A Primer on EMV Technology and Its Impact on Consumers

(This is a first in a series on EMV technology, which is designed to thwart credit and debit card fraud.)

EMV technology – you may have heard of it, especially in light of major data breaches involving retailers such as Target, Michaels, and Sally Beauty. But just what does EMV have to do with these crimes? And what impact is it going to have on consumers?

Simply put, EMV is intended to thwart such breaches and other counterfeit card fraud by using chip card technology. EMV – which stands for Europay, MasterCard and Visa – is a global standard for credit and debit cards. These cards are embedded with computer chips and tethered to technology used to authenticate chip-card transactions.Chip-and-PIN-Point-to-Point-Encryption

Cards with magnetic stripes contain data that doesn’t change from one transaction to another. That makes these cards easy targets for crooks, who use stolen card data to create counterfeit cards.

Each time an EMV card is used for payment, the card’s chip creates a unique transaction code that cannot be used again. So if a thief creates a fake card based on stolen transaction information, the card will be denied because the information will be outdated

Cards equipped with computer chips are intended to replace cards with magnetic stripes on the back of them. Unlike magnetic stripe transactions, which process unchanging data (card number and the card’s expiration date), each chip card transaction exchanges dozens of pieces of information between the card, the checkout terminal and the acquiring bank or processor host.

Although EMV technology is starting to deploy across the United States, it’s been active in Europe for quite some time. For financial institutions and merchants, the switchover in the U.S. requires adding new in-store technology and internal processing systems, and complying with new liability rules. It also means issuing millions of new cards to consumers, who will need to activate the cards and learn a new process for making payments.

According to Smart Card Alliance, a not-for-profit, multi-industry association working to stimulate the understanding, adoption, use, and widespread application of smart card technology – approximately 120 million U.S. consumers have already received an EMV chip card, and that number is projected to reach almost 600 million by the end of this year. How do you know if you have an EMV chip card? Look for a small, metallic square on it. That’s the computer chip that’s been embedded in the card.

How do you know if you already have an EMV chip card? Look for a small, metallic square on the front of your card, like the one shown in the picture above, featuring a computer chip that’s been embedded into the card. You may have already heard some of the names being used for cards with EMV technology such as the “smart card”, “chip card”, “smart-chip card”, “chip-and-choice card” and/or “EMV smart card.” You may have already heard some of the names being used for cards with EMV technology, such as the “smart card”, “chip card”, “smart-chip card”, “chip-and-choice card” and “EMV smart card.”

Experts point out that EMV technology will not totally prevent data breaches and fraud from occurring, but it will make it harder for criminals to benefit from stolen card information.

Up next: EMV Card – How do I use it and what happens when I do?

Go Green This Summer & Save More

 

It may seem counterintuitive to think about starting a cold-weather savings account in the carefree height of summer, but the nature of the season can offer savings opportunities that are otherwise unavailable during other times of the year.  Summer is a great time to establish a savings account you can tap into – or continue to build upon– during the winter months.

 

  1. Air-Dry Your ClothesGrowing Money Plant

Surprisingly, both electric and gas dryers eat up a significant amount of electricity. While drying clothes with a clothes dryer is critical during the colder months, stringing a clothesline between two trees to let your clothes dry in the sun can easily be done during the summer. GreenAmerica.org suggests that the typical yearly cost of running a clothes dryer is $100, meaning that you could likely save half that by switching to a clothes line during the summer.

 

  1. Grow Your Own Produce

A backyard garden or a few window boxes is an enjoyable and rewarding way to save money on fresh produce. According to the Wall Street Journal, a study published by the National Garden Association suggests that the average American family spends just $70 to start a vegetable garden, and the produce reaped is worth approximately $600! Bank the extra money you would spend on produce from the grocery this summer and enjoy fresh, delicious vegetables from your backyard throughout the late spring, summer, and early fall.

 

  1. Ride Your Bike

One of the best ways to save significant cash over the summer months is to reduce or eliminate transportation costs; especially if you live in a city where alternate modes of transportation are more common.  If you can ride your bicycle to work or school, you’ll see your wallet fatten, and your waistline shrink in no time. According to CBS News, if your daily commute is 20 miles round trip and you pay $5 for parking, you could save on average $65 per week or $260 per month during the summer by biking when the weather is good. Taking advantage your bike or your sneakers for a quick walk or ride to nearby locations will prove beneficial as those gas savings accumulate from late Spring through the early Fall.

 

  1. Watch your Water

Water use is much higher for many households in the summer, and the EPA estimates that homeowners use between 30% and 70% of that water outdoors. To conserve water and reduce the cost of your bill, water your plants or your lawn in the late evening or early morning. Watering during the heat of the day can cause a significant amount of water to evaporate before it does your plants any good.

 

  1. Save, Save, Save

With these simple but effective changes to your summer routine, you’ll save on utilities, groceries, and gas. To make money off of your new savings, take the money you save on your utility, food, and transportation cost and add it to a high yield savings account.  Utilize online banking and make it easier to keep track of your well-earned summer savings.

As a side note, keep in mind which household appliances need to be upgraded. There are plenty of programs that allow you to upgrade the energy efficiency level of your home or business at little to no cost to you such as the MassSave Heat Loan program or the Rhode Island Heat Loan program

 

Whether these quick and easy methods help you cover upcoming wintertime expenses, or give your bank account a boost each month, don’t forget to put those new Summer Savings to good use and help move you another step closer to financial freedom – what’s not to love about summertime saving?

 

When it comes to hot topics, few could be hotter than data breaches and identity theft. Rarely does a day go by that either isn’t making headlines.

But how do they impact you? And did you know that there are differences between the two? Let’s take a Data Breach_Broken Lockcloser look at each:

What exactly is a data breach? It’s generally described as an incident involving the unauthorized or illegal viewing, access or retrieval of sensitive, protected or confidential data by an individual, application, or service. Such breaches are specifically intended to publish data to an unsecured or illegal location. Data breaches can occur either electronically or in paper format. Information that is typically the focus of a data breach includes individual names, Social Security numbers, driver’s license numbers, intellectual property, trade secrets, passwords, medical records, and financial records, such as bank or credit card information.

Many experts believe that data breaches are occurring on a more frequent basis, whether it’s because of public pressure, the adoption of new laws calling for disclosure of breaches, or cyber thieves stepping up their activity. No matter what the reason, more personal and sensitive information is floating about in the cyber sphere than ever before.

Unfortunately, the loss of information as the result of a data breach can lead to a variety of online crimes such as identity theft, credit card fraud, and banking fraud. In the case of identity theft, a thief will use information such as a person’s Social Security number or credit card password to fraudulently pose as that individual. The results can be financially devastating; wiping out entire bank accounts, ringing up thousands of dollars in credit card expenses and a myriad of other destructive outcomes.

Breaches and the crimes that accompany them can wreak havoc not only on the customer, but also on the targeted companies and asset providers. This potential exposure is what prompts companies that have experienced a data breach to take corrective action to protect their customers; including the issuance of new credit or debit cards, the closing of exposed accounts, and opening of new accounts as a replacement. It can damage a firm’s productivity, reputation, and profitability; not to mention the possibility of facing fines, criminal or civil prosecution.

A report by Verizon security analysts titled “2015 Data Breach Investigations Report” shows that cyberattacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, while relying on long-popular techniques such as hacking and phishing. And the document reveals that many security patches that have been around for years haven’t been implemented.

As consumers, it’s almost impossible to predict or prevent a data breach from happening, but you do have some control over preventing identity theft. One effective way is to keep a close eye on credit card and bank statements. Have alerts sent to your phone or email address if a suspicious activity arises.  Immediately report any discrepancies to the proper contact, such as your bank or card provider’s fraud line or customer service center. Other preventive measures include keeping your Social Security number stationary, in a safe location (avoid carrying it with you), collecting mail promptly, and safeguarding PINs and passwords. In the end, the best protector of your personal and sensitive information is You.

A credit score is the crux of your financial life, and if it’s not up to par, it can be a scarlet letter to lenders.  When you apply for a mortgage or a car loan, your lender determines how much of a risk you are — and how much interest to charge you — based partly on your credit history and score. If you have an excellent history, you’ll get approved much more easily than someone whose credit is so-so. With the lower interest rate that can come with strong credit, you may also pay less — often hundreds of dollars less each month, in the case of a home mortgage.

Before jumping into a major purchase, then, it’s important to have a healthy credit score. Here are five simple steps to give your credit a boost.

  1. Pay on time. Whether utilities, a car payment or a credit card, make sure you’re paying your bills on time, every time. Payment history accounts for 35% of a credit score, so this can be a surefire way of boosting your credit.

 

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  1. Charge Less. Try not to use more than 30% of your borrowing limit on any credit cards. Paying your bill down multiple times each payment cycle can help keep you below that amount. If you really want to boost the score, try and keep credit utilization under 10%.

 

  1. Do regular check-ups. Obtain a copy of your credit report through AnnualCreditReport.com. Each of the three major report providers is legally bound to give you one free copy per year, so plan on checking one of them every four months. If you spot any errors, make sure to dispute them, because they can drive your credit score down.

 

  1. Be careful about opening retail accounts. Credit cards can be an ally in building credit as long as you stay well below the spending limit and pay the bill frequently. Avoid the temptation to open a retail card just to get a percentage off of a purchase. Applying for too many new lines of credit in quick succession can hurt your score, too, particularly if one or more are denied.  Instead, consider talking with advisors at a lender such as BankFive to obtain a credit card.

 

  1. Become an authorized user. If you can’t get a card on your own, consider asking a family member or significant other if you can become an authorized user on their account. You should ask someone who’s trustworthy and routinely pays their bills on time, because when they do that, it will strengthen your credit score as well as theirs. At the same time, any future late payments the primary account holder has will be reflected on your credit score, too. And avoid running up the tab: If the main account holder’s credit use tops 30%, that will show up on your credit report.

 

Delinquencies and collections remain on your record for seven years, but good behavior in the last two years — especially in the most recent months — can help to boost your credit. Follow the steps above and as your credit score climbs, you should find it easier to get approved for loans at lower interest rates. That will make it less painful to make the payment each month.

 

Cait Klein, NerdWallet

If you’re like most Americans, you’re online every day. And some of that online activity might include checking bank accounts, paying bills and purchasing items.

Unfortunately, this leaves you susceptible to cyber intruders and thieves, who are always looking for ways to steal sensitive financial and personal information, such as Social Security numbers, bank account and credit card information. Once they get it, they use it to assume their victims’ identities and make illegal transactions. Known as identity theft, this crime ensnares thousands of people daily and creates major havoc in their lives.

But there are ways to protect yourself when online. One of the best ways is to monitor your financial activity frequently. Experts recommend checking your bank account online at least once a week, and preferably more often. The same goes for credit card and debit card activity, especially if you use your cards on a regular basis.

Be on the lookout for suspicious or unauthorized charges, no matter how small. In fact, cyber thieves who have access to accounts will try to “sneak” small transactions by victims to see if they’re paying attention to their account activity. If they aren’t, the crooks will pursue more big-ticket purchases that could amount to hundreds if not thousands of dollars.

Here are some other ways to arm yourself in the cyber world:

  • Change passwords at least once a month. And use strong passwords that include a combination of numbers, letters and symbols.
  • Avoid saving passwords on your computer, tablet or smart phone.
  • Do not use personal information when choosing usernames, passwords or answers to security questions, especially if this information can be easily found by others online, such as on a Facebook page.
  • Never share passwords or PINs with others.
  • Don’t use a public computer or public Wi-Fi to access your financial institution’s website for online banking, review credit card activity, or make credit card or other bill payments.
  • Install and/or update anti-virus software on your computer.
  • Secure your desktop computer, laptop, tablet and mobile phone with passwords.
  • Log off of your computer when not in use and close your browser and sensitive apps before going offline.
  • Password-protect your Wi-Fi service at home.
  • Don’t open e-mails or attachments from unknown sources, since these are ways cyber thieves use to access information on your computer.

You can find additional information about identity theft and ways to avoid it on the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team website (an official site of the U.S. Department of Homeland Security) by clicking here.

Fall River Affordable Housing Seminars|BankFive

May 6, 2015

Fall River, Mass. (May 6, 2015) – The Fall River Housing Corporation, together with BankFive, will present two seminars to provide first-time homebuyers with information about what they need to know when purchasing a home. Topics to be discussed include budgeting and credit, the housing search process, lead paint issues, home inspections, obtaining a mortgage, […]

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BankFive to Celebrate 160th Anniversary and Debut of New Branding Campaign

May 5, 2015

Fall River, Mass. (May 4, 2015) – In celebration of its 160th anniversary, BankFive (bankfive.com), one of the region’s top community banks, is launching a new brand and holding numerous celebratory activities on Tuesday, May 5. “Let’s Thrive Together” is the cornerstone of the new branding campaign, according to BankFive President & CEO William (Bill) […]

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First Time Homebuyers – What To Do First?

April 28, 2015

Spring is finally in the air, and that’s a sure sign that first-time homebuyers are out and about, looking for their perfect new home. If you’re one of them, you’re probably having a hard time containing your excitement. It’s a natural impulse to want to hit the ground running today, if not yesterday, to nab […]

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Plan Ahead For That Home Improvement Project

April 9, 2015

So the spring fever bug has bitten you and you’re going to tackle that big home improvement project. But do you know how to pick the right contractor to handle the job? No doubt there are a lot of things to consider when lining up prospects. But before you even begin your search, you should […]

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A Tax Refund – To Save or to Splurge?

April 7, 2015

Getting a sizeable tax refund this year? If you are, it’s likely you’ll be faced with a familiar predicament – do I save or do I splurge? There’s nothing to prevent you from doing both. If you’re looking for specific ideas on what to do with your refund money, here are some to consider: Use […]

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