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.

How Milford Bank Keeps Customer Deposits Secure

By Jorge Santiago
Executive Vice President

Every day, millions of people make bank deposits without fear of fraud or identity theft. That’s because banks have worked hard to secure deposits wherever they are made—at an ATM, in a branch, or using a mobile device. The Milford Bank goes above and beyond to ensure that all deposits go through security and fraud detection processes in order to protect your deposits.

One of the most effective forms of security protection The Milford Bank provides is duplicate detection. Duplicate detection allows The Milford Bank to review deposits that have been flagged due to repetitive entries or fraudulent behavior. The system flags the transaction based on set criteria and prevents the deposit from being processed until corrected.

Similarly, unusual behaviors and amounts that have identical qualities to a previously deposited check will be caught during the duplicate detection process. This type of security detection is applied on multiple levels: deposit channel, banking management, and software systems. A strict reviewing process occurs when a deposit is made at a deposit channel.

After the deposit is made, management then verifies each transaction. The deposit is then sent through a fully hosted web portal that secures the deposit and stores the data for comparison against previous and future deposits. Deposit data is maintained for at least 90 days in cases of reconciliation. Therefore, fraudulent behaviors are minimized.

As a result of The Milford Bank’s multi-layer security process, deposits are thoroughly tracked from all deposit channels. This is part of The Milford Bank’s focus on prioritizing the security of its customers and their funds. Customers should rest assured knowing that The Milford Bank provides a highly secure banking experience for its customers.

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.

Safety Tips for Online Banking

By Dave Wall

As with most services today, banking has moved into the digital world. Online banking provides an easy way to manage personal finances quickly and conveniently, without the need to worry about mailing checks to pay bills or going to the bank for simple transactions. But, the rise of digital commerce gave rise to a cyber underworld of hackers that requires caution and diligence with online activities, especially those that include financial transactions.  To keep you accounts and personal information safe, there are several best practices to follow when using online banking services.

Strong Passwords
Always make sure you use strong passwords that are not easily guessable. They should be long and include both upper- and lowercase letter, numbers, and other characters.  Using names, birthdates, and other easily guessable personal details is not recommended.  Even with the number of high-profile hacks featured by media outlets, some of the top passwords in use include “123456” and “password.”  Avoid using the same password for multiple accounts.  That way, even if one is compromised, your other accounts will be safe.  Change you passwords regularly.

Secure WiFi
Only use secure WiFi networks. Open, unsecure public WiFi networks are an easy target for hackers, who can intercept data transmitted between you and the bank.  The safest policy is to limit your banking activity to your secure home network, but if you need to make transactions while away from home, use secure networks, or even use your mobile device’s cellular connection instead of WiFi.

Secure Websites
Make sure any website you use for financial transactions is secure by checking the URL. If it begins with “https” the site is secured with an SSL certificate.  Chrome browsers are starting to identify non-secure sites with a “Not Secure” label starting this month to help identify them.

Mobile Devices
If you are using a mobile device for your financial transactions, using the bank’s official mobile app is a good option. It is often even more secure than websites and is much less susceptible to hacking.  Make sure you update the app when required, and while most users tend to avoid automatic app updates, setting your banking app to update automatically ensures you’ll be using the current version with the latest security measures.  Turn off your Bluetooth connection when using your mobile device.  Bluetooth signals can be hijacked, just like open WiFi, allowing hackers to intercept your data.  This is a good policy at all times when not using your Bluetooth capability for communication.

Account Security
Regardless of how you access your accounts, it’s advisable to request text or email alerts whenever transactions are made or if balances drop below a certain threshold. This immediately alerts you if any unauthorized transaction has taken place and allows you to react quickly.  If available, you should always enable two-factor authentication on your accounts.  That means you will have to use two means of authorizing yourself as the user, but it makes it much more difficult for hackers to gain access, even if they have gotten your password.  One example of two-factor authentication is entering a required passcode to be entered, which is sent to a specified mobile number when a login is attempted.  Similarly, disable any automatic logins on your devices.  While logging in each time takes additional time, the added security can make sure your accounts aren’t accessible to hackers gaining access to your device.

Separate PC for Banking
If you have access to a separate computer to use only for your banking activity, you can reduce risk of threats from gaming, web browsing, email, social media, and other activities. If you have an old laptop or PC that you’re not using anymore, consider cleaning it up, updating the operating system and browser, and using that as your dedicated banking device.  It may not be powerful enough for gaming, streaming videos, and other popular activities, but it can still be very useful for securing your online banking.  If you don’t have access to a separate computer, you can still use a dedicated browser – one you don’t use for any other online activities.  That will still reduce risk.  Regardless of the device, make sure you keep your antivirus, browser, and operating system up-to-date to ensure you have the latest security patches.

Be Aware of Scams
Every day, hackers and scammers send countless fake offers in an effort gain access to devices and personal information. If the offer sounds too good to be true, it probably is.  Delete suspicious emails and texts immediately, and never share account information online.  Similarly, we won’t ask you for account details or other personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the call.  If you aren’t sure if a call is legitimate, hang up and call back.

Check you Accounts Regularly
Even the most diligent customers can have their account information or identities stolen from other sources. It’s a good policy to monitor your accounts and credit report regularly to check for any unauthorized accounts or transactions.  The Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the three national credit agencies to provide a free copy of your credit report once every 12 months.  That will allow you to check your credit report every four months at no cost.

Regardless of what transactions you’re making online, following these guidelines will help protect your assets and credit standing.

Why You Should Recycle Your Old Electronics

By Lynn Viesti Berube

Over the past decade, we’ve watched the world’s adoption of new technology grow exponentially, to a point where there are more mobile devices than people on the planet. We’re also seeing the rate at which electronics are replaced increase, driven by affordability, shorter lifespans, and a desire to have the very latest and greatest products.

While the continued investment in new technology may be good for the economy, it’s also created a massive amount of electronic waste (e-waste). Americans alone generated almost 12 million tons of electronic waste in 2014, including more than 150 million cell phones and almost 52,000 computers every year according to the EPA.  But global e-recycling rates are only around 20 percent, which means the majority of these electronics were either incinerated, dumped into massive landfills releasing pollutants into the environment, or collect dust in homes.

Aside from the impact on waste management, the environment, and health issues, recycling electronics provides a rich source of raw materials. The EPA also says that every one million recycled cell phones can produce 35,000 pounds of copper, 772 pounds of silver, 75 pounds of gold, and 33 pounds of palladium.  In addition, recycling one million laptops saves the energy equivalent to the electricity used by more than 3,500 homes per year.

When it’s time to recycle your cell phones or other electronics, first make sure you delete all personal information, followed by a factory reset, after taking out any removable storage cards. You should also remove any batteries, as those should be recycled separately.  You should also make sure you are using a reliable recycling service that certifies data destruction and recycles 100% of the e-waste they collect through legitimate facilities.

Just as recycled electronics can be used for materials for new products, recycled paper also have many applications. The cleaned and processed paper is used to produce many products we use every day, including toilet paper, school writing paper, masking tape, coffee filters, and many more.  Even documents with personal information can be recycled, provided they are shredded first.

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.

But, it’s hard to change old habits, and one of the key drivers in the rate of e-recycling is providing a convenient way for people to get rid of their old devices. In 2007, Connecticut was one of the first states to adopt an electronics recycling law, making it easier for residents to dispose of their old electronics.

This Saturday, June 23, The Milford Bank will be sponsoring a Shred & Electronics Recycling Event at 119 High Street, Milford, CT, from 10:00am-1:00pm (or until the truck fills up.)  Electronics recycling is free for everyone; document shredding if free for all customers of The Milford Bank, with a $5 fee for everyone else. All funds collected will be donated to Milford Food2Kids.

Five Financial Challenges to Test Your Saving Skills

By Tina Mason

One of the best ways to invigorate your saving strategy is by issuing yourself a challenge. Not only does the competition make it a little more fun, but you’ll also learn valuable lessons about the long-term benefits of discipline, the way your daily spending habits impact your quality of life, and just how much you can accomplish when you set your mind to it.

If you’re looking to make improvements to your financial planning and add a little extra padding to your savings account, here are five financial challenges you can try.

Take a new look at a favorite vice: There’s nothing wrong with splurging every now and then. But if you’re spending $5.00 on a cup of coffee every day, you may want to take a fresh look at how you get your morning pick-me-up. Could you live with making coffee at home and saving yourself over $1,000 a year?

Dive into the gig economy: If you find yourself with lots of free time and aren’t sure what to do with it, challenge yourself to finding a part-time gig. If you love nothing more than driving around town listening to music, maybe Uber would be a good fit. Fancy yourself a writer? Try to get published as a freelancer. There are tons of opportunities that will fit where, and how, you need them to.

Live like you’re single: Remember when you were young and single? You could somehow survive in an apartment the size of your living room. You ate Ramen noodles for breakfast. And even if you had less money saved up, you may have felt more financially free. Granted, your spouse may not appreciate Ramen the way your 20-year old self did. However, we all behave differently when we engage with others. By focusing solely on your own finances for a brief stint, you may be able to indicate where you’re letting money fall through the cracks.

A dollar a day: This one’s simple. Get a jar, and add a dollar to it every day. If you’ve got something you’re saving for, simply wait until you’ve gotten there. If not, consider it a rainy day fund for an emergency. You’d be surprised how easy it is to forget about a dollar every day.

Pile up your perks: Perks are everywhere these days. Debit and credit cards will often offer discounts, deals or cashback. Some people go coupon crazy at the grocery store. In this challenge, you are tasked with taking cash equal in value to the perks you’ve accumulated and putting it into a new savings account. It is a way of making your savings seem tangible, and will always help to remind you  to look for savings in your day to day life.

At The Milford Bank, we’re always looking for great ways to help you grow your wealth, protect your family and live your best life. To learn more ways to save, stop by any office location in Milford or Stratford or check out our Online Learning Center here.

 

‘Tis the Season… For Community Cleanup and Major Project Planning

By Mark Gruttadauria

After a long winter that included a 10-day period with three different Nor’Easters hitting the area, it looks like Spring has finally arrived. Lawns are started to become brighter shades of green, trees are starting to bud, and of course, temperatures are on the rise. The change in seasons also signifies the start of the outdoor activities, as youth sports teams are seen practicing across communities and parks and other communal areas once again become daily meeting sites.

For local communities, it means preparing for annual spring cleaning, repairs and maintenance. The to-do list can get quite long after a harsh winter, with many cleaning,  landscaping and gardening jobs taking priority to replenish and revitalize buildings, gardens, planters, water features, playgrounds, and walkways.  The good news is if your community or neighborhood association has done its job, you’ll see a large turnout of residents lending a hand to take care of their communities.

This is also the time to assess larger and longer term needs – especially anything that might require larger capital investment. Larger, higher cost projects require advance planning and a lengthier approval process for funding.  They could include office or garage renovation,  new construction, parking area paving, speed bumps, pool installation, tree removal or planting, or any other capital improvements to make the community more attractive to residents and businesses.

Smart associations understand that, just as regular maintenance (including spring cleanup) help to build a positive daily perception, these larger developments are a long-term these are long-term investments in the community’s future. It’s simple: a cleaner and more modern community is naturally going to have maximum curb appeal.

The catch, though, is that community organizations may not have a lump sum available to fund larger projects, which is why future planning is critical. When big-ticket items are approved, funding plans must also be in place, whether that means local fund raising, business sponsorships, city funding (less and less likely, unless residents are willing to endure tax hikes), or project loans (hopefully from local banks that are happy to work with community organizations).

Whatever the plan, it has to be put in place long before the project breaks ground. So, when your planting flowers, trimming hedges, or sowing grass this spring, take note of any larger community improvement opportunities and bring them to your community association board, so they can consider them early enough to make a real difference.

Many local financial institutions, like The Milford Bank, work closely with community associations and other similar organizations, understanding they, too, have a role to play in supporting these communities. If you are considering a major project that will require funding, be sure to talk to a representative from The Milford Bank representative to find out how we can help.