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Coulee Bank

July 2016 E-Newsletter

Defending Yourself Against Identity Theft

As technology advances, you can be sure that identity thieves are not far behind. Here are some common methods cyber thieves use to steal your personal information and how you can increase your security while shopping or banking.

Your email messages may not be quite what they appear to be if you're targeted by a phishing scam. Phishing is the act of sending fraudulent emails that seem to come from familiar businesses. These messages contain links to phony websites designed to steal personal information either directly or through malware and keyloggers. Often you'll see a problem referenced with a request to click on the link provided to correct it. Once you've entered your information, ID thieves can access your accounts.
Vishing is the telephone version of phishing. Callers are sometimes bold enough to suggest the victim call back to verify authenticity. But the vishers don't actually hang up; instead they play a recorded dial tone to make the victim believe he's making a call.

Debit and credit card fraud
Most shoppers love the convenience of plastic, and identity thieves use this to their advantage whether it involves skimming, phishing, vishing, malware, mail theft or just looking over a victim's shoulder to steal account numbers. When debit cards are compromised, it's particularly alarming because fraudulent purchases drain your checking account instantly.

BEC scams
Business email compromise, or BEC, scams have cost companies more than $1.2 billion. A phony email from a CEO requesting that funds be transferred per attached instructions is sent to an employee. Because the email appears to come from the employee's superiors, and because the message so closely resembles requests this employee receives regularly, the transfer is often made without question. The money then ends up in overseas accounts that are almost impossible to trace.

Tips to protect yourself
To even further reduce fraud risk:
  • Install the latest editions of antispyware, antivirus, firewalls and browsers to all devices, and password protect them.
  • Use strong passwords for all accounts and change them frequently.
  • Monitor accounts and credit reports to detect fraud early.
  • Don't use public Wi-Fi networks for financial transactions.
  • Keep cards away from public view, and shred personal documents before discarding.
  • Opt in for two-factor authentication on accounts.
  • Turn off bluetooth and near field communication when not in use.
  • Don't click on email links. Type full web addresses to access business websites.
  • Never share sensitive information with unsolicited callers or email senders.
  • To verify calls, hang up for at least one minute to insure the first call is disconnected.
  • To protect your business from BEC scams, use a two-step verification process for all money transfers. Verbal confirmation is also wise.
Staying informed and adopting smart fraud prevention practices will go a long way toward protecting your identity. Between your efforts and your bank's security, you should be able to stay a step ahead of identity thieves.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Heard on the Street: Coulee Bank to open new Rochester Branch

La Crosse-based Coulee Bank is ramping up its plans to open a full-service branch in Rochester.

Coulee, which also has locations in St. Paul and Onalaska, Wis., has purchased the Family Service Rochester building at 1110 Sixth St. NW on Civic Center Drive by Barlow Plaza. The nonprofit Family Service is expected to move to its new home at 4600 18th Ave. NW on Friday.
Coulee Bank CEO Brad Sturm says the plan is to transform the first floor of the high-profile building in a bank branch featuring "a full range of consumer and business lending and depository products and services" plus a 24-hour ATM.

The bank first established a presence in the Med City in 2014, when it opened a lending production office under the management of a well-known Rochester banker, Matt Nigbur. That office has flourished, according to Sturm.

"Building upon that momentum, we feel now is the appropriate time for us to expand with the opening of a new full-service branch in the Rochester market," he said Tuesday in a news release.

If everything goes as planned, the new branch is expected to open in the fall.

Coulee currently has two employees in Rochester. Sturm said he expects to have a team of six here, when the branch opens.

"We hope that number will double in the next few years," he said. "We wouldn't be opening there if we didn't expect growth."

While Coulee is filling the lower level of the Civic Center Drive building, the plan for the second floor is to line up tenants for the additional space. They already are in talks with potential candidates.

Why open a branch in Rochester?

"We identify with communities that have growth and energy. Rochester certainly fills that bill," said Sturm. "There's a lot happening Rochester, not just with DMC (Destination Medical Center). We want to be part of that."

Security Q-Tips: Reusing Credentials is a Very Bad Idea!

Since high profile breaches involving user credentials, usernames and passwords, are seemingly occurring by the month these days, 10-D Security wanted to discuss what malicious people do with this information, and ways you can protect yourself if your credentials are ever stolen.
Follow the Money
Typically a large dump of credentials, usually stolen from a service provider, will be sold on various dark websites often hosted overseas.  Purchasers of these credentials will many times use them to log into various high target websites such as online retailers, digital video game storefronts, and banking websites.  The hope is that people who had their account information stolen from one service provider will also be using the same set of credentials for other services.  The passwords are regularly separated to create a wordlist to use for password cracking.  Email addresses will frequently be sold for use in spam (email) campaigns.
Now that we have discussed what a credential breach can lead to, it is important to discuss the ways to protect yourself.  First and foremost, and it cannot be stressed enough:  DO NOT USE THE SAME SET OF CREDENTIALS FOR MULTIPLE SITES AND SERVICES.  In addition to unique credentials, multi-factor authentication should be used when available.  This goes double for any credential tied to banking and online shopping.  It is also recommended that using your cellphone or a token instead of an email address for multi-factor authentication, as it is easier for attackers to compromise an email account compared to something you have in your physical possession.  When your service provider has been breached, change your password immediately, even if you are unsure if your account was impacted or not.

When Debt Can Be Good for You - And When It's Bad

It's next to impossible to go through life without accruing some debt. The good news is that some loans can be healthy and even productive, which means there's no rush to pay them off. Other debts should be erased more quickly. Here are a few examples of debt that can help — and hurt — your financial health.

Good debt

Student loans
As overwhelming as education loans can be, how you handle this debt can actually boost your credit. The three major credit bureaus — Experian, TransUnion and Equifax — consider this debt as a type of installment loan. So if you make payments in full and on time each month, you build up a good credit history, which future lenders will recognize. More specifically, properly handling student debt can boost your credit score.
Education loans can also help decrease your taxable income. On your federal tax return, the interest you pay on loans can be deductible up to $2,500 or the amount you paid, whichever is lower, provided you meet certain qualifications.
Plus, student loans tend to have more manageable interest rates, in the single digits, compared with other forms of debt such as credit card balances. The standard amount of time to repay federal education loans is 10 to 25 years, depending on the loan.

Mortgage loans
Like student debt, a mortgage is an installment loan. As long as you make monthly payments in full and on time, you can maintain or improve your credit score. The interest you pay can also be tax-deductible.
Mortgage rates and terms can vary, which can affect their quality as good or bad debt. A fixed-rate loan's payments won't change over its term, which can make paying it easier to manage. Paying an adjustable-rate mortgage can be more challenging after any fixed-rate introductory period ends if the market pushes the rate — and the payment — higher.

Auto loans
You can help your credit score rise by making full payments on time on an auto loan. You'll also help your auto-enhanced score, which looks at auto credit history, including any vehicle repossessions or bankruptcy effects. But cars depreciate with time and use, so try to avoid winding up owing more than a car is worth. This can happen if you latch onto a loan that doesn't require a down payment, or where the monthly payments are low and the loan lasts for six or more years.

Bad debt

Credit card balances
A credit card gives you access to a revolving line of credit, meaning you can use as much as the card limit, pay the money back and borrow it again. If you overuse a card, though, your credit score can drop. With cards typically carrying a double-digit rate, keeping an outstanding balance can mean paying thousands of dollars extra over time. The average household with a card balance owed $15,355 as of the third quarter of 2015.

Short-term loans
Short-term loans, either from payday lenders or lenders that demand property such as an auto title as collateral, can ensnare borrowers in debt traps or lead to property losses while the annual interest rate can soar to over 400%, according to federal regulators. This is one of the most potentially harmful sorts of borrowing.
Whether debt is good or bad relates to how it may affect your finances. Using debt to invest in your home can build equity, and education debt can lead to a better job, both of which can pay off later on. Short-term borrowing and carrying high-cost balances are both unproductive and harmful to your credit.

When weighing whether to take on debt, make sure it's affordable so your financial health remains strong.

© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Investment Corner: Bequest or Beneficiary: In Estate Planning, the Difference Is Crucial  

The scenario plays out over and over again in attorneys' offices: A family brings a parent's will to be probated. The will is complete, well-thought-out, and takes into consideration current tax law. But under closer examination, the attorney discovers that the deceased's estate plan doesn't work. Why? Because a substantial portion of the parent's assets pass by beneficiary designation and are not controlled by a will.
Increasingly, investors have the opportunity to name beneficiaries directly on a wide range of financial accounts, including employer-sponsored retirement savings plans, IRAs, brokerage and bank accounts, insurance policies, U.S. savings bonds, mutual funds, and individual stocks and bonds.
The upside of these arrangements is that when the account holder dies, the monies go directly to the beneficiary named on the account, bypassing the sometimes lengthy and costly probate process. The "fatal flaw" of beneficiary-designated assets is that because they are not considered probate assets, they pass "under the radar screen" and trump the directions spelled out in a will. This all too often leads to unintended consequences -- individuals who you no longer wish to inherit property do, some individuals receive more than you intended, some receive less, and ultimately, there may not be enough money available to fund the bequests you laid out in your will.
Unnamed or Lapsed Beneficiaries
Not naming beneficiaries or failing to update forms if a beneficiary dies can have its own unintended repercussions, which can be particularly damaging in the case of retirement accounts. For instance, if the beneficiary of an IRA is a spouse and he or she predeceases the account holder and no contingent (second in line) beneficiary(ies) are named, when the account holder dies, the IRA typically would pass to the estate instead of the children directly as the account holder likely would have preferred. This not only would generate a tax bill for the children, it would also prevent them from stretching IRA distributions out over their lifetime.
Planning Priorities
Given these very real consequences, it is important to work with an estate planning professional to ensure coordination between your beneficiary-designated assets and the disposition of property as it is spelled out in your will.
You should also review your beneficiary designations on a regular basis -- at least every few years -- and/or when certain life events occur, such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one, a divorce or a marriage, and update them, as necessary, in accordance with your wishes.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for specific individualized tax or legal advice. We suggest that you discuss your specific situation with a qualified tax or legal advisor.

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© 2015 Wealth Management Systems Inc. All rights reserved.

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