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FAKE COLLECTION SCAMS

We have recently received several phone calls that members of our community are being contacted by a company claiming they are from law enforcement, the FBI, that they are an attorney, or even that they are from the prosecutor's office indicating that they owe money for various reasons and will be prosecuted if payment isn't made. Many of these phone calls are being made to the person's place of employment. Many are claiming the debt is from check cashing companies or payday loan collections that happened years ago. These companies also contact family members and indicate their loved one is in trouble with the law and ask them for money to help. They may know a lot of information about you but they are not legitimate. Any creditor that you owe must follow the laws that protect debtors from unfair debt collection practices. Know your rights! Do not release any information over the phone or send any money to these companies. They are asking for payment to be wired through Western Union or payment to be made with money orders. Do not become a victim of these scams!

 

For information regarding fair debt collection practices, visit this website:

www.ftc.gov/bcp/edu/pubs/consumer/credit/cre18.shtm

 

IDENTITY THEFT AND CONSUMER PROTECTION INFORMATION

With the rapid advancements of technology in our society comes increased risks of identity theft.  Some people may  not know they are a victim of identity theft until they apply for credit and are denied.  A thief needs only your social security number and name to open credit accounts.

Steps can be taken to protect yourself from identity theft as follows:

  • Never give personal information over the phone unless you have initiated the contact to a verifiable company or financial institution. If a company you do business with calls you and needs personal information, call them back with the information to ensure you are talking with the right people.

  • Shred, burn or destroy documents containing personal information prior to disposing of them, including blank credit card applications and convenience checks.

  • Do not keep your registration, insurance, checkbook, receipts or other information that can identify you in your car.  Do not leave your car unlocked or unattended.

  • If you use the internet, make sure you use a secure connection when purchasing items, banking, or giving personal information.  Look for the security lock and "https" in the address bar at the bottom of the screen when visiting a website.

  • Do not respond to emails requesting personal information.

  • Purchase virus protection software for your computer and keep it up-to-date.  Free upgrades are usually available to subscribers. Run virus scans on a frequent basis.

  • Do not use debit cards when making purchases, use a credit card as your maximum liability for unauthorized purchases is only $50.00. Your checking account may be cleaned out before you know what is happening when you use your debit card and you may be held liable for not notifying the bank within a certain time period. Check with your bank on their policies and procedures.

  • If you do not wish to receive "junk" emails, register your email with the "Do Not Email List" at www.dmaconsumers.org/offemaillist.html 

  • Request a copy of your credit report on a regular basis, at least once or twice a year. Request at www.annualcreditreport.com, or through the credit bureaus: Equifax: 1-800-685-1111; Experian: 1-888-397-3742; TransUnion: 1-800-888-4213.

  • Review credit card statements for purchases that were not made by you and contact your credit card company immediately if you discover an unauthorized purchase.

  • Cancel inactive credit cards.

  • Never give out your social security number, especially over the phone.

  • Avoid carrying your checkbook or your social security card. Stolen wallets and checkbooks are one of the leading causes of identity theft.

  • When using your credit card, make sure the clerk returns YOUR credit card.  Occasionally, a switch is made without the customer even realizing it until they use the credit card again.

  • Know your local merchants to the extent possible.

  • If possible, have your mail delivered to a locked mailbox.  If you live in a rural setting, do not leave outgoing mail in the box with the flag up--Use a public mailbox or mail from the post office.

  • If you would like to stop receiving "junk" or bulk mail, opt out of the Direct Marketing Lists by sending a letter to Direct Marketing Association, P.O. Box 9008, Farmington, NY 11735-9008.

  • Use passwords on your accounts that are not easy to figure out.  Somebody that knows you will know the name of your dog, spouse, child, birth date, etc.  Come up with original passwords that are not associated with your daily life or identifiable in anyway other than to you.

  • Do not use your mother's real maiden name or your real city of birth, etc. as identification, make the information up.

  • Do not store your list of passwords in an easily obtainable place such as your wallet, palm pilot, rolodex, etc.

  • When entering your PIN number at a machine or credit card checkout, enter so that others cannot see the numbers you press.

These are just a few suggestions that will help protect you against identity theft.  Most of these suggestions are common sense. Use care and caution with every business transaction.

If you have been a victim of identity theft, click on the Federal Trade Commission link for in depth information on the steps you should take immediately.

Image: Federal Trade Commission with link

 

  TELEMARKETING FRAUD

Another problem we all face is telemarketing fraud.  Telemarketing con artists are very skilled in sounding believable.  They like to prey on older, more trusting or vulnerable individuals. One way to avoid receiving these telephone calls is to enter your home and cell phone numbers on the "Do Not Call" registry. You can register online at National Do-Not-Call Registry, or call toll-free, 1-888-382-1222 (TTY 1-866-290-4236), from the number you wish to register. Registration is free. 

Before you become a victim of this multi-billion dollar industry, follow these important guidelines:

  • Before buying, check out unfamiliar companies with consumer protection agencies or the Better Business Bureau.
  • Don't be afraid to ask for a clear explanation of the offer.
  • If it sounds to good to be true--it usually is.
  • Ask the telemarketer to send you written information before buying.  Legitimate companies will give you time to think about it and will be glad to send you information or leave a telephone number you can call back.
  • Do not send money or pay for a prize in order to improve your chances of winning a larger prize.
  • Never give a telemarketer any personal financial information such as bank account, credit card, or social security number.

The Lines of a Con Artist may sound like this:

  • "You can't afford to miss this high-profit, no risk opportunity."
  • You have won a free gift! All you have to pay for is shipping and handling."
  • "You have won a cash prize in the amount of $______! You need only send us a check in the amount of $________ to insure the delivery of the prize."
  • "You have to act now or the offer will expire."
  • "In order to identify you, I need your social security number, credit card number, or bank account number."
  • "By buying this product, you will increase your chances of winning."

If you would like more information, or if you have been a victim of identity theft or fraud, contact your local police agency, a credit reporting agency, your bank or financial institution, the Genesee County Sheriff's Consumer Protection and Fraud Division (810) 341-5923, the UAW Consumer Advocate Center at UAW Local 599, (810) 238-1616, and/or the Michigan Attorney General Consumer Protection Division toll free number (877) 765-8388 or visit their website at www.michigan.gov/ag.

For more information regarding fraud and identity theft, visit the FBI's "Be Crime Smart" webpage by clicking here.

You may also click on the links below for further information regarding identity theft, fraud, consumer protection,  and the National Do Not Call Registry.

 

Image: Federal Trade Commission with link Image: DMA (Direct Marketing Association)
Image: Michigan State Police Logo

Image: ID Theft Logo

Image: National Internet Fraud Watch Information Center Image: National Do Not Call Registry
Image: Snopes Local Police Agency List
Image: Annual Credit Report Genesee County SheriffConsumer Protection