As a local bank President in Britt, Iowa, I continually see financial fraud committed against the people of our community. I tend to see a lax approach with guarding personal information when people go on-line to manage their financial accounts. Most of us are not technologically minded but there are some very easy steps we can take to guard against fraud.

First and foremost, secure and change passwords often. Secondly, make sure your personal computer is protected with up-to-date anti-virus software. Thirdly, make sure your personal computer is up-to-date with the latest operating systems patches.

If you do nothing more than these three things, it will greatly reduce the risk to your personal information. I also see innocent people being taken advantage often on social media by fraudsters gaining the trust of the person they are communicating with online.

The most common scam is where the fraudster will mail a befriended person a check, usually for thousands of dollars and ask them to cash it at their bank and then deposit the cash in the fraudsters account at a large bank in the area. The fraudster will be generous to the person, allowing them to keep a large portion of the check as a fee for their help. After the person cashes the check and deposits the funds into the fraudsters account, the check comes back in a few short days to the bank that cashed the check as a bad check. Unfortunately, the befriended person is liable for the entire loss as the fraudster and deposited cash are nowhere to be found.

My advice is simple: if it sounds too good to be true, it always is. Make a pledge to be more vigilant with protecting our personal information as the stakes are simply too high to ignore.

Eric Newton, Britt

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