Ref watching game

Officiating the Big Game of Consumer Compliance

Brandi GrayPost written by Brandi Gray, AVP Fair and Responsible Banking Officer

The banking industry has exploded with more consumer protection compliance regulations in part due to the financial crisis of 2009.

It’s like watching the Super Bowl between banks and regulators, and the regulations are the rules by which the game must be played. The regulations make sure the game is played fairly so consumer harm is prevented and those who intentionally harm a player are penalized.

Compliance officers are the referees who must interpret the rules/regulations and make sure everyone is playing by those highly technical rules. Not everyone likes the referees (or the rules), but everyone knows they need to be there to make sure the game is played fairly.

Referees/compliance officers need specialized training during the regular season of play to make sure they’re prepared to ref the big games, like the Super Bowl of the compliance world, also known as the FDIC Compliance Exam.

Many industries have professional certifications that identify and promote industry excellence. One such certification in the banking industry is the Certified Regulatory Compliance Manager or CRCM.  It’s a nationally recognized, job specific, regulatory certification through the distinguished American Banker’s Association (ABA).

The ABA requires a few years of compliance experience before a person sits for this rigorous exam. CRCMs must adhere to a Professional Code of Ethics which emphasizes a “high standard of conduct, competency, knowledge, professionalism, integrity, objectivity, and responsibility as they discharge their duties in the practice of their profession.”

Ref watching gameWe strive for excellence and support those staff members who want to advance their professional education in their fields.

At Stockman, we have four CRCM certified “referees” playing the game who make sure all sides are following the rules and no one is harmed.

Currently, there are 20 CRCM certified compliance officers in the State of Montana.

The CRCM exam assesses the individuals in the following banking fields: Credit, Deposit, Banking Operations, Bank Secrecy Act/Anti Money Laundering, Community Reinvestment Act/HMDA, Privacy, Securities, Insurance and Other Financial Services. These topics involve, at a minimum, 42 industry topics and regulations.

Referees/compliance officers in this field are involved in the application, implementation, and maintenance of relevant federal and state regulations.

We also have one Certified AML and Fraud Professional referee/compliance officer.

In the changing playing field of consumer compliance, it’s important that the referee/compliance officers commit to their industry by investing in ongoing education.

Having skilled and certified referees/compliance officers also demonstrates to regulators that we’re keeping our employees current and up-to-date with industry regulations and hot topics.

We want a fair and honest playing field for all those looking to do business with us and who have made significant investments to improve their game.

We have other staff members with professional designations. Stay tuned for future blogs to learn more about them.

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Scam 600 x 450

Is That Check Bad?

Nicolle StuartPost written by Nicolle Stuart

It’s easy to believe that you are working for a valid secret shopping company when they send you your first official-looking check in the mail. But could that check be the scam itself?

Fraudsters have become very clever at creating fake checks that look completely legitimate, fooling consumers and even bank employees. These fake checks are used to commit all sorts of scams.

These scams come in many different forms such as phony prize awards, fake job offers, mystery shopper cons, and bogus online classified sales. Before you deposit a check from something you sold online or wire funds to an unknown recipient, here is what you should know.

Although there are many variations of this scam, the basic way it works is you receive a check for a large amount of money and are asked to refund or pass on a portion of the amount to the sender or a third party. By the time you find out the check is fake, your money is long gone.

Common check scams to look out for:

Mystery Shopper: While looking for an extra way to make money you answer an advertisement to be a mystery shopper. The company sends you a check to supposedly cover the items you will be buying and to “test” Western Union’s services. You will also be able to deduct your pay from the check.

How to tell it’s a scam?

  • The check is for more than $1,000 and the company says you can keep a $250 to $300 fee for the job. Real mystery shopper jobs pay $10 to $25 per job.
  • They pay you in advance. Legitimate mystery shopping jobs only pay you after you have submitted your review to them.
  • If the company asks you to “test” out Western Union it’s a good sign that it’s a scam. Once you wire out any funds, the money is instantly gone and in the criminals hands.

Sweepstakes: You’ve just won a lottery! You’ve received a check for $10,000 which is just a portion of your winnings. To claim the rest of your winnings all you have to do is send out a personal check for the taxes due on your winnings.

Financial scamHow to tell it’s a scam?

  • You didn’t enter the lottery. (Trust me you would know if you had.)
  • Taxes are collected after you receive your income, not before.
  • Governments collect taxes, not lotteries.

Overpayment: You’re selling some purebred bulldog puppies, a car, TV, or various other items online. You get contacted by someone who is very interested in buying a bulldog puppy (or whatever you’re selling) and is desperate to pay you as soon as possible.

There’s just one problem, the buyer is from overseas, hasn’t opened a  bank account in the USA and can only pay you with a third-party check. You can simply take the check, deduct out the amount for the puppy, and wire the rest back to them, right?

How to tell it’s a scam?

  • The buyer not having a bank account in the USA is a noticeable sign that they are trying to scam you. If you cash a third party check, you’re responsible for the funds if the check is returned.
  • If your buyer is showing a sense of urgency they’re usually just trying to rush you into the scam before you can think it through clearly. Let them know you will hold the puppy until they open an account or give them first pick on another litter. Don’t let a buyer rush you into anything you’re unsure about.

How can you avoid these fake check scams?

  • Bad checkDon’t take any offer seriously that requires you to pay for a prize. If it’s free or a gift you shouldn’t have to pay anything for it.
  • Don’t respond to online solicitations for “easy money.” Keep in mind that easy money is rarely legal money.
  • Stay away from entering foreign lotteries. Other than the fact that it’s illegal to play a foreign lottery, most foreign lottery solicitations are a hoax.
  • Know who you’re doing business with and never wire out or accept wires from strangers.
  • When selling something, don’t accept a check for more than the selling price, no matter how convincing the story they give you. Ask the buyer to write a check for the correct amount.  If they refuse, return the check to them. Don’t send out the merchandise.
  • If a buyer insists that you wire back funds, end the transaction. Legitimate buyers don’t pressure you to send money by wire transfer services.
  • If a check you received seems suspicious, get advice. Reach out to your state or local consumer protection agency, the Federal Trade Commission, the Postal Service, your local bank (we’re happy to help), or another trusted source.
  • Even if a check has “cleared”, you may not be in the clear. Banks must make deposited funds available quickly, but just because you can withdraw the money doesn’t mean the check is good. It can take weeks to find out if a check is good or not.

Keep in mind that there is no legitimate reason for someone who is giving you money to ask you to wire money back. Be sure to report any suspected fraud to your bank immediately. To prevent these scams from affecting more people in the future, report it to the Federal Trade Commission or The Better Business Bureau’s Scam Tracker.

Bank disclosures

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Consumer Confidence…Not Quite So Confident

Eric VermulmPost written by Eric Vermulm, CFA | Chief Investment Officer | Stockman Wealth Management

Consumer Confidence is one of the best leading indicators. Before every recession of the last 50 years, confidence has dropped. In December, it was weaker than expected.

Is this reversal a warning flag, or just a temporary bump in the road?

Through last fall, Consumer Confidence was hitting new highs for this economic cycle.

We were seeing some of the strongest readings since the late 1960s and late 1990s, both themselves at the end of long economic expansions.

Consumer Confidence Chart

This has us on alert – from these heightened levels, any sustained reversal will be a significant warning flag that the average consumer is becoming more cautious. The good news is that this was just a one-month downturn, hardly a negative trend.

Also, in past cycles, the peak in Consumer Confidence has come (on average) 12 months before the next recession and about 8 months before the peak in the stock market, so there should be some lead time.

While this recent downturn is not an outright warning flag yet, we will be closely watching Consumer Confidence in the coming months.

Stockman Bank Wealth Management Disclaimer


The Change of Seasons  

Post written by Jason Schumacher, Personal Banker

The change of seasons means something different to each of us. Living in Montana, each season can be quite erratic.

Though at times there may be winter-like conditions in the middle of summer, or extreme heat waves one day to snow storms the next in the Fall, our great state has, for the most part, four distinct seasons: Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter. This is what the changing of seasons means to this Dillon banker!

When the seasons change, I get excited about the different activities each season brings with it. During springtime, it’s hard to beat the fight of a hungry and aggressive brown trout. Soon after, Summer comes around and golf season is in full swing (pun intended), and I get to scratch that competitive itch of mine during the many tournaments in the Beaverhead area.

Jason golfing

Without warning, Fall is here and with it cooler temperatures signaling hunting season – a great time to reconnect with friends in the mountains. After hunting season is over, the thoughts of skiing and ice fishing during a beautiful Montana winter never leave my mind.

There are endless things to enjoy in Montana throughout the year and we can all agree that Montana is a great place to live because of the change of seasons!

In the banking world, each season means customer needs and services are different too. Spring is tax season for bankers and the time of year when I’m helping customers with IRA distributions and contributions, opening individual Health Savings Accounts (HSA) or Montana Medical Savings Accounts, and providing end of year tax forms to our customers during business hours. After hours you will find me landing a trout – all of which are equally rewarding to me.

I think of summertime as a banker’s travel season. While summer is also vacation time for a lot of bankers, it’s also the busiest time of year for our customers and my favorite time of year as a banker.

You will find me putting our customers on travel lists, opening vacation accounts, and trying to handle the increased lobby traffic as well as the increase in deposits and small loan applications. Another perk during the summer season is the relaxed dress code (no ties)!  Summer means longer hours of daylight, warmer temperatures and an abundance of opportunities to hit the links.

Fall, or as I like to call it, student account season, is next. Whether it’s a former Dillon Beaver going off to college or a student opening up their first checking account, it’s a time to see old acquaintances and make new friends.

UM-Western Welcome back to school Fair RE

It sure does bring enjoyment to all of us at Stockman Bank when we get to develop new relationships with those new to Dillon. Fall seems to be the shortest season or at least the quickest to fly by, but it’s also one of the most enjoyable seasons for me. Fall means hunting season and the time of the year I look forward to the most.

Jason fall hunting RE

There’s nothing quite like spending days with my brother and good friends from college braving the elements, staying up late around the campfire, getting up early and searching for that next trophy deer or elk.

Last but not least, Winter is upon us, or in a banker’s world: the holiday season. This is a special time of year for all of us. Holidays are a time when we get to spend time with our families and it’s a great way to ring in the New Year.

Shorter days and frigid temperatures create a challenge when it comes to catching that monster fish through a hole in the ice. And, for those few times I’m able to ski each year, the fresh air and breathtaking scenery keeps me longing for more winter.

Jason ice fishing RE

Each season brings different joys and challenges with it in the banking industry, but each season also brings many rewards that keep me coming back and wanting to learn more. We all enjoy each different season for different reasons, but being a banker in Dillon brings enjoyment to my life regardless of the season.

That’s what the change of seasons means to me. What about you?

Disclosure 1