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August 2018 E-Newsletter

Announcing NEW Features on Our Online Banking Platform and Mobile App! 

Here are two new features to help you bank with us online more securely: 
 
Live Support (Chat) within Online Banking
This interactive solution allows us to provide you with real-time support and troubleshooting chat during your online banking session.
 
P2P – Person to Person Payment
With Person to Person Payment (P2P), all you need is a phone number or e-mail address to securely send money from your Coulee Bank Account to anyone without exchanging checks, cash or account numbers. Pay your babysitter, send your roommate money for utilities or rent or pay your friend back after a nice dinner out! 
 
Here are a few new features that will help you to bank more securely through our Coulee Bank Mobile app:

Secure Swipe
Secure Swipe allows you to lock and unlock your debit card at any time providing you with protection against fraudulent use.
 
Finger Print ID
A faster, more convenient way to securely log into the Coulee Bank Mobile app on iPhone 5s or later.
 
Text Banking
You asked and we listened! We have additional text notification options available in our app and you can even enroll in two-way text banking! On top of an alert for virtually every kind of transaction, you can now text us for your current balance, to see your recent transactions or transfer funds between your accounts!
 
smsGuardian
Add another layer of protection to your debit card! Enroll in SMSGuardian to receive real-time text alerts for debit card purchases. You can even respond to the text if the purchase is fraudulent and your card will be blocked.
 
You’ve been asking!
Coming Soon! - Digital Wallet! Coulee Bank will be offering MasterPass, ApplePay and Google Pay.

Stay tuned for more information on these features as they become available! Be the first to hear about them on Facebook!

Banking Has Changed, but Criminals Haven't - Here's How to Protect Your Money

This year marks a decade since the global financial crisis. Although the biggest financial institutions still dominate the landscape, banking has undergone some changes. The proliferation of smartphones means mobile banking now plays a significant role in how we manage our money. A 2016 Fed survey found that over half of smartphone users with bank accounts used their devices to access their money.
What hasn’t changed since 2008? Con artists.
 
10 years after the Great Recession: Tips and advice to prepare for bad times and to prosper — any time
Ten years ago, identity theft was the No. 1 complaint logged by the Federal Trade Commission. Today, the number of complaints is 20% higher than in 2008. The research-based advisory firm Javelin Strategy & Research identified a record high of nearly 17 million victims of identity fraud last year. And many of today’s fraud and identity theft breaches involve mobile devices. The rise of mobile banking in the past decade means it’s easier and more convenient to keep up with your bank accounts, but it could also make it easier to be scammed.
Financial institutions invest in technology and cybersecurity expertise to fight back, but your bank or credit union needs your help. Here are ways hackers try to access your bank information and how you can avoid swiping your money into a criminal’s trap.
 
How hackers work:
Phishing. This happens when hackers use websites, emails or other means of contact to trick customers into submitting personal information. The practice isn’t new, but it has gotten more sophisticated.
“Ten years ago, phishing was rudimentary. Fake sites were not authentic looking. There were a lot of typos,” says Adam Levin, founder of Cyberscout, a Scottsdale, Arizona-based cybersecurity company. “Now, the criminals have gotten much more sophisticated and the sites look real.”
 
According to the not-for-profit Anti-Phishing Working Group, phishing attacks increased by a whopping 5,700% over the 12 years ended in 2016, and the latest data suggest attacks continue to increase.

Keylogger software. These programs may install on phones via apps that aren’t secure, such as one that’s not from your device’s approved app store. The software records keystrokes, such as when you enter a bank username or password on a website, then sends a record of what was typed to the hacker.
 
How to protect your accounts:
Ask your bank or credit union about security. The safest banks for consumers use the latest cybersecurity protocols to protect your accounts from breaches and large-scale identity theft. “You’ll want to make sure your bank is up to par,” Levin says. If not, it may be time to switch to another institution. Make sure your bank provides the following — and use these services:
 
  • Two-factor authentication. When you attempt to log on to your bank’s secure online webpage, the bank or credit union will contact you through some other means — by sending a text, for example — to ask you to confirm the login request. Not every bank has two-factor authentication. But if you choose one that does, your accounts have an extra layer of protection, says Neal Stern, CPA and member of the American Institute of CPAs’ National Financial Literacy Commission.
  • Transaction alerts. Sign up for these alerts, which are generally text or email messages your bank sends to your mobile device when large purchases are made on your account or if your balance drops below a certain amount. (For a deeper look at transaction alerts, here are five mobile banking alerts that help fight fraud.)
  • Fraud monitoring. Many banks monitor transactions to detect unusual spending patterns. The bank might send you a confirmation text if it detects an odd purchase attempt, such as an online purchase worth thousands of dollars from a vendor you’ve never used before. You would have to reply before approval of the transaction.
Keep mobile device software up to date. Your device provider likely sends periodic updates. Some of them may help stop the latest hacker attempts, so it’s important to install updates.
 
Have a rock solid sign-on. When it comes to logging on to your bank’s website, use “long and strong passwords” that are hard to guess, Levin says. That way, even if you lose your phone, the next person who picks it up won’t be able to figure out how to log in to your bank accounts. In addition, lock your mobile device screen and use a different password to unlock it. (Read more about how to create passwords that are hard on others but easy on you.)
 
Be careful with other contacts. Fraudsters may try to trick a customer by calling and saying an account has been compromised, then asking for sensitive information, such as a password or Social Security number, to confirm their identity.
 
“Why would you need to authenticate yourself to someone who contacts you?” Levin says. If you’re unsure about whether a call is legit, hang up and try to reach the bank or credit union at a number you’re familiar with.
 
Today, customers can deposit checks, transfer money between accounts and pay bills from the convenience of their smartphones. But with convenience comes risk. Take steps to eliminate the risk of identity theft by partnering with your financial institution to protect your hard-earned money.
 
More From NerdWallet Margarette Burnette is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: mburnette@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @Margarette.
The article Banking Has Changed, but Criminals Haven’t — Here’s How to Protect Your Money originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Home Buying Tips for First-Timers 

Interest rates are still historically low, but rising. The housing market is strong. The economy is on the upswing… You've decided now's the time: you're going to buy your first house. It can be an intimidating process, so here are a few tips to help your transition from renter to owner go smoothly:
 
1: Do Your Research
The first—and most crucial—step in home buying is to determine how much you're able to spend. That includes knowing how much of your savings you're willing to apply to the down payment and how much you can afford each month for your mortgage payment. In general, housing costs (including property taxes, utilities, maintenance, and insurance) should not be more than 28 percent of your pretax income. Another good baseline is to make sure your mortgage is less than five times your annual income. So, if you make $45,000/year, shoot for a mortgage less than $225,000.
 
2: Build a Great Team
Purchasing a house isn't a one-person job; it takes a team. Assemble a group of experts you trust to work with your best interests in mind. Find a real estate agent and a mortgage lender you get along with and trust to give you good advice. Often, if you find one, they'll recommend the other, since professionals in these fields work with one another frequently. 
 
3: Get Pre-Approved
Loan pre-approval is a free service at most banks and will boost your credibility with real estate agents and sellers because it shows you're able to get financing and are serious about buying a house. It will also make the process of applying for your mortgage faster, especially if you obtain the loan from the same bank that pre-approved you for credit. First, review your credit score and clear up any errors you find. Then, go to your bank (or online) and get pre-approved for the largest mortgage loan you can; keep in mind you probably won't end up signing a mortgage for this "stretch" amount, but it will give you wiggle room while you're house hunting. 
 
4: Ask Questions
Buying a house is the most significant financial commitment most consumers ever make, and it can also be an emotional, stress-inducing process. Asking questions—no matter how silly you think they are—is a simple way to reduce some of that stress. Not sure what the difference is between a fixed-rate loan and an ARM? Ask! Don't know how long it will take to close? Ask! Especially when it comes time to sign the final documents, be sure to read everything and ask for clarification on anything you find confusing. That awesome team you assembled will help you understand what you're committing to. 
 
An archive of Consumer Columns is available online at www.wisbank.com/ConsumerColumns

If you're interested in buying a house, click here to be directed to the Mortgage Lenders page. 
If you're interested in building a house, click here to learn more about our Construction Special! (Valid until 8/31/2018.) 

5 Ways to Save Energy During the Dog Days of Summer 

“Holy crap.” That was my shocked response to the first utility bill of summer.
A month of running the air conditioner jacked my bill up by over $100. I suddenly found myself considering the pros and cons of living in the basement until Labor Day.
 
If summer utility bills are scorching your budget, take heart. With these low-effort ways to save energy, you can spend less without moving underground.
 
1. Hang sun-blocking curtains
When summer sunlight hits your windows, much of it enters your home as heat. High-quality blackout curtains can reduce this heat gain by up to 25%, Dave Lincon, director of product management and business development at Sears Home Improvement, said in an email. Cellular shades with a honeycomb design are more expensive but can slash unwanted solar heat by up to 80%.
 
Basically, anything you can do to block direct sunlight — closing shutters, deploying an awning or adding white liners to your existing drapes — will keep things cooler and help you save energy.
 
2. Turn your water heater down
Water heaters account for about 18% of total home energy use, often because they’re set too high. The default temperature for most water heaters is 140 degrees, and when I checked, mine was set to a skin-peeling 150.
 
Turning the water heater down to 120 degrees protects your plumbing, saves energy and reduces risk of scalding. Who wants boiling hot showers in the summer anyway?
 
To adjust the temperature, look for a thermostat knob on the front of your water heater. If it has Hot, A-B-C and Very Hot settings instead of numbers, set it to Hot to achieve 120-degree bliss.
 
3. Switch to a reusable air filter
It’s a good idea to change the air filter on your heating, ventilation and air conditioning system every 30 days, says Todd Washam, director of industry and external relations at the Air Conditioning Contractors of America. But buying stacks of disposable air filters gets expensive fast.
 
Permanent electrostatic air filters may cost more than disposables initially, but they’re washable and can last up to 10 years. By cleaning your reusable filter often, you’ll ensure more air gets in while keeping efficiency-killing particles out. A win-win.
 
4. Turn up your thermostat
With summer heat in full swing, this energy-saving tip may sound crazy, but hear me out. Your air conditioner’s main job is to control indoor humidity. When set to 78 degrees, a properly installed air conditioning system will limit indoor humidity to 50% or less, keeping you comfortable while using less energy.
If you usually like things on the frigid side, 78 degrees may feel like the Sahara. Ease into it by nudging the thermostat up a little each day. It’s surprising how quickly your body adapts. And even a small change makes a big difference: You could spend 3% to 5% less on air conditioning by turning the thermostat up just one degree, according to the American Council for an Energy Efficient Economy, a nonprofit that advocates for efficient technologies.
 
5. Opt for flat-rate utilities
Also known as “budget billing” or “balanced billing,” flat-rate utility programs split your annual energy use into equal monthly payments.
 
A flat-rate plan smooths away seasonal bill spikes, but make sure you understand the terms before signing up. Ask about service fees, how often rates readjust, and what happens if your actual energy use differs from the power company’s estimate.
 
Bonus: Learn to read your meter
Much like checking your bank account balance, reading your energy meter gives you a better understanding of real-time usage and may help you spot billing errors.
 
If you have a digital meter, reading it is easy: Simply record the numbers you see, from left to right.
If you have an analog meter, do-it-yourself readings take a bit more work. You’ll still read the numbers from left to right, but if a dial hand is between two numbers, record the lower number. And if a dial hand points directly at a number, check the dial to the right before recording it. If the dial to the right is on 9, subtract one from the dial you’re looking at before recording it. Otherwise, record it as is.
 
Once you’ve recorded two readings, subtract the first reading from the second to see how much energy you’ve used in the interim. You can record readings on a regular basis to keep tabs on your consumption over time.
 
More From NerdWallet Beth Buczynski is a writer at NerdWallet. Email: bbuczynski@nerdwallet.com. Twitter: @bethbuczynski.
The article 5 Ways to Save Energy During the Dog Days of Summer originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Coulee Bank Q-Tip: A Top Ten List of Secure Computing Tips 

Tip #1 - You are a target to hackers
Don't ever say "It won't happen to me".  We are all at risk and the stakes are high - to your personal and financial well-being. 
  • By following the tips below and remaining vigilant, you are doing your part to protect yourself and others.
Tip #2 - Keep software up to date
Installing software updates for your operating system and programs is critical. Always install the latest security updates for your devices:
  • Turn on Automatic Updates for your operating system.
  • Use web browsers such as Chrome or Firefox that receive frequent, automatic security updates.
  • Make sure to keep browser plug-ins (Flash, Java, etc.) up to date.
Tip #3 - Avoid Phishing scams - beware of suspicious emails and phone calls
Phishing scams are a constant threat - using various social engineering ploys, cyber criminals will attempt to trick you into divulging personal information such as your login ID and password, banking or credit card information.
  • Phishing scams can be carried out by phone, text, or through social networking sites - but most commonly by email.
  • Be suspicious of any official-looking email message or phone call that asks for personal or financial information.
Tip #4 - Practice good password management
We all have too many passwords to manage - and it's easy to take short-cuts, like reusing the same password.  A password management program can help you to maintain strong unique passwords for all of your accounts.  These programs can generate strong passwords for you, enter credentials automatically, and remind you to update your passwords periodically. 
There are several online password management services that offer free versions.
Here are some general password tips to keep in mind:
  • Use long passwords - 20 characters or more is recommended.
  • Use a strong mix of characters, and never use the same password for multiple sites.
  • Don't share your passwords and don't write them down (especially not on a post-it note attached to your monitor).
  • Update your passwords periodically, at least once every 6 months (90 days is better).
Tip #5 - Be careful what you click
Avoid visiting unknown websites or downloading software from untrusted sources.  These sites often host malware that will automatically, and often silently, compromise your computer.
If attachments or links in email are unexpected or suspicious for any reason, don't click on it.
Regular consensus is using browser add-on features that prevent the automatic download of plug-in content (e.g., Java, Flash) and scripts that can harbor malicious code.
 
Tip #6 - Never leave devices unattended
The physical security of your devices is just as important as their technical security. 
  • If you need to leave your laptop, phone, or tablet for any length of time - lock it up so no one else can use it. 
  • If you keep sensitive information on a flash drive or external hard drive, make sure to keep these locked as well. 
  • For desktop computers, shut-down the system when not in use - or lock your screen.
Tip #7 - Protect sensitive data
Be aware of sensitive data that you come into contact with, and associated restrictions -In general:
  • Keep sensitive data (e.g., SSN's, credit card information, student records, health information, etc.) off of your workstation, laptop, or mobile devices.
  • Securely remove sensitive data files from your system when they are no longer needed.
  • Always use encryption when storing or transmitting sensitive data.
Tip #8 - Use mobile devices safely
Considering how much we rely on our mobile devices, and how susceptible they are to attack, you'll want to make sure you are protected:
  • Lock your device with a PIN or password - and never leave it unprotected in public.
  • Only install apps from trusted sources.
  • Keep your device's operating system updated.
  • Don't click on links or attachments from unsolicited emails or texts.
  • Avoid transmitting or storing personal information on the device.
  • Most handheld devices are capable of employing data encryption - consult your device's documentation for available options.
  • Use Apple's Find my iPhone(link is external) or the Android Device Manager(link is external) tools to help prevent loss or theft.
  • Backup your data.
Tip #9 - Install anti-virus protection
Only install an anti-virus program from a known and trusted source.  Keep virus definitions, engines and software up to date to ensure your anti-virus program remains effective.
 
Tip #10 - Back up your data
Back up on a regular basis - if you are a victim of a security incident, the only guaranteed way to repair your computer is to erase and re-install the system.
 
Here are some additional tips to help keep you safe and secure online:
  • Use a firewall - Mac and Windows have basic desktop firewalls as part of their operating system that can help protect your computer from external attacks.
  • Use public wireless hot-spots wisely.
  • Be conscientious of what you plug in to your computer (flash drives and even smart phones can contain malware).
  • Be careful of what you share on social networking sites.
  • Monitor your accounts for suspicious activity.
  • Bank or shop online only on trusted devices and networks - and logout of these sites when you've completed your transactions.
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: Consider a Charitable IRA Gift

Wondering what to do with your annual IRA Required Minimum Distribution? If you can live without the income (and taxes) that a large Required Minimum Distribution (RMD) generates, think about taking a Qualified Charitable Distribution (QCD) from your traditional Individual Retirement Account (IRA) to satisfy your Required Minimum Distribution requirement.
 
If you are a traditional IRA owner aged 70½ or older, you can gift up to $100,000 a year to a qualified charity this way. The donation must be a direct transfer of assets-it cannot pass through your hands.[1]
 
What are the tax advantages of a QCD? You can exclude the amount of the gift from your adjusted gross income for the year in which you make the donation. Depending on your situation, this may also help you avoid taxation of your Social Security benefits or the Medicare surtax. Since a QCD is not a deduction, even taxpayers who don’t itemize can benefit from one.1,[2]
 
Does the income from your annual IRA Required Minimum Distribution risk putting you into a higher tax bracket? Imagine being able to lower your adjusted gross income by up to $100,000 a year while also helping a charity. By the way, that $100,000 annual QCD limit is an individual limit. A married couple can donate up to $200,000 in a year via QCDs while meeting some or all of their Required Minimum Distribution requirements.[3]
 
You may want to plan a QCD well before the December 31 deadline. Call or email me to explore this possibility now-it may provide you with a substantial federal tax break.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific tax issues with a qualified tax advisor.
 
Sources/Disclaimers:
This material was prepared for Shari Hopkins and the Coulee Investment Center 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. This is neither a solicitation nor recommendation to purchase or sell any investment or insurance product or service, and should not be relied upon as such.
 

Not FDIC Insured

No Bank Guarantee

May Lose Value

Not a Deposit

Not Insured by any Federal Government Agency

[1] CNBC.com, “Now you can donate to charity through your IRA” (November 28, 2016)
[2] Forbes.com, “The ABCs Of Using Your Retirement Account For Charitable Giving” (May 17, 2017)
[3] Forbes.com, “Why Retirees Need To Stop Writing Checks To Charities” (January 20, 2016)