Archive for March 2020

Prioritizing Bills During a Financial Crunch

 

COVID-19 Financial Relief: Are you being negatively impacted by COVID-19? Section 705 is here for you with a Skip-A-Payment and COVID-19 Relief Loan. Learn more!

Paying Bills During COVID-19

Our vibrant, animated country has been put on pause. Busy thoroughfares are now empty of pedestrians and previously crowded malls are eerily vacant, as millions of Americans shelter in place to slow the spread of the coronavirus. Forced leave of work has left many wondering if and when they’ll receive their next paycheck.

If you are one of the millions of Americans on furlough, you may be panicking about incoming bills and wondering where you’ll find the money to pay for them all. Let’s take a look at what financial experts are advising now so you can make a responsible, informed decision about your finances going forward.

Triage your billsWomen looking at bill with a concerned facial expression

Financial expert Clark Howard urges cash-strapped Americans to look at their bills the way medical personnel view incoming patients during an emergency.

“In medicine it’s called triage,” Howard says. “It’s exactly what’s happening in the hospitals right now as they decide who to treat when or who not to treat. You have to look at your bills the same way. You’ve got to think about what you must have.”

Times of emergency call for unconventional prioritizing. Clark recommends putting your most basic needs, including food and shelter, before any other bills. It’s best to make sure you can feed your family before using your limited resources for loan payments or credit card bills. Similarly, your family needs a place to live; mortgage or rent payments should be next on your list.

Housing costs

It’s one thing to resolve to put your housing needs first and another to actually put that into practice when you’re working with a smaller or no paycheck this month. The good news is that some rules have changed in light of the financial fallout of the pandemic.

On March 18, President Donald Trump announced he’s instructing the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) to immediately halt “all foreclosures and evictions” for 60 days. This means you’ll have a roof over your head for the next two months, no matter what.

Also, in early March, the Federal Housing Finance Agency offered payment forbearance to homeowners affected by COVID-19, allowing them to suspend mortgage payments for up to 12 months. These loans, provided by Freddie Mac and Fannie Mae, account for approximately 66 percent of all home loans in America. The payments will eventually need to be covered. Some lenders allow delayed payments to be tacked onto the end of the home loan’s term, while others collect the sum total of the missed payments when the period of forbearance ends.

Speak to your lender about your options before making a decision. A free pass on your mortgage during the economic shutdown can be a lifesaver for your finances and help free up some of your money for essentials.

If you’re a renter, be open with your landlord.

“Consumers who are the most proactive and say, ‘Here’s where I stand,’ will get a lot better response than those who do nothing,” says Lynnette Khalfani-Cox, CEO of AsktheMoneyCoach.com and author of “Zero Debt.”

Your landlord may be willing to work with you. That’s true whether it means paying partial rent this month and the remainder when you’re back at work, spreading this month’s payment throughout the year, or just paying April’s rent a few weeks late, after the relief funds and unemployment payments from the government begin.

Paying for transportation

When normal life resumes, many employees will need a way to get to work. Missing out on an auto loan payment can mean risking repossession of your vehicle. This should put car payments next on your list of financial priorities. If meeting that monthly payment is impossible right now, communicate with your lender and come up with a plan that is mutually agreeable to both parties.

Household bills

Utility and service bills should be paid on time each month, but for workers on furlough due to the coronavirus pandemic, these expenses may not even make it to their list of priorities.

First, don’t worry about shutoffs. Most states have outlawed utility shutoffs for now.

Second, many providers are willing to work with their clients. Visit the websites of your providers and check to see what kind of relief and financial considerations they’re offering their consumers at this time.

It’s important to note that lots of households receive water service directly from their city or county, and not through a private provider. Many local governments have suspended shutoffs, but be sure to verify if yours has done so before assuming it to be true.

Finally, as with every other bill, it’s best to reach out to your provider and be honest about what you can and cannot pay for at this time.

Unsecured debt

Unsecured debt includes credit cards, personal loans and any other loan that is not tied to a large asset, like a house or vehicle. Howard urges financially struggling Americans to place these loans at the bottom of their list of financial priorities during the pandemic. At the same time, he reminds borrowers that missing out on a monthly loan payment can have a long-term negative impact on a credit score.

Here, too, consumers are advised to communicate with their lenders about their current financial realities. Credit card companies and lenders are often willing to extend payment deadlines, lower the APR on a line of credit or a loan, waive a late fee or occasionally allow consumers to skip a payment without penalty.

Are you making payments toward an unsecured loan at Section 705? We understand that you may not be able to meet your monthly payments at this time and we are willing to work with you. Please feel free to reach out to us at 337-232-8450 option 7 to learn about your options.

Resources:
https://clark.com/personal-finance-credit/how-to-prioritize-bills/ 
https://nationalpost.com/category/news/canada
https://www.consumerfinance.gov/about-us/blog/protect-yourself-financially-from-impact-of-coronavirus/
https://katu.com/news/nation-world/65-of-mortgages-protected-by-government-moratorium-on-foreclosures
https://www.businessinsider.com/personal-finance/pause-bill-payments-if-you-lost-work-due-to-coronavirus

Still Focused on Serving You

Image of coronavirus

COVID-19 Doesn’t Impact Our Service

Dear member,

We are still here to help you

You and your family may be worried about the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), but the leadership at Section 705 Federal Credit Union want you to know we are here for you as we always have been. Your deposits are safe and insured. We’re not going anywhere, because at its core, our credit union is not a building or a business, it’s people unified for a common goal.

Your money is safe and insured

There are a lot of things to worry about these days, but the safety of your money in your credit union isn’t one of them.  Your money is safe, and your accounts are fully insured by the National Credit Union Share Insurance Fund (NCUSIF) up to $250,000.  There is no risk to keeping money in your account, but there are countless risks to holding cash.     

COVID-19 has cancelled, postponed, and slowed down much of American life, but the nation’s financial system operations are still strong. You can meet nearly all of your financial needs without leaving your home. If you do not have it on your mobile phone, now is a good time to download our app or sign up for online access. You can transfer and deposit money, and pay bills through your debit card, credit card, or electronic transfer. 

If you’ve been impacted by this pandemic, our staff is dedicated to working with and helping you through these uncertain times. Now, more than ever, we are here to support our members. Section 705 FCU has 2 loan specials available to help those affected. Please, call 337-232-8450 option 7 or email a loan officer to discuss taking advantage of the COVID-19 Relief Loan and/or the COVID-19 Skip-A-Payment

Use caution and minimize social interaction

Health professionals say if you must leave your house use an abundance of caution and minimize social interactions.  If you need to visit our branch through the drive-through (with normal operating hours) or utilize our ATM.

We’re here if you need any additional assistance

If you want to learn more about COVID-19, visit the CDC’s resource center or our state health department website. Please take care of yourself and those around you and do not hesitate to contact us for any assistance at 337-232-8450.

Sincerely,

Melanie Riedl

Section 705 FCU President & Chief Executive Officer

P.S. Connect with us on Facebook for COVID-19 updates!

Beware of Coronavirus Scams!

Scammers are notorious for capitalizing on fear, and the coronavirus outbreak is no exception.

Woman wearing mask

Showing an appalling lack of the most basic morals, scammers have set up fake websites, bogus funding collections and more in an effort to trick the fearful and unsuspecting out of their money.

The World Health Organization (WHO) has published on its website a warning against email scams connected to the coronavirus. The agency claims it has received reports from around the world about phishing attempts mentioning coronavirus on an almost daily basis.

Closer to home, the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is warning against a surge in coronavirus scams, which are being executed with surprising sophistication, so they may be difficult for even the keenest of eyes to spot.

The best weapons against these scams are awareness and education. When people know about circulating scams and how to identify them, they’re already several steps ahead of the scammers. Here’s all you need to know about coronavirus-related scams.

How the scams play out

There are several scams exploiting the fear and uncertainty surrounding the virus. Here are some of the most prevalent:

The fake funding scam

In this scam, victims receive bogus emails, text messages or social media posts asking them to donate money to a research team that is supposedly on the verge of developing a drug to treat COVID-19. Others claim they are nearing a vaccine for immunizing the population against the virus. There have also been ads circulating on the internet with similar requests. Unfortunately, nearly all of these are fakes, and any money donated to these “funds” will help line the scammers’ pockets.

The bogus health agency

There is so much conflicting information on the coronavirus that it’s really a no-brainer that scammers are exploiting the confusion. Scammers are sending out alerts appearing to be from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) or the WHO; however, they’re actually created by the scammers. These emails sport the logo of the agencies that allegedly sent them, and the URL is similar to those of the agencies as well. Some scammers will even invent their own “health agency,” such as “The Health Department,” taking care to evoke authenticity with bogus contact information and logos.

Victims who don’t know better will believe these missives are sent by legitimate agencies. While some of these emails and posts may actually provide useful information, they often also spread misinformation to promote fear-mongering, such as nonexistent local diagnoses of the virus. Even worse, they infect the victims’ computers with malware which is then used to scrape personal information off the infected devices.

The phony purchase order

Scammers are hacking the computer systems at medical treatment centers and obtaining information about outstanding orders for face masks and other supplies. The scammers then send the buyer a phony purchase order listing the requested supplies and asking for payment. The employee at the treatment center wires payment directly into the scammer’s account. Unfortunately, they’ll have to pay the bill again when contacted by the legitimate supplier.

Preventing scams

Basic preventative measures can keep scammers from making you their next target.

As always, it’s important to keep the anti-malware and antivirus software on your computer up to date, and to strengthen the security settings on all of your devices.

Practice responsible browsing when online. Never download an attachment from an unknown source or click on links embedded in an email or social media post from an unknown individual. Don’t share sensitive information online, either. If you’re unsure about a website’s authenticity, check the URL and look for the lock icon and the “s” after the “http” indicating the site is secure.

Finally, it’s a good idea to stay updated on the latest news about the coronavirus to avoid falling prey to misinformation. Check the actual CDC and WHO websites for the latest updates. You can donate funds toward research on these sites as well.

Spotting the scams

Scammers give themselves away when they ask for payment via specific means, including a wire transfer or prepaid gift card. Scams are also easily spotted by claims of urgency, such as “Act now!” Another giveaway is poor writing skills, including grammatical errors, awkward syntax and misspelled words. In the coronavirus scams, “Breaking information” alerts appearing to be from health agencies are another sign of a scam.

You can keep yourself safe from the coronavirus by practicing good hygiene habits and avoid coronavirus scams by practicing healthy internet usage. Keep yourself in the know about the latest developments.

Resources:

https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/blog/2020/02/coronavirus-scammers-follow-headlines
https://www.wsj.com/amp/articles/hackers-target-companies-with-fake-coronavirus-warnings-11583267812?tesla=y
https://blog.malwarebytes.com/social-engineering/2020/02/battling-online-coronavirus-scams-with-facts/

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Section 705 FCU is aware of the issues with the Online Banking system. We are working closely with our tech team. We apologize for the inconvenience. Please, give us a call at 337-232-8450 option 6 and we will be happy to handle any financial needs over the phone. We appreciate your patience and value your membership. Contact Us!