High Point Federal Credit Union Installs Life-Saving AED Machines and Certifies Staff in CPR

Recently, High Point Federal Credit Union took an important step towards safeguarding the health and well-being of their members and staff by installing life-saving AED machines in all their branch locations and operations center. A sudden cardiac arrest can happen to anyone, but with an AED on hand, the heart’s rhythm can be analyzed, and if necessary, an electric shock can be administered, which can help re-establish an effective rhythm.

To complement the installation of AED machines, over 35 High Point FCU staff members have become certified in CPR and AED in accordance with the American Heart Association (AHA) training program. “We have many people coming in and out of our branches daily. Considering most cardiac arrests happen away from hospitals, having our staff trained and these machines available will provide life-saving support in the event someone experiences a major medical emergency,” said Rich Yeager, President & CEO.

Funding for the project was received through the New York Credit Union Foundation’s IMPACT Grant, which helped cover the costs of implementation. The foundation supports credit union efforts in various areas, including technology enhancements, security upgrades, and efforts to support emerging and underrepresented markets.

Super-Scary Halloween Hacks to Save You Money

Don’t let Halloween costs spook you! Here’s eight great hacks for saving on costumes and decor.

  1. Ghastly ghosts

Create an army of floating ghosts using nothing but white trash bags. Gather a bunch of bags and stuff them with crumpled newspaper. Tie the “head” with a rubber band and use a permanent marker to draw spooky faces on your ghosts. Hang your frightful friends around your house and yard to scare your party guests and trick-or-treaters.

  1. Spooky bird houses

Create a mini haunted house to hang on your door or decorate your table using a basic bird house, black paint and cotton. Paint the bird house black and stretch cotton over it for a cobwebby effect. Finish it off with a few paper ghosts peeking out the windows and doors, and you’ve got yourself a tiny haunted house!

  1. Shark attack!

For a fun and freaky costume that costs next to nothing, go as a surfer being eaten by a shark. Dress in swimwear, with a towel slung over yourself if the weather makes it necessary, and apply fake blood to a visible spot on your neck or arm. Use face paint to create a shark bite and apply the blood so it surrounds the bite and drips out. For a fun touch, attach an inflated or stuffed toy shark to your costume. 

  1. Mason jar lanterns

For easy DIY decor, paint Mason jars with spooky designs and insert battery-powered tea lights for a bewitching glow. Line your walkway or porch with these lanterns to welcome trick-or-treaters.

  1. Creepy crawlers everywhere

Use an inexpensive package of plastic spiders to scare your guests silly! Freeze some in ice cubes for a spooky surprise in everyone’s drinks, scatter some across the table to make someone shriek and even add some to your soap dispenser to really freak everyone out. Let your trick-or-treaters in on the fun by sprinkling some into your bowl of candy. 

  1. An eerie flicker

For a super-easy and super-cheap centerpiece, paint old wine bottles black. Use matte paint for the best effect. When your candlestick holders have dried, insert long orange taper candles into each one to add a festive look to your table. 

  1. Care for a lollipop?

Turn your pumpkin into a fun lollipop dispenser with the help of an electric drill. Drill small holes in your pumpkin and then stick a lollipop into each hole. Set it up on your steps for an adorable, help-yourself trick-or-treat.

  1. Retro costume

For a costume that will make everyone laugh and won’t cost a penny, go as your college-aged self. Dig out your old clothing and accessories, and if you had a crazy hairstyle back then, incorporate it into your costume, too. 

Should I Adopt a Minimalist Lifestyle?

Q: Minimalism is all the rage, and with everyday expenses at an all-time high, I’m wondering: Should I adopt a minimalist lifestyle?

A: The minimalist movement, or the idea of living with just the barest of necessities, has exploded in popularity in recent years. Let’s take a closer look at this trending lifestyle choice so you can make an informed decision about embracing its philosophies.  

What is minimalism?

The generally accepted definition of minimalism is: Less is more. But adopting a minimalist lifestyle is more than just decluttering. It also means getting rid of, or whittling down, any expense category in your budget along with any activity you engage in that is not necessary for your life or peace of mind. 

Getting started on minimalism.

There are lots of ways to live a minimalist life. Here are some popular ways to get started:

  • The 90/90 rule. Choose an item in your home and ask yourself if you’ve used it in the last 90 days and if you will use it within the next 90. If the answer to both questions is no, toss it. 
  • The 30-day declutter. In this challenge, throw out one item from your home on Day 1, two items on Day 2 and continue this progression until Day 30, when you throw out 30 items. 
  • The 100-item life. Here, you choose 100 essential items you need to live with and toss out everything else you own.  

It’s important to know there is no “right way” to embrace this lifestyle. Since minimalism means living with what you need and what brings you joyit will look different to everyone. As long as you are left with a home and a lifestyle that fills you with peace and serenity, you have adopted the minimalist lifestyle.

Pros of living a minimalist life

  • Improved mental health. Evidence shows that a cluttered life is a stressful life.
  • Increased opportunities to experience life at its purest level. Walking away from extraneous commitments can free you up to experience the true pleasures in life. 
  • More room in your budget. When you throw out all unneeded expenses from your budget, it’s easier to save and avoid falling into debt. 

Cons of living a minimalist life

  • Feelings of deprivation. If taken to an extreme, a minimalist life can be depriving and ultimately backfire.
  • Unhealthy obsession. Minimalism can require a lot of brain power. If you spend all day thinking about your stuff, it still owns you.
  • Owning just a few items means a large initial outlay. You’ll need to invest in a few items that really last, and these don’t come cheap.
  • It can be isolating. Unless you jump into this lifestyle with a partner or friend, it can be a very lonely life. 

Use this guide to make an informed decision about embracing a minimalist life. 

AI Fraud and How to Protect Yourself

Artificial intelligence (AI) is revolutionizing the way we live and work. Unfortunately, though, it’s also revolutionizing the way scammers play their games. Here’s what you need to know about AI fraud and how to protect yourself.

What is AI fraud?

AI fraud is the use of artificial intelligence to deceive or defraud individuals or organizations. Fraudsters and/or Scammers have begun using AI backed software to assist in scams that utilize vast amounts of knowledge and techniques to assist with fraudulent practices. Some of the fraudsters through the use of AI have been able to create convincing fake identities, manipulate social media, generate realistic fake images and videos (AKA “deepfakes”) and more. 

The scammers then create fake social media profiles and email addresses using these bogus identities and footage. Often, they’ll pretend to represent celebrities for soliciting money and information. Similarly, they may create fake websites or emails that appear to be from legitimate sources, such as financial institutions or government agencies, and ask people to provide their personal information or login credentials.

AI fraud comes in several forms, including:

  • Phishing
  • ID theft
  • Deepfakes
  • Fake news
  • Social engineering
  • Chatbot scams

Red flags

Are you being targeted by AI fraud? Look out for these red flags:

  • Multiple unsolicited emails and/or text messages
  • Asked to provide personal info or login credentials by an unverified contact
  • Unusual activity on your social media accounts
  • Requests for money or gift cards

If you notice any of these signs, it’s important to investigate. If the contact claims to represent a government agency or financial institution, do not engage. Reach out to the agency that supposedly contacted you to see if the communication is legit. 

Protect yourself

  • Never share sensitive info with an unverified contact.
  • Check the URL of each landing page when banking online or using another platform to share sensitive information. 
  • Use strong, unique passwords across all of your accounts. 
  • Keep your device’s security on its strongest setting.
  • Use updated antivirus software.

If you’ve been targeted

If you suspect you’ve been the victim of AI fraud, act quickly to mitigate damage. First, contact High Point FCU at 800-854-6052 to let us know your information has been compromised. Similarly, reach out to your credit card companies to let them know about the fraud. Next, report the fraud to the FTC so they can take appropriate measures in catching the humans behind the bot-generated scam. You’ll also want to change your passwords and consider a credit freeze. Finally, if your identity has been stolen, reach out to identitytheft.gov to learn your next steps.

Olean Area Federal Credit Union Awards Scholarships to Collegebound Seniors

Olean, NY – Olean Area Federal Credit Union has awarded $2,000 in college scholarships to four high school seniors to help finance their college education.

The students, who are members of Olean Area FCU, were chosen based on their outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements.

“Each year, I look forward to meeting the students and awarding them with their well-deserved scholarships.” said Richard Yeager, CEO “This year was especially exciting, as we were able to provide scholarships to students from 3 different schools in our field of membership.”

The high school seniors who received the awards were: Madison Callen of Allegany-Limestone, Fransisca Childs of Hinsdale, Ella Malogrino of Oswayo Valley, and Ellie Strade of Allegany-Limestone High School.

In addition to the Olean Area FCU Scholarship, Madison Callen, Fransisca Childs, and Ella Malogrino were also awarded scholarships through the New York Credit Union Association, receiving $750 each.

Olean Area FCU Announces Promotions & New Hire

Olean Area Federal Credit Union (FCU) recently promoted four employees to Management positions and one to a Director roll. The Credit Union has also appointed a new Director of Human Resources (HR). “The promotion of these employees was an essential next step, as both their individual responsibilities and our company as a whole continue to grow,” said Rich Yeager, President & CEO.

Kelly Fernandez was promoted to Portville Branch Manager. Kelly joined Olean Area FCU in February of 2022 with over 20 years of banking and credit union experience. Her diverse knowledge in teller, phone/member service, lending, and supervisory responsibilities provide the skillset necessary to succeed in this position.

Melissa Pawlowski has been promoted to Retail Lending Manager. She began her career with Olean Area FCU in April of 2013, as a Member Service Representative. She quickly advanced to Retail Lender and in 2020, Melissa earned the promotion to Retail Lending Supervisor. Melissa is responsible for leading the retail lending team and assisting members with their lending needs. In addition, she manages the credit union’s secondary market mortgage program, is a voting member of the Credit Union’s Directors Loan Committee, and directs the Credit Unions Second Review of Declined Loans for Fair Lending practices.

Jacob Piatko was promoted to Facilities & Security Manager. Jake began his career with the CU in 2020 as our Security Administrator. Jake is a graduate of Kent State University with a Bachelor of Business Administration, majoring in Computer Information Systems. Jake came to us with over 14 years of experience including It Technician, Infrastructure Technician, Infrastructure Administrator, Network Administrator and most recently as our IT Security Administrator. He also leads our Physical Security Committee.

Stewart Fuller has been promoted to Facilities & Physical Security Manager. Stewart began his career with the CU in 2020 with over 20 years of experience in facilities, general contracting, security, and management responsibilities. Since joining the CU as Facilities & Security Supervisor, Stewart has proven his ability to secure our buildings and improve the safety of our employees through education and training. Stewart is lead on our Physical Security Committee and is also a key member of the CU Building and Planning Committee.

Michelle Freeman has been promoted to Director of Finance. She began her career with Olean Area FCU in 2011 as an Accounting Intern. After earning her Bachelor’s in Accounting, she began her role as Accounting Assistant. In 2013, she earned her Master’s Degree in Business Administration. She quickly earned promotions to Financial Analyst, Senior Financial Analyst, Finance Supervisor, and Finance Manager.

Tamara Warner was hired as our new HR Director. Tamara is a graduate of SUNY Fredonia with a Bachelor’s in Psychology and a Master’s in HR Management from Nazareth College. She is PHR Certified and has over 17 years of HR Management experience, most recently with PEKO Precision Products in Rochester.

Olean Area FCU is currently one of the largest and most respected full-service Credit Unions in Western New York with assets over 400 million. The credit union currently serves over 19,800 members with four locations, 1201 Wayne Street and 206 North Clark Street in Olean, 180 West Main Street in Allegany, and 160 South Main Street in Portville. 

Olean Area FCU Promotes Four to Executive Roles

Olean Area Federal Credit Union (FCU) has promoted four directors to Vice President positions. “Our Credit Union is committed to continuous improvement and expansion of our products and services to best meet the expectations our members deserve. Each of these key positions is being filled by professionals with extensive experience and I am confident they will be successful in their new roles,” said Rich Yeager, President & CEO.

Tonya Doxey has been promoted to Vice President of Compliance. She began her career with the Credit Union over 30 years ago as a Teller, quickly advancing to Assistant Head Teller. She was then promoted to Assistant Loan Officer, earning the promotion to Loan Officer in 2002. In 2005, Tonya was promoted to Member Service/Lending Coordinator, a position she held until 2009 when she became the Manager of Member Services. In 2012, Tonya changed focus and became the Manager of Compliance, with a promotion to Director in 2020. Tonya is responsible to ensure the credit union’s overall compliance with applicable rules, regulations, and statutory requirements, across all departments, Bank Secrecy Act, Due Diligence, Legal Notices, Audit and Security.

Joseph Leo has been promoted to Vice President of Information Technology. (IT) Joe joined the Olean Area FCU Team in 2019 as the first Director of IT. He is a graduate of Western Governor’s University with a bachelor’s degree in business and MBA in Information Technology Management. Joe joined our team with over 20 years of IT and Managerial experience, immediately elevating the strength and integrity of the IT Department. He will continue to oversee, plan and secure IT and infrastructure to meet present and future member needs using technology in improving our processes and expanding our services.

Michael Smith was promoted to Vice President of Lending. Mike is a graduate of SUNY Buffalo with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration. Prior to joining our team, Mike had over 8 years of banking experience which consisted of leadership development, credit analysis, and the title of Municipal Loan Officer.  Mike joined Olean Area FCU in 2014 as a Senior Commercial Lender, quickly earning the promotion to Manager of Commercial Operations/Senior Commercial Lender in 2016. His hard work and dedication to commercial members earned him the promotion to Director of Lending in 2021. Mike is responsible for the management and oversight of our Retail Lending, Commercial Lending, Loan Operations, Card Services, and Asset and Recovery Departments. His primary role is to direct and oversee all aspects of lending activity for the Credit Union and to ensure effective and efficient operations, quality of member service, and compliance with existing regulations and policies.

Audra Stevens has been promoted to Vice President of Operations. Audra is a graduate of St. Bonaventure University with a bachelor’s degree in Business Administration & Marketing. She joined the Credit Union team with over 20 years of Banking Management and Senior Management experience in areas of; Marketing and Sales, Branch Management, Operations, Regional Sales, and Banking Services. She joined Olean Area FCU in 2011 as the Manager of Sales and Marketing, earning a promotion to Director of Operations in 2019. Audra oversees the operation of our branch network and Marketing Department, to ensure efficient product and service delivery to our membership.

Olean Area FCU is currently one of the largest and most respected full-service Credit Unions in Western New York with assets over 400 million. The credit union currently serves over 19,800 members with four locations, 1201 Wayne Street and 206 North Clark Street in Olean, 180 West Main Street in Allegany, and 160 South Main Street in Portville. 

Olean Area Federal Credit Union Donates $7,000 to Food Pantries Throughout their Field of Membership

Olean, NY – With the increasing cost and continuous need for food in our communities, Olean Area FCU announced $7,000 in donations to seven food pantries within their field of membership, which includes Allegany and Cattaraugus Counties in New York, and McKean and Potter Counties in Pennsylvania.  

The YWCA of Bradford, CAC Food Pantry, Cuba Cultural Center, INC., Olean Food Pantry, Creekside Chapel, Portville Community Food Pantry, and Harvest Field Outreach Center each received $1,000 donations.

“With it being our 50th year of serving our communities, we felt one of the best ways we could say ‘thank you’ is by helping our neighbors have enough food this holiday season. We also wanted to make sure we included food pantries from each of the four counties we serve,” said Rich Yeager, President & CEO.

Olean Area FCU is the 2nd largest credit union in Western New York, with assets of over $400 million. The credit union currently serves over 19,800 members with four branch locations, 1201 Wayne Street and 206 North Clark Street in Olean, 180 West Main Street in Allegany, and 160 South Main Street in Portville.

Step 10 of 12 Steps to Financial Wellness – Plan for Retirement

It’s never too early – or too late – to plan for retirement. However, the more time you allow for your savings to grow, the bigger the nest egg you’ll have when it’s time to cash in. 

Here’s how to get started on planning your retirement.

Set a target number

First, determine how much you’ll need to have saved for living comfortably and independently throughout your retirement. Experts advise taking your current living expenses and multiplying the number by 400 to identify the amount you’ll need to sustain yourself based on a 4% return.

Choose your retirement account strategy

Next, you’ll need to select a place to keep your retirement savings. There are many options to consider, some of which you may already have if you are, or have been, employed. Here’s a quick review of the two most common retirement accounts:

1.      401(k)

If you’re employed, you likely have a 401(k) that’s working toward collecting money for your retirement. Take advantage of this retirement tool by maximizing your contributions. Also, many employers match a portion of (or all) contributions you make, which is basically free money, to help your retirement savings grow, tax-deferred.

2.      IRA

There are two popular kinds of Individual Retirement Plans (IRA): Traditional IRAs and Roth IRAs. A Traditional IRA will let your money grow, tax-deferred, but withdrawals are taxable. A Roth IRA does not feature tax-deferred growth, but qualified withdrawals are not taxed. Like a 401(k), some employers match a portion of (or all) contributions. But, there are federal limits on how much money you are allowed to add to your IRA each year. 

The table below shows a brief summary of the pros and cons of each retirement vehicle for easy comparison.                                 

Features401(k)IRARoth IRA
Matching FundsYesNoNo
Tax-DeductibleYesDepends on income, tax-filing status and other factorsNo
Tax-Deferred GrowthYesYesNo
Taxable WithdrawalsYesYesNo
Maximum Yearly Contribution (2022)$20,500 $6,000 $6,000
Maximum Yearly Contribution Age 50+ (2022)$27,000 $7,000$7,000

After you’ve selected your retirement fund, you’ll also need to choose somewhere to invest. With a bit of work, and a lot of planning, you’ll have your future secured in the best way possible.

Explore the IRA accounts and Share Certificates offered at High Point Federal Credit Union today!

Back-to-School Shopping Hacks

It’s back-to-school season, but that doesn’t mean you need to break your budget. Here’s six back-to-school shopping hacks to get you started.

1.      Take inventory

Don’t set foot in a single store without first checking to see what you have at home. Keep a running list of everything you find so you know exactly what you have before you spend anything on new supplies and clothing. 

2.      Shop with a list

And we’re not talking about the list of required supplies your child’s school or teacher has sent home. When shopping for anything, it’s best to start out with a clear goal of what you plan to buy.  This way, you’ll be less likely to overspend and come home with stuff you don’t really need.

3.      Divide and conquer

The circulars are packed with specials on school supplies all summer long. The problem is that, while one store is offering a crazy-low deal on crayons this week, another is running a super sale on pencils – and the stores are across town from each other. Keep your savings and your sanity, by teaming up with another school parent. Divide the school supply list between, pooling costs and savings.

4.      Let your kids choose some items on their own

Teach your kids a lesson in budgeting by allowing them to shop for one or more of the costlier items they need on their own. Set a reasonable budget together, but let your child do the actual choosing and paying. To encourage thriftiness, you can offer to allow your child to keep the change. 

5.      Save some stuff for later

There’s no need to purchase a complete autumn wardrobe before Labor Day. Waiting a bit for the mid-season sales will save you a ton of money. 

If your kids are in need of some bigger ticket items this year, consider applying for a low-interest loan from High Point Federal Credit Union!

Use these hacks to cash in on savings this back-to-school season. 

Should I keep Cash at Home?

Q: I’m seeing posts on social media about keeping cash at home during rapid inflation. Is this a good practice?

A: Keeping large amounts of cash in envelopes, kitchen drawers or stuffed under the mattress is not recommended during times of high inflation – or any time. 

Why is it a bad idea to keep cash at home?

While it’s perfectly OK to keep some cash at home, storing a large amount brings two big disadvantages:

  • The money can be lost or stolen. Hiding cash under the mattress or anywhere in your house always carries the risk of being misplaced, damaged or stolen. Unfortunately, there is no way to trace or reclaim lost or stolen cash. 
  • The money isn’t growing. When cash doesn’t grow, it loses some of its value. This is especially true during times of high inflation. The current inflation rate is 8.5%. This means, if you’d keep $1,000 at home for the next year and inflation stays at 8.5% during that time, your cash would be worth only $985. Of course, if inflation rates increase, the loss would increase as well. 

Where is the best place to keep cash?

Here are some places you may want to keep your cash at this time:

  • Savings account. A savings account is a secure place to keep extra funds. When you open a savings account at High Point Federal Credit Union, there’s no risk of your money being lost or stolen. 
  • Precious metals. Precious metals, like gold, silver and platinum, have proven to hold their value even in times of inflation and a volatile stock market. 
  • Share certificates. A share certificate is a savings account that’s federally insured, has a fixed dividend rate and a fixed date of maturity. The fixed dividend rate will remain unaffected by the fluctuating national interest rate.

Inflation is high, but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea to hoard your cash at home. Follow the tips outlined above to find the perfect place to park your cash. 

Olean Area FCU Awards Scholarships to Collegebound Seniors

Olean Area Federal Credit Union has awarded $2,000 in college scholarships to four high school seniors to help finance their college education.

The students, who are members of Olean Area FCU, were chosen based on their outstanding academic and extracurricular achievements.

“As a community-focused institution, we are always looking for opportunities to give back.” said Richard Yeager, CEO “The Scholarship Program allows us the opportunity to give back to our younger members as they embark on their college careers.”

The high school seniors who received the awards were: Christy Childs of Hinsdale, Kaylee Rhinehart of Otto-Eldred, Sara Thomas of Olean, and Alexis Trietley – also of Olean High School.

In addition to the Olean Area FCU Scholarship, Christy Childs was also awarded scholarships through the Jamestown Credit Union Chapter and the New York Credit Union Association totaling an additional $1,500.

Step 6 of 12 to Financial Wellness: Pay it Forward

There’s so much good you can do with the money you’ve been blessed to have. There’s also a lot of good you can do with your time, talents and possessions. Let’s explore some ways you can make the world better by paying it forward

1.      Donate funds to your favorite cause

The classic and simplest way to pay it forward is by supporting a charity or two that speaks to your heart. Make a donation that fits your budget to help make a difference. Be sure to verify the authenticity of the organization on a charity-vetting site, like Charity Navigator or CharityWatch. Don’t forget to save your receipt so you can claim a tax deduction. 

2.      Commit to do one random act of kindness each day

Kindness doesn’t have to be big, loud, or costly to make a difference. The smallest act of kindness can have a big impact on someone’s day. You can offer to make a coffee for your coworker, feed a parking meter that’s about to run out, remove a branch or rock from a busy thoroughfare or let someone go ahead of you at a checkout counter. 

3.      Write thank you letters 

When was the last time you thanked your child’s teacher, your parents or your postal carrier? Pick up a set of thank you cards, and spend 20 minutes writing thank you letters. Your letters may be cherished by the recipients for many months or years to come. 

4.      Donate your time 

Unfortunately, there are many people suffering from various hardships. With just a small donation of your time, you can help alleviate some of their suffering. Volunteer at a soup kitchen, help bring cheer to hospitals, offer to babysit for a couple who is going through hard times so they can have a night out or visit with a lonely person. You can brighten someone’s day simply with your presence!

There are so many ways to pay it forward and make the world into a better place. And when you give to others, you’re really giving to yourself by learning to be a better, kinder person. 

Olean Area FCU announces changes to Board of Directors

At Olean Area Federal Credit Union’s Annual Meeting, the financial institution’s volunteer Board of Directors announced new board appointments as well as two retirements.

Patrick Kelly, who served as Chairman of the Board since 1992, announced that he would step down from his Chair position but remain as a member of the Board of Directors. Michele Pancio, current board Vice-Chair was elected to the new Board Chair position. Michele joined the Olean Area FCU supervisory committee in 2006 and was appointed to the board in 2013. She was elected Vice-Chair in 2021. For over 30 years Michele has been co-owner of All American Financial Service and Insurance as well as Real Estate Development.

Current Board Member, Jason Crisafulli was elected as the new Vice-Chair. Jason joined the Olean Area FCU Education Committee in 2015 and was appointed to the board in 2018. Jason was the previous President of Kinley Corporation before his retirement. He also serves as Board President for the Greater Olean Area Chamber of Commerce and is a member of the Allegany Planning Board.

Michele stated, “Serving the credit union on the Supervisory Committee and the Board these past sixteen years has been an honor.  I am looking forward to my new role as Board Chair and the opportunity to help guide Olean Area FCU into the future.” President & CEO, Rich Yeager added, “Michele has been an integral member of our board since the day she joined us and I’m confident in her leadership going forward. I would like to thank Pat for over 30 years of dedication to our credit union as Chairman and am certain he will continue to be an advocate for our members and communities in his new role.”

Along with these recent appointments, the Board also announced the retirement of two long standing Board Members, Glenda Hall and Jean McInroy. Glenda joined the board in 1983 and Jean in 2002. Both have been an essential part in the development and growth of Olean Area FCU. Rich Yeager, stated, “We sincerely thank Glenda and Jean for their years of service to our organization and the communities we serve. Their commitment has helped make our Credit Union what it is today.”

The Ultimate Grad Gift Guide

Celebrate with your grad and show them how proud you are of their accomplishments with these low-cost, awesome gifts!

1.      ID lanyard

Make it easy for your grad to carry their ID and wallet around campus or workplace. Super-cute and durable, these lanyards are the perfect graduation gift. 

2.      ‘Oh, the Places You’ll Go!’

You can’t go wrong with this Dr. Seuss classic! Whimsical, yet inspirational, it’s a great read for the older teen setting off into the big world of adulthood. 

3.      College survival kit

Hit the dollar store to scour the aisles for a big basket, filling it with all sorts of stuff to make a college survival or house/apartment warming kit. Include essentials, like flip flops and hair ties, kitchen utensils and hand soap. Have a bit of fun with extras, like Bluetooth speakers, wall decals and more!

4.      “Open when” letters

Pen some letters for your grad to open at key milestones and/or more challenging times, such as after the first round of final exams, when feeling homesick, when needing a laugh, etc. Your letters will be the gift that keeps on giving throughout their first year outside the nest.

5.      Picture collage

Help your grad have the most awesomely decorated room in college with a fantastic homemade picture collage! Check out their social media pages for their best snapshots and put together a low-cost, meaningful gift they’ll always treasure.

6.      Laundry essentials

Spring for an adorable laundry hamper and fill it with all your grad needs to master the wash. Think detergent, dryer sheets, stain-remover and more. Add a cute note, like “Have LOADS of fun in college!” to complete the gift. 

7.      Chef’s special

Fill a big mixing bowl, Bundt pan or other large basin with all they need to master the kitchen. You can load it up with spatulas, measuring cups and spoons, a cute apron, oven mitts, a skillet and more. You can also add one of the many college cookbooks you’ll find on sites like Amazon.

Use these ideas to find the perfect low-cost gift for your grad. 

What is a Fraud Ring and How Can I Keep Myself Safe?

Q: I’m hearing a lot about fraud rings and their threat to businesses and consumers. What is a fraud ring and how can I keep myself safe?

A: A fraud ring is a group of fraudsters and merchants that can operate for years while stealing money and information, causing tremendous damage and loss along the way.

Let’s take a look at fraud rings, how they operate and how consumers and merchants can keep safe.

What is a fraud ring?

A fraud ring is an organized circle of criminals working to defraud and steal from people. They’ll use the same tactics as smaller scammer groups and individuals, but work on a massive scale. They also tend to have access to way more technology and resources than a typical scammer. Because of this, the harm they can do is on a much larger scale, too.

This form of fraud can consist of a group of criminals, as in any organized crime ring, or it can be made up of a family of crooks working together. The members of this crime ring collaborate to share info that can help them commit acts of fraud to net vast amounts of stolen funds and merchandise.

How does a fraud ring operate?

They can operate under several different pretexts. One common premise involves forgery, in which the fraudsters create fake claims, steal identities and even print counterfeit checks and/or currency. Some rings target individuals, committing identity theft and the like, but many focus on targeting ecommerce websites, businesses, charities or government agencies. 

A fraud ring can commit any of the following scams:

  • Forgery
  • False claims
  • Identity theft
  • Identity manipulation
  • Counterfeit checks and/or currency

How can I recognize this type of fraud? 

Look for these red flags, which can indicate signs of fraud:

  • Large purchases on your credit card or checking account that you didn’t make
  • Bills for loans you haven’t taken out
  • An unexplained, big drop in your credit score

If you own a business, you may be at higher risk of falling victim to a fraud ring. Be sure to look out for several sudden and large purchases from a customer who hasn’t made a purchase in a while, new accounts from customers that quickly become big spenders and claims demanding refunds for faulty products you believe were fine when shipped. 

Detecting instances of fraud at the first sign of suspicion can help mitigate the damage and keep your money and your information safe. Be sure to configure and add e-alerts on your bank accounts.

Stay up to date on prevalent scams and common types of fraud by visiting Olean Area FCU’s Security Corner.

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