Bank offers lessons on protection from fraud

A law enforcement official with more than 30 years experience told a group of Kenai Peninsula residents and business owners not to underestimate the state’s white collar criminals.

“The fraud environment in Alaska is a lot deeper than you realize,” said Don Krohn, who spent 18 years with the Anchorage Police Department.

Peninsula Crime Stoppers teamed up with First National Bank of Alaska to bring Krohn, First National Bank of Alaska’s security officer, and Michelle Wamack, FNBA’s card fraud investigator, to Soldotna to educate local business people about protection from fraudsters earlier this month at the Donald E. Gilman River Center.

Greg Russell, president of Peninsula Crime Stoppers, approached FNBA about bringing Krohn to the area because he heard his presentation before and thought his material was “excellent.”

“We wanted to bring it down here to do a couple of things,” he said. “We wanted to provide a useful seminar to our local businesses, and also to help get the Crime Stoppers program some name recognition in our community.”

Krohn’s presentation focused on check fraud and cyber fraud. He said check fraud is still on the rise with a loss of nearly $5.5 million each day, according to the Office of Comptroller of the Currency.

He said it is the easiest way to steal money. Krohn warned the about 25 attendees to be prepared for fraudulent checks and ask for identification if they are suspicious of a customer paying with a check.

Then he discussed cyber fraud. If anything looks abnormal while banking online, he said to shut the computer down completely and call the bank. He also said that any computer used to keep track of finances and pay bills should not be used to surf the Internet and should not be used for email.

“It should stand alone,” he said. “… Email is not protected. Email is not secure.”

Krohn also recommended creating strong passwords, updating software manually and being aware of scams.

Wamack’s half of the presentation focused on credit and debit card fraud. She showed the audience different types of devices fraudsters attach to ATM machines to steal card information. She warned the group about keeping cards and receipts safe and never writing down PIN numbers. When in doubt as a salesperson, she recommended asking customers for identification and taking security measures to restrict access to card terminals.

“If you’re not protecting yourself, why should the bank take the loss?” she said.

Terri Segesser, of Log Cabin Liquor in Soldotna, thought the information presented — especially about email and having a separate computer for finances — in the seminar was “really good.”

“I will probably get a separate computer for financial stuff,” she said.

Russell said he thought the seminar went well and was very informative.

“Whatever training and information we can provide to help reduce the likelihood of someone becoming a victim is great,” Russell said.