Fraud & Scams

Identity Theft

The crime of identity theft is growing at an alarming rate. It is estimated that last year alone, over 700,000 Americans became victims of identity theft. We have put together a list of questions and answers to help you understand identity theft and what you can do should you suspect you might be a victim.

How does a thief get the information he/she needs to steal my identity?

Information can be stolen from a consumer in a variety of ways including;

  • Going through your mail or trash to take pre-approved credit card offers, discarded credit card receipts or other personal information;
  • Stealing your purse or wallet;
  • Calling you on the phone, posing as a solicitor in order to gain personal information including your name, date of birth, social security number;
  • Looking over your shoulder at an ATM while you are accessing your account, to steal your account number and password or pin.

How will I know if I am a victim of identity theft or fraud?

  • Your credit card statements show unauthorized charges and/or purchases that you know you did not make;
  • You fail to receive bills or credit card statements for charges you have made, when in the past you received them at the same time each month;
  • You are receiving phone calls from creditors trying to collect debts that are not yours.

What can I do if I am a victim? 

Cybercrime can be particularly difficult to investigate and prosecute because it often crosses legal jurisdictions and even international boundaries. And, many offenders disband one online criminal operation—only to start up a new activity with a new approach—before an incident even comes to the attention of the authorities. 

  • Report the crime with the police department (in the community where the identity theft/fraudulent activity occurred.
  • Order copies of your credit reports from all 3 credit reporting agencies to get as much information as possible;
    • Submit any supporting documentation you may have (affidavits, account summaries etc...)
    • Obtain a copy of the incident report and/or the case number.
  • Contact the credit reporting agencies in writing and let them know that you are disputing specific inaccurate items in your credit report due to possible identity theft. Under the FCRA, they must investigate.
  • Contact the credit card companies who are reporting the false debt and have them investigate due to possible identity theft.
    • Equifax - 1-800-525-6285
    • Experian - 1-888-397-374
    • TransUnion - 1-800-680-7289
  • Keep copies of all letters and document phone calls.
  • Request a letter from the agencies that states these items are under investigation.
  • Close any credit accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently.
    • Credit cards.
    • Phone company/utility company any other service providers (internet).
  • Complete each company's "fraud dispute" form or affidavit of fraudulent activity If you had checks stolen or bank accounts set up fraudulently, report it to the check verification companies.
  • Cancel checking/savings accounts and obtain new account numbers. If ATM card has been stolen/compromised, obtain a new card, account number and password.
    • Telecheck - 1-800-710-9898
    • Certegy - 1-800-437-5120
    • International Checks Services - 1-800-631-9656
  • Social Security Number Misuse . Call the Social Security Administration to report fraudulent use of your number.

How can I protect myself from identity theft?

  • DO NOT carry important documents such as your social security card, birth certificate or passport with you unless absolutely necessary;
  • Only keep a few credit cards in your purse or wallet when shopping;
  • Keep a list of your credit card account numbers, with expiration dates and telephone numbers. Do the same for all your bank accounts. In an emergency, you can notify these companies quickly to stop fraudulent charges or purchases.
  • Always take credit card receipts for all purchases and store in a safe place, or dispose of by shredding, not by throwing away in a public trash container;
  • Invest in a shredder and shred all items including discarded credit card and bank statements, old receipts and utility bills, and new credit card offers you receive in the mail;
  • Use a mix of letters and numbers, not personal information such as your birth date, last four digits of your social security, or mother's maiden name when creating passwords and PIN's for important accounts. DO NOT store these in your purse or wallet!
  • Use caution while using ATM's and self-service credit venues. "Shoulder surfers" can get your PIN or other information and use it at a later date.
  • Cancel credit cards that you do not use on a frequent basis.
  • Get checks, credit cards and business cards with your picture on them.
  • Monitor your bank and credit card statements every month.
  • Obtain a credit report every six months and review it carefully.
  • Take you name off of all promotional lists.
  • DO NOT get checks mailed to your home address. Have them delivered to your bank.
  • DO NOT give out personal information over the internet or over the phone to anyone you do not know and then provide information that is absolutely necessary.
  • DO NOT mail checks from your home. Mail them at US Post Office or US mailbox.
  • DO NOT put your telephone number on your checks.
  • DO NOT give your credit card number over the internet unless the site is encrypted and secure.

ID Theft, Fraud & Victims of Cybercrime

When dealing with cybercrime, an ounce of prevention is truly worth a pound of cure. Cybercrime in all its many forms (e.g., online identity theft, financial fraud, stalking, bullying, hacking, e-mail spoofing, information piracy and forgery, intellectual property crime, and more) can, at best, wreak havoc in victims’ lives through major inconvenience and annoyance. At worst, cybercrime can lead to financial ruin and potentially threaten a victim’s reputation and personal safety.

It’s always wise to do as much as possible to prevent cybercrime.  One of the best ways to learn how to prevent cybercrime is to check out the STOP. THINK. CONNECT. website

Should I Report Cybercrime?

Cybercrime can be particularly difficult to investigate and prosecute because it often crosses legal jurisdictions and even international boundaries. And, many offenders disband one online criminal operation—only to start up a new activity with a new approach—before an incident even comes to the attention of the authorities. 

Who to contact:

  • Local law enforcement. Even if you have been the target of a multijurisdictional cybercrime, your local law enforcement agency (either police department or sheriff’s office) has an obligation to assist you, take a formal report, and make referrals to other agencies, when appropriate. Report your situation as soon as you find out about it. Some local agencies have detectives or departments that focus specifically on cybercrime.
  • IC3. The Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) will thoroughly review and evaluate your complaint and refer it to the appropriate federal, state, local, or international law enforcement or regulatory agency that has jurisdiction over the matter. IC3 is a partnership between the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the National White Collar Crime Center (funded, in part, by the Department of Justice’s Bureau of Justice Assistance). Complaints may be filed online at: http://www.ic3.gov/default.aspx.
  • Federal Trade Commission. The FTC does not resolve individual consumer complaints, but does operate the Consumer Sentinel, a secure online database that is used by civil and criminal law enforcement authorities worldwide to detect patterns of wrong-doing, leading to investigations and prosecutions. File online complaints here.  Victims of identity crime may receive additional help through the FTC hotline at 1-877-IDTHEFT (1-877-438-4388); the FTC website at www.ftc.gov/IDTheft provides resources for victims, businesses, and law enforcement.

Consumer Alerts

Fraudulent Email - Consumers receive unauthorized and deceptive email from well known companies, such as Best Buy, entitled "Fraud Alert".  Provoking concern about a purchase and possible credit card misuse as bait, the fraudulent email message urges recipients to go to a special Web site and correct the problem by entering their Social Security and credit card numbers.

Federal Trade Commission officials caution that consumers who reply to fraudulent email by providing any credit card or bank account information should contact their credit card company and/or bank immediately and cancel those accounts. Consumers who provided their social security number should contact one of the three national consumer reporting agencies, ask to place a fraud alert on their account and obtain a copy of their consumer report. Contact information is available online here or by calling the FTC's Identity Theft Help line, 1-877-ID-THEFT.

How can you tell if a "Fraud Alert" from a company is itself a fraud? FTC investigators say one way is to check with the company before you respond to any Web site that asks you to enter personal identifying information. Another is to check for misspellings and grammatical errors. Silly mistakes and sloppy copy - for example, an area code that doesn't' match an address - often are giveaways that the site is a scam. (From the Federal Trade Commission web site).

Other fraudulent Emails have been sent by companies posing to be Ebay, Paypal and Earthlink to customers of those services.  The Email attempts to solicit similar  information as with the Best Buy email specifically your name, address, credit & debit card numbers, personal PINs and other personal information.

Mail Fraud- Common characteristics of mail fraud scams to be on the watch for:

  • Chain letters - send money now.
  • Mail order correspondence courses
  • Unordered merchandise
  • Recurring frauds such as Canadian gemstones, foreign lotteries, etc.
  • "900" Number Prefix Scams
  • "Recovery Room" Operations
  • Debt consolidation
  • Credit card repairs and loans
  • Freezer plans
  • Health club memberships
  • Miracle medical cures
  • Weight-loss and body enhancing products

Your best protection in any questionable situation is to investigate the details carefully. The Better Business Bureau and the Attorney General's Office can provide you with the nec­essary information. Always beware of unso­licited offers. Avoid hasty decisions. Take the time to thoroughly read, discuss and under­stand any paperwork you sign. Criminal fraud is often hard to detect, so caution should always be exercised. Also, if you notice or are approached by someone promoting any of these "opportunities," immediately report them to the San Angelo Police Department.

Street Cons - Street cons victimize young and old people alike. Common street cons are designed to:

  • Take advantage of human weaknesses. (greed, gullibility, goodness, hope and fear).
  • Make victims look so foolish they will be reluctant to report the con.
  • Require only a few hours of the criminal's time.
  • Swindle the victims of their cash.
  • Involve face-to-face contact between criminal(s) and victim(s).

Pigeon Drop - This can game is usually conducted by two well-dressed women of different races. Since women are not nor­mally considered a physical threat, poten­tial victims are not frightened by their approach. The mix of two races reinforces in the victim's mind that the two can artists are strangers and not working together. The victim is always alone and is usually an older, well-dressed woman who is approached in a park or a mall dur­ing regular business hours. One of the can artists approaches the intended victim and starts a conversation, perhaps looking for directions. Soon the second can artist approaches and asks if anyone has lost a package she claims to have found in the area. The three then look into the package and find a sum of money and a note which gives the impression that the money has been obtained illegally.  The three decide they should share the money. One of the con artists claims to know a lawyer who can advise them. This person leaves then returns saying they can keep the money but there is a catch. It seems state law requires that all found money be held a certain period of time. But the lawyer agrees to waive the waiting period if each can show they have money to live on during the waiting period. The victim is convinced to withdraw the amount of money agreed to, place it in the bag with the" found money" and go see the lawyer. The cons switch the bags and leave the victim with a bag of shredded paper on her way to the lawyer while they are parking the car.

Bank Examiner Scam - Usually the victim is well-dressed and nervous. She is normal­ly told the teller is dishonest and has taken some of her money. She is asked to with­draw a sum of money from her account in cash. The swindle is similar to the pigeon drop except the con artist plays the role of a bank official or bank examiner. They phone the victim with a story that her checking or savings account has been tampered with and a dishonest teller is suspected. The victim is then instructed to give money to the phony bank official who claims the money will be marked, then re-deposited and traced through the system to catch the dishonest teller. Needless to say, the victim will never see their money or bank official again.

Bank Play Comeback - This is essentially a reload which follows either the pigeon drop or bank examiner scam. Within a few days following either of these cons the victim is contacted by two additional con artists who represent themselves as law enforcement officers. They tell the victim that they are on the case, have identified the culprits, and need the victim's assistance to catch the ringleader. The mug shots they show the victim are of the two that just conducted the con. The victim is then asked to assist in trapping the ringleader of this group. Needless to say, the victim is told the ringleader works in a bank, and the victim is asked to, essentially, go through the bank examiner con one more time.

Obituary Scams - These cover a variety of cons involving the sale of bibles, other religious items, and services that the con artist claims were ordered by the deceased just prior to his or her death. A variation of this can consist of a ruse entry in which someone claims to be a minister volunteering to counsel the victim. Once in the house, the con artist claims that he or she needs to use the rest room and uses the opportunity to commit theft.

Magazine Subscriptions - In this scam, victims are tricked into ordering subscriptions for magazines they are told will be distributed to hospitals, nursing homes, and similar places. Others are simply talked into ordering magazines they do not need by overly courteous people who play on their sympathy with tales of hardship and good intentions.

Insurance Policies - As with magazine subscriptions, sometimes there are no insurance policies at all, or those that are issued are totally inappropriate or duplicative for the victims.

Faked Pedestrian Accidents - These involve slip and falls and other fake accidents to make victims believe that they have injured an innocent pedestrian.

Fortune Telling Scams - This is always a scam. For many people, having one's fortune told is a casual recreational activity. The fortune tellers, however, look through this group for those few people who they can convince that they really have magic powers and can use these powers to help them resolve serious personal problems. Once these victims are identified, the fortune tellers convince them to perform bizarre rituals that would be embarrassing to the victims should they later be called upon to testify. These rituals also involve the display, exchange, and duplication of money to rid victims of its evil influence. Obviously, this money ultimately goes to the fortune teller.

Home Improvements - These usually begin with a repairman arriving at the victim's door and informing him or her that there is a problem with the roof or driveway, and they can repair it immediately. They normally ask for payment before the job is complete.

If you believe you have been conned or scammed, call (325) 657-4315 to file a police report.

Telephone Scams

Phone and mail cons typically involve a large number of victims by making use of mass marketing techniques. They clone legitimate enterprises, and tend to target the victims in the system until their money is exhausted.  The variety of telemarketing cons is endless. The most common, and therefore most dangerous, of these schemes are summarized here:

Warrant Scams - Telephone calls alleging fake arrest warrants.  The scammers may spin a range of stories about why an arrest warrant has been issued, including that you have failed to pay taxes. Scammers typically ask for money to be sent via wire transfer as it’s nearly impossible to recover money sent this way. They may also ask for people’s financial and other personal details to access their money and use this information to commit other scams.

Be on guard, if you receive a phone call from someone saying you have an arrest warrant and asking you to pay a fee, hang up and do not respond. If in doubt, don’t use the contact details provided - look up the government department or organisation yourself in the phone book or online and phone or email them.

IRS "Phishing" Scams - These involve calls from individuals claiming to be from the Internal Revenue Service (IRS). Scammers who are posing as tax officials are threatening Texans with fines, arrest, and other penalties if they do not immediately pay a false claim of unpaid taxes.  Click here to view a full list of what to do if you receive a suspicious IRS-related communication of any kind.

Prize Solicitations - Victims are informed by postcard or phone that they have won one of three or four prizes as some sort of promotional offering. The caller will not specify the prize, but it will be represented as something of extraordinary value such as a car, cash, or jewelry. Victims are told that to collect their prize they have to send money for handling, taxes, shipping, and accounting fees. If any prize is eventually received, it is always worth less than the processing money.

Prize Recovery - This is a reload scheme in which victims are told that the prize they won in the past was never delivered because the firm that awarded it to them has gone out of business. The good news is that they did win a prize and this has been seized by the new company. It can now be delivered if the new firm is reimbursed for the shipping and handling costs incurred when the prize was transferred. No prize ever existed or will exist.

Sweepstakes and Contest Scams - ­Victims are enticed to enter a contest with the promise they can easily win a new car or other valuable prize. All they have to do is complete a puzzle or fill in blanks answering a few questions and send in a sum of money. If they answer correctly, they are told they will advance to a higher level. In reality there is no contest and no worthwhile prize. Victims are simply tricked into completing an endless series of puzzles; most of them require some sort of entry fee to advance to the next level. Victims can invest thousands of dollars per year in this manner. Investigate sweepstakes and contests carefully to make sure that it is legitimate and not a diversion to sway you into unknowingly signing on to a scam.

Tech Support Scams - Cybercriminals don't just send fraudulent email messages and set up fake websites. They might also call you on the telephone and claim to be from a wellknown software company.  They might offer to help solve your computer problems or sell you a software license. Once they have access to your computer, they can trick you into installing malicious software that can capture data such as online banking usernames and passwords, request credit card information, or direct you to a fraudulent website to solicit other personal or financial information.  The majority of software companies NEVER make unsolicited phone calls (also known as cold calls) to charge you for computer security or sofware fixes. 

Charity and Affinity Scams - These usually involve calls from strangers asking for donations for causes that relate to the potential victim's race, age, national origin or religion. Some may be legitimate, but all should be carefully investigated before contributing anything. If you are not sure, do not feel guilty about saying no.

Investments such as Land, Oil/Gas, and Business Opportunities - Prospective victims are contacted with all types of offers, all of them promising immediate returns and big profits for investments.

If you believe you have been conned or scammed out of money, call (325) 657-4315 file a police report.  If you were not scammed out of money, report these scams to the Federal Trade Commission.

Unwanted Telemarketing, Text, or Spam

Click the links to file complaints about unwanted telemarketing, text and spam with the Federal Trade Commission.