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 Preventing Fraud

The Jefferson County Sheriff's Office is tasked with following up violations of statutes concerning Telemarketing, Theft, Computer Fraud, Forgery, Fraud, Worthless Documents, and Exploitation. Each member of the Sheriff’s Office makes public speaking engagements for a variety of audiences to help people understand detecting, deterring, and prosecuting fraud. There a number of points offered by the Sheriff’s Office to help avoid fraud and its related activities:


WORTHLESS DOCUMENTS  (Checks) - Never accept a check from someone, especially a stranger, unless you have positively determined whom it is you are dealing with or taking the check from. It is acceptable to ask for proper identification, with a color photograph, and often more than one form of identification. Many businesses use cameras to photograph their customers for later identification. Some businesses clear the checks with the bank prior to accepting them. You are not required to accept a check for a transaction if you do not want to, and the same is true for credit cards.

 

Remember, the issuance of checks without sufficient funds is a violation of the law and illegal in all states.

 

Here are some tips on what to do when accepting a check:

  • When accepting a check, run your hand or finger along all sides of the check. All genuine checks have at least one side with perforations. Some checks have as many as three sides with perforations. A bogus check is usually smooth on all sides. counterfeiters use regular paper cutters when making bogus checks. The only genuine checks, which are smooth on all sides, are United States Government checks and some state checks.

  • The magnetic numeric codes, at the bottom of genuine checks, are smooth. These same numbers, on bogus checks, are raised slightly. You can detect this by running your fingers over the numbers. These raised numbers are similar to Braille and caused by color copy machines.

  • Determine if the color of the check appears to be genuine. Wet the corner of a cloth and rub it across the front of a check. If the color smudges, it is a forgery.

  • Look at the check number. Low numbers indicate the account has not been opened too long. A handwritten number under 125 should tell you to exercise caution.

  • Check the date on the check to be sure it is accurate. Do not accept a post dated check; for example, one written January 1st, but actually issued and received on December 28th. Also, do not accept a check when the issuer asks you to hold it until a specified date, or if the issuer tells you he has no money in the account at the time he wrote the check.

  • Check to make sure the numeric value of the check is the same as the written value.

  • Do not write anything on the back of the check, below the area reserved for endorsement.

  • Get identification of the issuer. Verify and record that information, either on the front of the check or in a record kept for your files. Verify that the person depicted in the identification is in fact the same person presenting and/or issuing the check.

Do not accept a check as a replacement for a previously dishonored check. Do not accept a check as partial payment for a bad check. Do not accept a check if you know the issuer has given you bad checks in the past. Do not return the bad check if the issuer asks for it.

If you are receipt of a bad check, and you have exhausted all of your options in attempting to recover your loss, you should notify the issuer through a formal mailing. In the event this does not work, contact the Jefferson County Attorney’s Office.


CRIMES AGAINST THE ELDERLY - These types of offenses seek to exploit senior citizens by preying upon their confidence. These types of crimes include the bank examiner scam and the pigeon drop. Home health care representatives and telemarketers can also victimize elderly people. It is important for senior citizens to understand that they do not have to engage in any business or purchase anything, no matter how hard the sell is, or how good it seems. These types of swindles are not limited to the elderly, although they are frequent victims or marks. Con artists like to choose senior citizens, because they believe the elderly to be gullible, or good natured and likely to believe a story, or too weak to put up a real struggle.


CRIMES AGAINST BUSINESS ESTABLISHMENTS - Con artists and employees alike steal from businesses. Owners and operators have to be on guard to protect against losses. Offenders posing as sales people will attempt to sell a product that is either worthless or will not be delivered as promised. Businesses should also watch out for slip and fall liability claims. There are very well trained people out there looking to steal from susceptible businesses. Your local Chamber of Commerce, Better Business Bureau, or the Sheriff's Office can provide security surveys or more tips on avoiding losses.

Questions You Should Ask Yourself -

  • Has a stranger contacted you and addressed themselves as a police officer, deputy sheriff, federal agent, or bank official, and have they asked you to withdraw a large amount of money for the purpose of catching a Crooked Bank Employee? No bank or police agency operates in this fashion! [Bank Examiner's Scam]

  • Has a stranger flashed an official looking badge or identification, and asked you to make a Cash Only withdrawal from your account and return to your home or meet them somewhere else, for the purpose of developing evidence in a secret investigation of your bank? No bank or police agency operates in this fashion! [Bank Examiner's Scam]

  • Did a stranger approach you and state that they or a friend found some money in an envelope, package, or wallet, then in return for your share of the found money ask you to withdraw some of your money to show good faith? [Pigeon Drop]

  • Has a stranger shown you a large roll of money and offered to pay you for showing them that banks are honest and reliable, by withdrawing some of your own money? [Pigeon Drop]

  • Has a stranger involved you in a card game or other game of chance, and is willing to pay a gambling debt only if you can prove to them that you have money of your own?

  • Has a stranger claimed to have done repair work to your home or car and you have not thoroughly inspected the work? [Gypsies]

  • Has a stranger approached you outside of your home and offered to do cheap repairs on your driveway or paint your house, because they were working in the neighborhood and had some materials left? [Gypsies]

  • Has a stranger approached you to tell you they have a winning lottery ticket and cannot collect the money, because they are an illegal alien and will be deported if they try to cash the ticket, and offer to sell you the ticket?

  • Has a stranger contacted you be telephone and told you that you won a sweepstakes or a prize, and to collect you have to give them a bank or credit card number to prove you are the rightful recipient, or that you must send the tax payment on the prize in overnight express delivery, or that for a modest fee you can collect the prize? [Telemarketing Scam]

  • Has a stranger contacted you by telephone to offer you a fabulous deal on gold mining stocks, rare coins, stamps, works of art, silver, bonds, or anything of value, for an unbelievably low fee, and using high pressure sales tactics? Has this stranger asked for an account number for credit cards or your bank? [Telemarketing, Get-Rich- Quick, or Boiler Room Scams]

  • Has a stranger telephoned you to ask for money for a charity using high-pressure tactics, or for a charity you have never heard of before? [Telemarketing]

Telemarketing scams have been around since the 1920's. Other forms of cons and swindles have been around for centuries. The expression "A fool and his money are soon parted" is the motto of swindlers and con-artists. If you can answer yes to any of the above questions you may be the victim of a fraud. Here are some tips to avoid fraud:

Your first line of defense is common sense. Get-Rich-Quick schemes appeal to the greed in all of us. Pigeon Drops, Bank Examiners, and phony charities appeal to our good nature. A rule to remember is, if it sounds too good to be true, it is! Another one is, if it does not seem like good common sense to you, then it isn't.

 

In each of the questions above there were two recurring themes: One was someone trying to get you to give them your money for some reason, and the other most important one is that in every case, it was a complete stranger! Ask yourself, Why would a complete stranger want to do something like this for me? If you cannot think of a very valid reason (and you probably won't), then decline the invitation.

 

Watch for reports of certain types of activity in the media, either on television, in the newspaper, or on the radio. Watch out for bulletins. When the Sheriff's Office or other police agencies detect con artists or swindlers working in the vicinity, they get quick cooperation from the media to get the word out. For example, recently there have been con artists within the Home Health Care industry taking advantage of the elderly in this area.

Never, ever, discuss the state of your finances with a stranger. What possible interest could it be to someone, except to take it from you? Never, ever, withdraw money from an account at the request of a stranger. Why would you want to give a stranger your money?

If you ever have any doubt, mention it to the bank employee, hang up the telephone, and tell the stranger to get lost, and contact the Sheriff's Office for assistance.

 

Do not ever give your credit card number or bank account numbers to anyone, especially over the telephone, unless you initiated the call or know and trust the company. If you are not sure, terminate the call by hanging up. Tell the other party this call has been traced and police have been notified.

 

Do not ever be pressured into buying something you do not want or cannot see. High-pressure tactics urging you to invest right now or forever lose this opportunity should tip you off to a possible fraud operation. If the other party asserts that there is little or no risk for your money, this should be a red flag. Ask yourself, Why would a stranger call you from out of the blue to offer you such a sweet deal?

 

Get all of the information you can to confirm any conversation you have with a stranger, either on the telephone or in person. Reputable firms encourage you to ask questions and verify their claims with outside authorities. A swindler will not answer direct questions, or smooth his or her response, or dance around the answer.

 

There is nothing that says you have to do business with a complete stranger or that you cannot simply hang up or terminate a conversation with a stranger. The only thing a con artist wants is your money. If you think you are being swindled, or have been the victim of a con artist, contact the Jefferson County Sheriff's Office to report it.


GUARDING AGAINST COMPUTER FRAUD (Better Computer Security) - There are four key elements for effective computer security:

  • Protect data and programs from intentional or inadvertent unauthorized alteration or destruction.

  • Maintain the confidentiality, integrity, and availability of data.

  • Protect the data center from physical threats such as fire, flood, and intentional destruction.

  • Have the capability to restore the data center operations in case of complete destruction.

You should observe some rules of thumb for better security of your computer equipment and valuable data:

  • The highest possible level of management must establish security policies.

  • A set of procedures should be developed to guide implementation of the security level outlined in the policies.

  • A hotline should be established to report possible security violations.

  • An employee training program should be set up to cover security awareness and explain the polices, standards, and procedures, and should deal with:

  • Do not share passwords.

  • Do not post your password where others can see it.

  • Know what material can be shared with others and what should be treated as confidential.

  • Do not leave your desk for an extended period of time, with the PC or terminal on, accessing an application. This is especially true if the PC or terminal is visible to the public.

  • An active and technically competent EDP internal audit function should be established and adequately supported.

  • A full risk assessment should be carried out regularly of information technology, with periodic updates.

  • Security software should be installed to control access.

  • An adequately staffed information security department should be established.

  • Passwords should restrict users only to the level of access needed.

  • Data encryption should be considered for very sensitive data files, programs, and data transmissions.

  • Security procedures and requirements should be established for communications with third parties.


AUTOMOBILES - Car thieves will alter the identity of a stolen car and attempt to sell it to an unsuspecting buyer. To avoid being caught in this situation, take the following precautions:

  • An anxious seller or too low a price may indicate a problem with the vehicle.

  • Buy a car from a reputable dealer. You have legal recourse available if there is a problem.

  • If you are buying a vehicle from a private owner verify the vehicle identification number with the State Department of Motor Vehicles or a local police agency. This is your best insurance preventing you from buying a stolen vehicle.

  • Carry copies of your registration and insurance card/binder in your vehicle; law requires this. Do not carry the original title or registration in the vehicle, as this allows a thief an opportunity to alter the ownership/registration documents should the vehicle be stolen.

 

606 3rd Street - Fairbury, NE 68352
Office: 402-729-2284 or 800-775-2126
Fax: 402-729-2904