Business side: Fraud prevention

CONVERSATIONS WITH BUSINESS EXPERTS

Craig Bremner, Vice President, TD Agriculture Services

DO FARMERS REALLY NEED TO BE CONCERNED ABOUT FRAUD?
No matter the type of business, the risk of fraud is always present.  While you cannot predict why or when your organization may become a target, there is a lot you can do to reduce the opportunity for fraud. You should learn how to protect your financial transactions, including payments made by cheque, credit card, and online. The first step is to determine how well-protected your business is and develop a fraud prevention plan. Removing the opportunity for fraud goes a long way towards preventing it.

HOW OFTEN SHOULD I MONITOR MY ACCOUNTS
You should reconcile all of your business banking transactions daily. This can be done quickly and easily if you are signed up for your financial institution’s online banking. You should also review every item that appears on your monthly statement, including cheque images. Let your bank know within 30 days if any item does not match your records.

At TD, we offer a service where Business Banking customers can send a copy of their cheque file to us.  We use that file to monitor daily incoming cheques for any unmatched items, including altered payee information. Any issues are flagged for the customer’s immediate review.

SHOULD I BE WORRIED ABOUT USING CHEQUES?
There are certain precautions that can be taken to ensure you are protected from fraudulent use of your cheques. Do not leave your cheques available to unauthorized staff. Lock up your cheques and any cheque reorder forms separately. It’s a good idea to keep track of how many cheques you have on hand to make sure none have gone missing.

There are several security features within cheques that also help protect you from fraud. For example, paper stock can include a microprint, fluorescent fibres and a security ink message, holographic markers, a padlock icon, and foil stamping. When printing and processing your cheques, use a type font of 10 points or larger and avoid using window envelopes.

ARE THERE ANY ALTERNATIVES TO USING CHEQUES?
If possible, encourage your suppliers to accept credit card payments for purchases under $5,000 to eliminate small-dollar cheques. Routine bill payments can be made electronically through online banking; you can even set up post-dated payments to occur automatically. It is also possible to set-up an Electronic Funds Transfer (EFT) to provide direct deposit to your employee’s bank account. Larger farm operations might want to consider a third-party provider which can handle your entire payroll and direct deposits.

ISN’T IT JUST AS RISKY TO SEND OUT INFORMATION OVER THE INTERNET?
There are a number of things you can do that will help to protect your information online. Keep your operating system and internet browser current by downloading the latest software and security updates. Antivirus and anti-spyware software is designed to seek out viruses and malicious programs running on your computer and remove them. Always use the most up-to date versions. Installing a firewall will also help to protect your computer from hackers and other intrusions.

It’s very important to protect usernames, passwords, and login information – including PINS and account numbers. Choose a unique password that you can remember without writing it down; just make sure it contains a combination of numbers and letters for increased protection. Make sure you disable the autocomplete function or password save option on your computer. Remember to log off when you have finished your banking and clear your browser’s cache memory to delete any information that may have been temporarily saved during your online banking session – and never share your password with anyone. •

About Rachel Telford 84 Articles
Communications Coordinator, Publications, Grain Farmers of Ontario; Managing Editor, Ontario Grain Farmer Magazine