PROTECTING YOURSELF FROM ECONOMIC CRIMES AND SCAMS
No one can ever be completely safe from a scam or identity theft – not even the sheriff of Broward County. Earlier this year, I received two checks in the mail from a company purporting that they owed me money from a past transaction. But there was a catch: the company explained the checks were written to me in error for more than the amount owed to me. All I needed to do was deposit the checks and wire the company the difference. I knew right away that something was wrong. I directed BSO detectives to investigate, and they instantly recognized the two checks were worthless.
IF CRIMINALS TRY TO SCAM THE SHERIFF, THEY WILL CERTAINLY TRY TO DO IT TO YOU.
The most effective economic crime, however, is one in which criminals steal your identity. This is a growing problem affecting millions of Americans every year. Using advances in technology, criminals can obtain and use your personal information easier than ever for their own illegal intent. Your identity can be stolen in a variety of ways: from your trash, over the phone or online (including from the computer records of stores in which you have shopped at in person).
BSO is helping in the fight against identity theft. We provide residents a convenient, safe way to dispose of personal documents, check stubs, credit card offers, receipts and other items that might contain sensitive data through our free, monthly Shred-A-Thon events throughout Broward County. For a list of upcoming dates and times in your city, please visit www.sheriff.org.
BSO, in collaboration with the Florida Department of Financial Services, also works to protect our seniors from economic fraud and scams. Operation SAFE (Stop Adult Financial Exploitation) provides free workshops for seniors, their caregivers and families to empower themselves against scammers. To schedule an Operation SAFE workshop in your community, contact our Economic Crimes Unit at 954-321-4200.
Remember, you are the best line of defense in protecting yourself against identity theft and scammers. Best of all, it is easy to do. Do not leave financial bills or letters with sensitive information in your mailbox or in your vehicle. Never to carry your Social Security card in your purse or your wallet. Carry only the ID and credit cards you need. Leave the others locked in a secure place.
Do not give credit card or Social Security numbers over the telephone to strangers who may call you. These individuals may pose as a bank, charity, the IRS, the police or even a friend or family member. Use more complex passwords on all online credit card, bank and phone accounts, and use different passwords on different accounts. Never use identifying information such as your mother’s maiden name, the last four digits of your Social Security number or your birthdate as passwords.
If someone has stolen or is using credit cards or checks that belong to you, immediately notify the financial institution which issued them. If you feel like you have been targeted or were victim to a scam, file an immediate police report with your closest law enforcement agency, and place a fraud alert by calling one of the three national credit reporting companies (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion) that keep records of your credit history. Finally, obtain a free copy of your annual credit report (www.annualcreditreport.com) to ensure there are no unauthorized accounts associated with you.
As sheriff, I am committed to stopping these criminals. With your help, by being proactive and aware, together we can even stop scams before they happen.
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