Be Aware: Scams, Fraud, and Financial Crimes Targeting Our Community
Over the last several years we have seen a rise in identity theft, scams, and financial crimes targeting our community. Below are some of the common ID theft or fraud scams we see. While the scams have all varied in origin, many commonly require the victim to obtain a money pack, Green dot card, money gram or other type of payment method to avoid a penalty. If you or someone you know receives a call where you are instructed to make a payment and threatened with arrest, deportation or something similar, it is likely false. Almost all government agencies communicate by mail and do not collect debt payments via the phone.
- Fraudulent use of your credit card
- Suspects open new accounts or take over your Credit or Bank accounts
- Work at home/employment scams
- Classified Ads and check overpayment scams
- Relative, friend or business associate needs you to wire money
- Sweepstakes and Lottery scams
- IRS/Law Enforcement Impersonation scams
- Scams directed at the elderly
Identity theft occurs when someone accesses your personal information and then uses it to commit fraud in your name. Visit our comprehensive page dedicated to Identity theft
Once identity thieves have your personal information, they can drain your bank account, run up charges on your credit cards, open new credit and utility accounts, or get medical treatment on your health insurance. An identity thief can file a tax refund in your name and get your refund. In some extreme cases, a thief might even give your name to the police during an arrest.
IRS Phone Scam
The scam consists of an “agent” calling victims saying they owe money to the IRS. The “agent” demands the money be paid promptly by a pre-paid debit card. If the victim refuses, the “agent” threatens to call the police to have the victim arrested. It is not known if the con artists are working in the Fremont area. In some cases, the phone number on caller ID has been of official government agencies, suggesting that they are using sophisticated computer software programs to disguise their ID and appear official.
If you receive a call regarding taxes owed, we encourage you to do the following:
- If you know you owe taxes or think you might owe taxes, call the IRS at 1-800-829-1040. The IRS employees at that line can help you.If you know you don’t owe taxes or have no reason to think that you owe any taxes (for example, you've never received a bill), then call and report the incident to the Treasury Inspector General at 1-800-366-4484.
For more information on the “IRS Telephone Scam”, visit the Internal Revenue Service.
Immigration Visa Scam
Do not fall victim to telephone scammers posing as USCIS personnel or other government officials. In most instances, scammers will:
- Request personal information (Social Security number, Passport number, or A-number).
- Identify false problems with your immigration record.
- Ask for payment via money card to correct the records.
If a scammer calls you, say “no, thank you” and hang up. These phone calls are being made by immigration scammers attempting to take your money and your credit card information. USCIS will not call you to ask for any form of payment over the phone. Don’t give payment over the phone to anyone who claims to be a USCIS official. If you have been a victim of this telephone scam, please report it to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Law Enforcement Department Scam
Law Enforcement advises the public to be aware of phone scams involving subjects pretending to be law enforcement personnel. Suspects fraudulently identify themselves as law enforcement officers and call victims claiming they have a warrant for their arrest. The reasons for the warrant vary; the most frequent being failing to appear for jury duty or unpaid tickets. The victims are then told they can resolve the issue by obtaining a pre-paid money card and calling back with the card number. Once the number is obtained, the funds can be accessed anywhere in the world. The scammers have used the names of actual Fremont Police Department personnel and “spoof” caller identification so the numbers of actual law enforcement agencies will appear on the victim’s phone. The public is advised that the Fremont Police Department does not solicit by phone to advise of unpaid debts of any kind. In addition, payments related to warrants and/or citations are handled directly through the Court. The public can help combat this scam by doing the following:
- Do not call back and/or hang up if you are talking to them.
- Call the Fremont Police Department at 510-790-6800 to determine if an FPD employee is actually calling you and to file a report.
- Contact the Alameda County Court directly to inquire about outstanding bail or fine payment.
Victims have reported receiving letters saying that they have won a lottery prize. Usually there is a check included, supposedly to help you pay a “processing fee”. Both the prize and the check are bogus. These letters usually come from outside the country, or out of state. It’s more difficult to tell that it’s a scam because the initial letter does not request bank account information. The Fremont Police Department advises you do not respond in any way. Legitimate lotteries or sweepstakes will never require a payment in order to win a prize. If you have not entered a lottery or sweepstakes, it’s extremely unlikely you’ll be a winner.
These letters are annoying, but are not illegal. Do not respond to them, either by mail or phone. Do not attempt to cash any unsolicited and unexpected check. Do not ever give callers or the senders of these letters any personal information (dates of birth, social security numbers, credit card, bank account information, etc.). If you have any questions about the legitimacy of anything you receive, please contact your local police department for advice and direction.
What’s called “the grandparent scam,” and its many variations, is going strong. In fact recently an attempt was made on a Fremont resident. A “grandchild” or other relative calls, saying he has been in a terrible accident overseas and needs money immediately in order to receive medical attention. A “doctor” might get on the line to say your grandchild can’t talk anymore because he or she needs medical attention. You must wire money for the treatment to proceed.
The script has different variations and can include:
- Your family member is arrested and need money to post bail.
- Your relative’s car broke down and needs money to get it fixed.
- The relative is stuck at a foreign airport, has lost his/her passports and bank cards and needs money to return home.
The common theme is that the “grandchild” sounds like yours but can’t talk for long or at all because there’s an urgent situation that demands immediate funds. Often the fake grandchild will beg you not to tell his parents – anything to delay you from discovering the truth before parting with your money.
In the arbitrary Bay Area rental market, scams are very common and affect landlords and tenants alike. While contractual agreements between a landlord and tenant are considered a civil issue, it is criminal to provide fictitious names and or documents (social security cards, bank statements, pay stubs, etc.) in an effort to represent an affluent financial status. We have some great rental tips for landlords and tenants to consider if you are currently in or thinking about participating in the rental market.
Preying on Elderly Victims
Phone and internet scams are common and often prey on elderly and vulnerable people. If you receive solicitations that are suspicious, do not provide any personal or banking information. It is suggested you try to obtain the caller’s name, address, phone number and business name. If you think you are receiving scam solicitations or have been a victim of such scam, contact your local law enforcement agency. Please take some time to review details of scams that target seniors.
Elder Financial Abuse
Elder abuse is a term related to a varied of crimes intentionally committed against a person who is an elder or dependent adult. An elder is 65 years or older, and a dependent adult is over the age of 18 but unable to adequately care for himself because of physical or developmental disabilities. The crimes related to elder abuse range from financial crimes, frauds and scams, physical and sexual abuse, neglect to homicide.
Elder crimes are investigated by law enforcement, and they are aided by services in our community. The Fremont Police Department investigates crimes against elders whether it’s reported by a concerned citizen, businesses such as financial institutions or care providers or forwarded to us by Adult Protective Services. Additional services for City of Fremont residents include the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office (Consumer and Environmental Protection Unit), the Ombudsman Program and the Public Guardian.
Elder abuse attacks a vulnerable group in our community, because they can have debilitating illnesses and failing mental faculties. They are also a generation that trusted their friends, families and strangers. Even though elder abuse can be committed by strangers, usually in the case of fraud, elder abuse is often committed by family members, friends and caregivers. We ask our community to report suspected elder abuse to law enforcement, APS or the Ombudsmen. Abuse can continue and often escalates if there is no intervention.
How to Protect Yourself
Be skeptical. These scams constantly evolve. By the time you read this, there will be new stories and new lies to persuade you to wire money. However, what you should do to protect yourself stays the same.
- Resist the pressure to act quickly.
- Try to contact the agency, company or family member to determine whether or not the call is legitimate.
- Never purchase money cards to pay a debt. Call the agency directly and obtain proof of the debt before making a payment. No official agencies will accept a money card.
- Never wire money based on a request made over the phone or in an e-mail...especially overseas. Wiring money is like giving cash—once you send it, you can’t get it back.