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.

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.

Top Business Fraud Updates – January 2018

FraudPrevention-Blog

Please review our most recent fraud alerts and security reminders to help protect your business.

Stolen Business Checks

Fraudsters are using stolen checks from local businesses to make purchases. To prevent your business from losing money due to stolen checks, we recommend:

  • Checking your business bank accounts daily for fraudulent transactions. If you are suspicious of a transaction, contact the Bank immediately.
  • Using a fraud transaction detection service, such as Positive Pay, to help you prevent these checks from hitting your account.

The sooner you can notify the Bank of a fraudulent transaction, the more we can do to help you. Dedicating time to review your accounts regularly can definitely help keep your business more secure.

Lessons to Learn from Uber Hack

You may have heard about the hack and attempted cover-up at Uber that has recently surfaced in the news. The personal information of more than 57 million customers and 600,000 drivers was stolen in a data breach in October 2016. The company then paid the hackers $100,000 to delete the data and keep quiet. What can we learn from this series of events?

First and foremost, it’s important to create a plan for how your company will handle cybersecurity breaches. Simply thinking, “it won’t happen to us” is hardly an option in today’s tech-savvy world. Being prepared beforehand can help you take the right steps if something happens. The FCC provides a free guide, called CyberPlanner*, to help small businesses create cyber plans.

Train Employees on Security Principles

This tip from the FCC* is an important reminder of the role your employees play in protecting your business from security threats. It’s important to establish basic security practices and policies for employees, such as requiring strong passwords and establish appropriate Internet use guidelines, that detail penalties for violating company cybersecurity policies. Establish rules of behavior describing how to handle and protect customer information and other vital data.

Next Steps If You Have a Security Concern

If you think your business bank account information has been compromised or you have a security concern, contact your local Merchants Bank and ask to speak to your Cash Management Specialist or a Customer Service Representative.

 

*You will be linking to another website not owned or operated by Merchants Bank, NA. Merchants Bank, NA is not responsible for the availability or content of this website and does not represent either the linked website or you, should you enter into a transaction. We encourage you to review their privacy and security policies which may differ from Merchants Bank, NA.

Equifax Data Breach: Considerations for Protecting My Personal and Financial Information

We understand our customer and employee concerns regarding their personal and financial information following the recent Equifax data breach and offer these steps for you to consider to protect your information, now and going forward:

  • Consider monitoring updated information being released about the data breach directly from Equifax. You can go to their site and navigate to the information on this breach, or use this link at: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com
  • You may want to consider signing up for Equifax’s free credit monitoring service. Equifax’s CEO statement can be found at: https://www.equifaxsecurity2017.com. This site is also where you can check to see if your information was likely breached, and where you can enroll in the 12 month free security tracking services. Even if you find your information was not among the group that was likely breached, you may want to enroll for credit monitoring anyway for peace of mind. Enrollment is up to you. Be sure to read the disclaimers as you are enrolling. Note that Equifax has published updates to this incident and you can check on an ongoing basis for updates. There are other providers that you may consider as well, such as LifeLock, that will charge a fee for their service. 
  • Consider finding everything you do online where personal and confidential information may be involved and change all passwords. This is a good practice anyway.
  • Closely monitor credit and debit cards – all financial accounts really – and consider canceling old cards/accounts that you may have open but do not use.
  • Make use of all the security features with cards, including the ability to turn off your credit and/or debit cards and set alerts for activity that takes place on your cards or accounts. As always, we encourage you to consider doing this as a part of daily management of your financial affairs. Tracking and managing your financial affairs should be done every day.
              1. If you carry a Merchants Bank debit card, download the My Mobile Money Access app from your App store to track all debit card activity.
              2. If you use Merchants Online Banking, we encourage you to use the Alerts functions to monitor account activity as well.
  • Understand that much of your confidential and personal information may already be in the ether of the global internet and could be pulled together to steal your identity – Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, other data aggregation sites, public records, online phone books, etc. As a best practice, never use passwords related to information that can be found online. Always monitor your credit reports for accounts opened in your name.

 

We publish fraud scams and alerts in a variety of ways. Follow us:

These suggestions and others may be useful to you. Be sure to keep tracking this issue and seek input and opinions from your trusted sources. Then take the course of action that is best for you.

Concerns? Contact us.

The 3 Online Banking Alerts You Should Have Set Up

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Security Awareness Week: June 5-9, 2017

If you’re not using the FREE alerts feature of Merchants Bank Online Banking, you’re missing out on tools that could protect you from identity theft and fraud.

To set up automatic alerts, sign in to your Online Banking account and click the Other Services tab. From here, select the type of alert you’d like to enable and follow the steps to configure. Alerts can be sent to an email address, via text message or both…it’s up to you!

Here’s the list of the top three alerts our Electronic Banking Specialists recommend all customers put in place.

My Profile Changed – Get an alert if there are any changes to your Merchants Bank Online Banking profile. For example, a change to the email address associated with your account. This alert may help you detect if someone else has accessed your account and is trying to make changes to your profile.

Internet Banking Login Error – Get an alert if your password is entered incorrectly when attempting to log in to Online Banking. This alert may help you detect if someone else is trying to access your Online Banking account.

Balance Alerts – Get an alert based on balances above or below a certain dollar amount. Simply select the account you’d like an alert for, then choose an option from the drop down and type in an amount. This alert may help you detect large withdrawals or purchases you did not initiate.

To learn more about all of our Merchants Bank Online Banking alert options, watch this video featuring Lucas Stangl, Electronic Banking Specialist.

To get started with alerts, sign in to your Online Banking account now.

Are You Using These 7 Tips to Protect Your Identity?

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Security Awareness Week

It may feel like keeping your personal information secure is impossible in a world tech-savvy hackers and scammers. Every day the news reports on new data breaches and scams. But, you can play an important role in protecting yourself from identity theft and fraud by taking small steps.

Here’s where to start:

  1. Check your financial activity. It only takes a few minutes, but reviewing your bank, credit card and other financial activity and statements for fraud is an important first step. If you see any suspicious activity, report it.
  2. Don’t use the “remember password” option. Using this feature on your computer or mobile device makes it easier for someone to access your accounts.
  3. Set up automated account alerts. Get a text or email alert for certain transactions, balances and more. We offer free alerts through Merchants Bank Online Banking for your checking, savings and loan accounts and through My Mobile Money for your debit card transactions.
  4. Be cautious when asked for personal information. If you are asked to provide personal information through a phone call, email or website pop-up page, think before you act. Verify the company or person asking for the information through a third party, like a phone book or other trusted resource.
  5. Store private information securely. Whether at home or work, do not leave your personal information out where others can see it.
  6. Make a fraud kit. Keep a list of your credit and debit cards, account numbers, expiration dates and customer service of fraud department telephone numbers in a secure place away from the cards for easy access.
  7. Be a skeptic. If a situation sounds too good to be true, it probably is. You can’t win the lottery if you haven’t entered. You don’t need to send a payment to claim prize winnings.

To stay up-to-date on Merchants Bank fraud alerts and scams, sign up for our alerts emails.

How to Control Debit Card Activity

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Security Awareness Week: June 5-9, 2017

Take control of your debit card transactions with our free My Mobile Money app. Use it to:

  • Set card transaction alerts
  • Set spending controls
  • Turn your debit card(s) on and off
  • Deny transactions based on criteria you choose
  • And much more!

Learn how to enable the top three features recommended by our staff. Before you begin, make sure you have downloaded the app, enrolled and signed in.

Feature 1: Transaction Alerts

From Customer Service Manager, Michelle Schroeder: “I can’t say enough about the automatic notifications for all transactions. I love seeing everything that goes through my debit card. It’s perfect in case I forget about an automatic withdrawal I had approved or someone is attempting fraud on my account.”

To receive alerts for certain transactions on your mobile device:

  1. Choose the card you wish to set alerts for.
  2. Select Alert Preferences.
  3. If you would like alerts on all transactions, click the “Send alerts for” drop down and select All Transactions.To set specific alerts, such as alerting for all online purchases, click the “send alerts for” drop down and selected Preferred Transactions. Then choose the type(s) of alerts you wish to set.

Feature 2: On/Off and Automatic Denials

From Commercial Banking Officer, Mike Swanson: “My wife and I have used the on/off feature 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.”

To turn off a debit card:

  1. Choose the card you wish to turn off.
  2. Slide the Card ON/OFF button from green to red.

To deny debit card transactions based on dollar amount:

  1. Choose the card you wish to set up for denials.
  2. Select Control Preferences.
  3. Select Spend Limits and slide on Per Transaction.
  4. Simply enter in the maximum amount that will be allowed for a transaction.
  5. Click Save.

Feature 3: Location Controls

From Customer Service Representative and Lead Teller, Tina Bechtel: “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.”

Although these options give you the flexibility to protect your card while traveling, you still need to notify us (contact your local Merchants Bank) of travel plans outside of Minnesota, Iowa and Wisconsin to ensure your debit card can be used while out of town.

To deny transactions based on the location of your mobile device:

  1. Choose the card you wish to set up location controls for.
  2. Select Control Preferences.
  3. Select Locations.
  4. Swipe the My Location function on.
  5. All attempted transactions outside of the zip code where your mobile device is located will be denied.

To allow transactions based on locations you select:

  1. Choose the card you wish to set up location controls for.
  2. Select Control Preferences.
  3. Select Locations.
  4. Swipe the My Regions function on.
  5. Select the plus symbol.
  6. Add a region by entering a zip code or using the map to zoom.
  7. Give your region a title and choose save.
  8. Repeat steps 5-7 to add up to two other regions.
  9. All transactions within the regions you selected will be allowed.

If you have questions about My Mobile Money, contact your local Merchants Bank.