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It’s Personal

K Serinis
Karen C. Serinis
Executive Vice President, Retail Banking and Marketing
[email protected]
(585) 419-0670 x50650

Published in the August issue of Rochester Woman Magazine

We find ourselves in unprecedented times, enduring economic and emotional stress stemming from a global health pandemic. We are all striving to keep ourselves healthy and safe. As a member of the financial services industry, I would like to encourage you to apply those same instincts to your financial well-being and security. The stark reality is that while we fight this invisible enemy, fraudsters have chosen to seize this as an opportunity to prey the on circumstances surrounding this current environment. Today, I will offer points to consider in the prevention and deterrence of fraud, as to be armed with knowledge serves to minimize many instances of vulnerability.

Fraud can be defined many ways: deceit, trickery, intentional perversion of truth to secure unfair or unlawful gain; the intentional false representation or concealment of a material fact for the purpose of inducing another to act upon his injury. According to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), the number of reported fraud annually is in the millions, and the amount of dollars lost are in the billions! It is a sizable problem, one that is on the rise and one that mutates as unique scenarios arise.

The most common types of fraud are imposter scams, debt collection, and identity theft. Credit card fraud—in which a credit card account is established with stolen information—is the most prevalent in the ID theft cases. However, when opportunity knocks, there can be some nuances on old schemes! For example, agencies that have been swamped with volume include the NYS Department of Unemployment and the Small Business Administration (re: Paycheck Protection Program loans). The calculated intent of these criminals was to get lost in this volume. There is currently a local investigation with FBI involvement with respect to fraudulent claims for unemployment benefits and fraudulent business loans. I personally know many individuals across many different companies in Rochester who have been victim to these attempts. The Red Flags here? A pull [inquiry] on your credit report for the SBA loan—it is important to monitor that report periodically or become a member of a service that monitors it for you. The unemployment benefits scam only became known when HR departments received notice of benefit claims by those who were still employed—as well as by the victims receiving NYS notices outlining benefit packages. There were attempts to switch direct deposit accounts submitted to Payroll Departments via a spoofed email from the “employee”. Sharp follow up by those payroll individuals with the real employees saved many from further detriment!

So, what can you do? First, read! There are many internet articles with vast amounts of information and examples of different schemes. The Federal Trade Commission offers consumer information and scam details at: https://www.consumer.ftc.gov/. Being able to quickly see similarities to those will serve as triggers to alert you. Many are repetitive. To outline a few: The Grandparents Scheme: a phone call from grandchild (a bad connection, hard to hear, of course), asking for bond money if in jail or “money to come home” if on a trip; The Sellers Scheme: a seller on Craigs List or eBay, etc., interacts with a “buyer” who sends a check in excess of price and asks for all or part of overage to be shipped with item. Of course, check comes back NSF [insufficient] after the merchandise and monies were sent; The Lottery Winner: you have won a sum of money! You just need to send a check first to cover processing fees! Of course, no winnings are ever received. These seem “obvious”, however, statistics show them to be widely successful.

Additional points:
  1. Think before you click links and/or attachments in email and (now) text messages. Unless you know the sender and/or the link—hesitate, inquire, or delete.
  2. Beware of what you share. Many fraudsters gather personal information (pet’s names, children’s names, birthday, etc.) from various social media sites. This information many times transfers to password composition. Lock down who can see that type of information.
  3. Passwords; consider passphrases. String together random words or sentences with symbols or numbers intermixed. Passphrases may be far easier to remember and much harder to hack. Example: Timef0rplayat5:00. Refrain from using the same password or passphrase multiple places as it increases one’s risk for multiple hacks.
  4. Shop safely online. Look for the https: on the site or a padlock icon on the page. Consider using Apple Pay or Samsung Pay, etc., when available. The purchase is completed with a secure one-time token vs. the actual credit card information (i.e., nothing to copy or duplicate!). The same benefit holds true at retail stores and with in-person chip card usage.

Strive to maintain a raised awareness with regards to safeguarding what is yours. Keep vigilant; stay well.

To see this article in Rochester Woman Magazine, click here.