You’re Not the Only One Preparing Your Taxes

Preparation for tax season has begun, which means criminals and fraudsters are already busy deploying their next scam. Tax season typically brings about an influx of phishing scams with the intent of siphoning personal and financial data from unsuspecting victims.

These tax scams come in many forms: Fraudsters may try to impersonate the IRS, they may pretend to be tax professionals promising refunds that are too good to be true, or they may try to steal your identity to gain access to your tax refund.
As April gets closer, be on full alert and apply the following tips to help protect yourself from becoming the next tax fraud victim:

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•Never click on links embedded in emails or open any attachments from unknown email accounts or from accounts that you suspect to be fraudulent.
•Always independently verify that any requested information is originating from a legitimate source.
•Enter a site’s domain address yourself when visiting a website.
•If you are contacted via phone for personal information, hang up, look up the number for the institution calling you on the institution’s website and call back with the number found on the site. Do not give out information on an unsolicited phone call.

Help protect your identity and personal information by utilizing the above smart practices. Don’t let the stress of tax preparation season cause your guard to be down.

Copyright © 2019 BankOnIT, L.L.C.

File Taxes Early to Prevent ID Theft

A great article from Smart About Money regarding filing for taxes and ID Theft…

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) pays out billions in refunds to identity thieves, according to a report from the General Accounting Office. Incidences of tax identity theft were drastically reduced in 2016 and 2017 from prior years, but it’s important to take action if it appears someone else used your information to file a fake tax return.

social security card protected by chain and padlockIdentity thieves take legitimate taxpayers’ Social Security numbers so they can file false tax returns and cash in on refund checks. They often strike early in the tax season, filing returns before their victims.

Often, taxpayers do not find out they are victims of identity theft until they attempt to file their own tax returns online. Other taxpayers are notified of the theft through notices from the IRS.

As scary as the statistics are, there are some things you can do to help prevent identity theft as you file your taxes.

How to Prevent Taxpayer ID Theft

The IRS has pledged to increase prevention efforts, but it is hard to catch or prevent identity theft on the spot. Since you can’t count on the regulating organization to protect you, you’re going to have to protect yourself.

Filing your taxes early is the best way to prevent tax identity theft because the IRS allows only one tax return per Social Security number per year.

The first sign of theft may not be a missing refund check. You can monitor your credit report every four months at To use this method, choose one credit reporting bureau every four months, rather than ordering all three at once. You also can monitor suspicious activity once a year via My Social Security.

What to Do if You are a Victim

If you are a victim of identity theft, check out the IRS’s step-by-step guide, which includes reporting the crime to various local and federal agencies and filing a paper copy of your return with Form 14039.

As you go through the process of reclaiming your identity, make copies of your tax return and store them in a safe place. Be sure to keep the name of any representatives you talk to as you mend the situation with your records, along with copies of any letters or emails you send.

Identity theft is scary and, unfortunately, rampant. Arm yourself with knowledge to prevent ID theft and react quickly should the worst happen this tax season.

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5 Holiday Mistakes That Could Cost You

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The holidays are just around the corner, which means it’s time to enjoy vacations, catch up with family and old friends, and eat great food. While the holidays are about quality time and making memories, it’s easy to get caught up with spending money. Here are five holiday mistakes to avoid this year so you can enjoy the season with your finances intact:

  1. You’re shopping without a budget or list.

It’s incredibly kind to get each of your relatives, colleagues, and in-laws thoughtful presents and cards to show them your appreciation, but your wallet might be crying for help after your first few purchases. One of the biggest financial mistakes you can make during the holidays is shopping without a spending plan.

When you’re shopping for loved ones, you’re imagining how happy they’ll be when they receive your gift. But remember, financial responsibilities don’t go on vacation during the holidays. Create a budget for your holiday spending. Once you know how much you can afford to spend, create a list that fits your budget.

This way, you’ll be able to purchase the items you plan for and know for sure that you didn’t bust your budget. Here’s a free holiday budget printable to get you started.

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  1. You’re volunteering your home, food, and car to everyone.

If you’re the person that always offers food, transportation, and lodging to everyone, you might want to try a new approach this year. It’s thoughtful to go the extra mile during the holidays, but don’t stretch yourself or your pockets too thin.

Consider splitting the responsibilities with your friends and family. You might not think you’re overspending by being so accommodating, but the more people there are in your home, the more likely you are to receive a high utility bill at the end of the month. You’ll also be surprised at how many trips you might have to make to the grocery store to restock on food, drinks, and toiletries.

You can suggest hosting a potluck style gathering this year. With a potluck, each guest is responsible for bringing at least one dish, beverage, or party supply. At a minimum, you’ll save money on food and drinks. If you need napkins or disposable utensils and plates, you can make one guest responsible for those items as well.

If you have a ton of relatives who need to be picked up from the airport or train station, see if you can rope in other family members to help with pick-ups and drop-offs. This will help you save on gas, time, and energy.

Splitting responsibilities will help you enjoy the holidays without being completely stressed out.

  1. You’re shopping too late.

So you’ve created your list and a tight budget, that’s great! Don’t wait until the last minute to actually make your purchases. By then, sales may be over and supplies will be limited.

Start your shopping early so you can snag deals while they’re still available. When you have ample time to cross items off your list, you’ll have time to compare prices and bargain hunt. Some stores offer price matching, so keep that in mind as you start shopping and placing your online orders.

Time is of the essence. Shopping early will give you time to figure out what you actually need and get those items at the best price. When you wait until the last minute, you’re much more likely to bust your budget because you’ll just be rushing to cross people off your list instead of specific items that fall within your budget. Here are some tips to help you save while you shop.

  1. You’re relying on your credit cards.

Do your best NOT to rely on your credit cards during the holidays. If you can’t afford to buy it now, don’t create a bill for yourself later. Once the holidays are over, you’ll be faced with a potential mountain of debt that you’ve built.

The holidays are a great time to enjoy the company of your loved ones, but you shouldn’t feel like the only way to show your love is through expensive presents and festive decor. Enjoy the holidays in a way that doesn’t destroy your finances. This year, make it a goal to spend quality time.

If an unplanned expense does occur during the holidays and you have to use your credit, here are some tips for using your credit card.

  1. You’re trying to keep up with the Joneses.

Don’t make the holidays a competition about who can wear the most expensive clothes, buy the flashiest gifts, or serve the swankiest dinner. Make the holidays about creating lasting memories and enjoying time with your loved ones, or simply yourself.

Darlene Aderoju works for America Saves, managed by the nonprofit Consumer Federation of America (CFA), which seeks to motivate, encourage, and support Americans to save money, reduce debt, and build wealth. Learn more at

Avoid the Holiday Hoaxes

Online Shopping – Secure or Not Secure?

It’s commonly believed that a website is safe if it has a green lock icon in the address bar of the browser. Not only is this false, but now half of all phishing scams are hosted on websites whose Internet address is marked by the green lock and begin with HTTPS, according to an article on Krebs on Security. Phishing is a fraudulent online attempt to steal personal information.

A green lock indicates that your information is being encrypted, but that doesn’t mean the site is trustworthy. Before shopping or purchasing online, look for any signs that the site might be fraudulent, such as misspelled words or outdated graphics, and only shop from businesses you’re familiar with to help reduce the likelihood of your information falling into the wrong hands.

Secret Sisters – Naughty or Nice?

Undoubtedly, every year during the holiday season a viral gift exchange known as “Secret Sister” has a social media rebirth. This gift exchange not only exposes your personal information, but it often leaves participants without anything to show for it.

The big hook? For only $10, participants are told they could receive up to 36 gifts. The rules sound simple enough. A list of six names along with personal contact information is passed around. Participants are supposed to send a gift to the person at the top of the list, move the second name on the list to the top spot, and then the participant adds his or her own name to the new #2 spot on the list. The last step is simply to forward the list on to six more people. A type of pyramid scheme, this holiday gift exchange is worse than a lump of coal in your stocking. Passing around this list exposes everyone’s personal contact information all over social media and the web – possibly to strangers all around the world. In addition to the likelihood of having personal data land in the hands of a grinchy criminal, pyramid schemes are illegal and participants could be charged under a variety of federal and state laws. To add insult to injury, gifts usually never arrive!

We hope these few tips help you avoid scams this holiday season.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays from Bank of Luxemburg!

Gift Giving on a Budget

As the holiday season approaches, do you find yourself looking forward to the festivities, but concerned about the impact on your wallet? You are not alone. By doing some planning now, you can simplify your gift giving. Here are ten ways you can enjoy this special time of year and keep spending in check:

  1. Food. Consumable items are very popular during the holidays. The recipients may enjoy the product themselves or share it with others when entertaining. Consider special breads, beverages, fruit baskets, snack items, regional favorites, and gourmet coffees and teas.
  2. Go green. Find locally grown plants, flowers, and dried wreaths. Another option might be to purchase colorful washable napkins, placemats, dishcloths, reusable bags, and lunch bags with individual containers for sandwiches and snacks.
  3. Set limits. This could be done by establishing a dollar amount per gift, completing your shopping in only one or two trips, purchasing one gift per family, or committing to doing all your shopping locally.
  4. Made by you. Make your own food specialty. Knit a scarf. Hand craft an item. Create an annual holiday ornament. Give a framed photo.
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  5. Hobby-related gift or gift certificates. Consider the recipient’s hobbies and interests. Are there gardeners, chefs, woodworkers, knitters, readers and gamers on your list? Gift accordingly by providing them with the tools or materials to do what they enjoy.
  6. Agree on a gift challenge. Discuss this idea well in advance of the holidays with those whom you regularly exchange gifts, but make it fun. You might suggest handmade items only, gifts under $10, one gift for a whole family, limit shopping to consignment or thrift store finds or pick a theme such as useful or consumable items only.
  7. Purchase the same type of gift for everyone. It could be umbrellas, scarfs, journals, board games, puzzles, nice pens, throws, books, or flashlights and batteries.
  8. Recipe Book. You could make up a recipe book with family favorites or provide a blank recipe book for the great cooks in your life.
  9. Coupons for your services. Offer your time and abilities. You can create coupons related to your skills. Perhaps it is cooking a favorite meal, snow shoveling, home repair or an oil change, mending, guitar lessons and so on.
  10. Create a special memory. Look in newspapers or online for special events this holiday that are free or low cost. Instead of purchasing gifts, make a date with your family and friends to enjoy an event together and get together for desserts and coffee.

Most importantly: enjoy your holidays!

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Semi-Annual Dividend

Luxemburg Bancshares, Inc., parent company of Bank of Luxemburg, announced the approval of a semi-annual dividend of $0.65 per share, payable on December 14, 2018 to shareholders of record as of December 1, 2018. The current dividend is an increase of $0.03, compared to the December 2017 dividend of $0.62 per share paid on December 15, 2017.

“Increasing dividends communicate financial well-being and shareholder value for Luxemburg Bancshares, Inc. as well as Bank of Luxemburg,” said Bank of Luxemburg President Tim Treml. “2018 was another strong year for the Bank. Our financial strength allows us to continue to provide a positive impact in the communities we serve.”

Offering full-service personal and business financial solutions since 1903, Luxemburg Bancshares, Inc. and Bank of Luxemburg have banking offices in Luxemburg, Green Bay, Dyckesville, Casco, Algoma, Kewaunee and Sturgeon Bay. For more information visit Member FDIC.

Strength in its Roots

Kewaunee County – a region including three towns (Algoma, Kewaunee and Luxemburg in Northeast Wisconsin) – is home to a small population of farmers, skilled workers and business professionals. Its sprawling farm fields, industrial backbone and family-oriented appeal make it a great place to live and work.

Workforce development, according to Treml, begins in the schools. “We’re all working together—including all three area school systems—on building awareness of skilled jobs with a strong concentration in agriculture,” he said. “The schools are introducing agricultural and manufacturing opportunities to students through internships and training programs to show that these industries aren’t the dirty work they used to be.” Technology and robotics in dairy farms and manufacturing plants are changing the way new graduates perceive the opportunity for a successful career without a traditional four-year degree. “These careers, among many others in the skilled trades, are roles area employers have expressed a deep need to fill for years,” Treml shared. “We’re trying to build Kewaunee County to be a place that attracts talent and business.”

In addition, Bank of Luxemburg remains the only reliable source for local financing. Unlike corporate banks whose locations simply “branch” into the area, Bank of Luxemburg has been headquartered in Luxemburg since 1903. Beginning as an agricultural bank helping to fund the needs of local farmers, Bank of Luxemburg—and the community—have grown significantly over the last 115 years, but their mission remains the same: “to have a positive impact on people’s lives and help make their dreams come true,” Treml shares.

Bank of Luxemburg’s mission highlights the difference between smaller banks ($345 million in assets) versus larger banks (with $2 billion in assets, for example). Many large banks prefer to do business with a few corporate entities or big manufacturers. Bank of Luxemburg would much rather focus on spreading funds to a greater number of smaller businesses—such as the ones up and down main street—within their local communities.

“We’ve strived for a ‘helping’ culture, focusing on the culture of our institution—not the bottom line,” Treml shares. “If we take care of our local people and small businesses, the rest will fall into place.”

More ways Bank of Luxemburg is striving to make Kewaunee County a better place…

  •  BOL Cares – Bank of Luxemburg encourages all employees to give back to the community. Every employee is granted sixteen hour per year to volunteer at the organization(s) of their choice.
  • Scholarship Program – Bank of Luxemburg has awarded over $250,000 in scholarship funds to local deserving students since 2002.
  • Revitalization Loan Program – Bank of Luxemburg recently allocated $3 million to a special low-interest loan program designed to fund eligible renovations—such as facade improvements, pedestrian covers, historical preservation, structure renovations and accessibility improvements—for businesses in Kewaunee County.
  • Banzai (High School Education Program) – Bank of Luxemburg sends employees to classrooms in Kewaunee County for a special presentation on the practical and vital importance of budgeting.
  • Local Sponsorships – Bank of Luxemburg regularly supports local events, parades, sports teams and area improvements. For example, Bank of Luxemburg donated $5,000 to the county youth soccer fields for maintenance long before the construction on the fields was even complete.
  • Local Committee/Board Participation – Bank of Luxemburg employees regularly volunteer their financial expertise to local organizations and charities. It’s not uncommon to see the names of Bank of Luxemburg employees on the lists of local boards and committees throughout the area.

About Bank of Luxemburg

Luxemburg Bancshares, Inc. and Bank of Luxemburg have banking offices in Luxemburg, Green Bay, Dyckesville, Casco, Algoma, Kewaunee and Sturgeon Bay. For more information about Luxemburg Bancshares, Inc., visit

Celebrating 115 Years

We opened our doors in Luxemburg, Wisconsin, 115 years ago on October 6th. In that time, we’ve seen banking trends come and go, but our commitment to serving you and being a part of the community and your life, is as strong today as it was in 1903.

We are thrilled to be celebrating 115 years of banking with you. We’re still here and with you through all stages of life!

To mark our 115th year in business, stop by any one of our locations for a cupcake to help celebrate.

Thank you for your business and support throughout the years! We look forward to being your advisor, partner, and neighbor for decades to come.

115 Anniversary

Pete Roland Joins Bank of Luxemburg Board of Directors

Starting this October, Peter Roland will be the newest member of Bank of Luxemburg’s board of directors. A partner at Bay Lakes Commercial Real Estate for 10 years,

RolaPete Rolandnd brings a total of 18 years of commercial real estate experience to his role on the board. Roland will specialize in commercial real estate evaluations.

“We’re excited to welcome Pete to our board of directors,” shared Bank of Luxemburg President/CEO Tim Treml. “His expertise will provide great value to the board as we continue our mission to have a positive impact on people’s lives!”

Financial Literacy

The Pew Charitable Trusts has a great article about financial literacy.

Credit card logos are posted to the door of a business in Atlanta. U.S. household debt reached $13.2 trillion in the first quarter of this year, the 15th consecutive quarter increase.

When Kentucky state Treasurer Allison Ball and a colleague talked with high school seniors last year about credit cards and other pieces of the personal finance puzzle, something wasn’t right.

“We kept using the word ‘interest’ and we kept getting blank stares,” Ball recalled. Finally, she asked the students who knew what interest is. No one did.

“Here they were, about to be adults, two weeks before graduation — and they had no idea about interest on credit card payments,” said Ball, a former bankruptcy attorney. “That’s exactly how you get into trouble.”

Kentucky is the 44th most financially literate state, according to a WalletHub analysis based on 15 metrics, including the availability of high school financial literacy classes and the share of adults with rainy day funds. And the state has the eighth-highest personal bankruptcy rate, with 345 bankruptcy filings per 100,000 residents. But this year Kentucky launched a two-part initiative to help its residents better live within their means.

Beginning with ninth graders in 2020, Kentucky will require a financial literacy course before high school graduation. And assuming the courts allow its work-for-Medicaid plan to proceed, the state will offer financial literacy instruction to some Medicaid recipients who are required to work.

Kentucky’s focus on requiring financial education reflects a budding consensus among policymakers, academics, the finance industry and parents that states need to do more to ensure that students — and adults — learn how to manage credit, craft a budget, borrow for large purchases and save for retirement.

Three other states — Arizona, Iowa and Louisiana — also added financial literacy course requirements for high school graduation this year, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

New Mexico, which already requires a high school personal finance course be offered, will study how to provide financial literacy training to foster care children and help them manage checking and savings accounts. Kansas, which does not require a course, passed a law this year requiring financial assistance for individuals receiving compensation for wrongful convictions.

Until this year, only 17 states required a personal finance course for high school graduation, according to the Council for Economic Education’s 2018 Survey of the States.

Deeper in Debt

The uptick in activity this year comes as Americans sink deeper in debt. U.S. household debt reached $13.2 trillion in the first quarter of 2018, the 15th consecutive quarter increase. That’s higher than in the third quarter of 2008 during the financial crisis. Student loan debt reached a record $1.5 trillion in the first quarter of 2018.

As students have taken on more debt, more state and private universities have started to offer them financial literacy workshops and counseling.

But Stacey Abrams — a Democrat running for governor of Georgia, and the former minority leader of the Georgia House of Representatives —  knows firsthand that a top-notch education and a high-paying job are no guarantee against personal debt.

Owing more than $200,000 in credit card debt, student loan debt and federal back taxes, Abrams has a repayment plan with the IRS.

“I am in debt, but I am not alone. Debt is a millstone that weighs down more than three-quarters of Americans,” she wrote in an op-ed in Fortune, arguing that her indebtedness should not keep her from becoming governor.

“I had racked up student loans, and throughout college and beyond, I’d swiftly turned every credit card application into those magical slivers of plastic that allowed me to pay for daily necessities,” she wrote.

Even when she finished Yale Law School in 1999 and landed a job paying $95,000 a year — three times more than her parents ever made combined, she said — Abrams remained mired in debt because family members needed her help. She used her credit cards again.

If elected, Abrams says she will start a Georgia FinLit Initiative with instruction for kids in elementary school.

For states, pressing forward on financial education means a raft of questions and answers that are likely to anger one group or another. Do we make financial literacy a condition of graduation? Will it be a stand-alone class or covered with other subjects? And, of course, how will we pay for it?

In Kentucky, policymakers tried and failed for at least six years before enacting the financial literacy measure into law.

“The answer to fixing this crisis long-term begins in childhood,” Ball, a Republican who has made financial literacy a priority, wrote in an op-ed endorsing the measure. “The best time to learn basic principles of saving and money management is before a person graduates from high school and enters the workforce.”

Kentucky’s work-for-Medicaid plan is currently on hold. On June 29, a federal judge stopped the rollout scheduled for July 1 and sent the plan back to the federal government, which granted the waiver that allowed Kentucky to add the requirements. The state hopes the plan will be reapproved by fall, said Adam Meier, secretary of Kentucky’s Cabinet for Health and Family Services.

If Kentucky proceeds, Medicaid recipients who fail to meet the work requirements will be offered a choice of online health or financial literacy classes. Members also will be able to take the classes to build credits toward dental or other benefits not included in their benefits package. They will learn such things as how to budget, open a bank account, balance a checkbook and deal with credit.

Nearly a third of Kentuckians receive Medicaid.

“Financial literacy is an issue across the board, but it’s particularly acute with low-income people, who are often unbanked and more vulnerable to payday lenders,” said Meier.

Does It Work?

Meanwhile, the Kentucky Department of Education is drawing up standards for the high school financial literacy requirement. School districts will have wide latitude in deciding how to satisfy the requirement, Ball said. No statewide test is likely, nor is there a budget for the new requirement. She said she plans to form a public-private foundation to cover costs.

There’s no shortage of educational materials by financial institutions and other organizations, and some are free. But there’s a complication.

“People cannot find results that financial literacy education works,” said Lauren Willis, a professor at Loyola Law School in Los Angeles and a prominent critic of financial literacy education.

While it’s possible to test someone’s knowledge of financial concepts like compound interest or inflation, there’s no way to know whether he or she remembers and acts on the concepts over a lifetime.

“It used to be, the way credit was managed, if the bank gave you a loan, you knew you were credit-worthy,” Willis said, because banks wouldn’t make risky loans. “Now you have to decide for yourself whether to take a loan and what kind.”

Willis works with the FoolProof Foundation, a nonprofit based in Florida that provides resources to help students and adults become more skeptical consumers.

Some studies have failed to show much effect of financial literacy education even in the short term. Annamaria Lusardi, academic director of the Global Financial Literacy Excellence Center at George Washington University, said that’s likely because the programs were poorly structured and funded.

“Too few states consider financial literacy essential or rigorous or a scientific topic,” she said. “We see states that don’t require the student to pass the course, or they don’t train the teachers, or it’s an unfunded mandate.”

Other countries do better. The United States ranked 14th in the world for financial literacy in Standard & Poor’s 2014 Global Financial Literacy Survey of more than 140 countries. Only 57 percent of American adults were found to be financially literate.

Ideally, every state would require a financial literacy class with an exam for high school graduation, said Laura Levine, president of the JumpStart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, a nonprofit based in Washington, D.C. That’s not likely anytime soon, so the coalition has a more modest aim.

The coalition, which has more than a hundred national organizations as members as well as affiliates in every state, launched Project Groundswell in April. The goal: to increase by a quarter the number of elementary, middle and high school students receiving “effective classroom-based financial education” by 2025. The coalition is working on specific goals and standards for effective programs.

Groundswell hopes to inspire more parents like Daniel Nestel in Montgomery County, Maryland, and grandparents to get involved.

Nestel, whose background is in financial education, was surprised when his 10th-grade daughter said she was learning about credit scores in her Advanced Placement government class.

“It seemed completely out of context,” said Nestel. “It’s too important to be taught at the end of the class at the end of the school year.”

Nestel started reaching out to local and state school officials and to financial literacy experts. He learned the Maryland Board of Education set financial literacy standards for grades 3 to 12 in 2011, but left implementing them up to each school district.

He wants a semester course on financial literacy with exams in high school.

“I’m trying to start the conversation,” he said. “Tell me what course is more important than personal finance? It touches every student.”