How to Spot a Scam Email

How many of you have received emails telling you that “You’ve Won the Lottery!” or “A Nigerian Prince has left his estate of $7.4 million to you! All you need to do is give us your bank account number and we will transfer it to you!”? There isn’t one person that I know who hasn’t received something similar in nature.

Most of us are well aware of what those emails look like and have learned to ignore them. However, we are seeing new and more sophisticated scams than ever these days; with the most recent and common scams using business emails. These types of scams are known as a Business Email Compromise (BEC) and employees are falling for these scams more often than you would imagine.

According to the FBI, from 2013 to 2016, there was a total of 22,292 victims of these BEC’s, with a total exposed dollar loss of $1.5 billion dollars.

The most recent trend in BEC’s right now makes it look like it came from someone higher up in your company such as your company President, CEO, or another higher level executive. The email will seem harmless at first and may say something like “Hey, I need you to run a quick task for me, are you available?” The subject line might say something along the lines of “URGENT” or “Request.” If you respond to the email, you may receive an email back with a request for gift cards.

For example: “I need Apple iTunes gift cards to send out to a supplier, can you make this happen? If so, let me know if you can get it now so I can advise the quantity and amounts to procure.” They will then proceed to inform you that they need say, 15 gift cards at $100 each, and all you need to do is just go ahead and purchase them, and then email the codes from the back of each card to them for confirmation.

The believability of these emails, partnered with the reluctance of many employees to question the executive the email supposedly came from, can cost businesses thousands of dollars, and possibly the loss of a job for the employee who falls for the swindle.

With these sorts of scams becoming more and more sophisticated, what can you do to protect your business and your employees from falling for these cons?

Establish policies and procedures regarding company finances and emails. Then, train employees and develop a confirmation policy. Superior con-people are able to obtain access to an executive’s legitimate email account. This means your employees are your last line of defense against scams like these. While these processes may take time and feel inefficient, the extra time will be worth it when it saves you or your employees from significant financial losses.

Some possible validation processes are:

  • Instead of replying to the sender via the “reply” option, use the “forward” option, and select the email address from the company address book. This will ensure you are sending your response to the correct person, which will effectively stop the scam email chain.
  • Use phone calls, video chat or physical signature verification for items above a specific monetary limit. Speaking with the requester personally will reveal any fraudulent requests and prevent losses.
  • Train your employees on how to recognize and report emails that may be fraudulent. Train them not to respond, click on a link, or open any attachments when an email is questionable or unanticipated. This might create more work for your IT department, but the time spent confirming the emails authenticity will be time well spent.

By educating users and creating and implementing good preventative practices, you can help protect your company attacks like these. Considering all of the money these scammers have already made, they are not likely to stop anytime in the future.

The best thing you can do is be proactive and ensure employees are aware of what threats could look like, and provide them with a multi-step validation process when someone asks for company data, or monetary goods.



Gold piggy bank with coins on edge

No matter your age, you probably have lots of questions and concerns about saving for retirement. How to save for it, what options are available, and, most importantly, how much money should you be socking away?

One of the most common ways to start saving for retirement is through an employer-sponsored 401(k) plan. Most companies offer them, and for most people, this is their sole retirement savings account. But with so many options, unfamiliar terms, stipulations, and rules, 401(k)s can be mystifying even to more financially literate savers. Here, we’ll answer one of the more common questions.

What’s the Ideal Amount to Set Aside?

Of course, this answer will differ depending on retirement goals, existing resources, lifestyle and family decisions, but a common notion is to set aside at least 10% of your gross earnings into a retirement fund as a start. When finances and salary allow, upping contributions to 15% (or more) may be ideal for some savers. In any case, if your company offers a 401(k) match, you should contribute at least enough to get the full match—it’s free money, after all. Many companies (though not all) offer a match, so be sure to check if your plan features one if you aren’t sure. Then at least make it enough to get all of the match. You can always ramp up or scale back your deferral rate later.

Many plans require a 6% deferral to get the full match, and many savers stop there. That may be enough for some savers given their other resources or situations, but for most, it probably won’t be. If you start early enough, given the time it has to grow, even 10% may add up to a very nice nest egg—especially as your salary grows. But most people agree that more is better—15% or even 20% should be your goal, some say.

Take Note, Older Savers

  • If you start saving later in life, especially when you’re in your 50s, you may need to increase your contribution amount. Luckily for late savers, there is an opportunity to catch up that allows you to contribute more annually than is usually allowed. As of 2019, the limit on catch-up contributions is $6,000 for individuals who are age 50 or older any day of that calendar year. For example, if you turn 50 on or before Dec. 31. 2019, you can contribute $6,000 more than the $19,000 401(k) contribution limit for that year for a total of $25,000.

The More the Better

There are indeed many variables to consider when thinking about that ideal amount for retirement. Are you married? Is your spouse employed? How much will you expect from Social Security benefits? Retirement age calls for a certain amount of comfort, but this also varies by lifestyle. Will you spend most of your time gardening at your home, traveling, buying a boat, or perhaps riding a motorcycle cross-country? Will health concerns lead to big, unexpected bills? All of these factors should be taken into account when planning for retirement. However, regardless of your age and marital status, financial advisors agree that between 10-20% of your salary is a good amount to contribute toward your retirement fund.

Most financial planning studies suggest that the ideal contribution percentage to save for retirement is between 15% to 20% of gross income. These contributions could be made into a 401(k) plan, 401(k) match received from an employer, IRA, Roth IRA, and/or taxable accounts. As your income grows, it is important to continue to save 15% to 20% of your income so that you can invest the funds.

2019 Contribution Limits

Worth noting is the 2019 IRS limits for contributions: the elective deferral (contribution) limit for employees who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan is $19,000 (up from $18,500 in 2018). As noted, the catch-up contribution limit for employees aged 50 and over who participate in 401(k), 403(b), most 457 plans, and the federal government’s Thrift Savings Plan remains unchanged at $6,000. The limit on IRA contributions is $6,000 (up from $5,500 in 2018), with a $1,000 catch-up contribution for those 50 or older.

The Bottom Line

Planning for retirement—and doing it early—is really important. If done properly, and with some financial sacrifices, you can ensure a nice quality of life in retirement. The most important thing is to contribute as much as you can as early as you can and be sure to take full advantage of your employer’s matching contributions if any. Besides a 401(k), you may want to look into opening additional accounts such as an IRA, Roth IRA, or other vehicles or investments. If all of this financial planning seems overwhelming, it may be a good idea to look into a fee-only financial advisor for advice on how to proceed when your options, resources, and needs increase.

Our team at Matisse Capital is here to help guide you into retirement.

Article contributed by Matisse Capital.
For more information contact Dan Sholian
503-210-3002 |

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One of my favorite concepts regarding leadership development is about the interrelated concept of power. Leadership and power go hand in hand. A common definition of power is “the capacity or ability to direct or influence the behavior of others or the course of events.” If a leader doesn’t have power, they probably aren’t accomplishing much.

But there are three different sources from which a leader can draw power. The first, and perhaps the one we think of first, is position power: “By the power bestowed in me as your boss/supervisor/manager you must do X, Y and Z.” It is an authoritarian power that uses consequences – both good and bad – as a way to get you to do something. If you do what I say, you will be rewarded, or at least, not punished. If you do not, well… you might be given a verbal warning, written up, or terminated. I have some sort of authority over you by the nature of my position and from that source I can direct and influence you.

The second source of power is knowledge and/or expertise. Let’s say I have no position power – that I’m just a peer and a colleague. However, if you respect my expertise – if you believe I truly know my stuff – then you will comply if I ask you to do something. Like with authoritarian power, there are consequences, but they are quite different. The consequences here are more along the lines of wanting to “get it right.” If I ask you to do something you’ll do it because you likely believe I’m right that it’s a good way to move forward. If you don’t, you might look bad in the eyes of others. If I have a reputation for knowing what I’m doing, by the nature of my expertise I can influence you.

The third source of power is relationship. Let’s say I have no position power. Like the previous example, I’m just a peer and a colleague, but let’s change the scenario so that I’m not known for my subject matter expertise. Perhaps I’m newer in the organization or my expertise is more general. In this example, if I’ve worked my relationship muscle – if I’ve developed a relationship with you and it is built on mutual respect – then you will likely do what I ask you to do. You won’t do it because you have to or because you’ll risk looking stupid if you don’t. Rather, you will want to avoid the consequence of damaging our relationship. It is from the nature of our relationship that I can influence you.

To be honest, I have little use or respect for position power. That’s not to say that I think there is never a right time to discipline or let an employee go. I just don’t want to lead with that power. If I do, at best you will do what I want when I’m around, but when I’m not? That’s a whole different story. In the long run, position power only works because it is fueled by fear – fear of not being in compliance. Hopefully, I’m not alone in thinking this is both antiquated and ineffective.

Unlike position power, I have no problem with knowledge power. It’s great, but if I use this as my only power source I’m likely going to have mixed success. At some point, someone is going to question my expertise. And it’s probably good that they do, because it keeps me wanting to learn and grow instead of resting on my laurels. Similarly, that power might not have as much currency if I’m successfully building the expertise of the people around me. Hoarding knowledge so that I can retain this power isn’t such a great idea.

That leaves us with relationship power and, please note, by that I do not mean friendship power. The difference is that even if I don’t like someone I’m working with I still have a relationship with them. Ideally, that relationship will be based in mutual trust and respectful communication. There will be transparency, commitment, dependability and accountability. We will recognize that we must work together to achieve our goals. If I’ve built a good foundation with you in my relationship power, I will likely be successful when I draw power from it. It also works great alongside our expertise power. After all, who wants to work with an insufferable know-it-all?

Here at Cascade, our members come from diverse industries and backgrounds. Chances are, we may not be able teach you the industry-specific expertise you need to know to do your job well. However, all of our leadership training is steeped in building relationship power with the people we serve. Whether we are peers or supervisors, we can leverage our relationship power to meet goals, address conflict, and make decisions with the integrity we’d expect of a true leader.

Check out all of our leadership offerings in our catalog.



MV Advancements

Guest Article By: Kathy Schlotfeldt, Executive Director
MV Advancements and Cascade Board Member

We are at a time in history where we no longer need to “create” jobs for individuals with a disability. There are business needs that already exist in our communities. And statistically, people with disabilities stay at their jobs longer and have better-than-average attendance.

  1. Did you know that all sheltered workshops in Oregon that employ people with disabilities will be closed by 2020?

    In response to a class action settlement in 2015 (Lane vs. Brown), sheltered workshops are closing around the state in order to be compliant with the terms of the lawsuit and in compliance with the Governor’s Executive Order No. 15-01, prioritizing community employment for people with disabilities. This means that individuals experiencing disabilities are now accepting jobs in our communities with many local businesses, positively impacting the business community as well as the employee.

  2. Did you know that the unemployment rate for individuals with developmental disabilities is over 70%?

    It’s a myth to think that individuals experiencing disabilities have their needs met by social services or welfare or even family members. The fact is, earning money builds independence, confidence, self-esteem, and provides opportunities for friendships so that they, too, can live a good life. What would your life be like if you never had a job? These individuals, like us, want the same things that you and I want: a home, friends, and – a job.

  3. Did you know that hiring someone with a developmental disability can increase your employee retention?

    Over the last 2 years at MV Advancements (MVA), the retention rate for supported individuals placed at jobs in the community was over 85%! A successful hire of a supported individual has a high rate of success because MVA takes care to get to know both the individual and the employer before recommending a match. MVA has over 50 individuals on its waiting list for employment in the communities within Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties, but they need more employers willing to offer opportunities. Before placing an individual in a job, MVA conducts free assessments and explores job options to meet the demand and make quality employment matches. Their supported individuals are an asset to an employer and come with job coaches to support them on the job and teach them how to engage in the workplace. This alleviates training and onboarding costs that can be a barrier to employment. This is a win-win for both the employee and the employer!

  4. Do you know the benefits of being diverse in your employment practices?

    Companies that hire supported individuals constantly tell MVA that their culture shifts, biases fade, morale improves, and their company thrives. Why is this? MVA believes that hiring a supported employee adds an essential element to the workplace that brings compassion, honesty, and equity. These individuals are held to the same standards as other employees; they are expected to be on time, polite, and productive. But let the employers speak for themselves. This is what Melisa Parrish from HR at Ushio America, a manufacturing company in Newberg, says: “Hiring employees through MV Advancements has been a great success for Ushio America. MVA has a great support staff that helps us find the right employees for the jobs we have, and with their continued job coaching support it has helped these employees and Ushio thrive.”

  5. Did you know there are organization out there that help businesses hire individuals experiencing disabilities?

    MV Advancements is committed to helping the individuals they support to live a good life as active and contributing members of their community. MVA empowers and supports over 300 individuals in Marion, Polk and Yamhill counties to live, work, and thrive. They have many opportunities for employers to help make this transformation of employment successful for individuals with disabilities seeking jobs in Oregon. MVA promises to make it easy for employers and their commitment is that it will be a real win for your business! Email their team for more information at For a list of other organizations in Oregon that help businesses hire individuals experiencing disabilities, contact Oregon Resource Association (ORA).

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