Thursday, March 18, 2010
Students hear financial advice
By SUE WATSON
Local school students packed the Eddie Lee Smith Multi-Purpose Building in Holly Springs recently to hear the experts talk about money matters.
It is an annual occasion supported by the local banks and Mississippi State Extension Service, the Mississippi State Department of Health, and the Byhalia Family Health Center.
Chris Cothern with First State Bank covered credit issues – how to establish credit and use it responsibly.
John Lopreto, with Solomon Inc., covered the basics of protecting one’s identity, and Jeanette Bennett, with the Federal Reserve, gave tips on recognizing counterfeit money.
Kelly McMillen with the sheriff’s department spoke about how law enforcement investigates theft and Jeff King with Bank of Holly Springs discussed investing.
Some tips from Cothern included:
• debit cards are just like a check. Record and track each transaction to keep up with account balance.
• establish good credit early on by paying rent and monthly bills on time. Get a major credit card and use it wisely and pay off bill on time to establish a good credit track. Shop for the card with the lowest interest rate and fees.
• open a savings and/or a checking account at a local bank and get on a first name basis with someone at the bank. Establish credit worthiness by taking out small consumer loans and paying them back on time. Then a car loan is easier to get and eventually that home mortgage, based on a good credit rating and record.
• manage debt responsibly by budgeting and “learning where your money goes.”
• do not accumulate more debt than income. You know you are in credit trouble if paying creditors takes up more of the monthly income, you get over the credit limit, you ask to post-date checks, you use cards to pay for inexpensive items because you lack enough cash, more than 42 percent of monthly income goes to paying debt.
• realize prospective employers may ask to pull your credit history from a credit reporting agency. Good credit can help get the job you want.
• check your credit report annually and correct it in writing if any errors are found.
• fill out all credit applications completely and read all the fine print.
“Bankers are here to help you,” Cothern said. “Get smart about credit, stay smart and be smart.”
Lopreto said identity theft is not just about theft of a person’s credit. In the last five years there were 344 million I.D. thefts in the United States, more thefts than people.
“I.D. trafficking has surpassed that of drug trafficking,” he said. “It is the number one crime in the United States.”
I.D. theft includes theft of driver’s license (number and photo, and date of birth and address), theft of Social Security number, medical card theft, criminal identity theft, and credit card theft.
Someone steals your driver’s license and they can get a ticket and you will be served the warrant because they used your card.
Social Security cards should never be carried in one’s wallet or vehicle. Thieves sell a Social Security card for $100 to $300 each and people use the identity to work illegally.
Medical cards are used by thieves to improve a medical history by blending personal with stolen histories.
The largest means of identity theft are via databases kept by business, government and corporations.
Lopreto warned against responding to email phishing scams. No bank will ever ask you to provide information about an account via an email, he said.
Shred or burn all junk mail and unsolicited cards with your name and identity on it.
Take bills with payments enclosed to the post office drop slot. Leaving them in an outdoor mailbox provides an opportunity for thieves to steal your outgoing mail and your identity from the contents.
Pay cash for purchases. Go to the bank and withdraw the cash needed to pay for service or for a purchase.
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