Internet and Online Services
Thieves have developed many creative scams to separate you from your money. These methods may surface on your computer, in your mail, in a home re-financing “deal” or even by passing counterfeit bills to you in a cash transaction.
Here are some tips to avoid becoming their next victim.
Your Computer & Laptop:
Update your virus protection software regularly. Look for security repairs and patches you can download from your operating system’s website.
- Don’t download files from strangers or click on hyperlinks from people you don’t know.
- Use a firewall, especially if you have a high-speed or “always on” connection to the Internet.
- Use a secure browser – software that encrypts or scrambles information you send over the Internet – to guard the safety of your online transactions. When you’re submitting information, look for the “lock” icon on the status bar.
- Try not to store financial information on your laptop unless absolutely necessary. If you do, use a “strong” password – that is, a combination of letters (upper and lower case), numbers, and symbols.
- Avoid using an automatic log-in feature on your laptop that saves your user name and password; and always log off when you’re finished. If your laptop gets stolen, the thief will have a hard time accessing sensitive information.
- Use a “wipe” utility program to delete any personal information stored on your computer before you dispose of it.
- Read website privacy policies which should detail the security and control of personal information the site collects, and how it will be used.
- Mail fraud is any scheme that uses the U.S. Mail to obtain money or anything of value by offering a product, service, or investment opportunity that intentionally does not live up to its claims.
- Types of schemes typically attacked under this statute include free-prize and free-vacation schemes, phony charity scams, deceptive credit card offers, and promotions of fake medical cures.
- Consumers who believe they are victims of a mail fraud scheme should complete a Mail Fraud Complaint, Form 8165, which is available at the local Post Office and may be completed online at www.usps.com/postalinspectors.
- Thieves will target your mailbox. If you are planning to be away from your home and can’t pick up your mail, call the U.S. Postal Service at 1-800-275-8777 to request a vacation hold or make the request at your local post office. The Postal Service will hold your mail at your local post office.
Question Official Appearing Documents
Legitimate sweepstakes companies do not attempt to mislead you about who they are. Be suspicious of offers that appear to be from a government agency or government sponsored or approved. If mail or telephone solicitations suggest you must respond immediately without taking time to investigate the offering, you are probably being deceived.
Don’t Pay to Win – Legitimate sweepstakes do not require you to pay anything – not fees, shipping, or pre-paid taxes, to receive the prize you “won”. If it sounds “too good to be true”, it probably is.
Mortgage – Home Equity Scams
You can protect yourself against losing your home to inappropriate lending practices.
- Agree to a home equity loan if you don’t have enough income to make the monthly payments. Don’t bend to pressure.
- Sign any document you haven’t read or any document that has blank spaces to be filled in later.
- Agree to a loan that includes credit insurance or extra products you don’t want.
- Deed your property to anyone. First consult an attorney.
- Keep careful records of what you’ve paid, including billing statements and cancelled checks. Challenge any charge you think is inaccurate.
- Check contractor’s references when it is time to have work done in your home. Get more than one estimate.
- Read all items carefully and consider all the costs of financing before you agree to a loan.
Counterfeit U.S. Currency
If You Suspect a Counterfeit Bill…
If you receive a bill that you suspect may be counterfeit or if you question a note that is already in your possession, turn it over to your local law enforcement or U.S. Secret Service Office. If the note is genuine, it will be returned to you as soon as possible. If the note is counterfeit, you will not be reimbursed, but knowingly passing a counterfeit note is against the law.
- Keep the bill from the passer.
- Contact the police.
- Observe the passer’s description and that of any companion or vehicle used.
- Handle the bill as little as possible, to preserve fingerprint evidence.
- Write your initials and the date on an unprinted edge on the front of the bill, place it in an envelope, and surrender it only to the police or the U.S. Secret Service.