Category Archives: Business Advice

Refinance Your Conventional Business Loan into a SBA 504 Loan

leticia-scearce_biltmore-bankThe SBA Debt Refinance Program is back! Does your small business have a maturing or high-cost conventional loan for real estate, buildings or equipment? The long-term, fixed rate financing available through the SBA Debt Refinance Program can help small businesses that face significant balloon payments, require financial flexibility or want to take cash out from appreciating assets for expansion.

Under the new program, small businesses that refinance into a SBA 504 loan can take advantage of lower rates, fixed for 20 years, to lighten their monthly debt payments, improve cash flow and stabilize operations.

These parameters can help determine whether this program might be a good fit for your business:

  • The debt to be refinanced must be at least two years old.
  • The debt to be refinanced must be current during the last 12 months.
  • Eligible small businesses can obtain up to 90 percent financing for secured debt and qualified business debt.
  • Eligible fixed assets include real estate and equipment.
  • Cash out for operating expenses, including debt consolidation, is limited to 75 percent loan-to-value.
  • Cash out can be used for eligible business expenses (salaries, rent, utilities, inventory).
  • Existing government guaranteed loans are not eligible to be refinanced.
  • The eligible debt being refinanced is for the outstanding principal balance.

Other conditions or qualification requirements may apply. 

For those considering applying for a new loan, we offer a variety of government guaranteed loan products that require less cash investment up front and offer longer loan terms, which can help bridge the gap for businesses that otherwise would not have access to capital.

  • SBA 7(a), 504 and 504 refinance
  • SBA Export Express Export Working Capital International Trade
  • USDA Business & Industry Loans Food Desert Rural Energy for America Program (REAP)
  • Export Import Bank of U.S.

If you would like more information on the SBA 504 Refinance Program or any of our government-guaranteed loan products, please contact Leticia Scearce, Senior Vice President/Government Guaranteed Lending Manager, at lscearce@biltmorebankaz.com or (602) 445-6511.

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Government Guaranteed Loans and Helping Businesses Grow

leticia-scearce_biltmore-bankSecuring a business loan can be vital to a company’s growth or even survival. Senior Vice President Leticia Scearce, head of Grandpoint’s Government Guaranteed Lending division, shares some great loan options that are available through various government programs which can be facilitated by the Bank and its divisions, Bank of Tucson, The Biltmore Bank of Arizona and Regents Bank.

Q: What should people know about the government guaranteed lending programs that are available?

LS: Government guaranteed loans are there to help small- and medium-sized businesses, since these loans require less cash investment up front and offer longer loan terms. Government guaranteed loans can help bridge the gap for small- and medium-sized businesses that otherwise would not have access to capital.  Also, many businesses that could qualify for conventional loans opt for government guaranteed loans instead because they require less money down and have longer terms. When opting for guaranteed loans, clients usually pay two percent more in fees for 10 to 15 percent cash down versus the 30 percent down for conventional loans.

The most well-known government guaranteed loan programs are those offered by the Small Business Administration (SBA) loans.  These loan programs can include financing for owner-occupied real estate purchase or construction, refinance, equipment, business acquisition, exporting and short term working capital (revolving lines of credit).

Another very attractive loan program is available through the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA).  Eligible USDA loans can be for real estate and equipment (including renewable energy projects) in rural or farming areas and can have a loan term up to 30 years. In addition, there are a few subprograms under the USDA loan program umbrella that allow us to finance projects in urban areas that have a local foods component – food manufacturing, distribution, retail, etc. The USDA loan product is attractive because it offers the longest term of the government guaranteed loan programs; is more flexible in pricing and prepayment penalties; has less oversight with franchises and dealer agreements; and has less regulation overall. It needs to be mentioned that even though the program is offered under the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the financing of eligible projects / properties under this program do not need to be agriculture related.  Rather, its availability is contingent on the current population levels of a specific census tract in which the business or property will be located.

Q: What is the current status of government guaranteed lending?

LS: We’re hitting record levels of government guaranteed lending as the economy is improving. One reason is that the banks’ lending standards for conventional loans haven’t changed much since the recession, which makes guaranteed loans more attainable and attractive.

Q: Have you seen any big changes in the government guaranteed lending programs that business owners should know about?

LS: We saw a big change recently in the SBA 504 program. This product offers low cash down and a 20-year fixed rate on the client’s second loan, which is financed by the SBA. The agency now allows the client to refinance existing loans on owner-occupied real estate and allows some cash out provisions, helping the small business owner access capital for long-term working capital.

Q: How do the members of the government guaranteed lending program for Grandpoint Bank and its divisions work together to assist clients?

LS: We are tasked with helping all our regions expand our government guaranteed lending, which is a combination of SBA loans, USDA loans and export loans. I’m based in Phoenix at The Biltmore Bank of Arizona, along with Debbie Lindsay, our loan administrator. My team’s loan specialist/underwriter, Marchette Wesley, and portfolio servicer, Hector Palomares, are in California, and I travel to our offices throughout Arizona, California and Washington to train our staff about our guaranteed loan platform.  We assist our relationship managers in deepening their knowledge base with the different loan products we have available. We also train our credit staff so they can recognize when a conventional loan isn’t suited for a client and a government guaranteed loan could offer a great alternative.

Mark Phillips, Grandpoint Capital’s chief credit officer, and David Ross, Grandpoint Bank’s chief credit officer, and our regional bank presidents have been very supportive of our division and expansion.

Q: How is Grandpoint Bank, and its divisions, differentiating itself in this type of lending?

LS: Our Southern California and Vancouver, Washington markets do a lot of export business, so with our large geographic footprint and sizable lending capacity, we can target more middle market customers.   In Arizona, we have more rural opportunities, and thus the USDA programs are a great fit. We are already one of the top lenders in the state for USDA loans.  We are looking forward to expanding our footprint in USDA lending in all of our markets.   Seventy to 90 percent of government guaranteed loans don’t count against a bank’s legal lending limits, so we have more capacity to service larger companies as well.

Q: How did your career lead you to becoming the head of the government guaranteed lending division?

LS: I was drawn to SBA lending in 2007 when I was working in commercial lending at a community bank here in Scottsdale. I further progressed into this niche lending sector during the recession when the credit markets froze and guaranteed loans became even more essential. When I joined The Biltmore Bank of Arizona in 2011, I helped established the SBA department, and a year later I pushed for expansion into other government guaranteed loan programs such as USDA loans and export financing.  A diverse, more inclusive platform was important to our brand and to our customer base, and I was fortunate that key management at Biltmore trusted and supported my recommendations. In 2012, Biltmore Bank was acquired by Grandpoint Bank, and with the backing of a larger bank, it allowed us to expand our lending efforts even further.  Personally, Grandpoint gave me access to a larger platform with great management resources to help expand and develop this lending niche. Prior to the acquisition, our government guaranteed lending activity was small, but many of the banks acquired by Grandpoint around the same time had SBA loan portfolios, so my servicing and liquidation role increased. Soon thereafter, our senior management team decided to expand this niche of lending for the whole family of banks. I’m pleased to have a very amazing team. We all have to stay up to date on policies and procedures for all of these programs. This type of lending makes you a better banker, because it requires a complex level of understanding and mastery of detail; it makes you sharper.

Q: Are you involved in any civic work?

LS: I serve on the City of Phoenix Investment Advisory Board, which advises the city on its entire investment portfolio.

Q: What do you like to do for fun?

LS: My husband and I are into cycling, and I love to hike. I also enjoy cooking and baking, and I’m a wine connoisseur. We have visited more than 100 wineries, and I’d love to become a sommelier someday. More immediately, I’d like to look at growth and loan opportunities in the wine industries throughout the various regions we serve. I also enjoy reading, gardening, and I am a big tennis fan!

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Inside Tucson Business Article – Cyber Insurance: A Necessity in the Digital Age

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Linda Drake

Thank you to article author Linda Drake of Trailblazer Advisors and to Inside Tucson Business for allowing us to republish this article on our blog. Client Cyber Crime Insurance is available to all business customers of Grandpoint Bank and its divisions, Bank of Tucson, The Biltmore Bank of Arizona and Regents Bank.

Read the original article here:
http://www.insidetucsonbusiness.com/business_chatter/cyber-insurance-a-necessity-in-the-digital-age/article_3bbe8650-4f93-11e6-a8b2-8baff37c26c2.html↗

Whether you are a business large or small, old or new, the dangers of a cyber breach are lurking. The truth is that all businesses today are digital in one form or another. It is the age of the Internet of Everything! Cloud computing is the basis of almost all transactions and with every touch of the keyboard or data entry, there is an attached risk of a breach. And with that breach, comes the liability that might not just be disruptive to your business; it could be devastating.

The costs of a breach can be enormous. (Imagine losing a major bank transfer or assuming a loss of $10,000 for each cyber-security infraction.) By the way, your attacker can come from the outside or inside, as 70 percent of breaches are initiated by employees or former employees.

So what this thing called cyber insurance? Cyber insurance arose out of the traditional Errors and Omissions (E&O) coverage known to most businesses. Over time coverage was extended to viruses, data corruption to connected client systems, or damage affecting customers. Generally, early adopters were technology-based companies.

More than a decade ago, network security policies expanded to include breaches of confidential information. At that point, the retail segment adopted cyber insurance on a wide scale.

Coverage for any business could be simple or complex. The determining factor is an employer’s decision on degree of acceptable risk. Let’s take the simple first.

The Bank of Tucson, through Grandpoint Insurance Services, now offers cyber insurance coverage for its customers at a nominal cost. The coverage for business accounts protects against losses for funds transfer fraud (when someone impersonates your company for a funds transfer) and cyber deception (when a criminal pretends to be your vendor employee or client and gets you to transfer money to them). Mike Hannley, president of Bank of Tucson, announced the new product in the last month. Mike commented, “Internet criminals do not use guns for illicit gain, but they gladly use your computer and network for paydays!”

Let’s take a look at broader, more complex cyber insurance. That kind of cyber insurance may have several parts:

Network Security: Your network has failed in some form. It could be that someone is trying to shut down your network to in an effort to stop you from conducting business. Or, you’ve just experienced a data breach, some form of extortion, or tapped your system to advance a virus to all of your connected transmissions.

Privacy: Privacy is huge and does not necessarily have to be connected to a system failure. There are many known cases of information of physical records that are not properly disposed of, including human errors (think of a lost laptop with an easily penetrated passcode) or a hard drive with customer records that somehow got into the wrong hands.

Media Liability:  This aspect covers advertising injury claims like copyright, libel and slander. Coverage may extend to offline content as well.

Digging deeper, network security and privacy liability policies covers first and third party liabilities. First party means the direct costs of responding to a breach; third party means it applies when people sue or make claims against you.

First party inclusions: 

Costs of notifying anyone attached to the breach

Loss of profits and business interruption

Legal advice and regulatory obligations

Public relations expenses

Third party inclusions:

Regulatory fines and penalties

Damage and judgments related to the breach

Legal expenses

Costs of responding to regulatory inquiries

According to Jack Clements, CPA at the Clements Agency, “Every company, large or small, should at least consider cyber Insurance. There are so many examples of exposure to loss that it is difficult to list them all; some exposures are unique to certain types of businesses.”

“And don’t forget about controls; they are critical,” Jack continued. “In broad policies, premiums are based upon the quality of your controls. Many companies believe that their controls are so strong, that it can never happen to them. Believe me, it can and it will.”

Another aspect of this discussion is commonly known as “Social Engineering” or “Duping.” This is a scheme where a seemingly legitimate email is sent to you asking for money or confidential information. It happens all the time. Jack added, “In fact, an attempt was made on our office this week. We received a business email from my brother, with whom we do business, asking for a wire transfer. When we called him, we learned that it was completely fraudulent. Had we complied, the transaction would not have been covered by our Cyber Policy, since we willingly sent the money. We would, however, have been covered by the Social Engineering endorsement that we have on our package policy. Just another area to think about.”

Linda Drake is a 25-year, seasoned global entrepreneur, corporate executive, author and Certified Professional & Executive Coach. 

For more information on the Client Cyber Crime Insurance, visit www.grandpointinsurance.com (California Insurance License #0K82434).

Insurance Products are:
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Insurance Products are offered through Grandpoint Insurance Services, Inc., a non-bank insurance agency affiliate of Grandpoint Bank, and facilitated through LBW Insurance & Financial Services, Inc., an unaffiliated insurance agency.

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How to Prepare to Meet with Your Lender

BT Don JenksWant the inside scoop on strategies to improve your chances of securing a business loan? At Bank of Tucson, we are always focused on how to help our clients succeed, so we’re happy to share our advice. Don Jenks, Executive Vice President at Bank of Tucson, has helped businesses throughout the Tucson area and beyond to secure loans and lines of credit, and he pulled together some valuable information to share with our clients and readers.

“If you’re looking to become bankable in the next year, open up a conversation with your banker now,” says Don. “Approach your banker with the right questions to find out how they look at cash flow, collateral and your unique risk elements. Even if they can’t lend you money now, they can at least define specific credit guidelines, providing you the tools to make your business bankable sooner.”

When you’re ready to walk in the door to seek funding for your growing business, make sure you’re prepared, he says. “Before you apply for funding, know your business inside and out and have a roadmap of where your business is going – financially and strategically. Know what you want so that you can express your vision to your banker before you apply for a loan or line of credit.”

Think of your banker as a consulting partner for your business. “We want to build a relationship in which you can openly discuss your strategic plan and seek advice from your banker about how to get there,” says Don.

That familiarity and understanding is critically important when you’re ready to apply for credit.

“If you are not an existing client, we’ll sit down with you to talk about your business so that we have a better understanding of your company and your objectives,” Don says. “That will help us when we do our preliminary review of your loan request. We’ll also talk with you about the kinds of financial products and services you currently use and how you can get the most value from your relationship with Bank of Tucson. Before finalizing our evaluation of your loan package, we will schedule a site visit to even better understand your business.”

For both new and established clients, when it’s time to submit a loan application, Don says be sure to include the following:

  • Biographies/resumes of the owner(s)
  • Ownership structure
  • A discussion of management succession
  • A discussion of business strategy and marketing strategy
  • A discussion about suppliers and supplier risk
  • A brief analysis of the competition
  • Sales or customer concentrations
  • A clear outline of your financing needs
  • Three years of tax returns or CPA-prepared financial statements and a recent interim financial statement
  • Three months of bank statements
  • Accounts payables and account receivables – current and aging
  • Three years of projections
  • Disclosure of any government regulatory exposure
  • Entity documents (Articles of Incorporation, partnership agreements, etc.)

Make sure your financial statements, including your balance sheet, are detailed. “You don’t want to present your banker with financials that look like a smile with missing teeth,” cautions Don.

Keep in mind also, the best business banking partners can offer resources, experience and connections for your business that are often just as valuable as the money they lend.

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FBI Article: Ransomware on the Rise

We noticed that a lot of you really liked the last FBI cyber security article we ran. We’re pleased the Bureau has encouraged us to share their articles on this topic, so we’re happy to do so again. This article deals with a concerning type of cybercrime called ransomware, where a malware restricts access to the infected computer/network and demands that the operators pay some sort of ransom to regain control of their network. We hope this article is helpful to you. Please let us know if you have information or ideas on this topic that our readers may want to hear.

You can find this article, as well as many other articles you may find valuable to keep your business and staff secure against cybercrime, at this web address:

https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/january/ransomware-on-the-rise/ransomware-on-the-rise↗

For more information about fraud protection tools and product features provided by Bank of Tucson, please visit our website.

Ransomware on the Rise
FBI and Partners Working to Combat This Cyber Threat

Your computer screen freezes with a pop-up message—supposedly from the FBI or another federal agency—saying that because you violated some sort of federal law your computer will remain locked until you pay a fine. Or you get a pop-up message telling you that your personal files have been encrypted and you have to pay to get the key needed decrypt them.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.50.23 AMThese scenarios are examples of ransomware scams, which involve a type of malware that infects computers and restricts users’ access to their files or threatens the permanent destruction of their information unless a ransom—anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dollars—is paid.

Ransomware doesn’t just impact home computers.
Businesses, financial institutions, government agencies, academic institutions, and other organizations can and have become infected with it as well, resulting in the loss of sensitive or proprietary information, a disruption to regular operations, financial losses incurred to restore systems and files, and/or potential harm to an organization’s reputation.

Ransomware has been around for several years, but there’s been a definite uptick lately in its use by cyber criminals. And the FBI, along with public and private sector partners, is targeting these offenders and their scams.

Screen Shot 2015-12-03 at 10.47.22 AMWhen ransomware first hit the scene, computers predominately became infected with it when users opened e-mail attachments that contained the malware.
But more recently, we’re seeing an increasing number of incidents involving so-called “drive-by” ransomware, where users can infect their computers simply by clicking on a compromised website, often lured there by a deceptive e-mail or pop-up window.

Another new trend involves the ransom payment method. While some of the earlier ransomware scams involved having victims pay “ransom” with pre-paid cards, victims are now increasingly asked to pay with Bitcoin, a decentralized virtual currency network that attracts criminals because of the anonymity the system offers.

Also a growing problem is ransomware that locks down mobile phones and demands payments to unlock them.

The FBI and our federal, international, and private sector partners have taken proactive steps to neutralize some of the more significant ransomware scams through law enforcement actions against major botnets↗ that facilitated the distribution and operation of ransomware.

For example:

  • Reveton ransomware, delivered by malware known as Citadel, falsely warned victims that their computers had been identified by the FBI or Department of Justice as being associated with child pornography websites or other illegal online activity. In June 2013, Microsoft, the FBI, and our financial partners disrupted a massive criminal botnet built on the Citadel malware, putting the brakes on Reveton’s distribution. FBI statement↗ and additional details.↗
  • Cryptolocker was a highly sophisticated ransomware that used cryptographic key pairs to encrypt the computer files of its victims and demanded ransom for the encryption key. In June 2014, the FBI announced—in conjunction with the Gameover Zeus botnet disruption—that U.S. and foreign law enforcement officials had seized Cryptolocker command and control servers. The investigation into the criminals behind Cryptolocker continues, but the malware is unable to encrypt any additional computers.Additional details.↗

If you think you’ve been a victim of Cryptolocker, visit the Department of Homeland Security’s U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) CryptoLocker webpage↗ for remediation information.

The FBI—along with its federal, international, and private sector partners—will continue to combat ransomware and other cyber threats. If you believe you’ve been the victim of a ransomware scheme or other cyber fraud activity, please report it to the Bureau’s Internet Crime Complaint Center.↗

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Cyber Security Article from the FBI

October is National Cyber Security Awareness Month. When our staff spotted this article, we knew it was something we wanted to share with our clients and readers. We contacted the FBI for their permission to reprint it on our blog, and they were kind enough to agree. You can find this article, as well as many other articles you may find valuable to keep your business and staff secure against cyber crime, at this web address: https://www.fbi.gov/news/stories/2015/august/business-e-mail-compromise/business-e-mail-compromise↗

For more information about fraud protection tools and product features provided by Bank of Tucson, please visit our website.

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Business E-Mail Compromise
An Emerging Global Threat

08/28/15

The accountant for a U.S. company recently received an e-mail from her chief executive, who was on vacation out of the country, requesting a transfer of funds on a time-sensitive acquisition that required completion by the end of the day. The CEO said a lawyer would contact the accountant to provide further details.

“It was not unusual for me to receive e-mails requesting a transfer of funds,” the accountant later wrote, and when she was contacted by the lawyer via e-mail, she noted the appropriate letter of authorization—including her CEO’s signature over the company’s seal—and followed the instructions to wire more than $737,000 to a bank in China.

The next day, when the CEO happened to call regarding another matter, the accountant mentioned that she had completed the wire transfer the day before. The CEO said he had never sent the e-mail and knew nothing about the alleged acquisition.

The company was the victim of a business e-mail compromise (BEC), a growing financial fraud that is more sophisticated than any similar scam the FBI has seen before and one—in its various forms—that has resulted in actual and attempted losses of more than a billion dollars to businesses worldwide.

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“BEC is a serious threat on a global scale,” said FBI Special Agent Maxwell Marker, who oversees the Bureau’s Transnational Organized Crime–Eastern Hemisphere Section in the Criminal Investigative Division. “It’s a prime example of organized crime groups engaging in large-scale, computer-enabled fraud, and the losses are staggering.”

Since the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) began tracking BEC scams in late 2013, it has compiled statistics on more than 7,000 U.S. companies that have been victimized—with total dollar losses exceeding $740 million. That doesn’t include victims outside the U.S. and unreported losses.

The scammers, believed to be members of organized crime groups from Africa, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East, primarily target businesses that work with foreign suppliers or regularly perform wire transfer payments. The scam succeeds by compromising legitimate business e-mail accounts through social engineering or computer intrusion techniques. Businesses of all sizes are targeted, and the fraud is proliferating.

According to IC3, since the beginning of 2015 there has been a 270 percent increase in identified BEC victims. Victim companies have come from all 50 U.S. states and nearly 80 countries abroad. The majority of the fraudulent transfers end up in Chinese banks.

Not long ago, e-mail scams were fairly easy to spot. The Nigerian lottery and other fraud attempts that arrived in personal and business e-mail inboxes were transparent in their amateurism. Now, the scammers’ methods are extremely sophisticated.

“They know how to perpetuate the scam without raising suspicions,” Marker said. “They have excellent tradecraft, and they do their homework. They use language specific to the company they are targeting, along with dollar amounts that lend legitimacy to the fraud. The days of these e-mails having horrible grammar and being easily identified are largely behind us.”

To make matters worse, the criminals often employ malware to infiltrate company networks, gaining access to legitimate e-mail threads about billing and invoices they can use to ensure the suspicions of an accountant or financial officer aren’t raised when a fraudulent wire transfer is requested.

Instead of making a payment to a trusted supplier, the scammers direct payment to their own accounts. Sometimes they succeed at this by switching a trusted bank account number by a single digit. “The criminals have become experts at imitating invoices and accounts,” Marker said. “And when a wire transfer happens,” he added, “the window of time to identify the fraud and recover the funds before they are moved out of reach is extremely short.”

In the case mentioned above—reported to the IC3 in June—after the accountant spoke to her CEO on the phone, she immediately reviewed the e-mail thread. “I noticed the first e-mail I received from the CEO was missing one letter; instead of .com, it read .co.” On closer inspection, the attachment provided by the “lawyer” revealed that the CEO’s signature was forged and the company seal appeared to be cut and pasted from the company’s public website. Further assisting the perpetrators, the website also listed the company’s executive officers and their e-mail addresses and identified specific global media events the CEO would attend during the calendar year.

The FBI’s Criminal, Cyber, and International Operations Divisions are coordinating efforts to identify and dismantle BEC criminal groups. “We are applying all our investigative techniques to the threat,” Marker said, “including forensic accounting, human source and undercover operations, and cyber aspects such as tracking IP addresses and analyzing the malware used to carry out network intrusions. We are working with our foreign partners as well, who are seeing the same issues.” He stressed that companies should make themselves aware of the BEC threat and take measures to avoid becoming victims (see sidebar).

If your company has been victimized by a BEC scam, it is important to act quickly. Contact your financial institution immediately and request that they contact the financial institution where the fraudulent transfer was sent. Next, call the FBI, and also file a complaint↗—regardless of dollar loss—with the IC3.

“The FBI takes the BEC threat very seriously,” Marker said, “and we are working with our law enforcement partners around the world to identify these criminals and bring them to justice.”

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Nine Tips for Better Cyber Security

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Our Increasing dependence on information technology and networks has brought tremendous efficiency to our work and personal lives, but with these efficiencies come risks; particularly risks from cybercrime. According to an October 2014 independent study conducted by Ponemon Institute, the percentage of businesses impacted by malware and other kinds of cyber fraud is up 144 percent, and a survey by Experian↗ found that 60 percent of small businesses that suffer a cyber attack are out of business within one year due to the costs of customer notification, lawsuits, etc. Small and medium-sized businesses can be especially vulnerable since they often do not have the same level of resources as larger companies to defend their information technology systems and track their financial transactions on a frequent or daily basis. While protecting your business against cyber criminals may require a combination of special resources and a change in workplace procedures, here are a few basic steps that you can take at work and at home to reduce your risk of being hacked, spoofed, falling victim to computer viruses and Trojan horses or having your identity stolen.

  1. Keep your computer secure. Install and run anti-virus and anti-spyware and make sure you keep these up to date to protect against new threats. Use the latest versions of Internet browsers, such as Firefox, Google Chrome and Internet Explorer, and make sure your operating system and applications are updated regularly.
  2. Use a separate, dedicated computer for online banking – this decreases your chance of infection with malware because you are unlikely to encounter these programs on trusted banking sites. Do not use this computer for general web browsing and email.
  3. Never share usernames and passwords –use strong passwords with a combination of lower and upper case letters, numbers and symbols, and change your passwords if you suspect they could have been compromised. Use different passwords for the main applications you use. For example, your online banking password should be different than your email password.
  4. Use email safely. Don’t click on links within your email – instead, open your browser and search for the company that supposedly sent the link. Be cautious about opening attachments or downloading files from unfamiliar sources. These files can contain viruses or other software that can jeopardize your computer’s security.
  5. Don’t give out personal information over the phone or via email unless you have initiated the contact. Even if the email looks like it’s coming from someone you know, the person’s email may have been hacked.
  6. Never use unprotected Internet connections – In addition to using only secure connections, make sure websites asking for sensitive information are secure. These websites will show up in your browser with a lock icon in its toolbar that, when clicked, should display an info sheet, including the company’s name. Also, the URL should start with “https” instead of “http.”
  7. Educate your employees, family, housemates or anyone else who has access to your computer network and/or your financial information about cyber security best practices. You should also discuss monitoring account information and billing statements regularly for unauthorized charges and withdrawals.
  8. Do not keep your passwords on your computer in a Word document. While this practice is convenient for cutting and pasting and may protect against key logging software that can grab your keystrokes, this technique leaves the user vulnerable to clipboard loggers that capture the contents of the clipboard. Documents on your computer, even when password protected, are also vulnerable to skilled hackers. A better idea is to use a password manager program – some of which are free. PCMag.com offers an overview of these programs here.↗
  9. Ask your bank what they are doing to assist you in cyber fraud prevention. At Bank of Tucson, our online banking platform offers tools, such as Trusteer Rapport,↗ which works alongside your current security software to add protection and decrease your susceptibility to criminal behavior, protecting you and your business from threats your antivirus cannot. We also offer features like Security and Transaction Alerts that can help clients protect themselves from fraud. Businesses using online banking also have access to security features such as dual control and user limits, along with Cash Management products like ACH Fraud Protection, Positive Pay, and out-of-band authentication and secure access codes to protect ACH and wire transactions. And, we continually invest in back office resources to help detect potentially fraudulent transactions.

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This icon appears next to every link that directs to a third party website not affiliated with Bank of Tucson. Please be advised that if you click this link you will be taken to a website hosted by another party, where you will no longer be subject to, or under the protection of, the privacy and security policies of Bank of Tucson. We recommend that you review and evaluate the privacy and security policies of the site that you are entering. Bank of Tucson assumes no liability for the content, information, security, policies or transactions provided by these other sites.

Business Tips for the New Year

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Happy 2015! With the dawning of the New Year, many folks concentrate on getting their business affairs in order. Before we get too much further into the year, we’d like to share a few business tips and highlights of new laws that can help you hone your competitive edge.

Business Tips

  • Review your cyber security. Ensure that your anti-virus software still meets your security needs, and check regularly for software and operating system updates and patches. Other preventive measures include providing firewall security for your Internet connection and encourage or require employees to password protect and use security apps on any of their handheld devices that may contain data pertaining to your business. Be sure to train your employees in all security protocols.
  • Stay up to date on compliance deadlines. Be aware that states periodically change compliance deadlines, forms and fees. Reviewing these details well in advance can help you avoid late fees and loss of good standing. Schedule Outlook or smart phone reminders to stay on top of deadlines.
  • Revisit your business plan. You went through all that trouble to create a great plan to take the business world by storm, so it shouldn’t be left idle….
  • Rev up your professional networking. Even if you’re already a power networker, review your business association memberships and decide which are still relevant to you and how they fit into your budget. Consider whether you should expand your networking circle, and don’t forget to consider conference and convention opportunities for 2015. Get your employees involved too. They’ll benefit from the new connections, continuing education opportunities and the satisfaction of attracting new customers to your business.
  • Reassess your online brand. If you don’t already have a Google Alert set for your company, do it now. Consider adding Google Alerts for the names of your top executives and any branded products or services you provide. Look up your company’s name on search engines to see how quickly your firm pops up. If your online brand is suffering, either from negative reviews, an outdated website or lackluster search engine optimization, don’t wait to address the issues. First impressions are hard to reverse.

New Law

With the New Year come changes for the transaction privilege tax (TPT) in Arizona. Business owners will need to make adjustments to make sure they are properly reporting their TPT. Additionally, some construction contractors will have to comply with two tax structures instead of one. Please consult with your CPA or attorney for more information and or reference this website.↗

A new year is full of possibilities. We hope this article is helpful in supporting all the grand plans your firm will implement this year. At Bank of Tucson, we are proud to be a consultative business partner for our clients as they continue to lead and transform their industries, and we look forward to working with you to make all of your New Year’s possibilities become realities.

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↗ Linking to Non-Bank of Tucson Websites

This icon appears next to every link that directs to a third party website not affiliated with Bank of Tucson. Please be advised that if you click this link you will be taken to a website hosted by another party, where you will no longer be subject to, or under the protection of, the privacy and security policies of Bank of Tucson. We recommend that you review and evaluate the privacy and security policies of the site that you are entering. Bank of Tucson assumes no liability for the content, information, security, policies or transactions provided by these other sites.

Using News Cycles to Promote Your Business With Social Media

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Football fans from coast to coast will soon converge on Phoenix to watch the Seattle Seahawks and New England Patriots vie in the biggest game of the year. Whether they attend the game or watch from their living rooms, did you know that more than 110 million people are expected to watch this year?

While you may have planned what to serve for your big party, have you thought how to capitalize on this national pastime for your business? Here’s some food for thought.

This bowl game is a great example of a major news cycle event, and tying into major news cycle events can be a great way to promote your business. Almost everyone has heard about the multi-millions of dollars big corporations shell out to air ads during the big game to promote their brands, but many companies and even individuals have made waves in different (and less expensive!) ways. Social media is a great way to promote your company as it is inexpensive and far reaching.

Last year, JC Penney got some attention for their “Tweeting with Mittens” campaign during the big game – playing off of the cold weather in New Jersey. Not nearly as much attention as Kohl’s did, though, by responding to JC Penney’s tweets and referring them to leather texting gloves on the Kohl’s website. Cost to Kohl’s? Nothing beyond paying an employee or social media company to tweet for them.

Let’s take a time-out to review:

  1. Pay attention to what your competitors are doing
  2. Tie in to major news cycle events

Another stand-out last year? The woman in the pantsuit – Hillary Clinton. During the game, she famously tweeted, “It’s so much more fun to watch FOX when it’s someone else being blitzed & sacked!” Displaying a sense of humor and poking a little fun at herself (and perhaps at FOX) was a great way to seem down to earth and approachable. It’s a tough line to walk to gently poke fun at yourself/your brand and promote yourself/your brand at the same time, but done well, it can be marketing gold.

Time-out game review:

  1. Know how others perceive your business
  2. Know how you want others to perceive your business
  3. Look for opportunities to bridge the two

You have a lot of ways to score marketing points for your business, so whether it’s tapping into the Big Game hype or later news cycles, we hope these tips will help you think creatively and make your way to the end zone. Sure, we’ve only given you two plays to review, but you’ve got the ball now. What are you going to do with it? Your fans are rooting for you, and we’re with them!

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