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Sun, Sand and Cybersecurity
Every summer, vacationers put their house lights on timers and their mail on hold when they travel away from home. It’s just as important when taking a vacation to take similar precautions with good cyber habits. Many cyber criminals specifically target travelers…
Criminals often set online lures to sell fake vacations or tickets. These may be just simple advertisements or sophisticated scams using realistic websites, complete with phone operators that will “assist” you.
Social media posts with pictures of tourist attractions may update your friends and family, but they also tell criminals that you’re on vacation and your house is empty. Other older posts may contain personal details or pictures of your home, telling thieves what items of value are in the house or how to circumvent security systems.
Sensitive data, such as login names and passwords, are especially valuable to criminals. One way criminals obtain such data is by installing a “keylogger” on hotel public computers. The keylogger records every keystroke typed on the computer and then transmits that information to the criminal.
Some cyber criminals specialize in “sniffing” the Wi-Fi and public networks in airports and coffee shops, allowing the criminal to collect and read all information sent over a wireless network. Other criminals use a practice called “juice jacking”, where the criminal rigs a public charging kiosk to siphon information directly from your device when you plug into it.
Who’s the Boss?
The cyber security threat doesn’t end with you; Social engineers often use information about a boss’ vacation to gain physical access or commit financial fraud. The social engineer knows that they can reference the boss and the boss will not be reachable to verify whether he/she really did order the “repairman” or gave instructions for a fraudulent wire transfer.
When in Rome…
Different countries have different laws, which may allow government employees or law enforcement full access to your device without your knowledge or permission. Some countries are known to collect all data residing in that country, while others collect data from devices left in hotel rooms. This may be very important in countries that do not have the same freedom of speech as the United States. Some of these countries are known to have jailed tourists who posted negative comments online about the government or who posted criminal activities online, such as the use of alcohol or drugs. Luckily, with a little care it’s possible to avoid these problems. Follow these simple tips to ensure that the only memories from your vacation are good ones:
Easy Tips to Protect Yourself
- Use discretion when posting personal information on social media. This information is a treasure-trove to social engineers. Do not post information about travel plans or details; save the pictures and updates until after you return home.
- Set email away messages to only respond to known contacts in your address book.
- Disable geo-locational features, such as automatic status updates and friend finder functionalities.
- Remind friends and family members to exercise the same caution.
Easy Tips to Protect Your Devices
- Keep your electronic devices with you at all times.
- Before traveling abroad, change all passwords that you will use while traveling, and upon return change the passwords of any accounts that were accessed while abroad. This includes passwords used by social media websites and email providers, for which you have automatic logins.
- Do not access sensitive accounts (e.g. banks, credit cards, etc.) or conduct sensitive transactions over public networks, including hotel and airport wi-fi and business centers, or Internet cafés.
- Use up-to-date anti-virus, anti-spyware, and anti-adware protection software; apply recommended patches to your operating system and software.
- Use wired connections instead of Bluetooth or Wi-Fi connections, whenever possible.
- Do not plug USB cables into public charging stations; only connect USB powered devices using the intended AC power adapter.
- Know the local laws regarding online behavior, as some online behaviors are illegal in certain countries.
6 Money Mistakes Newlyweds Should Avoid
6 Money Mistakes Newlyweds Should Avoid
Pine Country Bank offers tips for managing money together
Summer wedding season is in full swing and newlyweds will soon be managing their finances as a pair. Pine Country Bank is encouraging couples to waste no time addressing how they will handle money issues as spouses and financial partners.
Developing a financial plan can often take a backseat to the excitement of a wedding. But it’s important to remember that this is not only a marriage of hearts but also a marriage of finances.
To help couples start their journey on strong financial footing, Pine Country Bank warns consumers of these post-wedding money mistakes:
- Avoiding the money talk. Discussing your finances can be a bit uncomfortable for many couples, but those who tackle it head on will be better for it. Understand your partner’s financial goals and spending habits. While you may have different answers, this conversation can help you develop an approach to money management that works for both of you.
- Not setting a budget. A mistake many couples make is not establishing a budget early on. After assessing your finances as a pair, determine how you’ll spend your money each month. Are there certain expenses that you should be cutting back on and others you should be saving up for? Coming to an agreement on these things and setting a budget will be beneficial for the health of your bank accounts and your relationship.
- Not having a plan for your accounts. There is no ‘right’ way to manage your accounts. Couples can choose to have exclusively joint accounts, a joint account as well as separate accounts for saving or personal spending, or keep things entirely divided. Discuss your preferences together and decide what makes you both the most comfortable.
- Failing to set up an emergency fund. Life is full of surprises and unfortunately, some of these surprises can be expensive. Having an emergency fund will help you avoid precarious financial situations should something come up. It’s important that you decide together how you’ll set aside the money.
- Not establishing a minimum cost for discussing big expenses. While not all purchases demand a conversation, more expensive ones that impact the family budget should. Determine what that threshold is as a couple. For any expenses above that cost, you both should be in agreement on whether it’s a necessary purchase.
- Forgetting to update your beneficiaries. Now that you’ve officially tied the knot, you should likely identify your spouse as the person who will receive the benefits of your will, life insurance policy and financial accounts like your 401(k), checking and savings. Don’t make the mistake of waiting for an emergency to arise to handle this.
Royalton Platte River Day - We Our Customers Like Royalty
Royalton Platte River Day was on August 1st and Pine Country Bank participated in the parade in a royal way! The theme for the Pine Country Bank float was "Pine Country Bank treats our customers like Royalty."
Curt Smallbrock Joins Pine Country Bank as Commercial Lender
Pine Country Bank has announced that Curt Smallbrock joined the bank as a Commercial Lender at the bank’s Rice branch. His first day with the bank was July 13, 2015.
Lorna Lange, Vice President and Branch Manager of the Rice location feels that Smallbrock is a great addition to Pine Country Bank’s Commercial Lending team.
Curt and I worked together in previous management roles so I know first-hand that he is more than capable to step into this role with Pine Country Bank. His experience with community banks and large financial institutions coupled with his local knowledge of our communities were the perfect fit for our bank.
Smallbrock has over 21 years of financial experience. He has worked at all levels of banking starting as a teller and working his way up to management positions. He has experience in all aspects of banking including customer service, personal banking, mortgage and was also a licensed financial advisor.
I’m looking forward to working with the employees and customers of Pine Country Bank. The bank has a reputation of getting to know their customers and meeting them face-to-face which is hard to do at larger financial institutions.
Learn more about Pine Country Bank's commercial lending services.
Summer Newsletter - Mind What You Do Online
Don't miss our Summer Newsletter - Mind What You Do Online!
- Tips on keeping yourself and your computer secure
- The Top 10 Financial Tips for Students
- Community News
- Hometown Pledges by Pine Country Bank
- Information on VA Loans
- Employee spotlight on Cheryl P., our Mortgage Loan Processor
Drive "Fore" Cancer Event Raised $14,190 to Support Local Cancer Patients
The Drive "Fore" Cancer event held at Eagles Landing Golf Club on June 19 successfuly raised $14,190 to support Morrison County cancer patients.
Katie Kapus-Jackson, a Pine Country Bank Mortgage Lender, helped organize the event with three other local women. These women had friends diagnosed with cancer and saw the need for assistance to local residents; this is the 7th year of the fundraiser.
Pine Country Bank has supported Katie and local cancer patients by sponsoring the event all seven years.
Pine Country Bank of Little Falls supports Drive “Fore” Cancer golf tournament
Pine Country Bank is a $500 corporate sponsor for the 1st Annual Drive “Fore” Cancer tournament on Friday June 19th at the Eagles Landing Golf Course. The tournament has been in existence for 5 years, recently renamed and reorganized to allow proceeds to remain 100% local, and more quickly reach Morrison County residents who are in need of support. The event typically raises around $14,000 for local cancer care.
Pictured are Lori Kush, committee member of Drive “Fore” Cancer, Dave Cebulla, Pine Country Bank and Connie Hoheisel committee member. Katie Kapus-Jackson of Pine Country Bank is also on the committee.
The Top 10 Financial Tips for College Students
It's that time of year when we're celebrating high school graduations and getting the students in our lives ready for college. Share these tips with the college students you know - their financial health and education is important!
- You are in charge. You are responsible for your finances and you should act accordingly by creating a realistic budget or plan and sticking to it.
- Watch Spending. You control your money, determining how you spend or save it. Pace spending and increase saving by cutting unnecessary expenses like eating out or shopping so that your money can last throughout the semester.
- Use Credit Wisely. Understand the responsibilities and benefits of credit. How you handle your credit in college could affect you well after graduation. Shop around for a card that best suits your needs.
- Utilize Your Bank Account. Banks are more than money in a vault. They offer valuable services that students can benefit from like check cashing, debit cards, online banking, balance alerts, personal loans, direct deposit, financial education and some offer identity theft protection.
- Lookout for Money. There's a lot of money available for students, you just have to look for it. Apply for scholarships and look for student discounts.
- New is Out. Consider buying used books or ordering them online. Buying books can become expensive and often used books are in as good of shape as new ones.
- Entertain on a Budget. Limit your hanging out fund. There are lots of fun activities to keep you busy in college and most are free to students. Use your meal plan or sample new recipes instead of eating out.
- Be particular when it comes to money. Don't just trust anyone with your money. Be skeptical of classmates, friends or salespeople that have ideas for your money.
- Save. Things happen, and it's important that you are financially prepared when your car or computer breaks down or when you have to buy that unexpected bus ticket home. No matter how small the amount you should start putting some money away immediately.
- Ask. This is a learning experience, so if you need help, ask. Your parents or your banker are a good place to start and remember the sooner the better.
Cheryl Ploof Named Employee of the Month
Our very own mortgage loan processor, Cheryl Ploof, is recognized by the Little Falls Area Chamber of Commerce as the May Employee of the Month.
Ploof has worked for Pine Country Bank since 2006 when her and Katie Kapus-Jackson came to Pine Country Bank as a team after working together at Wells Fargo.
“Every day, all day, she gives 110 percent,” said Katie Kapus-Jackson, who has worked with Ploof for 15 years. “She’s like my left hand. I wouldn’t be able to do what I do if she wasn’t here.”
“I really enjoy coming to work every day. Pine Country Bank has great employees that are knowledgeable, friendly and fun to work with,” Ploof said. “It’s a very good feeling making people’s dreams come true by helping them get into their perfect home.”
We couldn't be happier to have Cheryl a part of the Pine Country Bank team; it's our employees that make this bank special.
Visit our Home Mortgages page to learn about the services Cheryl and Katie provide.
Read the Morrison County Record article to learn more about Cheryl.
Katie Kapus-Jackson and Cheryl Ploof (right), the Pine Country Bank mortgage lending team.
Pine Country Bank Celebrates Teachers
Every year during Teacher Appreciation Week, Pine Country Bank delivers cakes to the schools in the surrounding communities. This year, a total of eleven cakes were given to schools in the Rice, Royalton and Little Falls school districts.
"Teachers play a key role in student success and offer a great service to our local communities," notes Rob Ronning, President of Pine Country Bank. "This is our way to say a simple “thanks” to all that our local teachers and staff do."
Avoid Becoming A Tax Scam Victim
With tax season comes tax scams. Make sure you protect yourself against scams that attempt to steal people's tax refunds, bank accounts or identities with these four tips:
- Don't respond to emails appearing to be from the IRS. The IRS doesn't initiate taxpayer communications through email or social media to request personal or financial information. If you receive an unsolicited email claiming to be from the IRS, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Don't respond to unsolicited emails and don't provide sensitive information via email. If the email appears to be from your employer, financial institution, broker, etc., contact the entity directly. Don't open any attachments or click on links contained in unsolicited or suspicious emails.
- Carefully select the tax sites you visit. Use caution when searching online for tax forms, advice on deductibles, tax preparers and other similar topics. Don't visit a site by clicking on a link sent in an email, found on someone's blog or in an advertisement. The website you land on may look just like the real site, but it may be a well-crafted fake.
- Secure your computer. Make sure your computer has all operating system and application software updates. Anti-virus and anti-spyware software should be installed, running and receiving automatic updates. Ensure you use a strong password and different passwords for each account.
Here are some additional resources:
Hometown Pledge - St. Francis Music Center Orchestra Program
Pine Country Bank representatives Lorna Lange, Vice President of Pine Country Bank and manager of the Rice branch, and Rob Ronning, President of Pine Country Bank, presented a $500 check to Bobbi French, director of the orchestra program at St. Francis Music Center, Little Falls.
Ronning said, “This donation is part of our philosophy. We give back to the communities where our banks are located. If it weren’t for the people of the communities we serve, Pine Country Bank would not be here.” French echoed her sentiments, “And we, as an orchestra, give back to our community. Having the gift of music, we willingly share.”
Learn more about the organization by visiting the St. Francis Music Center website.
Hometown Pledge - SAL's City Flag Project
Pine Country Bank donated $500 for a second year to the Sons of the American Legion (SAL) City Flag Project. SAL members initiated the project in 2006 with the intent to display American flags throughout the city of Little Falls. This is the 10th anniversary of the project and an additional 51 flags will be hung on the new light poles in the downtown area, for a total of 156 flags to be displayed throughout the city. The flags are displayed beginning Memorial Day weekend through Sept. 11, Patriot Day, and weather permitting, on display again for Veterans Day, Nov. 11.
The Patriot Flag Program sponsored by the SAL enables businesses and individuals to donate toward the project annually to show their pride in the U.S. Flag, country and community. This year’s theme is “So That All May Know We Are Proud.” The group has plans to be part of the Dam Festival parade, June 20, for the 10th anniversary of the City Flag Project.
Learn more about the Sons of The American Legion by visiting The American Legion website.
Pictured are (from left): Committee member Adjutant Chair Al Stencel; Pine Country Bank President Rob Ronning and Committee Member Greg Santema. Also part of the committee, but not pictured is Matt Derry.
Brand New Website
We are excited to have a brand new website for Pine Country Bank. It has a clean new look and now it’s easier to navigate the site and find what you are looking for.
We’d love to hear what you think! Email us at email@example.com with any feedback or questions you have.
Pine Country Bank employees volunteer with 2014 "Women Build for Habitat for Humanity"
Our employees are always up to something good. Recently, five of our women employees rolled up their sleeves and built homes!
Here’s what each had to say about the experience:
Diane: “It’s amazing the amount of time and work involved to build these homes. The new homeowner needs to put in 300 hours of “sweat equity” labor so they are working right next to us in the building process. Seeing the tears in their eyes the day they are handed the key to their own home makes all our volunteer time and work worthwhile.”
Paula: “The Women Build for Habitat for Humanity is an extraordinary event. It’s amazing how much construction work can get done by women in one day. We had a great instructor and all of us were eager to do as much as we possibly could. We worked alongside the homeowner and it touched my heart to see how much this home meant to her. The afternoon flew by. We had a lot of fun and left with a great sense of accomplishment.”
Susie: “It was awesome to talk to Kathy Kalhammer and find out the details of how they get through the application process and choose who will get a home. Also, many of the details regarding the building and loan portion that most of us hear or assume are not true. I gained a much better understanding of the whole process. Also, the homeowner was working with us to put together and put up the walls, which was great. It was nice to get to know her personally and hear about her young son, knowing the people whom we were helping. It was truly a great experience and I will definitely do it again.”
Tina: “It was very exciting and a lot of fun. The bond you immediately feel with the other woman is heartwarming. Getting to work side by side with the Jessica was nice too, and it’s always empowering learning new skills. When the work is done and you look back on the house, you have a sense of pride that you helped.”
Leonice: “It was nice to see the different people come together to help out someone that none of us have ever met. It was reassuring to me that there are such good people doing good things right here in my own area.”
PHONE SCAM ALERT
There have been some reports from customers about receiving phone calls from Pine Country Bank. These phone calls seem to be from an automated phone system from the Washington state area claiming the account holder’s account has been frozen.
THIS IS A SCAM, HANG UP IMMEDIATELY AND DO NOT GIVE OUT ANY INFORMATION. Please contact us immediately if you were a victim of this scam.
With all the news of scams, threats and breaches, you should know your rights. Check out your credit report to ensure the information being reported is accurate. www.AnnualCreditReport.com is the official site to get your free annual credit reports. This right is guaranteed by Federal law and you will never be asked to enter in your bank account or card information.
Don't be fooled by look-alike sites. You can be sure that you are on the right site if you type www.AnnualCreditReport.com in your browser address line. Don't come to this site by clicking on a link in another site or in an email. The site is maintained by Central Source, LLC. Central Source, LLC is sponsored by Equifax, Experian and TransUnion so you have a single site where you can ask for all three of your free credit reports.
Sauk Rapids-Rice Education Foundation (SRREF) Receives Donation from Pine Country Bank in Rice
The Sauk Rapids-Rice Education Foundation accepted a generous donation from the Pine Country Bank in Rice. This $1000.00 donation was the second of three annual donations and is again earmarked to benefit children attending Rice Elementary School. The donation will provide Rice Elementary students with increased access to mobile technology and will supplement the District’s technology initiative. Together with organizations such as the Pine Country Bank in Rice, we are opening the doors of opportunity for every student at Rice Elementary and in the Sauk Rapids-Rice School District as they advance through elementary to secondary and beyond.
While Rice Elementary was named specifically in this donation, we are proud of the success of all Sauk Rapids-Rice students, which is due to the hard work and commitment of our communities, families,administration, Board of Education members and staff.
Pictured from left Lorna Lange Vice President of Pine Country Bank and Rice Branch Manager, Daniel Bittman Superintendent of Schools ISD 47, Rob Ronning President of Pine Country Bank, Dan Cairns SRREF Advisory Board Chair, Christina Bemboom Rice Elementary Principal, and Jan Solarz Board of Education and SRREF Advisory Board Member
Online Banking News
Your password is more than just a key to your computer or online account. It is a gateway to all of your important information. If your password falls into the wrong hands, a cybercriminal can impersonate you online, access your bank or credit card accounts, sign your name to online service agreements or contracts, engage in financial transactions, or change your account information. Unfortunately, many users are still not taking the necessary steps to protect their accounts by using strong passwords. Far too often, passwords with simple combinations (such as 123456, password, qwerty, or abc123) are being used. In other cases, people simply use their pet’s name or their birth date — information that can be easily found online, such as on a Facebook or genealogy page.
How to Create Secure Passwords
Cybercriminals have developed programs that automate the ability to guess your passwords. To protect yourself, passwords must be difficult for others to guess but, at the same time, easy for you to remember. Here are some recommendations:
- Passwords should have at least eight characters and include uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and symbols.
- Avoid words and proper names, regardless of language. Hackers use programs that try every word in a dictionary.
- Don't use personal information — names, birthdays, etc., that someone might already know or easily obtain.
- Change passwords regularly — at least every 60 days. If you believe your system or an online account you access has been compromised, change your passwords immediately.
- Use different passwords for each account you have.
- Make sure your work passwords are different from your personal passwords.
Protecting Your Passwords
- Do not write down your passwords. If you need to remember your passwords, write down a hint to a password, but never the password itself. Store the hint in a safe place away from your computer.
- Do not share your password with anyone — attackers may try to trick you via telephone calls or email messages into sharing your password.
- Do not reveal your password on surveys, questionnaires, or security forms.
- Decline the “Remember Password” feature in Web browsers.
- Always remember to log out when using a public computer.
- If you need a utility to store your passwords, an “electronic vault” may be a viable option. When deciding which password manager/electronic vault to use, look for programs that use powerful encryption algorithms, keylogger and phishing protection, and lock-out features.