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Tales From the Front Line: Hey, you dropped your debit card! by Tara

December16

Let’s set the scene: It’s the Wednesday before Thanksgiving. Marlene, a staff member at the SW location who will be heading to the new Edgewood branch, helped a member in the drive through lane. As the member grabbed the envelope of money she had withdrawn, unbeknownst to the member or Marlene, her debit card fell out onto the ground. The member drove off. 

A little while later, another member came through the same lane. He told Marlene that there was a debit card laying on the ground. Marlene immediately went outside to retrieve the card and then called the member who owned it. To the member’s distress, she had to work until 5:00 p.m., but had wanted to get some great deals early on Black Friday morning. Marlene was quick to tell the member that she would wait for her in the parking lot at the SW branch to ensure that the member would be able to carry on with her big shopping plans. 

The member actually returned to the office soon after just to share her story and thank us for going above and beyond. She even said that she was telling everyone at her work how Linn Area Credit Union made her holiday just by being so kind and helpful. 

But, here at Linn Area Credit Union, we just call this act of kindness “Wednesday.” We do things like this all the time for our amazing members!

Have your own story about how we’ve helped you out of a bind or have made you feel really special? Click here to let us know (be sure to include your email address so we can contact you). Who knows, you just might be featured in our blog!

My Top Secret Shopping Obsession by Tara

December13

I have an obsession. But it’s kind of top secret. You know, when you find something (in this case an online store) that you love SO much that you almost don’t want anyone else to find out about it? That’s what I’m working with right now. Okay, I’m going to tell you what it is because I know that you guys are probably needing holiday gift giving ideas. *pausing* Now, I’m only telling you about this place because we’re like family and family should share rare finds with one another.*taking deep breath* Etsy.com. Oh my goodness, the things I have found on there!

(Image from Etsy.com)

Etsy is a website dedicated to people who make handmade goods and crafts. There are about a billion different shops that specialize in nearly anything you could dream of. Kind of like Ebay, but so much more personal! The best part is instead of going to a big box store, waiting in some crazy line and buying the same thing as everyone else, you can put your hard earned money towards something far more personal. And normally I end up SAVING money by shopping on Etsy! That, my friends, is shoppereffic.

I have purchased all sorts of fun things on there. For example, my dad is passionate about music and guitar playing. So for his gift at my wedding, I had a guitar pick engraved with our father/daughter dance song and the wedding date.  He adored it! Now that my friends are all popping out babies, I’ve been able to find some adorably perfect baby shower gifts. Who wouldn’t want a onesie with a tie image on it ($15)? Or a pink hand knit hat that looks like a little piggy ($25)??  In the two years since I’ve found Etsy, I’ve managed to purchase gifts for every major holiday, numerous birthdays, a baptism and have even found a thing or two (or ten!) for myself. Each item is personal, high quality and worth every single penny.

Have any of you ever shopped on Etsy before? Or – even better – do any of you HAVE your own fabulous Etsy store??? Let us know in the comments below!

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Tips to stay safe while holiday shopping online! by Tara

December7

With only 18 shopping days until Christmas, if you’re anything like me, you’re in full blown gift buying mode. I even dragged my husband to Coralville Mall last Saturday, much to his dismay. What’s worse than dragging your husband to a crazy-busy mall on a Saturday before the biggest shopping holiday of the year? Leaving empty handed. 

“Ehh, they were out of her size. I’ll just buy it online.” “I’m not sure if he already has this book. Once his mom calls me back, I’ll just order it online.” “That line is too long. I’ll just go online to get that gift card.”

Well, it looks like my Christmas shopping took a turn for the information super highway. 

According to the folks at comScore, I’m not alone. They say that over $13.55 billion has been spent online in the US during the 2010 holiday season to date  and that the number of online buyers grew by 4% from last year. Shopping online has an obvious appeal: No lines, no parking lot misery, better inventory, an absence of uber-pushy salespeople and I can shop while wearing my comfy pink sweatpants. Everyone wins! However, buying anything on the internet comes with a risk – the potential of identity theft. 

I chatted with Linn Area Credit Union’s Fraud Specialist Liz to get her tips for a safer online shopping experience:

 Before you even get started… 

  • Secure your computer: Ensure that your computer has up-to-date anti-virus and anti-spyware software and firewall. Use the latest version of your web browser and set it to the highest level. (Need help finding the latest version of your web browser? Email us here and we’d be happy to help.) 
  • Isolate the spending: Get a credit card just for using online so you can monitor transactions easily. This credit card should not be associated with your debit card. Check out our rock star credit cards here.  (Liz’s tip: If it comes out of your checking account, it could mess up your account balance if the store places a hold on a larger amount than the total of your purchase or if you happen to get charged multiple times.) 
  • Keep Paypal your pal: Set up a Paypal account (click here) and use it whenever possible while shopping online. Be sure to check the accounts that Paypal debits from frequently to quickly detect fraud. 
  • Be strict about passwords: Use a different password for each site on which you have an account; do not allow your browser to store passwords for you. We recommend that you use a combination of letters and numbers. (Liz’s tip: It’s always a good idea to change up your passwords on a regular basis!) 

Now that you’re ready to shop…

  • Go straight to the site: Type a store’s Web address directly into your web browser instead of using a search engine to retrieve it. Cybercriminals plant malicious links that look like popular sites within the first few pages of search results. (Liz’s tip: This also counts for coupons that are emailed to you. Don’t use the links within the email. Ever.) 
  • Do your research: If you’re buying from an unknown retailer, be sure to check reviews, their address and verify the landline number you can contact them on. (Liz’s tip: A quick Google search for reviews on an unknown retailer can save you A LOT of hassle later.) 
  • Look for the “signs of security”: On sites where you’re making a financial transaction, look for “https” in the address bar and a padlock icon in the web browser Status Bar. On sites where the retailer uses extended SSL validation, look for the address bar to turn green on secured pages. 

Before you purchase your items…

  • Know the return policy like the back of your hand: Make sure you know the store’s policies and procedures. How long do you have to return the product if you’re not happy with it? 14 days? 30 days? Keep in mind that with slow holiday shipping, if the store has a 14 day return policy, it’s possible you may not receive the product before the 14 day return window expires. (Liz’s tip: I find that online retailers who also have brick and mortar stores tend to be the easiest to work with on returns.) 
  • Keep your eye on that receipt: Once you buy your item, you’ll want to print out the receipt. This gives you a sales confirmation, which is the best way to protect yourself in case the vendor tries to charge more or something goes wrong with delivery. 

Aren’t we done yet? Nope, while you wait for your goodies to arrive… 

  • Watch for seasonal scams: Be wary of spam emails claiming to be shipping confirmation or undeliverable package alerts that require you to open an attachment. Delete any message that claims to contain tracking information, but which lacks a tracking number in either the subject or body of the message. The safest way to track a package is through the shipper’s Web site or the online store where you made the purchase.

A big thanks to Liz for all of her helpful tips! I think I’m ready to tackle the rest of my shopping! Goodbye, long lines! Helloooo, sweatpants!

So tell us in the comments below – are you doing most of your shopping in the stores or online this year???