Category: Financial Blog

Scam Alerts: Mortgage Notice and Computer Virus Scams

Scams are circulating – be cautious before you call or click!

You probably hear about various online and phone scams frequently, and maybe you are event a victim of the fraudulent “car warranty” phone calls. However, fraudsters have also been using banking scams to target susceptible customers recently. There have been a rise in mysterious postcards being mailed to customers referring to a recently closed mortgage you may have with ours or another bank. The postcard will ask you to call a phone number to discuss the matter. These postcards are not from Northwest Bank & Trust Company. If you receive a postcard like this, it is a scam – do not call the number.

As an example, this postcard is NOT from Northwest Bank (nor is it from Norwest Bank):

postcardfraud

Have you already called? Contact Northwest Bank immediately.

It’s important to know the signs and be wary of fraud, especially when you’re being asked to take immediate action or provide sensitive information over the phone. Northwest Bank would never send you a postcard requesting that you call us regarding your mortgage. All communications regarding your personal accounts would be through first class mail in sealed envelopes, through email personally addressed to you, or by direct phone calls. If you feel that you’ve already fallen victim to a mortgage postcard scam like this or another scam, please call us at 563-388-2511 so we can help you take the next steps.

Here are some tell-tale signs to watch out for letting you know it’s a scam:

  • In the bottom right corner, you’ll see a “All information provided by LeadPros…Loan information not provided by Norwest Bank”. All of our communications would clearly state that it is from Northwest Bank.
  • Postcards coming from other names such as loandepot.com, Heritage Warranty Company (H.W.C.), and Mortgage Protection Services are bogus companies as well.
  • You’ll notice a Mortgage ID number displayed. Northwest Bank would not show any personal information of yours on a postcard.
  • The phone number displayed does not match Northwest Bank’s main customer phone number.
  • Anything sent in the mail with information regarding your mortgage, loans, or bank accounts will be in a sealed envelope, never in a postcard. That’s a big red flag!

Even though you may actually have a mortgage with Northwest Bank and receive this postcard doesn’t make it legitimate. Mortgage filings are in public record, so fraudsters are able to easily scrape that data and use it in their scams. 

Another scam: computer virus notices

Another scam has come to our attention. It’s not a new technique, rather it’s the phishing email fraudsters often use.

This particular scam involves a fraudster posing as a nationally known antivirus software company representative to socially engineer their victims. Traditionally done through a pop-up message on the victim’s computer, the fraudster either gets the victim to think:

  • They have a virus on their computer, or
  • Their antivirus software needs to be upgraded

Fraudsters are now sending victims an email appearing to be from a nationally known antivirus software company and advising that the victim has recently upgraded their antivirus software. The email is a receipt for the upgrade, typically ranging from $200 to $1,000.

The fraudulent email gives a number to contact the company if the victim wants to discuss or dispute this upgrade charge. However, the number isn’t to the real company; it’s to the fraudster. When the victim calls the fraudster to dispute the charge, the fraudster convinces the victim to let the fraudster have remote access to the victim’s computer to verify that no viruses are on the victims computer.

Once the victim allows this to happen, the fraudster finds a bogus virus and subsequently convinces the victim to provide the victim’s online banking credentials to the fraudster so they can do a “test run” to make sure the virus didn’t infect the victim’s bank account. The “test run” will be the fraudster depositing a remote deposit capture check in the amount of around $5,000 into the victim’s account.

The fraudster will verify with the victim that the victim’s account shows a pending deposit of $5,000. The victim is then instructed to proceed to their financial institution the same day and withdraw $4,000 or more from their account and mail it via UPS or FedEx to the fraudster for reimbursement of the “test run.”

The fraudster advises the victim their antivirus software has been upgraded free of charge and the victim can keep the remaining balance for the misunderstanding of the antivirus software update email.

If you have received any emails claiming to be from an antivirus company and requesting you to call them, ignore these emails. At Northwest Bank, it’s our goal to be aware of scams, and our teller staff is trained to spot suspicious activity like this. We have a great track record of preventing fraud on our customers accounts. However, we also make it our goal to educate our customers about potential scams. If you feel that you’ve fallen victim to a scam involving your bank account, please contact us.

Preventing Elder Financial Abuse

Roughly 20 percent of older Americans fall prey to financial exploitation totaling $3 billion annually or an average of $120,000 per elderly victim, according to a study from the AARP Public Policy Institute. And given that only one out of every 44 financial abuse cases are reported, according to the National Adult Protective Services Association, true losses from elder financial abuse could be north of $35 billion annually.

As relationship lenders and financial first responders, community banks are in a unique position to help shield our elderly customers against these prevalent threats through employee training and the use of technology to spot red flags and report suspicious activity to authorities.

At Northwest Bank, our staff are on high alert  and have a proven track record of catching nearly every instance of elder financial fraud. Still, these attempts continue to happen, so with World Elder Abuse Awareness Day on June 15, we wanted to provide our nation’s seniors and their family members with tips to guard against financial exploitation.

Medicare/Health Insurance Scams

It is difficult to imagine that someone could prey on those in need of medical assistance, but unfortunately, Medicare fraud is all too common. Criminals are posing as Medicare or medical supply representatives to obtain personal information or provide bogus services and use the information to bill Medicare or assume an identity to perpetrate fraud.

The outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic has further spurred medical scams, with criminals purporting to be calling on behalf of a FEMA program that assists with funeral expenses. While this is a legitimate program, and you can reach out to FEMA to apply for these benefits, citizens should be mindful that:

  • FEMA will not contact you until you call or apply for assistance.
  • The government won’t ask you to pay anything to get this benefit.

As a good rule of thumb never share personal or financial information with anyone who contacts you out of the blue.

Zoom Phishing Emails and Internet Fraud

Con artists are also capitalizing on the rise in video meetings, registering thousands of fake Zoom-related internet domains to send phony emails, texts, or social media messages to trick consumers into clicking on bogus links to address “account suspension” or “meeting” notices. Those that took the bait inadvertently downloaded malware (malicious software) on their computer, exposing their personal information to potential use by fraudsters.

Internet scammers are also known for sending fake text messages alleging trouble with an internet account, credit card, bank account or shopping order. Many contain realistic looking logos to lure you into clicking on a link and divulging personal information.

To limit your exposure, avoid clicking on links from unsolicited emails or texts. If you suspect a problem with an account contact the bank or service provider directly.

Telemarketing/Phone Scams

Seniors schooled in etiquette may frown upon “hanging up the phone” or simply saying “no” to unsolicited calls, but it also leaves the door open to criminals posing as company representatives. Three notable examples include:

  1. The pigeon drop where con artists pretend to share found money in exchange for a “good faith” payment drawn from the contacted person’s bank account.
  2. The fake accident ploy where con artists create a false narrative that a loved one has been injured in an accident and needs money for medical expenses.
  3. Charity scams where con artists solicit funds on behalf of a charity for which they are not affiliated with or is not legit.

Remember, if it’s too good to be true, it probably is. If you want to give go directly to the source. And if you are worried about a friend or family member, verify the information with them directly.

Tips for curbing elder financial abuse:

  • Secure private information (such as Social Security card, passport, bank account numbers, financial statements, medical records, and other legal documents), in a bank safety deposit box.
  • Check your bank accounts and bill statements carefully. If you notice unauthorized charges or unusual activity, alert your bank immediately.
  • Do not disclose personal information, such as bank account numbers or PINs, to anyone claiming to be from an established organization, especially if they ask you to wire funds.
  • Ask Northwest Bank about available resources to help protect you or your loved ones from scams and exploitation.
  • Plan ahead by giving a trusted person the legal authority to make financial decisions for you if you are unable. Make sure your bank has a record of who can manage your money on your behalf.
  • Contact your local adult protective services agency and law enforcement if you have information about a fraud or suspect you may have encountered financial abuse.

Unfortunately, scams are always changing, making fraud nearly impossible to fully eradicate, but we’ll never stop looking out for your benefit and encourage you to consult the Federal Trade Commission’s “scam alert” page for information about the latest scams targeting consumers at consumer.ftc.gov/scam-alerts.

Our Northwest Bank employees are trained on the latest fraud prevention techniques and are available as a resource as well. We can help you spot potential scams and take appropriate measures to protect your account if you suspect you have been a victim of financial fraud. 

Source: Independent Community Bankers of America

Tips to Take the Stress Out of Travel

Vacations are meant to be relaxing, but under planning and overspending can lead to financial stressors. Consider the following tips to reduce travel-related anxiety and help you make the most out of your time away—whether journeying across state lines or overseas.

Create a travel budget.

To help you make well informed financial decisions while away without compromising your long-term savings goals when you return.

Think mini getaway.

Taking shorter, more frequent trips versus one big faraway bonanza not only requires less planning, and is generally less expensive, but offers more opportunities to unwind year-round.

Plan in advance.

Trip planning can be stressful. Research destinations, make reservations, prepare itineraries, and create a budget. Create a reasonable timeline and budget and ensure you have your affairs in orders (impending deadlines, medication needs, and baby-sitting, dog-sitting or house-sitting arrangements).

Control what you can.

Unexpected surprises–flight delays, lost or stolen items, can quickly sour your vacation mindset. Travel insurance can help you recoup some of your expenses and soften the blow to help with smooth sailing. Some credit cards — especially those designed for travel — offer protections for delayed flights, lost luggage, trip cancellation, accident insurance and more.

Accessing accounts abroad.

When traveling outside the United States, make sure to inform your trusted community banker of your travel plans or easily set travel notices with Brella to avoid an account freeze or declines for “suspicious activity.”

As always, remember that Northwest Bank is here to help. We hope you take these tips into consideration and enjoy a well-deserved vacation!

Source: Independent Community Bankers of America

Proud to Be QC: Isabel Bloom

Isabel Bloom

Northwest Bank & Trust Company is #ProudToBeQC, and we’re highlighting a few reasons why! Join us as we take a close-up look at local businesses built by creative, talented, and driven Quad Cities entrepreneurs.

This episode features the QC-based studio and shop founded by Isabel Bloom over 60 years ago. We sit down with Donna Young, co-owner and sculptor of Isabel Bloom, to chat about how this established brand has evolved to meet today’s trends in beautiful home and garden décor while remaining true to their signature sculpture style. Visit www.ibloom.com to shop online or in store at 736 Federal Street in Davenport.

We want to thank our customers and partners for putting their trust in us for their banking needs. Northwest Bank and other community banks like ours are only successful if our customers and communities are, too. We are focused on building a more sustainable, vibrant economy here in our hometown and recognizing all the community members, employees, and businesses who make us Proud to Be QC.

Financial Literacy is Key to Effective Money Management for Teens

April is Financial Literacy Month, and we want to encourage our customers and community members to take control of their financial future by learning fiscally responsible habits and putting these lessons into practice. Regardless of life stage, age, or income level, having strong financial principles and sound money management practices can help you avoid financial missteps and position you for greater success. We also think it is crucial for young adults to develop these skills early on in life, so they can set out on the right path with their banking and credit habits.

Former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan once stated, “Financial education is a process that should begin at an early age and continue throughout life. This cumulative process builds the skills necessary for making critical financial decisions.”

At Northwest Bank & Trust Company, we understand the importance of helping our community’s youth build a strong financial foundation so that they better understand basic concepts like budgeting, simple interest, and establishing and maintaining good credit.

According to the Council for Economic Education’s 2020 Survey of the States only 21 states in the U.S. require high school students to take a course in personal finance. While this denotes a marked improvement since CEE’s first survey in 1998, there remains a sizeable financial education knowledge gap.

Northwest Bank believes that financial capability education, improves the financial health outlook for our youth and better prepares them to tackle unexpected financial situations or prepare for significant life milestones like paying for college, purchasing a home, opening a business, or building a nest egg.

We offer the following tips for Gen Z and their parents to shore up money management skills and prepare for the post-graduate workforce:

Set SMART (Specific Measurable Attainable Realistic Trackable) goals.

  • Choose your priorities—whether it’s saving for a computer or building an emergency fund—and make sure they are achievable. Create a plan of action and measure your progress over time.

Start a savings account (if you don’t have one already).

  • Northwest Bank offers automatic transfer services to move a set amount from your checking account to savings monthly.

For working-age students, consider part-time or seasonal employment.

You will learn more about personal responsibility and have an opportunity to manage expenses.

Track your spending and avoid making impulse purchases.

  • Create a budget and review it periodically to make necessary adjustments.

Gain perspective about risk and reward.

  • Knowing how stocks, bonds and mutual funds can affect an investment portfolio shows you how financial decisions can grow—or shrink—your savings. 

Learn about credit scores

  • Credit scores are a representation of your financial past, present, and future. We can offer tips to help you establish and maintain good credit.

Having the knowledge about how to best manage your money is just the start. When young adults practice proper money management techniques early, they’re more inclined to make effective financial decisions throughout life. The sooner your children start to grasp these concepts, the more apt they’ll be for a better financial future. 

Source: Independent Community Bankers of America

Proud to Be QC: Me & Billy

Me & Billy

Northwest Bank & Trust Company is #ProudToBeQC, and we’re highlighting a few reasons why! Join us as we take a close-up look at local businesses built by creative, talented, and driven Quad Cities entrepreneurs.

This episode features Me & Billy, a Quad Cities restaurant and bar located in downtown Davenport. We sit down with Bill Collins, owner and “mascot,” to talk about the restaurant’s success and how this family business has become a QC staple that keeps locals and visitors coming back! Visit Me & Billy online at www.meandbilly.com or in person at 200 W. Third Street in Davenport.

We want to thank our customers and partners for putting their trust in us for their banking needs. Northwest Bank and other community banks like ours are only successful if our customers and communities are, too. We are focused on building a more sustainable, vibrant economy here in our hometown and recognizing all the community members, employees, and businesses who make us Proud to Be QC.

Northwest Bank is Proud To Be QC

Reinvesting in the Community We Love

Proud to Be QCThe idea of “sustainability” is linked to a lot of local activities these days—whether it’s reusing or recycling products, sampling culinary delights from a local bakery, or choosing to buy American-made products to support our national economy. There are plenty of reasons why eating, dining, and banking locally makes good economic sense.

If you’ve ever wondered if it matters where you deposit your hard-earned money, let us assure you it does. Not only does banking locally support small businesses (community banks fund more than 60% of small business loans and more than 80% of ag loans), but as locally owned and operated businesses themselves, they are part of the economic engines that create 62 percent of new jobs annually.

Community banks like Northwest Bank & Trust Company take in deposits and distribute loans that feed into a self-sustaining micro-economy and keep funds right here in the Quad Cities. It is all part of a symbiotic relationship that community banks have with their communities. And the proceeds from those businesses employ residents, fund municipalities, and continue the cycle of locally based economic growth.

And if you need more proof just consider the community bank response to the coronavirus pandemic.

  • Community banks, as economic first responders, made 60 percent of total Paycheck Protection Program loans to small businesses and provided 72 percent of PPP loans to minority business owners that reported such data.
  • Community banks outpace large banks in their average number of banks operating in both rural and urban markets by a 3:1 ratio.
  • Community banks are preferred small business lenders, with an 81 percent net satisfaction score compared to 68 percent for large banks and just 43 percent for online lenders.
  • Community banks have consistently demonstrated their safety and soundness with higher capital ratios and better loan quality than the largest institutions.
  • Community banks operate in areas abandoned by others—serving as the only physical banking presence in nearly one in three U.S. counties.

But it is not just about stats. When customers contact Northwest Bank, they are greeted by a talented team member who is attuned to their needs and empowered to act on their behalf. And when our employees participate in annual donation drives for United Way or when Northwest Bank contributes thousands of dollars every month to local organizations, we are working toward our goal to ensure economic prosperity for the Quad Cities community we call home. 

Even more, we are extremely proud to be a part of such a thriving, creative, and hard-working community. Our people are arguably some of the best you’ll find and our small business owners are talented and driven. In the next several months we look forward to highlighting a few of them! Stay tuned for our new #ProudToBeQC series, where we’ll take an up-close look at some local businesses right here in the Quad Cities.

We want to thank our customers and partners for putting their trust in us for their banking needs. For our neighbors who may be considering a switch, we implore you to take a closer look at Northwest Bank & Trust Company to discover how we can help you realize your financial dreams. Our pledge is to never lose sight of the all-important “relationship” and the personalized service our customers expect.

Remember, we are all in this together. Northwest Bank and other community banks like ours are only successful if our customers and communities are, too. That is why community banks and our relationship business model have thrived for more than 150 years. We know what it takes to create successful local economies. Join us in helping to build a more sustainable, vibrant economy here in our hometown and recognizing all the community members, employees, and businesses who make us Proud to Be QC.

Developing and Maintaining Good Credit Habits

Northwest Bank & Trust Company is encouraging customers to plan for their financial future by establishing and maintaining good credit habits to create a blueprint for financial wellness and prosperity in the New Year.

Good credit is essential to a strong financial foundation, so it’s important to build and maintain responsible credit practices that demonstrates sound money management principles to help you achieve your short and long-term financial goals. By working with your trusted community banker at Northwest Bank to create a budget that reflects your finances and lifestyle, you can better manage your spending and savings behavior to reach your goals and avoid financial setbacks.

We offer the following tips to help consumers build and maintain good credit.

Open a checking account.

Once you open your account, keep careful track of your balance to help establish a credit history.

Use debit and credit cards for convenience and safety.

Be careful not to overspend and avoid missed or late payments, which can damage your credit and hurt your credit score.

Develop a good mix of credit.

A good credit mix could be a revolving credit line and an installment loan, for example. This will boost your credit score and demonstrate that you can manage different types of credit.

Show stability.

In the three to six months before a major purchase, show credit stability. Avoid opening or closing accounts or moving large amounts of money around.

Build an emergency fund.

Your emergency fund should be equal to at least six months of living expenses. Establishing a financial cushion to help absorb unexpected expenses and avoid penalties and fees for missed or late payments.

Alter your credit focus as you approach different life stages.

While Gen Z might be saving for a down payment, a Gen Xers or baby boomers may be paying down debt to plan for retirement, respectively.

Monitor your credit regularly.

Keeping an eye on your credit score can help you correct any errors and detect potential signs of identity theft. Order a copy of your credit report annually from annualcreditreport.com.

By establishing good spending and saving habits early you can retain your financial footing and more quickly recover from temporary financial roadblocks. Reach out to your local banker at Northwest Bank & Trust Company who can offer sound financial advice to help you navigate life’s financial milestones and plan for your future.

Source: Independent Community Bankers of America

4 Tips for Getting Financially Fit in 2022

The new year is an ideal time to set new goals, as many vow to become more physically fit or get organized. The new year is also a great time to assess your finances, gain control and stick to a new budget or saving plan. Taking control of your personal finances will allow you to save and prepare for unexpected expenses. 

Get financially fit this January. Follow the tips below to get started.

Get Organized

Consider treating yourself to a post-holiday gift of a financial organization system. Alphabetized file folders, or filing systems specifically for financial organization are available in January as people begin to prepare for tax season. Take advantage and start the new year with an organizational system. While you’re getting organized, consider buying a shredder to keep your personal information safe from identity theft. 

Create a Budget

Track your income and expenses to see how much money you have coming in and how much you spend. If you have debt, establishing a budget will help you to pay down your debt while saving. Use computer software programs or basic budgeting worksheets to help create your budget. Include as much information as you can and review your budget regularly. Print several copies of this budgeting worksheet to help you get started. 

  • Identify how you spend your money.
  • Set realistic goals, especially if you plan to cut some of your expenses. 
  • Track your spending and review your budget often.

Lower Your Debt

Debt from student loans, mortgages and credit cards is nearly unavoidable. Most families carry about $10,000 in credit card debt. Spending more money than you bring in can lead to financial stress.  Establish a budget to pay down debts while you save. 

Points to consider when cutting debt:

  • Pay more than the minimum due and pay on time.
  • Pay off debt with higher interest rates first.
  • Transfer high rate debt to credit cards with a lower interest rate.
  • Use credit cards and loans for purchases that will appreciate in value like a home.

Save for the Unexpected and Beyond

Pay yourself first. Saving is important; it ensures a comfortable future that can endure financial surprises. No matter how old you are, it’s never too late to begin saving.

  • Save at least 10 percent of your income for retirement. Enroll in a retirement plan or consider optimizing an established retirement plan. Contribute at least the maximum amount that your employer will match. Contributions made to these types of plans are tax deductible. If your employer does not offer a retirement savings plan, many banks offer Individual Retirement Accounts. IRAs offer tax-deferred growth, meaning you pay taxes on your investment gains when you make withdrawals.
  • Financial advisors often recommend keeping about three months salary in a savings account in case of financial emergencies like hospital bills or loss of job.
  • Increase your contribution as your income increases.
  • If you receive direct deposit at work, ask your employer to send a specific amount to your savings account.  Because the money is put into an account before you have a chance to spend it, automatic savings plans are an easy and convenient way to save. If your employer doesn’t offer direct deposit, many banks allow for automatic transfers from checking to savings accounts.

Source: American Bankers Association

Local Business Spotlight: PCT Ebeam and Integration

Discovering an Innovative Local Manufacturer

By Corey Martin, Vice President, Commercial Banker

PCT LogoWhen I first heard about PCT Ebeam and Integration, all that I knew was that they occupied a commercial building in Northwest Davenport. Prior to meeting them, I had no clue this building was even there. Upon meeting Karl Swanson and the rest of the owners of PCT, I now know just how interesting this business really is. I had no clue we had someone right here in the Quad Cities that was producing the type of product that they produce. 

PCT produces machinery that integrates into manufacturing lines. These machines use the power of electrons to actually alter or strengthen the molecular structure of items that we use every single day. For example their machines can take thin, weak plastic and turn it into the shrink wrap film that protects a block of cheese or can be made into the bag used for blood transfusions. Their machines are also used to dry the ink on your favorite cereal box. They can be used for special printing and coating applications, curing paint on the lids of steel buckets, surface sterilization, protecting the paper layer of laminated furniture, and in the production of painters’ tape. What is most interesting about PCT is that they take on challenging projects and work with their customers to customize a machine designed to do whatever they need it to do. They frequently evaluate new applications and find new uses for their technology.

As a commercial banker, one of the fun parts of my job is learning about new companies, businesses, and products that I would have otherwise never known about. PCT is the perfect example of that. I am proud to have had the chance to learn about their business and what they produce and ship to companies around the globe. What they do is truly fascinating and it’s happening right here in our community.

To learn more about PCT, visit their website at https://www.pctebi.com/

Corey Martin

Corey Martin

Vice President,
Commercial Banker and Economic Development Division Lender

Proud to Be QC

Stories like this make us #ProudToBeQC. Find more here.