Create a Road Map to Reach Financial Security
What would it take for you to feel financially secure … Having debt under control? Building a substantial savings account for emergencies? Implementing a solid investment strategy for your retirement nest egg?
Feeling financially secure can improve your life in many ways, easing stress and worry, allowing you to sleep better and even permitting you to enjoy more rewarding personal relationships with family and friends. But how do you get there? In today’s complicated financial world it often seems easier said than done. Mapping it out with these four steps can help.
- Find your starting point. With any goal, you need to know where you are before you can plot a course to where you want to be. Start with a close examination of your present situation by:
- Tracking your monthly income and expenses to see how money comes and goes in your home.
- Calculating your net worth. Make a detailed list of the value of all your assets and debts. Subtract your liabilities (what you owe) from your assets (what you own) to arrive at your net worth.
- Set your destination. Now that you know where you are, figure out where you want to go. The more specific you can be, the better. You’ll have multiple goals, and you should assign a price tag and timeline to each one. For instance, you may want an emergency fund of $5,000 in two years, $50,000 for college costs in 10 years or $250,000 in retirement savings in 25 years.
- Be prepared for detours. Life comes with no guarantees. If you or your spouse were to suffer a significant illness or injury, job loss or premature death, your financial security could be lost — unless you planned ahead. Take steps to protect your finances from road hazards. Proactively establishing an emergency fund and adding disability insurance and life insurance can help keep you on track if the unexpected happens.
- Be open to new roads. Changes in your life, family or career will all trigger adjustments to your finances. New laws and regulations may, too. As priorities shift, new opportunities can arise and established practices may fall by the wayside. Your plan for financial security should include built-in flexibility to meet life's evolving needs to help ensure you’re always prepared.
We’ll be your GPS
Community Bank Wealth Management can help you get on your way to taking control of your financial security. We’d be happy to help you map out a plan to meet your goals. Call (507) 385-2871 for a no-cost consultation.
7 Tips for Preventing Identity Theft
No one wants to believe it can happen to them, but identity theft isn't something that only happens to other people. In fact, identity theft may be more widespread than you think. The U.S. Department of Justice estimates that more than 17 million people were victims of some form of identity theft in 2014.* Most of these victims experienced the fraudulent use of their credit card or bank account information. While this may sound unsettling, there are ways you can protect yourself.
- Never give your Social Security number or other personal information over the phone. If you get a call claiming to be from your financial institution, hang up and call back at a number you know to be correct to be sure the person you're speaking with is really who they claim to be.
- Memorize your passwords or purchase a secure password aggregator that stores and encrypts your information so that you only need one password to access all your personal accounts. Be sure your passwords are strong.
- Pay attention to your bills. Always read your financial statements and check in on your accounts to be sure you don't miss any suspicious activity.
- Shred all paper receipts, bank statements, medical bills and other personal documents so dumpster divers can't gain access to your personal information.
- Install virus protection software on your computer and mobile devices and be wary of clicking on pop-up ads or suspicious emails.
- Be careful at ATMs. Make sure the one you're using hasn't been tampered with. Criminals can install skimmers to gain your card information. This is less likely to happen in ATMs that are located indoors.
- Always pay for large purchases with a credit card. Federal law protects you against credit card fraud in most cases as long as you report the fraud within 60 days.
Remember, a little awareness can go a long way toward protecting against identity theft. Safeguarding your information and protecting you from fraud are top priorities at Community Bank.
*Source: U.S. Department of Justice.
Ensuring Your Safety Online
Protecting your confidential information has always been a top priority at Community Bank, especially when you use online banking. As more and more people and businesses manage their finances online, the fight against Internet fraud grows stronger. In fact, the federal government has released new guidelines to help federally insured financial institutions keep customers’ accounts more secure than ever before.
The Federal Financial Institutions Examination Council (FFIEC) outlines steps for financial institutions to take to ensure that your identity is protected whenever you access your accounts online. We do our part by:
- Analyzing our Internet services for risk of potential fraud or identity theft.
- Requiring unique passwords and other authentication devices for all online banking access and transactions.
As new security technology becomes available, we may upgrade authentication methods for our online consumer and business banking services to continually help keep your private information secure and comply with the latest FFIEC guidelines.
You can do your part to help keep your accounts safe, too. By now you may have heard of "phishing" scams – fraudulent e-mails and look-alike Web sites that try to trick you into revealing personal information such as account numbers and passwords. Remember that we will NEVER ask you for account or password information in an e-mail. If you receive a suspicious e-mail, do not reply to it or click on any links. Instead, contact a banker at any Community Bank location.
By working together, we can protect your finances and your good name. Know that we are hard at work to keep our Internet services secure so you can continue to enjoy the convenience and ease of online banking.
Keeping Tabs on Spyware
If you've spent time on the World Wide Web, chances are you've received a fair number of pop-up advertisements – those annoying little browser windows that clog the screen when you're trying to view a Web site. They might advertise a product or say you've won a contest you didn't enter. Be careful, these pop-up ads can be more than annoying – they could be an indication that your computer has been infected with what is known as spyware.
Spyware is a computer program installed on your computer without permission that can monitor your Internet activity, force your computer to view those annoying pop-up ads or even redirect you to certain Web sites.
Indications of a spyware infection can include an unwanted change in your homepage, random error messages, sluggish computer performance, new or unexpected icons on your computer or suddenly being taken to a different Web site.
Take control of your computer's security settings. Here are some ways to defend against spyware and other malicious electronic programs.
- Install anti-virus and anti-spyware software and run them regularly. Many anti-virus programs already include spyware protection that simply needs to be turned on.
- Only download software from sites you know are secure and have earned your trust.
- Don't click on links that appear in pop-up ads.
- Never click on any links in an e-mail you receive from a sender you don't know or trust.
- Update your operating system (Windows for PCs, OS-X for Macs) regularly.
If you do find spyware already installed on your computer, delete it immediately and run your anti-virus and anti-spyware programs to clean your computer.
Equifax Breach Alert
September 7, 2017, Equifax Inc. announced a cybersecurity incident potentially impacting approximately 143 million U.S. consumers. Criminals exploited a U.S. website application vulnerability to gain access to certain customer files which included names, Social Security numbers, birth dates, addresses, and in some instances, driver’s license numbers. In addition, credit card numbers for approximately 209,000 consumers and certain dispute documents, which included personal identifying information, for approximately 182,000 consumers were also accessed.
Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers or dispute documents with personal identifying information were impacted.
Equifax has not found evidence of unauthorized access to Equifax’s core consumer or commercial credit reporting databases at this point. Based on the company’s investigation, the unauthorized access occurred from mid-May through July 2017.
Equifax has established a dedicated website, www.equifaxsecurity2017.com to help consumers determine if their information has been potentially impacted and to sign up for credit monitoring and identity theft protection free for one year. The credit monitoring is offered by TrustedID Premier, and includes monitoring of the three major Credit Reporting Agencies’ (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) credit reports; copies of Equifax credit reports; the ability to lock and unlock credit access at Equifax; identity theft insurance; and Internet scanning for Social Security numbers - all complimentary to U.S. consumers for one year.
Note that after the one year term is expired, you will not be re-enrolled automatically. You will receive a notification from TrustedID Premier and will then have the opportunity to re-enroll and pay for the service if you choose.
Community Bank Mankato recommends customers log on to the Equifax security site at www.equifaxsecurity2017.com and check if you were potentially impacted. You may want to sign up for the credit monitoring service at no charge for a year.
The Bank also recommends to check your credit reports at least annually at www.annualcreditreport.com where you can pull your credit report free of charge from each of the three major credit reporting agencies.
Online Banking Security Tips
Mobile Device Security
- Configure your device to require a passcode to gain access if this feature is supported in your device.
- Avoid storing sensitive information. Mobile devices have a high likelihood of being lost or stolen so you should avoid using them to store sensitive information (e.g. passwords, account numbers, etc.). If sensitive data is stored, enable encryption to secure it.
- Keep your mobile device's software up-to-date. These devices are small computers running software that needs to be updated just as you would update your PC. Use the automatic updated option if one is available.
- Disable features not actively in use such as Bluetooth, Wi-Fi, and infrared. Set Bluetooth-enabled devices to non-discoverable when Bluetooth is enabled.
- "Sign-out" or "Log off" when finished with an app rather than just closing it.
- Utilize antivirus software where applicable (i.e. Android, Windows, etc).
- Do not Jailbreak or otherwise circumvent security controls.
- Never click on suspicious links in emails, tweets, posts, or online advertising. Links can take you to a different website than their labels indicate. Typing an address in your browser instead of clicking a link in an email is a safer alternative.
- Only submit sensitive information to websites using encryption to ensure your information is protected as it travels across the Internet. Verify the web address begins with "https://" (the s is for secure) rather than just "http://". Sometimes browsers also display a closed padlock.
- Do not trust sites with certificate warnings or errors. These messages could be caused by your connection being intercepted or the web server misrepresenting its identity.
- Avoid using public computers or public wireless access points for online banking and other activities involving sensitive information when possible.
- Always "sign-out" or "log off" of password protected websites when finished to prevent unauthorized access. Simply closing the browser window may not actually end your session.
- Be cautious of unsolicited phone calls, emails, or texts directing you to a website or requesting more information.
General PC Security
- Maintain active and up-to date antivirus protection provided by a reputable vendor. Schedule regular scans of your computer in addition to real-time scanning.
- Update your software frequently to ensure you have the latest security patches. This includes your computer's operating system and other installed software (e.g. web browsers, Adobe Flash Player, Adobe Reader, Java, Microsoft Office, etc.).
- Automate software updates, when the software supports it, to ensure it's not overlooked.
- If you suspect you computer is infected with malware, discontinue using it for banking, shopping, or other activities involving sensitive information. Use security software and/or professional help to find and remove malware.
- Use firewalls on your local network to add another layer of protection for all the devices that connect through the firewall (e.g. PCs, smart phones, and tablets).
- Require a password to gain access. Log off or lock you computer when not in use.
- Use a cable lock to physically secure laptops when the device is stored in an untrusted location.
- Create a unique password for all the different systems / websites you use. Otherwise, one breach leaves all your accounts vulnerable.
- Never share your password over the phone, in texts, by email, or in person. If you are asked for your password it's probably a scam.
- Use unpredictable passwords with a combination of lowercase letters, capital letters, numbers and special characters.
- The longer the password, the tougher it is to crack. Use a password with at least 8 characters. Every additional character exponentially strengthens a password. Passphrases are most effective. A passphrase is a short sentence and generally easier to remember.
- Avoid using obvious passwords such as: Names (your name, family member names, business name, user name, etc.), Dates (birthdays, anniversaries, etc.), Dictionary words.
- Choose a password you can remember without writing it down. If you do choose to write it down, store it in a secure location.
- To learn more about information security, visit any of the below websites: