As Digital Banking Grows, Local Banks Still Have the Edge

It’s not surprising to see the use of digital financial tools have increased over the past three months, during the COVID-19 pandemic. Online shopping saw a sharp increase with most stores limited to curbside pickup, but digital banking also saw growth. In fact, the U.S. saw a 60% increase in people installing digital banking apps as their local branches were closed.

The surge in usage includes new digital users who had previously never enrolled in online or mobile banking, as well as existing digital customers – almost half of whom say they are now using digital services more frequently. But, despite living in a connected world, customer satisfaction with digital banking isn’t as high as it should be, particularly with larger regional and national banks.

The reason is simple. Despite having a broader geographic reach, larger banks have a hard time competing with local banks on service quality and personalization. The same advantages local banks have in their offices extend into the digital world, creating better experiences and service continuity.

Lower fees and rates – Local banks tend to offer lower rates and fewer fees than larger banks, whether banking is done in-person or online.

Service availability – While large banks often promote having more services, most local banks offer the same services today, including digital and online banking, and are able to more easily adapt their services to their local customers. Local banks are also more likely to offer innovative solutions to help customers achieve their financial goals, such as personal savings apps like Plinqit. One of the biggest drivers of digital customer satisfaction is the availability of P2P payment apps, with Zelle having the greatest positive impact.

Customer service – Local banks have intimate knowledge of their communities and pride themselves on building relationships with customers. As a result, they typically offer more personalized service, including when customers need help with digital banking services. As with any digital services, customers are bound to have questions about setting up services and learning how to use them effectively. Local bank representatives are well positioned to provide the answers.

Local knowledge – Because of their understanding of local demographics, trends, and needs, local banks are more easily able to customize their services to meet customers’ needs. They also work closely with other local organizations to support economic and social growth in the community. Larger banks typically offer exactly the same menu of services to their customers, regardless of location or individual needs.

Now that bank offices are starting to re-open, many customers may go back their traditional in-person banking patterns and enjoy the relationships they have built over the years. But, when they have a need, the digital services and customer support local banks are able to offer will make it easy to move back and forth between digital and in-person banking, as circumstances dictate. To learn more about all the digital services The Milford Bank offers, contact a us to speak with a banking specialist.

Don’t Forget Bulk Pickup to Help Get Rid of Clutter around Your Home

By Pam Reiss

Every year, we all collect all kinds of junk in our homes, including broken items, things we no longer need or use, older items that have been replaced, and more.  They are all taking up space, creating clutter, and keeping our homes from being as neat as we might like them to be.  You probably have things you have forgotten about and haven’t even seen in years.

Whether it’s your living space, basement, attic, garage, shed – or all of them – you’ll be surprised at how much space junk takes up.  This is a great time of year to work on getting rid of some of the clutter around your home to make it all more manageable.

That’s particularly true if your city does bulk waste pickup, as many do this time of year – Milford is starting its bulk pickup on June 1 (see start dates below).  It makes it much easier to get rid of some of your larger junk, instead of having to lug it to the dump or letting it continue to take up space around your home.

The first step is to create a plan.  Take a look at where you want to clean up and take inventory of any larger items you want to get rid of.  Once you remove larger things, you have a lot more space to work with as you clean.  Then, it’s a good idea to work on one space at a time, but if you’re up against a bulk pickup deadline, though, you may want to start by going through each space to take out those items and then go back for the smaller items and organization.

It’s a good idea to create four staging areas for the rest:

  • Garbage/recycling – Anything you are getting rid of goes in this pile. Keep a pile for bulk pickup, and put regular garbage directly into a large garbage bag.
  • Donate/sell – You may have clothes, books, toys, household items that you’ve outgrown or simply don’t use anymore. If they’re in good condition, consider donating them – there are plenty of people in need, and you may be able to take a tax deduction on your donations (consult your tax advisor for specifics).  You can also sell them online through local social media tag sale pages or, if you have a lot, and have the motivation, you can hold a yard sale.  Check with your neighbors to see if they want to have a combined sale.  You may be able to de-clutter your home and make a few dollars in the process to add to your emergency fund.
  • Keepers – Inevitably, you’re not going to want to get rid of everything you haven’t used in a while. There may be things with sentimental value, things you’re saving for your grandkids, and some items with specific uses that you want to keep.  Put those in s separate area and make a logical plan for storing them, including labeling storage bins and boxes to make them easy to find when you need them.
  • Out of place – One of the biggest signs of clutter is things being out of place. Sometimes, it’s out of pure laziness, but often, it’s because putting things back where they belong is difficult, because of the clutter.  Put these things into their own pile, so you can put them in their proper places – or even better, put them away immediately.  In the future, make a point of putting things back where they belong when you’re done using them.

You should check your local bulk waste guidelines for any additional requirements and prohibited items.  Things like old paint, propane tanks, grass clippings and many other items have other disposal specifications.  If you have larger items, you may need to cut them into smaller pieces, or take them to the dump yourself.

Milford’s bulk waste pickup start dates are based on your normal garbage pickup day:

  • Monday garbage – Bulk pickup starts on Monday, June 1
  • Tuesday garbage – Bulk pickup starts on Monday, June 8
  • Thursday garbage – Bulk pickup starts on Monday, June 15
  • Friday garbage – Bulk pickup starts on Monday, June 22

Once you’ve gotten rid of some of the clutter around your home, you’ll be in a better place to make use of the things you own.  It’s also very easy to re-clutter areas you have cleaned.  Keep in mind how much nicer things look when they aren’t cluttered – and how much effort it took to clean and re-organize.  Hopefully, that will help you keep things neater.   Keeping things tidy and in good order is also helpful for managing your budgets.  Now that you know what you have and where you’ve stored them, you will be less likely to buy duplicate items.

How are You Getting Rid of Your Old iPhones and Computers?

By Dave Wall

Every time Apple, Samsung, or any other electronic device manufacturer releases new products, the media tends to grab hold and saturate news feeds with the incredible advances these new product bring for consumer and business users. They’re not wrong of course – think about all the things we’re now able to do from smartphone in our hands.  It’s an unprecedented level of convenience, efficiency, and productivity, and the hype helps generate sales momentum as these new products become available.

But, what is left out is what to do with your old devices when you replace them. Of course, some phones are recycled when they are exchanged for new ones at mobile carriers like Verizon and AT&T.  But when you consider the third-party market for not only phones, but other devices like tablets, laptops, smart watches, and the many other products that permeate today’s digital lifestyles, it’s clear that there’s an awful lot of electronic waste being created.

The United States alone generated almost 12 million tons of e-waste in 2014 according to the EPA. The UN reported that 44.7 million tons of e-waste was generated globally in 2016, and the World Economic Forum reported that number had risen for 485 million tons in 2018.  That makes it the fastest-growing waste stream in the world.  Yet, only about 20% was recycled.  So, where do the rest of these items end up?  Certainly, many are likely collecting dust in homes and offices, but a large percentage ends up in landfills or incinerators, both of which are harmful to the environment.

E-recycling offers an effective way to get rid of old electronics safely, but how should you recycle your electronics? There are many local retailers that will recycle e-waste – some of them regardless of where they were purchased.  And of course, mobile carriers often offer rebates for trade-in that can be applied towards the purchase of a new device.

If you keep an eye on your community events, you will also likely find e-recycling opportunities. The Milford Bank, for instance, will be holding two Shred & Recycle Days this year, making it easy for residents to get rid of their old electronics, as well as paper documents.

The first TMB Shred & Recycle Day will take place on Saturday, May 4, 2019, from 10:00am-1:00pm at the Post Road West branch (295 Boston Post Road, Milford, CT), and will include free e-recycling for anyone and free document shredding for customers (non-customers may still take advantage of the shredding service for a $5 donation to a local non-profit).

The second Shred & Recycle day will take place in the fall, after families have purchased new laptops and tablets for the new school year, on Saturday, October 12, 2019 (10am-12pm).

Recycling electronics and paper provides a constant stream of resources that have countless uses, helps reduce the amount of junk that piles up in landfills across the globe, and reduces the environmental impact of dumping. There are many materials that can be harvested from old electronics that can be re-used to manufacture new ones, including, gold, silver, palladium, and copper.  The WEF values the value of materials that can be recovered through e-recycling at more than $62 billion.  Apple says it was able to collect more than a ton of gold from recycled devices in 2015.  That’s worth more than $40 million.

Take a look around your home. If you have old electronics lying around that haven’t been used for years – and most households do – take advantage of this community service provided by The Milford Bank to do some good for the environment and get rid of some old junk from your home in the process.

 

Are Millennials Putting Themselves at Risk with their Digital Habits?

By Pam Reiss

According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), the number of reported incidents of cyber fraud continues to increase, reaching to 351,937 in 2018, 16% more than 2017 and a 30% increase from 2014.  Losses from these incidents are growing even faster, reaching more than $2.7 billion last year, an increase of 90% from 2017, and almost 240% more than 2014.  The FTC, which collects data on all sources of fraud, are even more staggering, registering almost 3 million complaints last year alone.

What’s alarming is that no age group is immune.  While there is a correlation between age and amount lost according to FTC data, there is also a reverse correlation between age and frequency of fraud loss.  The median loss increases with age, and Americans 80 and over tend to experience significantly larger losses than any other age group.  But, they are also the least likely to experience loss due to fraud.

In fact, younger Americans under 30 appear to be much more susceptible to loss through fraud than other age groups, falling victim to some sort of fraud three times more often than senior citizens.  This is particularly alarming because it points to younger generations having habits that make them easier targets, which could place them at risk for larger losses as they get older and their savings grow.

A large part of it is the nature of digital natives – Millennials and post-Millennials.  Growing up with the world at their fingertips, they have been immersed in a social environment and are willing to share just about anything.  They have built an resistance to fear of sharing information, and the more “friends” and “followers” and “likes” they have, the more successful they feel, often with little regard for the source of acknowledgement.

That world of social media acceptance has created a false sense of trust, opening the door for criminals, who only need to collect a few pieces of information in order to accomplish their goals.  It’s very easy to set up fake digital personalities to collect personal information or to create entertaining online quizzes to show your IQ, what Star Wars character you would be, or other similar social interactions.

This willingness to share, combined with younger people’s inherently higher level of trust (perhaps we should call it naïveté), makes them easier targets than older generations, which are less likely to trust engagements from people or entities they don’t know.

Whether the result is providing personal information that can lead to fraud, or clicking on malicious links in appear to be legitimate, younger adults can often be more easily manipulated by con artists and cyber criminals.  The good news is there are a number of easy tips that can help keep everyone – young and old – safe.

  • Check senders’ actual email addresses (not just names, they can be falsified)
  • Don’t click on links unless you are sure they are legitimate
  • Don’t open attachments unless you are sure they are intended for you – verify with senders if needed
  • Don’t share personal information with anyone you don’t know, including birthdays and birth cities. Most entities that need this information already have it.  This is a common phone scam tactic
  • If you aren’t sure if a request is legitimate, don’t acknowledge it until you have verified it separately with the organization or friend asking for it
  • Don’t accept friend or follower requests from people you don’t know or who seem out of place
  • Always keep your cyber security software up to date on all devices
  • Monitor your bank and credit card accounts, as well as credit reports
  • Be aware of “free” offers – you can rarely get things for nothing
  • Don’t send money to anyone who isn’t a close friend or family member
  • Be on the lookout for “URGENT” requests for information or money – this is telltale sign of scams
  • Don’t engage in any financial or other sensitive transactions over public or other unsecured WiFi networks – they can easily be hacked and your data intercepted.

Following these simple steps will help keep your identity and finances secure.  It’s inevitable, however, that you will be engaged by a fraudster.  When that happens, be sure to report it.  The more information authorities have, the better then are able to connect scams with their perpetrators and hopefully catch them.

Hopefully, it won’t happen, but if you think your personal or financial information has been compromised, contact The Milford Bank immediately.

 

Identity Theft vs. Identity Fraud: What You Need to Know

By Tyler Haskell

Identity theft and identity fraud are becoming all too common today, with the economic impact to banks, businesses, and customers reaching well into the billions annually. In 2018, roughly 14.4 million American adults were victims of identity fraud, with losses totaling $14.7 billion. The two terms – identity theft and identity fraud – are closely related, but aren’t the same, despite often being used interchangeably.

Identity Theft
Identity theft takes place when criminals acquire personal data, which is then used for subsequent illegal activities, including identity fraud and the sale of information to others. This information can include any number of PII (Personally Identifiable Information) data, such as social security numbers, credit card numbers, bank accounts, driver’s license numbers, passwords, and more.

There are many ways criminals can steal personal data, from advanced hacking techniques to intricate scams to burglary and dumpster searches. Corporate hacking instances have increased over the past years, with many high-profile breaches being featured in mainstream news, from retail stores to healthcare organizations. The breaches have resulted in millions of customers’ data being stolen. Mobile devices are also a high-value target, simply because of the incredible amount of data stored on them.

Identity Fraud
Identity Fraud happens when criminals use stolen personal data for illegitimate transactions. These may include fraudulent purchases, opening new bank accounts or credit cards, initiating loans, and more.

Identity fraud impacts not only the victims of identity theft, but also the other organizations that become part of the fraudulent activity: merchants, banks, credit card companies, etc. The truth is, everyone is impacted in some way because businesses build the cost of fraud into their pricing structures to help cover their losses.

Protecting Yourself
Recovering from identity fraud is a daunting task that can take 200-300 hours of time and cost $1,000 or more. What’s more, these accounts can appear on credit reports for extended periods, making it difficult for victims to get legitimate credit.

First and foremost, protect your data. Don’t share passwords or account information. Don’t lend your credit cards or IDs to others. Make sure you have high levels of security on your mobile devices and use highly secure passwords on your online accounts – and don’t reuse passwords. Also use two-factor authentication whenever possible.

Be aware of the countless scams being conducted via phone and online. If you even remotely question a request for information or an offer, hang up and call the institution back yourself to verify the request. Legitimate organizations don’t usually ask for sensitive information without you having contacted them first.

Be sure to check your credit report regularly. We can assist our account holders with this by activating Credit Sense on your online and mobile banking app. Credit Sense is a tool that will help you improve your financial well-being. Credit Sense gives you up-to-date personal credit information including credit scores, credit usage, total balances, payment history, credit age and recent credit. You can refresh your credit score as often as you need and get tips on how to improve it. Credit Sense also offers credit monitoring, which gives you protection from fraud with alerts notifying you when something has changed in your credit profile.

While it’s hard to keep your data completely safe, following these simple precautions and staying alert can help you avoid the hassles and financial burden of identity theft and fraud. To help you with best practices for avoiding identity theft, contact us to learn how we are helping protect your identity and funds.

Annual Milford Moves 5k Offers Healthy Fun While Supporting Local Veterans

By Peter Berube

One of the many benefits of community banks is that, thanks to their homegrown roots, they tend to be active in supporting local organizations and programs, extending their reach into their communities beyond simply offering financial services. For years, The Milford Bank has taken an active role in promoting and supporting its local community and raising awareness of programs in the area.

Continuing that tradition, The Milford Bank will be hosting the 5th annual Milford Moves 5k Run and Walk event, taking place Sunday, June 16th, 2019, along with co-sponsor Colony Grill of Milford.  The event is designed to raise awareness of and support for military veterans, with all of the proceeds going to support local veterans’ organizations.  Those groups include American Legion Post 196, VFW Post 7788, the Disabled American Veterans Chapter 15, and the Vietnam Veterans of America Chapter 25.  The funds raised will be used to fund veterans’ affairs and rehab programs through these organizations.

The Milford Moves 5k is also an opportunity for local businesses to join The Milford Bank and Colony Grill in supporting and celebrating the veterans in the community through sponsorships, which start as low as $250. Interested businesses may contact The Milford Bank for more information.  Last year’s 5k raised $20,000 and was distributed among these local veterans’ groups.

The event kicks off with a Kids’ Fun Run at 8:30am, with the 5k starting at 9:00am. Awards will be presented for top overall female and male finishers, top female and male active military or veteran finishers, along with prizes for the top three in their age groups.  Colony Grill will also be awarding $500 for the top female and male finishers to be donated the charity of the winners’ choosing.  In addition, a special award will be given to the participant deemed most patriotic and all kids in the Fun Run will receive a prize for coming out and supporting this great cause.  Colony will also be providing complimentary pizza for participants, and a free beer for all 21+ participants.

Don’t miss your chance to be part of a fun, healthy event that also supports local veterans. Registration for runners and walkers is open online, or participants may register in person at any office of The Milford Bank up to the day before the event.

 

Special Notice to Customers

Dear Customers of The Milford Bank:

We recognize that many government employees have been financially impacted by the partial government shutdown. In 1872, The Milford Bank was founded for the purpose of serving our communities and that objective has not changed.

As your neighbors and friends, we understand the challenges many federal employees are facing, and we would like to help to relieve some of the burden.

If you are a customer of The Milford Bank and are a government employee enduring financial hardship due to the shutdown, please contact us at (203) 783-5700 or stop by your local office to discuss how we may be of assistance to you.

Said Susan Shields, President and CEO of The Milford Bank, “Helping where we can is just the right thing to do. Over the years, we’ve celebrated many happy occasions with our customers. Good neighbors, like good businesses, should be there to offer support when things are difficult.”

The Milford Bank was founded in 1872 and is a mutual institution with five offices and a loan center located in the city of Milford, an office in Stratford and a Loan Production office in downtown New Haven. The Bank offers a wide variety of banking and financial products and services to businesses, individuals and organizations.

Helping Beat Food Insecurity in Milford

By Celeste Lohrenz

Food insecurity is defined by the USDA as “a household-level economic and social condition of limited or uncertain access to adequate food.” As amazing as it may seem, nearly 13% of Americans overall – and 17.5% of children – live in households that are considered “food insecure.”  That’s about 13 million children.

What that means for those children is that the only place they are guaranteed to get a full, nutritious meal is school. Outside of school, it is often a different story. This can result in malnutrition, higher rates of illness and hospitalization, poor academic performance, insecurity, lack of social skills, and other chronic issues.  Ironically, it can also result in obesity for those who experience partial food insecurity because they often overeat when food is available in an effort to make up for missed meals, or they fill themselves up with inexpensive junk food.

Food insecurity is a problem that knows no geographic boundaries and impacts even the wealthiest states in the nation. In Connecticut, the child food insecurity rate is lower than the national rate, at 15.6%, but New Haven County registered a 17% child food insecurity rate.

There are many food banks and other programs that do their share to help collect food and money to provide food for these hungry children. Many of them are modeled after a weekend food program started in Little Rock, Arkansas in 1995 when a school nurse asked for help providing food for students that were complaining and stomach pains and dizziness.

Milford Food 2 Kids was created to help stem the food gap for children in Milford.  With help from many selfless volunteers, the organization hands out bags of child-friendly food each week to children in need.  Its mission to feed hungry children began in 2016, when it initially delivered 26 weekend food bags to children in two schools.  By the end of the recently concluded school year, it had expanded its service to 166 children in 13 schools.  Its goal is to continue to expand the Food 2 Kids program into a sustainable program that will provide food for children on an ongoing basis.

In order for programs like Food 2 Kids to succeed and effectively help close the food gap, they need help from individuals willing to donate to their cause, as well as from local organizations who help to organize donation drives.

As a local presence in Milford for more than 140 years, The Milford Bank has been very active in serving the needs of its communities beyond providing banking services. Each year, the Bank provides event sponsorships, charitable donations, and hosts its own events, like its recent paper shredding and e-recycling day.

In its ongoing mission to give back to the community it has been a part of for so long, The Milford Bank will be active in supporting the Food 2 kids program and will be accepting cash donations at all of its Milford locations throughout the month of September.  Donations are tax deductible and 100 percent of finds raised will help Food 2 kids meet its 2018 goals.  Contributions of all sizes are welcome:  $7 will feed a child for a weekend, while $280 sponsors one child for the entire school year.  For more information, please contact any Milford Office of The Milford Bank.

In addition to the collection drive, many employees of The Milford Bank are planning their own ways to raise funds for Milford Food 2 Kids throughout the month. Do not be surprised to see or hear about a special contest or bake sale. The Bank Employees have set a fundraising goal of $20,000. This matches Bank donations to the program for each of the past two years.

Food 2 Kids is always looking for more volunteers to help with shopping and picking up food, packing, delivering, stocking, and spreading the word throughout the community. Interested volunteers should contact Food 2 Kids directly at 203-877-4277 or milfordfood2kids@gmail.com.