and began my transaction. This fee was $4.25. CANCEL. Thank goodness, I have the CO-OP ATM locater app on my phone and found a credit union ATM about a mile away. The only bummer was that I had to drive there (well maybe I didn’t have to, but it was easier).

It’s been so long that I’ve used an ATM at a commercial bank that I was shocked by the fees, but this is not actually news. CNN Money ran a recent article about general rising bank fees. The article referred to a survey that is produced two times each year. The last report, at the end of 2011, actually showed a decline in checking account fees, but this year that’s all changed.

“Monthly service fees averaged $12.08, up from $11.28 at the end of 2011, meaning customers are now paying an average $145 over the course of a year. The average charge at large banks was $13.88, compared with $9.87 at small banks and $11.17 at medium banks.”

Sure there are always way to avoid these fees, like opening a high minimum balance account.

“The minimum amount needed to open an account has also risen — from $391.41 at the end of 2011 to $408.76 this year. Overdraft fees have crept up 60 cents to an average of $29.83. The fee banks charge non-customers for using their ATMs has edged up from $2.37 to $2.40, while the fee banks charge their customers for using out-of-network ATMs has climbed from $1.10 to $1.28.”

We know there is an easier way—Join a credit union.

Of course, we’re preaching to the choir here, but tell your friends. There’s plenty of credit union love to go around at Coors Credit Union.

Another Sign of Recovery?

When Fannie is happy, everybody’s happy. Fannie Mae reported $5.1 billion profits for the second quarter of 2012. That’s up quite a bit from the Q1 $2.7 billion reported profit.

But let’s not be too fast to celebrate. Though the news is certainly good, it is questionable whether it really is a sign of recovery. Most of the profit can be contributed to the lower losses. Both Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the other government lending institution, have tightened lending standards since 2009, leading to better-quality loans. In fact, Fannie Mae moved $3 billion out of its loss-reserve account in anticipation of fewer losses going forward.

Timothy J. Mayopoulos, chief executive of Fannie Mae, said: “While it is too early to declare a national housing recovery and our results for the second half of 2012 may not be as strong as the first half, we expect our financial results in 2012 to be substantially better than the past few years.”

Though this is still rather good news for the national economy, it might have you wondering who profit’s from Fannie Mae’s success?  Remember Fannie and Freddie were both part of the nearly $142 billion taxpayer bailout in late 2008. And, that’s where the profit goes: Every quarter Fannie Mae has to pay the government a big dividend, which in the most recent period amounted to $2.9 billion.

The $5.1 billion profit, was used to make that payment. In other quarters, when profit was below the dividend obligation, Fannie had to borrow from the government to pay it, which also increases future dividend payments.

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