By Kristina Houck
From fake lotteries to fake online daters, more than 30 million Americans fall victim to financial fraud every year, according to a guide by the National Center for Victims of Crime and the FINRA Investor Education Foundation.
The San Diego County Sheriff’s Department expects to receive scam cases totaling more than $1 million this year, said Sgt. Joe Ellis.
“Financial scams — it’s a very large problem,” said Ellis during a financial crimes talk Jan. 22 at an event held by Del Mar Community Connections at the Del Mar City Hall Annex. “Every week, I’ve got several cases where someone has been scammed.”
To raise awareness and prevent crime, Ellis discussed new and continuing scams during the talk.
Some scammers use a direct approach and come to your front door, claiming to be a salesperson, repairman or representative from a utility company, Ellis warned.
“The reason they do that is because, generally, people who are older tend to own their homes,” he said. “They have discretionary income and come from another generation where people were more trustworthy.”
Scammers also use the phone, mail and email to trick people. A common scam, Ellis said, is one where the caller pretends to be the victim’s grandchild and requests money. Other scammers pretend to be a bank or credit card company representative and ask for the victim to verify his or her information.
To reduce your risk of becoming a victim and protect your finances and identity, Ellis said to never provide your information over the phone unless you initiated the call.
You should also always verify information before responding to any contact requesting money or personal information. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the utility company and calling about your overdue bill, call the utility company. If you receive a call from someone claiming to be from the IRS and calling about your unpaid taxes, call the IRS.
“All these scams, they are made to appear legitimate,” he said. “Why is that? If it looks illegitimate, you’re not going to fall for it.
“If it looks like a duck, moves like a duck and sounds like a duck, it’s a duck. If it seems like a scam, feels like a scam, you think for a second it’s a scam — stop right there. Don’t do a thing. It’s probably a scam.”
For more information, visit www.sdsheriff.net/financial, www.idtheftcenter.org and www.fbi.gov/scams-safety/fraud.