July 6, 2015

Protecting Yourself Online

Though the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. According to a Norton Cybercrime Report, 378 million adults worldwide were victims of cybercrime in 2013. The American Bankers Association recommends the following tips to keep you safe online.

Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date.  Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.

Set strong passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.

Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with.

Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email. 

Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc.  Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.

Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.

Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.

Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

 

Michael Cripps,
President and CEO

 

March 2, 2015

6 Most Common Scams People Fall For and How to Avoid Them

We live in a great time of progress, leaps in technology and nearly unlimited access to free information, but the world doesn’t just stop being a dangerous place overnight. While curiosity, inventiveness, love and the urge to learn and create are big parts of human nature, so too are deceit, deception, greed and the desire to attain wealth without hard work. This is why there are a great number of con artists, scammers and smart thieves who are ready to take advantage of people’s gullibility, trusting nature and compassion.

You are not only at risk during holidays-scammers can try to take advantage of you online, on the street and at your very own doorstep. It is important to learn about the common ploys used by these immoral individuals so that you can stay safe. What follows is a more detailed look at the biggest scams people usually fall for and tips on avoiding them.

1. Doorstep Scams

These include any scam where the con artist strikes when you are most relaxed and vulnerable-at home. They will often look for senior citizens and try to peddle cheap and fairly worthless items for an overblown price, and will come across as nice people looking to get rid of some quality products. Some may try to sell home maintenance services, while others will claim to be a city official who has come to perform tests or even try to get your private information by saying that they are there to do a survey.

Luckily doorstop scams can be easily thrwarted. You just need to be cautious and ask to see official papers and identification. Make sure that you have a sturday front door with a reinforced frame and preferably a door viewer, so that no one can just barge in by force.

2. Online Dating/Internet Bride Scams

There are plenty of people willing to get married for a green card, but they usually offer some form of monetary incentive for their would-be husband or wife. With dating scams it is a bit different. Everything seems to be going well for a week or two, but for some reason you can never meet in person. Then suddenly there is a crisis, or even several problems, that require a large sum of money for the person to get out of their strangely suspicious predicament.

Women from third world countries will also start dating online and quickly start negotiating for a payment so they can come to the U.S. or another first world country so they can be close, and even marry their mark. Once the money is “loaned” they simply disappear. The best protection is to be very cautious, especially if you are a middle-aged man or woman and contacted by a young person in some sort of a financial bind.

There are plenty of legit dating websites where you can meet people close to where you live and you can check them out on Facebook or meet in person.

3. Get-Rich-Quick Phone and Email Scams

The old Nigerian Prince email scam has now become such a cliché that even comics have stopped putting it in their jokes. However, people can get quite creative with their “good investment offers”. It’s usually someone who knows of a hole in the system or has a good investment tip, but lacks that capital to make any serious money out of it and needs the help of several other investors. While most modern con artists use email, some like to get personal and call your home.

Random raffles and lotteries you haven’t even heard off will ask for some information or a small administrative fee so that they can send you your winnings. It is said that you can’t con someone who is not greedy, so being realistic and not looking for a way to make quick buck without breaking a sweat is a good way to stay out of trouble. You should be incredibly suspicious of deals that sound too good to be true, and should do your research on some of the most notorious scammers.

4. Charity and Sob Story Scams

This type of scam is the most appalling, as it preys on kind and generous people who would have made a contribution to a worthwhile cause if not for the scammers. These come in many different forms, from people asking money for their child’s operation on the street, to very formal and polite people stopping you on the street, or coming to your door, and asking for a donation.

You can give a few bucks to a homeless person if you like, but avoid those asking you for money openly and aggressively, with a complex tear-jerking story prepared are best avoided. You can always make a donation to a good verified charity of your choice on your own terms and in the comfort of your own home.

5. Airport Security Scams

Frequent travelers should be very cautious and keep a close eye on their luggage, as there are plenty of fast thieves who can just grab your luggage and run. They work in teams where one person will rush to get in front of you in line and set off the metal detector, fumbling around while his associate covertly snaps up your stuff from the conveyor belt–but there are even more sinister things to look out for.

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network or using Bluetooth in airports can result in your phone being hacked. It’s best to avoid using the public Wi-Fi altogether, or you can use a VPN on your laptop for added security.

6. Taxi With "Broken" Meter or Driver Who Advises You to Go to a Different Hotel

Taxi drivers in front of the airport will say that their meter is broken and overcharge you, or tell you that the hotel you want to go to is overbooked due to an event or undergoing renovations and take you to some overpriced dump. He has a deal with the dump to get a cut every time he brings in a customer. Some drivers will drive you around the city, taking the scenic route, just to bump up the fare. Some go even further and conspire with someone working at the airport.

You are greeted by a taxi driver holding up a sign with your name on it, and says that the hotel sent him to get you, and then stops half way asking for an obscene amount of money to drive you where you need to go or leave you stranded. In some cases they will just flat-out rob you, and there have been documented cases of kidnappings, particularly in South American countries. You should do some Google maps research to find direct routes form the airport and tell the driver which path to take, insist on going to your address and never get into a car with someone you haven’t called for who wants to take you somewhere. Have small bills on you so that they can’t cheat you out of change, and look for outdated currencies being given as change. If the meter doesn’t work, take another cab and be very assertive.

It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when you go through most of your life without being cheated out of your money or robbed. You start trusting people, and why shouldn’t you? Most people you meet are at least civil, while some are generous and kind, and very few are the annoying or violent type, and the latter can be spotted a mile away.

If you haven’t dealt with morally corrupt people who will pretend to be nice, helpful or in need of help only to trick you, then it’s difficult to spot a scam coming. Thankfully, there is plenty of information available about the common scams available, and I hope this note has given you a basic idea of what to look for and how to stay safe. 

 

Michael Cripps
President & CEO

 

November 21, 2014

If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS requesting that you file a "tax refund request," do not fall victim to this identity theft scheme.

Numerous people are receiving unsolicited email (see the example below) informing them that a $9,390.55 IRS tax refund is due to them if they complete a tax refund request form. The email code will be forged to appear as if it orginated from a trusted source, usually the IRS or an IRS tax preparer (H&R Block, TurboTax, etc.), but viewing the "message header" or "message source" will reveal its origin to be something else, and the link will not lead to a trusted domain, but one controlled by identity theft criminals.

If you file a tax return and a refund is due, you will automatically receive your refund. You will never be contacted by the IRS, and there is no tax refund request form. Never disclose personal information to an unsolicited inquiry, as compelling as the story may be. If it's too good to be true, it's most likely not true.

If you have any questions or concerns about any IRS tax refund you may have due, you should access the official IRS "Where's My Refund" online application at the following destination: Click Here for IRS "Where's My Refund" online application.

Phishing Email Example:

Michael Cripps
President & CEO

October 6, 2014

What role do community banks play in today's environment?

The FDIC is still refining the definition, but based upon what is set forth, let's look at the primary role they are playing in today's turbulent economy. Community banks largely follow a traditional banking model - using short-term deposits to fund long-term investments resulting in risk issues stemming from this model behavior.

Using this model, community banks play a crucial role in the development of the U.S. economy being responsible for taking on the bulk of local lending activities that the large banks don't do. Because of the community bank's proximity to their customer base and understanding of the needs and issues in their communities, they are afforded the ability to be more flexible in the terms of their lending than the large institutions.

This agility, however, does not come without its challenges. Due to regulatory constraints, access to capital is tight with low return of investment bringing investor attraction down. Operating in the confines of a local community also results on a cap on growth. The bank's ability to succeed depends largely on the community it does business in - if the community thrives, the bank thrives. Community banks have to consider a wide range of issues to help ensure they can withstand the highs and lows of the national (and local) economic changes.

  • Should community banks be larger?
  • Is there enough asset diversification to withstand lending declines?
  • Princing versus connecting, and justifying new fees to customers for services once complimentary in different times.

 

Michael Cripps
President & CEO

 

September 2, 2014

September 30, 2014 will be the last day to visit our 14th Street Branch. We will be merging operations into our Main Bank office. Additional tellers will be added to our Drive-Up facility, located on South 15th Street, and to our Carbondale Branch. 

The original idea for the 14th Street Branch was to alleviate the stress and long wait times at our Drive-Up facility. However, because of the money we have invested in upgrades to equipment in that facility, the 14th Street location is no longer necessary.

In all honesty, the 14th Street Branch has posed a security concern for us, as well. We value protecting our employees and your assets. We can better handle this by not keeping cash assets in that building. 

 

Michael Cripps
President & CEO

 

June 1, 2014

There are almost 7,000 community banks, including commercial banks, thrifts, and stock and mutual savings institutions, with more than 50,000 locations throughout the United States. Assets may range from less than $10 million to $10 billion or more. Community banks constitute 96.6 percent of all banks.

Community Banks by Region
North Central - 24.6%
Southeast - 19.9%
Midwest - 19.7%
Southwest - 16.1%
Northeast - 10.6%
West - 9.0%

Of all U.S. banks, more than 90 percent have assets under $1 billion and 31.2 percent have assets under $100 million.

  • Community banks are the primary source of lending for small businesses and farms. Even though they compose just 10 percent of the banking industry by assets, community banks with less than $1B in assets made 37.5 percent of outstanding bank loans to small businesses. Community banks with less than $10B in assets made 57.9 percent of outstanding bank loans to small businesses.
  • Community banks' boards of directors are made up of local citizens who want to advance the interests of the towns and cities where they live and where their banks do business.
  • Most community bank loans benefit the neighborhoods where depositors live and work.
  • Research has shown that average fees for checking accounts and other depository services are lower at community banks than at large, multi-state institutions.

Community banks offer a wide range of banking services and products designed to meet the needs of consumers and businesses including:

  1. Anytime, anywhere electronic banking
  2. Automated teller machines, often with little or no surcharge fees
  3. Credit and debit cards with competitive rates and features
  4. Competitive mortgage- and consumer-loan products
  5. Competitive checking, savings, and investment products and rates, and
  6. Small-business and agricultural lending

 

Michael Cripps,
President and CEO

May 1, 2014

In 1889:

  • The year started on a Sunday and there was a total eclipse of the sun

  • Preston is declared the winner of the inaugural Football League in England

  • Herman Hollerith receives a patent for his electric tabulating machine in the United States

  • The Coca-Cola Company is originally incorporated as the Pemberton Medicine Company in Atlanta, Georgia

  • Columbia Phonograph is formed in Washington, D.C.

  • Meanwhile in D.C., President Grover Cleveland signs a bill admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington as States

  • President Cleveland, 22nd President of the United States (1885-1889) is succeeded by Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

  • The Eiffel Tower is inaugurated and opens May 6th. At 300 meters, its height exceeds the previous tallest structure in the world by 130 meters. Critics at the time regard it as aesthetically displeasing

  • Adolf Hitler is born in Baun au am Inn in Austria-Hungary on the border with Bavaria, a town where his father Alois Hitler is a customers official

  • The South Fork Dam collapses, killing more than 2,200 people in and around Johnstown, in western Pennsylvania

  • Vincent van Gogh paints Starry Night at Saint-Remy-de-Provence

  • The first long distance electric power transmission line in the United States is completed, running 14 miles between a generator at Willamette Falls and downtown Portland, Oregon

  • The Wall Street Journal is established

  • The last official bare-knuckle boxing title fight ever held (under London Prize Ring Rules) as Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan, the "Boston Strong Boy," defeats Jake Kilrain in a world champonship bout lasting 75 rounds in Mississippi

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to, and Protection of, Children Act, commonly known as the Children's Charter, is passed in the United Kingdom; for the first time it imposes criminal penalties to deter child abuse

  • The Nintendo Koppai (later Nintendo Company, Limited) is founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce and market Hanafuda playing cards

  • The Moulin Rouge cabaret opens in Paris

  • Inspired by Jules Verne, pioneer woman journalist Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) begins an attempt to beat travel around the world in less than 80 days. She finished the journey in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes

  • The first jukebox goes into operation at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco.

  • Clemson University is founded in Clemson, South Carolina

  • Woffard and Furman play the first intercollegiate football game in the state of South Carolina

  • Influenza pandemic originates in Russia

  • Yellow Fever interrupts the building of the Panama Canal

  • The Capilano Suspension Bridge is opened as the longest suspension foot-bridge in the world

  • Victor Fleming, American motion picture director, is born

AND

THE FIRST BANK AND TRUST COMPANY OF MURPHYSBORO is born as FIRST NATIONAL BANK!!

Our bank has seen all of this history and much, much more. In fact, we have had such a long and successful history ourselves that we have made it to the ripe old age of 125!

Not many businesses, anywhere in the world, can say that.

We are proud of our history, strength, patience, image, and ownership, but most of all, we are proud to serve Murphysboro and Jackson County for 125 years!

 

Michael Cripps
President and CEO

 

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