John Zollinger, Executive Vice President and Head of Commercial Banking at Home Bank, joins Discover Lafayette to discuss ways to stay vigilant against fraudsters working 24/7 to gain access to your financial assets. With over $5 billion in check fraud last year alone, this is an important topic to understand.

Banks work diligently to protect the financial assets of their customers. It’s a challenge that requires a lot of time and energy and it’s up to each of us to be more aware of how to protect ourselves beforehand.

The banking industry has changed dramatically since the days when children were taught to open checking accounts and write checks. John spoke about the dangers of check fraud and how we should start relying less on paper checks instead of online banking solutions.

It has become commonplace for checks to be stolen and then “washed” by an eraser or chemical baths which remove the ink and allow the original to be altered. While most checks have security features like watermarks, threads, and holograms, and the edits can make it look like a third-grader has done the job, with a million checks deposited by months, many fakes slip through the cracks. While artificial intelligence is used to find counterfeits, unless a check is written for more than $10,000, it is unlikely to be detected. Criminals therefore compensate in volume, and as John Zollinger puts it, “the business of check fraud is an industry”.

“Stop writing checks when you can. Writing a check and giving it to someone is probably still safe and secure. But writing a check and mailing it with the USPS is not secure. there are people stealing the mail from the blue post office boxes. They will duplicate the keys to the mailbox and take the mail out or they will take the box and take it with them. USPS employees have also been put in engaged in fraud by stealing checks.

John Zollinger’s mission is to educate bank customers and the public on the advisability of using Automated Clearing House (“ACH”) transfers for third-party payments. By making these electronic transfers directly from your bank account, you have an inexpensive way to complete a secure transaction. “ACH is so much cheaper. While it may cost $3-5 for each check a business will write (cost of check, printer toner, envelope, stamp, etc.), it costs 10 cents per ACH transfer . From a payment and efficiency perspective, you can’t beat the ACH process. »

He also advocates the “Positive Pay” app, an optional check fraud prevention service for businesses that use online banking. The customer uploads in Positive Pay all the data of the checks issued with information on the beneficiary, date, amount, etc. Checks presented for payment to the bank account are checked against information sent by the business to Home Bank. Any check not on the checklist issued is returned to the customer on an exceptional basis for review, either to return or approve the item. This gives the business a chance to flush out fraud or errors with continued help from the bank.

“Our ability to serve our customers through technology continues to improve. Today, we spend more on technology than on our facilities. Ten years ago, the industry said that checks were going to disappear. We said the same thing five years ago, but the checks are still there. I don’t know if they will ever go away unless the banks say they won’t continue to offer this service. Zelle, Venmo and other cash trading apps are very secure. We can trust them. Especially Zelle which was created by Wells Fargo. But there is no practical difference between Zelle and Venmo.

John recommends that you be wary of almost anything that arrives in your inbox with a clickable link. Don’t automatically trust emails because that’s where hackers come in. You can avoid almost anything as far as financial loss by taking your time to investigate the message. Does he use proper grammar? Is the email address consistent with the domain name? Should we call the establishment to verify the message?

John also recommends using the “Tap to Pay” feature on your credit or debit card to prevent “skimming”, something thieves do to obtain personal data from debit, debit or debit cards. credit when used at an ATM or at a merchant. . If you need to swipe your card at the gas pump, pull out the device you inserted your card into and make sure there is no skimmer on it. Card skimmers are a common way to have your card number stolen or your account hacked.

“The fraudsters spend 100% of their time trying to take advantage of us. And people spend maybe 10% of their time trying to avoid being taken advantage of. People are generally nice and trusting and scammers take advantage of this. When it comes to your finances, don’t be nice, don’t trust,” says John Zollinger.

One of the saddest aspects of bank fraud, according to John Zollinsky, are the “fronts”, the people who are paid to cash dishonest and fraudulent checks. They are usually homeless or drug addicts and unaware of the criminal liability they may incur by participating in bank fraud for a small payment to perform a service.

It’s important to build a relationship with your banker and ask for ways to protect yourself and your business from fraud. Each person’s situation is different. “Having a personal relationship with a banker is important. Digital banking is convenient. But when it comes to doing things the right, safe way in managing your business and your money, it’s important to have that conversation with a banker.

Home Bank is a $3.5 billion bank, probably the 500th largest bank in the country out of 4,700 banks. “I like to say we’re big enough to do almost anything for anyone, but small enough to pay close attention to our customers,” says John Zollinger.

Password creation is such an important topic. “If you include a word in your password, it is not as secure as a random password. A good way to create a password is to create a phrase and use the first letter and the last letter of each word in the phrase. Do not use the same password for all your accounts. Use Password Keeper or a similar application to secure your information.

John Zollinsky celebrates his 12th year with Home Bank and his 32nd year as a banker in 2022. We thank him and Home Bank for all they do to serve their customers.

We also thank Home Bank for their sponsorship of Discover Lafayette! For more information on the many ways they can help you, please visit https://www.home24bank.com/.