Five Key Takeaways from the MEF Banking App Study

By Matt Kelly

There are more smartphones in circulation today than ever before, so it should come as no surprise that mobile banking app usage is on the rise again too. In fact, 61 percent of people use their bank’s app on a daily basis, according to a Mobile Ecosystem Forum’s “Mobile Money Report”, released earlier this year.

The report, a consumer study spanning 6,000 individuals in nine countries, highlights the continued emergence of banking apps as a critical touch point between financial institutions and their customers.

Let’s take a deeper dive into some of the significant details of the report below:

Consumers place trust in their devices. In the MEF report, consumers were asked which processing method they trusted most when using a credit card. A quarter of respondents preferred mobile-optimized websites or simply storing credit card data within a mobile app. Only 17 percent felt better handing a card to a store’s employee, while only 6 percent felt safe reading details over the phone.

Mobile experience is as vital as branch experience. 28 percent of respondents to the MEF study said they preferred to do their banking at branches. However, app users are quickly gaining ground, with 26 percent preferring that option. Financial institutions must recognize the value of mobile experience, and those that create a seamless experience between apps and branches will likely gain a competitive foothold in the years to come.

Engagement is up, but visibility is down. With the introduction of mobile banking solutions, financial institutions are seeing more engagement with customers on a daily basis. 78 percent have made a mobile purchase over a six month time frame. 44 percent check their balances, while 29 percent pay bills with their smartphone. So while banks may not necessarily be seeing their customers every day, our devices are enabling us to make banking a more significant part of our day-to-day lives.

Privacy remains a top priority. 31 percent of MEF survey respondents claimed that they had abandoned purchases in the past because they were asked for too much personal information. With customer privacy a critical factor in cybersecurity conversations taking place within the financial industry, banks must work together with the retail industry to find ways to streamline purchasing processes while simultaneously shoring up consumer concerns at all points in the customer journey.

Apps aren’t the new plastic—yet. Only 18 percent of consumers have used their phones to pay for goods inside a brick-and-mortar store. The question is whether or not this figure is going to continue climbing or simply stagnate. But clearly, apps are now being developed to play an even larger role in your financial decision making. MEF suggests, though, that if such apps continue to expedite consumers’ financial transactions, it may become more popular.

At The Milford Bank, we’ve worked hard to provide our customers with as great an experience in our app as you’d have by stopping by one of our Milford or Stratford office locations. To learn more about how we’re keeping up in this ever-changing world to support you and your family, click here.

Equifax Data Breach Hits 143 Million Americans

By Susan Shields

These days, there aren’t many big financial decisions that you can make without a credit report. You’ll need one to buy a home, lease a car, and maybe even land a job. But if you had your credit report put together by Equifax, you may be one of 143 million Americans with personally identifiable information now up for sale on the black market following a data breach at the agency.

According to Equifax, the breach began in mid-May and lasted through July. Among the information obtained by hackers includes peoples’ names, social security numbers, birth dates, addresses and even driver’s license numbers. Additionally, over 200,000 individuals had their credit card numbers stolen.

If you’ve been affected and fail to act, an individual who obtains your records can devastate your life. You may be on the hook for faulty loans, parking tickets, and any other poor choice made by a criminal in your name.

Recently, the FTC put together a set of recommendations to see if you’ve been impacted and, if so, what you can do about it. Read on to check out the steps you need to take to ensure the security of your credit. But be sure not to begin until you’re on a secure Internet connection.

  • First, see if you were affected. You can find out by clicking here.
  • Check your credit reports from Equifax, Experian and TransUnion for irregularities.
  • Put a credit freeze on your files—you’ll have to unfreeze them to do another credit report, but it will also be harder for someone else to make a new account in your name.
  • Monitor your existing credit card and bank accounts for charges you don’t recognize.
  • If you decide against freezing your credit, place a fraud alert on your files to warn creditors to verify the identity of anyone who attempts to use your information to secure a line of credit.
  • File your taxes as soon as you get the necessary information so that scammers don’t beat you to the punch and steal your refund.

There’s no arguing that the financial technology at our disposal today can make banking more convenient and cost effective. But we must always remember that emerging technology must be respected and handled with the utmost care. As long as you maintain a strong cybersecurity strategy, you’ll be able to stay ahead of the would-be scammers that seek to take advantage of the unsuspecting today.

To learn more about how you protect your finances, check out our Online Learning Center. You can also stop by any office of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford for more support.

FTC Warns: Watch Out for Scams When Donating to Hurricane Victims

By Jorge Santiago

Late last month, the historic Hurricane Harvey hit the coastal regions of Texas and Louisiana with record-setting rainfalls, leveling entire communities in its path. The aftermath is hard to believe: billions of dollars of property damage and thousands of lives changed forever.

But in these trying times, the good will of the American people is always on full display. You may recall seeing the images of neighbors pulling neighbors out of treacherous flood waters, or first responders helping victims make their way to shelters. And of course, support is coming in from around the country in the form of donations too.

However, con artists often take advantage of disasters like Harvey to try and make a quick buck for themselves. In the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy several years ago, con artists duped unsuspecting donors out of more than $20 million, depriving the storm’s victims of vital supplies.

In order to help good Samaritans avoid the same pitfall in the aftermath of Harvey, the FTC has released a set of tips to help make sure your good will ends up being put to good use. Let’s take a look at how you can avoid being victimized yourself:

  • Donate to charities you know and trust with a proven track record with dealing with disasters.
  • Be alert for charities that seem to have sprung up overnight in connection with current events.
  • Designate the disaster so you can ensure your funds are going to disaster relief, rather than a general fund.
  • Never click on links or open attachments in emails unless you know who sent it.
  • Don’t assume that charity messages posted on social media are legitimate—research the organization yourself.
  • When texting to donate, confirm the number with the source before making your donation.
  • Find out if the charity or fundraiser must be registered in your state by contacting the National Association of State Charity Officials.

If you’re not sure whether or not the group you’re donating to is a legitimate organization, you can follow up through the Better Business Bureau by clicking here.

As a community bank, we at The Milford Bank firmly believe in the importance of lifting up our neighbors in times of need. And in the face of emergencies, the last thing we need are con artists taking advantage of the moment. But don’t be discouraged from lending a hand yourself—by taking the time to follow these tips and do a little research yourself, you’ll be able to help families start their lives all over again.

Milford, Stratford Residents: What’s Your Emergency Preparedness Plan?

By Jorge Santiago

In light of the recent hurricanes that have devastated communities from Texas to Caribbean, Americans are taking notice and recognizing the importance of making sure they themselves are prepared in the case of an emergency.

Of course, with Milford and Stratford both on the shoreline, planning for a hurricane should not be out of mind. But the reality is that even a simple, general preparedness plan can help you, and your family, avoid the worst in the event of any type of calamity.

Fortunately, the CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has issued a set of suggestions to help you establish a preparedness plan that will best suit your family’s needs. Let’s take a look below:

Make a family communication plan

It’s not as easy to shepherd your family to safety if they’re not all at home when disaster strikes. That’s why you need to have a clear plan in place for connecting with each other. This should include completing a contact card for each family member, choosing an emergency contact, knowing the number for local emergency numbers, and also making sure each member of your family knows how to text.

Make a family disaster plan

Different emergencies will warrant different responses. Your family should assess the types of emergencies that are most likely in your neighborhood, and come up with a specific course of action for each. This can include: finding safe spots in your home, choosing multiple meeting places around town, and determining the best escape routes out of your home, neighborhood or the general area.

Get your kids ready

If you become incapacitated yourself, it is vital that your kids know how to appropriately respond to an emergency themselves. Your children should know how (and when) to call 911, and be involved in all your emergency preparedness planning.

Additional steps to get prepared

In addition to preparing with your family, there are several other tips outlined by the CDC that will ensure that your preparedness plan goes off without a hitch. Make emergency kits for both your home and your car. Stay informed on current events in your area. Be sure to have appropriate insurance on your home. Learn about how, why and when to turn off water, gas and electricity at the main shut-offs, and be sure that your whole family knows how to use your fire extinguisher.

Of course, all this planning wouldn’t be complete without practice. Be sure to run an emergency simulation at least once per year to see how ready your family is, and where you can still make improvements. It might seem like a lot of work now, but it can be hard to think straight in an emergency and you don’t want to have to iron out the wrinkles in your plan when there’s an actual dilemma.

To learn more about all the ways that Milford Bank can help you protect your family today, click here or stop by any location of The Milford Bank in Milford or Stratford today.