Meet Dawn Stenberg, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

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Dawn and her daughter in the kitchen at home.

Get to know Dawn Stenberg, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Winona.

When did you start your banking/lending career?

Dawn: I started in banking in 2002, and I’ve been in mortgage since 2008. I came to Merchants in 2012, and here I’ve been a mortgage coordinator, mortgage underwriter, and now a mortgage lender.

What is your best banking/borrowing tip?

Dawn: A question I get asked a lot is whether or not customers should close open credit card accounts. It actually makes more sense to keep accounts with a long, healthy history open. If you close accounts in good standing and then just have fairly new loans open, it actually can hurt your credit score. Of course, fraud is a concern too. The more accounts that are open the more difficult it is to keep track of them all, making you more vulnerable to fraud. It’s important to find the happy medium between keeping healthy accounts open while still being able to manage and monitor all of them.

What is something smart borrowers do?

Dawn: Something that makes the process easier for everyone is to consistently make all of your loan payments on time. It’s also great to see customers saving, even if it’s just a little bit from each paycheck. Anything is better than nothing, and over time the savings will grow and it’ll help you be comfortable in your home.

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

Dawn: Have a budget. It’s important to keep track of your finances to ensure you are not overspending and to stay on track with your financial goals. It can also help create healthy spending habits.

If you had $1,875,000 what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Dawn: I would take a long extended vacation! Probably to Europe or New Zealand.

Picture your dream home. What is your favorite room and why?

Dawn: My favorite room is the kitchen; I love to cook. My favorite times are when my kids are helping me bake around the island. The kitchen for me is the focal point of the home – It’s where the family all gathers together.

Important Tax Fraud Alert

Tax Fraud

Just days into the start of the 2018 filing season, the IRS identified a new scam in which cybercriminals have stolen client data from tax professionals and filed fraudulent refunds using real taxpayer information, including bank account and routing information for direct deposit.

The fraudster then contacts the taxpayer posing as an employee of a debt collection agency working on behalf of the IRS. They ask the taxpayer to take certain steps to return the refund, but actually, the refund goes to the criminals.

If you have been the victim of this tax fraud scam, please contact a Merchants Bank Customer Service Representative for assistance. The IRS also asks the taxpayers to call the IRS toll-free at (800) 829-1040 (individual) or (800) 829-4933 (business) to explain why the direct deposit is being returned.

There is more information for taxpayers at Tax Topic Number: 161 – Returning an Erroneous Refund

Information reposted at the request of the Federal Reserve Banks on behalf of the Department of the Treasury’s Bureau of the Fiscal Service.

Tim Nelson Joins Merchants Bank in Lakeville as Mortgage Lender

Tim Nelson, Mortgage Lender

Tim Nelson has joined Merchants Bank in Lakeville as a Mortgage Lender, according to Dan Vlasak, President of Merchants Bank in Lakeville.

“Tim is experienced in all types of mortgage loans, including construction loans, which will help Merchants Bank support our construction customers in the Lakeville area,” Vlasak said.

Nelson worked at Wells Fargo as a Home Mortgage Consultant for 16 years. He has lived in Lakeville for more than 20 years.

“I’m all in with Merchants,” Nelson said. “When you’re meeting with customers, it’s important to be able to confidently say that you can get their job done. Our group of operations professionals really deliver.”

Nelson is also involved in the community, working with the Lakeville Booster Club by fundraising to support Lakeville High School sports. As a self-described “family man,” he frequents the events to cheer on his children and their teams.

Meet Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender and Home Loan Expert

Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank, and his son

Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank, and his son.

Get to know Ben Franko, Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Eau Claire.

When did you start your banking/lending career?

Ben: I’ve been in banking since September 2005. I’ve worked in many positions on the retail side of the bank, such as a personal banker, customer service supervisory, branch manager, mortgage officer and mortgage sales manager. I started with Merchants on June 30, 2017 as a mortgage lender and I’m happy to use my experience in credit and customer service to help people get homes they could afford.

What is your best borrowing/banking tip?

Ben: My top home buying tip is always get pre-approved for a mortgage before you start the home buying or building process. It’s important to understand how the purchase you’re making will affect your budget.

What is something smart borrowers do?

Ben: This ties in with getting pre-approved for your mortgage: be prepared, know how your costs will interact. Just because you can afford a payment on paper, doesn’t mean that’s realistic. It’s a bad idea to stretch your budget; you want to be comfortable making that payment even when unforeseen expenses come up.

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

Ben: One of the things I was taught from a young age is you work very hard for your money, so spend and save wisely. It’s always good to avoid making impulse purchases. Picture your dream home.

What is your favorite room in your house and why?

Ben: I’m very fortunate to have my dream home, and my favorite room is my kitchen/sunroom. I love being in the kitchen cooking and entertaining. It was the most important feature when we were looking, so when we walked in we knew immediately we were home.

If you had $1,875,000, what is one FUN thing you’d do with the money?

Ben: I would go back to Europe and spend most of my time in Belgium and Holland where my family is from.

Fraud and Scam Updates – February 2018

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Review our most recent fraud alerts and updates to help keep your personal information secure. Want to be automatically updated about recent scams and fraud? Sign up for our Alerts emails here.

Computer Pop Up Scam

Have you heard of this scam? You are on your computer when a pop-up warns that your computer is compromised. If you don’t act now, your computer will crash. Offering to help, a scammer dials into your computer to try “fix” the issue, meanwhile gleaming your personal information. Sometimes, the scammers require a payment to “fix” the computer. In the end, the scammers have what they wanted all along, the personal information they got off your computer and now your credit card information you used to pay them. Please be on the lookout for this scam to protect your private information.

Stolen Mail

Our customers have reported an increase in stolen mail, including people who use their mailbox for outgoing mail.

We’d like to remind all customers to be cautious when sending or receiving personal information, bank account information or checks through the mail. If you’re expecting something to arrive and it doesn’t, check on it – balance your checkbook to make sure all checks clearing your account are for the amount you issued. If you are sending checks through the mail, consider putting your mail in a United States Postal Service Collection Box or take it to the Post Office.

Sharing Login Credentials

It’s never a good idea to share your login credentials, or any private information, with anyone, even people you know or think you know. This tip is especially important to remember when you’re talking to someone over the phone on a call you did not initiate. Please remember that Merchants Bank will never ask for your personal information unless you have previously initiated a conversation with us about your accounts or an application.

Family Emergency Scam

Merchants has recently seen an increase in imposter scams. Customers have almost fallen for some emergency scams, including being asked by a fraudster posing as a relative to send money for bail. If you’re asked to send money in an emergency situation, verify the true location of your friend or relative before responding – even if the person you’re talking to sounds like someone in your family.

Be a skeptic. If the situation doesn’t sound right, it’s time to do some more investigating. If you have doubts, just call or come in to discuss the situation with us. We’re here to help.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Fraud

If you notice fraud on your statement, be sure to contact us within 60 days from the date your statement was issued. In most cases, if the fraud is reported within 60 days we have a better chance of resolving the issue. After 60 days from the statement’s issue date, there is nothing we can do to retrieve the lost funds.

If you think your bank account information has been compromised or you are a victim of identity theft, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

New Staff

BromCourtney Courtney Brom, Teller, Winona

Courtney is originally from Winona and is studying math teaching at Winona State University. She has a second job at Prairie Ranch Kennels and previously worked at Menards as a Head Cashier. In her spare time she likes to hang out with friends and family, read, be outdoors, and in the summers she likes to watch her brother race.

Terri Derouin Terri Derouin, Teller, Rochester – Green Meadows

Terri has held several positions with the Rochester Public Schools and currently works at Century High School as a Budget Secretary. Terri is an avid sports fan, loves movies, music, the outdoors (especially the mountains) and summer road trips.

Amy Gross Amy Gross, Teller, Caledonia

Amy is currently a part-time Health Coach and previously worked at Gundersen Care Center as an Activities Aide.

Chris Kreisel Chris Kreisel, Trust Associate/Benefit Plan Specialist, Winona-Downtown

Chris’s experience includes more than seven years working as a Retirement Educator; he helped 401(k) participants and plan sponsors across the country. He has industry certification as a Certified Mutual Fund Counselor (CMFC) and a Certified Retirement Services Professional (CRSP).

Jessica Norgard Jessica Norgard, Teller, Rushford

Jessica previously worked at S&A Petroleum and JT’s Bar & Grill. She enjoys playing with her son, spending time outside, and cooking.  

Daniel Pohnl Daniel Pohnl, Commercial Banker, Eau Claire

Daniel has been in banking since 2011, working in mortgage loans, as a credit analyst and most recently as a commercial banker, all in the Minneapolis/St. Paul metro market. He is an experienced SBA (Small Business Administration) Lender.  He is a graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, where he had a double major in Accounting and Finance. He is originally from Rhinelander.

Arlene Schwerzler Arlene Schwerzler, Mortgage Lender, Red Wing

Arlene is a familiar name and face to the Merchants Bank employees and many customers in Red Wing. As a long-time mortgage lender at Merchants Bank in Winona, she served many customers in Red Wing. Arlene has been in banking for more than 30 years. She started as a Mortgage Lender at Merchants Bank in Winona in 1998 and also spent a short amount of time at Merchants Bank in Rochester. Read more about Arlene’s return to Merchants here.

Lynda Sobotta Lynda Sobotta, Mortgage File Representative, Winona

Lynda is originally from Winona, and has returned with her husband after living in Austin for a while. She spends Friday nights with her granddaughter and has two dogs that keep her company. Lynda previously worked at Winona Health and Riverside Electronics.

Mike Stangl Mike Stangl, Commercial Banker and Mortgage Lender, La Crescent

Mike has been working in the La Crosse market as a mortgage lender since 2012. From 2001 to 2012 he was in the Marshfield, WI, market working in banking in a number of roles, including mortgage, consumer, and commercial lending. Mike is involved in the community, donating his time to a number of organizations, including the Mississippi Valley Conservancy, Coulee Region Humane Society, and the Hunger Task Force. Read more about Mike joining Merchants here.

Erik Stegemann

Erik Stegemann, Credit Analyst, Merchants Bank Equipment Finance

Erik previously worked as a Ag/Commercial Loan Officer at Citizens Bank in Iowa. Erik is a sport enthusiast and avid Gopher fan. He also enjoys anything about the outdoors such as skiing, boating, volleyball and basketball.

Transfers and Promotions

Carol Bell Carol Bell, Credit Card Specialist, Winona-Downtown

Carol has transferred to the Credit Card department as a Credit Card Specialist. She has been with Merchants since 2002 and was previously a Mortgage Underwriter in Winona.

Mollie Brink, Lending Assistant Team Lead, Winona

Mollie has taken on additional responsibilities moving to Lending Assistant Team Lead. She started with Merchants Bank as a Lending Assistant in 2014 and has shown the leadership and initiative to succeed.  Prior to joining Merchants she  worked at Winona National Bank for 5 years as a Teller and Teller Supervisor. She has a degree from Winona State University in Human Resources.

Marcus Krings Marcus Krings, Credit Card Manager, Winona-Downtown

Marcus has been promoted to Credit Card manager. He has been with Merchants since 2012. He was previously an Electronic Banking Specialist and most recently the Credit  Card Specialist in Winona. Meet Marcus here.