2019-08-30 14:37:30

By John Underwood / john@gulfcoastmedia.com

BAY MINETTE, Alabama — “Protect Your Small Business From Fraud,” was the topic of a lunch-n-learn seminar presented Thursday, Aug. 22 Regions Bank in Bay Minette.

The seminar, part of Regions Next Step for Business, was hosted by Bay Minette Branch Manager Lamar Morris and was presented by Kariene Fortner, vice president relationship manager for Regions Next Step Financial Wellness, based in Mobile.

Also in attendance was Jamie M. Salerno, branch manager and assistant vice president with the Regions Schillinger Road branch in Mobile.

“The biggest thing you can do to protect yourself from fraud is education,” Fortner said. “Our goal is to provide you with the information you need to recognize and prevent fraud in your small business.”

Fortner touched on a wide variety of topics during the hour-long seminar including bookkeeper fraud, and how to protect your small business from fraud when participating in Internet banking, paper payments and electronic payments.

“Bookkeeper fraud is the No. 1 type of fraud that affects small business,” Fortner said. “Oftentimes these are trusted employees that take advantage of close relationships with clients.”

Attendees were given a “Fraud Prevention Checklist,” and a “Preventing Fraud” worksheet, “to provide a 360-degree view for business.”

Items on the checklist for bookkeeper fraud included:

• Do you sign blank checks?

• Do you maintain dual control for issuing or reconciling checks?

• Are employees aware of and adhere to internal controls?

• Do you restrict employee access to accounting systems?

• Do you have an approval process for new vendors?

The seminar also focused on cybersecurity, preventing hackers through security measures and watching out for fake websites and phishing emails.

“Approximately 91 percent of all cyberattacks begin with a phishing email,” Fortner said. “One of the biggest things to look for are emails that ask you for your personal information. Think about it. When you filled out your application, you provided us with all of your information. Trust me, we don’t need to ask you for your information. We already have it.”

Other warning signs include emails that are addressed to “valued customer” or other variations of a generic greeting.

“Almost always if the email does not address you specifically by name, it is not legitimate,” she said.

Also, pay attention to the address that the email is coming from. Chances are if it is not legitimate, it will look official, but the address will be slightly off.

Grammar and spelling mistakes are also a huge red flag, Fortner said.

“We know how to spell,” she said. “When we send something out, we are required to use a standard form and it will go through several checks before it is ever sent out. It is very rare that anything official will have spelling or grammatical errors in it.”

The seminar was presented as part of Regions Next Step Financial Wellness seminar series.

Other seminars include:

• 10 Ways to Simplify Your Life Using Banking Technology.

• Banking Basics for Students.

• Building Your Financial Know-How.

• Energize Yourself Financially.

• Managing Your Money.

• Maximize Your Personal Wealth.

• Protect Yourself From Identity Theft.

• The Importance of Saving.

• Tips and Tools for Helping Seniors Avoid Financial Exploitation.

• Saving for Retirement.

• Your Credit Report.

• Your Road to Home Ownership.

• Counterfeit Money Awareness and Cash Handling Tips.

• Financial Tips for Your Small Business.

All seminars are provided free of charge and are available to the general public, not just Regions Bank customers.

“This is not a sales pitch,” Fortner said. “These are simply tools that are made available to help people improve their financial wellness.

If you would like more information on the Regions Bank Next Step series, visit regionsbank.com/next-step or call 1-800-REGIONS (734-4667).





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