3 Financial Tips for Snowbirds

eNews-Snowbird

Coordinating your winter travel plans can be chaotic. In the midst of preparing for your trip, keep in mind these three tips to ensure smooth sailing while you’re somewhere warm.

1. Communicate your change of address.

There are several businesses that should be aware of your change of address for the winter season, including Merchants Bank. To ensure you continue to receive important financial, medical or family information or to discontinue specific subscription services, you should contact the following regarding your address change:

  • Your bank
  • The Post Office
  • Your local newspaper (if you have it delivered)
  • Other delivery services

To alert Merchants Bank of your address change, stop in or call your local branch (link to contact us page) to let us know of the change. Please include dates of departure and return as well as the names of other account holders living at your address.

2. Know how to access your bank account information.

Managing your money across a few states or a country is critical to helping you feel at ease during your trip. Make sure you are comfortable with getting information about your accounts and managing your money through one of the following free options:

Or, if you prefer assistance enrolling in any of the listed services, simply contact our Electronic Banking department at 866-496-0522.

3. Be diligent in protecting your identity.

In the course of your travels, there are a number of circumstances that could impact the chance of identity theft. You could lose track of a card, leave financial statements in the mailbox, or post publically on a social media site that you’re out of town, which lets criminals know that your house is empty. Review our security tips to ensure that your personal information is safe.

Click here to view our Snowbird Kit.

Prevent Fraud on Your Merchants Bank Cards

fraud word abstractPreventing fraud on your bank accounts can feel like a daunting process, but at Merchants Bank, we make it easy. By collaborating with us, you’ll have 24/7 fraud detection monitoring on your debit and credit card accounts and gain access to education on latest fraud alerts and trends. The fight to prevent fraud involves not only our expertise and diligence, but a constant open line of communication with each of our customers.

How does fraud detection at Merchants Bank work?

  • We work with our trusted partners, FraudWatch at Elan Financial Services and VISA Falcon Fraud Prevention Services, to monitor fraud trends and detect fraudulent transactions on your debit or credit card accounts 24/7.
  • We will call you in the event of a suspicious transaction. You may receive a call from our partners, Elan or Falcon, who will make you aware that the call is being placed on behalf of Merchants Bank.
  • When our partners call you they will ask you for some identifying information – such as the last four digits of your Social Security Number. They will never ask you for your full number. If you are uncomfortable and don’t want to speak with our partners, please call your local Merchants Bank office and verify the transaction or let us know that you did not make the purchase in question.

What can you do to prevent fraud? Keep in touch!

  • Ensure the Bank has your most up-to-date contact information. Call your local branch if you need to make any changes.
  • Contact us before you go on vacation and don’t be shy about sharing the details, for example: dates, exact locations and how we can contact you while you’re gone. If you make purchases in a state or country where you don’t normally use your card, we may think these transactions are fraudulent unless we know otherwise.
  • If you forget to contact us before you left on vacation, call a Customer Service Representative at your local branch during your trip to provide the information listed above.
  • Contact us if you’ll be making a large purchase that would be uncharacteristic when compared to your purchase history.

Click here for more security information from Merchants Bank make sure to review the Alerts section of our website.

Five Common Online Banking Mistakes

7-14 OnlineMany will argue that banking online has been the best invention since sliced bread. And there’s no doubt about that: no more statements and papers — everything is on your computer or mobile device, right at your fingertips.

But while banking online is certainly a feat that will make your life easier, there are some things that people do without even realizing it can be hazardous to your account safety. For your own security and protection, avoid these top online banking mistakes:

1. Don’t use an easy-to-guess password – You may be surprised at how many people don’t use original passwords, and how dangerous it can be. In an analysis of 32 million passwords done by Imperva, an Internet and data security company, found the top 10 passwords are: 123456, 12345, 123456789, Password, iloveyou, princess, rockyou, 1234567, 12345678 and abc123. These give hackers an easy in to your account. If you’re using one of these or something similar, consider changing it. Note that the best passwords are ones that use both letters and numerals and involve both lowercase and uppercase characters. Also, avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.

2. Don’t use public Wi-Fi – When it comes to online banking, accessing community Wi-Fi is a no-no. Why?

“People generally don’t bother to check out the security characteristics of public networks before logging on, plus wireless transmissions can be intercepted by nearby Bluetooth-type devices,” says Richard Barrington, a spokesman for MoneyRates.com. That includes public libraries, too.

“The PCs [at libraries] are subject to viruses and spyware that you have no control over,” explains Robert Sicillano, a consultant for McAfee, an expert on identity theft.

3. Don’t dismiss anti-virus protection - This kind of software helps detect and protect you from malicious software (malware) and computer viruses. That’s important because “[Common viruses like] trojans and worms can infect your computer and use keystrokes and other tactics to get your bank credentials,” warns Sol Nasisi, chief economist at BestCashCow.com. It’s best if you set up your protection software to automatically update daily. Also, sometimes your financial institution may provide free software, so be sure to ask about it if you’re unsure.

4. Don’t ignore your account - Check your account regularly. That will help ensure nothing suspicious is going on in your checking and savings accounts. Try checking it once a day or week, but at minimum, you should be looking at it once a month. If you see any suspicious activity, report it to your bank immediately.

5. Don’t post password hints on social media – It sounds obvious, but don’t share any super personal information on any of your social media accounts, including Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc. Doing so makes it easy for criminals to use this information and possibly open up an account in your name, or even use it to guess what your password is.

“It’s important to be careful sharing your pet’s name, your children’s names, or the name of the high school you attended, especially if you use this information as account passwords or answers to security questions,” says Lisa Robinson, a senior vice president at Wells Fargo Internet Services Group. “Never share your mother’s maiden name, your Social Security number, your bank account numbers, or your user names or passwords for any account.”

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Protect Your Mobile Phones and Tablets

SecurityENWith the continuing evolution of technology, mobile phones and tablets are becoming prevalent in their use, taking the place of computers for many people. We want to remind you that it is equally as important to protect your mobile phones and tablets with antivirus and anti-malware apps as it has been to protect your computer.

This need for protection has been brought more into focus lately with a malware that locks devices attacking the users/customers of larger financial institutions. While we believe that community banks like Merchants are low on the priority list of these attacks, we still want you to be prepared.

The good news for iPad and iPhone users is that there isn’t any need for the use of antivirus and anti-malware apps. It has been taken care of in the design of the device.

For Android devices, like non-Apple phones and tablets, there are a number of different of apps that can be used to combat viruses and malware. We’ve listed a number of them in alphabetical order for you and encourage you to research these apps more in depth. You can download all these apps from the “Google play” store:

  • 360 Mobile Security – Free.
  • Antivirus and Mobile Security – Free.
  • Antivirus Mobile Security – There are paid versions available.
  • AntiVirus Security Free by AVG – Free.
  • BitDefender AntiVirus Free – Free.
  • Dr. Web Antivirus – There is a free version and paid version.
  • Hornet AntiVirus Free – Free.
  • Lookout Security & Antivirus – Free.
  • Mobile Security Antivirus FREE – Free.
  • Norton Security Antivirus – There is a free version and paid version.
  • NQ Mobile Security & Antivirus – There is a free version and paid version.
  • Mobile Security and AntiVirus by Avast – There is a free version and paid versions.
  • Mobile Security and Antivirus by ESET – There is a free version and paid version.
  • Zoner AntiVirus Free – There is a free version and paid version.

Cyber Security Tips for Business Owners

CyberSecurityTipsIf you own a business, your list of stressors is probably vast: Sales, employee turnover, competition — so the last thing you want to worry about is your cyber security. Nevertheless, it’s important to establish an official security plan. Why? Cyber fraud (any crime that involves a computer and/or network) is becoming more and more of a frequent issue. In fact, companies with 250 employees or less suffered more than 30 percent of all online attacks last year (up from about 18 percent in 2011), according to Symantec.com’s 2013 Internet Security Threat Report.

“Cyber criminals are business people, too,” said Arild Jensen, owner of Secos Security, a Granada Hills, CA firm that specializes in cyber security for small businesses. “They’re going to go for the easiest, most rewarding target.”

Fear not. Here are five easy ways to make sure your business’s Internet environment is as secure as it can be.

1. Choose strong passwords. Make sure passwords — for e-mail, Wi-Fi, websites and other platforms — are secure. The most important aspect of creating a password: How long it is.

“The length of the password matters more than its absolute complexity,” explains Steve Gibson, president of Gibson Research in CA. They should be eight or more characters. For even more protection, include letters, numbers, punctuation or special symbols, like an exclamation point.

2. Stay up to date — on everything. That means having the latest security software, web browser, operating system, etc., which can help guard against viruses, malware and other online threats. Most of these programs can be set to update automatically. Also important: Whenever you update your antivirus software, make sure to run a scan afterward. Installing or updating your antispyware technology is crucial as well. Spyware — as the title suggests — essentially spies on you, and is able to access personal information from your business without you knowing.

3. Pay attention to Wi-Fi. Rename your office network and change the password often, about every five or six months.

“Almost anyone can go online and find software that will automatically break into [the network],” explains Michael Hicks, director of the University of Maryland — College Park’s Cybersecurity Center. Tip: Avoid making the network title your company’s name.

4. Work with your financial institution. Ask your financial institution about protection programs. They may be able to offer a plan that allows you to monitor any suspicious activity that has occurred, like checking payments that you don’t recognize. This can help you prevent any unauthorized transactions before they occur.

5. Back up your data regularly. Sometimes, even when you do everything right, hacking can still occur. Having backup copies of important business data and information ensures that you’ll never have to start from square one. Store extra files (everything from Word documents and spreadsheets to human resource info and financial files) at a location other than your office. To make it easier, set up your files so they get backed up automatically.

6. Educate your employees.
Making sure workers are up to speed on the safest online tactics means less of a chance of a cyber mishap. Also instill the importance of not posting any confidential business-related information on social media platforms they may have, and that they don’t store business-related information on personal hard drives. Your employee’s passwords should also be different from what they use for personal passwords.

 

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Target Data Breach

Target is investigating a potential data breach that may have affected millions of debit and credit cards nationwide. Initial reports indicate the breach appears to have started around Black Friday, November 28, 2013, and may have extended through the middle of December.

If you used a debit card, credit card or gift card at a Target store between these dates, please be sure to monitor your account activity closely for fraudulent transactions and report any transactions that you did not initiate to the financial institution that issued your card.

We have not yet received notification that any Merchants Bank credit cards or debit cards were involved in the breach, and even though Merchants Bank has fraud monitoring security in place, we strongly encourage Merchants Bank customers to monitor their own Merchants Bank Credit Card and Debit Card activity. For our customers who would prefer the peace of mind of having their current card(s) closed and new ones reissued, please feel free to stop in your local Merchants Bank office.

To monitor Merchants Bank Credit Card activity, please go to www.merchantsbank.com and click on Credit Card Login.

To monitor Merchants Bank Debit Card activity, please go to www.merchantsbank.com and login to your Online Banking account.

To monitor Merchants Bank Visa Gift Card activity, please go to www.ppdmoney.com or call 1-866-208-3282.

If you notice any fraudulent activity on a Merchants Bank credit or debit card, please report it as soon as possible by calling your local Merchants Bank branch or calling toll-free, 1-800-944-6285. Please note, initial reports indicate that the data breach did not affect purchases made online at Target, just in the retail stores.

For tips on protecting your card information, identity, and more, please visit https://www.merchantsbank.com/files/IdentityTheft.pdf

Password Security Tip

While your children’s names, pet’s name, address, phone number, favorite sports team, favorite actor or actress, vacation spot, etc., are very memorable, there’s one thing they are not: good passwords. Most criminals can figure them out without much difficulty, and those criminals can also find those passwords when written down. So, what do you think is a secure password? A mixture of upper and lower case letters, numbers and symbols. A good tip is including at least three special characters before, after or within a password. For additional security tips, visit our website.