These days we practically live our whole life online. School, work, banking, doctor’s appointments, shopping, meal delivery. But that means we place enormous quantities of personal information on the web that hackers and thieves may try to steal. At Heritage Bank, their staff works hard to both protect and educate customers about simple precautions to keep credit, identity, and finances safe.

Heritage Bank
Heritage Bank Senior Vice President Heimer Fernandez works hard to keep your personal and financial information safe. Photo courtesy: Heritage Bank NW

Internet security experts report that “over 60 percent of people surveyed reported falling victim to some kind of hack, scam, or financial information theft, [and] formjacking, where criminals steal credit card data from e-commerce sites, is up, with 4,818 websites compromised every month.”

“Heritage Bank is committed to customer education and protection of their confidential information,” says senior vice president bank secrecy act officer Heimer Fernandez. “The bank has invested in qualified personnel and tools to help identify and prevent ID theft and should incidents occur, help our customers navigate through the sometimes stressful and intricate reporting and mitigation processes.”

Fernandez and his team are constantly learning and researching to keep ahead of the curve. “Fraudsters are constantly reinventing themselves, forcing us to do the same,” he admits. “Our fraud personnel are up to date with the most innovative fraud detection tools and are constantly looking for areas of improvement to ensure customer personal information is protected at all times. Information about new and existing fraud schemes is regularly posted on our website, to create awareness of any potential risks.”

Since the COVID-19 outbreak, one of the most frequently seen scams involves false unemployment benefit payments. Thanks to a newly developed monitoring process, Fernandez is proud that they’ve returned more than $300,000 to the issuing state agency and kept it out of the pockets of thieves.

Heritage Bank
So much of our personal information is available to hackers online but at Heritage Bank, they offer fraud watch programs to monitor your credit and finances. Photo courtesy: Heritage Bank NW

Other scams still abound though. “Romance scams and elder financial exploitation are the main triggers for customer losses,” says Fernandez. “These individuals are often convinced the perpetrator is a friend looking after them; we have seen a spike in this activity from foreign jurisdictions, particularly Nigeria, Ukraine, and Romania, although the scams always involved domestic mules.

“Mules are people moving the funds between accounts at multiple accounts maintained at different financial institutions,” Fernandez continues. “This process attempts to minimize the paper trail for these suspicious transactions until the funds have reached the final destination. Individuals aiding these criminal enterprises are accomplices and can be prosecuted for their participation in these scams; sometimes they are aware of the situation, others they believe is a legitimate job.”

If a Heritage Bank customer believes they’ve been victimized online, it’s best to reach out immediately. The bank provides free counseling and credit repair services to their customers, including a detailed list of resources. Because they’re a local bank with nearly 100 years of history in and around our community, they work hard for their customers.

“As one of the premier community banks in the region, Heritage Bank prides itself on knowing its customers,” says Fernandez. “Branch personnel are constantly striving to develop long-lasting relationships and strong communication bonds. This facilitates the premature identification of unusual patterns that may result in a loss to the customer or the bank.”

Heritage Bank
Scammers abound so it’s good to learn as much as you can. At Heritage Bank, staff can educate members about fraudulent unemployment, romance scams, and elder financial exploitation. Photo courtesy: Heritage Bank NW

“Our employees are fully trained to answer any questions regarding fraud, identity theft, elder abuse, and other typologies impacting our communities,” says Fernandez. “If additional assistance is needed, qualified personnel in the BSA/Fraud Department is informed and a line of communication established with the impacted customer. The ultimate goal is not to leave any questions unanswered and make our customers at ease talking about issues of concern.”

Before joining the Heritage Bank team in 2016, Fernandez worked more than 16 years in financial settings, 12 of which were spent in security and protection roles. With his help, Heritage Bank has prevented millions of dollars in losses to businesses and customers.

In 2019, research shows that hackers exposed more than 164 million personal records in the United States alone. If you or a loved one has fallen victim to a breach, take steps to stop it, and repair the damage immediately. Thanks to tireless security professionals like Heritage Bank’s Heimer Fernandez, you don’t have to go it alone. Joining forces, you can keep your money, credit, and identity safe and secure 24/7. To learn more, visit the Heritage Bank website or a branch near you.

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