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Fraud is rampant, even in the Northwest Corner

There are some who may think their local community weekly newspaper is not actually a business, but it certainly is. Proof of that fact came to the fore last week when this small business’ checking account was apparently hacked, and a fraudulent check written from our checking account to a person out West for almost $9,000, purportedly for a camper that person had put up for sale.

Luckily, the seller of the camper thought something looked fishy about the check, and called our local bank to question its validity. The bank called our financial department to double check with us on whether it was legitimate. Bet they would have been surprised if we at The Lakeville Journal had been buying a camper; not since Bob Estabrook died in 2011 have we had such an avid traveler and camper-friendly  type in our midst. 

As the community news source, we have periodically heard from area residents and the Connecticut State Police about scams that have surfaced in the region. Yet, it always comes as a surprise when one is the target, doesn’t it? We wanted to talk to other small business people who have dealt with this kind of thing, to see how they handled both the incidents and the outcomes in order to better judge our own reactions. 

For that kind of connection, we have been left to our own devices to find others who share our experience — the bank, while acknowledging that they knew of other businesses in the area that had also been hacked, said they were not at liberty to share their information with us. We let the bank know they have our permission to share our incident with other businesses who have been targets, and that they would be welcome to contact us to discuss it all openly.

Because if such attacks aren’t discussed out in the open, it leaves all of us more vulnerable to such hacking, and gives the perpetrators opacity they should not have. The Lakeville Journal did report the incident to the State Police at Troop B, who took down the information and suggested that we also make a complaint at the federal website for online fraud. The officer said he receives such complaints at least once a day. Because there was no loss as a result of this fraud, at least none that we know of at this moment, that will likely be where the followup to addressing the hacking ends. 

But for all the businesses and persons in our area who may think they don’t have to worry about such hacking, we want to be sure to get the word out however we can to our readers that they do need to be alert and vigilant. The Lake-ville Journal makes a practice of shredding any financial documents, including checks, that we dispose of, yet the original number on the check that was forged had been written out to one of our suppliers in payment for services rendered. Hard to know where that check ended up.

Remember that Salisbury Bank has Legal Shred Days coming up for household or business documents, with one happening in North Canaan on July 20, Millerton on Aug. 17, Sheffield on Sept. 7, Sharon on Sept. 14 and Lakeville on Sept. 21. Take advantage of this service if you have any sensitive materials to destroy, and be aware of the importance of protecting your privacy, both in hard copy and online. 

If there is anyone who would like to share an experience with being targeted by such criminals, contact Janet Manko at publisher@lakevillejournal.com or 860-435-9873, ext. 201.