February 4, 2019

Tax Refund Scams: 3 Schemes to Look for and How to Avoid Them

For one thing, the IRS would not insult you over the phone.


It’s tax season and scams are afoot. Because filing tax returns can be such an arduous, confusing process, it’s the perfect opportunity for criminals to take advantage of unsuspecting taxpayers. Here are three tactics scammers use to steal personal information and money, according to the IRS. The more you know, the less likely you’ll get scammed.

Fake IRS Phone Calls

The scheme: Scammers often target taxpayers by calling them and pretending to be IRS agents. They use fake names and fictitious IRS badge numbers, and often modify their caller ID so the incoming phone call appears to be coming from the IRS. Then they cajole targets into offering up personal information or sending payments to cover debt supposedly owed to the IRS.

How to spot it: If someone claiming to be an IRS agent demands an immediate payment, asks for sensitive personal information, threatens you with law enforcement, or repeatedly insults you, it’s a scammer. The IRS will never do any of those things.

What to do if you’re a victim: If you receive a call from someone falsely claiming to be an IRS representative, hang up immediately. If you already made a payment or relayed personal information, report the scam to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration and the Federal Trade Commission.

“Mistake” Direct Deposits

The scheme: Criminals steal private client information from tax professionals and then use that information to file for tax returns on a taxpayer’s behalf. They arrange for the tax return to be direct deposited into the taxpayer’s bank account, and then employ a variety of tactics to procure the funds. Generally, a scammer will call a target after the deposit has been made, informing them that it was a mistake, and asking them to forward the payment to a collection agency.

Fraudulent Insurance Forms

The scheme: Criminals can fool tax professionals into giving up their email credentials through phishing scams. Then, using a tax professional’s email account, they send fraudulent IRS forms concerning life insurance policies to a tax professional’s clients. If the form is filled out and returned, the criminal will be able to access a taxpayer’s insurance accounts, and take out a loan or withdrawal.

Warning sign: The scammer will ask victims to return the fraudulent form to an email slightly different than the tax professional’s, in order to avoid alerting them of the scam. Always check the email address.

What to do if you’re a victim: If you received a fraudulent form but didn’t return it, forward the email to the IRS at phishing@irs.org. If you filled out and returned a fraudulent form, contact your insurance company to let them know about the fraud.


Michael Cripps,

President & CEO


September 6, 2018

With interest rates on the rise, it is time again to analyze just what interest rates are.

Many people are interested in interest rates. That’s because interest rates hit the wallet, as in how much money a person pays to borrow money. The rate of interest is usually tied to a specific length of time, quite often a year, which is represented as the annual percentage rate.

The cost can be a big deal when we use a credit card, borrow money from certain kinds of lenders or utilize credit to purchase an expensive item, such as an appliance or a car.

Businesses often use borrowed money to obtain inventory or expand. And governments are interested in interest rates as well.

Central banks use their authority to set interest rates as a tool to influence the pace of a nation’s economy and the rate of inflation, using lower interest rates to promote more economic activity by businesses and consumers.

Businesses also use interest rates in the retail arena, offering low rates to attract customers. Financial advisors generally encourage consumers to build up their savings, pay off high-interest debt and restructure their lifestyle so they can avoid debts.

This common-sense strategy has been offered for many years. “Rather go to bed without dinner than to rise in debt,” founding father Benjamin Franklin said.


Michael Cripps,

President & CEO


July 9, 2018

Online Shopping & Activity Safety

Before you create an online account, shop, or enter any personal information on a website, check for signs that the organization and the site are secure and trustworthy.

LOOK FOR SECURITY INDICATORS. The “https” at the beginning of the Web address indicates the page uses a secure form of encryption to protect the information you enter. Most browses use other security indicators- a symbol, such as a padlock, and/or color changes. Learn how your browser reports website security levels. (Be aware that indicators aren’t foolproof.)

LEARN ABOUT WHOM YOU’RE DEALING WITH. Do some research before buying from a seller for the first time. Investigate the businesses at the Better Business Bureau’s site. bbb.org, or through an online search. Read reviews. Confirm the business or seller’s physical address and phone number. Legitimate entities provide this so you can contact them with problems. 

READ THE PRIVACY POLICY. Understand what personal information the site collects, how it’s used, and if it’s shared. Learn what security measures and used to protect your information.

RESEARCH SOME MORE. Read through return, refund or shipping policies, terms of use, and other information provided about the establishment, its site, and how it conducts online business.


Michael Cripps,

President & CEO


January 16, 2018

IRS Issues Warning on New Tax Info Phishing Attempts

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has warned tax professionals that a new round of emails from cybercriminals posing as potential clients are attempting to trick practitioners into disclosing sensitive information.

The Security Summit, comprising the IRS, state tax agencies, and the tax industry, on January 9, 2018, encouraged tax practitioners to be wary of communicating solely by email with potential or even existing clients, especially if unusual requests are made.

"Data breach thefts have given thieves millions of identity data points including names, addresses, Social Security numbers, and email addresses. If in doubt, tax practitioners should call to confirm a client's identity," said the IRS.

Fraudsters are using phishing emails to trick tax professionals into opening a link or attached document by posing as potential clients. If the practitioner responds, the criminal will send a second email that contains either a phishing URL or an attached document that contains a phishing URL, claiming their tax data is enclosed.

The fraudster wants the tax professional to click on the link or attachment and then enter their credentials. In some cases, the URL or attachment might be malicious and if clicked will download malicious software onto the tax professional's computer.

"Depending on the malware involved, this scheme could give fraudsters access to the tax practitioners' secure accounts or sensitive data. It may even give the fraudster remote control of the tax professionals' computers," said the IRS.

The agency has also received reports of a scam involving cybercriminals posing as IRS e-Services, asking tax professionals to sign into their accounts and providing a disguised link. The link sends tax professionals to a fake e-Services site that steals their usernames and passwords.

The IRS reminded tax professionals that it does not send unsolicited mails. Tax practitioners receiving emails from fraudsters posing as the IRS, or even their tax software provider, should go directly to the main website, such as IRS.gov, rather than opening any links or attachments. Source:


Michael Cripps,

President & CEO


January 10, 2018

As the 2017 tax filing season nears, the Internal Revenue Service issued another strong warning for consumers to guard against sophisticated and aggressive phone scams targeting taxpayers, including recent immigrants, as reported incidents of this crime continue to rise nationwide. These scams won’t likely end with the filing season so the IRS urges everyone to remain on guard.

The IRS will always send taxpayers a written notification of any tax due via the U.S. mail. The IRS never asks for credit card, debit card or prepaid card information over the telephone. For more information or to report a scam, go to www.irs.gov and type "scam" in the search box.

People have reported a particularly aggressive phone scam in the last several years. Immigrants are frequently targeted. Potential victims are threatened with deportation, arrest, having their utilities shut off, or having their driver’s licenses revoked. Callers are frequently insulting or hostile - apparently to scare their potential victims.

Potential victims may be told they are entitled to big refunds, or that they owe money that must be paid immediately to the IRS. When unsuccessful the first time, sometimes phone scammers call back trying a new strategy.

Other characteristics of this scam include:

  • Scammers use fake names and IRS badge numbers. They generally use common names and surnames to identify themselves.

  • Scammers may be able to recite the last four digits of a victim’s Social Security number.

  • Scammers spoof the IRS toll-free number on caller ID to make it appear that it’s the IRS calling.

  • Scammers sometimes send bogus IRS emails to some victims to support their bogus calls.

  • Victims hear background noise of other calls being conducted to mimic a call site.

  • After threatening victims with jail time or driver’s license revocation, scammers hang up and others soon call back pretending to be from the local police or DMV, and the caller ID supports their claim.

If you get a phone call from someone claiming to be from the IRS, here’s what you should do:

  • If you know you owe taxes or you think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1.800.829.1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you with a payment issue, if there really is such an issue.

  • If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you’ve never received a bill or the caller made some bogus threats as described above), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General for Tax Administration at 1.800.366.4484.

  • You can file a complaint using the FTC Complaint Assistant; choose “Other” and then “Imposter Scams.” If the complaint involves someone impersonating the IRS, include the words “IRS Telephone Scam” in the notes.

Taxpayers should be aware that there are other unrelated scams (such as a lottery sweepstakes) and solicitations (such as debt relief) that fraudulently claim to be from the IRS.

The IRS encourages taxpayers to be vigilant against phone and email scams that use the IRS as a lure. The IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email to request personal or financial information. This includes any type of electronic communication, such as text messages and social media channels. The IRS also does not ask for PINs, passwords or similar confidential access information for credit card, bank or other financial accounts. Recipients should not open any attachments or click on any links contained in the message. Instead, forward the e-mail to phishing@irs.gov.

More information on how to report phishing scams involving the IRS is available on the genuine IRS website, IRS.gov.


Michael Cripps,

President & CEO


October 10, 2017

On September 7, 2017, Equifax announced that it suffered a data breach.

We encourage you to take the following steps to help protect your identity:

  1. Visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/consumer-notice to determine if you are potentially affected and to sign up for credit file monitoring and identity theft protection
  2. Contact major credit reporting agencies to place a fraud alert and/or credit freeze on your credit report and to learn about identity theft programs offered by the Federal Trade Commission. Details on how to contact the credit reporting agencies and the FTC can also be found at www.consumer.ftc.gov

If you believe you were a victim of identity theft, here are some steps you can consider for additional protection:

  1. Close the accounts that you believe may have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Use the Identity Theft Report, which can be found at www.identitytheft.gov
  2. File a police report and get a copy to submit to your creditors and others who may require proof of the crime.
  3. File a complaint with the FTC. The FTC maintains a identity theft database that law enforcement agencies use for investigations. Filing a complaint also helps the FTC better assist you, as the commission learns more about identity theft and the problems it creates.

Your privacty and data security are paramount to us. If you have any questions about this issue we strongly encourage you to visit www.equifaxsecurity2017.com/consumer-notice. We are also available to answer questions by phone or in-person during regular business hours.


Michael Cripps
President & CEO


September 29, 2017

Phishing: This is when cyber thieves send you emails that try to lure you into providing or confirming personal information. The emails look like they are from legitimate organizations, often ones that you know. They ordinarily use threats, earnings, or enticements to create a sense of urgency. You're usually asked to click on a link. If you do it can lead to a spoof website. The site looks real enough to trick you into entering personal information.

Signs of Phishing Emails

  • Request (usually urgent) for you to make contact through a provided link
  • Spelling and grammar mistakes
  • Generic greetings, like "Dear User"
  • Unsolicited attachments

Spear Phishing: This form of phishing targets individuals or companies. The emails appear to be from an entity you know because spear phishers use information they already have about you to create more personalized, real-looking emails.

Pop-Up Window Phishing: This is when thieves use pop-up windows or ads to tempt you to use fraudulent like or phone numbers.

Shishing & Vishing: Very similar to phishing, this is when criminals use automated dialing systems to call or text you with messages intended to trick you into sharing personal information. The message will direct you to a phone number or website that asks you for the information.

BEWARE! Clicking on links, opening attachments, or going to Web addresses provided through phishing, smishing, or vishing frequently cause identity-stealing malware downloads.

Avoid Phishing, Smishing, & Vishing

  • Never click on links in pop-ups or those in emails and text messages from unknown senders. Be cautious about clicking email and text message links even from known senders.
  • Don't trust contact information provided in emails, text messages, or pop-ups. Check into its reliability on your own.
  • Don't respond to text or automated voice messages on your mobile phone if they're from an unknown or blocked number.
  • Know that most legitimate companies and organizations won't request personal information via email.
  • Be cautious about downloading email attachments. Ensure you know and trust the sender.


Michael Cripps
President & CEO


July 27, 2017

While computers and the internet offer huge benefits, they also offer cyber criminals opportunities to steal personal information. Cyber crooks have shown they can keep up with the fast-paced growth of technology. They constantly develop new tools and methods to trick and exploit people through computer and internet use. The more aware you are of cyber threats, the more prepared you will be to avoid them. 

"Malware" is a broad term for the many forms of malicious software designed to disrupt, harm, or hijack a computer system or data. It includes viruses and spyware. Secretly installed without your knowledge or consent, malware programs and damage your privacy and the security of your computer or mobile device. They can capture your personal information in a variety of ways and secretly send it to identity thieves.

Computers and mobile devices are commonly infected with malware through email attachments, downloads, and the links within emails, instant messages, or pop-up windows.

Carefully read all disclosures, including the privacy statement and licensing agreement, before downloading and installing software. Malware may be bundled in with it. Look for wording about personal information collection, internet activity monitoring, or additional programs.

Warning signs of malware include:

  • Slow or sluggish performance
  • Computer crashes
  • Repeated error messages
  • Being automatically sent to websites you didn't mean to visit
  • An uninteded reset to a new internet home page that can't be undone
  • Getting bombarded with pop-up ads and/or popping up when a browser is not open
  • Finding a new toolbar added to your browser
  • Seeing new icons on your desktop
  • Your online search result pages only show ads

Decreased battery life, interrupted or dropped calls, and crashing apps on mobile devices are also warning signs of a malware infection.

Adware (short for advertising-supported software) is software that displays digital ads. When it collects personal information and sends it to third parties without your permission, it is regarded as malware.

Malware can be hard to remove. If you suspect it:

  • Immediately stop all online activities that require you to enter any kind of personal information
  • Update and then run your security software

Get reliable tech support if possible.


Michael Cripps
President & CEO


April 18, 2017

You may know that the Eastern European Cyber Mafia does their beta testing in the U.K. before they "export" their criminal campaigns to America. Here is a heads-up of a social engineering phish that was spotted in Ireland that may appear in your inbox in the near future.

Crimal hackers are constantly evolving their tactics to trick users into clicking on links or opening attachments that are malicious. This new scam involves the popular WhatsApp phone application for calling and messaging. 

ESET Ireland warned: "A dangerous email spam message is dropping into Irish email boxes, pretending to come from WhatsApp. Its subject says 'Missed voicemail' and the contents of the email just says 'New voicemessage' with a link labeled 'Play'."

Clicking on the link will being the download of a Trojan Virus that ESET is calling 'JS/Kryptic.BBC', a variant of malware first detected in August 2016. This malware/virus is generic version of a much more sophisticated JavaScript code that will redirect a browser to a malicious URL or will implements a specific exploit that can install ransomware or other malware.

If you receive an email like described as above, even if you use WhatsApp, do not click on the 'Play' button within the email message. Doing so will open your computer to a flood of viruses and malware that can wreak havok on your computer, putting your personal files and even your identity at risk of being stolen or held for ransom. If you do use WhatsApp, check the app on your phone for any missed calls or voicemails.

As a general safety rule, do not open emails or click on links within emails from unverified sources. "When in doubt, throw it out!"

For more information, you can read the entire blog post and see screenshots of these malicious emails at the following link: 

Stay safe out there,

Michael Cripps
President & CEO


January 3, 2017

Guard Your Cards!

Credit & Debit Card fraud is a form of Identity Theft. It occurs when a criminal deceitfully gains access to and uses another person's payment card account. If this happens to you, fraudsters may not stop at racking up charges on your card in many stores. They can cause many other problems, including accessing and changing your personal informaion.

You can reduce your exposure to card fraud and theft by following basic card account maintenance and safety practices:

  • Safely store cards when they are not in use.
  • Consider the amount of cards your possess. The benefits of having several may be outweighed by the risks, such as losing track of their location or account activity.
  • Always memorize your card PINs. Never write them down on cards or share them with others. Change them frequently.
  • Make a list of your card account numbers, expiration dates, and customer service phone numbers. Keep the list in a secure place that you can access quickly if your cards are lost or stolen.
  • Go "paperless" with bills and statements. Otherwise, know when to expect credit card bills in the mail and keep an eye out for them. If they don't arrive, it's possible an identity thief stole them, or gained access to your account and changed your mailing address. If you suspect this, call your credit card company immediately.
  • Check your card activity and bank accounts regularly. Look for unfamiliar charges.
  • Keep a close eye out for charges of less than a dollar or two. A thief may first charge a small amount to "test out" using your card. Unwary consumers often do not notice or care about a small amount, making them prime targets for identity theft and fraud. Report and investigate any questionable charges to your card immediately.
  • When you receive replacement cards, thoroughly destroy the old ones.
  • Stop unsolicited credit convenience checks. Thieves can steal these from your mailbox or trash and use them to access your credit and identity. Contact your credit card provider to find out how to be removed from the appropriate mailing list.
  • Don't give out card information over the phone unless you made the call and you know you're dealing with a trustworthy business.
  • Assign just one credit card for online purchases.

You can stop receiving unsolicited, prescreened offers of credit or insurance by mail as well as by phone or email. Call 888-5-OPTOUT or go to www.optoutprescreen.com. You can choose to opt out for five years or permanently.


Michael Cripps,
President & CEO


November 25, 2016

Beware of Traditional Identity Theft Tactics

Identity thieves continue to use simple, time-tested methods to steal your identity. Avoid these everyday dangers.


  • Use a locking, security mailbox if possible, or consider renting a P.O. box at your local post office.
  • Put outgoing mail into a postal mailbox.


  • Shred unwanted documents containing personal information and all unsolicited credit card or loan offers.
  • Invest in a high-quality cross-cut shredder.  Thieves can piece together papers shredded into horizontal strips.


  • Shoulder surfers observe your actions or eavesdrop to steal personal information.  They look over your shoulder or stand close by and may use a camera phone to record you.
  • Shield keypads with your hand or body before entering PINs, passwords, or card numbers.
  • Avoid sharing personal information over the phone in public.  If you must, use a low voice and shield your mouth.


  • Minimize what you carry in your wallet, especially payment cards.
  • Never carry your Social Security card unless absolutely necessary.
  • Don’t cars PINs or account passwords with you; memorize them or keep them safely locked up at home.


Michael Cripps,
President & CEO


November 3, 2016

How Can Identity Theft Affect Me?

Identity theft can damage your finances, credit rating, and reputation, and complicate many areas of your life.

Identity thieves might:

  • drain your bank account
  • make purchases with your credit cards
  • open new accounts (bank, cell phone, utility, credit card, etc.)
  • get identity and government documents issues with your name and their photos
  • receive medical care under your insurance
  • take our loans in your name
  • create a false criminal record for you by using your identifying information when investigated or arrested by the police

Another growing problem is tax-related identity theft. Using your Social Security number, an identity thief might:

  • file a false tax return and collect a refund
  • get a job and have earnings reported as your income

Identity theft can create havoc in your life, so it is very important to know how to:

  • PROTECT yourself
  • DETECT warning signs
  • CORRECT problems that arise if your identity is stolen


Michael Cripps,
President & CEO


October 18, 2016

What is Identity Theft?

Identity theft is a federal crime. It occurs when someone uses your personal information without your knowledge or permission for financial or other gain.

One of the fastest growing crimes in America, the Bureau of Justice Statistics estimates that identity theft victimized close to 17 MILLION people in 2012 alone. It has topped the U.S. Federal Trade Commission's ranking of consumer complaints for 15 years. Prime targets include children, college students, military members, veterans, and seniors, but it can happen to anyone at any time.

Typically, identity theft involves a thief stealing your personal information to pose as you in some way. A newer and growing variety is called synthetic identity theft. In synthetic identity theft, your personal information is combined with fake data to create a brand new, bogus identity. A thief might combine your Social Security number with a different name or other fake credentials. Sythetic identity theft can be hard to detect, which can lead to more damage.

While no one is safe from identity theft, there are steps you can take to lower your risk. I intend to provide you with further instructions, advice, and resources in future letters, with help to protect yourself from identity theft. However, keep in mind that your personal information is only as secure as the least secure way it is stored or disclosed!


Michael Cripps,
President & CEO


September 7, 2016

September in Murphysboro means the Apple Festival and BBQ Cook-off! This year we can add the Riverside Art, Wine, & Blues Festival. What a great time of year for our city!




Michael Cripps
President & CEO



July 12, 2016

It has been reported that southern Illinois has seen a significant spike in the use of skimmer devices as well as people reporting identity theft as a result of these skimmers. Check out the guides below and click HERE for an article with more information on how to stay vigilant about your security.

Michael Cripps,
President & CEO


June 21, 2016

Identity Theft Awareness

Oftentimes, when Identity Theft occurs, you may not even know how your information was stolen, and you may not even know a crime has been committed for MONTHS. But when you do know or suspect that you've been a victim, immediately:

  • Close all accounts - and indicate WHY
  • Report the crime to law enforcement and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC)
  • Place a fraud alert on your credit reports - call the toll-free number of any one of the three credit bureaus: Equifax (800-255-6285), Experian (888-397-3742), or TransUnion (800-680-7289)
  • Contact the bank - ask that new passwords/code words be assigned to your accounts
  • Avoid using common numbers for your passwords - ex. the last four digits of your SSN
  • To replace a Social Security Number, call the Social Security Administration Office (800-772-1213)
  • Contact the US Postal Service at your local post office if you suspect that an identity thief submitted a change of address in order to intercept your mail

Michael Cripps
President & CEO


April 1, 2016

America's Hometown Banks

Banks are the pillars of our economy. The business of banking helps fuel our economic system and has a direct impact on job creation, economic growth and prosperity. Banks also are the foundation of the credit cycle. Understanding the business operations of banks and their involvement in this cycle is critical for policymakers.

The credit cycle is simple: customer deposits provide funding to make loans. These loans allow customers of all kinds - businesses, individuals, governments and non-profits - to invest in their hometown and across the globe. The profits generated by this investment flow back into banks as deposits and the cycle repeats - creating wealth for individuals and capital to expand businesses. Bank loans and services can also significantly increase consumers’ purchasing power and improve their quality of life, helping Americans attain their goals and realize their dreams.

The credit cycle does not exist in a vacuum. Regulation shapes the way banks do business and can help or hinder the smooth function of the credit cycle. Bank regulatory changes - through each and every law and regulation, court case and legal settlement - directly affect the cost of providing banking products and services to customers. Even small changes can have a big impact on bank customers by reducing credit availability, raising costs and driving consolidation in the industry.

Everyone who uses banking products or services is touched by changes in bank regulation. Nonbank and tax subsidized competitors to banks add additional complexities and risks to the financial system. These entities can ultimately take business away from banks and constrain the industry’s ability to function as the primary conduit for money to flow through the economy.


Michael Cripps,
President & CEO


December 2015


Holiday shopping almost always requires the use of your debit and/or credit card.  Most shoppers use these cards an unusual amount as compared to the rest of the year.  So this is a good time to remind consumers to protect themselves against fraud.

How Does Credit Card Fraud Happen?

Theft, the most obvious form of credit card fraud, can happen in a variety of ways, from low tech dumpster diving to high tech hacking. A thief might go through the trash to find discarded billing statements and then use your account information to buy things. A retail or bank website might get hacked, and your card number could be stolen and shared. Perhaps a dishonest clerk or waiter takes a photo of your credit card and uses your account to buy items or create another account. Or maybe you get a call offering a free trip or discounted travel package. But to be eligible, you have to join a club and give your account number, say, to guarantee your place. The next thing you know, charges you didn’t make are on your bill, and the trip promoters who called you are nowhere to be found.

What Can You Do?

Incorporating a few practices into your daily routine can help keep your cards and account numbers safe. For example, keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud for each company in a secure place. Don’t lend your card to anyone — even your kids or roommates — and don’t leave your cards, receipts, or statements around your home or office. When you no longer need them, shred them before throwing them away.

Other fraud protection practices include:

  • Don’t give your account number to anyone on the phone unless you’ve made the call to a company you know to be reputable. If you’ve never done business with them before, do an online search first for reviews or complaints.
  • Carry your cards separately from your wallet. It can minimize your losses if someone steals your wallet or purse. And carry only the card you need for that outing.
  • During a transaction, keep your eye on your card. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.
  • Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
  • Save your receipts to compare with your statement.
  • Open your bills promptly — or check them online often — and reconcile them with the purchases you’ve made.
  • Report any questionable charges to the card issuer.
  • Notify your card issuer if your address changes or if you will be traveling.
  • Don’t write your account number on the outside of an envelope.

Report Losses and Fraud

Call the card issuer as soon as you realize your card has been lost or stolen. Many companies have toll-free numbers and 24 hour service to deal with this. Once you report the loss or theft, the law says you have no additional responsibility for charges you didn’t make; in any case, your liability for each card lost or stolen is $50. If you suspect that the card was used fraudulently, you may have to sign a statement under oath that you didn’t make the purchases in question.


Michael Cripps
President and CEO


August 24, 2015

I am often asked why First Bank & Trust does not utilize Social Media as a part of its marketing strategy. My quick answer is, "We are protecting you!"

Take, for instance, Facebook. It has been around for a number of years and is widely popular across many age groups. It is a tool for instantly communicating with followers. You can provide vital information in an accurate and fast manner. Sounds ideal for marketing, doesn't it? Well it also arms hackers and other nefarious characters, intent on causing you harm, a potential listing of our customers. Just because someone follows us doesn't necessarily mean they are customers of the bank. However, it is a pretty good indication.

If these criminals can associate you with our bank, they can use hacking methods and social engineering methods in an attempt to disrupt your account. While we have many layers of safeguards in place to protect you and your assets, nothing is 100% and technology changes rapidly. Why would we add another potential threat to a list that is growing every day?

We value your privacy and safety over our attempt to market to you.

At First Bank & Trust, we protect your privacy, assets, and integrity as best as we can. We value you more than our marketing. 


Michael Cripps
President & CEO


July 6, 2015

Protecting Yourself Online

Though the internet has many advantages, it can also make users vulnerable to fraud, identity theft and other scams. According to a Norton Cybercrime Report, 378 million adults worldwide were victims of cybercrime in 2013. 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.

Set strong 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.

Forward phishing emails to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) at spam@uce.gov – and to the company, bank, or organization impersonated in the email. 

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.


Michael Cripps,
President and CEO


March 2, 2015

6 Most Common Scams People Fall For and How to Avoid Them

We live in a great time of progress, leaps in technology and nearly unlimited access to free information, but the world doesn’t just stop being a dangerous place overnight. While curiosity, inventiveness, love and the urge to learn and create are big parts of human nature, so too are deceit, deception, greed and the desire to attain wealth without hard work. This is why there are a great number of con artists, scammers and smart thieves who are ready to take advantage of people’s gullibility, trusting nature and compassion.

You are not only at risk during holidays-scammers can try to take advantage of you online, on the street and at your very own doorstep. It is important to learn about the common ploys used by these immoral individuals so that you can stay safe. What follows is a more detailed look at the biggest scams people usually fall for and tips on avoiding them.

1. Doorstep Scams

These include any scam where the con artist strikes when you are most relaxed and vulnerable-at home. They will often look for senior citizens and try to peddle cheap and fairly worthless items for an overblown price, and will come across as nice people looking to get rid of some quality products. Some may try to sell home maintenance services, while others will claim to be a city official who has come to perform tests or even try to get your private information by saying that they are there to do a survey.

Luckily doorstop scams can be easily thrwarted. You just need to be cautious and ask to see official papers and identification. Make sure that you have a sturday front door with a reinforced frame and preferably a door viewer, so that no one can just barge in by force.

2. Online Dating/Internet Bride Scams

There are plenty of people willing to get married for a green card, but they usually offer some form of monetary incentive for their would-be husband or wife. With dating scams it is a bit different. Everything seems to be going well for a week or two, but for some reason you can never meet in person. Then suddenly there is a crisis, or even several problems, that require a large sum of money for the person to get out of their strangely suspicious predicament.

Women from third world countries will also start dating online and quickly start negotiating for a payment so they can come to the U.S. or another first world country so they can be close, and even marry their mark. Once the money is “loaned” they simply disappear. The best protection is to be very cautious, especially if you are a middle-aged man or woman and contacted by a young person in some sort of a financial bind.

There are plenty of legit dating websites where you can meet people close to where you live and you can check them out on Facebook or meet in person.

3. Get-Rich-Quick Phone and Email Scams

The old Nigerian Prince email scam has now become such a cliché that even comics have stopped putting it in their jokes. However, people can get quite creative with their “good investment offers”. It’s usually someone who knows of a hole in the system or has a good investment tip, but lacks that capital to make any serious money out of it and needs the help of several other investors. While most modern con artists use email, some like to get personal and call your home.

Random raffles and lotteries you haven’t even heard off will ask for some information or a small administrative fee so that they can send you your winnings. It is said that you can’t con someone who is not greedy, so being realistic and not looking for a way to make quick buck without breaking a sweat is a good way to stay out of trouble. You should be incredibly suspicious of deals that sound too good to be true, and should do your research on some of the most notorious scammers.

4. Charity and Sob Story Scams

This type of scam is the most appalling, as it preys on kind and generous people who would have made a contribution to a worthwhile cause if not for the scammers. These come in many different forms, from people asking money for their child’s operation on the street, to very formal and polite people stopping you on the street, or coming to your door, and asking for a donation.

You can give a few bucks to a homeless person if you like, but avoid those asking you for money openly and aggressively, with a complex tear-jerking story prepared are best avoided. You can always make a donation to a good verified charity of your choice on your own terms and in the comfort of your own home.

5. Airport Security Scams

Frequent travelers should be very cautious and keep a close eye on their luggage, as there are plenty of fast thieves who can just grab your luggage and run. They work in teams where one person will rush to get in front of you in line and set off the metal detector, fumbling around while his associate covertly snaps up your stuff from the conveyor belt–but there are even more sinister things to look out for.

Connecting to a public Wi-Fi network or using Bluetooth in airports can result in your phone being hacked. It’s best to avoid using the public Wi-Fi altogether, or you can use a VPN on your laptop for added security.

6. Taxi With "Broken" Meter or Driver Who Advises You to Go to a Different Hotel

Taxi drivers in front of the airport will say that their meter is broken and overcharge you, or tell you that the hotel you want to go to is overbooked due to an event or undergoing renovations and take you to some overpriced dump. He has a deal with the dump to get a cut every time he brings in a customer. Some drivers will drive you around the city, taking the scenic route, just to bump up the fare. Some go even further and conspire with someone working at the airport.

You are greeted by a taxi driver holding up a sign with your name on it, and says that the hotel sent him to get you, and then stops half way asking for an obscene amount of money to drive you where you need to go or leave you stranded. In some cases they will just flat-out rob you, and there have been documented cases of kidnappings, particularly in South American countries. You should do some Google maps research to find direct routes form the airport and tell the driver which path to take, insist on going to your address and never get into a car with someone you haven’t called for who wants to take you somewhere. Have small bills on you so that they can’t cheat you out of change, and look for outdated currencies being given as change. If the meter doesn’t work, take another cab and be very assertive.

It is easy to get lulled into a false sense of security when you go through most of your life without being cheated out of your money or robbed. You start trusting people, and why shouldn’t you? Most people you meet are at least civil, while some are generous and kind, and very few are the annoying or violent type, and the latter can be spotted a mile away.

If you haven’t dealt with morally corrupt people who will pretend to be nice, helpful or in need of help only to trick you, then it’s difficult to spot a scam coming. Thankfully, there is plenty of information available about the common scams available, and I hope this note has given you a basic idea of what to look for and how to stay safe. 


Michael Cripps
President & CEO


November 21, 2014

If you receive an unsolicited email that appears to be from the IRS requesting that you file a "tax refund request," do not fall victim to this identity theft scheme.

Numerous people are receiving unsolicited email (see the example below) informing them that a $9,390.55 IRS tax refund is due to them if they complete a tax refund request form. The email code will be forged to appear as if it orginated from a trusted source, usually the IRS or an IRS tax preparer (H&R Block, TurboTax, etc.), but viewing the "message header" or "message source" will reveal its origin to be something else, and the link will not lead to a trusted domain, but one controlled by identity theft criminals.

If you file a tax return and a refund is due, you will automatically receive your refund. You will never be contacted by the IRS, and there is no tax refund request form. Never disclose personal information to an unsolicited inquiry, as compelling as the story may be. If it's too good to be true, it's most likely not true.

If you have any questions or concerns about any IRS tax refund you may have due, you should access the official IRS "Where's My Refund" online application at the following destination: Click Here for IRS "Where's My Refund" online application.

Phishing Email Example:

Michael Cripps
President & CEO

October 6, 2014

What role do community banks play in today's environment?

The FDIC is still refining the definition, but based upon what is set forth, let's look at the primary role they are playing in today's turbulent economy. Community banks largely follow a traditional banking model - using short-term deposits to fund long-term investments resulting in risk issues stemming from this model behavior.

Using this model, community banks play a crucial role in the development of the U.S. economy being responsible for taking on the bulk of local lending activities that the large banks don't do. Because of the community bank's proximity to their customer base and understanding of the needs and issues in their communities, they are afforded the ability to be more flexible in the terms of their lending than the large institutions.

This agility, however, does not come without its challenges. Due to regulatory constraints, access to capital is tight with low return of investment bringing investor attraction down. Operating in the confines of a local community also results on a cap on growth. The bank's ability to succeed depends largely on the community it does business in - if the community thrives, the bank thrives. Community banks have to consider a wide range of issues to help ensure they can withstand the highs and lows of the national (and local) economic changes.

  • Should community banks be larger?
  • Is there enough asset diversification to withstand lending declines?
  • Princing versus connecting, and justifying new fees to customers for services once complimentary in different times.


Michael Cripps
President & CEO


September 2, 2014

September 30, 2014 will be the last day to visit our 14th Street Branch. We will be merging operations into our Main Bank office. Additional tellers will be added to our Drive-Up facility, located on South 15th Street, and to our Carbondale Branch. 

The original idea for the 14th Street Branch was to alleviate the stress and long wait times at our Drive-Up facility. However, because of the money we have invested in upgrades to equipment in that facility, the 14th Street location is no longer necessary.

In all honesty, the 14th Street Branch has posed a security concern for us, as well. We value protecting our employees and your assets. We can better handle this by not keeping cash assets in that building. 


Michael Cripps
President & CEO


June 1, 2014

There are almost 7,000 community banks, including commercial banks, thrifts, and stock and mutual savings institutions, with more than 50,000 locations throughout the United States. Assets may range from less than $10 million to $10 billion or more. Community banks constitute 96.6 percent of all banks.

Community Banks by Region
North Central - 24.6%
Southeast - 19.9%
Midwest - 19.7%
Southwest - 16.1%
Northeast - 10.6%
West - 9.0%

Of all U.S. banks, more than 90 percent have assets under $1 billion and 31.2 percent have assets under $100 million.

  • Community banks are the primary source of lending for small businesses and farms. Even though they compose just 10 percent of the banking industry by assets, community banks with less than $1B in assets made 37.5 percent of outstanding bank loans to small businesses. Community banks with less than $10B in assets made 57.9 percent of outstanding bank loans to small businesses.
  • Community banks' boards of directors are made up of local citizens who want to advance the interests of the towns and cities where they live and where their banks do business.
  • Most community bank loans benefit the neighborhoods where depositors live and work.
  • Research has shown that average fees for checking accounts and other depository services are lower at community banks than at large, multi-state institutions.

Community banks offer a wide range of banking services and products designed to meet the needs of consumers and businesses including:

  1. Anytime, anywhere electronic banking
  2. Automated teller machines, often with little or no surcharge fees
  3. Credit and debit cards with competitive rates and features
  4. Competitive mortgage- and consumer-loan products
  5. Competitive checking, savings, and investment products and rates, and
  6. Small-business and agricultural lending


Michael Cripps,
President and CEO

May 1, 2014

In 1889:

  • The year started on a Sunday and there was a total eclipse of the sun

  • Preston is declared the winner of the inaugural Football League in England

  • Herman Hollerith receives a patent for his electric tabulating machine in the United States

  • The Coca-Cola Company is originally incorporated as the Pemberton Medicine Company in Atlanta, Georgia

  • Columbia Phonograph is formed in Washington, D.C.

  • Meanwhile in D.C., President Grover Cleveland signs a bill admitting North Dakota, South Dakota, Montana, and Washington as States

  • President Cleveland, 22nd President of the United States (1885-1889) is succeeded by Benjamin Harrison (1889-1893)

  • The Eiffel Tower is inaugurated and opens May 6th. At 300 meters, its height exceeds the previous tallest structure in the world by 130 meters. Critics at the time regard it as aesthetically displeasing

  • Adolf Hitler is born in Baun au am Inn in Austria-Hungary on the border with Bavaria, a town where his father Alois Hitler is a customers official

  • The South Fork Dam collapses, killing more than 2,200 people in and around Johnstown, in western Pennsylvania

  • Vincent van Gogh paints Starry Night at Saint-Remy-de-Provence

  • The first long distance electric power transmission line in the United States is completed, running 14 miles between a generator at Willamette Falls and downtown Portland, Oregon

  • The Wall Street Journal is established

  • The last official bare-knuckle boxing title fight ever held (under London Prize Ring Rules) as Heavyweight Champion John L. Sullivan, the "Boston Strong Boy," defeats Jake Kilrain in a world champonship bout lasting 75 rounds in Mississippi

  • The Prevention of Cruelty to, and Protection of, Children Act, commonly known as the Children's Charter, is passed in the United Kingdom; for the first time it imposes criminal penalties to deter child abuse

  • The Nintendo Koppai (later Nintendo Company, Limited) is founded by Fusajiro Yamauchi to produce and market Hanafuda playing cards

  • The Moulin Rouge cabaret opens in Paris

  • Inspired by Jules Verne, pioneer woman journalist Nellie Bly (Elizabeth Cochrane) begins an attempt to beat travel around the world in less than 80 days. She finished the journey in 72 days, 6 hours, and 11 minutes

  • The first jukebox goes into operation at the Palais Royale Saloon in San Francisco.

  • Clemson University is founded in Clemson, South Carolina

  • Woffard and Furman play the first intercollegiate football game in the state of South Carolina

  • Influenza pandemic originates in Russia

  • Yellow Fever interrupts the building of the Panama Canal

  • The Capilano Suspension Bridge is opened as the longest suspension foot-bridge in the world

  • Victor Fleming, American motion picture director, is born



Our bank has seen all of this history and much, much more. In fact, we have had such a long and successful history ourselves that we have made it to the ripe old age of 125!

Not many businesses, anywhere in the world, can say that.

We are proud of our history, strength, patience, image, and ownership, but most of all, we are proud to serve Murphysboro and Jackson County for 125 years!


Michael Cripps
President and CEO


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