Make Your Tax Refund Work for You!

It’s easy for us to think of this year’s tax refund as free money coming to us courtesy of Uncle Sam. However, the truth of the matter is that the check you receive is a return of your own hard earned money. And since you’re going to get your own money back, why not use it to get ahead of your financial goals?

In 2014, sixty-nine percent of those polled by American Consumer Credit Counseling indicated that they had used their tax refund to pay down debt and get ahead on monthly expenses, including rent, utilities, and car payments. In 2013, twenty-six percent indicated they would put their refund into savings, while forty-five percent said they would use it to pay down credit card debt. The National Retail Federation saw that forty-six percent of its 2014 survey respondents intended to cushion their emergency savings with their returns, with nearly six in 10 young adults between 18 and 24 putting their refunds into savings.

The results of these surveys are indicative of a growing, budget-friendly and money-savvy trend: Americans are opting out of tax-time splurging and are focusing on getting ahead. Here are a few easy ways to get yourself set up for success as tax season approaches:

  • Take advantage of a Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program. VITA programs offer free tax help to those who generally make $53,000 or less, persons with disabilities, the elderly, and limited English speakers. Qualified individuals can receive basic income tax return preparation assistance from IRS-certified volunteers.
  • Use Form 8888 to split your refund.  Why rack up more debt on your credit card in an emergency when you can set aside savings to cover it interest-free? The IRS provides taxpayers with multiple avenues to receive and save their refunds. Take advantage of direct deposit to your checking account to pay off debts and automatically deposit a portion of your refund to your savings account.
  • Need more inspiration to save? Enter to win with SaveYourRefund. SaveYourRefund has 101 cash prizes, including 100 weekly prizes of $100 and one grand prize of $25,000.
  • Take the America Saves pledge to make a commitment to yourself to save. Get emails to keep yourself motivated and/or sign up for text message reminders to get tips and advice about your savings goals.

We know that making smart financial decisions isn’t always easy. So whether you’re just starting to look at ways to get ahead in 2015 or are already planning to put your refund towards your goals, remember that your tax refund doesn’t have to go to one place. When you get your hard earned money back, put a piece of it towards paying down debts AND save some for a rainy day. It really is that easy.

This post courtesy of Americasaves.org :

Tammy Greynolds works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support low- to moderate-income households to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at americasaves.org.

Two Ways Tax Scammers Might Target You

It’s that time of year — tax time. It’s also a great time to get up to speed on tax-related scams – so, we’re passing some valuable information on to you from the Federal Trade Commission, the federal agency entrusted with protecting your rights as a consumer.

Here are two ways tax scammers might target you:

Tax identity theft

This kind of identity theft happens when someone files a fake tax return using your personal information — like your Social Security number — to get a tax refund or a job. You find out about it when you get a letter from the IRS saying:

  • more than one tax return was filed in your name, or
  • IRS records show wages from an employer you don’t know

If you get a letter like this, contact the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 800-908-4490. You can find more about tax identity theft at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and irs.gov/identitytheft.

IRS imposter scams

This time scammers aren’t pretending to be you — they’re posing as the IRS. They call you up saying you owe taxes, and threaten to arrest you if you don’t pay right away. They might know all or part of your Social Security number, and they can rig caller ID to make it look like the call is coming from Washington, DC – when it could be coming from anywhere. Leaving you no time to think, they tell you to put the money on a prepaid debit card and tell them the card number right away.

The real IRS won’t ask you to pay with prepaid debit cards or wire transfers, and won’t ask for a credit card number over the phone. When the IRS contacts people about unpaid taxes, they usually do it by mail. 

If you have a question about your taxes, call the IRS at 800-829-1040 or go to irs.gov. You can report IRS imposter scams to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration (TIGTA) online or at 800-366-4484, and to the FTC at ftc.gov/complaint.

More Tips for Protecting Your Money this Holiday Season

It’s the time of year when retail companies are filling up your inboxes with ads for special deals on items and promotions. Whether you take advantage of those deals or not, you’re still at risk for being targeted by fraudsters. 

Do you know what to do to protect yourself? Here’s a few debit card tips:

  • Carry only the cards you need. They can’t be stolen or lost if they aren’t in your purse or pocket.
  • Keep credit/debit cards close. Never leave your wallet or purse unattended. 
  • Never let your card out of your sight. Skimming devices, which record card information, can be hidden in a hand or under a counter. 
  • Don’t lend your card to a friend or family member. No matter how much you trust them, your card isn’t in your control if you don’t have it.
  • Always check your receipts and look for unauthorized charges on your statement. If anything looks fishy, report it immediately. 
  • Make a list of card numbers, expiration dates, and the toll-free numbers of your financial institution. Keep this record in a safe place (not in your wallet, with your cards) so you have access to it in an emergency.

And a few more regarding online shopping:

  • When shopping online, check to be sure the sites are reputable and secure. Look for web addresses with “https” in the address.
  • Don’t shop online using public Wi-Fi. Hackers can easily gain access and steal your information. 
  • Don’t respond to emails asking for personal financial information, they are likely phishing emails designed to capture passwords, logins, credit card details etc. 

And, finally, always – ALWAYS - report lost cards and suspected fraud right away!

Holiday Travel Plans

Fraud is becoming more and more frequent and it’s no longer limited to online scams. Our fraud team works 24/7 to monitor and protect you from suspicious transactions. And, because we’re so careful, sometimes that can occasionally mean an inconvenience to you if you’ve swiped your card in a state other than the one you live in - and we don’t know you’re there.

Bottom line is… if you’re planning to be out-of-state for the holidays this year, make sure you let us know about those plans. Please, also keep your contact information up-to-date so our fraud team can reach you in a time of need.

Do you need to get us an update or let us know about your plans? Contact your local branch or our customer service representatives at 1-888-262-5456.

National Cybersecurity Awareness Month!

The internet is a powerful resource that many Americans have come to depend on for everyday activities like shopping, banking, and connecting with friends. Yet, for all the internet’s 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.

In recognition of National Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we’d like to offer the following tips to help consumers stay safe and secure 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.

What Can I Do to Secure My Mobile Device?

The volume of cyber threats to mobile computing devices continues to increase as new applications and devices proliferate. McAfee reports that there were more than two million new mobile malware samples in 2013. Symantec reports that nearly 40% of mobile device users have experienced mobile cyber crime in the past 12 months. Some experts estimate that nearly 10% of applications sold on particular platforms are malicious. Most mobile malware gets installed when a user visits an infected website or downloads a malicious application, or clicks on a link or an attachment.

How can you protect yourself? Here’are some helpful tips for keeping the information on your mobile device safe.

  1. Lock the device
    An easy way for malware to get on a device is for someone to manually install it. Locking your device with a strong PIN/password makes unauthorized installation of applications more difficult.
  2. Install applications from trusted sources
    Users must recognize that some applications may be malicious. If an app is requesting more permissions than seems necessary, do not install it, or uninstall the application. Only install applications from trusted sources.
  3. Don’t jailbreak your device
    To “jailbreak” or to “root” a device means to bypass important controls and gain full access to the operating system. Doing this will usually void the warranty and can create security risks. This also enables applications, including malicious ones, to bypass controls and access the data owned by other apps.
  4. Keep operating systems and apps up-to-date
    Manufacturers, telecommunications providers, and software providers regularly update their software to fix vulnerabilities. Make sure your device’s operating system and apps are regularly updated and running the most recent versions.
  5. Use a mobile security software solution
    Install antivirus software, if available.
  6. Block web ads and/or don’t click on them
    Malware can find it’s way onto your mobile device through a variety of methods, including advertisements. The malicious advertisements are called “malvertisements.” Mobile ads accompany a significant amount of content found in mobile applications. Whether you find them annoying or amusing, cyber criminals have turned their attention toward using them to spread malware to unsuspecting users. What makes these “malvertisements” so dangerous is the fact that they are often delivered through legitimate ad networks and may not appear outright spam, but can contain Trojans or lead to malicious websites when clicked on. Some mobile devices have software that can block harmful sites.
  7. Don’t click suspicious links and attachments
    While it may be difficult to spot some phishing attempts, it’s important to be cautious about all communications you receive, including those purported to be from “trusted entities”. Be careful when clicking on links or attachments contained within those messages.
  8. Disable unwanted services/calling
    Capabilities such as Bluetooth and NFC can provide ease and convenience in using your smartphone. They can also provide an easy way for a nearby, unauthorized user to gain access to your data. Turn these features off when they are not required.
  9. Don’t use public Wi-Fi
    Many smartphone users use free Wi-Fi hotspots to access data (and keep their phone plan costs down). Smartphones are susceptible to malware and hacking when leveraging unsecured public networks. To be safe, avoid logging into accounts, especially financial accounts, when using public wireless networks.

Help Us Celebrate National Ag Day!

Today is National Agriculture Day, a day organized by the Agriculture Council of America, a nonprofit organization dedicated to increasing the public’s awareness of agriculture’s key role in modern society.

Ag Day is the perfect time to recognize and celebrate the abundance provided by modern agriculture. We salute and thank all of you involved in the agriculture industry. We know that food, clothing and other daily necessities don’t just arrive in stores, but rather, go through many steps on the way to our tables and homes.

Central National Bank is proud to have served local farmers and ranchers and agri-businesses for the past 130 years. Money for Life isn’t just a tagline for us… we intend to continue to do all we can to assist our agriculture clients in any way we can.

Coming Soon – New Mobile Apps!

We’re in the process of finalizing and releasing new and improved mobile apps! Over the next week, you will see a new version of our apps available in the Google Play Store and iTunes. Once the new app is available, you can download and install it and then uninstall the previous version. You’ll also be prompted within the current version of the app to download the new version of our app once it’s available.

The new apps will feature a much-improved user interface as well as additional features such as CNB branch location listings and debit card integration! Stay tuned for more information, and thanks for your patience as we go through this process.

A screenshot of the “Home” screen on the new iOS app is shown below, first, and the Android version, second.

Target Data Compromise

Target released a statement today confirming a breach which affects nearly 40 million credit and debit card holders.

Anyone who shopped at a Target Store between November 27, 2013 and December 15, 2013 could be at risk. As a result of this situation, Central National Bank has decided to reissue new cards and PIN’s to all customers impacted by this breach. We also encourage you to monitor your accounts closely.

Central National Bank takes the protection and security of our customer information very seriously and we are actively monitoring accounts for suspicious activity.  If you notice something suspicious on your account please contact us immediately. We can immediately inactivate your card and work with you to dispute the fraudulent charges.

To learn more about this situation read Target’s official statement at https://corporate.target.com/discover/article/Important-Notice-Unauthorized-access-to-payment-ca