Scam Prevention

Letter promises to pay unclaimed money, actually wants to steal your identity

By Amy Fowler

– December 7, 2012Posted in: Alerts/Scams, National

Consumers have reported receiving letters from government-sounding agencies, such as the Federal Acquisition Agency or American Entry Exchange. The letters claim that the recipient has a large amount of unclaimed money waiting for him or her, or that the recipient has won a sweepstakes.

BBB warns consumers not to respond to these letters, as they are most likely an attempt to steal your identity.

Here is some sample text from one of the letters:

There’s no such thing as free money. Always look for the catch.

Financial Acquisition Agency has identified $2,342,000.00 in non-dispersed funds that are currently pending payment, but still remain unclaimed.

Financial Acquisition Agency has the legal right to inform you that your name has been cleared as eligible recipient for these funds. I’m glad we were able to reach you in time!

As per promotion regulations and applicable federal and state laws mandate that all such funds must be paid by certified bank. PLEASE NOTE: This may be your Final Notification.

A complete accounting of these funds has been audited, verified and prepared for you. There is no mistake. All directives will be rushed to you at the mailing address indicated as it appears on the Transmittal Authorization below providing that you are able to certify:

1. You are indeed the addressee for whom this message is intended
2. You are a legal resident of the United States of America
3. You are at least 18 years of age as of the date of your signed certification.

Final payment is dependent on satisfactory completion of claim requirements and verification of eligibility/submission.

This letter contains a number of red flags, which BBB warns consumers to watch for:

  1. Spelling/Grammatical Errors. Any communication from an official government source will be checked for grammar and spelling mistakes. If you receive a letter from a government agency that doesn’t seem to have a strong command of the English language, be wary. Many scammers are in foreign countries, and not native speakers.
  2. Questionable government affiliation. Scams like to play on your trust of government agencies. They will employ names that sound similar to real agencies and images that look like government seals. Some sophisticated scammers will even use the names and seals of actual government agencies. Always check the name of the agency that is asking for your personal information, and contact that agency using phone numbers, email addresses or mailing addresses that you are able to verify. Never rely on the contact information provided in the letter.
  3. A request for personal information. The IRS might need your bank account information to direct deposit your tax refund, and any number of government agencies may legitimately need your Social Security number. However, they will rarely contact you out of the blue to request such information. Before providing any personally identifiable information, confirm that you are talking to who you think you are talking to and that the information is actually needed.
  4. Promises of big payouts. Of course I want more than $2 million! Few people would turn that down, which is exactly what the scammers are hoping for. Before responding to any communication, be it via email, letter or phone call, take a moment to ask yourself whether this is too good to be true. Where, exactly, do you suspect this $2 million in unclaimed money came from? If it’s supposedly the winnings of a sweepstakes or contest, do you remember entering? Money doesn’t fall from the sky.

For more information about these types of scams and tips for avoiding them, read this Federal Trade Commission Consumer Alert.

 

Burglary Prevention Tips

Windows:

  • Most windows can be pinned for security.
     
  • Drill a 3/16″ hole on a slight downward slant through the inside window frame and halfway into the outside frame – place a nail in the hole to secure the window.

Alarms:

  • An alarm system is excellent for home security. It provides peace of mind to homeowners, especially while on vacation. There is a wide variety of alarm systems on the market.
     
  • Make several inquiries to different companies for the best security system available to you.

If Your Home Is Broken Into:

If you come home to find an unexplained open/broken window or door:

  • Do not enter – the perpetrator may still be inside.
     
  • Use a neighbor’s phone to call police.
     
  • Do not touch anything or clean up until the police have inspected for evidence.
     
  • Write down the license plate numbers of any suspicious vehicles.
     
  • Note the descriptions of any suspicious persons.

Other precautions you should take:

  • Never leave keys under doormats, flowerpots, mailboxes or other “secret” hiding places — burglars know where to look for hidden keys. 
  • Keep a detailed inventory of your valuable possessions, including a description of the items, date of purchase and original value, and serial numbers, and keep a copy in a safe place away from home — this is a good precaution in case of fires or other disasters. Make a photographic or video record of valuable objects, heirlooms and antiques. Your insurance company can provide assistance in making and keeping your inventory.
  • Trim your shrubbery around your home to reduce cover for burglars. 
  • Be a good neighbor. If you notice anything suspicious in your neighborhood, call 9­1­1 immediately.
  • Mark your valuables with your driver’s license number with an engraver you can borrow from your precinct. Marked items are harder for a burglar to dispose of and easier for police to recover.
  • Form a Neighborhood Watch Group. We can help you work with your neighbors to improve security and reduce risk of burglary.
     
  • Consider installing a burglar alarm system. 

The most important thing you can do is call the police to report a crime or any suspicious activity. You have to be the eyes of your neighborhood. And remember you can always remain a pair of anonymous eyes!

Remember the three L’s of Crime Prevention: LIGHTS, LOCKS & the LAW! Light up your residence, lock your doors at all times, and call the Law when you see something suspicious!

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