Fraud Prevention and Information

Fraud Prevention and Information

The Financial Crimes Unit of the Tucson Police Department investigates a wide variety of financial and document related crimes, including employee embezzlements, credit card and check fraud, forgery, identity theft and fraud schemes. If you have an organization that would like the Financial Crimes Unit to present information to your group reference the prevention or identification of any of these types of crimes, you can contact Sgt. Rick Radinsky at (520) 837-7814. The following information is provided to assist you in understanding what financial crimes are, prevention measures, and methods to make reports.

Identity Theft

Identity theft is a pervasive crime that almost anyone can fall victim to. There are many steps that need to be taken in order to stop further harm to your identity, identify the extent of the damage, and begin the recovery process. The Federal Trade Commission (FTC) is the U.S. Government agency with the responsibility of receiving and processing complaints of identity theft.  The FTC has a website, www.identitytheft.gov, to make the process a bit less confusing.  That website has a simple, electronic checklist to follow that should be accomplished if you suspect you are a victim of identity theft. The FTC also produces a handbook, called “Taking Charge: What to do if your identity is stolen”. If you prefer a hardcopy of this handbook, they are available at the front desk at Tucson Police Substations. An electronic version is also available

Identity theft is also covered by Arizona Revised Statutes (ARS 13-2008 and ARS 13-2009), and in accordance with those laws, an identity theft police report can be made in any jurisdiction whether or not the theft or the subsequent loss occurred within that jurisdiction (e.g., your identity is stolen in Tucson and the loss occurs in Phoenix; the report can be made in either locale). These reports may be made by going to any police substation during business hours (Mon-Fri 8am-5pm) or telephonically by calling 520-791-4444 and selecting option 2. Please note that a local police report is just one of the many steps in addressing and recovering from identity theft.

Tax ID Theft

If the IRS has notified you about issues stemming from tax filings in your name, you need to ensure you work with them in order to resolve that situation. The IRS has a Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft on their website. Just like other identity theft issues, a local police report is just one of the many steps victims will have to complete in order to resolve the situation. 

Identity theft prevention tips

  • Collect your mail daily, and as close to delivery as possible. If you will be out of town, request the U.S. Postal Service hold delivery until your return. Place outgoing mail in secure mail containers.
  • Shred documents that contain any personal identifying information, including account numbers, social security numbers, birthdates, etc.
  • Check your credit report annually. A free copy is available through www.annualcreditreport.com. Be aware there are many other sites that claim to offer free credit reports. This is the official one set up by the big three credit reporting agencies and authorized by U.S. law.
  • Review bank and credit statements frequently. Begin the dispute process for unauthorized charges as soon as practical.
  • Verify any phone calls, emails, or texts received that appear to be from a company you do business with. If they are requesting personal information, and you did not initiate the call, be very cautious about providing it. Call the company back at a known, publicly available phone number. Do not assume any number provided by them is the valid corporate office.
  • Keep your computer’s software up to date, and utilize security software to protect from viruses and other threats.

Vulnerable Adult Abuse and Exploitation

The Tucson Police Department’s Vulnerable Adult Abuse and Financial Exploitation Unit consists of two Detectives that work in conjunction with the Arizona Attorney General's Office. They also work closely with AZ Adult Protective Services and other local organizations dedicated to assisting the more vulnerable parts of our population. Their primary function is to investigate the financial exploitation and/or physical abuse of those adults that are unable to protect themselves due to a vulnerability, whether it be physical or mental. There is no specific age at which someone becomes vulnerable. For further reading, please see AZ Revised Statutes Title 46 Chapter 4, Article 1.

Many victims of these crimes fail to report them. Family members, friends, neighbors and our community in general need to be aware of the following red flags, and report any suspected abuse or criminal violations immediately.

Red flags of elder abuse and exploitation:

  • Accompanied by a stranger who encourages them to withdraw a large amount of cash.
  • Accompanied by a family member or other person who seems to coerce them into making transactions.
  • Not allowed to speak or make decisions.
  • With an acquaintance that appears too interested in their financial status.
  • Nervous or afraid of the person accompanying them.
  • Giving implausible explanations about what they are doing with their money.
  • Unable to remember financial transactions or signing paperwork.
  • Fearful that they will be evicted, or institutionalized, if money is not given to a caregiver.
  • Neglected or receiving insufficient care given their needs or financial status.
  • Isolated from other family members or support by a family member or acquaintance.

Scams

Scammers will contact their victims by phone (voice or text), online or in person. A person who has information of a phone scam should report that information to the Federal Trade Commission. If the scam originated online, such as through email, social media or online classifieds, a report should be made to the Internet Criminal Complaint Center. The U.S. Treasury Department has an online portal to report IRS Impersonators. If a citizen lost money, or has information leading them to believe these criminals are in the local area, a local police report may also be appropriate.

The following list of red flags should be considered as a whole. Any one indicator does not immediately indicate a scam.

Red flags to consider

  • A unsolicited, unexpected phone call or email is received identifying an urgent issue that needs immediate resolution. Examples are:
    • Unpaid bills or taxes
    • Compromise of home computer
    • “Out of town” family member in need of assistance
  • A large amount of pressure is applied to deal with the situation immediately. Pressure can be applied through:
    • Threats of jail or imprisonment if immediate action is not taken
    • Special discount price available only if acted upon immediately
    • Threatening tones and foul/inappropriate language
  • Many calls are international in origin. Therefore, scam phone callers may have heavy accents and a poor grasp of the English language.
  • Payment is requested through money transfer or prepaid cards.
  • Many scammers do not have supporting information, such as account numbers or other even the recipients full name.

Types of Scams

There are many types of scams, and an unlimited variation of those. The following list is not comprehensive, and should be looked at as a general guideline of the types of scams that exist. Always remember, if it is too good to be true, it most likely is. The most common ones, and the way they usually originate, follows:

Phone Scams

  • Outstanding warrant or taxes: These are generally accompanied with threats of arrest and jail unless payment is made immediately. Usually, the callers purport to be from a law enforcement agency, and may even provide a name and badge number for their creation. The caller will usually advise the person missed jury duty or did not pay their taxes. They are then advised payment should be made immediately via some type of prepaid card or wire transfer obtained at a local business. Keep in mind that no law enforcement or government organization will demand payment in this manner. Formal demand letters and other verifiable methods will be utilized.
  • Past due utility bills: Businesses are the mostly likely to receive these types of calls. Callers state that the business is in arrears, and that unless payment is made immediately, the utility will be disconnected within the hour. Payment is demanded through means of prepaid cards or wire transfers.
  • Computer repair: Callers will identify themselves as working for Microsoft or other computer repair service. They will advise the victim that a virus or other issue has been detected that requires immediate action. Victims are told to provide payment through credit card or electronic funds transfer. Victims follow a series of instructions, which gives the scammer complete access to the victim’s computer.
  • Grandparent / affinity scam: Callers will impersonate a family member, often blaming the different sound of their voice on a recent injury or illness. Callers claim they are in trouble with law enforcement in another country, due to circumstances out of their control, such as a traffic collision or a friend’s possession of drugs. Another person than gets on the phone and identifies themselves as either a law enforcement official or agent of the court, and explains the legal consequences of not paying bail immediately. If a victim sends cash, follow-up calls will contain various reasons why more money is needed.
  • Loan/Grant Award: These may also originate on the internet. A person is called and informed they have recently applied for a loan and that it has been approved. They may also be told that a government or private group is awarding them a grant for various benign reasons. In both cases, victims are convinced that in order to receive the money, they need to provide payment of a smaller amount in order to either show their ability to pay it back (loan), or to clear up various fees that need to be paid before transfer (grant). Callers will often direct that the payment be made through prepaid cards or wire transfer.

Internet Scams

  • Email / Phishing: A person receives an email that appears to be from a legitimate company they may do business with. The email explains there has been some kind of security issue or other problem, and that personal information needs to be confirmed. A link is provided that directs the recipient to a site that resembles the legitimate business. This phony site requests information such as account number and other personal identifying information.
  • Online classifieds: These can take a variety of forms. Whether you utilize these sites to sell unwanted items, you are looking to buy something, or you are seeking employment, proceed with caution. Scammers will attempt to sell items they do not own, or hire you for companies that either don’t exist, or that are illegitimate. If someone sends a check for more than was agreed upon, or sends you a link to use for payment, consider that a red flag. Often times, those checks are fictitious, and the person cashing them loses any money sent prior to discover of the forgery. As for the third party sites, those links often send people to unauthorized, copycat sites that appear to be affiliated with well-known companies, but are not.
  • Lottery/Inheritance: These usually originate from an email claiming a person has won either a lottery from a foreign nation or they are due an inheritance. Similar to the grant award scams spoken of above, victims are advised that they cannot receive this large amount of money until they pay fees to clear customs or other official sounding issues. Payment is requested through prepaid cards or wire transfer.

In-Person Scams

  • Repair scams: These scammers will often approach people and offer to repair items that don’t need repair, such as a vehicle issue they observed, or home repair issue they noticed while driving by. Repairs are most often not needed, and even when they are, the work is rarely completed. The cost scammers quote victims is usually significantly less than what legitimate businesses would charge. They usually demand payment in cash.
  • Check cashing: Victims are approached by strangers or acquaintances, and asked to cash a check for them since they do not have a bank account. Many times, the scammer will offer the victim a small amount for their troubles. The checks are often deposited at a nearby ATM, then cash is immediately withdrawn. When the check returns as fraudulent, the victim is out any cash withdrawn at the time of the deposit.
  • Rental scams: These can originate from online classifieds as well. A person claims to need to rent out a property, but doesn’t have the authority to do so. The victim often meets the scammer at the property location. The scammer often demands payment in cash, and will be overly accommodating in order to “close the deal.” Consumers should perform due diligence on any property they are considering renting, in order to determine ownership and authorization of an individual to lease it out.

The Better Business Bureau of Southern Arizona has more information on these scams, and other information on their Scam Tracker webpage.

 

Information Links

There are many links provided throughout the above information. These sites are not endorsed by nor affiliated with TPD or the City of Tucson. Those, and some other valuable resources, are provided here.