Written by Victor Sosa | Marketing Intern
Welcome back to our intern spotlight. Interns are in full swing with their work, projects, and volunteering. Let’s meet a few more!
Maria Acosta is a sophomore at Western Michigan University and is majoring in Accounting. She is a Card Services Intern and her most memorable moment was at the Steve Smith Golf Outing where she connected with a lot of people and created wonderful memories with her colleagues. A fun fact about Maria is she wants to explore more countries in Europe and wants to travel the world.
Allison Fike is a junior at Loyola University majoring in Accounting and Minoring in Finance. She is an Accounting Intern. She has learned how a bank’s day to day operations impact businesses and each branch. This knowledge will help her bring a different perspective to any future employment. She enjoys running in her spare time and is currently training to run the Chicago Marathon in October.
Brandon Fuller is a junior at Hope College double majoring in Economics and Mathematics. As a Mortgage Clerk Intern he’s learned a great deal about the mortgage process and specific products Mercantile offers. His biggest take away is realizing that the banking world is more lively and energetic than he envisioned, he didn’t realize the creativity and strategic thinking involved. For Brandon a guilty pleasure meal consists of a nice cup of green beans with a strawberry mango cooler from Culver’s.
Corey Gilmer is a senior at Grand Valley State University majoring in Finance. He is a Mortgage Clerk Intern and he’s learned just how complex banking can be; especially within the mortgage department. His most memorable moment thus far is when he was learning how to fax and received an email with a quote of Michael Scott from The Office saying “Fax? Why not just send it over on a dinosaur?” He found it even more hilarious when the email was marked as important. Corey is appreciating the time he has left in college and sometimes feels nostalgic about it.
Austin Gregory will be finishing his bachelor degree in Accounting at the end of summer at Northwood University and plans to attend graduate school there as well. As a Mortgage Clerk Intern, he’s learned a great deal about overdraft protection and how to close out loans. His understanding on banking has tremendously increased working as an intern. A fun fact about Austin is that he is the all-time leading scorer of the Ionia basketball program—Impressive!
Stay Tuned for our next installment of the Intern Spotlight!
From June through August 2018, 32 summer interns will be experiencing what it is like to be part of Mercantile Bank of Michigan. Interns are challenged with many projects, meetings, and tasks such as putting together presentations or sharing thoughts with their departments. Attending workshops is also an integral part of this experience. Topics vary from diversity training to developing networking skills. All in all, the program is filled with opportunities for growth and advancement. Misti Stanton, coordinator of the internship program sets the bar high for each intern; “I give you 150% and I expect the same in return at all times.” All of this makes this internship special, challenging and rewarding. Each week we will introduce you to a few of the interns and learn what each has to say about their experience being part of the Mercantile team.
Amari Brown is a sophomore at Hope College double majoring in Sociology and Social Work with a minor in Political Science. She joined the Human Resource team as an intern working directly under Misti Stanton, Diversity and Inclusion officer. Amari hopes this experience gives her the tools necessary to navigate her future career. A fun fact about Amari is that she enjoys participating in pageants. They have helped her tremendously with her communication skills and learning to be comfortable with who she is.
Kristin Cebelak is a sophomore at Ferris State University, who joined Mercantile as a Treasury Sales Intern. Her biggest take away from this internship is that a positive attitude is extremely important. She states that “A person can go far with a positive attitude and willingness to learn in the workplace”. She has done tasks such as data mining and analyzing of information to further assist treasury sales officers. In her spare time, she enjoys boating on Lake Michigan with family and is an avid game and movie enthusiast.
Michael Crenshaw, a sophomore at Michigan State University majoring in Finance, was selected as a Commercial Loans Intern. Crenshaw has learned a great deal about lending during his time at Mercantile. His biggest take away from this internship is the value of versatility in commercial lending. He says being a commercial lender requires one to have extraordinary people skills. Crenshaw not only cares a lot about the ins and outs of finance but, he has also watched every Marvel Cinematic Universe Movie except Thor: Dark World—impressive!
Justin Cutts is a junior at Alma College double majoring in Health Care Administration and Public Health. As a Retail Loan Operations Intern, he feels that having Mercantile Bank on his resume can be an attention grabber towards his future employment. He believes all work is important for the success of the team so he does his part so others can narrow down their focus. Justin plays college football and couldn’t be more thrilled to lace up his cleats and put on his football pads as he gets closer to the start of his football season Go Scots!
Zachary DeVries, a senior at Calvin College majoring in Accounting and minoring in Economics, was selected as a Real Estate Valuation Risk Intern. He feels this internship experience has helped him grow professionally, and so far he feels he has learned a great deal about office etiquette and other professional aspects that go along with working at a bank. DeVries’ biggest take away thus far has been how much he has learned about the banking industry as a whole. A fun fact about Zachary is he is afraid of snakes more than any other animal. He has been swimming with stingrays and sharks in the ocean, but nothing frightens him more than snakes. He says he is basically Indiana Jones.
Glory Emmanuel, a senior at Calvin College double majoring in Accounting and Economics, was selected to be a Commercial Loan Operations Intern. He feels delighted to learn how eager his co-workers and supervisors were to teach him everything he needs to know and more. One of his most memorable moments thus far is when interns took a trip to the city’s office in Grand Rapids. He was pleased to see the efforts the city is making to educate other students about college and post college life as well as their youth development programs. A fun fact about Glory is he has spent most of his life living between Nigeria and the United States. Now that’s a lot of traveling!
Stay tuned for our next installment of the Intern Spotlight!
Helping fill the needs of people in our local communities is one of the most important things we do. Nikki Biermann, Branch Manager at our West Branch M76 office spearheaded a volunteer event for the Mobile Food Pantry – Food Bank of Eastern Michigan at the First United Methodist Church in West Branch. Volunteers from the Bank along with local Boy Scouts and people from the congregation helped to unload the semi, sort the food, and then distribute it to over 260 individuals. Nikki uncovered the need through her involvement with Boy Scouts and put together a group of volunteers to help. Thank you Nikki, Alan, Shantel, Karen, Bennie, Steve, Alta, Kayla and Debbie for your commitment to the community of West Branch!
We have seen a large increase lately in fraud attempts to get businesses to send money via wire and ACH, and want to remind you of controls and diligence you should be using to protect your business from fraud. Often, once a business acts on fraudulent instructions to send money, it is difficult or impossible to get it back resulting in significant losses to the business. Please read the following carefully and make sure your team is aware of this type of activity, and that you have the proper controls in place to protect your business. Some examples of recent activity include:
Scenario # 1:
CEO of ACME R US is out of town on a family vacation. The controller receives an email asking if they are available to help with an urgent matter. Of course the controller responds quickly, asking how they can help. The CEO explains that a vendor of theirs never received payment and they are refusing to ship the parts they ordered unless they wire money today (wire instructions attached). Please send $57,735.32 immediately and provide me confirmation as soon as it is sent so I can inform our vendor, the CEO emailed. Without question, the controller does exactly what was requested.
The next day, the real CEO calls the office to simply check in. During their conversation, the controller asks if the wire got there in time and if the parts shipped. Perplexed, the CEO ask, “What wire and to whom”. Shortly after this call the bank gets a call. The fraudsters simply sent an email from outside the organization to the controller making it look as if it was an internal email.
The controller of ACME R US received an email from one of their suppliers. The email stated that they are changing banks and to please change their accounts payable information to the new account and routing number of the new bank effective immediately. Seems fairly routine, so the controller made the modification. A month later, ACME R US received a phone call about not paying their last invoice totaling $107, 861.35. Through conversation with the supplier, it was discovered that their email account had been compromised and the fraudster was sending fraudulent communications directly from their email account to customers like ACME R US.
What do both of these scenarios have in common? They both where orchestrated via email. Both times, the email communication was all that was necessary to take action. They both indicated a sense of urgency or immediate action required. They both lost thousands of dollars.
Take action and consider implementing these controls:
1. DO NOT automatically trust or act solely on an email communication asking you to make changes to payment instructions from vendors, business partners, or internal management, even if it looks legitimate. To protect your company, procedures should be reviewed to ensure they include a validation step outside of email utilizing already known contact information, such as a verification phone call. For internal management email requests, you may want to require an actual signature as an added security measure. Think about all the things you do simply based on trusting an email. What risk are you taking if the email is not legitimate?
2. Utilize Dual Control options for authorizing ACH and wire payments within online banking, and make sure the staff reviewing those are trained properly to look for potential fraud or unusual activity. Another set of trained eyes can be an effective, if not foolproof, way to safeguard against fraud.
3. Utilize Multi-Factor Authentication if you access your office remotely, use Office 365, Outlook Web Access, or some other cloud based email, ensure you utilize multi-factor authentication. If your credentials are compromised, the fraudsters can access your email account from anywhere. They monitor who you speak with and learn how you do business. Then they plan their attack and start communicating as you. They delete every sent and received communication to help hide their tracks. Please use multi-factor authentication whenever possible. It is as easy as receiving a 6 digit temporary access code that you key in every time you login with your username and password.
4. Train Your Staff about the risks of automatically trusting email as legitimate. Phishing emails can compromise your systems with malware or ransomware. Spear phishing emails hope to get your staff to take action and usually turns into money lost.
5. Contact The Bank Immediately if you believe you are a victim of fraud or have sent funds based on fraudulent instructions. We can best assist you if you call us first. (1-800-453-8700 option 2)
6. Secure Your Environment by ensuring your computer systems and network are routinely patched to help avoid vulnerabilities, and seek outside review or support regularly to make sure your internal controls are up to industry standards to avoid intrusion or takeover attempts.
If you have questions or concerns please contact us at (1-800-453-8700 option 2).
We’re excited to announce the launch of the MercMoney® Chatbot , it’s a new way to engage with your money and receive fast answers to common personal finance questions, through the latest voice-and-messaging platforms.
What’s a chatbot?
A chatbot is simply a piece of technology that you can interact with through voice-and-messaging platforms. It’s able to interpret what you say or type and provide an intelligent and relevant response. If you’ve ever used Amazon Alexa, Google Home, or Apple’s Siri, you’ve used a chatbot. The MercMoney® Chatbot builds on top of the existing functionality of our online and mobile app MercMoney® that is already used by thousands of customers who have taken charge of their finances. Please click here to learn more about MercMoney® . With the launch of the MercMoney® Chatbot, those same powerful financial insights can be accessed through Google Home, SMS (text messaging), and Facebook Messenger.
Why did we do this?
Our goal is to make sure everyone has an understanding of their financial health. The MercMoney® Chatbot will support customer financial health by expanding the possible channels for delivery of relevant and timely financial insights that can shape day-to-day financial decisions. It’s another convenient way for customers to keep track of their account balances, transactional history, spending patterns, budget trends, goals, and much more.
What can the Chatbot do?
You can ask MercMoney® all sorts of questions about your money, including account balances, spending, savings, budgets, recent transactions and more.
We’re constantly adding to the MercMoney® Chatbot, but you can try a few of the sample questions below:
● “What’s my account balance?”
● “What’s my latest transaction?”
● “Recent spending on restaurants”
● “What’s my net worth?”
● “What was my income last month?”
● “How’s my spending?”
● “What did I spend on coffee last month?”
● “How’s my shopping budget?”
● “Where is the nearest ATM?”
● “What’s the Mercantile routing number?”
● “What’s a money order?”
How do I start to use the Chatbot?
To use the MercMoney® chatbot, your first step is to enable MercMoney® on the device of your choice and securely connect all the accounts you want to track. Once MercMoney® is enabled and you have all your accounts loaded, it will begin to track your transactions, categorize them, create budgets, spending, and cash flow analysis, as well as providing tools to measure your net worth and plan to pay off debt. You still have access to all of the great visualization tools inside the MercMoney® app, and with the new MercMoney® chatbot, you’ll be also able to receive these insights conveniently through popular conversational platforms like Google Home, Facebook Messenger, and SMS (text messaging).
Is this secure?
Your security is always central to us and is an integral part of all of our services, no matter what device or platform you use to access your accounts. The MercMoney® Chatbot uses the same login as the online banking site to authenticate your device, and we don’t share access to your financial information with third parties in providing the service. Please click here to learn more about security for the MercMoney® Chatbot.
As of 9/7/2017, Equifax has stated that there is “No Evidence of Unauthorized Access to Core Consumer or Commercial Credit Reporting Databases”. Regardless, it may be in your best interest to understand or review the information Equifax has been issuing in response.
We’re sure you have questions. For answers, go to www.equifaxsecurity2017.com or call 1-866-447-7559. Their call center is open every day (including weekends) from 7:00 a.m. – 1:00 a.m. Eastern time.
In addition to the Equifax Potential Impact website, Equifax will send direct mail notices to consumers whose credit card numbers (estimated at 209,000 people) or dispute documents (estimated at 182,000 people) with personal identifying information were impacted.
To see recommended courses of action the Federal Trade Commission has provided on the breach, please click here. If you would like other information related to online security and related services the bank offers click here.
Like me, I hope you have fond memories of your grandparents. When invited to grandma’s house for lunch, I could always count on having something on the table she knew I liked. Grandparents are very special and we need to care for them as much as they care for us.
Unfortunately our grandparents, parents and older adults are the target of many types of scams received over the phone or via an email. These scams attempt to deceive with promises of goods, services, financial benefits or the need to send money to pay taxes, fees or to help someone they love. Their stories are contrived for one purpose and one purpose only, to get money. Below is just one example of these schemes.
Scammers place a call to an older person and when they answer, the scammer will say something along the lines of: “Hi Grandma, do you know who this is?” When the unsuspecting grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the scammer most sounds like, the scammer has established a fake identity without having done a lick of background research.
Once “in,” the fake grandchild will usually ask for money to solve some unexpected financial problem (overdue rent, payment for car repairs, etc.), to be paid via Western Union or MoneyGram, which don’t always require identification to collect. At the same time, the scam artist will beg the grandparent “please don’t tell my parents, they would kill me.”
One of the best ways to protect our loved ones from these types of tactics is to talk with them about it. Building awareness is the first step. If they are willing, another step might be helping them with paying bills and balancing their bank accounts.
If you have been or know someone who has been a victim; don’t be afraid to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Doing nothing could only make it worse. Keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including the local police, your bank (if money has been taken from your accounts), and Adult Protective Services at 1-855-444-3911. Call anytime day or night to report suspected abuse of vulnerable adults.
While growing up I remember being told “if something seems too good to be true, it probably is” This has always been good advice when it comes to the many money making scams that seem to plague our world. There are many types of fake check scams, but it all seems to start when a scam artist convinces you to take a check from them, deposit into your account and then wire a portion of the check to another account somewhere in the world. Both the check and their story are phony, but that could take days to discover. However, when the check you deposited comes back as a fake, and it will, the bank is going to expect you to get the money back. You are responsible for the checks you deposit into a bank account. There is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money anywhere in return.
Here are some good steps to take if you receive a check for anything:
Wait 10 business days after deposit – Most of these scams require you to deposit the money and then withdraw the portion they want you to wire immediately. If you wait 10 business days, you will know if the check is a fake. This can also be helpful when selling something online and the purchaser wants to pay via money order or cashier check and have someone else pick it up. Cash is always a good way to go with these types of deals.
Ask for a check drawn on a local bank – If the check is drawn on a local bank or the bank has a branch in your area, you can make a personal visit to make sure the cashier check or money order is valid. Don’t do anything until you are able to validate the check. Best practice is to only except a check from someone you know and trust.
Don’t be pressured – Scam artists always use urgency and high-pressure to get you to do what they want. If you start feeling or realize the other person is using these tactics, it is a good sign to walk away.
As a reminder, there is no legitimate reason why anyone would give you a check or money order and ask you to wire money anywhere in return, EVER!
Check back for more information on the next Mercantile Bank Security Minute.
Bad guys using ransoms to extort money from innocent people isn’t just something you see in the movies anymore. Every day, people’s computers and everything on them are being held hostage unless a ransom is paid. This threat isn’t targeted at just businesses, it is very opportunistic, and infecting anyone it can.
Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts the data on an infected computer. All of your precious family photos, videos and important documents, once encrypted, will no longer be accessible without the encryption key – which you can get only if you pay the amount the extortionist demands. This could be hundreds or thousands of dollars. What is your information worth to you?
Fortunately there is a better way to protect yourself than paying the ransom. By taking a few simple steps, you can avoid falling victim to this money making scheme:
- Back up your important files to a secondary location – Online Cloud Storage and USB attached hard drives are two great ways to back up what matters to you most in a second secure location. Don’t worry about program files as they can be restored from the source. Tax files, photos, videos, Word or Excel documents, are the types of files you want to ensure are backed up to a second location.
- DO NOT keep your backup storage attached to your computer – Some systems allow you the ability to automate the backup of files to a secondary location. Be careful, the ransomware is often sophisticated enough to encrypt your backup drives if it sees them and has access.
- Think twice before clicking on links or downloading attachments – Links or attachments within Phishing emails and social media sites like Facebook could be a trap that once sprung, sets into motion the chain of events caused by ransomware. Be very suspicious and ask yourself if it is really worth it to see whatever it is someone sent you.
If you become a victim of ransomware and you followed the steps above to back up your important files to a secure second location, don’t pay the ransom. Take your computer into a local reputable computer repair shop to have it restored and then copy your important files back onto your computer from your back up.
Law enforcement doesn’t recommend paying the ransom, although it’s up to you to determine whether the risks and costs of paying are worth the possibility of getting your files back. If you pay the ransom, there’s no guarantee you’ll get your files back. In fact, agreeing to pay signals to criminals that you haven’t backed up your files. Knowing this, they could increase the ransom price – and may delete or deny access to your files anyway. Even if you get your files back, they may be corrupted and you might be a target for other scams.
Check back for more information on the next Mercantile Bank Security Minute.
Have you ever received one of these bogus tech support calls? The fraudster calls claiming to be from technical support at Microsoft, Apple, or other well-known companies. They say that they’ve detected viruses or malware on your computer to trick you into paying for software you don’t need or worse yet, convince you to give them remote access to your computer to fix the problem.
These fraudsters take advantage of your concerns about viruses and other threats. They know most computer users have heard over and over that it’s important to install and maintain security software. But the purpose behind this elaborate scam isn’t to protect you and your computer; it’s to make money.
Once they have gained your trust, they may:
- Ask you to give them remote access to your computer and then make changes to your settings that could leave your computer vulnerable.
- Try to enroll you in worthless computer maintenance or warranty program.
- Ask for credit card information so they can bill you for phony services – or services you could get elsewhere for free.
- Trick you into installing malware that could steal sensitive data, like user names and passwords to online financial sites, your email account, and more.
- Direct you to websites and ask you to enter your credit card number and other personal information.
Regardless of the tactics they use, they have one purpose; it’s to make money.
If you get one of these calls, HANG UP! Microsoft, Apple or any other company will not call you proactively in this way. The caller will likely try to create a sense of urgency or use high-pressure tactics to get you to do what they want; Just Hang Up!
If you believe you may have been a victim of one of these scam calls, don’t panic. Instead:
- Unplug your computer from the internet.
- Take your computer to a local reputable business that specializes in fixing computers; let them know what happened.
- Once your computer has been repaired, or via another computer/device, change your passwords on all online financial and email sites you use and any other passwords you gave out.
- If you paid for bogus services with a credit card, call your credit card provider and ask to reverse the charges. Check your statements for any other charge’s you didn’t make, and ask to reverse those too.
Check back for more information on the next Mercantile Bank Security Minute.