10 Home Office Must Haves

Monday, April 16 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

More and more U.S. workers are replacing their commutes for remote and flexible work environments these days.

In fact, telecommuting has grown 115 percent in the past decade, according to data from Global Workplace Analytics.* That increase has been due, at least in part, to the millennial generation. They have opted for telecommuting positions in order to achieve a healthy work-life balance, Forbes reports.*

There are many benefits of working from home, including reduced commuter costs and increased productivity.

If you're considering working from home, here are a few office staples you will need to ensure maximum success—and productivity:

  1. A dedicated work area. If possible, designate a separate room in your home, such as a spare bedroom or bonus room over your garage as your home office. This will ensure you have the quiet and privacy you need to work. It's also a good way to separate your workspace from your living space.

  2. A desk. Have a desk or a flat surface where you can place your computer and any paperwork. Today, office supply and furniture stores offer a range of desk types, including stand-up desks, which provide a healthier alternative to sitting all day.

  3. A good computer. If your company doesn't provide you with a computer, invest in a reliable one. You may want to consider purchasing a laptop, which will allow you to easily transport your work as needed.

  4. A printer. Consider investing in an all-in-one printer that will allow you to scan, fax, copy and print and help you save space.

  5. Internet access. For maximum productivity, be sure to get high speed Internet access.

  6. Filing/storage space. Consider purchasing a file cabinet to store important files or purchase baskets to store files under your desk.

  7. Good lighting. Make sure your work area gets proper light. If not, use a desk lamp.
     
  8. Surge protectors. Protect your work and computer from power outages.

  9. Document shredder. To ensure the confidentiality of your work, be sure to purchase a shredder and regularly shred important documents.

  10. A work-from-home wardrobe. Your wardrobe has an affect on the way you work and interact with your remote colleagues. Consider clothes that make you feel confident and ready for the day.

A well set-up office can go a long way in ensuring you remain productive, and effectively leverage the advantages of working from home.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

 

Tags: Financial Education
 

Online Love Can Have Financial Risks

Thursday, April 12 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

Arvest Bank is warning consumers about scams related to online dating

Millions of Americans use dating sites, social networking sites, and chat rooms to meet people. Many form successful relationships, but romance scammers also use these sites to meet potential victims. They create fake profiles to build online relationships, and eventually convince people to send money in the name of love.

According to the Federal Trade Commission, thousands of reports are made each year about scammers who create fake online relationships only to steal their victims’ money.

Unfortunately, an online love interest who asks for money is almost certainly a scam artist. Caution should be used when a newly formed relationship partner begins to ask for money.

The FTC has created a new infographic, developed with the American Bankers Association Foundation, which lists common signs of online dating scams and what to do if someone you meet online asks you for money. Victims may be embarrassed to talk about their experiences, but consumers can help one another by sharing this information. A simple phone call, email or text, saying “Look what I just found” and sharing this information may make a difference in someone else’s life.

How to Report Fraud Related to Your Arvest Accounts

  • To report Identity Theft, financial fraud or an unauthorized transaction in your account, please contact Customer Service immediately at (866) 952-9523.
  • To report a lost or stolen credit, debit or ATM card, please contact Customer Service immediately at (866) 952-9523 or by using our Contact Us page.
  • To report a suspicious email, phone call or text message, please forward the suspicious email to, or send a message to: reportfraud@arvest.com.

Below are specific tips from the FTC to identify a scammer in an online dating environment:

 

 

Tags: Financial Education, Fraud Alert
 

Clean Up Your Financial Act This Spring

Tuesday, April 03 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

Spring is in the air. It’s the time of year when many of us devote our weekends to cleaning out garages, attics or closets; however, it may be worth your time and effort to focus some of your spring cleaning energy and intensity on your finances. By refreshing and organizing your household finances, you put yourself in a much better position for the rest of the year. Plus, there’s no heavy lifting required and your future self will thank you!

Here are seven easy ways to help get you started.

  1. Organize your financial records. Don’t hoard old statements, summaries, receipts and bills. Only hold on to documents that are necessary and toss the others. Be careful to shred sensitive documents. Many organizations host free shred events. Check your local events calendar.
  2. Reduce your future paper clutter by signing up for paperless statements and account summaries. This will also help you to create a digital record for easy reference.
  3. Ensure original documents like savings bonds, legal documents, birth certificates, and marriage licenses are in safekeeping. Keep copies on hand for quick reference.
  4. Evaluate your credit products and rates. Take a look at your credit card, for example, and consider if there’s an annual fee you could be assessed or if you are about to reach the end of an introductory offer period. What about balance transfer fees and other charges? Are you in the position to consolidate and transfer balances to lock in rates and eliminate unnecessary finance charges?
  5. Identify your expenses that are fixed everyday necessities, such as groceries and gas, and capitalize on rewards programs to maximize your spending power. Arvest credit cards not only offer bonuses for new cards, but many additional bonus opportunities are available, including triple points on gas and travel spending this spring for card holders. Arvest offers Classic, Gold and Platinum cards to fit every lifestyle, with Arvest Flex Rewards™ that you can use for cash back, travel, shopping and more.
  6. Review your credit report. Under federal law, you are entitled to one free copy of your credit report each year. Visit the official annualcreditreport.com* for more information about obtaining yours.
  7. Make sure your budget and spending plan are up to date. Do they incorporate recent changes in your income or expenses? For some helpful articles and tips on budgeting, visit the Arvest Education Center.

Cleaning up your financial act this spring may prove to be the most satisfying cleaning you accomplish!

The views of this article are for general information use only. Please contact and speak with a subject expert or your banker when specific advice is needed.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution.

Tags: Financial Education
 

3 Ways to Refresh Your Finances

Monday, February 26 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

Each New Year presents an opportunity for you to refresh your financial outlook with a clear perspective. By reflecting on the past year and setting priorities for 2018, you can take control of your money.

Here are three suggestions to help you put your best financial foot forward this year.

1.     Look back to get ahead. Though it may not always be an enjoyable experience, looking back at your 2017 finances can help you move forward in a positive financial direction in the New Year. Identify your successes, find patterns and see how you can replicate those in 2018. If you discover any budget missteps, don’t dwell on them. Instead, ask yourself what you could have done to have avoided them all together. If there are any problem areas that could potentially come up again this year, try to avoid those pitfalls by better preparation. You can use these resources to help with money management and planning. The linked educational portal has information and calculators you can use to help you understand things like how to build an emergency fund, how much you can afford towards a car or home, or how long it will take you to pay off a credit card balance. 

2.     Seize opportunities to spend smarter. Analyze what you spend your money on. It is beneficial to create a spending plan to help you understand where you currently stand and to chart a course for the future. It is also helpful to take a look at how you make your purchases. You can get the most out of your everyday spending by taking advantage of smaller, established financial authorities that offer rewards and bonus opportunities on smart spending solutions. Arvest Flex Rewards™ Credit Cards offer up to a $75 bonus for new credit card accounts from now until June 30. In addition, during the months of March and April, card users can earn three times rewards points on gas and travel purchases. Rewards points can ultimately be redeemed for cash back, statement credits, travel, gift cards and more. You can apply online. Remember to be responsible when using your credit cards—paying off the balance each month will build a strong credit history.  

3.     Plan for big expenses. Don’t let big purchases sneak up on you this year. For instance, if you know your family wants to take a vacation this year, start planning now. Timing is important; plan your trip around airline sales or hotel deals to see a huge difference in your wallet. Some websites, like airfarewatchdog.com,* allow you to sign up for alerts when tickets to your desired destination go on sale. You can also use your credit card rewards points to help you pay for your travel expenses, baggage fees and more. 

The New Year is a perfect time to get serious about your finances and set a positive pace for smart spending and saving.

The views of this article are for general information use only. Please contact and speak with a subject expert or your banker when specific advice is needed.

Links marked with * go to a third-party site not operated or endorsed by Arvest Bank, an FDIC-insured institution. 

 

Tax Scams and How to Avoid Them

Monday, January 22 at 02:00 PM
Category: Personal Finance

Arvest Bank recognizes the ongoing threat of criminals trying to steal your funds or obtain your personal information or account information. As tax season approaches, these threats take on other forms. In recent years, thousands of people have lost millions of dollars and their personal information to tax scams and fake IRS communication. Scammers use the regular mail, telephone, fax or email to set up their victims. This article looks at the different scams affecting individual and businesses and what to do if you if you spot a tax scam. 

REMEMBER: The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, text messages or social media channels to request personal or financial information. In addition, IRS does not threaten taxpayers with lawsuits, imprisonment, or other enforcement action. Recognizing these telltale signs of a phishing or tax scam could save you from becoming a victim. See also: How to know it’s really the IRS calling or knocking on your door

Scams Targeting Taxpayers

IRS-Impersonation Telephone Scams

An aggressive and sophisticated phone scam targeting taxpayers has been making the rounds throughout the country. Callers claim to be employees of the IRS, using fake names and bogus IRS identification badge numbers. They may know a lot about their targets, and they usually alter the caller ID to make it look like the IRS is calling. 

Victims are told they owe money to the IRS and it must be paid promptly through a pre-loaded debit card or wire transfer. Victims may be threatened with arrest, deportation or suspension of a business or driver’s license. In many cases, the caller becomes hostile and insulting. Or, victims may be told they have a refund due to try to trick them into sharing private information. If the phone is not answered, the scammers often leave an “urgent” callback request. Please See: Consumer Alert: Scammers Change Tactics, Once Again

Some con artists have used video relay services (VRS) to try to scam deaf and hard of hearing individuals. Taxpayers are urged not trust calls just because they are made through VRS, as interpreters do not screen calls for validity. For more details see the IRS YouTube video: Tax Scams via Video Relay Service

Con artists often approach victims with Limited English Proficiency in their native language, threaten them with deportation, police arrest and license revocation, among other things. IRS urges all taxpayers caution before paying unexpected tax bills. Please see: IRS Alerts Taxpayers with Limited English Proficiency of Ongoing Phone Scams.  Note that the IRS will never:

  • Call to demand immediate payment using a specific payment method such as a prepaid debit card, gift card or wire transfer. Generally, the IRS will first mail you a bill if you owe any taxes.
  • Threaten to immediately bring in local police or other law-enforcement groups to have you arrested for not paying.
  • Demand that you pay taxes without giving you the opportunity to question or appeal the amount they say you owe.
  • Ask for credit or debit card numbers over the phone.

Surge in Email, Phishing and Malware Schemes

When identity theft takes place over the web (email), it is called phishing

The IRS has issued several alerts about the fraudulent use of the IRS name or logo by scammers trying to gain access to consumers’ financial information to steal their identity and assets. 

Scam emails are designed to trick taxpayers into thinking these are official communications from the IRS or others in the tax industry, including tax software companies. These phishing schemes may seek information related to refunds, filing status, confirming personal information, ordering transcripts and verifying PIN information.

Be alert to bogus emails that appear to come from your tax professional, requesting information for an IRS form. IRS does not require Life Insurance and Annuity updates from taxpayers or a tax professional. Beware of this new scam.

Variations of these scams can be seen via text messages. The IRS is aware of email phishing scams that include links to bogus web sites intended to mirror the official IRS web site. These emails contain the direction “you are to update your IRS e-file immediately.” The emails mention USA.gov and IRSgov (without a dot between "IRS" and "gov"), though not IRS.gov (with a dot). These emails are not from the IRS.

The sites may ask for information used to file false tax returns or they may carry malware, which can infect computers and allow criminals to access your files or track your keystrokes to gain information.  Additionally, please be aware that Arvest Bank does not make use of "pop-up" web browser windows on our websites for surveys, free credit reports or promotional offers. If a pop-up window appears when visiting our web site, such as when using Arvest Online Banking, it may be caused by unauthorized "adware" or "spyware" software installed on your computer which monitors your web browsing activity.

Soliciting Form W-2 information from payroll and human resources professionals.

The IRS has established a process that will allow businesses and payroll service providers to quickly report any data losses related to the W-2 scam currently making the rounds. See details at Form W2/SSN Data Theft: Information for Businesses and Payroll Service Providers. If notified in time, the IRS can take steps to prevent employees from being victimized by identity thieves filing fraudulent returns in their names. There also is information about how to report receiving the scam email.

How to Report Tax-Related Schemes, Scams, Identity Theft and Fraud

To report tax-related illegal activities, refer to this chart explaining the types of activity and the appropriate forms or other methods to use. You should also report instances of IRS-related phishing attempts and fraud to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 800-366-4484.

How to Report Fraud Related to Your Arvest Accounts

  • To report Identity Theft, financial fraud or an unauthorized transaction in your account, please contact Customer Service immediately at (866) 952-9523.
  • To report a lost or stolen credit, debit or ATM card, please contact Customer Service immediately at (866) 952-9523 or by using our Contact Us page.
  • To report a suspicious email, phone call or text message, please forward the suspicious email to, or send a message to: reportfraud@arvest.com.
Tags: Tax

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