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"Identity Theft Alert"Consumer Confidence Scams"

Robert Gafeney

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Hello Robert Here:

Consumer Confidence Scams are designed to obtain your personal identifying information, account information, account login information, and/or money. The scammers defraud victims by preying upon trust, compassion, charity, hope, financial desperation, or fear. Some victims fall for scams because the scammer has stirred their emotions or enticed a fantasy so that the victim wants to believe that the scammer’s story of need or opportunity is true.

There are many scams an individual may fall victim to, and some are very elaborate. The best way to protect against these types of scams are to be cautious, stay informed, and know what to look for when you come across a potential scam. The most common types of these scams are described below.

Types of Popular Scams Phishing (multiple forms)

Phishing scams are emails, websites, pop-up messages, text messages, or phone calls that misrepresent an authentic company or business in an attempt to obtain the potential victim’s information, including PII, account information, or login information for an online account. Phishing emails often indicate that you must act now to prevent further fraud on an account, or request that a link be clicked to be directed to the company’s website. By doing so, you run the risk of having malicious software downloaded to your computer, which can lead to your files being compromised. This software may monitor usernames and passwords being entered into secure sites.

Lottery Scams

Lottery scams are notices from a fraudulent organization posing as a gaming commission, in an attempt to trick potential victims into believing they have won a lottery. In order to claim the winnings however, these scammers often request personal information or money to fulfill tax obligations on the monies won. In reality, you cannot win a lottery you haven’t entered, and will never be asked to pay money to receive the winnings.

Quick Tips

Creditors do not contact account holders by email to request account information, Social Security numbers or other Personal Identity Information. Do not respond to email that requests this type of information.

If you receive a request for your account information or any Personal Identity Information by phone or in writing from someone that claims to be a creditor, do not respond to their request directly. Instead, find the creditor’s phone number on your credit card or statement and call them to ask if they needed to speak with you.

Advance Fee Scams

Typically, someone claiming to be a government official, attorney, or an individual indicating they have access to large sums of money will contact the potential victim. After providing official-looking and convincing documents, the scammers will promise to deposit funds into the victim’s account if they pay taxes or tariffs to release the held funds. These are sometimes referred to as “Nigerian” scams.

Check Overpayment Scams

Usually, a response from an online ad or auction is received by a seller (the victim). The buyer (the scammer) will then offer to pay the seller more than the asking price. The buyer will normally claim the additional funds are for a 3rd party shipper who needs the funds wired to their account, or sent by money-gram. The counterfeit check will bounce sometime after it has been deposited into the victim’s account, and the bank will hold the victim liable for any amount of the check which has been withdrawn.

Romance/Online Dating Scams

Romance and online dating scams are fraudulent profiles on dating websites or social networks that often contain photos of an attractive individual who may or not be the person who posted the profile. The scammer will make contact with, or respond to individuals who are on these same sites in an attempt to open a dialogue and establish a connection, appearing as if they are interested in pursuing a relationship with the victim. By coaxing personal information from the victim, the perpetrator will use it to their advantage, now making the victim believe they have found the person of their dreams.

After a relationship is established, there is usually a plea for some kind of financial assistance. This can be something as simple as needing a check deposited and funds returned via wire transfer (similar to the check overpayment scam), or a more elaborate scheme where the scammer indicates they are stranded somewhere and need funds to get home, need medical treatments they cannot afford, or want to visit the victim, but do not have funds needed for a airline ticket.

Will/Estate Scams

These are similar to the lottery scams. Typically someone claiming to be an attorney for the deceased or an executor of a will, the scammer tries to convince the victim that they have inherited money from a wealthy individual who passed away and named the victim in their will. Official looking documents are sometimes sent to convince you the claim is legitimate.

Scammers are not always after Personal Identity Information:

Perpetrators will often start a conversation in order to obtain personal information, which is then used to uncover the victim’s interests and vulnerabilities.

Life stories, hobbies, family and past experiences can be used to the scammer’s advantage in gaining the victim’s trust.

When speaking to an unknown individual, be extremely careful when asked to disclose any personal information.

Best practices to reduce the likelihood that you will become a victim of a scam

Limit the amount of information you provide to people via the internet or over the telephone. If you are being contacted by someone claiming to work for a business or bank, ask the name of the company, research its authenticity, and contact them directly using a confirmed telephone number. n Use common sense. The old saying is right: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is.

If something doesn’t appear to be legitimate or seems like it may be illegal, avoid it. n Hide your identity as best you can. Don’t reveal too much information about yourself to people you don’t know. Keeping your information private is paramount in reducing your risk. n Be cautious of emails that address you as “Consumer, ” “Cardholder, ” “Member, ” etc. These indicate that the sender does not know who you are. n Refrain from storing account numbers, Social Security numbers, or lists of user names and passwords on a home computer or laptop. This includes tax filings for previous years.

Computers are susceptible to having malicious software downloaded (sometimes without your knowledge), which can compromise this sensitive information. n Resist responding hastily to offers or messages that have a sense of urgency to them, or request that you “act now. ” These tactics are used to induce anxiety and make potential victims respond or provide sensitive information before thoroughly checking the validity of a company, message, or offer. n Look for grammatical or spelling errors in messages being transmitted, which can indicate the correspondence is fraudulent in nature.

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