IDENTITY THEFT & FRAUD
Fraud and Identity Theft
Fraud and identity theft are a major problem in West Tennessee. Thieves steal millions of dollars every year from unsuspecting people by using their identity to apply for credit, make fraudulent purchases, cash checks, obtain cash, etc. The Paris Police Department has compiled the following list of current fraudulent activities and measures to help protect you.
Preventing Identity Theft
- Do not leave your purse, wallet, phone or vehicle registration unattended in a vehicle.
- Shred any papers to be discarded containing your personal identification information including date of birth, social security number or banking information.
- Be sure your WiFi connection is secure and be cautious using free Wifi. A VPN would provide an added layer of online security.
- Do not provide your social security number to anyone unless you are applying for credit with a legitimate company. Give anyone else asking the last four digits at most.
Recovering from Identity Theft
- Go to www.ftc.gov for the link to obtain your free credit report.
Fraud and ID Theft Brochure
- Protest any fraudulent accounts with the credit bureau.
- Place a credit freeze on your credit bureau file for $10. (It can be free if you are already the victim of identity theft.) You can unfreeze your file when applying for credit and then refreeze. Credit monitoring is often reactive but a credit freeze will help prevent unauthorized accounts from being opened.
- If further assistance is needed, contact the Identity Theft Resource Center at 1-888-400-5530 or go to their website www.idtheftcenter.org. This organization is sponsored by the US Department of Justice and is a valuable resource for victims of identity theft.
Check Related Crimes
- Do not ever deposit or cash a check received from an unknown party or a party hiring you to cash checks. There is no legitimate business opportunity where people send you checks to deposit for them. Legitimate businesses setup their own bank accounts.
- Setup fraud and unusual activity alerts with your financial institutions.
- Setup daily balance alerts and monitor account activity daily.
- Make sure checks are stored in a secure location or use your bank’s online check delivery function.
- Contact you bank and tell them you do not want any changes to be made to your bank account including contact information unless it is in person, in a branch.
Credit or Debit Card Fraud
- Setup fraud alerts with your credit card company to text, email or call you with suspicious charges.
- Do not use ATM cards for purchases. If your ATM card is skimmed, your bank account information and PIN could be compromised. Most credit cards provide safety for the consumer against fraud if reported in a timely manner.
- Monitor your charges and account activity daily.
- Be very cautious sending anyone money with prepaid debit cards. When you give the recipient the card number and code, they will be able to take all the money from the card with limited ability to trace the funds later.
Fraudulent Business Sales
- Business owners should be very aware of an increasing trend. Fraudsters are making purchases online, via email or on the phone. A driver will pick up the goods with a fraudulent money order or check. Alternatively, they may pay for the goods with a credit card which is then shipped.
- Be cautious of new customer purchases and verify the authenticity of the payment before shipment. It may be a good policy to obtain a driver’s license copy and validate this number.
- Follow all payment acceptance parameters provided by your financial institution. If your agreement calls for a chip credit card, be sure the card is valid and present for the transaction.
- Many times, online orders without face to face customer interaction will not be covered by your financial institution and may prevent the case from being pursued criminally. Using a third party verifier such as Paypal could protect your company.
Business Email Scams
- Make sure proper business controls are in place to prevent opening or responding to fraudulent emails. A strong IT provider should ensure active monitoring for computer viruses and website attacks.
- Contact your financial institution for procedural restraints which require two parties in order to initiate a wire transfer and any applicable alerts for fraudulent or suspicious activity.
Romance Email Scams
- Scammers are preying upon individuals through online dating sites.
- Do not allow yourself to be taken advantage of by an individual with a scam story about a business opportunity, preventing them from being arrested, getting out of a hostile foreign country, grandparent/grandchild troubles or any type of pending lottery winnings.
- Do not send money to anyone you do not know personally and have not had face to face contact with.
Fortune Telling Scams
- Scammers are preying upon individuals who believe fortune tellers can “cleanse” money or rid evil spirits or events from the victim’s life.
- This is a scam, plain and simple. Do not become a victim. After you willingly send money to someone, it will most likely be a civil matter and we cannot assist further criminally.
- Do not ever give anyone money for a lottery ticket they claim is a valid, winning ticket.
- Purchase your own lottery tickets from a reputable retailer. Cash winning lottery tickets in the same manner.
- Never respond to any email claiming you have won the lottery, or the sender won the lottery, but you need to pay a fee to claim the funds. It is a scam.
- Do not pay a deposit to anyone who is not a true landlord with a proper business office, stationary, receipts and references.
- Be sure to Google search the phone number someone is calling you from to be sure it is not flagged as a scam.
- Search http://tnmap.tn.gov/assessment/ to determine the owner of a property.
- Do not pay anything to anyone calling who claims to be from the Internal Revenue Service.
- The IRS does not make collection calls. If you do owe taxes, they will be sure to send you a letter demanding payment. You can verify the authenticity of any communications through the IRS hotline at 1-800-829-1040.
- Contact the IRS through their official website, irs.gov. Since we live in Tennessee, you are able to obtain a PIN to file your tax return. This is huge because it prevents anyone from filing a false return with the IRS without the proper PIN.
Board of Public Utilities Scam
- Do not pay anything to anyone calling who claims to be from BPL or any utility.
- BPL does not make collection calls. If your account is past due, they will be sure to send you a letter demanding payment. You can verify the authenticity of the call through the utilities phone number, 731-642-1322.
- Never, ever pay anyone with a non-trackable payment method. Instead, mail a personal check to the utilities’ address, 117 East Washington Street, Paris, TN 38242.
Roof/Home Repair Scams
- Do not have use any company for roof or home repairs which is not licensed by the State of Tennessee and insured. Get a copy of the license and verify it through the Tennessee Department of Business and Professional Regulation website.
- Be sure to pay for work after completion and obtain the driver’s license state and number for anyone you give a check to.
Generic Email Scams/Phishing
- Do not open any email from anyone you do not know.
- In addition, do not click on any text or file within an email which you do not know to be sent from a valid source. Always better to check with the sender before opening. Perpetrators use this technique, also known as phishing, to gain access to your computer system.
- Always be sure to conduct regular backups of your computer system and use updated virus protection software.
Distraction Crimes Targeting the Elderly
- Tree Trimming Scam: Do not allow anyone you did not request tree trimming services from to have access to your house or property.
- Property Line Scam: Do not allow anyone to con you into allowing them access to your property to survey the property.
- Water Leak Scam: Do not allow anyone into your apartment, condo or property to survey any potential water leak unless they are from your condo association, property management office or you called to request the work to be performed.
- I’m In Jail Scam: Do not send money to anyone claiming to be a relative in jail. The elderly are being taken financial advantage of by scammers claiming to be grandkids.
Keep in mind, no system is perfect. These current crimes outlined and measures to protect you are provided as a service to our citizens and businesses. You should decide for yourself which methods to employ and possibly seek input from legal counsel if necessary. This is certainly not meant to be a complete list of all fraudulent activities. You should always be cautious when sending anyone money or giving your personal information to anyone.
Your Paris Police Department fraud unit is here and available for you if you have questions regarding a suspicious transaction. Call 731-641-1412 and ask for a detective after you have made an initial police report.