Sense of community still a cornerstone in keeping customers safe
Amid a string of headlines revealing security breaches among high-profile retailers, banks across the country are working to ensure that their customers’ private information remains private. But with the impersonal approach offered by national banks, some customers are finding that they feel more uncertain than ever about the security of their finances. Big banks sometimes struggle in connecting with their customers as individuals with unique needs. A bank headquartered on the east coast may lack the presence to personally attend to Rocky Mountain residents and their concerns.
As a local institution that has grown alongside the Utah Valley communities over the last century, Bank of American Fork understands the threats local customers face. What’s more, the bank employs new technology to enhance the customer experience, not replace it. Bank of American Fork’s strategy in combating fraud begins with a comprehensive awareness of potential threats, both online and off, while working closely with customers to offer them the tools and knowledge necessary to secure their finances.
Data compromises in recent months involving large retailers such as Target, Apple and Home Depot have only heightened people’s awareness of the real-world dangers threatening the safety of their savings. Bank of American Fork’s layered security has minimized the risk to their customers, and the bank is proactive in identifying those who may be affected while working with them to take preventative measures such as issuing new cards and flagging suspect spending to ensure that their finances are still safe.
“We take the threat of identity theft very seriously because, as a local bank, these are our friends and family we’re working with,” said Blaine Crosby, Bank of American Fork’s chief information officer. “When a community entrusts us with their finances, we want them to rest easy knowing their money is secure.”
Bank of American Fork’s layered security extends to all its financial services. This includes installing a number of safeguards at each point of transaction, including ATMs. For example, at the start of 2014, 95 percent of ATMs across the nation were running on the Windows XP operating system. Microsoft announced that they were discontinuing support for Windows XP, potentially opening a window for exploits by hackers. Bank of American Fork was already in the process of transitioning its ATMs to Windows 7, and quickly had each of its machines up to date. This ensured access to the latest updates and security patches and preempted the risks faced by other machines that were still running on outdated operating systems. The ATMs routinely issue security alerts to report skimmers, hackers, or suspect transactions, and in the event that security reports show evidence of vulnerability, the ATMs can immediately be shut down remotely.
Additionally, Bank of American Fork is combating online fraud by offering Rapport™, a security solution for home computers provided through the financial security experts at Trusteer, Inc. Rapport™ is a downloadable set of tools that works alongside existing firewalls and antivirus programs to help protect against phishing scams and malware. The service, which is provided at no cost to customers through Bank of American Fork, works by monitoring for potential threats as customers handle their billing and transactions during online banking, and can be configured to help protect against threats on other websites that can serve as an entry point for malicious behavior.
The ways in which Trusteer’s Rapport™ software helps protect customers include:
• Warning users if they visit a fake website purporting to belong to Bank of American Fork,
• Preventing the collection of banking credentials and other sensitive information, and
• Protecting web browser communication to prevent malware from tampering with bank transactions.
The free software is simple to install, entirely transparent and does not interfere with normal computer use. While use of this security software is not compulsory for Bank of American Fork customers, it is highly recommended.
Bank of American Fork is highly dedicated to security. Attention to technological safeguards provides its customers with protection while still allowing for the personal touch of a local establishment with a strong sense of community. Despite the ongoing threats facing a rapidly changing financial environment, Bank of American Fork, with the cooperation of its customers, is committed to providing them a high level of financial security, and with it, peace of mind.
Although the technology and services banks offer have evolved and changed over the years, relatively little has changed about the design of bank branches. You can usually expect to see a line of teller counters against a wall with tellers waiting behind. Bank of American Fork is revolutionizing community banking and the customer experience with its new technology and design at the St. George branch.
Bank of American Fork’s St. George branch, which opened in August, is unlike most other banks. Instead of a teller line, the bank features a teller “pod,” which is more accommodating to customers and provides flexibility to tellers. Instead of a teller line, the pod is a table with computers that swivel at each end and is accessible from all sides, so tellers can interact directly with customers. The pod allows customers to do more in one place and gets tellers out from behind a counter, where they can help customers better.
“I really like the new pod system and technology bar here at the St. George branch because it’s easier to interact with customers,” said Benjamin Smith, a teller for Bank of American Fork. “Instead of just describing what we offer, I can show them what our tools look like. When they decide which products to use, I can help them learn how to use those tools right here in the branch.”
The pod was created with a close eye to function, and is fully equipped to handle every service a customer would expect in a traditional line and window arrangement. They feature a teller machine used to deposit and withdraw funds, reducing the chance of human error in cash transactions.
“This design allows for the progression of counting money to offering additional services,” said Richard Grow of DEI Incorporated, the architectural firm that designed the pods and flow of the St. George branch. “In all of the retail world, they get up from the counter to come around and help customers, then return to the counter to finish the transaction. This is really taking retail into the banking world.”
This new design allows tellers to leave their stations in order to teach customers how to do online banking, discuss loans and mortgages or meet in private for various banking needs.
Besides the teller pods, Bank of American Fork has included a “learning center” equipped with various mobile tools customers might use for their banking needs. This center allows tellers and other bank employees to teach customers how to use, for example, an iPad® to do mobile banking. Customers are equipped with the knowledge they need in order to have smooth and secure banking via a mobile device.
“Banking needs to keep up with the lifestyles and desires of its customers,” said Brian Thompson, senior vice president at Bank of American Fork. “Moving forward, our branches will continue to evolve to benefit the customer experience. In terms of service, we want banking to be shaped around the customer’s needs and not by how things have traditionally been handled in banking.”
Bank of American Fork strives to create a banking experience that is both convenient and connects people. The new branch in St. George is one way to do just that.
ICBA spreads the word about Project Teddy Bear in your community
Sandy Dubois started Project Teddy Bear 15 years ago as a way for employees at Bank of American Fork to give back to their communities instead of giving gifts to each other during the holidays. Dubois is passionate about helping children, and she wanted the project to be about the at-risk children in Utah communities. That first year, customers, community members and bank employees donated a couple of hundred teddy bears to be taken to a family care center to be used in play therapy or for children taken from their homes and from everything they knew. Last year, during the 14th Annual Project Teddy Bear, you brought in more than 20,000 bears that served the children in care centers across Utah.
Every year Dubois and others hope the care centers will call and say there’s no need for the bears—that all of Utah’s children are being taken care of and none are victims of abuse or neglect. Unfortunately, that’s not the case, so Bank of American Fork seeks the community’s help in increasing the number of donations every year.
Now, Project Teddy Bear’s national recognition from Independent Community Bankers of America’s 2014 National Community Bank Service Award will help spread the word and get more people involved in helping Utah’s children and children across the nation. Independent Banker magazine highlighted the project in its September issue and Dubois and Bank of American Fork invite any other bank or business to copy the model.
“The reason this recognition is important to us is because it helps the community,” said Richard Beard, president and CEO of Bank of American Fork. “Our local communities have helped more than 73,000 children simply by getting involved. Some people drop off one bear when they come in to make a deposit and we have others, like girl-scout troops, who take on the project and bring in hundreds of bears. Each donation matters, because each of those bears represents an at-risk child here in Utah.”
Project Teddy Bear will start its 15th annual collection beginning November 20. Drop off a bear at any of our 14 branch locations. We know you care about the children in your communities, so talk to us at www.facebook.com/BankAF or @bankaf to find out how you can be involved.
Tracey Larson is Bank of American Fork’s resident expert on age-friendly banking, whose passion stems from being a daughter and daughter-in-law of senior parents. She’s currently the financial representative for the Governor’s Commission on Aging and is also a member of Provo’s Elderly and Vulnerable Adult Coalition.
We’ve talked here about the risk of elder financial abuse and how to mitigate that risk. Sometimes, though, the risk comes from careless or uninformed planning. The example Janeen Diamond brought up on Fresh Living last week was of a daughter who is a joint account holder on her senior father’s account. If the daughter goes through a divorce, Diamond asked, is the father’s money vulnerable? See the video where Tracey talked about the implications of joint accounts and how to protect yourself and your loved ones.
Recently, a customer came into one of our branches to deposit money from a very small, retail business. One of the $50 bills was counterfeit and we quickly realized that the counterfeiter took advantage of the fact that the receiving end of the bill was a young, inexperienced teenager, working his first summer job.
Another way a counterfeiter might scam people is with a stack of mixed bills for a KSL or Craigslist sale. A counterfeiter might buy your item from a re-sale site like KSL, and hand you a stack of $20 bills. Knowing you’ll likely notice if they’re all counterfeit, the counterfeiter will mix in fake bills in the middle, which you might skim by when you’re counting the money.
How can you avoid being scammed by counterfeit bills? Below are a few tips to help you.
Hold each bill up to the light. You should be able to see fibers, or threads, in the bills. Make sure you hold each one up, since some may be real and some may be counterfeit. You might feel silly at first, but it’s better to be safe than sorry!
What does the bill feel like? When you have a stack of bills, feel each one. Do any feel different than the others? Checking what the money feels like is one of the easiest ways to spot a counterfeit bill.
Think like a counterfeiter. Counterfeiters know better than to try and pass off fake bills at a bank. Counterfeiters typically try to launder counterfeit bills through fast-food restaurants, mall shops or other places where inexperienced teenagers won’t detect fake bills. If you’re a business owner, make sure all of your employees are trained on detecting counterfeit bills. Sometimes it helps to make sure they’ve seen and handled bills of different denominations. If you’re selling something on KSL or Craigslist or similar, make sure you’re wary of counterfeit bills.
Ask your banker. If you suspect something might be counterfeit, bring it to your banker’s attention. They likely have machines that help to detect fake bills and can check for you. Don’t try and hide it in a stack of bills.
Know your money. Visit the U.S. Bureau of Engraving and Printing and check out the different security features on each of the old and new bills. The more familiar you are with these, the more difficult it will be for a counterfeiter to fool you.
Check out other resources. The Secret Service provides background information about currency security you might be interested in checking out.
As always, be wary and don’t be afraid to question a bill you receive. If you have questions, come talk to a banker in any of our 14 branches or call us at 800-815-BANK.
Do you have $1,000 set aside for emergencies? If you already do, you could probably use another $1,000 in that account. Experts recommend keeping at least three months expenses in a reliable, liquid account – though even an extra $1,000 can be a life-saver. But finding $1,000 to save isn’t always easy. That’s why we’ve put together this four-step plan on how to save $1,000 in 10 months.
Get Started with These 4 Steps
Once you have at least $1,000 in your emergency account, continue your savings success and continue to build your emergency savings or apply that money to a new savings goal. Perhaps you have debt you need to pay down or want to save for a car or home.
No matter what you are saving for, America Saves can support you with tips and advice through emails and text messages. Sign up for these by taking the America Saves Pledge Today.
Katie Bryan 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.
Couples cite financial problems as a common cause of divorce. At Bank of American Fork, we believe one way some financial stress contributing to separation or divorce can be avoided is with smart banking, including utilizing available technology and automating payments.
In the past, paying bills was simpler. People paid in cash or by check and there may have been fewer bills to be paid. Now, more bills means more complexity: mortgage or rent, food, utilities, student debt, credit card debt, phone bills, Internet and cable, and car payments can easily be a part of nearly every household.
All these bills can result in confusion and disagreement in the absence of a budget, enough money to pay them, and differences in spending habits. Making a budget is hard enough, but trying to stick to it can really cause rifts.
Budgeting and planning are vital components to maintaining a peaceful relationship when it comes to financial stability. Studies show that couples who fight regularly about finances are 30 percent more likely to separate. Couples who budget for individual spending, automate spending to help them stick to their budgets and communicate where money is going and how much there is will have less financial stress in the relationship.
“Automating some of your bill payments may reduce stress,” said Joshua Everton, eBanking manager for Bank of American Fork’s holding company People’s Utah Bancorp. “It works like this: you and your partner make the decision once about what your budget should look like, set up automatic bill payments to go out first thing after paychecks come in. Then you don’t get to the end of the month without enough to pay bills, angry at someone else for spending too much on the wrong things.”
Consider doing the same thing with savings. If you and your partner decide to save for a house, car, vacation, retirement or something else, decide how much you can afford to save each month. Then, set up an automatic transfer to go into a separate savings account—when you set up that transfer, you’re making the decision once to save every month. You may even want to use an online-only savings account, which often have higher rates.
Financial stress doesn’t have to be a reason for a relationship to flounder. Use the technology available to you to make it easier to stick to your goals.
For the first time in years, more Americans anticipate a comfortable retirement. What can you do to make sure you’re ready for retirement?
With the average life span increasing, many Americans have struggled in retirement. Their parents and grandparents typically only planned for a decade of expenses following retirement—now, many people are realizing they will be working longer than they anticipated and/or need to prepare for several decades of expenses. With this changing landscape, Americans have been anticipating a less-than-comfortable retirement consistently since 2007.
This year, according to a Gallup survey, there are more Americans who think they will have a comfortable retirement than those who think they won’t. Fifty percent reported expecting to have enough money to retire comfortably, with 45 percent who said they would not.
Confidence is highest among younger Americans. Fifty-two percent in the 18-29 age group and 51 percent in the 30-49 age group are positive about having enough money. In contrast, 48 percent of those closest to retirement, ages 50-64, say they will not have enough money.
What are you doing to prepare for retirement? Despite a changing environment, there are ways to prepare that can help you feel confident about retirement. It takes planning and some self-control, but if you make the decision now and automate some of the steps, it gets easier.
Here are some resources, and be sure to come back for upcoming articles about how you can prepare for retirement!
• Browse our archives for more retirement tips.