American Federal Employees Earn ‘Sales Star’ Recognition

Eighteen American Federal Bankers and employees have earned ‘Sales Star’ recognition from American Federal Bank for outstanding sales and sales referral performance in 2022.

A “Sales Star” is the highest honor of recognition an employee can earn at American Federal. American Federal’s 2022 Sales Stars are:

  • Adam Braunberger, Business Banker, Fargo
  • Dan Erdman, Private Banker, Crookston
  • Chrissa Frisk, Credit Analyst, Crookston
  • Chris Grettum, Personal Banker, Downtown Fargo
  • Jason Jaeger, Business Banker, Fargo Downtown
  • Charlie Jorgensen, Personal Banker, Moorhead
  • Michael Kjelshus, Ag/Business Banker, Grand Forks
  • Paige Kjesbo, Market President, Wahpeton
  • Andrew Lerud, Business Banker, Fargo
  • Joanne Loeslie, Associate, Grand Forks
  • Justin Marquis, Ag/Business Banker, Fosston
  • Dustin Morris, Market President, Fergus Falls
  • Dan Paulson, Market President, Fosston
  • Ryan Paulson, Ag/Business Banker, Fosston
  • Alison Perez, Personal Banker, Grand Forks
  • Patty Roers, AFI Operations Manager, Fargo
  • John Schumacher, Market President, Grand Forks
  • Amanda Wolf, Lead Associate, Fargo

In recognition of their achievement, American Federal “Sales Star” employees and their families were invited to attend a weekend Sales Star Retreat, training seminar and awards banquet in their honor at the Arrowwood Resort and Conference Center in Alexandria, MN January 27-29, 2023.

Employees Compete in Six Divisions

Throughout the calendar year, every employee at American Federal competes in one of six Divisions in the Sales Star Recognition Program. The winners for the respective divisions for 2022 were:

Ag/Business Banker – Adam Braunberger, Fargo
Private Banker – Alison Perez, Grand Forks
Personal Banker – Dan Erdman, Crookston
Sales Manager – Dan Paulson, Fosston
Business Unit Referral – Joanne Loeslie, Grand Forks
Home Office Referral – Patty Roers, Fargo

Congratulations to the Division winners and all Sales Stars!

Tips to Establish Good Saving Habits

Person putting coin in piggy bank

Saving money is an essential element of financial health, but is something that many people seem to have trouble with. Although it does take some discipline, below are some tips on how to get in the habit of saving.

Pay yourself first.

If you wait to see what income is left over after paying expenses, you are less likely to save. Determine in advance how much money you plan to deposit each month. If you receive a raise, increase the amount of money deposited into your savings account.

Take advantage of bank technology.

Consider automatic payroll deductions or automatic transfers from checking to savings. Arrange to have a specific amount transferred to your savings account every pay period.

Pay your bills on time.

While 97 percent of Americans pay their bills on time, some consumers pay late fees. Alleviate the hassle by scheduling a time to pay bills, and put them in the mail with enough time to get to the creditor or use electronic payments and specify a date to pay.

Determine needs versus wants.

Do you need to eat out every day for lunch? Do you need that gourmet cup of coffee in the morning? By bringing your lunch to work a couple days a week, you can save hundreds of dollars a year.

Consult your American Federal Banker.

Ask which bank products and services would best suit your needs. Your banker is the best source of information about accounts and interest rates available.

Contact your local office or your American Federal Banker for more information on establishing and building your savings account.

Using Credit Cards Wisely

Girl holding credit card

Credit cards have become an everyday tool that many people use to manage their personal finances and make purchases. They also enable individuals and families to obtain goods and services, deal with emergencies, and build a credit history for larger purchases such as a car or home. Today, over 70 percent of all families have at least one credit card. While they can be a useful financial tool, it’s important to use them wisely.

Below are answers to some common questions about credit cards, as well as a list of credit card tips you should keep in mind.

What is an Annual Percentage Rate (APR)?

For credit cards, the Annual Percentage Rate or APR is basically the interest rate. The APR is applied to your balance to calculate the interest you owe. The dollar amount of interest you owe is shown as a finance charge on your billing statement for any month you are charged interest.

What is the grace period on purchases?

Most credit cards give you the chance to avoid interest on purchases (in effect, an interest-free loan) if you pay your credit card bill in full by the due date. This is called the grace period on purchases. The grace period is the period between the date of the purchase and the due date. To get it, you usually must pay your bill in full every month. When the grace period does not apply to purchases, you will pay interest on the purchases from the date of the transaction. Most credit cards do not give you a grace period on cash advances and balance transfers. 

What happens to the grace period if you paid in full one month and the following month you do not pay in full?

If you do not pay in full one month, you will lose the grace period. Typically, you will owe interest from the first day of the billing period in which you did not pay in full. This means that if you paid in full in January, but only paid part of the bill in February, you will pay interest from the first day of February based on the full average daily balance for the February billing period when your bill arrives in March.

What if I only pay the minimum amount due?

If you consistently pay only the minimum on your credit card, it will take you a long time to pay off the balance. You may end up paying a lot of interest. The amount of interest will depend on your APR and the amount of your balance. Pay as much as you can, as soon as you can, and always pay by the due date.

 What if I do not pay on time?

 If you do not pay at least the minimum amount due, credit cards will charge a late fee. Paying late may also cause your APRs to increase.

How do I know what my credit limit is?

Your credit limit will be stated when you first get your card. Over time, based on your needs, usage, and qualifications, the limit may change. Your current credit limit appears on your billing statement each month.

What happens if I go over my credit limit?

If you go over your credit limit, you may have to pay a fee. In addition, your APRs may increase. Be aware that you may go over your credit limit even if the transaction is authorized. So keep track of your transactions and how close you are to your limit.

A few final tips…

  • Pay as much as you can, as soon as you can, and always pay by the due date. If you do not pay your balance in full, pay the remainder off as soon as you can; do not wait for the due date.
  • Keep track of your balance by checking it online or by phone.
  • To avoid paying your bill late, schedule automatic payments online, mail payments at least one week before the due date or pay by phone.

If you have credit card questions or are interested in signing up for a card, please contact your American Federal Banker or apply online

Tips to Avoid Holiday Scams

Lighted laptop keyboard

The holidays can be a wonderful time of giving, family and togetherness. Unfortunately, it’s also a time when scammers are hard at work to get their hands on your money. The information below from the FBI details how you and your family can protect yourselves.

 

(via fbi.gov)

The two most prevalent of these holiday scams are non-delivery and non-payment crimes. In a non-delivery scam, a buyer pays for goods or services they find online, but those items are never received. Conversely, a non-payment scam involves goods or services being shipped, but the seller is never paid.

Whether you’re the buyer or the seller, there are a number of ways you can protect yourself—and your wallet.

Practice good cybersecurity hygiene. 

  • Don’t click any suspicious links or attachments in emails, on websites, or on social media. Phishing scams and similar crimes get you to click on links and give up personal information like your name, password, and bank account number. In some cases, you may unknowingly download malware to your device. 
  • Be especially wary if a company asks you to update your password or account information. Look up the company’s phone number on your own and call the company.

Know who you’re buying from or selling to.

  • Check each website’s URL to make sure it’s legitimate and secure. A site you’re buying from should have https in the web address. If it doesn’t, don’t enter your information on that site.  
  • If you’re purchasing from a company for the first time, do your research and check reviews.
  • Verify the legitimacy of a buyer or seller before moving forward with a purchase. If you’re using an online marketplace or auction website, check their feedback rating. Be wary of buyers and sellers with mostly unfavorable feedback ratings or no ratings at all.
  • Avoid sellers who act as authorized dealers or factory representatives of popular items in countries where there would be no such deals.
  • Be wary of sellers who post an auction or advertisement as if they reside in the U.S., then respond to questions by stating they are out of the country on business, family emergency, or similar reasons.
  • Avoid buyers who request their purchase be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country.

Be careful how you pay.

  • Never wire money directly to a seller. 
  • Avoid paying for items with pre-paid gift cards. In these scams, a seller will ask you to send them a gift card number and PIN. Instead of using that gift card for your payment, the scammer will steal the funds, and you’ll never receive your item. 
  • Use a credit card when shopping online and check your statement regularly. If you see a suspicious transaction, contact your credit card company to dispute the charge.

Monitor the shipping process.

  • Always get tracking numbers for items you buy online, so you can make sure they have been shipped and can follow the delivery process.
  • Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the cardholder does not match the shipping address when you are selling. Always receive the cardholder’s authorization before shipping any products.

And remember: If it seems too good to be true, it probably is.

If you have questions on this or any other security-related topics, please contact your local office.

 

Avoid Money Mule Scams

Email icons

If someone sends you money and asks you to send some or all of it to someone else, you could be a money mule. Know what to watch for and avoid becoming a money mule with these tips from the ABA Foundation 

 

What’s a Money Mule?

When criminals obtain money illegally, they need to hide or launder the source of the funds. One method they use is to look for people to transfer that money for them. Those people become money mules, and are used to move and launder the money.

If someone sends you money and asks you to send some or all of it to someone else, you could be a money mule. Often, scammers will approach you online, but they may also call you directly. Regardless of the particular method, the goal is the same—to use consumers to move money so that law enforcement cannot easily track it.

If someone asks to use your bank account or asks you to open a bank account in your name to send and receive money on their behalf or business, don’t do it! Even if they offer to pay you some cash for your trouble, it’s not worth it. You may not only be risking your financial assets and identity, but your actions could be criminal.

Who Do Criminals Target?

Anyone can be a potential target. But, scammers often prey on elders, students, millennials, those looking for employment and those on dating websites.

Witting vs. Unwitting Mules

Unwitting money mules are those who are unaware of the scam.

Witting money mules are aware that their efforts are part of an organized crime scheme. These individuals may even have been warned by financial institutions, law enforcement or other agencies that what they are doing is wrong, but continue to serve as money mules in the hopes of receiving a share of the monetary gains or some other benefit.

Are There Legal Consequences?

Yes, acting as a money mule is illegal whether or not someone is aware of the fraud. Money mules could be prosecuted, fined and incarcerated.

Are There Other Repercussions?

Beyond the legal ramifications of acting as a money mule, the people who serve as money mules may open themselves up to identity theft. All of their personally identifiable information can be stolen by criminals, which can lead to theft of their financial assets.

How Can You Avoid Becoming a Money Mule?

  • Be wary of unsolicited emails, texts or other communications that promise you easy money with little or no effort.
  • Don’t share your financial details or give access to your bank account to anyone you don’t know and trust.
  • Don’t purchase virtual currency or gift cards on someone else’s behalf.
  • Never use your own bank account or open one in your name to transfer money for anyone else.
  • Never send money to an online romantic interest even if he or she sends you a check first.
  • Watch out for messages where people claim to be abroad and ask you to send or receive money on their behalf or that of their loved one. They may claim to be quarantined, recovering from COVID-19 or in the military. Don’t fall for the scam!
  • When seeking employment, conduct research and confirm the legitimacy of any company that may offer you a position. You can ask them for a copy of their license to conduct business in your state.

What Should You Do If You Spot a Scam?

  • Don’t continue communicating with the scammers. Break off all contact and stop transferring money for them.
  • Tell your bank, the wire transfer company, gift card provider or other payment provider right away.
  • Report it to the Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/complaint.
  • Contact law enforcement and reach out to your local FBI field office.
  • If you or someone you know is an elder who has been victimized, call the National Elder Fraud Hotline at 1-833-FRAUD-11 (1-833-372-8311).

If you have questions on this or any other security-related topics, please contact your local office.

 

Protect Yourself Online

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Although the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. According to a 2018 Gallup Poll, one in four Americans has experienced cybercrime. The American Bankers Association recommends the following tips to keep you safe online:

  • Keep your computers and mobile devices up to date.  Having the latest security software, web browser, and operating system are the best defenses against viruses, malware, and other online threats. Turn on automatic updates so you receive the newest fixes as they become available.
  • Establish passwords. A strong password is at least eight characters in length and includes a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters.
  • Watch out for phishing scams. Phishing scams use fraudulent emails and websites to trick users into disclosing private account or login information. Do not click on links or open any attachments or pop-up screens from sources you are not familiar with. 
  • Recognize and avoid bogus website links. Cybercriminals embed malicious links to download malware onto devices and/or/ route users to bogus websites. Hover over suspicious links to view the actual URL that you are being routed to. Fraudulent links are often disguised by simple changes in the URL. For example: www.ABC-Bank.com vs ABC_Bank.com
  • Keep personal information personal. Hackers can use social media profiles to figure out your passwords and answer those security questions in the password reset tools. Lock down your privacy settings and avoid posting things like birthdays, addresses, mother’s maiden name, etc.  Be wary of requests to connect from people you do not know.
  • Secure your internet connection. Always protect your home wireless network with a password. When connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, be cautious about what information you are sending over it.
  • Shop safely. Before shopping online, make sure the website uses secure technology. When you are at the checkout screen, verify that the web address begins with https. Also, check to see if a tiny locked padlock symbol appears on the page.
  • Read the site’s privacy policies. Though long and complex, privacy policies tell you how the site protects the personal information it collects. If you don’t see or understand a site’s privacy policy, consider doing business elsewhere.

If you have questions on this or any other security-related topics, please contact your local office.

Gordon Joins American Federal in Ada

Ada office

 

Nick GordonNick Gordon has been named Ag & Business Banker/Office Manager of American Federal’s Ada office. Gordon has worked in the financial services industry for several years, and has experience in mortgage, retail banking, and brokerage services in addition to ag and business banking.

He is proud to be born and raised in the Ada area, and is excited to be working in his hometown. This community has taught me so much,” he says. “The people are welcoming, kind, supportive, and truly care about the success of one another.”

Please feel free to contact Nick with any questions about ag, business or consumer banking and lending. 

Keep Your Mobile Device Safe

Man on Smartphone

Your mobile device provides you with access to virtually unlimited resources and information, and for most of us that includes our personal communications and bank accounts. Unfortunately, the access it gives you also makes it a target for criminals.

Keep your information and your money safe with the tips below.

  • Always use a passcode/lock on your smartphone and other devices. This makes it harder for thieves to access your information if your device is lost or stolen.
  • Fully log out when you finish a mobile banking session.
  • Be cautious when downloading apps. Apps can contain malicious software, worms, and viruses. Also beware of apps that ask for unnecessary “permissions.”
  • Keep your devices up to date with the latest manufacturer updates.
  • Contact your bank or financial institution right away if you change your phone number or lose your phone.
  • Be aware of your surroundings.  Not all scams are high-tech. People can steal your information by watching you enter things like passwords and pin numbers.
  • Watch what you click on. Avoid clicking on links and attachments from senders you don’t know.
  • Be wary of public Wi-Fi. Public connections aren’t very secure, so don’t perform banking transactions on a public network. If you need to access your account, try disabling the Wi-Fi and switching to your mobile network.
  • Report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately.

If you have questions on this or any other security-related topics, please contact your local office.

Come See Us at Big Iron!

Bankers in Field

Come visit your American Federal Ag and Business Bankers at the Big Iron Farm Show September 13-15 at the Red River Valley Fairgrounds in West Fargo. We’re in a new location this year, so be sure to stop by our booth (H39) in the Harvest Hall Building. 

The annual event is the region’s largest three-day gathering of its kind, offering a smorgasbord of educational programs, field demonstrations and more than 900 exhibitors. 

Ag and Business Bankers from across the Red River Valley and Lakes Region will be on hand at the bank’s booth from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Tuesday and Wednesday, and 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Thursday.

Talking Finances With Aging Parents

 

Older gentleman using tablet

Finances are a subject many families are hesitant to discuss, especially between parents and children. But as your parents age, there’s a chance that they may become less capable of managing their finances. This can be a delicate subject to approach for everyone involved. While you may be met with some resistance when bringing up the topic, it’s important to have open discussions with parents about their finances and potential issues they may face as they age.

You don’t want to wait until past due notices start piling up or your parents fall prey to a scam to have these discussions. It’s easier to talk about it in advance than to fix an issue after it’s happened.

Here are some suggestions for preparation steps you can take right now.

Be responsible with your own finances

If you plan on helping your parents, you should be in a financially secure place yourself. Make sure that your own financial strategy accounts for your aging parents.

Find the best way to approach the subject

You probably know best about how your parents may react to a conversation about their finances. If they wouldn’t react well to a formal meeting, try to work finance-related topics into your regular conversations. Be patient, as they may not open up initially.

Is there an existing plan?

Talk to your parents about their needs and priorities. Determine if they have an estate plan in place, or if they are working with a planning professional. If they haven’t done so recently, they may want to look into doing so.

Some of the items that may need to be addressed include (but are not limited to):  

  • Current will
  • Living trust
  • Durable powers of attorney
  • Medical directives
  • Insurance policies
  • Credit card and loan documents
  • Bank and investment statements
  • Social Security information

Don’t go it alone

Be sure to include your siblings in your conversations. They can help ease some of the burden on you and provide support while you talk to your parents.

Be respectful

It can be hard for parents to feel like they are letting go of their independence. They’ve spent most of their lives running a household and being in charge. Many of these suggested steps can be taken gradually, and you can make adjustments as your parents become more comfortable with discussing their financial picture.

If you have questions or are interested in discussing further, please contact your American Federal Banker.