It's hard for us to believe that some folks still fall for the daily telephone calls and e-mails that promise huge winnings if we'll just hand over our bank account information. But then again, those scams wouldn't proliferate if someone didn't occasionally fall for them.

Fraud is the fastest growing category of crime in America. It spreads through the Internet and the telephone. The Oklahoma Bankers Association's fraud prevention unit is spreading the word about how to keep from becoming the next victim.

The fraud unit learns of six or eight different scams each day, something unheard of when it was formed two years ago. Swindling has increased tenfold in the past two years, according to the OBA's Elaine Dodd.

Business editor Randall Turk interviewed Ms. Dodd. A former law enforcement officer, Ms. Dodd said today's victims are often senior citizens who are too trusting.

One woman wired $30,000 overseas to pursue her lottery "winnings." Another man wired $90,000. Once the money leaves the country, there is nothing the bank can do.

Ms. Dodd recently told a local civic club audience that the best gift for a loved one is a cross-cut shredder for destroying credit card receipts and old bank statements. Thieves see those as a gold mine.

She also suggested that bill payments not be mailed from home. A thief can cruise through a neighborhood and know when bill payments are in the boxes by seeing those flags up.

The best advice Ms. Dodd has is to keep Social Security numbers, bank account and other numbers private. Banks don't call you asking for your account number. "If my bank calls looking for my account number, I think I'd be looking for another bank," she said. "They're the one that gave it to me in the first place."

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