The Humboldt County Sheriff’s Office has received at least five fraud complaints in the last few days from citizens. The citizens have reported that they have received a telephone call with the caller telling them a loved one, such as a grandson is in legal trouble. The caller tells the citizen they are an attorney who is attempting to help their loved one, and they need a $1000.00 sent to them via Western Union. The caller has told the intended fraud victim that their relative is in jail or has been involved in a traffic accident in another state and needs legal representation. At least one victim was convinced by the caller and sent $1000.00 to the suspect.
The Sheriff’s Office also received a complaint today from a citizen who received an unsolicited bill from Pacific Gas and Electric on his computer. The citizen did not open the website and checked with PG&E and learned it was not sent by them.
The Sheriff’s Office would like to remind citizens to beware of phishing emails and telemarketing fraud.
When you send money to people you do not know personally or give personal or financial information to unknown callers, you increase your chances of becoming a victim of telemarketing fraud.
Here are some warning signs of telemarketing fraud—what a caller may tell you:
• “You must act ‘now’ or the offer won’t be good.”
• “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 don’t need to check out the company with anyone.” The callers say you do not need to speak to anyone including your family, lawyer, accountant, local Better Business Bureau, or consumer protection agency.
• “You don’t need any written information about their company or their references.”
• “You can’t afford to miss this ‘high-profit, no-risk’ offer.”
If you hear these or similar “lines” from a telephone salesperson, just say “no thank you” and hang up the telephone.
Tips for Avoiding Telemarketing Fraud:
It’s very difficult to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the telephone. Before you buy anything by telephone, remember:
Don’t buy from an unfamiliar company. Legitimate businesses understand that you want more information about their company and are happy to comply.
Always ask for and wait until you receive written material about any offer or charity. If you get brochures about costly investments, ask someone whose financial advice you trust to review them. But, unfortunately, beware—not everything written down is true.
Always check out unfamiliar companies with your local consumer protection agency, Better Business Bureau, state attorney general, the National Fraud Information Center, or other watchdog groups. Unfortunately, not all bad businesses can be identified through these organizations.
Obtain a salesperson’s name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address, and business license number before you transact business. Some con artists give out false names, telephone numbers, addresses, and business license numbers. Verify the accuracy of these items.
Before you give money to a charity or make an investment, find out what percentage of the money is paid in commissions and what percentage actually goes to the charity or investment.
Before you send money, ask yourself a simple question. “What guarantee do I really have that this solicitor will use my money in the manner we agreed upon?”
Don’t pay in advance for services. Pay services only after they are delivered.
Be wary of companies that want to send a messenger to your home to pick up money, claiming it is part of their service to you. In reality, they are taking your money without leaving any trace of who they are or where they can be reached.
Always take your time making a decision. Legitimate companies won’t pressure you to make a snap decision.
Don’t pay for a “free prize.” If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.
Before you receive your next sales pitch, decide what your limits are—the kinds of financial information you will and won’t give out on the telephone.
Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor. It’s never rude to wait and think about an offer.
Never respond to an offer you don’t understand thoroughly.
Never send money or give out personal information such as credit card numbers and expiration dates, bank account numbers, dates of birth, or social security numbers to unfamiliar companies or unknown persons.
Be aware that your personal information is often brokered to telemarketers through third parties.
If you have been victimized once, be wary of persons who call offering to help you recover your losses for a fee paid in advance.
If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local, or federal law enforcement agencies
"Phishing" Fraud: How to Avoid Getting Fried by Phony Phishermen
“Phishing” involves the use of fraudulent emails and copy-cat websites to trick you into revealing valuable personal information — such as account numbers for banking, securities, mortgage, or credit accounts, your social security numbers, and the login IDs and passwords you use when accessing online financial services providers. The fraudsters who collect this information then use it to steal your money or your identity or both.
When fraudsters go on “phishing” expeditions, they lure their targets into a false sense of security by hijacking the familiar, trusted logos of established, legitimate companies. A typical phishing scam starts with a fraudster sending out millions of emails that appear to come from a high-profile financial services provider or a respected Internet auction house.
The email will usually ask you to provide valuable information about yourself or to “verify” information that you previously provided when you established your online account. To maximize the chances that a recipient will respond, the fraudster might employ any or all of the following tactics:
Names of Real Companies — Rather than create from scratch a phony company, the fraudster might use a legitimate company’s name and incorporate the look and feel of its website (including the color scheme and graphics) into the phishy email.
“From” an Actual Employee — The “from” line or the text of the message (or both) might contain the names of real people who actually work for the company. That way, if you contacted the company to confirm whether “Jane Doe” truly is “VP of Client Services,” you’d get a positive response and feel assured.
Urgent Messages — Many fraudsters use fear to trigger a response, and phishers are no different. In common phishing scams, the emails warn that failure to respond will result in your no longer having access to your account. Other emails might claim that the company has detected suspicious activity in your account or that it is implementing new privacy software or identity theft solutions.
How to Protect Yourself from Phishing
The best way you can protect yourself from phony phishers is to understand what legitimate financial service providers and respectable online auction houses will and will not do. Most importantly, legitimate entities will not ask you to provide or verify sensitive information through a non-secure means, such as email.
Follow these five simple steps to protect yourself from phishers:
1. Pick Up the Phone to Verify — Do not respond to any emails that request personal or financial information, especially ones that use pressure tactics or prey on fear. If you have reason to believe that a financial institution actually does need personal information from you, pick up the phone and call the company yourself — using the number in your rolodex, not the one the email provides!
2. Do Your Own Typing — Rather than merely clicking on the link provided in the email, type the URL into your web browser yourself (or use a bookmark you previously created). Even though a URL in an email may look like the real deal, fraudsters can mask the true destination.
3. Beef Up Your Security — Personal firewalls and security software packages (with anti-virus, anti-spam, and spyware detection features) are a must-have for those who engage in online financial transactions. Make sure your computer has the latest security patches, and make sure that you conduct your financial transactions only on a secure web page using encryption. You can tell if a page is secure in a couple of ways. Look for a closed padlock in the status bar, and see that the URL starts with “https” instead of just “http.”
Security Tip: Some phishers make spoofed websites which appear to have padlocks. To double-check, click on the padlock icon on the status bar to see the security certificate for the site. Following the “Issued to” in the pop-up window you should see the name matching the site you think you’re on. If the name differs, you are probably on a spoofed site.
4. Read Your Statements — Don’t toss aside your monthly account statements! Read them thoroughly as soon as they arrive to make sure that all transactions shown are ones that you actually made, and check to see whether all of the transactions that you thought you made appear as well. Be sure that the company has current contact information for you, including your mailing address and email address.
5. Spot the Sharks — Visit the website of the Anti-Phishing Working Group at www.antiphishing.org for a list of current phishing attacks and the latest news in the fight to prevent phishing. There you’ll find more information about phishing and links to helpful resources.
What to Do if You Run into Trouble
Always act quickly when you come face to face with a potential fraud, especially if you’ve lost money or believe your identity has been stolen.
Phishy Emails — If a phishing scam rolls into your email box, be sure to tell the company right away. You can also report the scam to the FBI’s Internet Fraud Complaint Center at www.ic3.gov. If the email purports to come from the Securities and Exchange Commission, alert the SEC by submitting a tip online at https://denebleo.sec.gov/TCRExternal/disclaimer.xhtml.
Identity Theft — If you think that your personal information has been stolen, visit the Federal Trade Commission's feature on Identity Theft at www.consumer.ftc.gov/features/feature-0014-identity-theft for information on how to control the damage.
Securities Scams — Before you do business with any investment-related firm or individual, do your own independent research to check out their background and confirm whether they are legitimate. For step-by-step tips and links to helpful websites, please read Check Out Brokers and Advisers and SIPC Exposes Phony “Look-Alike” Web Site. Report investment-related scams to the SEC using our online Complaint Center.
For further information go to http://www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud
Or the Federal Trade Commission http://www.ftc.gov/
Security and Exchange Commission http://www.sec.gov/investor/pubs/phishing.htm
Anyone with information for the Sheriff’s Office regarding this case or related criminal activity is encouraged to call the Sheriffs Office at 707-445-7251 or the Sheriffs Office Crime Tip line at 707-268-2539.