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Fraud Awareness
Today, Americans are falling victim to fraud schemes at an alarming rate. The best way to prevent fraud is to be aware of the different types of scams out there. As the old adage goes, "If it looks too good to be true, it probably is." If in doubt, it's a good idea to check it out.

The FBI has devoted a portion of their Web site to educating consumers about fraud. Here are a few of the most common types of fraud today, according to the FBI. For more information on any of these scams, visit the FBI's Crime Smart Web site.

Telemarketing Fraud
As a rule of thumb, don't release personal or financial information over the phone unless you know the origin of the call. If a business calls asking for sensitive information, ask them to send you something in writing, or request the caller's id number and return their call at a later date. Here are some of the warning signs of Telemarketing fraud:
  • "You've won a 'free' gift, vacation, or prize." But you have to pay for "postage and handling or other charges.
  • "You must send money, give a credit card or bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier." You may hear this before you have had a chance to consider the offer carefully.
  • You are asked to pay in advance for services.
Nigerian Letter or "419" Fraud
Nigerian Letter Fraud is attempted both by mail and email. The letter states that a self-proclaimed government official is attempting to transfer money into the United States. For your cooperation in transferring the funds, you are offered to share in percentage of the money. In reality, there is no money.

Millions of dollars have been lost by victims of this fraud. In addition, "some victims have been lured to Nigeria, where they have been imprisoned against their will, in addition to losing large sums of money." Here are some warning signs to watch for:

  • Be skeptical of individuals representing themselves as Nigerian or foreign government officials asking for your help 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.

If you or someone you know receives a letter from Nigeria asking you to send personal or banking information, do not reply in any manner. File a complaint with the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center and send the letter to the U.S. Secret Service, your local FBI office , or the U.S. Postal Inspection Service.

Identity Theft
Identity theft is one of the most popular schemes today. Identity theft occurs when someone assumes your identity to perform an illegal action. Identity thieves obtain the information from a variety of sources, such as the theft of your wallet, your trash, or from credit or bank information. They may approach you in person, by telephone, or on the Internet and ask you for the information.
  • Never throw away ATM receipts, credit statements, credit cards, or bank statements in a usable form.
  • Never give your credit card number over the telephone unless you make the call.
  • Reconcile your bank account monthly and notify your bank of discrepancies immediately.
  • Keep a list of telephone numbers to call to report the loss or theft of your wallet, credit cards, etc.
  • Consider Identity Theft Protection

If you or someone you know is the target of identity theft, report it as soon as possible to the Federal Trade Commission.

Advance Fee Scheme
This scheme requires the victim to pay a sum of money in anticipation of receiving a large sum of money or a service that they never receive. Some common examples of this may be a foreign lottery, "found money," or investments.

Some thieves offer to find the victim financing opportunities in exchange for a "finders' fee." Victims often learn that they are ineligible for financing only after they have paid the "finder" according to the contract. Such agreements may be legal unless it can be shown that the "finder" never had the intention or the ability to provide financing for the victims. To avoid this scheme:

  • Follow common business practice. For example, legitimate business is rarely conducted in cash on a street corner.
  • Know who you are dealing with. If you have not heard of a person or company that you intend to do business with, learn more about them.
  • Make sure you fully understand any business agreement that you enter into. If the terms are complex, have them reviewed by a competent attorney.