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Fraud & Identity Theft

Fraud is a broad term that refers to a variety of offenses involving dishonesty or "fraudulent acts". In essence, fraud is the intentional deception of a person or entity by another made for monetary or personal gain. Below you will find information on the three primary types of fraudulent activity that we see in our area.


IDENTITY THEFT

If someone has stolen your identity, immediately take these steps:

  • Contact the fraud department of the three major credit card bureaus (Equifax, Experian and TransUnion). Have them flag your credit file with a fraud alert and include a statement that creditors should get your permission before opening new accounts in your name. Ask the credit bureaus for copies of your credit reports (credit bureaus are required to give you a free copy of your report if it is inaccurate due to fraud). Review your reports and make sure no new fraudulent accounts have been opened. After a few months order new reports to verify corrections and changes and to make sure no more fraudulent activity has occurred.
Credit Company To Report Fraud To Request a Credit Report Website
Equifax (800) 525-6585 (800) 685-1111 www.equifax.com
Experian (888) 397-3742 (888) 387-3742 www.experian.com
TransUnion (800) 6807289 (800) 916-8800 www.tuc.com

  • Contact the creditors for any accounts that have been tampered with or opened fraudulently. Speak to someone in the fraud department and then follow-up in writing. This letter is a part of the procedures spelled our in the Fair Credit Billing Act for resolving errors. Sample letters are available in the booklet ID Theft: When Bad Things Happen to Your Good Name.
  • File a report with the local police department where the identity theft took place. Keep a copy in case your creditors need proof of the crime.
  • If you learn that you Social Security Number has been used by another person to file a tax return, contact the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) and follow the steps outlined in the IRS Taxpayer Guide to Identity Theft.

Additional Resources:

  • Federal Trade Commission's document " 
  • Free credit reports
  • Guide for Identity Theft Protection
  • Identity theft protection companies proactively assist you in monitoring your financial accounts and personal information to ensure that your identity has not been stolen or misused. By using an identity theft protection company, consumers can spot abnormal activity with their credit cards, bank accounts, social security information and more to help repair and resolve issues regarding identity theft. For a list of companies and additional information on identity theft protection please visit Consumer Affairs

CREDIT CARD FRAUD

Credit card fraud is the unauthorized use of a credit/debit card, or card number, to fraudulently obtain money and/or property.

How does credit card fraud happen?
Theft, the most obvious form of credit card fraud, can happen in a variety of ways from low tech dumpster diving to high tech hacking. A thief might go through the trash to find discarded billing statements and then use your account information to buy things. A retail or bank website might get hacked, and your card number could be stolen and shared. Perhaps a dishonest clerk or waiter takes a photo of your card and uses your account to buy items or create another account. Or maybe you get a call offering a free trip or discounted travel packing, but to be eligible you have to join a club or give your account number to guarantee your place. The next thing you know, charges you didn't make are on your bill and the trip promoters are nowhere to be found.

What should I do if this happens to me?

  • Call the financial institution as soon as you realize your card has been lost, stolen or compromised. Many companies have toll-free and 24-hour service to deal with this. Cancel all cards  and check attached to this account. Once you report the loss or theft federal law says you cannot be held liable for unauthorized transfers that occur after that time.
  • If your bank requires you to file a police report contact the local department where the charges occurred. When you are filing a report it is useful to provide the following information:
    • A copy of the Affidavit of Fraud filed with each financial institution involved with the fraud. 
    • Copies of any of all checks, credit/debit card records and bank account records pertaining to the fraud.
    • Date, time and specific location of fraudulent charges, fraudulent check cashing or fraudulent wire transfer.
    • Full credit/debit card numbers, full account numbers, full routing numbers. 
    • The investigator also needs to know whether or not your financial institution has refunded your account.
  • Follow up with a letter to the financial institution to confirm you reported the issue. Include your account number, the date and time when you noticed our card was missing and when you first reported the loss. Keep a copy of the letter for your records. Send it by certified mail and ask for a return receipt. 
  • Update your files. Record the dates you made calls or sent letters. Make sure to keep copies of everything for your file.

Tips for Preventing Credit Card Fraud

Incorporating a few practices into your daily routine can help keep your cards and account numbers safe. For example, keep a record of your account numbers, their expiration dates and the phone number to report fraud for each company in a secure place. Don't lend your card to anyone and don't leave your cards, receipts or statements around your home or office. When you no longer need them, shred them before throwing them away.

Other tips for preventing credit card fraud includes:

  • Never use your debit card for internet or over-the-phone purchases. Use a credit card because you have more protection from the bank if your account is compromised. This ensures that thieves do not get the money you depend on for daily expenses and living.
  • Don't give you account number to anyone on the phone unless you've made a call to a company you know to be reputable. 
  • Carry your cards separately from your wallet. It can minimize your losses if someone steals your wallet or purse. Only carry around the cards you need for that outing.
  • During a transaction keep your eye on your card. Make sure you get it back before you walk away.
  • Never sign a blank receipt. Draw a line through any blank spaces above the total.
  • Save your receipts to compare to your statement.
  • Open your bill promptly - or check them online - and reconcile them with the purchases you've made.
  • Report any questionable charges to the financial institution. 
  • Notify your financial institution if your address changes or if you will be traveling.
  • Don't write your account number on the outside of an envelope.
  • Call the bank and request the new "EMV" or "chip" card for any credit card you now have. Some banks have not made the switch yet but it does not hurt to ask. For more information on the new security features for cards please click here.

ELDER FRAUD

Many older adults fall prey to scammers who are looking to make a quick buck. Here are a few tips that can help you steer clear of scams:

Health Insurance Fraud

  • Never sign blank insurance forms.
  • Never give blanket permission to a medical provider to bill for services rendered.
  • Ask your medical providers what they will charge and what you will be expected to pay out-of-pocket.
  • Carefully review your insurer's explanation of benefits statement. Call your insurer and provider if you have questions.
  • Do not do business with door-to-door or telephone salespeople who tell you that services of medical equipment are free.
  • Give you insurance/Medicare identification only to those who have provided you with medical services.
  • Keep accurate records of all health care appointments.
  • Know if your physician ordered equipment for you.

Medicare Scams

  • Protect your Medicare number as you do your credit card numbers and do not allow anyone to use it.
  • Be wary of salespeople trying to sell you something they claim will be paid for by Medicare.
  • Review your Medicare statements to be sure you have in fact received the services billed.
  • Report suspicious activities to 1-800-MEDICARE.

Telemarketing Scams

  • Don't buy from an unfamiliar company.
  • Always ask for, and wait until you receive, written material about any offer or charity.
  • Obtain a salesperson's name, business identity, telephone number, street address, mailing address and business license number before you transact business.
  • Always take your time in making a decision.
  • If you have information about a fraud, report it to state, local or federal law enforcement agencies.

Home Repair or Contractor Fraud

  • Be an informed consumer. Take the time to call and shop around before making a purchase. Take a friend with you who may offer some perspective to help you make difficult decisions. 
  • Carefully read all contracts and purchasing agreements before signing and make certain that all your requirements have been put in writing.
  • Makes sure you understand all contract cancellation and refund items.
  • As a general rule take control of all your transactions as a consumer. 
  • Do not allow yourself to be pressured into making purchases, signing contracts or committing funds. These decisions are yours and yours alone.

If you suspect you've encountered fraud:

Don't be afraid or embarrassed to talk about it with someone you trust. You are not alone, and there are people who can help. Doing nothing could only make it worse. keep handy the phone numbers and resources you can turn to, including your local police department, your bank (if money has been taken from your account) and Adult Protective Services. To obtain the contact information for Adult Protective Services in your area, call the Eldercare Locator, a government sponsored national resource line, at 1-800-677-1116, or visit their website at www.eldercare.gov.

Power of Attorney or Guardian Abuse and Elder Financial Exploitation:

If you know of an elder adult that you suspect is being financially exploited by a relative, Power of Attorney or Guardian, please contact the Asheville Police Department immediately. You may also file an anonymous report to the Buncombe County Adult Protective Servicesby calling (828) 250-5800.

Additional Resources:

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