How to protect your children from identity theft

Did you know more than 1 million children were victims of identity theft or fraud in 2017? While most kids don’t have checking accounts or credit cards, they do have one thing that makes them a tempting target – a Social Security number. 

So how can you prevent your children from having their identities stolen, and credit destroyed, before they’ve left high school? Here are some easy ways to protect them:

  • Keep it safe
    Make sure you store Social Security cards safely – a safe deposit box at your local bank, or in a fire safe box at home – don't keep their cards in your wallet.
  • Check their credit
    Children, like adults, are eligible to receive a free credit report each year. Visit AnnualCreditReport.com to request a report for each child, then review for suspicious behavior.
  • Lock their credit
    A credit lock prevents anyone from pulling a credit report using a child’s Social Security Number, a mandatory first step for most accounts and credit applications. For maximum protection, you should file a credit lock with all three major credit bureaus – Equifax, Experian and TransUnion.
  • Track & report suspicious activity
    If you notice your child is receiving “unusual” mail – credit card solicitations, demands for payments – check their credit for suspicious activity. If it appears their identity has been stolen, you can file a report with the Federal Trade Commission by visiting IdentityTheft.gov. You will receive an identity theft report and recovery plan.

While it is possible to get a new Social Security number for your child if you can prove it has been stolen and the use is causing your child significant and continuing harm, it's much easier to protect their current number.


How to use your mobile wallet

If you have a smartphone that was made within the last five years, you have likely been prompted to use its mobile wallet and payment system.

But what is a mobile wallet, and why do you want to use it?

Perhaps the most well known of the mobile wallets are Apple Pay® and Google Pay™. Both allow you to add a credit or debit card from participating financial institutions to your phone, allowing you to pay for purchases without taking out your wallet. The benefits of using a mobile wallet include convenience and increased security as you no longer run the risk of having your physical card stolen or swiped.

At First County Bank, we offer customers the ability to add their debit card  to Apple Pay, Google Pay and Samsung Pay®. To get started, open the mobile wallet or payment app on your device – keep in mind, that not all devices have this capability.

Next, enter the card information. Many phones will allow you to take a photo of your card, but you can also enter the details manually.

After verifying the information and accepting the terms and conditions, a digital representation of your First County Bank debit card will appear on your device. Then, all you need to do is look for the symbol indicating the retailer accepts “contactless” payments.

If you have questions or difficulties adding your First County Bank debit card to your mobile wallet or payment app, stop by any of our branches and a Digital Ambassador will be able to help.

And, don’t forget – once you have set up mobile payments on your phone, you can also set them up on your smartwatch.

Apple Pay is a registered trademark of Apple Inc.
Google Pay is a trademark of Google LLC.
Samsung Pay is a registered trademark of Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd.


How to save money this Valentine's Day

Valentine’s Day is coming up and it can be a great time to show the special people in your life what they mean to you. Whether you’re celebrating Valentine’s Day, Galentine’s Day or both, here are a few tips to keep the celebration affordable.

Cook at home – You can save a lot of money by cooking at home on Valentine’s Day. Find a special recipe and look for ways to make it unique. For example, some grocery stores sell steaks in the shape of a heart the week of the holiday. Grab a bottle of your favorite wine, and maybe a box of brownie mix and you’re good to go.

Make your own card and gift – In addition to saving money, your partner is sure to appreciate the thoughtfulness of a homemade gift and card. You could put together a photo album, bake a special dessert, or create a gift basket of inexpensive personalized items.

Use coupons - Look at popular coupon websites such as Groupon for discounts on gifts, activities and dining out.

 Make your own flower arrangement – Flowers can be a big expense on Valentine’s Day. Buy flowers at the supermarket and mix and match various arrangements in order to get a stunning bouquet for less. Bonus tip: buy a potted plant that will last longer than a bouquet in order to get more bang for your buck.

 Plan a low budget activity – Whether you watch a movie at home, go for a picnic at a local park, or just make pancakes together, it’s okay to keep the plans simple in order to stick to your budget. After all, it’s the thought that counts.


First County Bank Spotlight - Jeff Robinson

Meet Jeff Robinson, Branch Manager of our Greenwich location.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I love spending time with my wife and my dog, and working on my car. I guess you could say I'm a car guy... specifically American muscle cars. I own a Shelby GT500 and enjoy driving it very much.

Do you have a secret talent?

I like to cook and find it very relaxing. I have tried many different dishes through the years. I also play golf as much as possible with my friends and customers of the bank. We play every Sunday.

What is your favorite part about your role with First County Bank?

My favorite part of my role is working with my clients and also coaching my staff here in Greenwich. We always strive to assist our clients and help them with their financial needs.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?

My favorite moment was July 30, 2001 - the day I was hired by First County Bank to manage the North Stamford branch. It changed my life. 18+ years later, I'm still with the Bank, managing the Greenwich branch.

Anything else you'd like to say about you or your experience at the Bank?

I think it is important to give back to the community and I'm proud to say First County Bank does an excellent job of supporting local nonprofits and providing volunteer opportunities for FCB employees.

 

 


How to pay your bills through Online Banking

For some, there is a ritual to sitting down each month, with checkbook in hand, to pay all the bills that have come in the mail.

But, with the rise of “porch pirates” and thefts from mailboxes, did you know there is also a very real risk of identity theft associated with the traditional way of paying bills?

For this reason, many of our customers have started to switch to paying their bills through Online and Mobile Banking from First County Bank. Once you login, you can pay almost anyone in the United States without breaking out the checkbook. Each time you send out a payment, the system keeps track of the contact information, effectively building a database of the people you pay regularly so you don’t have to enter it every time.

To make paying your bills even easier, you can use Online Bill Pay to schedule payments that occur regularly (e.g. your daycare provider). Some larger companies, like local utility providers, will even allow you to receive and pay your bills directly through Online or Mobile Banking.

You can also use Online Banking and Bill Pay to keep track of the bills you’ve paid – just log in to see what payments have gone out, what has been scheduled and what is due. No checkbook register required.

If you have questions about Online Bill Pay, including how to get started, visit one of our branches to speak with a Digital Ambassador.


First County Bank Spotlight – Wendy Macedo

Meet Wendy Macedo, Branch Manager of our Westport Avenue – Norwalk location.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a career banker who has been working in the industry for 30+ years, spending the last  6 of those years with First County Bank. I am also very involved with my local community of Norwalk and Wilton. I was the past president of the Wilton Rotary Club, a Board of Directors member at the Norwalk Senior Center, and a member of Norwalk InterAct – a local networking organization for business development.

When I am not working or fulfilling my community commitments, I love watching sports (especially the Chicago Bears) and spending time with my family.

I have been married for 35 years and have 3 adult children, and a precious 6-month old granddaughter, who I love to pieces.  Anyone who knows me knows I beam with pride and joy when asked about my family.

Do you have a secret talent?

I really enjoy Zumba, it’s a great cardio exercise that gets the blood flowing, and helps me dance away any stress from the day.

What is your favorite part about your role with First County Bank?

What I like most about my role as a Branch Manager is being able to provide my consumer and business banking customers with the highest quality of service – saving them time, saving them money, finding the right solutions for their banking needs, and most importantly being an advisor they can trust.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment?

My favorite First County Bank moments are when I am able to deliver grant checks from the First County Bank Foundation to various nonprofit organizations in town.


How to meet your financial goals in 2020

According to Inc Magazine “save more and spend less” was one of the top New Year’s Resolutions for 2019 - just behind eat healthier, lose weight and exercise more.

If “saving more and spending less” is one of your resolutions, here are a few places to get started:

Set your budget 
Use apps such as Mint to evaluate where, and how, you are spending your money. Next, set a goal for how much you would like to save, spend, or put toward debt. Monitor your progress throughout the month by saving receipts or tracking your spending in Online or Mobile Banking.

Tackle your debt
Make a list of all your debt and include the interest rate on each debt. From there, put extra money toward one of the bills you would like to pay off. Some people recommend attacking the debt with the highest interest rate first, some advocate for starting with the one with the smallest dollar amount. Either way, make sure to avoid taking on additional debt while you're paying it down.

Save for retirement
It’s never too early to start! Sign up for your company’s 401(k) plan if they have one and if they match a certain percentage, make sure to take advantage of it. Once you get more comfortable with your budget, see if you can increase your 401(k) contributions. You can also open up an Individual Retirement Account (IRA). Contact a member of our team to learn more.

Start an emergency fund
Emergency funds are critical because, along with giving you peace of mind, they help to ensure you don’t have to go into debt when a crisis occurs. Start with a small amount each month, and increase it as you earn more (and pay down your debt).

Improve your credit score
Your credit score is the gateway to getting financing for a house, a car, or to receiving any type of loan. You are eligible to receive a credit report from each company – Equifax®, Experian® and TransUnion® – once a year, at no charge by visiting AnnualCreditReport.com.

If your score needs improvement, focus on paying your bills on time, as well as paying down your debt, keeping credit card balances low, and limiting the number of credit cards you open. Also, make sure to review your credit report regularly to catch and report any inaccuracies.


That’s a Wrap!

We had a great year of giving to many wonderful local organizations who are working hard to improve our community. We encourage you to learn more about each organization.

Our final three big checks are going to The Child Guidance Center, The Tiny Miracles Foundation, and The Westport Library.


That’s a Wrap!

We had a great year of giving to many wonderful local organizations who are working hard to improve our community. We encourage you to learn more about each organization.

Our final three big checks are going to The Child Guidance CenterThe Tiny Miracles Foundation, and The Westport Library.


How to reset your spending

After a holiday season filled with friends, food, and fun, many people use the first of the year as an excuse to reset and catch up on healthy habits including eating right and exercising. But have you considered how to reset your spending after weeks of shopping?

The idea is simple – as with your fitness goals, you want to start off with small, manageable changes over a set period of time. For example, over the course of one month:

  • Buy only the things you know you need – no stocking up on toothpaste until you are certain you are out. 
  • Avoid impulse purchases by keeping a list in your wallet or your phone of things that catch your eye, but wait until the end of the month to buy them (it may turn out, you don’t really want them after all).
  • Go beyond packing your lunch or making your own coffee and consider inviting friends over for a potluck meal, rather than going out to eat.
  • Do all your shopping offline, in person. You may find out some things just aren’t worth the trip.

These changes don’t need to be permanent, but just like your fitness goals, some of them will stick, saving you money in the long run.

How do you reset your spending after the holidays?


First County Bank Spotlight - Ben Peter

Meet Ben Peter, Fairfield Branch Manager.

Ben at the Airport in India, for the Cricket World Cup.

Tell us a little about yourself!

I am a native of India and
have been living in the US with my family for 35 years.  I am a proud father to 2 adorable young kids
who challenge me to a wrestling match every night when I come home from work –
they tag team on me and usually win.  

When I am not with my
customers or my family, you can find me in class at the University of
Bridgeport where I am pursuing my MBA in Finance.

Do you have a secret talent?

I am a huge travel buff. In fact, I have traveled to 5 out of the 7 continents. One of my favorite places to travel to is Dubai (I have been there about 4 times so far).  When I am not traveling the globe, I like to stay active and enjoy playing cricket, racquetball, and soccer.

What is your favorite part of your role with First County Bank?

Whether it be helping a
couple close on a mortgage for their first home, assisting a young adult with
the opening of their first ever checking account, or delivering a grant check
to a local nonprofit, having the ability to change the lives of my customers
for the better, is the most rewarding part of my role at First County Bank.

Do you have a favorite First County Bank moment? This can be any moment at the Bank that has made an impact on your life.

My favorite First County Bank
moment was when I was able to volunteer with the Bridgeport Rescue Mission for
their Great ThanksGiving Project. I really enjoyed being able to give back to
the local community – helping those less fortunate, pick out a warm winter coat,
and pick up a turkey and a bag full of food to make a home-cooked meal for
Thanksgiving. Its great to work for such a community involved bank like  First County Bank.


How to protect yourself and your mobile device

Your phone is your camera, calendar, clock, and the way you stay connected to your friends, your colleagues and basically the whole world – which is why it’s important to keep mobile security in mind.

Between photos, texts, emails, and especially your banking details – you have information on your phone (or tablet) that you want to keep private. Here are a few ways to ensure your data is secure.

Keep software up to date
Updates usually have security patches that make it harder for hackers to access your data.

Use a secure passcode
A passcode on the lock screen is the first line of defense if your phone or tablet gets lost or stolen. Just make sure it’s something unique and not easily guessable, like 1, 2, 3, 4.

Use Touch ID or Face ID
If your device has the capability, enable Touch ID or Face ID for an extra layer of security.

Only use secure Wi-Fi
Free or public Wi-Fi can be tempting, but if the Wi-Fi is not encrypted, hackers may be able to access your data, and therefore obtain sensitive information. You should also be wary of plugging into publicly available charging jacks.

Know how to locate it and lock it
Most mobile devices have the capability to be located, locked and even wiped if lost or stolen with services such as Find My iPhone or Find My Device. Make sure you know how to access this feature BEFORE you need it.