TD Bank is encouraging its business customers to do their part in preventing fraud by being smart money managers.

“We understand there’s a lot of crime happening out there. We just wanted to create awareness,” said Celeste Donovan, TD Bank’s vice president of cash management and district manager. “We feel like it’s our responsibility.”

A nationwide increase in fraud prompted the bank to host a seminar Monday at the University of Southern Maine. There was a 22 percent increase in Internet crime in 2009, up roughly 6,200 incidents from 2008, according to the Internet Crime Complaint Center. At Monday’s seminar were about 60 people, most with commercial or small-business accounts with TD Bank. Internet fraud was a particular concern.

“Any time we’re moving money, there’s going to be people trying to steal money,” said Sean Carter, senior director of education and rules development for the New England Automated Clearing House. “It’s a fact of life.”

While bank websites are generally secure, fraudulent activity tends to come from viruses on customers’ personal computers that are picked up online or sent via e-mail.

Small steps can be the most effective, said Carter, who suggests banking on a secure Internet connection that isn’t used for Web browsing or e-mail, and therefore isn’t susceptible to Trojan viruses and malware.

Hackers often send e-mails that disable antivirus programs when a document is opened. Others access computers by asking users to download an attachment or click on a website.

Monitoring accounts daily and talking to the bank about any discrepancies is key, Carter said. Guarding important financial information from employees who don’t use it can also save a company from being a victim of fraud.

“Make it harder, not easier, for the bad guys,” Carter said. Keeping passwords secure and taking time at the end of the day to reconcile debits is paramount.

Jeffrey Winchenbach, director of financial services for Maine Medical Center, said he heard many things that he would take back to the office with him and tell other employees, mainly about not opening suspicious e-mails and having a designated computer for financial transactions.

“It’s just another layer of security we could use,” he said. “It’s up to us to share this.”

Brian Coffee, a Secret Service agent, discussed counterfeit bills and “skimming,” stealing credit card information by running a card through a small electronic device that can be handheld or affixed to an ATM or a gasoline pump.

Other officials discussed organized credit card theft and insurance.

Presenters also noted that the blame for fraud can’t continually be put on banks when users fail to take necessary precautions.

“The key to risk management is really shared responsibility,” said Carter. “You just need to be more aware of what’s going on.”


Staff Writer Stephanie Hardiman can be contacted at 791-6301 or at: [email protected]