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article preview image Fraud: Spoofing Explained
Hackers often try to take advanatge of unsuspecting people by posing as their financial institution, which is referred to as spoofing. They often use common communication methods such as phone call, email or text message.

The phone call, email or text may look like it’s coming from an Advancial number or email address, but it is better to be cautious and contact Advancial directly to verify the legitimacy of the communication.

An Advancial employee will never call, email or text you and ask for your personal information.  If we call you, we may ask some questions to verify your identity but they will not involve your account numbers, personal identification number (PIN), social security number, online banking password, or any other sensitive information.

Here are some key fraud words and definitions that can help shed some light on this type of fraud:

Phishing – This is a form of fraud in which an attacker masquerades as a reputable entity or person in email or other communication channels.  The attacker uses phishing emails to distribute malicious links or attachments that can perform a variety of functions, including the extraction of login credentials or account information from victims. 

Social Engineering – Techniques employed by cybercriminals designed to lure unsuspecting users into sending them their confidential data, infecting their computers with malware or opening links to infected sites. 

Spoofing – The act of disguising a communication from an unknown source as being from a known, trusted source.  Spoofing can apply to emails, phone calls, and websites, or can be more technical.  Spoofing can be used to gain access to a target’s personal information or spread malware through infected links or attachments.
Fraudsters will try to exploit a consumer’s trust and catch you when you’re unsuspecting. Stay alert and if something seems fishy, it probably is!

If you receive a call, text or email from someone claiming to be an Advancial representative and that person begins to ask you questions about your personal information (i.e your card number, pin number, password, account information), immediately cease the communication, do not respond or click any links, and contact Advancial directly at 1.800.322.2709 or msc@advancial.org.
 

You don’t need to spend a fortune to give your house a new look this spring. Read on for a list of home improvement hacks and learn how to upgrade your home on a budget. 

young girl painting a wall blue Home Improvement Hacks
You don’t need to spend a fortune to give your house a new look this spring. Read on for a list of home improvement hacks and learn how to upgrade your home on a budget. 
 
1. Cabinet makeover 
You can give a tired kitchen a fresh look by just replacing the cabinet fronts. You’ll pay a fraction of the price and no one will know it’s your old, creaky cabinets hiding behind those beautiful new fronts. 
 
2. Cover your countertops with contact paper 
Granite countertops may be gorgeous, but they’re also pricey. Instead of taking out a second mortgage for beautiful counters, try covering them with patterned contact paper. You’ll find loads of granite lookalikes at home improvement stores and you can learn how to apply it neatly from DIY tutorials on YouTube. 
 
3. Use PVC pipes for curtain rods 
Pretty curtains and drapes add a splash of color to any room. Lower the price tag on your new window treatments with this hack: Use PVC pipes instead of curtain rods. You can paint them to match the décor of the room and hang them with inexpensive hooks that fit well. Curtains, done! 
 
4. Create a mirrored backsplash 
All you need for this fantastic hack is a pack of self-adhesive mirror tiles, which retail at about $15 per 20-tile pack. Use your snazzy tiles to create a mirrored backsplash in your kitchen. The mirrors will give the illusion of greater space and you won’t have to deal with grout and caulking. It’s a super-cheap way to make your kitchen sparkle! 
 
5. Slipcover your sofa 
You can find a leather-look slipcover to match the shape of your sofa for $100 or less. They’re not just for protection; the right slipcover will give you an (almost) brand new couch! 
 
6. Let the light in 
Light fixtures can make or break a room. Walk through your home and take note of the fixtures that are relics from a past life, paying close attention to highly visible areas. Then take a trip to a home improvement store or check out sites like Wayfair and Hayneedle for trendy, striking light fixtures you can use to replace those in your home. For less than $100, you can give your home an entire new look! 
 
7. DIY paint 
If the walls in your home are desperate for a fresh coat of paint, look no further than your local home improvement store. House painting is fairly simple and you’ll find loads of tutorials on YouTube. You’ll only have to spring for the actual paint and a few supplies.
 
 
SOURCES:
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.thrillist.com/amphtml/home/home-improvement-hacks-under-50-diy-home-projects
https://diyjoy.com/diy-remodeling-hacks/
http://www.architectureartdesigns.com/15-smart-hacks-that-will-save-you-money-while-remodeling-your-home/
https://www.google.com/amp/s/www.remodelista.com/posts/apartment-rental-simple-easy-budget-hacks/amp/
 
 
With your mind so muddled with details like classes, exams and papers, who has time to think about food? You might be heading into the new semester with plans to subsist solely on convenience…
ways to save on food costs Ways to Save on Food Costs

With your mind so muddled with details like classes, exams and papers, who has time to think about food? You might be heading into the new semester with plans to subsist solely on convenience food and packaged junk. We’re looking at you, ramen noodles!

But as you’ll quickly discover, overdoing the processed foods will leave you feeling not quite full and not so nutritionally sound, either.

You’re ready for a change. But how can you prepare nutritious meals that don’t cost a bundle or take hours of prep time? Is it even possible?

You betcha! Here’s how:

1. Choose a food plan carefully

If your school requires you to purchase a food plan, select one that best suits your needs instead of signing up for everything. If you love a big breakfast but prefer to go with lighter fare the rest of the day, consider purchasing breakfast only and eating the rest of the meals in the dorm. Paying for meals you won’t eat much of is like kissing your money goodbye.

2. Plan

Lack of planning leads to the poorest choices. Take a few minutes at the beginning of each week – or even month – to plan and shop for your menu. This way, you won’t be stuck missing key ingredients when you need them most and then opting for expensive, unhealthy takeout food instead.

3. Learn how to shop

If you’re using the kitchen, you’ll need to learn how to shop. Here are some quick tips to help you become a smarter consumer:

  • Always use a list. You’ll spend less time and less money at the store.
  • Look up and down but don’t look straight. Supermarkets tend to put the priciest brands at eye level, with the less-expensive products higher up or lower down on the shelves.
  • Don’t shop on an empty stomach. Everything looks tempting when you’re running low on fuel.
  • Stock up on staples that last a while. Always have some pasta, rice and beans on hand for easy, last-minute meals.
  • Get help. Use an app like Anylist and GroceryIQ to help you stick to your budget.

4. Cook with a friend

Ask a pal to share cooking responsibilities with you several times a week. Lots of dishes, like pot roasts and casseroles, are ideal for sharing.

5. Invest in a quality lunchbox or bento box

As a college student, you’ll be up and about more often than not. Avoid the temptation to buy pricey convenience foods on the go by keeping your meals and snacks at the perfect temperature with a good-quality lunchbox or bento box.

6. Avoid vending machines

Vending machines are ridiculously overpriced. Plan your snacks and keep some with you at all times so you don’t blow all your cash on $3 chocolate bars.

With just a bit of planning and careful budgeting, you can cut your food costs in half this semester!

With the biggest spending season of the year looming ahead, it’s time to brush up on your shopping smarts. Don’t get caught springing for something you can’t afford!
when a bargain is not a bargain shopping Six times a bargain is not a bargain
In the words of writer Franklin Jones, “A bargain is something you don’t need at a price you can’t resist.”

And we couldn’t agree more.

With the biggest spending season of the year looming ahead, it’s time to brush up on your shopping smarts. Don’t get caught springing for something you can’t afford! This year, give yourself the gift of an intact budget and a credit card balance that doesn’t haunt you for months or years to come.

Here’s when that steal of a deal you can’t wait to show off to your friends is not such a bargain after all.

1. When you don’t need it

The price might be right. But, if the heavily marked-down item is one you don’t need, you’re not getting a bargain at all. You’re just blowing money you could be using to put into savings or purchase stuff you actually do need.

Those flashy signs and hyped-up ads are enough to blind the most discerning shopper, so think carefully before plunking down your money on sale items. If an item is marked down 75%, ask yourself: Would I ever buy this item at full price? Would I buy it if the price was slashed just 30%?

2. When it’s a faulty product

Sometimes, it doesn’t pay to be cheap. If an item is retailing at a ridiculously low price, inspect it carefully. Hold it up to this checklist to determine its quality and durability:

  • Where was it manufactured? If the product bears a designer label, but also has a “Made in China” tag stuck on it, you’re likely looking at a cheap knockoff that isn’t such a bargain after all.
  • Are there any noticeable defects or missing parts?
  • Does the item appear to be worn out? You don’t want to be buying someone else’s heavily used returns.
  • Is the material cheaply made? Some clothing will start attracting lint and will sport unsightly “pimples” while still in the store. Unless they’re giving it away free, such poorly made clothing is hardly worth the price.

3. When it’s going to go bad before you can use it

Costco, we’re looking at you! Sure, that gigantic package of peanuts that looks like it can feed a herd of elephants is insanely cheap, but who are you kidding here? We both know there’s no way your family can eat it before they start going bad. And there’s no money saved when half of an item gets chucked into the trash.

Before buying in bulk to snag a great deal, be sure the food won’t go rancid or get stale before you can eat it.

4. When the “sale price” is the highest the item’s ever been sold for at this location

Retailers often use underhanded strategies to attract consumers. One of these tactics is featuring an item’s price as a “sale price” when, in reality, the store has never sold it for more than the tagged amount.

Sometimes, the store operators will be basing their sale price on an inflated Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP). But if the MSRP was artificially inflated from the start, you’re not really getting a bargain, are you?

Other times, the item will come with a pre-marked-down MSRP. The manufacturer’s label might read: “Original price: $49.99. Our price: $39.99.” Of course, the item was never sold at $49.99 and the retailer is just playing games with you. If an item is really marked down, you’ll see a new price tag slapped on top of the manufacturer’s label with the newer, lower price.

5. When you need to mail in a rebate to get the discount

Rebates are a retailer’s best friend. Most of us are just too lazy or forgetful to mail them in. So, we instead end up paying the full price with the retailer getting the last laugh. For instance, in one TiVo subscription promotion that included a mail-in rebate deal, a whopping $5,000,000 was never claimed.

If you’re the super-responsible type who doesn’t know the meaning of procrastination, enjoy those rebate deals. But, for the rest of us mere mortals, it only pays to pick up a rebate item with an instant at-the-register rebate. Otherwise, consider the item as being marked at its regular price.

6. When it’s part of a liquidation sale

Avoid liquidation sales like crime-ridden neighborhoods. While shoppers sometimes snag great deals at these sales, liquidation events are ripe with rip-offs. Retailers post signs claiming “Everything Must Go!” – but that’s where the honesty ends. The “Rock Bottom Prices” they advertise are often as high as the original MSRP – or even higher. The store owners are depending on shoppers to assume that all items are bargain-priced just because they’re at a liquidation sale. Don’t let them pull the wool over your eyes! Stay away from liquidation sales or proceed with extreme caution.

Sometimes a bargain is just that. But too often, what we think is an incredible deal is just another item we don’t need with a perfectly ordinary price.

Are you desperate to own a home of your own?
20% down on a home myth The 20% Down Myth

Are you desperate to own a home of your own?

If that’s your dream, you are likely saving up, dollar by hard-earned dollar, until you have that magic number: 20% of your dream home’s total value. That’s what all the experts say, right?

For the average American home, 20% amounts to a pretty big number. Throw in closing costs and you’ve got a small fortune to raise – and years to go until you reach your goal.

It’s great that you’re putting money away toward what will likely be the largest purchase of your life, but there’s one huge mistake in your calculations: You don’t need to put down 20%.

Yes, you read right. The 20% myth is an unfortunate leftover from the era after the housing crisis, when out of necessity, access to credit tightened up. Thankfully, times have changed, and since FHA loans were introduced more than 80 years ago, mortgages have not required a 20% down payment.

While it’s true that a higher down payment means you’ll have a smaller monthly mortgage payment, there are lots of reasons why this isn’t always the best road to homeownership.

Let’s explore loan options that don’t require 20% down and take a deeper look at the pros and cons of making a smaller down payment.

Loan options

If you’d like to go the route of government-backed loans, these are your options:

  1. FHA mortgage: This loan is aimed at helping first-time home buyers and requires as little as 3.5% down. If that number is still too high, the down payment can be sourced from a financial gift or via a Down Payment Assistance program.
  2. VA mortgage: VA mortgages are the most forgiving, but they are strictly for current and former military members. They require zero down, don’t require mortgage insurance and they allow for all closing costs to come from a seller concession or gift funds.
  3. USDA home loan: These loans, backed by the United States Department of Agriculture, also require zero down, but eligibility is location-based. Qualifying homes need not be situated on farmlands, but they must be in sparsely populated areas. USDA loans are available in all 50 states and are offered by most lenders.

If you’d rather take out a conventional loan, though, you can choose from the following loan types:

  1. 3% down mortgage: Many lenders will now grant mortgages with borrowers putting as little as 3% down. Some lenders, like Freddie Mac, even offer reduced mortgage insurance on these loans, with no income limits and no first-time buyer requirement.
  2. 5% down mortgage: Lots of lenders allow you to put down just 5% of a home’s value. However, most insist that the home be the buyer’s primary residence and that the buyer has a FICO score of 680 or higher.
  3. 10% down mortgage: Most lenders will allow you to take out a conventional loan with 10% down, even with a less-than-ideal credit score.

Bear in mind that each of these loans require income eligibility. Additionally, putting less than 20% down usually means paying for PMI, or private mortgage insurance. However, if you view your home as an asset, paying your PMI is like paying toward an investment. In fact, according to TheMortgageReports.com, some homeowners have spent $8,100 in PMI over the course of a decade, and their home’s value has increased by $43,000. That’s a huge return on investment!

Why make a smaller payment?

If you’re thinking of waiting and saving until you have 20% to put down on a home, consider this: A RealtyTrac study found that, on average, it would take a homebuyer nearly 13 years to save for a 20% down payment. In all that time, you could be building your equity – and home prices may rise. Rates likely will as well.

Other benefits to putting down less than 20% include the following:

  • Conserve cash: You’ll have more money available to invest and save.
  • Pay off debt: Many lenders recommend using available cash to pay down credit card debt before purchasing a home. Credit card debt usually has a higher interest rate than mortgage debt – and it won’t net you a tax deduction.
  • Improve your credit score: Once you’ve paid off debt, expect to see your score spike. You’ll land a better mortgage rate this way, especially if your score tops 730.
  • Remodel: Few homes are in perfect condition as offered. You’ll likely want to make some changes to your new home before you move in. Having some cash on hand will allow you to do that.
  • Build an emergency fund: As a homeowner, having a well-stocked emergency fund is crucial. From here on, you’ll be the one paying to fix any plumbing issues or leaky roofs.

Cons of smaller down payments

In all fairness, there are some drawbacks of making a smaller down payment.

  • Mortgage insurance: A PMI payment is an extra monthly expense piled on top of your mortgage and property tax. As mentioned above, though, PMI can be a good investment.
  • Potentially higher mortgage rates: If you’re taking out a conventional loan and making a smaller down payment, you can expect to have a higher mortgage rate. However, if you’re taking out a government-backed loan, you’re guaranteed a lower mortgage rate despite a less-than-robust down payment.
  • Less equity: You’ll have less equity in your home with a smaller down payment. Of course, unless you’re planning to sell in the next few years, this shouldn’t have any tangible effect on your homeownership.

Of course this doesn’t mean you should buy a home no matter how much – or how little – you’ve got in your savings account. Before making this decision, be sure you can really afford to own a home. Ideally, your total monthly housing costs should amount to less than 28% of your monthly gross income.

Ready to buy your dream home? We’d love to help you out! Call, click or stop by Advancial today to learn about our fantastic mortgage rates. We’ll walk you through all the way to the closing!

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