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Fraud - Definition

In criminal law, fraud is the crime or offense of deliberately deceiving another in order to damage them – usually, to obtain property or services unjustly.

Fraud can be accomplished through the aid of forged objects. In the criminal law of common law jurisdictions it may be called "theft by deception," "larceny by trick," "larceny by fraud and deception" or something similar.


Fraud Watch®  PLUS

The ATM/Debit cards we issue are protected by FraudWatch® PLUS.  If suspicious activity is noticed on your ATM/Debit card, Fraud Prevention Services will call to notify you.

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Phishing and Internet fraud

Phishing operates by sending forged e-mail, impersonating an online bank, auction or payment site; the e-mail directs the user to a forged web site which is designed to look like the login to the legitimate site but which claims that the user must update personal info.

The information thus stolen is then used in other frauds, such as theft of identity or online auction fraud.

A number of malicious "Trojan horse" programs have also been used to snoop on Internet users while online, capturing keystrokes or confidential data in order to send it to outside sites.

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Detecting Counterfeit Money

Forgery and altered checks

Thieves have altered checks to change the name (in order to deposit checks intended for payment to someone else) or the amount on the face of a check (a few strokes of a pen can change $100.00 into $100,000.00, although such a large figure may raise some eyebrows).

Instead of tampering with a real check, some fraudsters will attempt to forge a depositor's signature on a blank check or even print their own checks drawn on accounts owned by others, non-existent accounts or even alleged accounts owned by non-existent depositors. The check will then be deposited to another bank and the money withdrawn before the check can be returned as invalid or for non-sufficient funds.

Stolen checks

Some fraudsters obtain access to facilities handling large amounts of checks, such as a mailroom or post office or the offices of a tax authority (receiving many checks) or a corporate payroll or a social or veterans' benefit office (issuing many checks). A few checks go missing; accounts are then opened under assumed names and the checks (often tampered or altered in some way) deposited so that the money can then be withdrawn by thieves. Stolen blank checkbooks are also of value to forgers who then sign as if they were the depositor

Bankers Online Counterfeit Lists

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Mail and phone safety

Mail and telephone solicitations bring many tempting offers, but not all are legitimate! Be especially careful about deals that sound too good to be true, and keep the following advice in mind:

  • Never give your account information to anyone claiming to be from your bank unless you initiated the call.
  • Be wary of high-pressure sales tactics, especially if the sale must be completed immediately.
  • Record the name, address, and phone number of the soliciting organization, and obtain names of other customers who can supply references.
  • Ask questions. The fewer questions a telemarketer can answer, the less likely that he or she is calling from a legitimate business.
  • Do not give your account number over the phone unless you initiated the call. When in doubt, consult the Better Business Bureau or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.
  • Notify the Post Office immediately if you change your address.
  • Make sure your mailbox is secure, and promptly remove delivered mail.
  • Call the Post Office immediately if you are not receiving your mail.
  • If you are told of a forwarding order placed on your mail without your knowledge, go to the Post Office to check the signature and cancel the order.

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Identity Theft

How It Happens

Identity theft can occur in a number of different ways. If you know what to look for and how it happens, you can self-detect identity theft before it happens, minimizing losses. Here are some common scenarios to watch out for:

What identity thieves can do

Using everyday items such as your driver’s license or Social Security number to assume your identity, a skilled thief can:

  • Open new bank accounts, and write bad checks.
  • Establish new credit card accounts and not pay the bills
  • Obtain personal or car loans.
  • Get cash advances.
  • Set up cellular phones or utility services and run up bills.
  • Change your credit card mailing address and charge on your existing accounts.
  • Obtain employment.
  • Rent an apartment, but avoid the payments, and get evicted.

How identity thieves do it

Identity theft can occur in a number of different ways. But if you know what to look for and how it happens, you can minimize your overall risk. Here are some common scenarios to watch out for:

  • Lost/stolen wallet or checkbook
    The most commonly reported source of information used to commit fraud is a lost or stolen wallet or checkbook. Stolen wallets and checkbooks usually contain a number of credit and debit cards, in addition to other personal documentation. Using these items, a thief can get enough information to obtain credit under the victim’s name, or sell the information to an organized crime ring.
  • Dumpster diving
    Thieves rummage through trash cans for pieces of non-shredded personal information that they can use or sell.
  • Mail theft
    Crooks search mailboxes for pre-approved credit offers, bank statements, tax forms, or convenience checks. They also look for credit card payment envelopes that have been left for postal carrier pick-up.
  • Inside sources
    Half of all identity fraud is committed by friends, family members, relatives, employees, and live-in caregivers with access to privileged information. Info such as personnel records, payroll information, insurance files, account numbers, or sales records can be great help to any identity thief.
  • Imposters
    Many have fallen victim to identity theft by individuals who fraudulently posed as someone who had a legitimate or legal reason to access the victim’s personal information (e.g., a landlord or employer asking for background information).
  • Documents in the home
    Unfortunately, identity thieves can gain legitimate access into someone’s home and personal information through household work, babysitting, healthcare, friends, or roommates.
  • Online data
    Although most identity thefts occur through traditional methods, such as the ones outlined above, risks still exist online. Be cautious when sending information electronically over the Web. Account information sent through email, or online chat, can easily be intercepted by thieves.

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Common Frauds

Knowledge is one of the most effective forms of fraud prevention.

Basic email advice

Never send payment information via email. Information that travels over the Internet, such as email, is not fully protected from being read by outside parties.

Quick Tip
Your card issuer will never ask you to provide any kind of confidential or financial details via an email request.


The most common email scam, phishing emails appear to be from businesses alerting you to customer account problems and requesting financial information verification. Phishing attempts to trick consumers into revealing personal information such as their credit or debit account numbers, checking account information, Social Security numbers, or banking account passwords, through fake Web sites or in a reply email.

If you receive an email that appears to be from your card issuer requesting financial information or any other personal data:

  • Treat the email with suspicion.
  • Do not reply to the email or respond by clicking on a link within the email message.
  • Contact your card issuer as soon as possible to report the suspicious email. Use the number or Web site address on the back of your card or on your monthly statement.
NOTE: If you have received an email that appears to be from Community Bank requesting financial information or other personal data, please email to notify CB of the specifics of the fraudulent email.

Trojan Horse virus

What’s a Trojan Horse virus?
A Trojan Horse is an email virus usually released by an email attachment. If opened, it will scour your hard drive for any personal and financial information such as your social security, account, and PIN numbers. Once it has collected your info, it is sent to a thief’s database.

What you can do:
Beware of emails from addresses or persons that you are not familiar with, especially if they contain attachments. Delete the email right away. Do not “unsubscribe.” This will tell the culprit that your email address is active. Even if a good friend has sent the email attachment, it doesn’t hurt to ask them about it before opening it.

Nigerian scam, also known as the ‘Advance Fee Fraud’, ‘419 Fraud’

This scam involves letters, faxes or emails inviting individuals to participate in a scheme that eventually turns out to be non-existent. Many versions claim to be from a government official who needs help distributing millions of dollars from their country, in return for a percentage of the money. Recipients are requested to provide bank account details, and to forward money to pay for ‘advance fees’, documentation, and administration expenses.


What's Spyware?
Spyware is software that consumers unknowingly install, usually packaged with other software, that can track online usage and personal information. Most spyware programs are simply used by companies to track the online activity of users. According to the FTC, you should look for these clues to determine if your computer has spyware:

  • A sudden increase in pop-up ads
  • A browser that takes you to sites other than those you type into the address box (also called hijacked browser).
  • Sudden or repeated changes in your computer’s home page.
  • The appearance of new or unexpected toolbars or icons.
  • Keys that suddenly don’t work.
  • Sluggish or slow performance when opening programs or saving files.
What you can do
You can be proactive in preventing spyware software from being installed on your computer. Read the fine print before downloading any software, even from reputable companies. If you do not understand it, find the contact number for the company to get more information before downloading.
  • Update often
    Make sure you have the most current operating system and Web browser software—and use free software patches available that fight spyware.
  • Download judiciously
    Free software is great, but make sure you obtain it only from sites you know and trust, especially since many free applications bundle other software that may include spyware.
  • Know your software
    Read licensing agreements carefully—if it’s hard to understand, don’t download the software.
  • Use browser protection
    Make sure you select the highest security setting possible on your browser to prevent unauthorized downloads.
  • Avoid pop-ups
    Clicking on links within pop-ups can install software on your computer. Get rid of pop-ups by clicking the “X” icon on the title bar.
  • Beware of anti-spyware offers
    Some links in spam that claim to prevent spyware actually installs it.
  • Install a firewall
    Your best line of protection, a personal firewall will stop uninvited users from accessing your computer.
Think you have spyware? Here's what you can do:
  • Get anti-spyware software from a vendor you know and trust.
  • Scan your computer with it, at least once a week.
  • Delete any programs your anti-spyware software detects.

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Phone Frauds

Basic phone advice
Avoid giving out personal or account information over the phone unless the call was initiated by you. If you receive a call from your bank or a company asking for this type of information, always ask the caller to provide a call-back number. You have the right to hang up and verify the legitimacy of the number.

Call from your bank
You might get a call from someone posing as a representative from your financial institution or credit card company, asking you to provide your account or personal information. If you do receive a call such as this, hang up immediately.

Telemarketing fraud
Don’t be fooled by telemarketers informing you of a “get rich quick” opportunity. The only thing you’ll do quickly is lose money. Most will tell you to act now and to send money for more information. Sadly that information never comes. The best defense is to turn them down right away.

Travel scams
Be wary of calls from individuals awarding you prizes such as vacations. More often than not, these calls are scams. At first it seems like a great deal, but it usually involves being asked to provide a credit card deposit. When unsuspecting victims give in, the vacation is over before it even began.

Prize offers and postcards
Try to avoid tempting prize offers that come in the mail informing you that you’ve won a prize. Unsuspecting victims are told to call a “900” number and when on the line all of a sudden they are asked to pay an additional fee for larger prizes.

Scam artists will call to request contributions to charitable causes. More often than not, these contributions end up benefiting no one but the scam artist.

Disaster relief scams
Be extra cautious of anyone calling you representing a disaster (such as an Asian tsunami or Hurricane Katrina) relief organization. Unfortunately, these tragic events create a way for thieves to take money from well-meaning people. Always ask them for the name of the organization they are representing and a contact number. Call the organization directly before giving money to anyone.

As a consumer, you have the right to:

  • Request written information in the mail about the organization calling.
  • Get guarantees in writing.
  • Refuse to give your credit card number over the phone.
  • Know the cost of “900” number calls and how to hang up without charge.
  • Know if the caller for a charity is a volunteer or a professional telemarketer.
  • Ask how much of your donation will go towards the charity as opposed to paying for administrative costs.
  • Protect yourself against phone fraud by staying informed and alert.

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Mail Frauds

Basic mail advice
Always treat unsolicited mail with suspicion. Mail fraud can take on several forms, from official- and legitimate-looking letters to offers that seem too good to be true. Never send your personal information through the mail, without first verifying that the source requesting it is legitimate.

Bank imposters
Identity thieves have been known to send out official-looking letters, most of the time posing as banks. It’s easy to be fooled. These letters look real, right down to the logos. A red flag should be raised if you’re asked to provide your account or personal information in a reply envelope, email, or by dialing a number. Never give out this information.

Visa and its member banks will never ask for this type of information.

Free prize scheme
Be on guard for postcards informing you that you’ve won a prize, such as a TV or a car. Sure, it may be free, but victims are asked to pay for shipping and handling. Depending on the size of the item, the shipping can run up to hundreds and even thousands of dollars. Shipping and handling is paid, but the prize never comes.

The Telefunding fraud mentioned on the Phone Frauds section is also run through the mail.

The foreign lotto
This is usually in the form of a brochure asking you to enter a lottery drawing in another country. Many individuals fall victim to this scam, sending money to these bogus lotteries and never get anything in return.

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