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Clearfield Borough police have received a complaint about a mail fraud/scam that includes a payroll check and letter to participate in a “consumer service evaluator”” for Wal-Mart.
According to police, neither the check nor the program originates from Wal-Mart. “[It] is not legitimate,” said police. Police noted that any resident who believes they have been defrauded should contact the Federal Trade Commission (FTC).
Police said residents can contact the FTC online at www.ftc.gov or by phone at 1-877-FTC-HELP. They can also contact the Consumer Fraud Division of the state’s Attorney General’s Office.
Police would also like to warn residents about the various scam methods being used by swindlers. Police have offered tips to help residents avoid becoming a victim of a scam.
Phishing: “Phishing” is fraud method in which the swindler will send out a “legitimate-looking” e-mail in an attempt to gather personal and financial information from recipients. It may appear to be a Wal-Mart e-mail with its logo.
If the customer “falls for the bait,” police said that the swindler may get credit card numbers, pin numbers, expiration dates for credit cards, bank account numbers and Social Security Numbers.
Vishing: Vishing is very similar to “phishing” but instead of occurring through e-mail, it is over the phone.
The swindler will typically pose as a representative for a legitimate business. It is in an attempt to fool the customer into thinking they will profit, such as through a Secret Shopper scam, said police.
In these scams, police said that swindlers pose as a trusted retailer or bank and obtain personal information from the customer by requesting that they “verify” the information on file. The information, police said, is then used to generate fraudulent transactions.
Police said that “a good rule of thumb” is if someone is asking to verify your personal information, it is very likely you did not provide it to them in the first place, and it is not a legitimate request.
“Legitimate companies will not expect you to provide your Social Security Number or other personal information when they call you,” said police.
“If you receive a call like this, do not provide any information. If in doubt, call back a trusted number for the company, such as the one on a statement or invoice, on the back of your credit/debit card or on an official Web site.
“But do not use the one sent through a suspicious e-mail. Do not use the phone number provided by the person on the phone.”
Smishing: Smishing is a combination of the terms “SMS” and “phishing.” It is similar to phishing but refers to fraudulent messages sent over SMS (text messaging) rather than e-mail.
Police said that the swindler may text you saying you’ve won a free gift card. Police would like to remind you that you can’t win a contest if you didn’t enter one. Also, police noted that Wal-Mart doesn’t notify winners of any contest via text message.
Police offered these tips to residents in order to help them avoid scams.
- Never provide personal information in response to an unsolicited request, regardless of whether it is made by phone or online.
- Do not respond to any suspicious-looking e-mail, automated calls or text messages. A trusted company will never ask a customer for sensitive information over the phone if you didn’t initiate it first.
- Don’t trust the Caller ID. Swindlers can manipulate the Caller ID to have it display a legitimate business’ name. To be safe, you can check to see if the phone number matches the one that appears on your bank statement, on the back of a credit/debit card or in the phone book.
- If a credit/debit card company calls to notify you of suspicious charges, they will not ask for your personal information. Instead, they will verify that they have reached the cardholder and ask for them by name. At that time, they may ask the cardholder to verify the last four digits of their Social Security Number (Note: They will not ask for the entire Social Security Number, account number, expiration or PIN). They will then verify if you made a particular charge or not. If anything sounds suspicious, hang up and call your financial institution directly.
- Avoid fraudulent sites by entering web addresses directly into the browser yourself or by using your bookmarks.
Police said if you have fallen victim to a scam and provided your personal account information, please contact your financial institution immediately to protect your accounts, to block your cards, to fill out a fraud affidavit and to take other protective measures as necessary.
Police also advised residents to not respond to an e-mail, phone call or text message that:
- requires you to supply personal or account information directly in the e-mail.
- threatens to close or suspend your account if you do not take immediate action.
- invites you to answer a survey that asks you to enter personal or account information.
- states that your account has been compromised or that there has been third-party activity on your account, and then asks you to enter or confirm your personal or account information.
- states that there are unauthorized charges on your account and then asks you to provide your personal or account information.
- asks you to enter your user ID, password, account numbers, PIN or card expiration dates into an e-mail, webpage or text message.