Fraudulent Notifications

From the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3)

The IC3 continues to receive reports of letters and emails being distributed pursuant to prize sweepstakes or lottery schemes. These schemes use counterfeit checks that bear legitimate-looking logos of various financial institutions to fool victims into sending money to the fraudsters.

Fraudsters tell victims they won a sweepstakes or lottery, but to receive a lump sum payout, they must pay the taxes and processing fees upfront. Fraudsters direct individuals to call a telephone number to initiate a letter of instructions. The letter alleges that the victim may elect to take an advance on the winnings to make the required upfront payment. The letter includes a check in the amount of the alleged taxes and fees, along with processing instructions. Ultimately, victims believe they are using the advance to make the required upfront payment, but in reality they are falling prey to the scheme.

The victim deposits the check into their own bank, which credits the account for the amount of the check before the check clears. The victim immediately withdraws the money and wires it to the fraudsters. Afterwards, the check proves to be counterfeit and the bank pulls the respective funds from the victim’s account, leaving the victim liable for the amount of the counterfeit check plus any additional fees the bank may charge.

Persons may fall victim to this scheme due to the allure of easy money and the apparent legitimacy of the check the fraudsters include in the letter of instruction. The alleged cash prizes and locations of the financial institutions vary.

Tips to avoid being scammed:

  • A federal statute prohibits mailing lottery tickets, advertisements, or payments to purchase tickets in a foreign lottery. 

  • Be leery if you do not remember entering a lottery or sweepstakes. 

  • Beware of lotteries or sweepstakes that charge a fee prior to delivering your prize. 

  • Be wary of demands to send additional money as a requirement to be eligible for future winnings. 

If you have been a victim of this type of scam or any other cyber crime, you can report it to the IC3 at: www.IC3.gov. The IC3 complaint database links complaints for potential referral to law enforcement for case consideration. Complaint information is also used to identify emerging trends and patterns to alert the public to new criminal schemes.

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Holiday Tips

Here are some tips from the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) you can use to avoid becoming a victim of cyber fraud:

 
  • Do not respond to unsolicited (spam) email.
  • Do not click on links contained within an unsolicited email.
  • Be cautious of email claiming to contain pictures in attached files, as the files may contain viruses. Only open attachments from known senders. Scan the attachments for viruses if possible.
  • Avoid filling out forms contained in email messages that ask for personal information.
  • Always compare the link in the email with the link to which you are directed and determine if they match and will lead you to a legitimate site.
  • Log directly onto the official web site for the business identified in the email, instead of “linking” to it from an unsolicited email. If the email appears to be from your bank, credit card issuer, or other company you deal with frequently, your statements or official correspondence from the business will provide the proper contact information.
  • Contact the actual business that supposedly sent the email to verify if the email is genuine.
  • If you are asked to act quickly, or there is an emergency, it may be a scam. Fraudsters create a sense of urgency to get you to act quickly.
  • Verify any requests for personal information from any business or financial institution by contacting them using the main contact information.
  • Remember if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.
 

Be a Secret Santa!

Make Christmas special for a young child this year . . . be a Secret Santa!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Secret Santa Fundraiser

We were hit with our Counterfeit Cashier’s Check Scam just before the holidays in 2002, and for a while we did not know where we were going to find the money to provide a magical Christmas for our then 2 and 9 year old children. Because of that, we created the Secret Santa Program, which allows you to donate money or gifts for a family who has recently been impacted by scams, and have young children.

We have made it easy for you to help out with this.  There are several ways you can donate
On Facebook, we have a Cause Page
Or go to our Donations Page to donate by PayPal
Or use our new GiveMN Fundraiser Page

Take a minute to remember others

With Thanksgiving over, and the Christmas shopping season in full swing we at Scam Victims United are asking you to remember others this year.  You can do this by sponsoring a family who has recently been hit with a counterfeit cashier’s check scam, and make sure that the young children in that family still wake up with gifts under the tree.  We call this our Secret Santa Program, and if you are interested in being a part of it please contact Shawn

You can also help out by supporting Scam Victims United with a donation as small as the cost of a cup of coffee.

Holidays ~ Fraudulent Classified Ads and Auction Sales

It seems like every year at the holidays the amount of crime goes up, and that is the same in the world of internet crime.  The Internet Crime Complaint Center put out a warning about some things to be on the look out for, and I am going to share one with you each day.

Fraudulent Classified Ads and Auction Sales

If you are one of those people who cannot stand the crouds at the malls and want to do all of your holiday shopping online, you need to watch out for fraudulent classifed ads and auction sales. 

Here is the advice that the IC3 offers

Internet criminals post classified ads and auctions for products they do not have, and make the scam work by using stolen credit cards. Fraudsters receive an order from a victim, charge the victim’s credit card for the amount of the order, then use a separate, stolen credit card for the actual purchase. They pocket the purchase price obtained from the victim’s credit card and have the merchant ship the item directly to the victim. Consequently, an item purchased from an online auction but received directly from the merchant is a strong indication of fraud. Victims of such a scam not only lose the money paid to the fraudster, but may be liable for receiving stolen goods.

Shoppers may help avoid these scams by using caution and not providing financial information directly to the seller, as fraudulent sellers will use this information to purchase items for their schemes. Always use a legitimate payment service to ensure a safe, legitimate purchase.

As for product delivery, fraudsters posing as legitimate delivery services offer reduced or free shipping to customers through auction sites. They perpetuate this scam by providing fake shipping labels to the victim. The fraudsters do not pay for delivery of the packages; therefore, delivery service providers intercept the packages for nonpayment and the victim loses the money paid for the purchase of the product.

Diligently check each seller’s rating and feedback along with their number of sales and the dates on which feedback was posted. Be wary of a seller with 100% positive feedback, with a low total number of feedback postings, or with all feedback posted around the same date and time.

Congratulations IC3!

On November 9th, 2010 the Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) logged it’s 2 millionth customer!  This is an amazing number, especially when you consider that not all scams and fraud are even reported.

This is a good thing, since it means that people are reporting the scams, which will give the FBI, National While Collar Crime Center and the Bureau of Justice Assistance (the agencies that partnered together to form the IC3) more information to try and go after these people and help warn people about these scams.

The IC3 receives, develops, and refers cyber crime complaints to local, state, federal, and international law enforcement agencies. The IC3 gives cyber crime victims a convenient and easy-to-use reporting mechanism that alerts authorities of suspected criminal or civil violations.

Since its inception, the IC3 has referred 757,016 criminal complaints to law enforcement around the globe. The majority of referrals involved fraud in which the complainant incurred a financial loss. The total reported loss from these referrals is approximately $1.7 billion, with a median reported loss of more than $500 per complaint.*

Frustration, confusion, anger . . . the feelings of a scam victim

I just finished answering an email to a scam victim, and we were talking about the different feelings and emotions that come over a person who is a scam victim.  I wanted to share my email to that victim with you.  I don’t really need to know the background on their story to understand my response to them.

I can relate to your frustration . . . I have been there!  Eight years ago at this time we were fighting our battle, and every time that I read the story of another person becoming a victim I am taken right back to the place I was when I found out that we lost thousands of dollars to this scam.  It puts you on an emotional roller coaster that you did not ask to get on . . . you were just thrown onto it.

At the time, I did not want to hear anyone tell me that our case would not be investigated and that the criminal would not be caught.  That is part of the reason that I started our website . . . I needed to shout our story out to the world.  I needed to feel like someone heard me.  Then, as the years passed I started to learn how things work . . . the big picture . . . and it really disgusted me that so many saw this as the victim’s problem.  WHY!?!?!  If someone would have broken into my house with a gun, would it still have been my problem and not a legal problem?  If I went to the bank and was told that a loan would have a certain interest rate, and I later found out that it actually had another would that be my problem?  So why is it that the bank can tell me one thing (the check is good) but when it comes back that it is counterfeit THAT is my problem and not an error that THEY need to resolve?

I have been in the place where I feel like I am going crazy over this topic too.  Maybe that is why I felt like our website needed to have a message board also, so that people can share their stories and we can all help each other heal.  Yes, we have to move on, but I feel that being a scam victim changes us so that we move on but it is always a part of us, and those of us that feel the need to help others have to share our story in order to warn others.

It is the emails from people like you that remind me why we did what we did . . . creating the website, telling our story, trying to bring awareness and attention to these scams.  I think that we have made some progress over the years, but there is still so much that needs to be done.

If you agree with us that more needs to be done to raise awareness about scams and fraud, I encourage you to contact your law makers and ask them to create laws that will protect people from these scams.  Make the banks liable when they tell the banking customer that the checks are good, clear or verified.  Not only can you write your own letter, you can sign our petition . . . make YOUR voice heard!