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Financial fraud is one of the fastest growing crimes in America today. Most financial crimes involving identity theft begin with the collection of personal information from victims. New methods of obtaining information regularly pop-up but there are several of these "scams" that have stayed prominent. Below is a list and brief description of several scams prevalent today. Be aware of them as knowledge is the key to avoiding victimization.
This scam, in recent years, has been mass mailed through the internet, however, it has appeared in letters, faxes and phone calls. The scammer tells the victim they have a large sum of money they’ve inherited/found/earned legitimately/etc. The money is trapped in their country and may be confiscated by the government or some other agency. You will be offered a large portion of the money, often millions of dollars, if you allow it to be transferred to your accounts to get it out of the country. The scammer will usually ask for your banking information and may ask that you travel out of country to sign paperwork, collect the money etc. The scam may involve legitimate or official looking paperwork from banks and government officials.
This scam comes in many forms but the basics are the same. A stranger is offering you millions of dollars to help them get their money out of the country. You must provide personal account information and often "processing" fees. There is no money. The scam is an attempt to obtain your banking information in order to empty your bank accounts or worse. Those who have been enticed to travel out of the country by this scam face much worse dangers. The US is currently investigating over 50 missing American Citizens involved in the Nigerian scam. Never provide your private information to a stranger. Remember, if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is.
Another popular scamming scheme involves "spoofing" websites and e-mails. A victim will receive an e-mail from E-bay, a bank, credit card, etc. The e-mail will explain that the person’s account has become inactive or that they need to update their records. There is a link in the e-mail which guides the person to an official looking web-page from the company. The web-page asks for account information often including the account number, PIN, address and other personal information.
These scams have been very successful because the e-mails and subsequent web-pages they lead to look official. Remember, anyone can send an e-mail or post a web-page and official looking logos and pictures can be obtained very easily. Never provide your account information in response to any e-mail or on any website linked to an e-mail. Most companies, including E-bay do not send out e-mail requiring account updates. If you believe the e-mail to be legitimate, simply make sure by contacting the business by phone instead of following the link.