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Tips to Improve Your Credit Score

What is a credit score? Why is it so important? How can I improve my credit score? These are just a few questions that applicants ask when applying for any type of credit.

A credit score is a number that ranges from 300-850 that is assigned to consumer credit history reports. This score is based on an individual’s prior history of bill payment and debt management. The credit score is significant because it indicates the likelihood that an individual will pay their bills on time.  The higher the score, the better the chance of being approved for credit cards, loans and lines of credit.

We put together some tips to follow to build and maintain a strong credit score.

  1. Pay your bills on time. When lenders review your credit report they are interested to see your past performance. If your previous performance shows that you paid all your debts on time, this will indicate how reliable you are in paying them back.
  2. Keep balances low on credit cards and revolving lines. When applying for a loan, lenders typically like to see that you have balances that are 30% or lower. This indicates to a lender that you have not used your credit cards to the full credit line and can manage your finances well.
  3. Don’t close unused or paid off accounts unnecessarily. Closing accounts sounds like a good idea but it can, in fact, hurt your credit score. For example, if you close your oldest account this will shorten your active credit history. Instead, you can find many websites that offer products or services that can help you figure out the next steps to take to achieve a better credit score. For example, TransUnion offers a tool called Credit Compass1that gives recommendation to consumers to help attain their credit score goals and also gives you the capability to track your progress in a glance.
  4. Dispute any errors in your credit report. You should review all three credit bureaus (Experian, TransUnion and Equifax) to check any discrepancies. Your credit report should always be correct as this demonstrates how your credit performance has been throughout its history. You may request a free copy of your credit report every 12 months from each of the credit bureaus through www.annualcreditreport.com, or by calling 1-877-322-8228. This is the only authorized website for free credit reports. You should not have to pay a fee to obtain your credit report.
  5. Understand and limit credit inquiries. Inquiries are known to be either “soft” or “hard” when it comes to obtaining a new credit line. A soft inquiry is when you review your own credit report or when a lender who would like to send you a preapproved offer views it. This will not impact your credit score. A hard inquiry is when a lender pulls your credit report for the decision-making process when you have applied for a loan or credit card. This type of inquiry can appear on your credit report for just over 2 years and can negatively affect your credit score if there are too many hard inquiries in a short time span. Lenders may be apprehensive giving out new credit as this may indicate financial troubles or a risk of overspending.
A good credit report and credit score can help you qualify for better interest rates, receive better terms on a new credit, and improve your access to financing in general. Building or maintaining your credit score may take some time but it can be done. These simple steps will get you on your way to improving and maintaining a good credit score.

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Five Tips to Keep Your Personal Data Private and Secure

In a world that is primarily based around technology, keeping your personal information private and secure may seem like a daunting task. By applying the following tips, you can help keep your data safe from unwanted individuals accessing your personal information.

  • Create strong passwords. Use strong passwords with your computers and laptops, bank, and other accounts. Be creative: think of a special phrase and use the first letter of each word as your password. Substitute numbers for some words or letters.
  • Avoid oversharing on social media. Posting too much information about yourself can lead to a stolen identity. An unwanted individual may use your information to answer ‘challenge’ questions on your accounts, and gain access to your money and personal information. Do not post your Social Security number, address, phone number, or account numbers in a publicly accessible site.
  • Secure your computers. To protect against intrusions and viruses on your computer or laptop, think about installing an anti-virus software and a firewall. By installing these security programs, you can help keep your computer files and passwords safe from others who are trying to steal your personal information.
  • Be cautious of public Wi-Fi. Public Wi-Fi is available in many places, such as coffee shops, hotels, airports, and other public places. Although Wi-Fi has made life a bit easier, it can also present security risks to the confidential data hosted on your laptop and smartphone. Make sure when you need to use a public Wi-Fi network, confirm it is secure. A secured network usually requires the user to agree to their legal terms or type in a password before connecting.
  • Keep browser secure. As you visit websites make sure you see a “lock” icon on the status bar of your internet browser. This indicates your information will be secure. Look for the lock before you send personal or financial information online.

There may not be a 100% guaranteed protection method, but there are plenty of steps to take to keep your data private and secure. Stay up to date on the latest security tactics to help reduce the risk of identity theft. And remember that FNBC Bank & Trust will never contact you to ask for your personal information or passwords.

If you have questions or concerns about user access and data security on your accounts at FNBC Bank & Trust, please contact us at 708-482-7700.

FNBC Bank & Trust Senior Vice President Graduates from Illinois Bankers Association Future Leaders Alliance

West Chicago – Stacey Gallagher, Senior Vice President – Retail Banking, graduated from the Future Leaders Alliance (FLA) offered through the Illinois Bankers Association (IBA). The graduation commencement was held virtually during the IBA’s annual ONE Conference on Friday, March 5th. The 14-month FLA program is dedicated to enhancing the professional development of promising bank leaders through three primary components: education, community service and networking.

Participants were involved in comprehensive training that included attending educational sessions, performing local community service, and completing an advancement strategy project that brought value directly back to their banks and customers.  Stacey’s advancement strategy project was to remodel the teller line at the bank’s West Chicago branch, which modified standing teller stations to retail banker desks.  All teller and retail banking staff will be crossed trained in both jobs to improve efficiency, customer service, workflow and scheduling.

The education sessions covered core topics such as Leadership and Influence, Team Building, Coaching, Service Leadership, Collaboration Skills, Financial Marketing and Branding, Legislative Process, Presentation Skills, Accounting for Bankers, Asset Liability Management, Regulatory Hot Topics, Cyber Security, executed an on-line banking simulation, and more.

FNBC Bank & Trust is a locally owned and locally managed community bank with a 100-year history of providing financial services, support and leadership to communities throughout the Chicago metropolitan area.  For more information, call us at 708-482-7700 or visit our website at www.fnbcbt.com.

The Illinois Bankers Association is a full-service trade association dedicated to creating a positive business climate that benefits the entire banking industry and the communities they serve. Founded in 1891, the IBA brings together state and national banks and savings banks of all sizes in Illinois. Collectively, the Illinois banking industry employs more than 105,000 people in over 4,300 offices across the state.

Protect Yourself from Caller ID Spoofing Scams

As technology becomes an important part of our daily lives, we need to be cautious of scams and fraudsters. There is technology now available that enables scammers to pretend the number they are calling from is legitimate. This scam can be effective, especially if the number displayed on the caller ID appears to be your financial institution’s correct phone number. 

What is Caller ID Spoofing?

Spoofing is when a scammer disguises their actual phone number and displays another phone number in the caller ID instead. Caller ID lets individuals know who is calling them, but these scammers may manipulate the caller ID and masquerade as a representative of banks, creditors or even from government agencies. This scam is often used to trick someone into giving them confidential information, which can be used in fraudulent activity.

How can you avoid a Spoof scam? 

Take caution when answering a call, especially if the caller is requesting confidential information. Below are some tips to take to avoid a spoofing scam:

  • Do not give out confidential information such as account numbers, Social Security numbers, PINs, passwords or other identifying information in response to an unexpected call from someone who says they are a representative from your financial institution, creditor, or government agency. If you are at all suspicious, hang up and call the phone number on your account statement, or on the website of your financial institution, creditor or government agency to verify the legitimacy of the request.  
  • If you answer an unexpected call and the caller asks you to click a button to stop getting the calls, you should hang up immediately.
  • If you have a voicemail account with your phone service, be sure to set a password for it. Some voicemail services are preset to allow access if you call in from your own phone number. A hacker could spoof your home phone number and gain access to your voicemail if you do not set a password.

The best way to be ahead of the scammers is to never assume that someone is who they say they represent to be just because the number displayed on your caller ID matches that of a financial institution, company or organization you know. Always be suspicious if you’re asked for confidential information. Remember, your financial institution will never ask you to do any of these things.

If you have questions or concerns about spoofing, please contact us at 708-482-7700. We are here to assist you.

PPP Activity Update

We are pleased to report that FNBC Bank & Trust accepted, processed and funded 100% of valid Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) Loan applications we received from our customers. That represents more than $34 million in assistance to local businesses in the communities we serve.

We are especially proud of the collaborative effort among our employees to deliver on our long-standing commitment to our local small business community. Teams from our Loan, Personal Banking and Cash Management departments worked around the clock and on weekends to make sure that every application was processed and funded in the short window of time that PPP funding was available. The 268 loans we funded ranged from $2,340 to $4.4 million, with an average loan amount of $130,000. We assisted clients from various industries, including manufacturing, restaurant and food services, construction, landscaping, professional services, independent contractors, non-profit organizations, schools, churches and many more.

We appreciate the opportunity to help our small business clients during this incredibly difficult time. We continue to work with our business banking clients in the next phase of the program, the application for PPP loan forgiveness.

https://www.fnbcbt.com/sba-payroll-protection-program.html

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