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United Bank seminar offers fraud avoidance tips

By Sherri Ellington How many different types of financial fraud are out there and what can one do about it? Too many, but most can be prevented with information such as that provided at a recent United Bank Fraud Forum. Several speakers talked Aug. 28 about different kinds of fraud and how it can affect senior citizens. They included bank, district attorney and law enforcement personnel, each with a different take. Offers of repairs ’This is one of the most common practices,’ said United Bank marketing vice president Andi Grant. ’They’ll come up, note you have something that needs to be repaired and offer to do it at a good price. Then they ask for a little money to buy fuel. You never see them again. There are people in your neighborhood who shouldn’t be in your neighborhood, just looking for someone to scam.’ Two recent types of repair scams seen lately are driveway resurfacing ‘“ one perpetrator actually painted driveways black to seem as if he had done some work but it was nowhere near worth the amount he charged. ’He charged $3,600 for a shoddy spray-on job then came back the next day and asked for $7,000 for the extra work he hadn’t done,’ said assistant district attorney Scott Johnson. Roofing scammers are often harder to finger, Johnston said. ‘Some of them are legitimate. Quite a few are not. One man did more damage than there was in the first place. In general, anyone coming to you wanting to do work is probably not legitimate. Ask for prices.’ In general, pay no more than 10% up front. Those who ask for more should be viewed with suspicion. Internet fraud While most people are aware by now of the infamous ‘Nigerian’ scam, these emails are now coming from other countries, including Canada and Russia. People are basically asked to launder funds through their bank accounts in return for some of the money. What they end up with is an overdraft. Mystery Shopper offers are also scams intended to get one’s personal information such as bank account and Social Security numbers. Often also seen in newspapers as well as in Internet advertising, these are pyramid type schemes that pay ‘“ or not ‘“ a mystery shopper from credit card information stolen from another such shopper. Another Internet fraud involves Craigslist. A person will arrange to buy an item for sale with pickup by a third party ‘“ with a single check meant to split with that third party. The check is no good and the item for sale is gone. The extra payment is the scam tipoff. Also beware if the person shows up wanting to complete the deal late Friday when the bank cannot be contacted about a suspect check. ’It’s amazing what people can do with computers,’ said sheriff’s Maj. Brad White. ‘The more someone tries to rush you, the more likely it is you shouldn’t do it.’ Identity theft Once someone has a person’s name, date of birth and Social Security number, they do not need that person’s credit card or banking. They can use that person’s good credit to open their own, then proceed to ruin their victim’s credit. ’They pull people in to try to get them to give them money,’ Grant said. ‘They’ll even target children.’ Of course, giving out credit card and banking information makes it easier for the scammer and harder for the victim. ’Some caregivers get permission to pay one or two bills and take advantage of having access to the bank account,’ said Johnston. ’It’s hard for us to sort out what’s legitimate and what’s not. In one case, we were pretty sure a woman in the hospital wasn’t pulling $300 a night from her account from ATMs in Atlanta. It turned out to be her boyfriend. Just because you’re paranoid doesn’t mean they aren’t out to get you.’

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