Fraud and Scams Investigations

Fraud and Scams Investigations

What is Fraud?

In criminal law, fraud is the crime or offense of deliberately deceiving another to damage them – usually, to obtain property or services from him or her unjustly. Fraud can be committed through many methods, including mail, wire, phone, and internet fraud. In addition to being a criminal act, fraud is a type of civil law violation known as a tort. A tort is a civil wrong for which the law provides a remedy.

Civil fraud typically involves making a false representation of a fact susceptible to actual knowledge that another person relies upon to that person’s detriment.

Fraudsters may attempt to contact you in various ways—for example, by email, text messages, social media, apps, mail, and phone calls. The following is an overview of various ways thieves will try to steal your money.

How to Deal With Fraudulent Emails

If you receive a fraudulent email, exercise immediate caution. Emails of this type are designed to get you to provide personal information such as your bank account number, routing number, social security number, birth date, etc. The information obtained is then used to secure a credit card in your name or draft a payment from your checking or savings account. Report it to your internet service provider and email hosting provider, then add it to your spam filter and delete the original message.

Under no circumstances should you respond to the message and not provide any requested information. Fraud email messages of this nature can often be very convincing, tempting you to respond. It is in your best interest to report it, delete and block it so you won’t receive this type of junk in the future.

Charitable Contributions and Donation Requests

Criminals exploit fraudulent charities during civil unrest, mass shootings, or politically-motivated events. The tragic nature of the event may cause you to relax your worries about dealing with a potential con artist. Who would do such a thing? Making donations or providing financial account information may put you at risk of money loss and even ID theft.

Fake Job Offers

Unfortunately, even legitimate job offers may have a scammer behind them. Dishonest people may post notices on popular job boards or send them to you via email. Often, they create a sense of urgency to get you to react quickly. However, behind the scenes, they are working to gather your personal information. For example, your full name, address, date of birth, etc. Also, they may suggest that you provide the last four numbers of your social as a passcode. Then, they’ll try to get you to provide banking information. Next thing you know, you’ve given them your identity.

This type of social engineering may not come as a single email or phone call. The scammers behind job offer schemes work to gather information in small pieces. As a result, you don’t notice that you’re giving away so much information.

Lottery and Inheritance Scams

In recent years, lottery and inheritance scams have become popular forms of fraud. Scam artists and fraudsters contact unsuspecting people and inform them that they have won a large sum of money, either in a lottery or in an inheritance from a relative.

Quite often, the schemers can produce documents that appear to be legitimate, such as official checks, wills, award letters, or contracts. Victims can be easily fooled by the convincing appearance of the communications and the promise of receiving large sums of money. Here are a few tips to share with your family, friends, and clients to help you avoid becoming a victim of a lottery or insurance scam:

  • Always be skeptical of unsolicited letters, calls, or emails informing you that you’ve won a lottery. Lotteries don’t work that way. Generally, you must buy a ticket or submit an entry to win. So, if you didn’t play the lottery, you didn’t win.
  • Ignore any communications from foreign lotteries, paying attention to the address or phone number from the notice.
  • Legitimate lotteries don’t require winners to pay fees to collect winnings or to provide personally identifiable information such as birth dates or social security numbers. Once they ask for this information, hang up and discontinue all communications.
  • Check with relatives about recent deaths in your family. Confirm the person is a member of your family and that they have passed away before responding. Even then, be suspicious.
  • Never give anyone personal or financial information over the Internet or telephone.

Relationship and Dating Scams and Schemes: Con Artist Specialties

The internet allows anyone to establish business and personal relationships with people worldwide. Unfortunately, fraudsters and scam artists often exploit this opportunity by preying on individuals who frequent internet chat rooms, online dating services, social networking sites, and other online locations. As a result, relationship scams are on the rise.

The schemers establish an online relationship with a potential victim by requesting emotional support for some personal event. By doing this, the scammer slowly cultivates a relationship that they hope will translate into significant goodwill and financial gain. The relationship can continue for weeks, months, and sometimes even years. After a successful online courtship, the scammer may ask the victim to assist them financially to remedy some traumatic situation such as losing a loved one, pending loss of a home, loss of their job, or other emergencies. Some of the most common reasons, or “angles,” include:

  • The individual or a family member needs medical attention
  • The individual is a victim of a violent crime, and they’ve been robbed of their belongings
  • The individual would like to visit but needs funding for airline tickets, visas, or excessive customs costs.

Whatever the situation, the scammer asks the victim for money or requests them to send traveler’s checks, money orders, or some other financial item to negotiate. They instruct the victim to wire the funds to a third party, such as a doctor or hotel manager. Any proposed transaction will likely involve counterfeit or altered items. Here are some tips to avoid relationship schemes and Internet dating fraud:

  • Be cautious when meeting people on the Internet. Remember, they can pretend to be someone they aren’t.
  • Be suspicious by default. Make others prove to you that they are a real person and they are who they say they are.
  • Do not negotiate items on behalf of someone else
  • Do not send money by money transfer to someone you do not know.
  • Once someone asks for money, be suspicious of their behavior and carefully consider every move you make.
  • Never give out personally identifiable information such as your address, birth date, phone number, or social security number. Make it your goal to give them nothing.