Fraud, Scams & ID Theft Prevention

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"The trust of the innocent is the liar's most useful tool." --Stephen King

Lessen your chances of becoming a victim to scams, fraud and identity theft by following the tips below.


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Fraud, Scams & Identity Theft Prevention Resources
Resources for consumers are abundant, but can be overwhelming if you don't know where to start. Whether you're looking for where to go for credit assistance, filing a consumer complaint, verifying a business license, or general fraud and identity theft prevention resources, this is the place to start.

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Fraud Prevention Resources
Don't Fall Victim to Telephone Scams
It is important to remember that anyone can be a victim of telephone fraud. However, criminals typically target senior citizens with most phone scams. Why? First, criminals perceive that seniors have a large source of income born out of savings, pensions, social security income and ownership of a home. Second, no matter what their financial status, seniors are often tempted by financial scams due to the fear that they will outlive their savings. Finally, seniors are often available at home during the day to answer the phone or door, and are unlikely to hang up on a scam artist – even if they suspect fraud. However, no matter what your age, you CAN protect yourself from this type of crime.
  • Never give your information to persons who state they are from your bank or credit card company. If you have concerns or questions about your account, contact your financial institution directly.
  • If you think a call may be fraudulent, HANG UP! The phone is yours – you decide to whom you would like to speak. If you would rather not hang up on someone, tell the caller you will have a family member speak to him or her instead.
  • Remember, if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is!
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Avoiding Fraud at Any Cost
Fraud is the deliberate deception of a victim with the promise of goods, services or other benefits that are non-existent, never intended to be provided, or grossly misrepresented. The number of internet fraud and scams is only limited to a criminal’s imagination. Follow these tips to avoid becoming a victim of fraud:
  • Never pay fees or a deposit upfront for something that would not normally have significant upfront costs, such as a sweepstakes. If a deal seems too good to be true, it most likely is. These amazing offers are oftentimes sent out via e-mail. Pay no attention to them and delete them immediately.
  • Never give out personal information such as your social security number or credit card numbers on unprotected internet sites. Make sure the website is protected before giving out personal information. If you are giving this type of information to a company for the first time, do your research on the business beforehand. Read reviews on the company and make sure it is a company that can be trusted. The Better Business Bureau is a great resource that provides consumers with useful information on businesses and their ratings. Visit the Better Business Bureau online.
  • If you decide to meet someone in person to sell or buy an item from an online advertisement, make sure you have a friend or family member accompany you and communicate with others about your whereabouts. If possible, meet in a well populated, safe location such as a restaurant or busy area of town.
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Closing the Door of Opportunity on Sales Scams
If you are at home during the day, you might be approached by someone who is selling a product door to door. Companies and individuals sell everything imaginable, from alarms, to magazine subscriptions, to financial products such as living trusts. Protect yourself from door to door scams by considering the following tips.

  • If visited by a person identifying him- or herself as a sales representative, do not allow the representative to enter your home.
  • While alarms are an excellent means of protecting homes and businesses, and most companies in Virginia are legitimate, some alarm companies stretch legitimacy in an attempt to make a quick buck while avoiding Virginia’s requirements for the industry. Often, their employees practice “high pressure” tactics by going door-to-door and sell relatively inexpensive alarm systems that generate most of their cost from the monitoring fees. The Virginia Department of Criminal Justice Services (DCJS) regulates electronic security sales to ensure that those persons learning about the valuables to be protected do not have a criminal history. Request to see his or her required DCJS-issued photograph registration card and take down the information from it. If you are interested in the product, you may contact DCJS directly at 804-786-4700 to verify the legitimacy of the representative and call him or her back later for an invited sales visit.
  • Don’t allow yourself to be pressured into making on-the-spot decisions about these sales. Take some time to think it over and discuss it with a friend or family member.
  • If the sales person is pushy, refuses to show a required registration card or otherwise acts suspicious, write down a description of the representative and of his or her vehicle, and immediately contact the Manassas City Police Department or other local law enforcement agency.
  • If you suspect the sales person might be a victim of human trafficking and is being forced to make solicitations door-to-door, contact the National Human Trafficking Resource Center (NHTRC) 24-hour hotline at 1-888-373-7888 or text BeFree (233733).
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Are You Leaving a Trail? Protecting Your Identity
"Identity theft" is the criminal use of an individual's personal identification information and in 1998 became a federal crime. There are many methods in which criminals obtain your personal information. Among them are mail theft, malware and computer viruses, keylogging, fire-sharing, skimming credit cards, stealing wallets, and good old fashioned shoulder surfing. In Virginia, the most common types of identity theft are the theft government documents (passports, drivers' licenses, Social Security cards, credit reports, Medicare cards, tax returns, etc) and phone and utility bills. Each type accounts for 17% of all identity theft in the Commonwealth (source: FBI-LEEDA).

While most criminals who steal identities do so for financial gain, others steal identities to take advantage of the victim's criminal history or even medical benefits. If you have medical benefits, you are a potential target for medical identity theft.

Across the country, a person is victimized by identity theft every 8.7 seconds (source: FBI-LEEDA). If you have not already been a victim of identity theft, that somebody could be you. Take steps to protect your identity and those of your children by following these tips.

  • Review your credit report at least once annually. Experian, Trans Union, and Equifax can each be viewed for free once a year, at staggered times of the year. They do not have to be viewed at the same time. To obtain information on how to order your free credit report by mail, visit the Federal Trade Commission online or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
  • Review your medical statements of benefits.
  • Never carry more debit or credit cards than you need, and never keep your ATM pin number or Social Security Card in your wallet. An alternative to carrying your Social Security Card or Medicare card is to carry a photocopy on which all but the last four digits are blacked out.
  • Do not broadcast your personal information in public or on social media.
  • The Fair Credit Billing Act limits consumer liability, while the Electronic Fund Transfer Act limits consumer liability for ATM or debit cards, with stipulations. When given the choice to run your card as credit or debit, you can limit your liability by running it as credit.
  • Never enter personal or financial information on a website (especially when shopping online) when the web address does not begin with "https://". The "s" stands for secure.
  • When writing out a check, use a ball-point pen to prevent tampering or check-washing that would allow someone to access funds from your bank account.
  • Never click on links in an email. The email could be fraudulent. Instead, if you receive a notice from the government, bank, or other account (for example, eBay) and you think it might be real, call or visit the organization's website directly.
  • Never give out personal information such as your Social Security Number or financial information such as your bank account number over the phone unless you initiated the call.
  • For more information on ways to protect yourself and your loved ones from identity theft, including information on how to order your free credit report, visit the Federal Trade Commission online or call 1-877-FTC-HELP (1-877-382-4357).
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