Fraud and Scam Updates for May

Fraud-Blog

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: http://bit.ly/1G1dF0n

Internal Revenue Service Scam

Some of our customers have fallen for a recent scam involving fraudsters posing as employees from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). The fraudster will call you – stating to be an Internal Revenue Service employee – and claim you owe back taxes, which can be paid via wire transfer.

The truth is that the IRS does not use phone calls to make personal contacts. If the IRS wants to contact you, they will send a letter first. If you receive a phone call from an individual claiming to be from the IRS, it is a scam. For more information on how and when the IRS might contact you, see these two articles from the Federal Trade Commission:

Check Fraud

Merchants has recently seen an increase in fraudulent checks. Customers have fallen for some “too good to be true” scenarios including being asked to be a secret shopper for a fake business or receiving a winnings check in the mail from a drawing they did not enter. When you receive a check, make sure to consider where it came from.

Some questions to ask yourself:

  • Did I recently enter any contests or drawings where I could win money?
  • Can I verify the information on the check through a third-party? For example, can you confirm a person’s contact information through the phone book? Or confirm a business’s information through an online directory like the Yellow Pages?
  • Does it sound too good to be true?

Be a skeptic. If the situation doesn’t sound right, it’s time to do some more investigating before depositing that check. For more information, read this article on check fraud from the Federal Trade Commission.

Next Steps If You’ve Experienced Fraud

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.

May & June Events

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Join our staff at these great events throughout May and June. Be sure to follow us on our Facebook page for information on these events or pictures from other events you may have missed.

5/5 Lakeside Neighborhood Appreciation Night
5:00 -7:30 p.m.
Merchants Bank in Winona-Lakeside

For eighteen years, we’ve had the privilege to serve the neighborhood with our full-service Lakeside office at Mankato & Sarnia. So that we may say thank you for your friendship, join us for Neighborhood Appreciation Night!Please join us for food, fun & prizes* for you and your family. Tacos will be served with all the fixings.

6/2, 6/9, 6/16, 6/23, 6/30 Hampton Dairy Days Celebration
8:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m.
Merchants Bank in Hampton

Please join us for treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days. 

6/5-6/9 Apple Valley Customer Appreciation and Christian Elder Memorial Bike Ride Reception
Lobby Hours
Merchants Bank in Apple Valley

Please join us in our lobby:

  • Monday, Tuesday and Thursday for refreshments and coffee
  • Wednesday from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. for pizza from Old Chicago Pizza and Taproom
  • Friday for a reception at 11:45 a.m. celebrating the riders from the 12th annual Christian Elder Memorial Bike Ride followed by lunch from 11:00 a.m. – 1:30 p.m.
6/11 Trinona Triathlon
Lake Park in Winona
6/16 Caledonia Dairy Days Celebration
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Merchants Bank in Caledonia

Please join us for ice cream treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days. 

6/17 27th Annual Winona Pancake Breakfast
7:30 – 10:00 a.m.
Merchants Bank in Winona-Downtown

$5.00 per person • $17.00 per family • Children 6 and under FREE

Open to the public. Parking available in Bank parking lot, located at the corner of Third and Walnut Streets. Enter by driving East on Second Street.

6/17 Rushford/Peterson Gammel Dag Days Fest Parade
1:00 p.m.
Located in Peterson 
6/17 Cottage Grove Strawberry Fest Parade
10:30 a.m.
Located on the corner of 80th and Jamaica Streets 
6/18 Winona Steamboat Days Grand Parade
12:31 p.m.
Located on Broadway Street in Winona 
6/23 Spring Grove Dairy Days Celebration
11:00 a.m. – 2:00 p.m.
Merchants Bank in Spring Grove

Please join us for ice cream treats in our lobby to celebrate Dairy Days. 

6/24 Spring Grove Homecoming Days Parade
1:30 p.m.
Located on Main Street in Spring Grove
6/25 Brownsville Days Parade
1:00 p.m.
Located in Brownsville 

*No purchase or customer relationship necessary to enter or win. One entry per person. Drawing will be held on May 5, 2017. Must be present to win. Employees of Merchants are not eligible to win.

Your Top HELOC Questions Answered

HELOC-Blog2

You may be able to use the equity in your home to your advantage with a Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC). While the idea sounds simple, HELOCs can be confusing. Get the basics here.

What is a difference between a Second Mortgage and a HELOC?
There are two types of loans that use the equity in your home as collateral. They are either a Second Mortgage (also known as a Home Equity Loan) or a Home Equity Line of Credit.

A Second Mortgage, or Home Equity Loan, is simply borrowing money, using the equity in your home to secure the loan, much as a personal loan may use the equity in a car to secure the loan.

Home Equity Line of Credit is a revolving loan that works very much like a credit card. The equity you have in your home secures a credit line with a variable interest rate that is available to you for a certain amount of time. The monthly payments are determined by how much money you owe the bank, not by how big the line of credit is. As you pay down the amount you owe on your line of credit, the rest is available for other uses. The line of credit works well for do-it-yourself projects or a series of projects because you only make payments on the money you’ve already used.

Each loan works differently and which one may be best for you is often determined by your purpose for taking out the loan. The interest rate the bank charges on these loans typically takes several factors into account, such as your credit score, the loan to value or the loan type.

What is Loan-to-Value?
As mentioned above, loan-to-value is one of the factors taken into consideration when determining the loan interest rate. To calculate your loan-to-value, add the amount you want to borrow to the unpaid balance of your mortgage then divide that number by the appraised value of your home. The result will be a percentage that is referred to as the Loan-to-Value of your home. The lower the percentage, the lower your interest rate may be. 

Can I borrow more than the value of my home?
While some mortgage lenders offer loans that often will go over 100% of your home’s value, we don’t think it’s a good idea. Borrowing in that manner will make it difficult, if not impossible, to sell your home should you want, or need to move.

Can I use a HELOC for something other than home improvements?
Yes. A Home Equity Line of Credit can be a great way to get that new roof or finally finish the lower level, but it can also be used to buy a new car or to pay for a college education.

The flexibility of a HELOC means you can make your home equity work for current financial needs. In addition, the interest you pay may be deductible on your federal tax return. The interest you pay on car loans, credit cards and almost all other loans definitely is not. We suggest you consult your tax advisor regarding interest deductibility.

What’s the next step?
If you’re interested in learning more, check out these HELOC resources:

What We Love About My Mobile Money

MyMobileMoney-Blog

Haven’t heard of our FREE My Mobile Money app? It’s an easy tool to track your debit card transactions and help prevent fraud. Learn more about it from our staff experts with this quick Q&A.

Featured Staff

  • Tina Bechtel, Customer Service Representative and Lead Teller in Spring Grove. Phone: Samsung Galaxy
  • Michelle Schroeder, Customer Service Manager in Cannon Falls
    Phone: Apple iPhone
  • Mike Swanson, Commercial Banking Officer in Hastings.
    Phone: Apple iPhone

What’s the best thing about My Mobile Money?
Michelle: I love getting notified of every single debit card transaction.

Tina: Do I have to pick one thing? I love everything about it!

Mike: I like the ability to turn my debit card on and off. The control is in my hands.

Which features have you found most helpful?
Mike: My wife and I have used the on/off for our debit card more than once. If one of us misplaces our card…leaves it in the car, forgets it on the counter or something else, we can just turn it off on the app until we find it. If our cards really were lost, it would prevent anyone else from using them. It’s just nice peace of mind.

Tina: I’ve been able to detect and stop fraud right through the app. I have notifications turned on for all my debit card transactions and one day I got a notification for a charge that I didn’t recognize. I went into the app and turned my card off and called the Bank right away. Turns out the transaction was fraudulent and because I caught it and turned off my card, I was able to stop other fraudulent transactions that were being attempted.

Michelle: I’ve had great experience with the on/off function too. I went on a trip to Florida and didn’t want my debit card on. I just went in the My Mobile Money app, slid the on/off setting to off and that it was it. It was that easy. I also really like seeing the notification for online automatic transactions, like Netflix. Sometimes you forget about those and now I get a little notification when the charge goes through.

What additional feature would you recommend customers try?
Tina: Like Michelle, I’ve used the location feature and that’s really handy. You just set up if you only want to allow transactions based on a city, region or state. Transactions attempted from outside that area are then automatically denied.

Mike: If you have more than one person on an account, like my wife and I have a joint checking account, you can have the My Mobile Money app track both of your debit cards on one phone. One time my wife was trying to buy groceries and I got a notification at work that her transaction was denied. I realized that I hadn’t moved our budgeted grocery money over to the right account and was able to use Merchants Mobile Banking to transfer funds so she could finish checking out at the grocery store. That was really handy.

Michelle: I can’t say enough about the automatic notifications for all transactions. You could set this up to only notify you for transactions over a certain dollar amount, but I love seeing everything that goes through my debit card. It’s perfect.

You can download My Mobile Money Access for your personal or business debit card anytime from the Google Play or Apple App stores. To learn more about My Mobile Money Access, visit our website.

If you have questions about downloading the app or would like additional recommendations on it’s use for you or your business, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to a Customer Service Representative.

Congratulate New and Promoted Staff

New Staff

AugedahlJulie Julie Augedahl, Mortgage Lender, Caledonia

Julie has nearly 10 years of experience in personal banking and lending in Minnesota and Wisconsin. She is an active volunteer in the Caledonia community, including as a member of the Caledonia Founders Day Committee. Julie has a General Education degree from Rochester Community College and a Business Management degree from Winona Technical College.

BartelKathy  Kathy Bartel, Teller, Onalaska

Kathy previously worked at Treehouse Gift and Home as a Web Store Manager and at Empire Screen Printing as a Receptionist and Account Manager. Kathy and her husband, love spending time with their children and grandchildren. 

BrooksMichaela  Michaela Brooks, Part-Time Teller, Hastings

Michaela previously worked at Dominos Pizza. She is a senior at Hastings High School and enjoys being a part of the show choir. Michaela is planning to attend Inver Hills Community College next year.

BrownJerad  Jerad Brown, Commercial & Ag Banker, Lanesboro & Rushford

Jerad, a native to the Lanesboro and Rushford area, has previous experience in credit analysis, ag and commercial lending and the Farm Service Agency (FSA) guaranty program. He is a graduate of Rushford-Peterson High School and South Dakota State University, with a major in Agriculture Science.

CarlsonHelen  Helen Carlson, Part-Time Teller, Rosemount

Helen is a senior at Rosemount High School and also currently works at Jimmy John’s.

HughesJean  Jean Hughes, Part-Time Teller, La Crescent

Jean was a teacher for 41 years at St. Mary’s Grade School and recently retired in May 2016. Jean enjoys reading, walking, and meeting new people.

KemmerlingKyle  Kyle Kemmerling, Part-Time Teller, Winona

Kyle is also currently working at Tenba Ridge Winery as a Tasting Room Sales Rep.

ThomasJulie   Julie Thomas, Part-Time Teller, Lakeville

Julie was previously self-employed as a daycare provider. Julie is excited to be part of the Merchants Bank team and is looking forward to getting to know her co-workers and customers.

Promotions and Transfers

AraujoEddie  Eddie Araujo, Customer Service Representative and Lead Teller, Lakeville

Eddie has been with Merchants since 2016. He was previously a Teller in Lakeville.

DonohoeKelly  Kelly Donohoe, Personal Banking Manager, Lakeville

Kelly has been with Merchants since 2012. She was previously a Customer Service Representative and Lead Teller in Lakeville. 

HerrmannBecky  Becky Herrmann, Cash Management Specialist, Onalaska

Becky has been with Merchants since 2012. She was previously a Customer Service Representative in Winona and Onalaska.

SeaverAshley  Ashley Seaver, Mortgage Lender, Lakeville

Ashley has been with Merchants since 2016. She was previously a Mortgage Loan Coordinator in Lakeville.