Beware “Telemarketing Fraud”

Telemarketing Fraud – Never Give Personal Information to Unknown Callers

Telemarketing Fraud Limited Only by Criminal’s Imagination

The stories change over time but the purpose and result of the call to the victim remains the same.  The thief gains the victim’s confidence and the victim divulges personal information.  Victims are ashamed they fell for the bait and often do not report the crime to law enforcement, family, or even friends.  Meanwhile, the thief uses the personal information to drain the victim’s bank account, obtain credit in the victim’s name, or commit some other crime.

Thieves frequently relay a sense of urgency, pretending to be bank or credit card officials, government employees, law enforcement, or other trusted professionals to fool victims into providing information.  A few of the recent schemes used to lure information from victims include a story that the personal information is necessary for any of the following reasons:

 

  • to conduct a survey on your satisfaction after purchasing or receiving a government service;
  • to protect the call recipient from becoming the victim of fraud;
  • to claim a shopping spree or valuable gasoline coupons in return for a minimal processing charge to be debited directly from your bank account or a pre-paid credit card;
  • to qualify for a new government program or to continue in a current government program like Medicare or Social Security;
  • to claim a prize or to be eligible for a pre-approved credit card, loan, or government grant;
  • to dispute the victim’s failure to report for jury duty, the consequence of which is  being arrested;
  • to qualify for discount programs;
  • to promote a program or charity tied to recent news events or tragedies;
  • to pay to help a loved one in a medical or legal emergency;
  • to pay off a (bogus) past due payday loan debt, or face threatened legal action;
  • to obtain an auto warranty or lower credit card interest rates.

There are even reports that criminals have become so bold that they call and report personal information is necessary because of a recent family tragedy.  For instance, money is needed to rush a family member to emergency medical care or your personal information is necessary before you can get more information about a family member in crisis.

The Attorney General warns that in the face of negative publicity the scam artists often change the name of the company involved and modify the pitch, but the purpose — to steal personal information — remains constant.

Never Give Personal Information to Someone Who Calls

Con artists will lie, cheat, steal, and make up plausible stories to convince you to divulge sensitive information.  The callers are often professional criminals who are skillfully able to get personal information before the victim has time to properly assess the situation.

In a recent twist on an old scam, con artists are using automated calls to “warn” consumers that they may be victims of fraud and need to confirm some information.  The recorded message instructs consumers to call a toll-free number.  When consumers call the toll-free number, they are greeted by another automated message.  This time, the consumers are instructed to input their personal financial information.

The information requested may seem minimal — for instance just the numbers off the bottom of your check or your pre-paid credit card number.  Armed with these numbers, however, thieves can drain the funds from your bank account or pre-paid credit card.  Your Social Security number will allow a crook to obtain credit and charge thousands of dollars to your good name.  Even information as simple as your maiden name or birthday can be used to rob you.  And in this age of high tech scams, the crooks can literally be anywhere in the world when they obtain your personal financial information, making it extremely difficult to track the perpetrators.
Thieves Choose Numbers They Want to Appear on Caller ID

Technology available for purchase on the Internet allows crooks to use a fake caller ID to make bogus phone calls look like they are coming from a legitimate and trustworthy source to gain access to a victim’s valuable personal information.

False caller ID numbers have been reported in connection with fraudulent calls claiming the potential victim missed jury duty and to avoid arrest or a fine must “verify” their Social Security number or other personal information.  The calls may seem legitimate because the telephone number of the local courthouse shows up on the caller ID.

Con artists may also use false caller ID numbers to pose as debt collectors, sweepstakes officials, and utility company representatives. In each case, scammers call consumers to request payment of outstanding fees. To submit these fees, consumers are instructed to purchase a pre-paid credit card, load it with funds, and provide the card number to the caller. Upon consumers’ submission of the number, their funds are immediately transferred to the scammer’s account of choice, and cardholders often never see their money again.

Demand Drafts — Why Providing Bank Information is a Problem

When providing checking account numbers and bank routing numbers (numbers reproduced at the bottom of the check) over the phone, you are giving the caller the opportunity to withdraw money from your account as if you had written a check.  In most states, including Michigan, you can pre-authorize a draft from your checking account.  This occurs when you provide your checking account and bank routing numbers and authorize a certain amount of money to be withdrawn from your account.  Your signature is not required for money to be drawn out of a checking account in this manner.  Demand drafts closely resemble checks and are processed through the check clearing system, which handles millions of items daily.

Once you provide your account information to another person, you cannot control how that person uses the information.  Accounts may easily be accessed by unauthorized demand drafts or for larger amounts than authorized.
If You Hear a Story You Believe …

If you receive a call that convinces you divulging personal information is necessary, STOP!  If you feel you must divulge information, take the following steps:

  1. Confirm the identity of the caller (your bank, credit card company, governmental agency, police department, etc. . .);
  2. Hang up!;
  3. Go to a reliable source for the phone number of the caller (a statement, a bill, or your phone book — do not rely on the number the caller or any automated message provides);
  4. Call the identified source to confirm whether the prior call you received was legitimate;
  5. If it was not legitimate, report the attempted fraud to the Attorney General’s office so we can investigate and update our consumer warnings.

Traditional Warning Signs

A caller may tell you:

 

  • Your personal information or account has been compromised, and they need to confirm your personal financial information so they can protect you.

 

  • You’ve won a “free” gift, vacation, or prize.  But you have to pay for “postage and handling,” “shipping,” “taxes,” “insurance,” or other charges with a credit card.  If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, he or she is violating federal law.

 

  • You must act “now” or the offer will expire.

 

  • You must mail or wire transfer money, provide a credit card, bank account number, or have a check picked up by courier.

 

  • You don’t need to check out our company, the offer is “guaranteed” and “risk-free.”

 

  • You can’t afford to miss this “high-profit, no-risk” offer.

 

If you hear these (or similar) pitches just say “NO” and hang up the phone.

 

Additional Tips to Avoid Telemarketing Fraud

It’s very difficult to get your money back if you’ve been cheated over the phone.  Before you buy anything by telephone, or provide any personal financial information, 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, you still must be cautious as even the written material may not be true.

 

  • If you insist on purchasing over the phone, 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 and use a credit card so you can dispute the charge if necessary.

 

  • 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?”
  • Do not respond to a call, text, or email, or visit requesting payment by wire transfer or PayPal.

 

  • Do not pay in advance for services.  Pay for services only after they are delivered.

 

  • Some criminals will 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.

 

  • It’s never rude to wait and think about an offer.  Be sure to talk over big investments offered by telephone salespeople with a trusted friend, family member, or financial advisor.

What to Do if You Fall Victim

Bank Account Information

If you mistakenly provide bank account information to a suspicious caller, take the following steps immediately:

 

  • Call your bank, explain the circumstances, and tell them you want to take all necessary steps to block unauthorized withdrawals.   Follow up your call with a visit to the bank and written notification.  Keep a copy of the written notification.  Your bank will likely charge you a fee for stopping the payment.

 

  • If the money has already been withdrawn, immediately ask the bank to credit your account because the debit was not authorized.  To get this credit, you may need to submit a sworn statement to your bank that the debit was unauthorized.  This statement is called a “Written Statement Under Penalty of Perjury,” and you may get a copy from your bank.

As a precaution, always check your bank statements to make sure that there are no unauthorized payments.   Report any unauthorized payments to the bank as soon as you detect them.   In the case of unauthorized demand drafts, you may also wish to close the account to avoid any further unauthorized withdrawals by persons who have gained access to your account information.  Be aware that con artists may sell your information to other bad actors.

Pre-paid Credit Card Information
If you mistakenly provide your pre-paid credit card number to a suspicious caller, try the following options to obtain restitution:

  • If the scam was perpetrated by a con artist posing as a debt collector or utility company representative, contact the utility company or debt collection agency directly and describe what happened.
  • Contact your local police department.
  • File a complaint with the Attorney General’s Consumer Protection Division. Click File a Complaint Online to submit a claim electronically. You can also call 877-765-8388 to speak to a Complaint Specialist or submit a claim by surface mail to the following address: Consumer Protection Division, P.O. Box 30213, Lansing, MI 48909.
  • Report the scammers to the Federal Trade Commission by calling 877-382-4357.
  • Alert the pre-paid card provider.

 

Other Personal Information

If the information you provided is specific to an account, immediately call the security or fraud department of that company.  Follow up in writing by certified mail return receipt requested and include copies (not originals) of supporting documents.  You may wish to close the relevant account.

In addition, anytime you mistakenly provide personal information to somebody who calls, you should immediately place an initial fraud alert on your credit report for at least 90 days.  When you place an initial fraud alert on your credit report, you are entitled to one free credit report from each of the three nationwide consumer reporting companies.

You can place the initial fraud alert by contacting the toll-free fraud number of any of the three consumer reporting companies below.  You only need to contact one of the three companies to place an alert.  The company you call is required to contact the other two, which will place an alert on their versions of your report too.

Equifax: 800-525-6285; www.equifax.com; P.O. Box 740241, Atlanta, GA 30374-0241

Experian: 888-EXPERIAN (397-3742); www.experian.com; P.O. Box 9532, Allen, TX 75013

TransUnion: 800-680-7289; www.transunion.com; Fraud Victim Assistance Division, P.O. Box 6790, Fullerton, CA 92834-6790

Once you get your free credit report, review it carefully.  Look for inquiries from companies you haven’t contacted, accounts you didn’t open, and debts on your accounts that you can’t explain.  Check that personal information, like your Social Security number, address(es), name or initials, and employers are correct.  If you find fraudulent or inaccurate information, get it removed. For instructions, see the “Resolving Specific Problems”, “Correcting Fraudulent Information in Credit Reports” section of the Federal Trade Commission’s booklet, “Taking Charge: What to Do if Your Identity is Stolen” available at  or by calling toll free 877-ID-THEFT (877-438-4338); TTY: 866-653-4261.
Free Annual Credit Reports

For more information on your right to obtain annually one free credit report from each credit reporting agency, regardless of circumstances, see the Attorney General’s alert “Free Annual Credit Reports – What Consumers Should Know” available on the Attorney General’s website or by using the contact information provided below.  Free annual reports are available by calling toll free 877-322-8228.
Reduce Telemarketing Calls

To reduce telemarketing calls, consumers should put their phone number on the Federal Trade Commission’s Do Not Call Registry.  Register by phone toll free (888-382-1222; TTY 866-290-4236 from the phone number you want to put on the registry) or online at https://www.donotcall.gov/.

State of Michigan Attorney Bill Schuette, https://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-17337_20942-252790–,00.html

Beware “Grandparents Scam”

TELEPHONE CON ARTISTS TARGET SENIOR CITIZENS’ USING “DISTRESSED LOVED-ONE” TACTIC

Across the nation, con artists are scamming grandparents out of thousands of dollars by posing as grandchildren in distress.  In one instance, Michigan, grandparents were taken for $33,000. They wire transferred $3,000 to someone they thought was their grandson after he called and claimed he was caught fishing without a license in Canada and needed to pay a $3,000 fine. They were taken for an additional $30,000 after the supposed grandson called again to say that alcohol and drugs were found when his boat was searched, and he needed $30,000 to post bond to get out of a Canadian jail.

How the Scam Works

A grandparent receives a frantic call from someone they believe to be their grandchild. The supposed grandchild sounds distressed and may be calling from a noisy location. The supposed grandchild claims to be involved in some type of trouble while traveling in Canada or overseas, such as being arrested or in a car accident or needing emergency car repairs, and asks the grandparent to immediately wire money to post bail or pay for medical treatment or car repairs. The scammer typically asks for several thousand dollars, and may even call back again several hours or days later asking for more money. He or she may claim embarrassment about the alleged trouble and ask the grandparent to keep it a secret.

A variation of the scam may involve two scammers — the first scammer calls and poses as a grandchild under arrest. The second scammer, posing as some type of law enforcement officer, then gets on the phone with the grandparent and explains what fines need to be paid. Alternatively, the scammer may pretend to be a family friend or neighbor.

A common theme of the scam across the nation is the caller’s request for the grandparent to wire money through Western Union or MoneyGram or to provide bank account routing numbers. Wiring money is like sending cash; there are no protections for the sender.  Typically there is no way you can reverse the transaction, trace the money, or recover payment from the telephone con artists.

It is possible that the scammers are finding their targets on the Internet. Names, addresses, birth dates, and telephone numbers are easily ascertained online. Scammers may also check Facebook or other social networking websites to learn about someone’s vacation plans, (especially during spring and summer months when many families take vacations), and then contact that person’s grandparent pretending to be the real grandchild. Another possibility is that the scammers are calling telephone numbers randomly until they reach a senior citizen. In some cases, the senior citizen unknowingly “fills in the blanks” for the thief. For instance, the senior answers the phone, the scammer says something like, “Hi Grandma, it’s me, your favorite grandchild,” the grandparent guesses the name of the grandchild the caller sounds most like, and the scammer takes on that grandchild’s identity for the remainder of the call.

How to Avoid Being Scammed

Be suspicious when you receive a telephone call where:

  • A grandchild calls you from a far away location.
  • The grandchild says, “It’s me,” or “It’s your grandson,” or “It’s your favorite grandchild.”
  • The grandchild is in some trouble or some type of distress.
  • The caller asks for money to be wire transferred

If you receive such a call, you should verify the identity and location of the grandchild claiming to be in trouble. You should hang up and call another family member who can confirm your grandchild’s whereabouts. Try calling your grandchild at the telephone number through which you normally reach him or her. Stay calm and avoid acting out of a sense of urgency. Do not wire money unless you have verified with an independent third party that your grandchild is truly in trouble.

In addition, never give out any personal identifying information such as bank account or credit card numbers to anyone who calls you on the phone. As in the Grandparents Scam, con artists will lie, cheat, steal, and make up plausible stories to convince you to wire money or divulge sensitive information. The callers are often professional criminals who are skillfully able to get you to wire money or give personal information before you have time to properly assess the situation.

State of Michigan Attorney General Bill Schuette, http://www.michigan.gov/ag/0,4534,7-164-18156-205169–,00.html

Department of Justice Equitable Sharing Program payments

Today most Chief’s across the country received word from the IACP President Terrence M. Cunningham that he sent a letter to The Honorable Loretta Lynch, Attorney General.  This letter was intended to request answers on the following;

  • The current status of the equitable sharing fund
  • A target date for the resumption of equitable sharing payments to state and local law enforcement agencies
  • The Department of Justice’s plan for the future of the equitable sharing program

Not to long ago it was decided that the Department of Justice Equitable Sharing Program payments would be suspended.  This program is where the federal law enforcement shares proceeds from seized monies and property with local law enforcement.  This single action has far reaching consequences for law enforcement.  Many departments utilize these monies to supplement their enforcement actions and provide federal law enforcement with essential extra manpower.  When these funds were cut off it essentially acted to cripple many departments who fund special task force officers with them.  These funds are often also used for training, equipment, and many other essential law enforcement purposes that they otherwise would not have access to.  Let’s hope that the Attorney General responds and acts quickly to resolve this problem.  I have attached a copy of the letter below.

 

LetterAGLynch

Realistic Toy Guns Are Dangerous

Toy Gun

                 

Parents, please think twice about buying your child a toy gun!  I’m not saying don’t do it but make sure they are supervised carefully and fully understand the dangers in them.  Over the years I can remember countless times responding to police runs were the caller believed someone had a real gun and it turned out to be a toy.

There have been far to many children and people killed because the toy gun they were using was believed to be real.

-gunimages

(Photo Patrick Gillespie)

cleveland-gun

USA Today Online: Ford bulks up bulletproofing in police cars

“In a sign of the times, Ford Motor says it is upgrading protection in the doors of its police cruisers to defend against armor-piercing bullets.

With a greater danger that assailants will use high-powered or assault rifles with rounds that can easily punch through cars doors, Ford officials say it’s an improvement that police departments have been seeking.

“Officers, globally, told us they needed protection from armor-piercing ammunition, and we added ballistic protection to an already great product,” said Arie Groeneveld, chief engineer for Ford’s police car lineup. Police typically crouch behind their car doors during high-risk traffic stops, using them as shields.

Ford is a leading maker of police pursuit vehicles. After dominating the market for years with its Crown Victoria sedan, Ford successfully migrated many departments over to its Ford Explorer SUV, which it says is a best seller. Ford isn’t alone in noting the need for ballistic protection. Fiat Chrysler Automobiles says it has had protection against bullets in the police version of its Dodge Charger since 2012. General Motors says it has an aftermarket outfitter that adds protection to its Chevrolet Caprice police car.

Ford officials say they have been working on the bulletproofing upgrade for more than a year. It was accomplished by creating two layers of protection, including ceramic tiles and a Kevlar-type material known for stopping bullet strikes. From an engineering standpoint, it was a tricky challenge. Not only is there little room in doors for more panels, but the extra protection adds weight, says Randy Freiburger, Ford’s special vehicle engineering supervisor. The doors were tested on machines through more than 100,000 slams to make sure the hinges will hold up.

Michigan State Police officers tested the increased protection by shooting up doors with high-powered rifles. The goal was to meet what the Justice Department defines as level IV protection: the ability to resist .30-caliber armor-piercing bullets.

A former police lieutenant who was hit by bullets 15 times in a 2012 shootout with a white supremacist says the protection is needed.

“If you are doing a high-risk (traffic) stop or felony stop, you push that car door open, and you are yelling commands from a position of cover,” says Brian Murphy, who now consults for a bulletproof vest maker after recovering from his wounds and retiring from the Oak Creek, Wis., Police Department. Many current door panels “really provide no protection.”

Ford plans to start taking orders from police departments next week. Pricing hasn’t been disclosed.”

For Original Article:

Photo: Ryan Koehler, AP

Photo: Ryan Koehler, AP

http://www.usatoday.com/story/money/cars/2016/03/10/ford-upgrades-bulletproofing-police-cars/81588578/

Schuette: Five Ways for Parents to Keep Children Safe Online

1) Talk with Your Children about Online Safety. The Attorney General’s Social Networking Discussion Questions and Action Plan can help facilitate conversation and establish online safety guidelines. Examples include having ground rules for internet usage, have time limits on device usage and reminding kids that once something is posted online it is permanent.

2) Guard Personal Information. Remind children to never give out identifying information to people they don’t know including their name, phone number, address, or school name. It is also a good idea to go over social media profiles to make sure they do not contain personal information.

3) Know the Basics about the Apps and Sites that are Popular. The more you know about each, the better you will be able to communicate with your children about safe choices.

4) Learn Cyberbullying Warning Signs. Cyberbullying affects at least one in every five middle and high school students and often times those who experience it don’t tell anyone. The OK2SAY program is another great tool to help fight cyberbullying.

5) Take Action if You Suspect Cyberbullying. Foremost, make sure your child is (and feels) safe. You also need to talk with and listen to your child; collect evidence; work with the school; and, if necessary, be prepared to seek counseling for your child. There is much you can to do help your child deal with and end the situation.

Attorney General of Michigan Bill Schutte Press Release, March 9, 2016

What to do if you find a Gas Pump Skimmer

by Robert DeRubeis, Program Manager Weights and Measures, Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Developmentuntitled

Buying gas is a routine necessity for Michigan drivers with more and more consumers paying for their gas directly at the pump using a credit or debit card. Unfortunately, criminals have developed new technology to steal your personal banking information when paying at the pump. This techno-crime victimizes both the customer and the gas station.

The typical gas dispenser has a common access key allowing criminals to quickly and easily access the interior dispenser and hide a skimming device. Generally referred to as “skimmers,” these small electronic devices, are embedded into the electronic credit card reader system (like the one on the front of the gas dispenser) capturing the credit/debit card information. The information can be retrieved manually by the criminals or some of the newer devices appear to have Bluetooth capabilities. How do you know if there is a skimmer in the dispenser you are using? You don’t.

To date, nearly 40 skimmers have been removed from gas pumps across the state by the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development Weights and Measures inspectors, local law enforcement, service companies and station operators.

The only way to identify if a dispenser has been tampered with or modified is to physically inspect the interior cabinet area.

What are stations doing to protect consumers?

Skimmers tend to be on the outside pumps or those obscured from the eyes of the operator or attendant. So, many stations are being extra vigilant about checking those pumps and frequently inspecting all of their pumps looking for skimmers.

Some stations have a high tech alarm system to shut the pump down if it is tampered with and some have changed the physical locks or are using tamper proof seals on the outside to alert consumers and operators to an unauthorized entry. The most effective methods to date appear to be the alarm systems and changing the locks.

Though it seems impossible to open a pump and install a skimmer, our experience has shown these thieves need less than 30 seconds and aren’t afraid to do it in broad daylight. Reporting unusual activity to the gas station is an important step for consumers as is communication between station operators, service agents and MDARD’s Weights and Measures inspectors.

Weights and Measures staff inspect thousands of gasoline stations annually, and our search for skimming or filtering devices has become a daily routine. But we can’t do it alone. Through continued partnership with Michigan’s gas station owners, we can minimize the potential for consumers to get skimmed.

What should consumers do to protect themselves?

Since credit card skimmers can’t be seen from the outside, there are a few simple steps consumers can follow to help protect themselves.

·  Use the gas pumps within sight of the attendant.

·  Monitor your credit and debit card accounts regularly.

·  If you see something that doesn’t look right, notify the clerk and pay inside.

· Think your card has been compromised? Call your banking institution immediately.

What should a station do if a skimmer is found? First, do not touch it. Shut the dispenser down and contact MDARD’s Weights and Measures Section at 517-655-8202. If this occurs on the weekend, call the local or State Police and file a report.

To file a consumer complaint regarding skimmers or any other weights and measures related issue, please call the MDARD hotline at 1-800-632-3835. Informational videos are available at www.youtube.com/MIAgriculture. For information on the Weights and Measures program, visit us at www.michigan.gov/wminfo.