By Kelley Atherton
The FBI recently took down a "phishing" scam based in Romania that spanned three continents and five countries38 people ended up being arrested.
Unfortunately, that is one of hundreds of scams that ropes around the globe. Recently, a family placed a classified ad in The Daily Triplicate for dogs for sale.
An out-of-towner using an AT&T "relay system" for the hearing or speech impaired called the family. The caller supposedly wanted to send money to pay for at least one of the dogs and for shipping. The local family received a check and deposited it, then sent off some of that money as part of the transaction, only to find that the original check had bounced.
The Triplicate has no knowledge of this happening to other local residents.
Be skeptical about these orders when the person wants to use multiple sets of credit cards or wants to send more money than necessary for any number of reasons. AT&T also suggests merchants request a U.S. telephone number and U.S. contact information for all orders.
The Internet and e-mail has opened up countless scams and most of them have the same purpose: to take someone else's money.
There's even a jury duty scam. "Court employees" call up saying you've been selected for jury duty and want to verify social security and credit card numbers. The courts never require this for jury duty, even if they threaten you with fines.
The Nigerian letter scam usually involves some ousted government officials or princes who need to send you all of their money while they secretly escape the country. To help this person you will need to send your bank account information.
The advance fee scam usually involves you winning some large amount of money for no reason, but you have to send a small fee in order to receive it. Do not respond to this letter; instead, forward the information to the FBI. No one wants to give you money, they only want to take your money.
If you don't know the person or company sending you the letter or e-mail, trash it. Look over business agreements carefully, be wary of businesses that operate out of post office boxes or people who never seem to be in when you call.
Pyramid schemes can seem like a legitimate business deal. You invest money into a franchise and then make money by getting two more people to sign up and so on. Be wary of any investment that requires you to bring in more investors to profit from your investment. These schemes always collapse.
Secret or mystery shopper job ads frequently are fraudulent. This happened to a local resident who responded to an ad in The Triplicate last year. It's usually a fake company sending a check that you deposit before wiring a lesser amount out of the country. The bank usually comes looking for you when it becomes apparent the original check was a fake.
Many times addresses and phone numbers are hidden clues in any e-mails or paperwork potential scammers send. Area codes or zip codes will be off by a numbera quick fact-check on the Internet will lead you to a dead end.
Things that seem strange or out of the ordinarysomeone who promises lots of money, people who are pressuring you to sign something or have you send money overseesare all red flags for scams. The bottom line is to be skeptical. Protect your money.
Send any suspicious letters to the San Francisco FBI field office at 450 Golden Gate Ave., 13th. Floor, San Francisco, CA 94102-9523 or call (415) 553-7400. File a complaint at www.ic3.gov or visit the FBI Web site at www.fbi.gov for more information.