Citizens Celebrates 140 Years of Making Things Happen

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February 1, 2016 marks Citizens Bank Minnesota’s 140th Anniversary! We have a short anniversary video that highlights 140 years of making things happen!  You can view our video here: 140th Anniversary Video

 

Seven Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud

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Citizens Bank Minnesota Offers 7 Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud

Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week is Jan. 25-29

As Americans begin the process of filing tax returns, identity thieves are scheming to get their hands on that money. Tax identity theft has been the most common form of identity theft reported to the Federal Trade Commission for the past five years. Citizens Bank Minnesota is using Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Jan. 25-29, to raise consumer awareness and provide tips to prevent tax ID fraud.

Identity thieves look for every opportunity to steal your information, especially during tax season. Consumers should be on high alert and take every step they can to protect their personal and financial information.

Tax identity fraud takes place when a criminal files a false tax return using a stolen Social Security number in order to fraudulently claim the refund. Identity thieves generally file false claims early in the year and victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help consumers prevent tax ID fraud, Citizens is offering the following tips:

  • File early. File your tax return as soon as you’re able giving criminals less time to use your information to file a false return.
  • File on a protected Wi-Fi network. If you’re using an online service to file your return, be sure you’re connected to a password-protected personal network. Avoid using public networks like a Wi-Fi hotspot at a coffee shop.
  • Use a secure mailbox. If you’re filing by mail, drop your tax return at the post office or an official postal box instead of your mailbox at home. Some criminals look for completed tax return forms in home mailboxes during tax season.
  • Find a tax preparer you trust. If you’re planning to hire someone to do your taxes, get recommendations and research a tax preparer thoroughly before handing over all of your financial information.
  • Shred what you don’t need. Once you’ve completed your tax return, shred the sensitive documents that you no longer need and safely file away the ones you do.
  • Beware of phishing scams by email, text or phone. Scammers may try to solicit sensitive information by impersonating the IRS. Know that the IRS will not contact you by email, text or social media. If the IRS needs information, they will contact you by mail first.
  • Keep an eye out for missing mail. Fraudsters look for W-2s, tax refunds or other mail containing your financial information. If you don’t receive your W-2s, and your employer indicates they’ve been mailed, or it looks like it has been previously opened upon delivery, contact the IRS immediately.

If you believe you’re a victim of tax identity theft or if the IRS denies your tax return because one has previously been filed under your name, alert the IRS Identity Protection Specialized Unit at 1-800-908-4490. In addition, you should:

  • Respond immediately to any IRS notice and complete IRS Form 14039, Identity Theft Affidavit.
  • Contact your bank immediately, and close any accounts opened without your permission or tampered with.
  • Contact the three major credit bureaus to place a ‘fraud alert’ on your credit records:
  • Continue to pay your taxes and file your tax return, even if you must do so by paper.

More information about tax identity theft is available from the FTC at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.

CITIZENS BANK MINNESOTA 2015 HOLIDAY RANDOM ACTS OF KINDNESS

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Citizens Bank Minnesota employees were excited to help families in need this Holiday Season. Our main office in New Ulm as well as our three branch locations in Lafayette, La Salle and Lakeville each adopted an area family. Money was donated by employees, raised through a bake sale and free-will donation luncheons, making is possible to donate $3,223.00 in gifts for these families.

Our New Ulm office went through Brown County Family Services Adopt-A-Family program and helped a family of eight, providing some much needed daily items along with several fun items for the children! They also helped a small military family, in which the husband is in basic training.

In Lakeville, our employees were able to help two families, each with two children, through the Armful of Love program! They bought them basic household items along with clothing for all family members.

Our La Salle office heard of a family with young children in need of beds this holiday season. Two of the children were sharing one small bed. One employee had two single beds that were no longer being used, so she donated them to the family. Employees were able to buy mattresses and new bedding for the children, along with some other clothing and household items. The kids were thrilled to each have their own bed!  The thank you’s we received were enough to bring tears to our eyes.

In Lafayette, our employees were able to help a local elderly widow, living alone and on a fixed income. Her washing machine broke and she didn’t have the funds to buy a new one. Our employees were able to raise enough money to buy her a new washing machine and surprised her with a “special delivery” one afternoon. She was overcome with joy and gratitude that her friends at the bank would do this for her!

We were happy to help these families who would have had an otherwise difficult time purchasing the needed items themselves. It was also a great way to remember what the Holidays are truly all about!

By: Sarah Seifert, Marketing Assistant

$3,340 Donated to the Lewis House

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It was a magical evening as Citizens Bank Minnesota hosted theGirls Night Out on Monday, October 5th at the Lakeville Arts Center, raising, $3,340 through ticket sales which was donated to the Lewis House. Citizens sponsored the entertainment and food. The afternoon started with shopping at local downtown businesses then moved to the Lakeville Area Arts Center for happy hour and appetizers followed by musical entertainment by “Sister”. “Sister’s” music had inspirational messages that energized us to prioritize our amazing plans and goals by putting ourselves first on the list.

The Lewis House first opened its doors on August 28, 1979 not far from where the current Eagan Lewis House stands today. It is named after the late Senator B. Robert Lewis, who authored legislation to aid women in abusive relationships and to stem family violence. The home was purchased with Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funding and was welcomed into the community by the surrounding neighbors who made it their mission to watch out for the fragile families inside. During that first year, 41 women and 64 children received safe housing at Lewis House. In 1985, 360 Communities broke ground on the current Lewis House in Eagan, which was the first shelter in the United States built for the purpose of being a battered women’s shelter.

To become part of theGirls! is rather simple – be a female client of Citizens and have an email address.  If you are already a client, please send your primary email address to Lori Dummer at thegirls@citizensmn.com to be included in future emails.  If you are not a client, please stop by Citizens Bank Minnesota’s Lakeville Branch next to Lakeville’s Super Target to open your account today and start enjoying all the benefits Citizens has to offer. You can also check us out on the web at www.citizensmn.com.

By: Missy Marti, Marketing Officer

September is College Savings Month

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Did you know that September is College Savings Month? It’s never too early (or too late!) to start saving for college! Here are a few general savings tips:

  • Start saving as early as you can. However old your children are, if you want to help fund their college education, start saving. It is never too early, or too late, to start saving for your child’s college.
  • Find more ways to save: Analyze your spending to see if there’s anything you can cut out to increase your savings. Finding ways to save and making cuts can really add up over time.
  • Automate your savings:The simplest way to start saving is to make it easier on yourself. See if you’re able to automatically deposit a portion of your paycheck into a college account or any savings account for that matter.
  • Prioritize your finances:The world doesn’t stop for college savings, nor does the rest of your financial needs. You need to pay off any debt, especially any credit cards or other high-interest debt. You also need topay off your own student loans (if you have any), establish an emergency fund for yourself, and save for retirement as well.

What happens when you just can’t financially help?

Sometimes the dream of paying for your child’s education is just not within your reach. Or maybe, like some parents, you want your child to pay for their own education to learn how to stand on their own feet and become independent. Either way, there are still things you can do to reduce their student loan debts and how much they’ll have to pay.

  • Motivate them in high school.Work hard to encourage them and keep them motivated during high school. The better grades they have, the more likely they’ll be able to receive scholarships. High grades can also mean they’re eligible for advanced placement courses, which can count toward college credits and therefore reduce the amount of tuition owed. Also encourage them to volunteer and participate in extracurricular activities to increase their chances of getting scholarships.
  • Encourage them to work through high school.As soon as they can get a job, encourage them to do so. This may require your participation, such as driving them to work or helping them fill out taxes when that time rolls around. Have a discussion about what percentage of each paycheck should be put toward college.
  • Help them apply for scholarships.When the time comes, encourage and help them to apply for scholarships.
  • Teach them about student loans.A vital thing you can do for your child is take the time to teach them about financial aid, student loans, what they’ll owe upon graduation, and what that will mean for them in the long run. Help them keep track of financial aid deadlines and make sure your child fills out the FAFSA. This conversation can lead to ways to reduce their student loans while still in school, such as encouraging them to stick to a budget, not misuse student loans, and picking an affordable college to start with.

Citizens Bank Minnesota does have a scholarship opportunity where we award two or more scholarships each year to local graduating seniors who will be attending post-secondary education. Scholarship America performs the selection process and administration. This program was instituted at Citizens as a way to show our commitment to the community and our belief in today’s youth. Citizens plans to continue this tradition for years to come!

You can find out more information about our scholarship at http://www.citizensmn.com/personal/real-life-investors

By: Sarah Seifert, Marketing Assistant/Youth Club Coordinator

Sources: Thesimpledollar.com

Planning one last summer vacation?

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Here at Citizens Bank Minnesota, safety and security of our clients’ accounts is priority.  As a precaution there are states and countries that are blocked for Debit Card use based on monitored fraud patterns. Just a reminder, when traveling out of state it is important to notify Citizens at 1-800-549-0194 or (507) 354-3165 with dates and the location of your travel so your card will be available for use.

Tips for your Travel:

  • Travel with more than one form of payment, i.e. debit card, credit card, pre-paid card, cash.
  • Check the expiration of your Debit Card to assure it will not expire while you are away.
  • Know and memorize your Pin.  Call 1-866-985-2273 if you need to reset your Pin.
  • When using ATM’s, stay in well-lit areas and be aware of the surroundings.
  • Do not leave receipts at the ATM.
  • Store your Debit Card account number and the lost/stolen customer service telephone number separately and in a safe & secure location – Card Member Services (800) 535-8440.
  • Monitor your transactions regularly via Online Banking at www.citizensmn.com, through an iPhone or Android App, or Telephone Banking 507-233-2265 (or) 1-888-476-2265
  • ATM and Debit Card Transactions are protected under the Electronic Fund Transfer Act.  To limit your liability, you will need to monitor and immediately report any unauthorized charges to the bank.

By: Melissa Bergeman, Citizens Connection Manager/Complaint Resolution Officer

20 Year Anniversary of the Brown County Relay for Life

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This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Relay for Life in Brown County and its fight against cancer.  With the efforts and commitment of many people and countless volunteer hours, Brown County has now obtained total donations in excess of $2,000,000!  Citizens Bank Minnesota has been proud to sponsor a team for every one of those years.

Through a variety of fundraisers including potlucks, a 5K walk/run, a crafters’ retreat, an employee Silent Auction and donations from friends and family, the Citizens team continues to contribute sizable donations to the American Cancer Society every year.  This year we raised a whopping $24,425, bringing our twenty-year total to $198,846.72!

The money raised through Relay events helps with education, prevention, treatment, and support for all cancer survivors and patients.  A large portion of the money raised in Brown County stays in Brown County, helping our neighbors and friends when they need it most.  At our local Relay event, we celebrate all cancer survivors, remember loved ones lost and learn how each of us can do more to fight back against this dreaded disease.

Citizens Bank Minnesota is in the fight for a CURE!

By: Barb Marti, Receptionist/Administrative Assistant

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