Seven Tips to Prevent Tax ID Fraud: NBA Raises Awareness for Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week

In recognition of Tax Identity Theft Awareness Week, Jan. 30-Feb. 3, the Nebraska Bankers Association is urging all Nebraskans to take extra precaution when filing their tax return to prevent their exposure to tax fraud.

Fraudsters are using very clever tactics to get a hold of your personal information and submit false tax claims. Consumers must be suspicious of any communication from the IRS ¾ through email or text, or social media ¾ that requests personal information, and should keep a watchful eye out for missing W-2s and mail containing sensitive 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; victims are unaware until they file a return and learn one has already been filed in their name.

To help Nebraskans prevent tax ID fraud, the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA) 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 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 that have been 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 Federal Trade Commission at ftc.gov/taxidtheft and the IRS at irs.gov/identitytheft.

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

President’s Message: Recruit & Retain Talent With Help From Your NBA

Every growing and successful entrepreneur and small business owner will tell you that having an excellent staff is key to their success. The same holds true for the banking industry in Nebraska. NBA-member financial institutions have identified workforce development and strategy as a priority for their institutions, particularly as it relates to banks’ ability to successfully recruit and retain talent within their respective organizations.

Surveys completed by NBA members during the association’s Fall Group Meetings in September and October, as well as additional interviews conducted by the NBA’s strategic planning consultant, clearly reflect the level of member concern regarding this issue. When asked, “Excluding regulations and regulatory compliance matters, what is the one issue that is negatively affecting your bank,” an overwhelming number of participants responded with “recruiting and retaining qualified employees.” Similarly, when asked, “What areas, if any, do you feel your bank is at a competitive disadvantage,” the top response was “employee recruitment” followed closely by “technology skills” and “talent development.” These responses crossed all geographic and institution size lines.

As your institution develops and refines your workforce strategy, I encourage you to think beyond your traditional efforts and begin to develop a more long-term view. Continue to take advantage of opportunities like the University of Nebraska-Lincoln Ag Banking Internship program. I also would encourage you to join the NBA at one of the upcoming career fairs scheduled at various university campuses. Likewise, make sure to post your jobs on the Careers section of the NBA website. Website analytics indicate the Careers page continues to be the top landing spot on the NBA site.

To achieve continued success, however, the banking industry must proactively promote the myriad career opportunities available in the banking industry to younger students and also must incorporate new and creative communication channels. Your NBA leadership guest lectures each semester at the banking classes on the UNL and UNO campuses. Unfortunately, most of the students attending this year’s lectures expressed little interest in a banking career. In addition, student attendance at career fairs were below last year’s levels.

To increase interest in the industry, please take time to talk with students at your local middle schools, high schools, and community colleges about banking careers and how banks positively impact the lives of consumers and communities. Consider speaking to local high school classes about the importance of financial literacy or invite students to spend a day at your institution. Engage employees at all levels of your organization to make these types of presentations and to facilitate discussions about the industry. Ask yourself, who on my team has the highest probability of establishing a connection with these young people?

Today’s employees communicate and interact in uniquely different ways than previous generations. Placing a help wanted notice in the newspaper may not generate the success you are seeking. Ask existing employees about how best to promote your organization as a place to work. When posting a job opening, use multiple social media channels. It should go without saying that your business Facebook and LinkedIn sites should have a professional feel and convey your company culture in a modern and attractive layout. Also, don’t overlook untraditional candidates in your local region. One bank president confided in me recently that his staff seeks out potential employees who are currently working at local restaurants and retail establishments who have exceptional customer service skills. Look for talent in unusual places and talk to these individuals about opportunities within the banking industry.

Finally, don’t neglect the opportunity to train and grow your existing staff. The knowledge, skills, and personal characteristics that define a successful employee often may be learned. The NBA offers a wide variety of educational and training programs to foster the professional growth of bankers, including the Young Bankers of Nebraska (YBON) Conference, the NBA Leadership Program, and numerous other conferences, workshops, and webinars. We also work closely with the KBA/NBA Schools of Banking as well as the Graduate Schools of Banking at both Colorado and Wisconsin. The NBA currently has scholarship opportunities available for these programs. It is never too late to increase the knowledge base of your future leaders!

As the NBA works through our strategic planning process, we will continue to evaluate ways in which the Nebraska Bankers Association can support and improve your efforts to attract and retain the next generation workforce.

Richard J. Baier is president and CEO of the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA). Founded in 1890, the NBA is the voice of Nebraska’s $74 billion banking industry, which is composed of small, regional, and large banks that together employ nearly 15,000 people, safeguard almost $57 billion in deposits, and extend more than $55 billion in loans, all within the state of Nebraska. For more information, contact Richard at (402) 474-1555 or richard.baier@nebankers.org.

Food for Thought Following a Divisive Election

2016-electionLike many of you political junkies, I slumped into bed about 3:00 a.m. on the morning following our turbulent, unpredictable, and unconventional national elections. This election cycle and the subsequent outcomes serve as intriguing political fodder for the media talk shows, political science geeks, and election historians. They also will offer educational opportunities for future generations of students in our country to study elections and related social sciences.

Clearly, the American electorate is, and has been for several election cycles, actively seeking change and willing to go against traditional logic and acceptable norms. Our challenge as representatives of the banking sector is to understand both the direct and subtle messages the public is sending about the status of our country and our future direction. More specifically, how will these messages influence and impact the way banks serve and support their customers?

One of the best election analyses I’ve reviewed was written by Patrick Caddell who is a Democratic pollster and a Fox News contributor. Interestingly, Caddell’s analysis was written prior to the election and focused on the greatest surprise of this election: “The uprising of the American people.” Caddell argues in his analysis that the public has started a revolt that will have long-term consequences for our country. Specifically, he argues that support for non-traditional candidates like Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump evolved from the public’s growing frustration with the status quo. This was evidenced by numerous pre-election polls that suggested our country is on the wrong track. There also seems to be a growing alienation of the current political system within our country.

To substantiate Caddell’s arguments, he offers a wealth of recent survey data generated prior to the election. Following are a couple of these responses that clearly have relevance:

  • We need to restore what we really believe in—real democracy by the people and real free enterprise. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%
  • Most politicians really care about people like me. AGREE = 25%; DISAGREE = 69%
  • The country is run by an alliance of incumbent politicians, media pundits, lobbyists, and other powerful money interests for their own gain at the expense of the American people. AGREE = 87%; DISAGREE = 10%

Clearly, one can speculate about the thought process behind these responses. However, what I was able to take away from much of this dialogue bodes well for the future of the banking industry. First, Americans understand and are committed to free enterprise. This is good news! Second, bankers truly do care about their customers and their communities. Again, this is good news for banking. Finally, our Nebraska banks are focused on helping our fellow Nebraskans finance their dreams and grow their personal wealth.

As Nebraska bankers look to the future, we should gain comfort knowing our customers are our priority and that we can directly impact their personal growth and success!

Email Richard Baier at richard.baier@nebankers.org.

It’s Half Time! – The NBA Develops a Game Plan for the Future

The banking industry, over the past 10 years, has arguably experienced more dramatic changes and gyrations than any other industry segment within the U.S. economy. With an avalanche of new regulation, enhanced competition from the fintech sector, cybersecurity threats, non-bank competition, wavering consumer demand, and misguided negative public perceptions, the banking sector may be in need of an extended half time to regroup and develop our game plan for the next quarter (in sticking with the football analogy).

planMany of the same challenges confronting our Nebraska banks are also impacting the way in which the NBA plans for and delivers member services. In 1980, for example, Nebraska had 457 banks charters. Today, that number has dropped to 187. This continued consolidation of the industry impacts every aspect of the NBA’s operation, starting with the impact on our resource base. During the most recently completed fiscal year, for example, bank consolidations resulted in lost dues revenue of more than $19,000 (that’s approximately 1 percent of total dues). More importantly, a smaller number of member banks within the NBA will ultimately impact the number of available volunteers, BankPAC contributors, demand for education programs, and users of important NBISCO products and services. Your NBA, as it appears, could also benefit from a half time to regroup and tweak the game plan to assure the best possible opportunity for success during the next quarter!

To help better prepare for and navigate these industry and membership changes, the NBA Board of Directors recently approved a contract with Financial Shares Corporation (FSC), based in Hinsdale, Ill., to help lead your trade association through a nearly year-long strategic planning process. FSC has extensive experience working in both the banking sector and the trade association arena. In addition, the company has extensive experience working closely with the for-profit arms of several state bankers associations. The lead consultant on the project, George Morvis, worked on the executive team at the Illinois Bankers Association and was the lead on several statewide legislative initiatives that positively impacted the Illinois banking sector.

FSC already has begun reviewing reams of documents in order to lay out a more precise roadmap for the NBA strategic planning process. Members of the NBA Management Team met with FSC representatives in Omaha to discuss current challenges and opportunities from a staff perspective. In the coming weeks and months, FSC will utilize a variety of methods including focus groups, surveys, personal interviews, a board retreat, etc., to ascertain input and ideas from NBA members about the future of your association. As we move into the data and input collection process, I encourage you to actively participate and offer your ideas for making the NBA even stronger.

As a former all-conference high school lineman (La Crosse, Kan.), I can assure you that the NBA will continue to focus on the important blocking and tackling aspects of the NBA, including advocacy and government relations, education, marketing and outreach, and product and services. However, we also will use this strategic planning process to evaluate all aspects of our game plan and evaluate new plays for moving the NBA ball down the field.

With the many challenges confronting the banking industry and our NBA members, it is more important now than ever that the NBA and Nebraska banks speak with one unified voice to ensure the long-term success of our industry!

Richard J. Baier
President/CEO, Nebraska Bankers Association
www.nebankers.org
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Politics & the Current Crisis of Conscience

As you might have guessed, I am somewhat of a political junkie. You don’t hold a position like mine at the NBA without some knowledge, passion, and intrigue for the political process. Heck, I even have a piece of paper hanging in my office from Fort Hays State University conferring a Bachelor of Arts degree in political science (not sure that proves much).

Unfortunately, like most of you, I have become increasingly frustrated by the negative and confrontational political environment in our country. More specifically, I believe the political process, especially at the national level, has become more about winning and losing than doing the right thing for our citizens and our country. My father had a favorite saying: “You should always do the right thing and you should always do things right.” Imagine if this was the goal of every elected official!

Following are three definitions of “politics” as offered by the Merriam-Webster’s Learner’s Dictionary:

  1. the art or science of government
  2. the art or science concerned with guiding or influencing governmental policy
  3. the art or science concerned with winning and holding control over a government

These definitions, ironically, seem to be based upon a continuum of increasing control, as one moves from definition A to definition C.

Our most basic guiding principle of politics and government consists of how we make public policy and how government can work more efficiently and effectively for the citizenry. This definition is best witnessed in our local city councils, village boards, and school boards. I have a great deal of admiration for those individuals who are willing to campaign for local office and work hard to make their community or region a better place for the next generation.

Definition B references the need to guide or influence government. This definition is how many in my generation learned to define politics at an early age. Activities within the Nebraska Legislature, for the most part, seem to abide by this general definition or philosophy. While more common now than 20 years ago, partisan politics don’t often rear their ugly head in Nebraska’s top legislative body. Over the years, our government affairs team at the NBA has encouraged and worked with representatives from both sides of the political spectrum to develop policy options that positively impact Nebraska.

Clearly, Definition C more closely resembles the current political climate in Washington, D.C.—the focus being on winning and controlling. There is not much room in this definition for compromise, collaboration, and common sense. I watched with great interest several weeks ago as Rep. Jeb Hensarling (R-TX), chairman of the House Financial Services Committee, rolled out a bank regulatory relief proposal at the federal level. Prior to the bill even being formally introduced, elected officials including Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) began tweeting and speaking publicly about her opposition to Congressman Hensarling’s proposal.

Ironically, several of the important policy provisions that Sen. Warren often cites were included within Rep. Hensarling’s proposal. Since when is it the right thing to actively oppose a proposal before you know or understand it? Obviously, this discussion and many related bank regulatory discussions are much more about winning and control than they are about what is good for America, Americans, or the U.S. banking sector.

First and foremost, as we begin the sprint toward the November general election, I encourage you to exercise your constitutional right to vote. Secondly, I would encourage you to get to know the candidates and their respective positions on issues important to the future of our state and nation. Third, talk to your friends and neighbors and encourage them to vote. Also, don’t be shy about sharing your understanding of particular candidates and their respective policy statements. Finally, turn off the unending 24-hour media circus and social media outlets that masquerade as unbiased news sources. Remember, Husker football will soon be upon us and we can focus our attention on other priorities, even if only for a short four quarters on Saturday!

Richard J. Baier
President/CEO, Nebraska Bankers Association
www.nebankers.org
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New Federal Overtime Rules: Not a Good Fit for Nebraska

The U.S. Labor Department recently released its long-awaited overhaul of federal overtime rules. Unfortunately, these changes will negatively impact many of Nebraska’s small businesses and will place new undo restrictions and burdens on Nebraska employees. Essentially, the new rules will instantly transform thousands of salaried jobs in our state into hourly positions, resulting in less flexibility for workers and increased costs and administrative burdens for small businesses as well as colleges and universities, nonprofits, and public sector employers that operate on fixed budgets.

When these new rules take effect in December, many small businesses across Nebraska, including our hometown banks, will suddenly be forced to reclassify numerous technical, management, and other professional employees from salaried to hourly. Eligible workers making less than $47,476 per year ($913/week), up from the previous limit of $23,660 per year ($455/week), will be eligible for overtime once those employees have worked 40 hours in a week. These newly reclassified employees will face increased restrictions on the hours they can work and how they use technology in their work lives as well as losing much of the flexibility they have enjoyed managing their work/life balance.

Newly classified employees, for example, may find it implausible to attend a child’s kindergarten graduation ceremony during the work day, as the new overtime rules will require the formerly salaried employee to potentially make up the time away from the workplace. Employees also will face more limited opportunities for advancement, training, travel, and community engagement. Employers will now be forced to pay overtime, for instance, for hourly workers who take on a community activity like Junior Achievement or the local volunteer fire department.

Nebraska’s hometown banks are deeply concerned about the unintended consequences of a massive, one-size-fits-all, overnight regulatory overhaul with such a narrow implementation window that will impose serious hardships on our Nebraska employees and businesses. Managing a small bank branch, for example, requires only a handful of formerly salaried employees who wear many hats in a very family-oriented work environment. The new rules will force these branches to be much more specific about where and when each employee may work, resulting in a more stringent company culture.

Although some employees may see modest increases in income, most will not. Employees reclassified from salaried to hourly will now be eligible for overtime pay but, in many cases, employers will adjust their operating environment to limit these new overtime costs. Thus, employees will simply be subject to more restrictions on work schedules. More employees also will be punching time clocks and will be forced to limit their work technology usage outside of regular business hours. In some cases, employees may even see a reduction in benefits as the Department of Labor rule serves to downgrade the status of their jobs. As an example, a newly reclassified employee that previously checked his or her work email or social media on an employer-provided smartphone may now find that their employer will stop offering access to this non-work time technology as the time spent reading an email will now result in hours on the clock. These new rules specifically fly in the face of how the Millennial generation likes to work and interact. Why would we want to hold back the most influential population in our market today as they graduate from college and reach their peak employment years?

Importantly, Nebraska banks also believe the rule’s one-size-fits-all approach will result in its associated administrative and labor costs falling disproportionately on those businesses in cities and states with lower costs of living. Salary standards more appropriate for New York City will be applied uniformly across the nation in urban, suburban, and rural locations like Nebraska. This blanket approach does far more harm than good for both employers and employees.

We recognize the good intentions of the bureaucrats who drafted these new rules, but their one-size-fits-all approach is simply not sensible. While hourly pay is appropriate for certain jobs, one national standard designed for New York City is inappropriate for all jobs in all parts of the country. That is why Congress, when it wrote the labor standards law, created reasonable exemptions to the overtime pay requirements.

Thousands of public and private sector employers in Nebraska and across the country have expressed concern with the new overtime rules. Additionally, members of Congress and even the Obama Administration’s own Small Business Administration (SBA) have urged the Labor Department to take a closer look at the economic impact on small businesses, nonprofits, and local governments before issuing this rule. The SBA specifically warned the Labor Department in a letter last September about the rule’s troubling compliance costs and paperwork burden on small entities, noting that the Labor Department had underestimated compliance costs.

The NBA is asking the federal government to take a closer look at the impact of the rule on small businesses, on communities all across the nation, and upon the employees, especially Millennials, who will be affected in many unintended ways. We urge our state and local representatives to make their voices heard in Washington and in the White House. A good first step is passing the Protecting Workplace Advancement and Opportunity Act, which would simply give the Labor Department additional time to conduct a more comprehensive economic analysis on the impact of mandatory overtime expansion on small businesses, nonprofits, public employers, and their employees. It will be easier to get this regulation right the first time rather than try to fix the mess that is certain to come due to the inflexible approach currently on the table.

Richard J. Baier
President/CEO, Nebraska Bankers Association
www.nebankers.org
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Financial Elder Abuse: Let’s Take Action

Financial elder abuse is estimated to have cost victims at least $2.9 billion last year. While that statistic is enormous in itself, the fact that you or someone you know could potentially fall victim of this growing crime in America is even more unsettling. That’s why there’s a day dedicated to preventing elder abuse, Annual World Elder Abuse Prevention Day, on June 15 every year.

In 2015, the Nebraska Bankers Association (NBA) pledged to empower customers and communities with the facts, tools, and best practices they need to bank more securely. To do so, the NBA began participating in the American Bankers Association Foundation’s Safe Banking for Seniors campaign. Because we take this role seriously, we are encouraging you as financially responsible Nebraskans to join the NBA in preventing elder exploitation. You can do this by getting educated, staying alert, raising awareness, and speaking out about this injustice.

Getting Educated

elder abuse prevention
Click here for more information about financial elder abuse.

According to the National Center on Elder Abuse, elder abuse is the intentional or negligent acts by a caregiver or “trusted” individual that causes (or potentially causes) harm to a vulnerable elder. Here are some basic facts about financial elder abuse:

  • One sign of financial elder abuse is an elder adult having income that should meet basic needs, but those needs are not being met or they are facing eviction or utility shutoffs.
  • You can identify elder financial abuse by seeing an elder’s paid caregivers, friends, relatives, or acquaintances showing unusual interest in the adult’s finances.
  • Elderly women are more likely to be financially exploited for two reasons: they tend to be more trusting and they often live longer.
  • The elderly are usually financially abused by those they love and trust most, including their children, grandchildren, siblings, or younger friends. This is because they have been granted access to the senior’s finances by the senior themselves.
  • Other indicators of financial abuse include:
    • Cashing checks without permission/authority
    • Misusing Power Of Attorney/Durable Power Of Attorney
    • ATM withdrawals inconsistent with the victim’s use/ability
    • Bank accounts overdrawn with adequate income

Staying Alert

Now that you know the basic signs of financial elder abuse, who’s likely to abuse, and who’s likely to be abused, it’s time to apply your knowledge to make a difference. Because people over 50 years old control over 70 percent of the nation’s wealth, fraudsters are using new tactics every day to take advantage of retiring baby boomers and the growing number of older Americans.

Therefore, we challenge you to stay alert about the possibility of the vulnerable adults in your life being financially exploited. These adults can include your relatives, those living in your home or neighborhood, or those employed at your workplace. Additionally, seniors across all socio-economic groups, cultures, and races are at risk for this type of abuse. Additionally, while many target the wealthier older generation, abusers go for middle-class seniors too.

Raising Awareness

You don’t necessarily have to shout from the rooftops about the wrongfulness of financial elder abuse to raise awareness. In fact, the NBA would like to see financially responsible adults raise awareness by ensuring that their parents, spouse, and/or children are educated. Speak with them about the signs of financial elder abuse, who is likely to abuse, and who is likely to be abused.

When this knowledge is applied, you may find yourself in a position to make a difference in a senior’s financial life, which is when it becomes necessary to report the abuse at hand.

Speaking Out

Report suspected fraud against seniors toll free to the Nebraska Department of Health and Human Services (DHHS) at 855-652-1999 (Nebraska adult and child abuse and neglect hotline/Adult Protective Services).

Report suspected fraud against seniors toll free to the Senate Aging Committee at 855-303-9470 (national anti-fraud hotline).

What to Report:

  • Name, address, and age of the victim
  • A description of the situation/instance(s)
  • Names of others who may have additional information to contribute to your report
  • Name of the alleged abuser

After a Report:
If a report rises to the level of maltreatment requiring investigation, it will be assigned to a local caseworker. The caseworker will visit the vulnerable adult and:

  • Conduct an investigation of the reported allegations and assess the safety, risks, and needs of the adult
  • Assist the vulnerable adult, caregiver(s), or others to maintain the senior’s safety
  • Provide ongoing assistance if consented to by the adult (or guardian) or ordered by the court

Remember:

  • All reports are 100 percent confidential; the senior nor the abuser will know who filed a report.
  • Most elder abuse cases go unreported, so do not assume the situation you identify has already been reported.
  • You do not need to prove that abuse is occurring; it is up to the professionals to investigate your suspicions.
  • Reports of abuse or neglect in Nebraska nursing homes, assisted living facilities, and other facilities that are licensed or certified will be referred to DHHS, Division of Public Health, Licensure U
    nit for investigation.

Every older American has the right to live their life free from the fear of abuse. By getting educated, staying alert, raising awareness, and speaking out, the NBA is confident the people of our state can minimize this rapidly-growing crime. I encourage you as a
financially responsible adult to take a stand with the NBA in fighting financial elder abuse
not only on June 15, but every day of the year.

Richard J. Baier
President/CEO, Nebraska Bankers Association
www.nebankers.org
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