Fall 2016 Fraud News
Thieves are always on the lookout for ways to steal from ordinary citizens, particularly if it means they can collect personal information that has a chance to give them a constant source of reward. They attack via internet and phone scams, and they even attack close to home—right at our very mailboxes. In fact, just this May alone, two prominent cases of mail theft led to thousands of dollars stolen right here in Colorado. In one case, as reported by CBS news, an elderly woman in Centennial was robbed of her identity and her money by a man acting alone. In another case in Colorado Springs, an entire ring of con artists was taken down after their actions impacted over 100 potential victims.
In cases like these, the thieves will usually steal outgoing mail, especially if it includes checks written to pay bills. The scammers then have names, addresses, and account numbers and are able to create fake checks that they then use to pay their own bills or buy goods for themselves. To minimize these sorts of threats, avoid paying your bills by mail. Many businesses and creditors offer online or pay-by-phone options, and some have brick-and-mortar locations where you can make your payment in person. If you absolutely must pay by mail, be sure to drop your payment directly at a post office or in an official United States Postal Service receptacle.
If you find that you’ve been a victim of mail theft, visit the Federal Trade Commission’s identity theft section at https://identitytheft.gov. Furthermore, be sure to file a complaint with the U.S. Postal Inspection Service. Finally, be sure to regularly monitor your bank accounts, credit cards, and credit reports for any unauthorized transactions. If you find that there’s anything amiss, take the appropriate steps to mitigate the issues.
Landlines and cell phones connect us to friends, families, and businesses, but they are also a means for scammers to try to gather personal information. One method is through robocalls—computerized calls to home and cell numbers—and behind them can be some dangerous scams, including one in which a recorded voice tells the victim that they might be able to lower their credit card interest rate—the victim simply has to hand over a variety of information to get the deal. In another phone scam, the fraudster poses as an agent of the IRS who is collecting back taxes; the caller gets more and more threatening and aggressive with the victim, creating panic and eventually bilking the victim of cash or personal identification information.
These scams are particularly dangerous because of how authentic the fraudsters make the calls. With certain technology, the scammers can create a fake caller ID, which makes the victim falsely trust the source. Using lures such as the promise of vacation or lowered bills, scammers also create an atmosphere of trust, which allows them more access to rob their victims. And this isn’t going away. Fortune magazine reports that the Federal Trade Commission is on track to receive 30% more complaints about robocalls this year than they did last year.
If you feel that you’re being accosted by robocalls and telephone scams, remember the following:
- Never give information (including account numbers, your social security number, or other personal data) to someone who has called you.
- If you answer a call and discover that it’s a robocall, hang up. Do not press numbers or leave any information on a recording or with a live person. And be sure that you don’t call the number back.
- If you feel you’ve been a victim of a telephone scam, log a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission.
- Finally, register your number on the “Do Not Call” registry—simply go to https://www.donotcall.gov and follow the instructions. Beware, however, that scammers don’t follow the rules, so simply registering here won’t automatically take away the risk of fraud. But being savvy about the risk can help you avoid becoming the next victim.