Preventing fraud everyone's responsibility

Recently in the news there have been many instances of fraud and attempted fraud.

Whether over the Internet, the phone or through the mail, consumers need to protect themselves from predators who are trying to steal their money or identity.

In this week's column, the purpose is to inform readers of different types of fraud. Please be aware of these scams. If something does not feel right, or if someone is asking for personal information, it may be a scam.

Two of the most popular frauds today include online fraud and check fraud.

Online fraud uses the Internet to obtain confidential information. A popular form of online fraud is is called phishing (pronounced ''fishing'').

Criminals use fraudulent e-mails or pop-up Web pages designed to entice you to share personal or account information.

Criminals often send fake e-mails that look like they're from legitimate companies. To make them appear authentic, the e-mails may include logos of trusted companies.

These e-mail or pop-up Web pages may ask you to provide, update or verify your personal information , telling you that if you do not update your information, access to your accounts will be restricted.

If you respond to these online scams, you jeopardize the security of your accounts. If in doubt, please call or visit your bank to discuss what is being asked for.

Check fraud is the act of counterfeiting a check or negotiating a check that has been knowingly altered or forged in any way -- in an effort to defraud a financial institution. This type of fraud is one of the largest challenges facing financial institutions.

Technology has made it increasingly easy for criminals to to create realistic counterfeit and fictitious checks as well as false identification that can be used to defraud financial institutions. It is very important to review your statements and accounts each month. Shredding your personal information, including your old checks can also help stop this fraud.

The bottom line in stopping all fraud is to be careful who has your information. Don't provide personal information to sources you are not familiar with. Securely dispose of all personal information through shredding or burning. If fraud is suspected, contact your financial institution immediately. Preventing fraud is everyone's business.