There are many scams affecting many people during this holiday season and First National Banking Company wants the public to be aware when giving out any form of information concerning their financial matters. The scams can come in many forms, from identity theft, e-mail scams (such as the Nigerian money scandal), receiving counterfeit cashier's checks for products sold over the Internet and elsewhere, guaranteed scholarships targeting high school seniors and phishing (people fishing for personal information over the Internet). Any form of scam or fraud can put an ugly face on someone's good name. A con artist who knows one's Social Security number, bank account number and information or other personal details can temporarily become that person in order to commit fraud. Unfortunately, criminals know the value of a good name and reputation. Fixing the damage for the innocent consumer can take years.
"There are many forms of scams being used and some have hit here at home unfortunately. It's not just in the big cities, it can hit rural America just as easily," said Michael Burris, First National Banking Company's controller and security officer. "People need to use extreme care when giving out pertinent information and taking care of receipts and statements that have account information on them."
"During one of FNBC's executive team meetings recently, the topic was a hot item and the bank felt the public in our communities needed to take extreme care when handling their financial business because of the many people out there more than willing to take advantage of their miscues," Burris said..
The bank offers these tips to reduce risks:
Do not give out Social Security numbers, credit card numbers, bank account numbers, account passwords or other personal information to anyone unless you initiate the contact with a person or company you know and trust.
Don't carry around more checks, credit cards or other bank items than needed.
Don't carry Social Security numbers in wallets or have it pre-printed on checks.
Protect incoming and outgoing mail. Promptly remove mail from the mailbox and don't leave any mail containing any personal information (bills, etc.) out with a red flag up on the mailbox.
Shred or cut up any credit card applications, receipts, canceled checks or bank statements to avoid "dumpster divers" in trash.
Practice home security. Safely store extra checks, credit card info and documents inside the home.
Pay attention to bank account statements and credit card billing cycles. Watch for discrepancies in statements and bills or something suspicious. Also, know when one would normally receive statements and bills each month. Delays or non-delivery should be a red flag.
Review credit reports annually for mistakes and/or unauthorized reportings.
When ordering new checks, pick them up at the bank, rather than having them sent to home mailboxes.
"The main thing is use common sense and be careful when giving out information," added Burris. "If you don't know anything about a company that is trying to get information and/or money from you, just don't do it until you have fully verified they are a legitimate business."
"All the banks in our area are on guard for all types of illegal activity. Regardless of where you bank, you may be asked questions about a transaction if it looks suspicious. It's not that we think you might be trying to do something illegal, but where you got a check or something like that may be the problem and we are trying to protect you," said Martin Carpenter, CEO and chairman of FNBC.
"If people would work as hard on doing something good as trying to be crooked, certainly the world would be a better place," said Carpenter. He also added to remember the old adage -- "If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is."