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Identity Theft and Elder Fraud

Internet crime schemes steal millions of dollars each year from victims around the world. We are providing this page to help educate our neighbors. These are the type of resources and expertise we want to provide the community. Following these preventative measures will assist you in being informed prior to entering into transactions over the Internet:
Auction Fraud
  • Before you bid, contact the seller with any questions you have.
  • Review the seller's feedback and be cautious of those with little or negative feedback.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
  • Ensure you understand refund, return, and warranty policies.
  • Determine the shipping charges before you buy.
  • Be wary if the seller only accepts wire transfers or cash.
  • If an escrow service is used, ensure it is legitimate.
  • Consider insuring your item.
  • Be cautious of unsolicited offers.
  • Only use one credit card (not debit card) for internet transactions.
  • Do not use your primary bank account for internet transactions.

Auction fraud involves fraud attributable to the misrepresentation of a product advertised for sale through an Internet auction site or the non-delivery of products purchased through an Internet auction site. Consumers are strongly cautioned against entering into Internet transactions with subjects exhibiting the following behavior:

  • The seller posts the auction as if he resides in the United States, then responds to victims with a congratulatory email stating he is outside the United States for business reasons, family emergency, etc. Similarly, beware of sellers who post the auction under one name, and ask for the funds to be transferred to another individual.
  • The subject requests funds to be wired directly to him/her via Western Union, MoneyGram, or bank-to-bank wire transfer. By using these services, the money is virtually unrecoverable with no recourse for the victim.
  • Sellers acting as authorized dealers or factory representatives in countries where there would be no such dealers should be avoided.
  • Buyers who ask for the purchase to be shipped using a certain method to avoid customs or taxes inside another country should be avoided.
  • Be suspect of any credit card purchases where the address of the card holder does not match the shipping address. Always receive the card holder's authorization before shipping any products.

In addition, visit
eBay and PayPal for additional security alerts and fraud prevention tips.
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Credit Card Fraud
  • Ensure a site is secure and reputable before providing your credit card number online.
  • Don't trust a site just because it claims to be secure.
  • If purchasing merchandise, ensure it is from a reputable source.
  • Promptly reconcile credit card statements to avoid unauthorized charges.
  • Do your research to ensure legitimacy of the individual or company.
  • Beware of providing credit card information when requested through unsolicited emails.
  • Only use one credit card (not debit card) for internet transactions.

The unauthorized use of a credit/debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money or property is considered credit card fraud. Credit/debit card numbers can be stolen from unsecured websites, or can be obtained in an identity theft scheme. Visit any of the three credit bureaus,
Equifax, Experian, or TransUnion, for more information or to place a fraud alert on your credit report. If you need to obtain your yearly free credit reports from each of these agencies click on the link below.
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Identity Theft
  • Ensure websites are secure prior to submitting your credit card number.
  • Check each your credit bureau free once per year.
  • Shred documents with personal identifying information.
  • Be aware of missed bills which could indicate your account has been taken over.
  • Be cautious of scams requiring you to provide your personal information.
  • Never give your credit card number over the phone unless you make the call.
  • Monitor your credit statements monthly for any fraudulent activity. " Report unauthorized transactions to your bank or credit card company as soon as possible.
  • Review a copy of your credit report at least once a year.

Identity theft occurs when someone appropriates another's personal information without their knowledge to commit theft or fraud. Identity theft is a vehicle for perpetrating other types of fraud schemes. Typically, the victim is led to believe they are divulging sensitive personal information to a legitimate business, sometimes as a response to an email solicitation to update billing or membership information, or as an application to a fraudulent Internet job posting. See also, Phishing/Vishing/Spoofing.

In addition, visit the Federal Trade Commission for additional information on security and fraud prevention tips.
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Nigerian Letter or "419"
  • If the "opportunity" appears too good to be true, it probably is.
  • Do not reply to emails asking for personal banking information.
  • Be wary of individuals representing themselves as foreign government officials.
  • Be cautious when dealing with individuals outside of your own country.
  • Beware when asked to assist in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
  • Do not believe the promise of large sums of money for your cooperation.
  • Guard your account information carefully.
  • Be cautious when additional fees are requested to further the transaction.

Named for the violation of Section 419 of the Nigerian Criminal Code, the 419 scam combines the threat of impersonation fraud with a variation of an advance fee scheme in which a letter, email, or fax is received by the potential victim. The communication from individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials offers the recipient the "opportunity" to share in a percentage of millions of dollars, soliciting for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts. Payment of taxes, bribes to government officials, and legal fees are often described in great detail with the promise that all expenses will be reimbursed as soon as the funds are out of the country. The recipient is encouraged to send information to the author, such as blank letterhead stationary, bank name and account numbers, and other identifying information using a facsimile number provided in the letter. The scheme relies on convincing a willing victim to send money to the author of the letter in several installments of increasing amounts for a variety of reasons. Visit the
Economic and Financial Crimes Commission to learn more about combating financial and economic crimes in Nigeria.
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Phishing/Vishing/Spoofing
  • Never respond to unsolicited email or phone calls requesting personal information.
  • Never divulge your 3 digit code on your credit card from a unsolicited request.
  • If in doubt about a request pick up the phone and call a known telephone number.
  • Log on to the official website, instead of "linking" to it from an unsolicited email.
  • Avoid filling out forms in email messages that ask for personal information.

Phishing, Vishing and spoofing are somewhat synonymous in that they refer to forged or faked unsolicited requests for identifying information. Spoofing generally refers to the dissemination of email which is forged to appear as though it was sent by someone other than the actual source. Phishing, often utilized in conjunction with a spoofed email, is the act of sending an email falsely claiming to be an established legitimate business in an attempt to dupe the unsuspecting recipient into divulging personal, sensitive information such as passwords, credit card numbers, and bank account information after directing the user to visit a specified website. The website, however, is not genuine and was set up only as an attempt to steal the user's information. Vishing is one of the newest forms of Phishing but instead of sending the request by e-mail the person will call you on the telephone. They will represent themselves as your bank and attempt to verify your credit card or account numbers.
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Spam
  • Don't open spam. Delete it unread.
  • Never respond to spam as this will confirm to the sender that it is a "live" email address.
  • Have a primary and secondary email address - one for people you know and one for all other purposes.
  • Avoid giving out your email address unless you know how it will be used.
  • Never purchase anything advertised through an unsolicited email.

With improved technology and world-wide Internet access, spam, or unsolicited bulk email, is now a widely used medium for committing traditional white collar crimes including financial institution fraud, credit card fraud, and identity theft, among others. It is usually considered unsolicited because the recipients have not opted to receive the email. Generally, this bulk email refers to multiple identical messages sent simultaneously.

Spam can also act as the vehicle for accessing computers and servers without authorization and transmitting viruses and Botnets. The subjects masterminding this Spam often provide hosting services and sell open proxy information, credit card information, and email lists illegally.
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Free Credit Reports
A recent amendment to the federal Fair Credit Reporting Act requires each of the nationwide consumer reporting companies - Equifax, Experian, and TransUnion - to provide you with a free copy of your credit report, at your request, once every 12 months. But there's only one online source authorized to do so. That's annualcreditreport.com. Beware of other sites that may look and sound similar. We advise consumers who order their free annual credit reports online to be sure to correctly spell annualcreditreport.com, or link to it from here to avoid being misdirected to other websites that offer supposedly free reports, but only with the purchase of other products. While consumers may be offered additional products or services while on the authorized website, they are not required to make a purchase to receive their free annual credit reports.

There have been numerous complaints complaints filed with government agencies from consumers who thought they were ordering their free annual credit report online. Some consumers responded to TV ads, email offers, or simply searched online The Federal Trade Commission recently settled a lawsuit against Consumerinfo.com - which did business as Experian Consumer Direct - over the "free credit report" promotion it advertised on television, radio and the Internet, including its websites freecreditreport.com and consumerinfo.com. If you ordered a free credit report from Consumerinfo between November 1, 2000 and September 15, 2003, and were enrolled in its credit monitoring program, you may be eligible for a refund under the FTC's settlement.

The three nationwide consumer reporting companies have set up one central website, toll-free telephone number, and mailing address through which you can order your free annual report. To order, click on annualcreditreport.com, call 877-322-8228, or complete the Annual Credit Report Request Form and mail it to: Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.

Do not contact the three nationwide consumer reporting companies individually. They are only providing free annual credit reports through annualcreditreport.com, 877-322-8228, and Annual Credit Report Request Service, P.O. Box 105281, Atlanta, GA 30348-5281.
 
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