Tip #1: How to Tell if a Website is Legitimate

SAWMonday

If you’re one of the 190 million Americans who shop online,* it’s important to take steps to verify the legitimacy of a company website before placing an order. Here are five tips to help you determine if a website is legitimate.

1. Can you easily find the company’s full contact information?

You should be able to locate the business’s full name, physical address, telephone number and email address. In addition, if you call the telephone number listed, make sure you can reach a live person who can verify details about the business.

Red Flag = You cannot find the company’s contact information.

2. Is there a Terms and Conditions web page?

Find the Terms and Conditions page on the website and read it carefully to understand company products, return policies and more.

Red Flag = You cannot find the company’s Terms and Conditions page.

3. Does the site accept secure payments?

If the company wants to accept secure payments with a credit card, they must use SSL security which properly encrypts your payment and personal information. Websites with SSL security have a website address that begins with “https” instead of “http.” For example, https://www.merchantsbank.com.

Red Flag = The company’s site does not accept secure payments.

4. Is the site design and information professional?

Review the site for typos, errors, misspellings, stolen images and more.

Red Flag = The company’s site contains any of the above.

5. What happens when you Google search the company’s name?

Type the company name into Google and read related customer reviews, feedback and articles.

Red Flag = Bad feedback or customer experiences.

Visit the FTC Consumer website for information on current website scams.

During Security Awareness week, June 1-6, 2015, Merchants Bank will be sharing a fraud prevention tip each day. Visit our blog or Facebook or LinkedIn pages tomorrow for the next article in our Security Awareness Week series.

*http://www.statista.com/statistics/183755/number-of-us-internet-shoppers-since-2009/

 

Bonnie’s Drummies

BlogRecipe-BonniesDrummies

Ingredients:

  • 3 lb. drummies
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup margarine, melted
  • 1/4 cup mustard
  • 1/2 tsp. ground ginger
  • 1 tsp. curry powder
  • 1 tsp. salt

 

Directions:

Combine and pour over drummies. Bake uncovered for 1 hour at 375 degrees.

 

Merchants Family Cookbooks are available at all Merchants Bank locations for $15. Proceeds benefit local food shelf programs.

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants Bank

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants, pictured with her husband Ben at the top of Pike's Peak.

Meet Nikki Kemp, Fraud Specialist at Merchants, pictured with her husband Ben at the top of Pike’s Peak.

When did you start your banking career?

Nikki: I started at a much smaller bank in 2011 as a Customer Service Representative. When I first came to Merchants, I worked in the Electronic Banking department and since that time have become our Fraud Specialist.

What is your top fraud prevention tip?

Nikki: It’s difficult to pick one because there are so many tips to preventing fraud. I would say my first tip is to be conscious of where you are using your debit card – physical stores and online. Do you know and trust the company you are purchasing from? It’s important to stick with places you know. If a company or person calls asking you for your card information, be extremely cautious. Keep in mind that the Bank will never ask for your personal information unless you have previously initiated a conversation with us about your accounts or a loan application.

I would also recommend reviewing your bank statements or Online Banking records regularly. Set aside time to review purchases and if you notice something suspicious, call the Bank and talk to your Customer Service Representative or Electronic Banking immediately. If your account goes unchecked, fraud can go undetected for months or even years.

What’s one thing your mom or dad taught you about money?

Nikki: They taught me to be cautious with credit cards. It’s easy to get in over your head if you’re not careful. My husband and I regularly review upcoming expenses and discuss when we should pay with our credit cards versus our debit card. Once our plan is set, we stick to it.

If you could ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange with anyone, who would it be and why?

Nikki: My husband. He has always wanted to go to New York City and I think he would like to enjoy the experience.

Besides money, what’s your favorite green thing?

Nikki: My garden – It’s my hobby outside of work. My family always had a garden when I was growing up and now I have one that’s 14×14 feet in my backyard (I know, because I had to dig out the sod myself!). We grow most of your standard vegetables, like tomatoes, onions and peppers. I also have pots for plants that spread, like strawberries.

For more information on our electronic banking options, visit our website.

Jim Vrchota Joins Merchants Bank in Winona as a Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota, Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota, Vice President and Commercial Banker

Jim Vrchota has joined the team at Merchants Bank as Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Randy Domeyer, Senior Vice President and Commercial Banking Department Manager

“We are excited to have Jim join our team in Winona,” Domeyer said. “His experience in business development and lending will benefit our customers and our lending team here at Merchants Bank.”

Vrchota has more than 33 years of experience in the banking industry, much of it as a Senior Lender and Market President. Most recently he served as Senior Vice President at United Prairie Bank in Spicer, Minnesota, where he worked in commercial and ag lending. Vrchota also has a great deal of experience in SBA (Small Business Administration) lending.

“I am happy to be a part of a banking organization that has such a tremendous reputation for helping its customers meet their goals,” Vrchota said. “I look forward to becoming a part of the Winona community.”

Vrchota has a long history of community involvement, especially in the areas of economic development and community service.

Liz Diggins Joins Merchants Bank in Red Wing as a Commercial Banker

Liz Diggins, Commercial Banker

Liz Diggins, Commercial Banker

Liz Diggins has joined Merchants Bank in Red Wing as a Commercial Banker, according to Brian Hokanson, Senior Vice President and Senior Lender for Merchants Bank.

Diggins is well known in the Red Wing area, spending the past 12 years working with commercial and agricultural loans and loan customers at Associated Bank in Red Wing.

“Liz is a tremendous communicator, who enjoys working with clients and helping them to achieve success,” Hokanson said. “We are fortunate she has chosen Merchants Bank, and we look forward to working with her as she utilizes her skills helping others reach their goals.”

A Red Wing native, Diggins is currently the treasurer for the United Way of Goodhue, Wabasha and Pierce Counties. She also serves as treasurer for the Wells Creek Riders Snowmobile Club.

“I am thrilled to be working with Merchants Bank because of its commitment to the community,” Diggins said. “Helping Red Wing to continue to grow is important to me, and there’s no better place to make that commitment to the future than at Merchants Bank.”

In addition to graduating from Red Wing Central High School, Diggins has an undergraduate degree in business management from the College of Saint Benedict and a graduate degree from the University of Wisconsin-River Falls.

John Piscitiello Joins Merchants Bank in Apple Valley as a Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello, Vice President and Commercial Banker

John Piscitiello has joined Merchants Bank in Apple Valley as a Vice President and Commercial Banker, according to Merchants Bank Regional President Lawrence Stovern.

“John’s experience with commercial lending and his experience in the Twin Cities market will allow him to assess and meet the needs of his customers,” Stovern said. “We look forward to John growing with us as we continue to expand our reach in the Twin Cities.”

Piscitiello has been in the banking industry the past 16 years, most recently with Associated Bank. He has also worked with the Safire Group, Merrill Lynch/Bank of America, and he started his career working in construction lending for his own company.

Piscitiello is a Winona native and graduate of Saint Mary’s University in Winona. Merchants Bank was founded in Winona.

“I grew up with Merchants Bank and know that it is an incredible organization and an exceptional lender. It’s also one of the best kept secrets in banking in the Twin Cities. That’s starting to change, and I look forward to introducing more business owners and key decision makers in the Twin Cities to Merchants Bank,” Piscitiello said.

Visit our website to learn more about business loans, lines of credit and more. Subject to credit approval.

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. Posts First Quarter Earnings Ahead of Plan and Ahead of 2014

Rod Nelson, President/CEO

Rod Nelson, CEO

Merchants Financial Group, Inc. (MFGI) announced first quarter net income of $3,358,297, more than $620,000 ahead of plan and more than $560,000 ahead of 2014, according to Merchants Financial Group, Inc. President & CEO Rodney R. Nelson.

“We think the result bodes well for the remainder of the year,” Nelson said. “We have seen increased mortgage volume and income because of the influence of the low interest rate environment, and our commercial bankers continued their great efforts in establishing relationships that have led to increases in the commercial loan portfolio.”

As a result of the positive performance, the MFGI Board of Directors authorized a semiannual dividend of 50 cents per share to shareholders during its April meeting, the same dividend as paid after the third quarter of 2014. The dividend will be paid June 19 to shareholders of record as of May 15.

The first quarter income comes on the heels of Merchants Bank’s earnings of $12,349,685 in net income in 2014, its second highest total ever. Merchants posted net income of $11,612,049 in 2013 and $12,439,492 in 2012, its record year.

MFGI owns 21 Merchants Bank locations, including Minnesota locations in Winona, St. Charles, Goodview, Rochester, Rushford, Lanesboro, Caledonia, La Crescent, Spring Grove, Cannon Falls, Red Wing, Hampton, and the southern Twin Cities metropolitan suburbs of Apple Valley, Cottage Grove, Hastings, Lakeville and Rosemount. Merchants has Wisconsin locations in Eau Claire and Onalaska. Merchants Bank was founded in 1875 and is celebrating its 140th anniversary this year. All banks are FDIC members and equal housing lenders. Merchants Capital, the company’s leasing arm, is based in the Twin Cities.

Merchants Bank has more than 425 employees, many of whom give significant volunteer time to organizations in their communities. Additionally, during 2014, Merchants Bank made charitable donations to nearly 300 organizations. The ownership of Merchants Financial Group is made up of its employees and mostly individuals and families from southeastern Minnesota and west-central Wisconsin.