Fraud Prevention and Information

Identity Theft

If you suspect your identity has been stolen, you should immediately notify your banks and creditors. You will need to make a police report. By law, an identity theft report can be made in any jurisdiction whether or not the theft or the subsequent loss occurred within that jurisdiction. (e.g., your identity is stolen in Tucson and the loss occurs in Phoenix; the report can be made in either locale). These reports can be made telephonically by calling 520-791-4444.  For more information on identity theft, we have included information published by the Federal Trade Commission to help you prevent yourself from becoming a victim of identity theft.

Facts:

  • In calendar year 2007, the Federal Trade Commission received over 258,000 identity theft complaints, or 32% of total FTC consumer complaints for the year.
  • Nationally, the top uses of the stolen information are: Credit Card Fraud (23%), Phone or Utilities Fraud (18%), Employment-Related Fraud (14%), Bank Fraud (13%), Benefits Fraud (11%), and Loan Fraud (5%).
  • In Arizona, Employment-Related Fraud constituted 36%, followed by Credit Card Fraud (16%) and Bank Fraud (12%).
  • Victim ages: Under 18 (5%), 18-29 (28%), 30-39 (23%), 40-49 (19%), 50-59 (13%), Over 60 (10%).
  • National rankings of metropolitan statistical areas (MSA's) for calendar year 2007: Napa, CA (#1), Flagstaff (#9), Lake Havasu City/Kingman (#13), Yuma (#15), Prescott (#17), Sierra Vista/Douglas (#20), Phoenix/Mesa/Scottsdale (#29) (was #17), and Tucson (#34) (was #20).
  • Arizona ranked Number One as a state for ID theft, with 137.1 victims per 100,000 population. California was second highest with 120.1 per 100k. Note: Reporting practices differ.
  • In 2006, 56% of victims said they did not know how their information was stolen. Information may be compromised through acquaintances, purchases, theft, company security breach, mail, computer hacking, phishing, or other method.
  • Recovering from an identity theft can cost scores of hours and thousands of dollars. The majority of victims (59%), however, incurred no out-of-pocket expenses.
  • There seems to be a strong correlation between ID Theft and Methamphetamine use.

How do they get your information?

  • Dumpster diving (shred your documents)
  • Skimming (be observant; use known ATM's)
  • Phishing/pharming
  • Changing your address & rerouting your statements
  • Mail theft (pre-approved credit offers, tax information, credit card statements) - use lock or PO Box
  • Stealing (purse, wallet, home burglary, car larceny, from their workplace)

There are three words to remember, according to the Federal Trade Commission, to combat identity theft: DETER/DETECT/DEFEND.

DETER

  • Write "Ask for photo ID" next to your signature on the back of your credit cards.
  • Ask your credit card company to stop sending blank checks with your statements.
  • Ask credit card companies and financial institutions to include photo identification on your bank and credit cards.
  • Always take your credit card receipts.
  • Ask your bank to send your bank statement and other communications to you electronically rather than through the mail. You can usually do this by visiting your bank's website, viewing your account and choosing the "paperless option.
  • Keep documents containing personal information, credit card account information and PIN numbers in a safe place.
  • Ask businesses that you deal with to shred your applications, receipts and other documents upon completion of their use.
  • Minimize the amount of personal information you give out, especially online.
  • Do not give your personal information in response to email scams (phishing) that appear to be from a bank, credit card company or Internet service provider.
  • When ordering by phone or online, use a credit card rather than a debit card because there are greater protections with a credit card.
  • Never give bank or credit card account information over the phone unless you initiated the call and know the business.
  • Parents should check their children's credit reports once a year.
  • Guard your Social Security number, the key to identity theft.
  • Never carry your Social Security card with you.
  • Do not give out your Social Security number unless it is required for employment, a bank account or other legitimate purpose.
  • Do not put your Social Security number on your driver's license.
  • Always use a secure mailbox when mailing checks or other sensitive materials.
  • Shred everything with personal identifying information before discarding.
  • Delete all personal information from your computer before disposing of it.
  • Remove your name from mailing lists generated by telemarketers. Contact the Direct Marketing Association at http://thedma.org/.
  • Educate yourself at online sites such as http://www.azag.gov and http://www.ftc.gov

DETECT

  • Carefully review your bank and credit card statements monthly, and notify the institution immediately of any unauthorized activity.
  • Order a free copy of your credit report annually and check it carefully (www.annualcreditreport.com).
  • Be alert to other signs:
    • Bills don't arrive as expected
    • Unexpected credit cards or account statements
    • Denials of credit for no apparent reason
    • Calls or letters about purchases you did not make

DEFEND

If you suspect you may be a victim of identity theft, report it to your local law enforcement agency immediately and file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission: ID Theft Hotline 877-438-4338, www.ftc.gov.

Arizona's brand new security freeze law (ARS 44-1695) allows a consumer to request that consumer credit reporting agencies place a security freeze on the consumer's credit report or consumer's credit score. The credit reporting agency must comply within ten business days of receiving a written request from the consumer and must provide the consumer with a unique ID number or password for the consumer to use to temporarily lift or permanently remove the security freeze.

A security freeze does not apply to numerous entities, including government agencies in matters related to child support or delinquent taxes.

A fraud alert is a special message on the report that a credit issuer receives when checking a consumer's credit rating. It tells the credit issuer that there may be fraud involved in the account. A fraud alert can help protect you against identity theft. A fraud alert can also slow down your ability to get new credit. It should not stop you from using your existing credit cards or other accounts. A security freeze means that your credit file cannot be seen by potential creditors, or others accessing your credit, unless you give your consent. Most businesses will not open credit accounts without first checking a consumer's credit history.

Close any accounts that have been compromised. Report the theft to the Federal Trade Commission. If warrants are in your name but it is not you, you will have to go through a "Challenge and Review Process," involving fingerprinting and records checks. Call the Fraud Unit at 791-4481 for more information.

Internet Safety

Online Safety:

  • Protect your personal information
  • Know who you're dealing with (e.g. phishing, file sharing, spyware, attachments)
  • Use anti-virus software and a firewall; keep them up-to-date
  • Keep your OS and browser software up-to-date (security patches)
  • Protect your passwords
  • Back up important files

Social Networking Sites:

  • Keep computer in an open area, e.g. family room
  • Use the Internet with your children
  • Talk to your children about online habits, i.e. keeping numbers secure, avoiding hints to predators like school name, clubs, hangouts, etc. Caution against flirting online, and tell them to trust their gut if they have suspicions.
  • Ensure screen names aren't too revealing - avoid full name, age, hometown
  • Use privacy settings to restrict outside access to your child's website
  • Post only the information that's fit to release, as potential employers, college admissions people, and others will be able to access it - for a very long time.

Cyberbullying:

  • Cyberbullying is when a child, preteen or teen is tormented, threatened, harassed, humiliated, embarrassed or otherwise targeted by another child, preteen or teen using the Internet, interactive and digital technologies or mobile phones. It has to have a minor on both sides, or at least have been instigated by a minor against another minor. Once adults become involved, it is plain and simple cyber-harassment or cyberstalking. Adult cyber-harassment or cyberstalking is NEVER called cyberbullying.

For more information on how to stay safe from cyberbullying, visit this Cyber Safety site.

If you are targeted by a cyberbully:

  • STOP!
    Don't do anything. Take 5! to calm down.
  • BLOCK!
    Block the cyberbully or limit all communications to those on your buddy list.
  • and TELL!
    Tell a trusted adult, you don't have to face this alone.

Report cyberbullying to wiredsafety.org

Elder Abuse

The Elder Abuse Task Force is a joint venture by the Attorney General's Office, Tucson Police Department, and the Pima County Sheriff's Department. It is staffed by three detectives and one sergeant.

Our Seniors sometimes fail to report these crimes because they are afraid to admit that they were so gullible. The fact is, this generation is kind and trusting, and criminals count on it.

Red flags of elder abuse and exploitation:

  • Accompanied by a stranger who encourages them to withdraw a large amount of cash.
  • Accompanied by a family member or other person who seems to coerces them into making transactions.
  • Not allowed to speak for themselves or make decisions.
  • With an acquaintance that appears too interested in their financial status.
  • Nervous or afraid of the person accompanying them.
  • Giving implausible explanations about what they are doing with their money.
  • Unable to remember financial transactions or signing paperwork.
  • Fearful that they will be evicted, or institutionalized, if money is not given to a caregiver.
  • Neglected or receiving insufficient care given their needs or financial status.
  • Isolated from other family members or support by a family member or acquaintance.

Scams

GENERAL ADVICE

  1. Protect your information – store it securely and shred it.
  2. Watch your bank and credit card statements closely.
  3. Create effective passwords – avoid known numbers or names.
  4. If something seems too good to be true, it probably is.

How many of you have heard these lines from a telephone salesperson:

  1. “You have been specially selected to hear this offer.”
  2. “You’ve won one of five valuable prizes.”
  3. “This investment is low risk and provides a higher return than you can get anywhere else.”
  4. “This offer is only good until close of business today.”

There are a lot of scams out there. Here are just a few, and they have many twists.

Smoking Taillight Scam

Usually, senior ladies are targeted for this. They might be at a stoplight, and a car pulls up behind them with a nice-looking couple inside. The male gets out and stands by the back bumper of the victim car. The female gets out and approaches the elderly driver, saying, “Your taillight is smoking. You may be in danger. But my husband’s a mechanic and he can help you.” The male actually created the smoke. The victim driver will be taken somewhere, perhaps an Auto Zone, where the “Good Samaritan” mechanic gets money for his fake repair.

Home & Roof Repair Scam

Often door to door. Lately, they’ve been following legitimate roofers to houses. Three months later, they come back, claim to be an employee of the legitimate roofer just following up on the previous repair. They even have the particulars of that last visit – time and date. They get a check for repairs that aren't necessary, and they never return.

Work-at-Home Schemes

While not all of these schemes are illegitimate, many work-at-Home Schemes require many hours without pay, and demand that you spend your own money on copies, ads, envelopes, stamps, tutorials, etc. Beware classic schemes like Medical Billing, Envelope Stuffing, Assembly Work, or Craft Work.

Prize Offers

If you get a letter or phone call saying “it’s your lucky day,” be skeptical. Legitimate sweepstakes don’t require you to pay or buy something to enter or improve your chances of winning, or to pay “taxes” or “shipping and handling charges” to get your prize. Moreover, it is unlawful for U.S. citizens to enter foreign lotteries, so if they say you’ve won the Canadian lottery, or they’re selling Jamaican lottery tickets, you know it’s a hoax. Free travel packages often have hidden fees, or subject you to a high-pressure sales pitch.

Magazine Subscriptions

Some of these leave you with years of monthly payments for magazines. Know your rights and beware the emotional appeals of starving college students and others.

Pretexting

This is the practice of getting your personal information under false pretenses. They often sell your information to people who may use it to get credit in your name, steal your assets, or sue you. Similar to pretexting is phishing (you are asked to click on a link embedded in an official-looking email, and verify your information) and pharming (you are re-directed from a legitimate web site to a different and illegitimate site). The information gleaned can be used to commit identity theft.

More scams currently going around as well as how to recognize and avoid them can be found at consumer fraud guides.

Videos

The United States Postal Inspection Service web site has various educational videos that are designed to promote consumer awareness of fraudulent activities. These videos are free to view online or to download:

United States Postal Inspection Service Fraud-Prevention Videos

Stop fraud by reporting it. Only one-third of people who are victims of scam artists report them to police. Report these criminals so they can't take advantage of you or someone else in the future.

If you have doubts about a business, phone the Better Business Bureau.

  • Never pay for products or services ahead of time unless you are sure the company is reputable.
  • Read everything in a contract before you sign it. Don't sign anything you feel nervous about or do not understand.
  • Don't let anyone pressure you to sign anything or to give an answer right away.
  • Beware of overly friendly strangers. Scam artists report that the key to selling a scam is to first become friendly with the victim.
  • If a sales person won't give you straight answers, stop the conversation.
  • Never give out personal information, such as your social security, bank account, or credit card numbers, over the phone unless you initiated the call and know to whom you're talking.
  • If someone tells you to place a "900" call to "win" something of value, think first. You pay for 900 area code calls; the cost can be as high as $10 per minute.
  • Be careful of contests, giveaways, sweepstakes, free vacation offers, investment offers, and cures for illness or aging. Many are scams.

Remember: If it sounds too good to be true it probably is.