How to Prevent Identity Theft

December is Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention month.

Identity theft is cited by the FTC as the number one consumer fraud in the US. During the holiday seasons, when your bank accounts are more active, it is especially important to be aware of how you can prevent identity theft and what to do if your information is compromised.

Here are some preventative tips to help keep you safe:

1. Avoid Disclosing Personal Information Over the Phone

Unless you initiated the call, do not disclose any information that may put you at risk for identity theft, including your card information, social security number, or bank account information. If a caller from an institution that you know asks for this information, offer to call them back to give the information or deliver it in person.

2. Keep Your Social Security Number Safe

Knowledge of your social security number is a green light for hackers attempting to commit identity fraud. It is a crucial piece of information for you to keep safe. Memorize your number and leave any records of your social security number locked away in a safe place. Only give out your social security number when it is necessary and be sure to ask the institution you are giving it to about their privacy policy.

3. Analyze Your Bank Statement and Bills Each Month

Monitoring your statements each month will make fraudulent charges stick out quickly. Smart hackers will try to camouflage fraudulent actions so that they don’t stand out on your statements. Keeping a record of your transactions will allow you to sort out any fraudulent charges.

4. Pay Your Bills Online

Change your bill settings to stop receiving bills by mail and instead pay your bills online over a secure internet connection.

5. Shred Any Documents that Reveal Personal Information

A general rule of thumb is that when you are done with a document: shred it. All TopLine Credit Union Locations offer free Shred-It™ services where you can bring your past bills, receipts, financial statements and more to have them securely shredded and tossed.  

6. Keep Your Passwords and PIN Codes Secure

Do not use personal information such as birthdays for passwords or PIN codes; these are easily breached. Instead, choose more complicated passwords and record them in safe places, such as a document stored locally on your computer. As an additional security measure, try to change out your passwords after about three months.

 

These are only a few of the preventative measures that can reduce your risk of identity theft. But what can you do if you become a victim of identity theft?

  1. Contact the Police Immediately to File a Report
  2. Visit https://www.identitytheft.gov/
    This FTC site will help you report the theft, assist you in filing an affidavit that will ensure you are not responsible for fraudulent charges, and develop an action plan for how to navigate through the recovery process. If you prefer to contact the FTC by phone, you can dial 1-877-ID-THEFT (1-877-438-4338).
  3. Contact Your Financial Institutions to Alert them of the Fraud
  4. Contact Credit Agencies to Protect Your Credit
    You can put a temporary freeze on your credit report so that no one can run your credit without you first being notified. Contact all three credit agencies to set that up:

As December is Identity Theft Awareness and Prevention month, swing by any TopLine location during the month of December to pick up your free Identity Theft Handbook. This handbook will help you understand how identity theft occurs, what steps you can take to protect your personal information, and what to do if it happens to you.

For more information, visit our Financial Education page.

 

TopLine’s Holiday Toy Drive is on Now!

TopLine Federal Credit Union members are a community, and every holiday season we come together to support those in need. For the 19th year in a row, we will be collecting toys for children, as a small way of supporting those less fortunate.

We encourage all of our members to participate and help make this holiday a special one! Stop by any TopLine location through December 23, 2017, and place a new, unwrapped gift under the tree. Then take an ornament from the tree as a thank you, from our family to yours.

All unwrapped toys will be donated to Keystone Community Services, Community Emergency Assistance Programs (CEAP), and Toys for Tots. These three organizations operate in our local Twin Cities community to distribute toys to children during the holidays.

Wondering What to Donate?

Toys and gifts are distributed to kids of all ages, from birth to teens, so please consider all ages when donating! Shop for any kind of fun items, from blocks and dolls for small children to puzzles, Legos and vehicles for school-age children, to makeup, sports equipment, and gift cards for teenagers. Toys for Tots also uses monetary donations to shop for those age groups that don’t receive a lot of donated items; namely teenagers.

About the Community Non-profit Organizations

Keystone Community Services’ mission is to strengthen individuals and families and to improve their way of life by supplying the resources and skills they need to live with hope and dignity. Toys for Tots helps millions of less fortunate children experience the joy of the Holidays, giving them a message of hope that will assist them in becoming responsible, productive, patriotic citizens.

CEAP’s mission is to help families in all life stages gain financial stability and maximize their ability to live independently and with dignity, through services like Food Support, Transportation Solutions, Meals for Minds, Food Shelves, and Thrift Stores.

We look forward to a very successful 2017 Holiday Toy Drive. Thank you in advance to all of our generous members for your donations!

Celebrating International Credit Union Day at TopLine

Over 217 million people worldwide choose credit unions as their financial institutions. Our “people first” philosophy compels us to improve the lives of our members and our communities.

So what’s the difference between credit unions and other financial institutions? The main difference, credit unions exist to help people, not to make a profit. In 1935 TopLine was established as a member-owned financial services cooperative. That means that we are a banking institution that’s safe, local and, most importantly, owned and democratically controlled by you, our members-owners, with all deposits federally insured to at least $250,000.

Our profits are returned to you, which means TopLine can offer our members a safe place to save money and access affordable loans, fewer and lower fees, dedication to the highest levels of personalized service and complimentary financial education workshops. Your best interest is in our best interest.

All across the globe, credit unions and their members are celebrating! Come help us celebrate this philosophy with International Credit Union Day. Swing by any TopLine Federal Credit Union Location October 16th – 21st for treats and giveaways.

This year’s theme, Dreams Thrive Here,” celebrates how credit unions help people achieve their financial goals, like purchasing a home and funding an education.

At TopLine, we pride ourselves on assisting members on their entire financial journey, whether that includes opening their first checking and savings account, buying a new car, purchasing or remodeling a home, running a small business, investing for retirement, or providing expert advice and financial education workshops, and we’re always in search of new ways to better serve our members and local communities.

 

We look forward to celebrating with you, the credit union difference and the many benefits that our proud cooperative heritage brings.

#icuday

 

Why It’s Important to Review Your Home And Auto Insurance Annually

We have all seen the big insurance companies’ televisions ads that say you could save hundreds if you switch insurance. It can be easy to disregard but reviewing your insurance policies annually to ensure you are getting the best price and coverage really can save you hundreds.

It is not just about the annual premium, having the correct coverage can protect you from big bills after an accident or weather event. Here are two great reasons to shop around each year before your policy renews.

 

Complete Coverage

There are a lot of options when it comes to coverage options, especially for auto insurance on your car. Read this great infographic for a breakdown of car insurance. You might be driving an old car and decide to upgrade, suddenly going from a liability only policy to one that includes comprehensive and collision. You could be living in an area where hurricanes do not exist and then move to Florida, adding flood insurance to your homeowner’s policy. As life develops, your coverage needs to adjust. It is easy to overlook coverage changes and developing needs, and checking into your policies annually can help you fill any gaps.

 

Comparing Costs

One way to lower your annual premium is by adjusting your deductible. Most home insurance quotes assume a standard $1000 deductible. However, if you are a good saver and always have a healthy savings, you can increase your deductible to $2500 or $5000 to get a better premium. Consider bundling your auto and home insurance, paying your premium all at once, or switching companies to save money. TopLine Federal Credit Union can help you compare insurance companies with ease. We compare up to 20 different insurance companies and give you the lowest quote for the coverage you need.

 

If you are not sure what month your insurance policy renews, that is a sign you need to review the terms. Now is a great time to look into it as September is National Insurance Awareness Month. Are you aware of the coverage and costs you have?

Interested in seeing if you can save money on your insurance? Call 763-391-0007, email quote@toplinecu.com or stop by any of our branch locations for your personalized, free, no obligation coverage comparison today!

$10,000 in Scholarships are Available to TopLine Members!

Did you know that TopLine Credit Union Foundation will be awarding $10,000 in scholarship money to TopLine members who are continuing their education? The scholarships include four $1,000 scholarships and twelve $500 scholarships. Applications must be received by August 31st to be considered.

Any individual planning on pursuing post secondary education by attending a college or university, graduate school, or a 2 to 4-year community, vocational or technical college in the fall of 2017 is eligible. All eligible schools must be accredited by the U. S. Department of Education.

Those interested need to complete a one-page application form and submit an essay (500 words or less) that responds to the statement: “You selected TopLine as your financial partner; discuss how your credit union can continue to help you along your financial journey.”

 

TopLine Credit Union Foundation

TopLine Credit Union Foundation, established in 2015, is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. Guided by its mission of “Working within the Community to Build a Better Tomorrow,” the foundation supports community outreach activities by awarding scholarships, contributing to community charitable organizations, providing financial education and counseling for members of all ages, and sponsoring other charitable efforts.

To make a donation or to learn more about TopLine Credit Union Foundation, visit www.TopLinecu.com/Foundation, call 763-391-9494 or email Foundation@TopLinecu.com.

 

Good luck to all of our scholarship applicants!

Why You Should Use Your Credit Card When You’re on Vacation

Summer vacations may have you traveling a lot. Whether you are headed to your cabin or on a cross-country road trip, it is important to think about protecting yourself while spending on vacation. Here are the reasons using your credit card to make purchases when you are out of town is the best way to keep your money safe.

Credit Card Protection

The protection your credit card provides when spending away from home is unparalleled. While you might be inclined to reach for your trusty debit card, a credit card is the wiser choice. By law, your credit card must protect you from fraudulent charges, capping your liability at only $50. Your credit card might also offer purchase protection, extended warranties on purchases (up to two extra years), reimbursement for theft of your purchase, or purchase cost refunds if you cannot return products to the merchant. You would be amazed by all the things your credit card protects you from that you never knew about!

Theft and Fraudulent Charges

TopLine Platinum Credit Cards offer some of the best theft protection out there with Visa’s Zero Liability Program. Experiencing theft on your debit card can be a disastrous ordeal. The thief can wipe out your savings, leaving you with no money to pay bills until your dispute for the fraudulent charges clears and your bank gives you the money back. With a credit card, you are covered. There is no requirement for how quickly you dispute the fraudulent charge and there is no liability beyond $50. The microchip in our Platinum Credit Cards is the most secure way to pay. Each time your card is used to pay for something, the card chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be reused, allowing for better protection from fraud.

 

When traveling on summer vacation, it is always wise to use your credit card as it offers protection on your purchase and fraudulent charges. You never know when your card information might be stolen, so it is best to avoid using your debit card while out of town. Learn more about our TopLine credit cards here!

 

National Internet Safety Month: How to Keep Your Kids Safe Online

June is National Internet Safety Month and we at Topline Federal Credit Union know quite a bit about internet security. We want to keep not just your financial information safe, we also want to keep your kids safe when surfing online. To honor National Internet Safety Month, here are some tips for keeping your kids safe online.

Protect Private Information

It is important to outline information that is personal and private so that your kids know not to share it. Here are four things your child should know when it comes to protecting privacy, courtesy of parenting.com:

  • Never give your name, phone number, email address, password, postal address, school, or picture without parental permission
  • Do not open email from people you do not know
  • Do not respond to hurtful or disturbing messages
  • Do not get together with anyone you “meet” online

Utilize Software and Settings

There are ways to control the settings of your browser as well as block sites using your IP address. Putting a block on sites that contain lewd content is a good idea because you never know when your child can stumble upon something accidentally.click here for more information on settings for your browser, IP address, and security software.

Be Involved and Aware

As a parent, it is important to regularly monitor the websites your children are visiting online. Before the age of 8, you should co-pilot any computer time and have a set list of websites your kid is allowed to go to. After the age of 8, regular check-ins are still necessary. An easy way to do this is to have your computer in a central location in your home. A desk near the kitchen is a good spot for your child to surf the web because you will be able to keep an eye on them occasionally.

Tips for Adults

It is just important for adults to protect their personal information as it is to protect their kids. Take precautions like changing your passwords often and keeping them safe. An obvious one is to avoid unknown emails and don’t share your personal information with anyone. For more information on staying safe online, visit staysafeonline.org.

 

There are many ways you can work towards keeping your kids safe online. Browsing the internet can be very fun and informational, but it can also be dangerous. We want your child to be safe, not just for National Internet Safety Month, but every month!

Make the Most of Your Home Improvements

Are you looking to make a big investment in your home? There a quite a few factors to keep in mind as you consider the home improvement process. To begin, choose the right projects for your home. There are a few things to consider here.

Improvements Based on Returns On Investment

Design your home improvement projects with resale in mind. Minor changes often earn you more bang for your buck than major changes meaning that you will get more out of smaller changes like repainting, refinishing countertops, and upgrading old appliances to be modern and energy-efficient than you will from completely restructuring your home design.

Remember to keep in mind what’s best for your home. A grand foyer won’t make sense in a modest split-level nor does adding a swimming pool when you aren’t committed to maintaining it.

Major Renovation Tips

If you do go with a major renovation, keep this in mind: don’t price yourself out of the neighborhood. The renovations that you make should keep your home value in line with other homes in your neighborhood. If your home is valued at $300,000 in a neighborhood of $200,000 homes, you won’t reap the rewards of your investment.

Instead, keep your eye on regional design trends and the real estate market, and speak to a realtor before you proceed with major home renovations. Whatever designs you opt for, choose quality materials and designs that add character and maintain the integrity of the house.

Painting

When Small Projects are Better

Now that we have covered what won’t add value to your home, let’s take a look at what will. Kitchens and bathrooms are the rooms in which you will see the biggest return on your investment. This makes sense considering that these rooms are where homeowners spend most of their time. Check out HGTV.com to learn how you can upgrade your kitchen and bathroom to create an investment in your house. For other excellent investment ideas, take a look below:

  • Siding replacement
  • A new roof
  • A new garage door
  • Window replacement
  • Extra space in a new bathroom, additional rooms, or newly finished a basement

With the right preparation and design plan, home improvements can be an excellent way to invest your money. TopLine Federal Credit Union offers home equity lines of credit or loans that can help finance the home renovation and redesign projects of your dreams.

 

Visit TopLine Federal Credit Union to learn about the flexible terms of our home equity line.

National Youth Financial Literacy Month 2017

April is National Youth Financial Literacy Month. Teaching your children about financial literacy can help them develop and carry financially savvy habits well into adulthood. The basics of a financial education should include guidance on spending, saving, and managing money. Ensure that your child is on the path toward a financially stable future by teaching them these basic lessons.

coins

Teaching Young Children to Save

Kids are never too young to learn the basics of handling money. While younger kids won’t need to pour over financial spreadsheets with you, they can benefit from learning about the meaning of making, spending, and saving money. Introduce coins and paper bills to your child to help explain counting, currency, and equivalency. Encourage your kids to begin saving coins in a clear jar. A clear jar will help them visualize the savings.

If it works for your family, an allowance is a novel way of learning about money management. Consider a few of the following tips as you set an allowance:

  • Set clear expectations of what your child has to do to earn an allowance. Whether they have to finish chores or keep their grades up, this will help them learn about goal-setting and the value of money.
  • Set a clear amount. Give them a “raise” as they get older or take on more responsibilities.
  • Be clear about using an allowance as a tool of money management, not as reward or punishment. This can help your child develop a healthy relationship with their finances and a better understanding of money.
  • Encourage them to set goals on spending. What do they want to save for and how can they get there? Now is the perfect time to open a savings account and teach them about saving and contributing.

lemonade-stand

Savings Tips for Pre-teens

Framing how you discuss money with your kids can affect how they perceive money management. Encourage honest communication about money. Be forthright with your own money mistakes from overspending, not saving enough for college, or not being financially independent until adulthood. Also share your successes—paying off debts, successfully budgeting for a down payment, etc.

Encourage your children to ask questions about money. Teach your children about budgeting and include them on family budgeting for things like groceries, Holiday gift shopping, and planning family events. Explore online resources, like Kids.gov to learn more about money management together.

Teens

Important Teen Saving Plans

Now is the time that your child becomes more financially independent. Encourage them to take on more responsibilities at home and to find a job. This way they can learn, with guidance, about managing their own money.

As your teen gets closer to high school graduation, make sure that they know about the following on money management:

  • Have a solid understanding of the basics of saving and spending
  • Review the costs of tuition, living, meal plans, education, etc. of college
  • Set up financial accounts and have an understanding of their student loan system
  • Safety when handling secure financial and private information including, but not limited to passwords, account numbers, PIN, ATM transactions, and more

Free Youth Financial Literacy Sessions from TopLine

We believe that it’s never too early to talk with your kids about money, which is why we have the program Get Smart With Your Money — a financial education initiative that encourages conversation about money among your family. There are three different age-specific groups that tailor to the needs and understandings of your children:

Building Dreams (ages 5-8)
This is a baseline course about the concepts of spending, saving and sharing. It will involve storytelling, worksheets, and other fun activities.

Dollar Power (ages 9-13)
This course teaches the difference between needs and wants, planning and goal setting, saving and paying yourself first, spending wisely and gift cards. Kids will be given real-life scenarios and asked questions about the importance of saving and spending wisely.

Dollars & Sense (ages 14-18)
This course digs deeper into the concepts that were taught in Dollar Power and expands further on sound money management, checking accounts, debit and credit cards and the significance of credit. Again, students will be taught by example with real-life scenarios and thought-provoking questions.

These sessions are offered Saturday, April 22 and Thursday, October 19 starting at 9:00 AM. They will be held at TopLine’s Maple Grove Learning Center located at 9353 Jefferson Highway.

For more information, give TopLine a call at 763-391-9494 or you can register online.

 

Auto Buying: Auto Loan and Car Insurance Tips

One of the most exciting purchases can also bring loads of uncertainty. Buying a car, whether new or used, is a big step that can either be a financial burden or a manageable expense. TopLine Federal Credit Union is here to help you with tips on the finer points of auto loans and auto insurance so you can get on the road in your new vehicle.

Auto Loans: What to Know and How to Prepare

  1. Determine Your Budget

You should only take on new debt when your monthly spending is less than your monthly income. A new loan shouldn’t take away from your plans to save or from your existing commitments. If your monthly cushion allows for a certain amount to go to your car payment each month, work backward from that to determine your target budget for your vehicle.

Not sure what your monthly finances will allow? Use one of these monthly budget calculators from TopLine to find your numbers fast.

When calculating your overall budget, keep in mind that your monthly payment will be determined by a) vehicle price, including any added warranties, b) down payment, c) term of the loan, and d) APR (annual percentage rate). The larger the down payment, the smaller the loan, which will give you more flexibility and a more comfortable monthly payment.

  1. Check your Credit Report

The terms of your loan will be influenced by your credit score, so it may be a good idea to check your credit report for any discrepancies you might need to dispute. You can get a free copy of your credit report at www.annualcreditreport.com or visit TopLine’s “Get Your Credit Report” website page for more details on both credit reports and scores.

  1. Direct Lending vs. Dealership Financing

You have several choices when it comes to your auto loan. Dealership financing makes use of the dealership’s relationships with financial institutions. Direct lending involves getting your loan directly from your bank or credit union. Before you step foot on the lot, it’s a good idea to gather the information on the loans available to you from reputable places like TopLine Federal Credit Union; being armed with that knowledge will help you decide the best course for you.

  1. Shop Around

If you’re in the market for a new or used car, TopLine is committed to helping you get the best deal in town. As a member-owner, you have exclusive access to our free car buying services with our partner, Minnesota Dealer Direct, a Minneapolis-St. Paul-based firm to ensure you get the savings you deserve without all the hassles. This is free service for TopLine members.  For more information on Minnesota Dealer Direct please call 612-227-9190 or 612-226-8921.

Auto Insurance: What to Know Before You Sign

  1. Shop Around Again

Auto insurance is one of the top-advertised industries out there, so the competition is fierce. At TopLine, we work to save our members money every day, in every way we can with auto insurance. Through TopLine Insurance Agency, we offer auto loan policies from a number of well-known insurance carriers like Encompass, Met Life, Progressive, Safeco, Travelers – up to 20 different insurance carriers in all to assure you get the right policy to fit your individual needs and at the best price. Contact TopLine Insurance Agency at 763-391-0007, email Quote@TopLinecu.com or stop by any of our branch locations to your personalized free, no obligation, coverage comparison today!

  1. Ask questions and Find the Right Coverage

Your insurance costs will be determined by factors like the car you’re driving, your age, credit rating, home address, and driving record. Long commutes and living or working in an area with a high rate of break-ins or vehicle thefts can increase your rate.

There are several types of car insurance coverage options; contact TopLine Insurance Agency at 763-391-0007, email Quote@TopLinecu.com or stop by any of our branch locations to your personalized free, no obligation, coverage comparison today!  It’s a good idea to have a grasp of the options that you want to be included in your coverage and to speak frankly with an agent about your needs.

  1. Read the Fine Print

We’d hate to see you come this far only to have your contract let you down. Read all parts of the contract, and don’t just skim it. If you have questions about wording, ask! Make sure all of the coverage you’re opting into is listed out. Conversely, if you see something you didn’t agree to, ask about it. The car buying process is both thrilling and complicated. Our job at TopLine is to make it less

daunting and to lead you to the right solutions. Don’t hesitate to reach out to us for questions or assistance with auto loans, car buying services, or auto insurance. Give us a call 763-391-9494, email Ask@TopLinecu.com or stop by any of our 5 Twin Cities metro locations. It’s always good to have all your questions answered before you buy your shiny new wheels!