Banking Tips

Lower Your Upcoming Tax Bill with an IRA Contribution by April 18, 2017

tax tips phrase made from metallic letterpress type on wooden tray

Just a quick reminder that you still have an opportunity to lower your 2016 income tax bill (or increase your refund) by making a qualifying contribution to an individual retirement account (IRA) by April 18, 2017.

Depending on your tax bracket, the savings equate to the government funding your retirement contribution at 15, 25 or 35 percent!

An individual in the 35 percent tax bracket, for example, who makes the maximum IRA contribution of $5,500 for the 2016 tax year will reduce his or her tax bill by $1925 (or increase their refund by the same amount).

Workers who are 50 and older can contribute up to $1,000 more, for a total contribution of $6,500, and a savings of up to $2275.

Note that maximum income levels apply unless you (and your spouse if married filing jointly) are not eligible for retirement contributions through an employer.

For more details, read the article at U.S. News & World Report or consult your tax professional.

Your Unsecured IoT Devices Leave Doors Open to Attack

The largest DDoS attack in history occurred on October 21 of last year. It brought down much of America’s internet, including sites like Twitter, The New York Times, The Guardian, Netflix, Reddit, PayPal, Verizon, Comcast and CNN for an extended period of time. Aside from being a major inconvenience to users, outages like these cost businesses enormous amounts of money.

What was new about this attack is how it was executed. Rather than relying on a botnet made up of computers, this botnet was made up of “internet of things” (IoT) devices—in this case, a large number of unsecured cameras. As we bring more and more IoT devices (think smart home devices, wearables, connected cars, printers, routers, etc.) into our lives, we provide open doors for malicious hackers to attack devices, networks, and the internet at large.

You can help stop attacks like these by changing the default (manufacturer’s) passwords on your IoT devices. Graham Cluley published a list of the 60 default username/password combinations that contributed to the massive October attack, and writes, “Not changing a default password on an internet-enabled device is as good as having no password at all.”

Just another reminder to be safe out there.

Sources: TheGuardian.com, BusinessInsider.com, TheAtlantic.com, GrahamCluley.com

Applying for an SBA loan—What you’ll need

The 7(a) is the SBA’s most popular loan program, and is typically used for working capital, asset purchases and leasehold improvements.

As a small-business owner, you may apply for up to $750,000 in SBA funds through Clatsop Community Bank. Note that all owners with a stake in the business of 20 percent or more are required to personally guarantee this type of loan.

Is Your Business Eligible?

How can SBA 7(a) funds be used?

What you’ll need to complete your application package:

  • SBA Loan Application
  • Personal background and financial statement
  • Business financial statements, including:
    • Profit and loss statement (current within 180 days of application)
    • Projected financial statements
  • Ownership and affiliations
  • Business certificate/license
  • Loan application history
  • Income tax returns, including personal and business federal income tax returns for your business’ principals for the previous three years
  • Resumes for each principal
  • Business overview and history
  • Business lease
  • If purchasing an existing business:
    • Current balance sheet and profit and loss statement
    • Previous two years of federal income tax returns for the business
    • Proposed bill of sale including terms of sale
    • Asking price, with schedule of inventory, machinery, equipment, furniture and fixtures

For more information on SBA loans, please contact us, or visit the Small Business Administration website.

ATM Skimming Fraud on the Rise—How You Can Take Precautions

Person making an ATM transaction

Cover the keypad when entering your PIN

According to an article in the New York Times, fraud by way of ATM skimming devices is on the rise. Skimming occurs when fraudsters install an illegal card reading device on an ATM to capture card numbers, and use a camera to capture personal identification numbers as they are entered on the ATM’s keypad.

FICO Card Alert Service, which monitors ATM activity for banks, reported a sixfold increase in the number of machines compromised by criminals between 2014 and 2015. And while bank ATMs are not immune, nonbank ATMs (like those in convenience stores) are increasingly targeted. In 2015, 60 percent of compromised machines were nonbank ATMs.

How can you tell if an ATM has a skimmer? According to Kurt Baumgartner, principal security researcher with Kaspersky Lab, customers should look for anything that appears unusual about an ATM, particularly the slot where the card is inserted. If the fixture wiggles or appears to be attached with glue, that’s an indication that a skimming device is attached.

If my card is skimmed, will I get any stolen money back? In most cases, yes. Under the Electronic Funds Transfer Act, consumers generally aren’t liable for funds stolen from their bank account through fraud like skimming, as long as it’s reported within 60 days, said Paul Stephens, policy director of the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse. Please note that protections for electronic funds transfers provided by Regulation E pertain to consumer liability and to not extend to business accounts or business debit cards.

How can I avoid having my card skimmed? Michael Lee, chief executive of the ATM Industry Association, said consumers could reduce their risk when using ATMs by covering the keypad with their free hand while they enter their PIN. He also suggested avoiding ATMs in nonbank locations because direct video surveillance may be less likely at those locations.

Read the full article at nytimes.com.

 

Travel savvy tips help protect your identity

Summer is fast approaching and with it often comes travel—whether out of the country for 10 days—or just out of town for the weekend. In any event, a few common-sense precautions can go a long way toward keeping your identity (and your bank accounts) safe while you’re away.

  1. Don’t announce your travel plans on social media, or advertise that you’re away from home by posting comments and photos as you go. Wait until you’ve returned home if you want to share memories of your trip online.
  2. Place a hold on your mail and suspend newspaper and other routine deliveries.
  3. Carry only what you need in your wallet when you travel, removing any identifying information that you don’t need while on your trip.
  4. Alert your credit and debit card issuers that you will be traveling, and set up travel alerts on your credit card accounts if available.
  5. Leave your laptop at home. If you must travel with it, do not access bank accounts or conduct online transactions on public networks like those at hotels and coffee shops.
  6. Lock passports and other important documents in a safe when staying at a hotel.
  7. Use only ATMs that are located in banks.
  8. Activate password protection on your smartphone.
  9. Destroy used boarding passes. They often contain full names and other personal information.
  10. Don’t put your full name and address on luggage tags. Use only your last name and a phone number.

Also, consider the differences in protection offered by debit and credit card issuers. Credit cards typically place lower limits on your liability in the event of fraud, and allow more time for you to report unauthorized charges. Plus, when a credit card is compromised, it doesn’t interfere with your ability to access cash and pay bills, as could be the case, at least temporarily, if your debit card is compromised.

Source: 10 Tips to Avoid Identity Theft During Summer Travel from the Better Business Bureau