Financial Scams & Schemes
The Batavia Police Department encourages citizens to be proactive in protecting themselves from financial scams and identity theft. As technology continues to expand, scammers develop new and creative ways of stealing your money. Scammers will contact you by phone, through email, or even the US Mail. Some of the more common scams observed by the Batavia Police Department are as follows:
- Work from Home Scams: In these scams, people will often receive emails or find flyers offering stay at home income. These scammers will often have people fill out applications or even answer some interview questions by email or over the phone to convince you they are a legitimate business. Often, people are required to purchase costly equipment to start their new job, only to find out there is no work and no pay for them. Other times they will offer income for services like package forwarding or envelope stuffing. Often those services are either pyramid schemes or help the scammer in furthering the distribution of illicitly gained stolen goods.
- Internal Revenue Service (IRS) Tax Scams: These scams occur by phone or by email and advise people of an unclaimed tax refund or of back taxes owed. Generally, the scammer seeks personally identifying information from the victim in order to process their claim. Instead, the information provided is then used to commit identity theft. See an example of an IRS phishing email (PDF) online. The IRS advises on their website that the IRS does not initiate contact with taxpayers by email, social media, or text message, requesting personal financial information.
- Free Gifts, Vacations, or Prizes: Offers of free gifts or prizes are common scams. Sometimes "winners" will be required to pay postage and handling to claim their free gift. Other times personal information is obtained and used for later identity thefts.
- Advance Fee Schemes and Foreign Lottery Scams: An advance fee scheme occurs when the victim pays money to someone in anticipation of receiving something of greater value – such as a loan, contract, investment, or winnings – and then receives little or nothing in return. These schemes can be applied to almost anything depending on the creativity of the scammer, to include lottery winnings, inheritance or found money, and a myriad of products and services. The victim may even be required to sign potential lending contracts and make good faith down payments, only to discover they are not eligible for the loan they were requesting.
- Health Care and Health Insurance Scams: Health Care scams are common and seek victims who may need medical devices or services that they cannot otherwise afford. The scammer will offer free devices, only to bill the victims insurance later. There is no guarantee the cost of the device won't be passed on to the victim if the insurance company denies the claim deeming the device not medically necessary.
- Posing as Bank Officials or Police Officials: Another common scam is when a scammer will pose as a bank employee or police official. In bank related cases, the caller or email will indicate there are problems with your accounts. They will request account information or personal information in order to verify your identity. Sometimes emails contain links that appear to go to legitimate bank websites. Frequently these websites are clever copycat sites that have fields requesting personal information. In Police and Government Official related scams, the caller will demand money for a relative in jail. The caller may request the money be sent in the form of Green Dot Cards, via Western Union, or account transfers. If you are uncertain about the authenticity of a caller or email, call the agency or bank directly from a verified number before providing any personal information or paying any money.
Be wary of any deal that sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never sign documents you do not understand and be wary of investment opportunities that promise extremely high yields. Don't pay in advance for services, only after they have been rendered. Don't pay for a free prize. If a caller tells you the payment is for taxes, they are in violation of federal law. Never give out personal information to any unsolicited emails, text messages, phone calls, or mail inquiries. If you believe a deal may be legitimate, disconnect the phone call and contact the company directly from a verified number. Check the business on the Better Business Bureau. If you are still unsure, contact your local police authority and follow their guidance.
Any time you believe an offer is likely a scam, file a complaint with the Federal Trade Commission (FTC). There are numerous variations of the above schemes and frauds. There are also other common scams not mentioned in this article, as well as new ones being developed every day. Always use due diligence in verifying the authenticity of a company or offer before engaging in any business with that company.