Common Identity Theft and Fraud Schemes

Jury Duty Scam: You get a phone call from an “officer of the court” stating that you’ve failed to report for jury duty and a warrant is out for your arrest. You’re caught off guard, and say that you never received notice. The “officer” offers to help clear up the situation, but needs to verify some of your personal information first, like your birth date, social security number, and perhaps your credit card number. Or, they state that if you pay your fine over the phone now that the warrant will be removed – they just need a credit card or checking account number. Falling victim to this scam will could ruin your credit score and credit ratings. What should you do if you receive such a call? Hang up. Court officers will not request personal information over the phone. If you do receive such a call, do not give out any information and contact your local clerk or jury commissioner’s office and confirm that you have no warrants and report the scam. Chances are they have heard this scam before: it has been run for years across the United States.

Telemarketing Fraud: You may get a phone call that you’ve won or qualified for a free or discounted vacation package. The caller is pushy, and asks for your credit card number “now” to secure your reservation. If the caller gets your credit card number, your identity and credit could be at serious risk of damage. You’ll know it’s a scam if you have to “act now” and the caller won’t provide a call-back number for you to think over your decision and call back. Legitimate businesses understand that you’ll want more information about their company and time to think about your decision and are happy to comply. Never buy from an unfamiliar company; ask for written information (request that information be mailed to you or where you can go online to get more information), take the time to check out the business with the Better Business Bureau, state attorney general or the National Fraud Information Center. Get the caller’s name, business name, telephone number, street address, mailing address and business license number. Never pay in advance for a service; only pay after services are complete and/or delivered. Be wary of companies offering to send a courier to pick up a check: chances are you’ll never see that money again.

The Nigerian Letter or 419 Scam: In this scam, you receive a letter or email from someone claiming to be a Nigerian official needing your assistance transferring millions of dollars out of Nigeria (into your personal bank account). For your assistance, you will receive a percentage of the funds after the funds are moved. While the whole thing may sound ridiculous, Americans lose millions of dollars to this scheme on an annual basis, and many have been placed in physical harm after attempting to recoup their losses by traveling to Nigeria. The Nigerian government has no sympathy for these cases, so the best thing to do if you ever get such a letter is to contact your local FBI office as soon as possible. To protect yourself from this type of identity theft, do not trust individuals claiming to be with a foreign government and promising large sums of money.

Advance Fee Schemes: These scams can take many forms, but involve the victim paying money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value later. It may involve a loan, investment, contract, gift, lottery, or some other opportunity. Con artists get the victims to pay money upfront expecting a greater return that they never see. Remember that if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Only do business with companies that you absolutely trust. Check with a competent attorney before agreeing to fund any investment opportunities. And lastly, be wary of businesses without a listed phone number and street address.