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  Fraud Archive
   
  Charity Scam  May 2015
 

When disaster strikes at home or abroad, it is natural to want to help. But before sending money, do some research to ensure you are not falling victim to the latest charity scam.    Get the exact name and look up the charity on-line. The California Attorney General offers information on registered California charities at http://oag.ca.gov/charities. More information  on national charities can be found at http://www.guidestar.org/.

Additionally, avoid any charity or fundraiser that:

  • Refuses to provide detailed information
  • Won’t provide proof that a contribution is tax deductible
  • Uses a name similar to that of a better known charity
  • Asks for cash
 
  Health Inspector Scam   March 2011  
  The Tulare County District Attorney’s Office has become aware of a fraud scheme targeting restaurants, food service facilities and other small businesses in Tulare County, California and across North America.

A number of restaurants in Tulare County have recently received telephone calls from a person claiming to be a “health inspector” introducing a new procedure for arranging a health inspection. The phony “health inspector” asks the business owner to follow a procedure to get a special “code” to confirm the upcoming inspection. Later the business owner receives a second call asking for the “confirmation code.” Of course, there is no such inspection and no real inspector ever arrives.

In the alternative the caller claims to be from the State Health Department and informs the restaurant they have complaints against the restaurant and need to schedule an inspection. They will then attempt to ask a number of questions to obtain personal or business information from the person on the phone. They may even request a cell number to text a “code” to and ask you to confirm receipt; this is all part of an effort to obtain private information for fraudulent use.

This phony inspector scheme is part of a larger fraud involving setting up “verified” accounts with a national on-line auction service. The purpose of the “code” request is to get the small business owner to provide false verification to the online auction service. The con-artist does this to establish a bogus on-line account to be used in other fraud schemes.

Restaurants and food facility owners/operators need to be aware of this scam and should protect themselves from this fraudulent action by understanding:

The Environmental Health Division does not announce inspections in advance, will not call in advance of an inspection requesting information and will not call to schedule an inspection. The Environmental Health Division has not developed a new inspection procedure. Any caller identifying him/herself as a “health inspector” asking you to participate in a “code” process, requesting account information or soliciting other information is part of a fraud scheme. If you do not recognize your inspector, please ask for proper photo identification. Never give out personal or business identification information over the phone unless you are certain of the identity of the person with whom you are speaking. If you want to confirm that you’re speaking with a person from the Environmental Health Division, ask for the caller’s name, inform the caller you will call them back, hang-up and call the number below and ask for the person that called. If they hesitate or argue about the call back or ask you to call a different number simply hang-up as this is not someone from the Environmental Health Division.

If you have any questions or concerns, please call the Tulare County Environmental Health Division at (559) 624-7400 or the District Attorney's Consumer Protection Hotline at 559-636-5410 or email at TCDAConsumerProtect@co.tulare.ca.us.
 

 
 
 
  FBI SPAM EMAIL SCAM   October 26, 2006  
  We have become aware of a bogus spam e-mail claiming to be from FBI Director Robert Mueller III. This scam appears to be a typical Nigerian scam; however, the attempt to defraud victims comes in two separate e-mails. The same e-mail address is used to deliver both phases of the spam.

The first e-mail claims to be from FBI Director Robert S. Mueller III. It advises recipients that they are the beneficiary of a large sum of money and that they can claim the money by providing an FBI Identification Record and a Certificate of Ownership. To make the message look more legitimate, information is pasted in the e-mail from the FBI.gov web site defining what an Identification Record is and how to obtain it from the Criminal Justice Information Services Division.

The second e-mail claims to be from Donna M. Uzzell, FBI Compact Council Chairman. The message informs the recipient the Certificate of Ownership is supplied, for a fee, by the country where the funds originated. It requires the recipient to respond to the e-mail for instructions on sending the money to FBI Nigeria, which then will issue the certificate.
At this point the message becomes more threatening, stating the FBI has investigative programs which can track down those who fail to provide the requested documentation. It further states failure to comply will result in charges being brought against the individual by the FBI.

THIS EMAIL IS A HOAX. DO NOT RESPOND. If you receive such an email contact the Internet Crime Complaint Center at http://www.ic3.gov/ 

In general we recommend anyone receiving such emails or any phone calls requesting financial/personal information to not respond in any manner. Social Security Numbers, banking information such as account numbers, routing numbers and next of kin are the open doors for criminals to electronically steal money and identity. Such information should never be given to persons or companies whom you do not have a trusted relationship. We further recommend if you are contacted by mail, email or over the phone about your bank account give no information, personally contact your banking institution and call your local police department, the Sheriff’s Department, or the District Attorney’s Office. If you are a senior citizen, in addition, you may also call Tulare County Adult Protective Services (559) 623-0651 or the District Attorney’s Office Elder Abuse Unit at (559) 636-5471. More information may be obtained by calling the District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program at (559) 636-5471.

Source: Federal Bureau of Investigation, http://www.fbi.gov/cyberinvest//escams.htm

Contact Person: WILLIAM YOSHIMOTO
Supervising Attorney
(559) 624-1054
 

 
 
 
  U.S. SOLDIER PHISHING SCAM   May 17, 2006  
  The Office of the Tulare County District Attorney, Phil Cline, District Attorney, White Collar Crime Unit, Consumer Fraud Unit, the Elder Abuse Prosecution Program and the Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program issue the following warning: emails from a person posing as a U.S. Soldier in Iraq have been received by numerous persons in the United States. An email purporting to be from Sgt. 1st Class Frank V. Edmonds of the 3rd Infantry offers what has come to be known as the “Nigerian” scam. He says he has come into possession of a very large sum of money taken in a raid of Saddam Hussein’s compound in Takrit and needs a way to get the monies back to the United States. The email talks of the illegality of such a transaction but plays on the sympathy of Americans by mentioning the sacrifice and horror of serving in Iraq concluding with this money being partial compensation for such service. Quoting from the letter: “I do not know how long we will remain here, and I have been shot, wounded and survived two suicide bomb attacks by the special grad (sic) of God. This and other reasons I will mention later has prompted me to reach out for help. I honestly want this matter to be resolved immediately, please contact me as soon as possible.”

Based on this appeal, the recipient is asked to provide banking information so a wire transfer of funds can be accomplished. As in all Nigerian scams, the offer of sharing the money is made for the use of the bank account for the transfer. This is a “phishing” scam and will result in identity theft. The banking information will be used to steal funds in the account.

We recommend anyone receiving such emails to not respond in any manner. Social Security Numbers, banking information such as account numbers, routing numbers and next of kin are the open doors for criminals to electronically steal money and identity. Such information should never be given to persons or companies whom you do not have a trusted relationship. We further recommend if you are contacted by mail, email or over the phone about your bank account give no information, personally contact your banking institution and call your local police department, the Sheriff’s Department, or the District Attorney’s Office. If you are a senior citizen, in addition, you may also call Tulare County Adult Protective Services (559) 733-6585 or the District Attorney’s Office Elder Abuse Unit at (559) 636-5471. More information may be obtained by calling the District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program at (559) 636-5471.
 
 

>>> Press Release from the Office of the Tulare County District Attorney

 
 
 
  JURY DUTY SCAM   April 19, 2006  
  Most of us take those summons for jury duty seriously, but enough people skip out on their civic duty, that a new and ominous kind of scam has surfaced. Fall for it and your identity could be stolen, reports CBS.

In this con, someone calls pretending to be a court official who threateningly says a warrant has been issued for your arrest because you didn't show up for jury duty. The caller claims to be a jury coordinator.

If you protest that you never received a summons for jury duty, the scammer asks you for your Social Security number and date of birth so he or she can verify the information and cancel the arrest warrant. Sometimes they even ask for credit card numbers. Give out any of this information and bingo! Your identity just got stolen.

The scam has been reported so far in 11 states.

This (scam) is particularly insidious because they use intimidation over the phone to try to bully people into giving information by pretending they're with the court system.
 
 

>>> Press Release from the Office of the Tulare County District Attorney

 
 

 

 
 
 
  INTERNAL REVENUE SERVICE (IRS) FRAUD ALERT   March 16, 2006  
  The IRS has issued a consumer alert, warning against phishing scams using the IRS logo. Recent scams have been circulating via email as criminals attempt to gain personal information from recipients. For more information on this scam and ways to protect yourself, read more.

An excerpt from www.irs.gov:

To protect against potential identity thieves, take the following steps:

  • Be skeptical of communications you receive from sources you are not expecting. Verify the authenticity of phone calls, standard mail, faxes or e-mails of questionable origin before responding.
  • Do not reveal secret passwords, PINs or other security-based data to third parties; genuine organizations or institutions do not need your secret data for ordinary business transactions.
  • Do not click on links contained in possibly questionable e-mails; instead, go directly to the site already know to be genuine. For example, the only address for the IRS Web site is www.irs.gov — any other variations on this will not lead to the legitimate IRS Web site.
  • Do not open attachments to e-mails of possibly questionable origin, since they may contain viruses that will infect your computer.
  • Shred paper documents containing private financial information before discarding.

 

 
 
 
  TSUNAMI DISASTER RELIEF FRAUD ALERT   January 5, 2005  
   
  For Immediate Release
January 5, 2005

Washington D.C.
FBI National Press Office

 
 
Washington
, D.C. - The FBI today is alerting the public to a variety of scams currently being facilitated online involving the solicitation of additional relief funds for the victims of the recent Tsunami disaster. The FBI, through the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3), has received reports of websites being established purportedly to assist with collection and relief efforts. Complaints submitted to the IC3 have identified several schemes that involve both unsolicited in-coming emails (SPAM), as well as reports of responses to posted email addresses, to assist for a fee, in locating loved ones who may have been a victim of the disaster. A fraudulent relief donation website has also been detected containing an imbedded Trojan exploit which can infect the user's computer with a virus if accessed.

The FBI, in conjunction with domestic with international law enforcement and industry partners, take seriously these egregious actions and are resolved to aggressively pursuing those who would attempt to victimize philanthropic individuals.

The IC3 is cautioning citizens against participating in this type of on-line correspondence. Consistent with previous guidance on incidents of Phishing/Spoofing and Identity Theft, when considering on-line options for providing funding to this relief effort consumers should consider the following:

  • Do not respond to any unsolicited (SPAM) incoming emails.
  • Be skeptical of individuals claiming to be surviving victims or foreign government officials asking for help in placing large sums of money in overseas bank accounts.
  • To ensure that contributions to U.S. based non-profit organizations are used for intended purposes, go directly to recognized charities and aid organizations websites, as opposed to following a link to another site.
  • Attempt to verify the legitimacy of non-profit organizations by utilizing various Internet based resources which may assist in confirming the existence of the organization as well as its non-profit status.
  • Be leery of emails that claim to show pictures of the disaster areas in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from know senders.

Several variations of this scam are currently in circulation. Anyone who has received an email referencing the above information or anyone who may have been a victim of this or a similar incident should notify the IC3 via the website, www.ic3.gov.

 
  Internet "Phishing" Banking Scam   October 18, 2004
  Press Release:
  The Office of the Tulare County District Attorney, Phil Cline, District Attorney, White Collar Crime Unit, the Elder Abuse Prosecution Program and the Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program issue the following warning: Emails alleging to be warnings, investigation notices or requests for assistance from banks or other financial institutions have been flooding the internet. These emails are the attempts of criminals to obtain personal banking information in order to commit electronic theft. This practice is called “phishing.” The emails indicate a problem and requests the recipient to confirm personal banking information or assist in the investigation by transmitting banking information. Often the notice comes with emotional wording such as safeguarding, mandatory or required with the consequence of suspension of the account if a reply is not made by the recipient. Recent examples include emails purporting to be from Citibank and Citizens National Bank.

We recommend anyone receiving such emails to not respond in any manner. Banking information such as account numbers, routing numbers and next of kin are the open doors for criminals to electronically steal money and identity. Such information should never be given to persons or companies whom you do not have a trusted relationship. We further recommend if you are contacted by mail, email or over the phone about your bank account give no information, personally contact your banking institution and call your local police department, the Sheriff’s Department, or the District Attorney’s Office. If you are a senior citizen, in addition, you may also call Tulare County Adult Protective Services (559) 733-6585 or the District Attorney’s Office Elder Abuse Unit at (559) 636-5471. More information may be obtained by calling the District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program at (559) 636-5471.
 
  Madrid, Spain Lottery Scam  August 17, 2004
  The Office of the Tulare County District Attorney, Phil Cline, District Attorney, the Elder Abuse Prosecution Program and the Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program issue the following warning: A business alleging to be handling the El-Gordo De La Primitiva lottery program from Madrid, Spain has been mailing letters of notification to residents of Tulare County. The letters indicate the recipient has won a large sum of money, requests secrecy, states a deadline date and asks the recipient to contact an agent of a security company to process the claim. In addition to the phone call, a payment processing form is to be faxed to the security company. Bank account and next of kin information is required.

We recommend anyone receiving Loteria Primitiva letters to not respond in any manner. Banking information such as account numbers, routing numbers and next of kin are the open doors for criminals to electronically steal money and identity. Such information should never be given to persons or companies whom you do not have a trusted relationship. We further recommend if you are contacted by mail, email or over the phone about any overseas lottery or any type of lottery they have not entered give no information and call your local police department, the Sheriff’s Department, or the District Attorney’s Office. If you are a senior citizen, in addition, you may also call Tulare County Adult Protective Services (559) 733-6585 or the District Attorney’s Office Elder Abuse Unit at (559) 636-5471 and then call the Phone Busters hotline toll free at 1(888) 495-8501. More information may be obtained by calling the District Attorney’s Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program at (559) 636-5471 or log on to www.phonebusters.com
 
  "International Lottery" Programs   August 16, 2004
  Recently residents of Tulare County have been receiving letters from outside the United States announcing winners of international lottery programs.  The letters sound official, indicate a large amount of money is waiting and give a deadline for a response.  The letter asks for banking information as well as information about your relatives.  Beware!  These are scams with the purpose of gaining information necessary to electronically steal your money or identity.
 
    Home Repair Scams   April 6, 2004
  The Office of the Tulare County District Attorney, Phil Cline, District Attorney, the Elder Abuse Prosecution Program and the Elder Abuse Advocacy and Outreach Program issue the following warning: Individuals and groups of individuals have been calling and approaching citizens in Tulare County offering to make repairs or handle major maintenance projects on homes. Elderly persons are specifically targeted. In some situations, the targeted individuals are asked to provide significant sums of money in advance to purchase supplies. In other situations, the service or product supplied is inadequate or shoddily applied.

Recently an elderly woman was approached in the South County region with an offer to resurface her driveway. She was informed a job had just been completed at a nearby location and they would resurface her driveway with leftover material for half the price of the other job. A business card left by the individual shows no business name, no address, only a cell phone number from Montana.

We recommend anyone contacted for services ask for identifying information such as business location, business license, contractor license and any other information to establish the legitimacy of the individual. Furthermore, request estimates in writing, written contracts and do not provide large sums of money in advance. If you have any suspicions decline the service. Call your local police department non-emergency number, the Sheriff's Department, or the Office of the District Attorney. If you are a senior citizen, in addition, you may also call Tulare County Adult Protective Services (559) 733-6585 or the Office of the District Attorney Elder Abuse Unit at (559) 636-5471.

 
  Is that credit card offer you received too good to be true? You may be right!
 

We have recently become aware of credit card offers that are not quite what they appear to be. If you receive an offer of credit that requires you to submit a "processing" or "membership" fee along with your signature on an acceptance certificate, think twice. These offers may restrict your use of qualified credit to purchases out of a catalog that is sent to you along with the new credit card. This means that the credit card may not be used for any other purposes typically associated with the use of credit cards. For example, you may not use the credit card for department store shopping, dining out, vacation expenses, car repairs, etc. Another possibility is that you may lose your processing or membership fee entirely and never hear from the company again.

You can protect yourself! Before you submit any documents or funds, carefully read the fine print on any offers you may receive. If you have any doubts, contact the Better Business Bureau for its rating on the company and for the company’s history of complaints. Additionally, contact the Consumer Hotline at the District Attorney’s Office (559-730-2556) to file a report. Some offers you receive may be more that questionable, they may be illegal.

 
  INTERNET AUCTIONS
  According to the Federal Trade Commission, Internet auction fraud has become a significant problem. Most consumer complaints center on sellers who:
 

* Don’t deliver the advertised goods;

* Deliver something far less valuable than they advertised;

* Don’t deliver in a timely way; or

* Fail to disclose all the relevant information about the products or terms of sale.

   
  Quick tips for buyers
 

Identify the seller and check the seller’s feedback rating. Remember, some unscrupulous sellers may input their own feedback rating to deceive buyers.

Be sure you understand what you are bidding on, its relative value and all terms and conditions of the sale, including the seller’s return policies and who pays for shipping.

Establish your top price and stick to it.

Evaluate your payment options. If possible, use a credit card. It offers the most protection if there’s a problem. Consider using an escrow service if the seller doesn’t accept credit cards.

   
  Quick tips for sellers
 

Provide an accurate description of the item you are selling, including all terms of the sale and who will pay shipping costs.

Respond quickly to any questions bidders may raise during the auction.

Contact the high bidder as soon as possible after the auction closes to confirm details of the sale.

Ship the merchandise as soon as you receive payment.

   
  What to do if you have problems
 

Try to work it out directly with the buyer or the auction web site. If that doesn’t work, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission by calling toll-free 1-877-FTC-HELP or visiting the FTC’s web site at www.ftc.gov.

Although the Commission cannot resolve individual problems for consumers, it can act against an individual or company if it sees a pattern of possible law violations. You also may want to contact the California Attorney General’s office or the Tulare County District Attorney’s Office Consumer Fraud Hot Line at 730-2556.

Author, Barbara Greaver

Deputy District Attorney, Consumer & Environmental Crime.

   


Office of the District Attorney, County of Tulare
 ▫  221 S Mooney Blvd, Rm 224, Visalia, CA 93291-4593    (559) 636-5494
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