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March 2018 E-Newsletter

What Everyone Should Know About EMV Cards

Americans report billions of dollars in credit and debit card fraud each year. A new technology using microprocessors called EMV chips could help curb future losses.
 
The chips are embedded on the front of credit and debit cards and exchange information with chip-card readers. Used together, the two make it harder for fraudsters to copy card information and make bogus in-store purchases.
 
Here’s what you need to know about EMV cards:

How EMV works
If you have an EMV card, you’ll insert the chipped end into a slot on an EMV-enabled reader, instead of swiping. Leave the card there for a few seconds, while the chip exchanges information with the payment processing system and authenticates the account; then remove it. Depending on the account, you might also sign for the purchase or enter a personal identification number, or PIN, to verify your identity and complete the sale.
 
How chips protect you
Named for developers Europay, MasterCard and Visa, EMV chips encrypt your information and generate a unique code each time you use your card. Each code can be used only once — so they’re useless to hackers.
 
Traditional cards use a magnetic strip that transmits the same unencrypted information every time you swipe. If someone copies the data, he or she can easily duplicate your plastic and use it to make fraudulent purchases.
 
Where they’re used
EMV-enabled cards are already the standard in parts of Europe, Asia, Latin America and the Middle East. In the U.S., where credit and debit card fraud losses have risen steadily over the past few years, retailers and issuers are slowly catching up. Many issuers have sent new EMV cards to customers, and chip-card readers are becoming more common at stores across the U.S.
 
Banks, credit card companies and merchants in the U.S. picked up the pace of adoption last fall, when new fraud liability standards went into effect. Before Oct. 1, credit card issuers had borne the brunt of fraud losses, but responsibility now could fall to the retailer, if its system is less secure than the card used.
 
What it means for you
There’s a good chance you’ve already received an EMV card. If you haven’t, call your financial services provider and ask for one.

Using an EMV card at a retailer that has a chip-reading system should make your purchase more secure. It will also make it easier to use your card in the myriad of countries that already have the technology. Traditional cards can still be used most places too.
 
Although EMV technology helps you shop more safely, it doesn’t thwart thieves entirely. Hackers can still pilfer your card information online or over the phone, or simply steal your card. So it’s wise to exercise caution when using your credit or debit card. If your card goes missing or you spot suspicious activity, notify your financial institution immediately.
 
© Copyright 2016 NerdWallet, Inc. All Rights Reserved

Is Online Banking Safe? How to Boost Your Online Banking Security

When you bank online, you trust that your account is safe from hackers. Even so, online accounts can seem to consumers like easy targets: Instead of robbing a bank, a criminal could simply whisk away your money with a few keystrokes.
                                                         
To combat these concerns — and protect your cash — banks and credit unions have a number of policies to keep online customer accounts secure. Standard measures include using firewalls, anti-virus protection on bank computers, fraud monitoring and website encryption, which scrambles data so only the intended recipient can read it. If you bank online, chances are your financial institution employs these security measures.
 
So is online banking already safe?
Online banking is safe when secure bank technology on the back end is met with alert consumers on the front end. As an account holder, you have a role in making sure accounts are protected.
 
Large-scale data breaches get the headlines, but criminals also work on a smaller scale by attacking consumers directly. For example, fraudsters often use so-called phishing scams, in which they send out emails pretending to represent a financial institution in the hopes of hooking an unsuspecting consumer.
 
The email might suggest there’s a problem with your account and ask for your bank password or Social Security number. Or it might say you won $100 million, but your account information is needed to wire the funds. If you reply, the criminal could use the information to illegally make purchases or withdraw money from your account. Don’t respond to emails that are too good — or bad — to be true.
 
Ways to protect yourself

Skip public Wi-Fi for private banking. With a public network, you can’t be totally sure who sees what you send online, unless each page you visit is encrypted. The security of your private home network is ideal. If you have to log in while away from home, consider using your cellular data plan instead of Wi-Fi, or a virtual private network, known as a VPN. However you choose to log in, check for web page encryption by making sure the address on the browser starts with “https.” The “s” signals that the page is secure.
 
Keep anti-virus software current. Make sure yours is up to date on your home computers and mobile devices.
 
Choose an institution that uses industry-standard security. You probably already want a bank or credit union that offers accounts with low fees and high interest rates. Add “top notch security” to your checklist. Then, make sure your online accounts are backed by robust technology.
 
An example is multifactor authentication. Here’s how it works: When logging in, instead of just asking for a username and password, the financial institution requires you to provide another piece of information, or factor, to verify yourself. It could be a unique passcode sent to your smartphone as a text message, or even your own fingerprint. The point is it’s another layer, one not so easy to steal.
 
Many of the larger online banks — and traditional institutions with online accounts — adhere to these standards, so it should be easy to find a bank or credit union that fits the bill.
 
Change passwords regularly. Use combinations that are difficult to guess, such as a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers and symbols. The more complex the password, the harder it will be to crack and the more likely it will provide protection against hackers.
 
Ask for text alerts. Many institutions let customers choose to receive alerts via text or email whenever large transactions are made on their accounts, or if the balance drops to a certain amount. That way, customers can reach out to the bank immediately if they see a purchase or transfer they didn’t make, and protect their account against further fraudulent activity. In addition, customers can dispute unauthorized charges for 60 days after the date of their bank statement.
 
Online banking comes with its own set of risks, but there are also conveniences — monitoring your balances to avoid fees, depositing checks, sending money to friends and family, and earning more interest from online-only banks that feature the best rates.

Take steps to protect your accounts while making sure your bank uses industry-standard security technology. This way you can enjoy the conveniences of banking online while also keeping your accounts safe.
 
The article Is Online Banking Safe? How to Boost Your Banking Security originally appeared on NerdWallet.

Business Corner: Tips Any Small Business Owner Can Employ to Boost E-Newsletter Subscribers

For small businesses, building a good email list of engaged customers and fans is vital, but just having a little sign up box on your website is not going to cut it. If you want to grow your list you need to be proactive, and employ some of the now standard industry practices. If you are unsure of where to begin, Julie Myhre-Nunes, Director of Content at NextAdvisor.com, has plenty of great ideas to get you started. Here are her top tips for growing your email list this year.
 
Have a user-friendly sign-up form
The easiest way to boost e-newsletter subscribers is to have a user-friendly sign-up form. “While it may be tempting to include a sign-up form that asks for a lot of your customers’ information, as it will help you get to know them, you must recognize that people don’t want to spend 10 minutes filling out all this information just to sign up for your newsletter,” Myhre-Nunes warns. “Similarly, they are likely not comfortable with providing that much information to a company or website that they’re just getting to know. As such, it’s in your best interest to make a simple sign-up form that asks for your customers’ names and email addresses, for example.”
 
Include the sign-up form on your website
This one may seem obvious, but it’s something that can easily be overlooked. “After you create a sign-up form, you’ll want to make sure you put it in the same spot on every page of your website so your customers can easily locate it. Some of the best locations for a sign-up form include a sidebar, underneath the header or as a part of your website’s footer. Note that while it’s fine to use bold or differently colored text to bring attention to it, you don’t want the sign-up form to take away from other content on your site, so keep it simple,” Myhre-Nunes advises.
 
Cross-promote your newsletter
As with nearly everything else in business, your newsletter should be cross-promoted on any other platform you use to communicate with your customers. “This means you should include a sign-up form or an invitation to sign up on your social media pages, your customers’ receipts or any other platform you use,” Myhre-Nunes says. She adds, “You’ll also want to share newsletter-promoting posts on your social media networks. For example, you can share something like ‘Don’t miss out on (name of business)’s news! Sign up for our newsletter to stay in the know.’”
 
Use incentives to encourage signups
People love free stuff, and they are often willing to give away some of their information, such as their email, to get it. “It’s wise to offer some sort of incentive for customers who sign up for your newsletter,” Myhre-Nunes suggests. “For example, if you run a store, you can give customers a 10% discount code for signing up for your newsletter. Similarly, you can host a giveaway and pick the winner from newsletter subscribers (e.g., ‘Sign up for our newsletter to enter our giveaway’).”
 
Do not spam people to get subscribers
Okay, so this one is more of what not to do, but it is very important. “Your customers have lives outside of your business, and while they may love the services or products your business offers, they do not want to hear about your business all the time,” Myhre-Nunes warns.
 
“Overwhelming them with e-newsletters, social media posts, physical flyers or any other form of communication will not only lose you e-newsletter subscribers, but also likely give your company a bad name.”
 
Similarly, make sure you provide an easy opt-out for those who no longer want to be on your list. “It’s part of email marketing best practices to not only detail what subscribers can expect from your e-newsletter before they sign up, but also providing them with a way to opt out of the newsletter (e.g., an unsubscribe link at the bottom of your newsletter) if they ever change their mind. Failing to do either can get you on your customers’ bad list and even get your email marketing account cancelled, as most email marketing services take these complaints very seriously.”
 
By following these tips you can start building a high-value list for your business to foster relationships and share updates with as you grow and expand your offerings.
 
Source: https://www.forbes.com/sites/kateharrison/2017/09/09/tips-any-small-business-owner-can-employ-to-boost-e-newsletter-subscribers

Coulee Bank’s Q-Tip: Secure or Not Secure, that is the Question

Google recently announced beginning in July 2018, with the release of Chrome 68, web pages loaded without HTTPS will be marked as “not secure”.
 
At first, a change like this can seem like another way for Google to earn more money.  The safer you feel on the web, the more time you’ll spend interacting with Google services and advertisements.  While probably true in this case, it doesn’t diminish the fact that this is a very good change for everyone using Chrome.  All users can benefit from a better visual representation showing the site they are currently visiting may not be secure.
 
What does this change mean for you?  If you are a Chrome user, you can feel happy knowing that you will know whether the site you are on is not secure.  If your organization has a website that uses HTTP, you may want to migrate to HTTPS.  Otherwise, Chrome users who visit your site will see an ominous sign indicating that your website is “not secure” and may navigate to a competitor’s site.
 
For more information, see the Google announcement included at this link https://security.googleblog.com/2018/02/a-secure-web-is-here-to-stay.html
 
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: Brush Up on Your IRA Facts

If you are opening an (Individual Retirement Account) IRA for the first time or need a refresher course on the specifics of IRA ownership, here are some facts for your consideration.
 
IRAs in America
IRAs continue to play an increasingly prominent role in the retirement saving strategies of Americans. According to the Investment Company Institute (ICI), the U.S. retirement market had $25 trillion in assets as of September 30, 2016, with $7.8 trillion of that sum attributable to IRAs.1 In mid-2016, 42.5 million -- or 34% -- of U.S. households reported owning IRAs.2
Traditional IRAs, the most common variety, are held by 25.5% of U.S. households, followed by Roth IRAs, which are held by 17.4% of households, and employer-sponsored IRAs (including SEP IRAs, SAR-SEP IRAs, and SIMPLE IRAs), which are held by 5.7% of households.2
 
Contributions and Deductibility
Contribution limits. In general, the most you can contribute to an IRA for 2017 is $5,500. However, if you are age 50 or older, you can make an additional "catch-up" contribution of $1,000, which brings the maximum annual contribution to $6,500.
 
Eligibility. One potential area of confusion around IRAs concerns an individual's eligibility to make contributions. In general, tax rules require that you must have compensation to contribute to an IRA. Compensation includes income from wages and salaries and net self-employment income. If you are married and file a joint tax return, only one spouse needs to have the required compensation.
With regard to Roth IRAs, income may affect your ability to contribute. For tax year 2017, individuals with an adjusted gross income (AGI) of $118,000 or less may make a full contribution to a Roth IRA. Married couples filing jointly with an AGI of $186,000 or less may also contribute fully for the year. Contribution limits begin to decline, or "phase out," for individuals with AGIs between $118,000 and $133,000 and for married couples with AGIs between $186,000 and $196,000. If your income exceeds these upper thresholds, you may not contribute to a Roth IRA.3
 
Deductibility. Whether you can deduct your traditional IRA contribution depends on your income level, marital status, and coverage by an employer-sponsored retirement plan. For instance:3
  • If you are single and covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, your traditional IRA contribution for 2017 will be fully deductible if your AGI was $62,000 or less. The amount you can deduct begins to decline if your AGI was between $62,000 and $72,000. Your IRA contribution is not deductible if your income is equal to or more than $72,000.
  • If you are married, filing jointly, and the spouse making the IRA contribution is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, your 2017 IRA contribution will be fully deductible if your combined AGI is $99,000 or less. The amount you can deduct begins to phase out if your combined AGI is between $99,000 and $119,000. You may not claim an IRA deduction if your combined income is equal to or more than $119,000.
  • If you are married, filing jointly, and your spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored plan (but you are not), you may qualify for a full IRA deduction if your combined AGI is $186,000 or less. The amount you can deduct begins to phase out for combined incomes of between $186,000 and $196,000. Your deduction is eliminated if your AGI on a joint return is $196,000 or more.
  • If neither you nor your spouse is covered by an employer-sponsored retirement plan, your contribution is generally fully deductible up to the annual contribution limit or 100% of your compensation, whichever is less.
Keep in mind that contributions to a Roth IRA are not tax deductible under any circumstances.
 
Distributions
You may begin withdrawing money from a traditional IRA without penalty after age 59½. Generally, previously untaxed contributions and earnings are taxable at the then-current regular income tax rate. Nondeductible contributions are generally not taxable because those amounts have already been taxed.
You must begin receiving minimum annual distributions from your traditional IRA no later than April 1 of the year following the year you reach age 70½ and then annually thereafter. If your distributions in any year after you reach 70½ are less than the required minimum, you may be subject to an additional federal tax equal to 50% of the difference.
Unlike traditional IRAs, Roth IRAs do not require the account holder to take distributions during his or her lifetime. This feature can prove very attractive to those individuals who would like to use the Roth IRA as an estate planning tool.
This communication is not intended as investment and/or tax advice and should not be treated as such. Each individual's situation is different. You should contact your financial professional to discuss your personal situation.
 
Source/Disclaimer:
1Investment Company Institute, "Retirement Assets Total $25.0 Trillion in Third Quarter 2016," December 2016.
2Investment Company Institute, "The Role of IRAs in U.S. Households' Saving for Retirement, 2016," January 2017.
3Internal Revenue Service, "IRS Announces 2017 Pension Plan Limitations; 401(k) Contribution Limit Remains Unchanged at $18,000 for 2017," October 27, 2016.

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