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April 2018 E-Newsletter

Debit Card Fraud Still Rising; Here’s How to Guard Your Cash

Fraud at the ATM can lead to money being drained from a bank account, and consumers have a new reminder to check for fraudulent charges.

FICO reported today that the number of debit cards compromised at ATMs and merchant devices in the U.S. rose 10% in 2017 over the previous year. It’s a less extreme increase than the 70% jump in such fraud in 2016.

The number of hacked ATMs and merchant card readers also rose over 2016, by 8%, according to the San Jose, California, analytics and credit scoring company. FICO analyzes card transactions in the U.S. and releases its fraud report each year.

The total of compromises and affected card members set a new record, says TJ Horan, vice president of fraud solutions at FICO.

Card companies have taken steps in the last couple of years to reduce fraud, including issuing cards with EMV chip technology. The chips use Europay, MasterCard and Visa technology standards to create a unique code for each transaction, making the card practically impossible to copy, which may explain why the spike in fraud was lower than in 2016.

Criminals responded to EMV capability by developing other methods of hacking ATMs, Horan says. For example, fraudsters might try to capture and read data from cards inserted into machines that don’t have the latest technology.

Consumers should be aware of the risks and be cautious when withdrawing cash. Here are some ways to protect your debit card and ATM transactions from potential criminals.

How to guard against hackers
Check the location. Select an ATM that gets a lot of foot traffic or is in a brightly lighted area. Follow the same rule for debit card purchases. When you fill up your car, know that the pumps farthest from the store entrance may be more attractive to criminals.

Check the card reader. Be on the lookout for anything odd about the ATM or point-of-sale machine. If your card doesn’t enter an ATM smoothly, for example, a fraudster could have a skimmer device attached to the opening. Consider going elsewhere for cash.

Check your account. Review your checking account regularly for unauthorized transactions. If your card is compromised, you’ll have to act fast to avoid losing money. If you report a loss within two days, the most you can lose is $50, according to federal law. But you risk losing up to $500 from your account if you wait up to 60 days — or the entire amount in your account if you wait longer.

» Think you’ve been hacked? Read what to do if your bank account is at risk

Check with your bank. Ask your bank for a new card if you believe your card has been compromised, even if there’s not yet evidence of fraud. That way, your financial institution can take steps to secure the machine in question. You’ll be protecting yourself and other customers, too.
ATM fraud is an increasing problem. By taking steps to protect yourself, you can keep your card number and your money out of a criminal’s hands.

More on protecting your money Margarette Burnette is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: Twitter: @Margarette.

The article Debit Card Fraud Still Rising; Here’s How to Guard Your Cash originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Earn More Interest on Your Kasasa Saver Account

Starting April 1, 2018, all Kasasa Saver accounts will now receive an Annual Percentage Yield (APY) of 0.55% on account balances up to $50,000 if you meet your Kasasa Cash or Kasasa Cash Back account qualifications during the monthly qualification cycle.
Balances $50,000.01 and above will continue to receive an APY of 0.10% if you meet your Kasasa Cash or Kasasa Cash Back account qualifications during the monthly qualification cycle.
If the qualifications in your Kasasa Cash or Kasasa Cash Back account are not met, the APY will continue to be 0.01% on all balances in your Kasasa Saver account.
As always, all Kasasa accounts are FREE. Click here to see the monthly qualification cycle schedule.
If you have any additional questions or concerns regarding the increase in the Kasasa Saver cap, please contact Coulee Bank at 866-784-9550 or talk to a Personal Banker.
Don’t have a Saver account? Click here to apply. 

Everyone Should Have a Financial Advisor

Tax season is here, which means you might be deciding between filing yourself or seeking out a professional. However, taxes aren't the only reason to seek out financial advice. An overwhelming majority of U.S. adults do not seek out professional financial advice. While you might not need professional help to create a family budget, expert advice can make the road to retirement, investing, or saving for college much smoother. Check out these common reasons people avoid getting professional financial advice and how to overcome them. 
I'm not rich, so I don't need a professional. 
Achieving financial security requires serious planning, professional help, and strong discipline over a long period of time, no matter what your net worth is. An expert financial planner can help you assess your current situation and help you determine how to reach your goals by building a realistic, comprehensive plan. They can also provide an objective perspective to stressful, emotional decisions, such as what to do with an inheritance. Most importantly, a professional financial advisor will work for you and with you to help you follow your plan by tracking your progress and adjusting your plan if necessary. 
I don't know what questions to ask.
That doesn't matter because you'll start by answering questions, not asking them. A good financial planner will start the relationship by getting to know you and your goals, so they'll be the ones asking questions during your first meeting or two. After that, they will use that profile to guide you in the right direction. The one question you should ask before hiring a financial planner is: How are you paid and what are your fees? Make sure you understand exactly how much you'll be charged for their advice before deciding if that planner is right for you. 
I can't tell if I'm getting good advice. 
It's good to approach financial advice with a healthy level of skepticism, but there are some assurances you can look for to help you verify that your advisor really is working in your best interests. First, check that they are licensed by the State, U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), the Financial Industry Regulatory Authority (FINRA), or the Certified Financial Planner Board of Standards, Inc. (CFP Board). You should also verify that your financial planner is acting in an official fiduciary capacity, meaning they are legally obligated to act in your best interests. The U.S. Department of Labor has a list of questions to ask available on their website.
If you have questions about how to find a financial advisor, talk to your local banker about their financial planning and wealth management services.
An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at

Business Corner: Three Misconceptions That Can Keep You from Getting a Business Loan

The views in this article are expressed by the author, Levi King. 

If there’s one thing that really makes me angry, it’s when small businesses fail because the cards were stacked against them.
There’s already a lot of fear that goes into starting a business after all. Can I be better than the competition? Will I wreck my own finances and credit if I fail? Business owners don’t need another reason to feel like they’re tiptoeing through a minefield, always moments away from making a wrong move.
So, when I come across online articles stuffed with misinformation and downright inaccuracies about how business financing and credit actually work, my blood begins to boil. I almost see them as personal attacks, given that they’re perpetuating business credit myths and misconceptions that cost me thousands of dollars when I was starting my own small business. This bad advice is continuing to cost American entrepreneurs millions of dollars each year -- and, for many of them, their dream.
Just 10 years ago, the majority of Americans probably couldn’t tell you what a FICO score was. Now, tens of millions of users are signed up for products offering a free monthly credit score. As personal credit awareness is increasing, so is the average FICO score in the U.S. Is this a coincidence? I don't believe it is in the slightest.
The business credit space is poised to be next for in awareness renaissance, but we’re not there yet. And, unfortunately, that means business owners often have to risk their personal credit to get loans for their business. The worst part is they may own a healthy business in every other respect. They’re getting financing but paying an arm and a leg for cash they have to personally guarantee. That stings, but it doesn’t have to. Getting past these business credit misconceptions can help you find the right loan for your business -- not just one you can live with for now.
Myth #1: Your business credit doesn’t factor into most business loans.
Most business loans don’t require a particular business credit score -- that much is true, but it’s a half-truth. Talk to almost any entrepreneur you know, and you’ll hear the same thing: The ones who are getting loans aren’t happy with the loans they’re getting. In fact, just 46% of small business owners report being satisfied with online lenders. The broker marketplace model actually relies on business owners who can’t qualify for financing with better terms, making money off of the business credit awareness gap. That’s a problem.
If business owners understand their credit, including business credit, and actively manage it, they open themselves up to more financing options and have a better chance of getting the right loan for their business instead of a “good enough for now” loan. The gold standard in business loans, an SBA-guaranteed loan, uses the FICO Small Business Scoring Service (SBSS score) to prescreen applicants, for example. These loans offer some of the lowest interest rates in business lending, and the SBSS score combines components of both your personal and business credit data. But, if you haven’t worked on building business credit, you may have to cross an SBA loan off your list of possibilities.
Myth #2: It takes a long time to build business credit.
This is another inaccuracy that fueled me to write this column, and it needs to be cleared up: Personal credit scores aren’t built faster than business credit scores. No consumer lender or financial institution is required to report your account data to a major credit bureau. Most do because accurate credit scoring benefits them as well, but there is no federal law that mandates it. Utilities in particular rarely report your payment history to the credit bureaus (despite the fact that these alternative data sets could help the millions of “unscorable” Americans start building credit).
The same is true of business credit reporting. Vendors and lenders are not required to report trade lines to commercial credit reporting agencies. But, since business credit scores are different from personal scoring models in a few ways, it can seem like it takes a long time to build business credit. In reality, it takes just a few trade lines reporting to a bureau in order to generate a business credit score from that data. Building business credit realistically takes no more time than building personal credit, but because of the awareness gap, many business owners don’t know where to start.
Myth #3: Business credit scores don’t fairly reflect a business’s creditworthiness.
If the idea that business credit scores aren’t fair sounds familiar to you, it’s probably because it’s one of the biggest complaints about personal credit scores, too. There are a lot of things that can seem unfair about credit scoring in general: You have to use credit to get credit, some items can impact your scores for a decade or more, and algorithms are proprietary, so small score changes may be hard to understand and rationalize. It’s an imperfect system but one that business and consumer credit reporting agencies are constantly working to improve. If business credit scores didn’t provide lenders predictive modeling, they wouldn’t be used for large-dollar financing like bank loans.
Behind these major misconceptions is the reality that business owners don’t know enough about their own business credit data to really take advantage of it. But, that doesn’t mean we should imply it doesn’t matter. Instead, we should raise awareness and make life easier for the millions of entrepreneurs who are pursuing their dreams.

Coulee Bank’s Q-Tip: Nine Tips for Online Security

One of the few industries that will never see budget cuts is security – especially cyber security. As the world grows ever more complex and connected, our valuable information is increasingly exposed to malicious actors from all corners of the globe.
However, there are experts working behind the scenes to fight the good fight, thwarting the hackers with ingenious new technologies such as the self-healing BIOS, self-encrypting drives, and pre-boot authentication systems.
But while these guardians are feverishly battling on our behalf, all too often we turn out to be our own worst enemy. Cutting corners, clicking on dodgy links and downloading untrustworthy materials – sometimes we bring it on ourselves.
So, here are a few good habits that will help prevent you from falling prey to today’s cyber-villains:

1. Be password-savvy:
We all know strong passwords are a vital first line of defense, and the good news is a couple of tweaks can turn an easy password into defensive stronghold. Try adding a few numeric or ‘special’ characters into a favorite phrase (like turning DangerZone into d@ng3rz0n3), and don’t use the same password for multiple services or sites.
2. Install a password manager:
Many of us use the same password or a slight variation on it for multiple accounts, meaning one breach can make all your accounts vulnerable. Try using a secure password manager (such as LastPass) to create and manage unique passwords for all your accounts.
3. Do the security two-step:
Two-step verification is fast becoming the new standard for security, and that’s a good thing. With a simple tap on your phone or ‘yes’ on your email you can ensure it’s really you.

4. Use a VPN:
Virtual private networks (VPNs) keep you secure in public and in private. VPNs encrypt all incoming and outgoing data, and VPN services are highly affordable for personal and business users alike.

5. Backup your data:
Only those with nothing to lose have nothing to steal, which is why ransomware attacks are one of the most prevalent and profitable forms of cybercrime. Fortunately, it’s simple to protect yourself against its worst effects – just keep your data securely backed up. Ransomware works by holding your valuable data to ransom, but if your files are securely backed up then they’ll be of little use to a hacker.
6. Encrypt your data:
Most modern operating systems (including Windows, Mac OS and many Linux distributions) include encryption tools that are easy to activate and extremely effective. Use them.
7. Don’t click on suspect links:
Lots of malware requires users to open files or follow links, often embedded in very credible-looking emails or websites. Users should always take care what they click on – if a link or file looks suspect, it probably is – and never enter passwords or usernames on sites they don’t know.
8. Use an ad blocker:
Ads and trackers can slip by your anti-virus scanner as they’re not (technically) being downloaded; an ad blocker, in addition to reducing those annoying online ads, can shut down hidden trackers by blocking the scripts that run them.
9. Update your software:
And finally, perhaps the most obvious measure of all – keep your software up-to-date. Software providers are continually patching out new bugs and repairing vulnerabilities in their systems, but these fixes can only help if you install them.
Sadly, it’s impossible to be 100 percent protected against cyber-crime. As the saying goes, it’s not a question of if you’ll be attacked, it’s a question of when, but if you make your systems more secure than most then you’re a harder target and the cyber criminals just might give you a miss as they search for easier prey.

Q-Tips are provided by Coulee Bank's IT Network Risk Manager, Quentin Fisher. He is always on the lookout for ways to keep our customers' information safe, here at the bank, at work and home.

Coulee Investment Corner: The Risks of D.I.Y. Investing & Financial Planning

In trying to do it yourself, there’s the chance you could do it all wrong.
Many successful people refrain from trying to plan their financial futures. They delegate that job to professionals, as they lack the time, inclination, or knowledge to do it themselves. This makes sense. It takes years to gain a thorough understanding of financial market cycles and behaviors, macroeconomic forces, investment classes, and wealth management principles. Investors who go it alone may be inviting underperformance. After researching 70,000 portfolios, the investor network Openfolio concluded that the average solo investor realized a return of about 5% in 2016. In contrast, the S&P 500’s total return for the year was almost 12%.[1]
The learning curve for a do-it-yourself investor may be steep and expensive. Like a basketball team focused only on the fast break, little attention may be paid to defense. A quest for great returns may mean taking an eye off crucial opportunities for tax savings. If the investor succumbs to emotional decision making and market timing in volatile moments, portfolio performance may suffer.
The core problem is mistaking investing for financial planning. A good financial plan is multifaceted; it needs to be. It may contain an investment strategy, a risk management approach, a tax management strategy, and a withdrawal and spending strategy if the client is a retiree. There may be college planning involved and some estate planning as well.
Financial planning is both a discipline and a profession, and disciplined investors can see the value in seeking help from a professional.
The S&P 500 Index is a capitalization-weighted index of 500 stocks designed to measure performance of the broad domestic economy through changes in the aggregate market value of 500 stocks representing all major industries. The S&P 500 is an unmanaged index and cannot invested into directly. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.
This material was prepared for Shari Hopkins and does not necessarily represent the views of the presenting party, nor their affiliates. This information has been derived from sources believed to be accurate. Please note - investing involves risk, and past performance is no guarantee of future results. The publisher is not engaged in rendering legal, accounting or other professional services. If assistance is needed, the reader is advised to engage the services of a competent professional. This information should not be construed as investment, tax or legal advice and may not be relied on for the purpose of avoiding any Federal tax penalty.

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