On the morning of February 19th, 2016, the Business Women United Network hosted Valparaiso’s first Fraud Symposium in the training room of the Porter County Sheriff’s Office. Guest speakers from all over the state spoke to a limited audience about security threats and how to handle them.
Tickets were free and open to the public but necessary to meet the requirements of both the room and the intimate setting. The panel of speakers faced a series of tables with expectant attendees and their complimentary breakfasts. It had a very personal touch, fitting for the sensitive subject.
“The purpose of today,” explained Attorney Angela Crossin, the President of BWUN, “Is to educate, empower, and make the public aware of what is going on.”
We have all heard of fraud in some form. At its most simplest, identity theft, it is still a situation that can devastate your finances forever.
Clint Turpen, Marketing Specialist at REGIONAL Federal Credit Union, was the spokesperson for this type of fraud, and he began with a definition: “When I talk about [identity theft], what I mean is the unauthorized use of nonpublic, personal information to open new accounts, access existing ones, or to obtain services.”
That used to be the only kind of fraud that scared people. A recent rise in cyber scams have turned pickpocketing into international organized crime. Kelly Griese, the Investor Education Coordinator for the Secretary of State, is on the enforcement end of the struggle. Her department works an average of 37 cases at a time.
“We are always on a mission to help protect people but we are also there if fraud does happen,” said Griese. “We work really hard to get money back for people but that isn’t always realistic. Prevention is the best way to avoid losing your money.”
Ron Bush, the owner of Ron Bush Consulting Inc, is of the same mindset. “It used to be said that locks keep honest people honest. But not everyone is honest. We have found ourselves in a situation where locks don’t keep the bad people out.”
His portion of the symposium was the importance of strong internet passwords and the way scam artists get around them. Most people think their information is secure with Password1234 as their lock but with the growth of technology, more vigilance is needed.
“There’s nothing I can say that will make you 100% safe,” said Bush, “What I hope is that I can keep you from being low hanging fruit.”
Each panelist had a topic they focused their speech around. Lesley Green, a sales representative for Liberty Mutual Insurance, talked about the right questions to ask an agent that calls you in search of information. Matt Fabina, the President of Fraud Detection and Prevention, talked about IRS security and FBI Special Agent Kathleen Guider spoke about how human nature it is to ignore the signs of in house fraud. Vice President Nicole Nalepa of the Horizon Trust and Investment Management gave advice on choosing advisors.
Surprise guest and Outreach Specialist Phillip Foreman from the Office of the Attorney General talked to the crowd about what resources his department offers to people with fraud concerns. Each speaker offered resources that can help, and prevent, the loss of information security.
“There’s a diverse amount of people [in the audience],” said Foreman, “Having a larger panel like this means that each of them will find someone, a topic, to identify with. You get the most in depth information from the best professionals in our local area.”