Watch Out for These Red Flags to Stay Safe While Shopping Online

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It is hard to overstate the popularity of online shopping. There is almost no category of product that can’t be purchased online. From wedding dresses, to pets and potato chips, consumers are heading online to purchase things that only a few years ago would have been considered strange to buy online. With so many online stores to choose from, it can be hard to tell which are legitimate and which could leave you vulnerable to scam or identity theft.

One of the easiest ways to tell if a website is secure is by looking for a Trust Seal.

“Typically, these seals are associated with secure sockets layer, or SSL for short,” states John Rampton, a Forbes contributor. “This simply means that your site has been verified and that there is a secure transmission for customers to safely enter their credit card information.”

When you are shopping online, you may have run into one of the seals and not even realized it. If you searched for a store through Google, for example, you probably have seen the small logo with a checkmark that states “Google Trusted Stores,” which is the search engine’s own Trust Seal. There are also several other companies that examine stores and give out trust seals.

“While trust seals are an important feature for [an] e-commerce website, which seals are the most reliable?” asks Rampton.  “In a survey conducted by the research group the Baymard Institute, the most trusted badge was Norton, with 36 percent of the votes. This was followed by McAfee (23 percent), TRUSTe (13.2 percent) and BBB Accredited (13.2 percent).”

The other ways that you can determine an online store’s trustworthiness are much less clear-cut than Trust Seals. Online reviews, for example, are one of the most important ways that consumers make decisions about a business’s reputation. If an online store has many positive reviews, you will likely feel safer giving it your credit card information. It is entirely possible for a good online store to not have many reviews, however, and positive reviews can be faked, so it is not a foolproof method.

It is also important to not ignore your gut feeling when shopping online. If you find a product for significantly less than every other store selling it, then that is a definite red flag. Another tactic to keep an eye out for is if a store claims to have the product you are looking for during an initial search, but then tries to redirect you to other similar products because they do not actually have what you need.

Furthermore, if a website doesn’t seem professionally designed, is extremely outdated, or very difficult to navigate, you may want to find another.

“Would you seriously give your credit card information to [a] website that looks like it belongs in 1995?” asks Rampton. “Common sense would say absolutely not.”

You should also look for contact information that would allow you to speak with an employee if you have questions or problems with your order. If there is no way to contact customer service, that is a big red flag.

Once you decide to make a purchase, there are further things to keep in mind.

“Don’t send your credit card details via email, post them on social media (even in a private message), or enter them on an unsecured website,” states Lexy Savvides from Cnet.com. “Don’t give away more information than you need. Retailers generally don’t need to know details like your date of birth or social security number, so why disclose it if you don’t have to?”

If you keep this information in mind and always choose the path of caution, you should be able to shop online without incident.

Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

Merchants Bank’s 2014 Routing Number Change Could Affect You in 2015

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In 2014, some of the routing numbers at Merchants Bank changed to ensure consistency between branches in case you use more than one location. You may need to take action to ensure that the correct routing number (also known as an ABA number) will be used for any annual online transactions associated with your bank account. If you use your bank account for any of the following online, please update the routing number for Merchants Bank to 091900193:
  • Filing or paying tax returns
  • Requesting tax refunds
  • Annual subscriptions or memberships

If you have questions regarding the routing number change, please contact a Customer Service Representative at your local Merchants Bank.

 

Easy Artichoke Spinach Dip

 

BlogRecipe-ArtichokeSpinachDipIngredients

  • 1 can artichoke hearts, whole or quartered (not packed in oil), cut in small pieces, reserve juice
  • 1 cup fresh spinach
  • 8 oz. cream cheese, softened
  • 1 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
  • garlic to taste
  • 2 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp. white vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • imitation crab meat, optional

 

Directions

Saute spinach, oil and vinegar in pan over low heat. This should only take a few minutes – do not overcook! In mixing bowl, combine cream cheese and artichoke pieces; add approximately 2 tablespoons of juice from can of artichokes. Add remaining ingredients. Add remaining ingredients. Stir well. Serve with baguette bread, crackers, bagels or breadsticks. You can also add imitation crab meat. This dip can be served cold or warm.

Cook’s note: To serve warm: Top with more cheese and bake in pan at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. Add parsley to garnish.

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

Vehicles That Help Hold Their Value

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If you’re like most people, buying a new vehicle is among the biggest purchases you’ll ever make. But unlike a house or other investments, your vehicle almost immediately depreciates.

Last year, the average new car was predicted to retain about 38.2 percent of its original value after five years, meaning that a $50,000 model will only be worth nearly $19,100 at trade-in time. Pick a comparable model that’s estimated to hold five percent more of its value than average and you’ll realize an extra $2,650.

Hyundai Accent

Forbes reported that the valuation experts at ALG ranked the Accent as the subcompact with the highest residual value. Already ranked by US News ahead of competition including the Dodge Dart, Volkswagen Jetta, MINI Cooper, Toyota Corolla, MAZDA2, Nissan Sentra and Mitsubishi Mirage, the Accent feels like a car far bigger than its dimensions suggest. In fact, the EPA classified it as a compact as opposed to subcompact thanks to its abundance of interior volume.

Starting at an MSRP of $14,745, the Accent is available in both four- and five-door body styles and fuel estimates rated up to 38 mpg highway.

“There are plenty of capable small cars vying for your monthly payment, so we recommend test-driving the competition before deciding. But if you’re looking for a subcompact that acts like something more, make sure the 2014 Hyundai Accent is on your radar,” according to AutoTrader.

 Toyota Tundra

Although sales of the Tundra tend to come up short from the competition, including the run of the mill models from Ford, Ram and Chevrolet, the Tundra actually bests them when it comes to resale value. A 63.7 percent residual value at 36 months and 52.3 percent at 60 months is best in the segment.

With a standard V8 engine, the Tundra starts at an MSRP of $29,020, and offers a model for nearly every buyer, from the off-road enthusiast who would benefit most from the Tundra TRD Pro with Bilstein shock absorbers, tow hooks and TRD graphics, to the super luxurious 1794 Edition with perforated leather seating and ventilated front seats. The Tundra proves that sometimes the road less traveled is the smartest road to take. For those looking for a smaller pickup, the Toyota Tacoma won in its segments, too.

 Acura RDX

For those who want a more luxurious ride, but don’t want to throw away their money in the process, would find it beneficial to check out the RDX crossover that won best Premium Compact Utility vehicle from ALG. Its $35,095 asking price provides plenty of value with standard leather seating surfaces, 10-way power driver’s seat, a 273-hp 3.5-liter V6 that still gets up to 28 mpg highway, and a driving experience that’s more commonly associated with a sedan. All-wheel drive is also available to maximize performance in all driving conditions and an available Technology Package further adds the Acura Navigation System, Acura/ALS surround sound system, GPS linked climate control and High-Intensity Discharge headlights.

“The 2015 Acura RDX is a rare example of a smaller SUV that does almost everything right,” according to Kelley Blue Book. “It adeptly plays in the premium segment, yet boasts a modest character, a strong-yet-efficient V6, and a long list of standard equipment.”

There are plenty of other great models out there so do your research, and whatever you decide on, stop by today to see the best type of financing we can help provide.

Please note, subject to credit approval. Includes copyrighted material of IMakeNews, Inc. and its suppliers.

140 for 140: Helping Businesses and Communities for 140 Years

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In 2015, we honor our commitment to the communities we serve with the 140 for 140 campaign, which highlights a minimum of 140 contributions we make to those communities in the form of volunteer time, education programs, event sponsorships and more.

Merchants Bank was founded July 17, 1875. Since our beginning, we have grown to 21 locations serving 18 communities in Minnesota and Wisconsin. A number of our locations will also be celebrating significant anniversaries with the Merchants Bank organization in 2015: St. Charles (25 years), Apple Valley, Hastings, Hampton and Cottage Grove (15 years), Lakeville (10 years), and Spring Grove (5 years).

Since our first day, our employees have been dedicated to improving the communities they serve. We are proud to celebrate those contributions this year.

Commercial, Ag and SBA Lending Trends

The economy continues to improve. One indicator we look at in banking is the increase in our lending portfolio.

GraphOur lending portfolio continues to grow at Merchants Bank.

  • Overall our lending portfolio has increased 15.7% through the first three quarter of 2014 compared to the first three quarters of 2013, where we had a very strong year compared to many other financial institutions.
  • Commercial lending increased 16.3% across all of our locations.
  • Ag lending has increased 12.9% and SBA lending has increased 16.3%.

The increase shows our expertise in and commitment to growing these important segments to help make the places we live better.

Contact a Business Banker today to learn more about business financing and leasing options at Merchants Bank. Subject to credit approval.

How Can Your Business Benefit from Positive Pay?

Tanya Schamaun thinks Positive Pay* “is just smart business sense.” Tanya is the Accounting Director at Winona State University and, along with co-worker Julie Sammann, has been using Merchants Bank’s fraud detection service Positive Pay since May.

“Positive Pay protects Winona State University from fraud. We can detect problems with copied or altered checks quickly and easily,” said Tanya.

Here’s how Positive Pay works: Each day, Winona State provides Merchants with an electronic inventory of checks issued. When the checks presented on WSU accounts each day are processed, Positive Pay matches the account number, check number and dollar amount of each check presented for payment against a list of checks previously authorized and issued by Winona State. All three components of the check must match exactly. When a check is reviewed that isn’t a match in the file, it becomes an “exception item.” Tanya or Julie then has the chance to review the image and can instruct the bank to pay or return the check.

“The whole process is very user-friendly. It only takes a few minutes a day,” said Julie. “Even if you don’t have your own IT department to help you create an inventory of checks to upload to Merchants, you can enter a check manually in a minute or less.”

According to Tanya, “[Positive Pay] is simple to use, even for a small organization. The hardest part is remembering your password!”

To learn more about how Positive Pay can help your business, contact one of our Cash Management specialists today.

*Fees may apply